Today I got Snoopy out for a ride. It has been a few weeks due to the temperature and being busy with family etc.
So I thought I would share the experience – because I still walk the same steps that I teach.
As I have said, I do a pre-ride every ride with every horse.
Snoopy started his morning by staying in with food so that the herd-bound behaviors that he sometimes shows would be “softened”.
Once the meal and the 20 minute wait was over, he got his itchy spots satisfied and his mane detangled.
Then I put the saddle on and lightly tightened it. My routine is to tighten in stages anyways.
By taking time now to work on his detangling his tail and applying fly spray I broke up his expectation regarding the coming ride.
What was I waiting for? I want him to breath! Let Go! Lay down any defences in his mind that I see in his body posture.
Because I decided to go this route of easing back into a ride today I had no expectations for myself. I was setting it up for him to relax, trust and cooperate. I can tell you ... he can hide it inside and then blow up like a bronc when online in the big rings.
Once all the special care was done we went out on the grass and he grazed for about 15 min. - again breaking the pattern of expectations for the coming ride.
Then I bridled and hooked the reins up short enough to prevent grazing and walked him around the grass ring. He crowded me when furthest from the field where his buddies were and dragged slightly when he was closer to them. It was subtle. It was just a pressing of the space between us. It was not mean and was without force but it was with intent – he is TESTING. Testing his boundaries and my resolve.
What was I waiting for, again? I want him to breath! Let Go! Lay down any defences in his mind that I see in his body, his posture.
When he gave me that change of state I led him to the mounting steps and he siddled right up to me without me even asking. It was like he was saying “ok, I’m ready”.
His next behaviors then dictated my next plan. He took an alert posture and started staring off in the distance – not at all lightly responsive to the rein and every movement in the saddle caused him to start to walk. So I choose to walk, but I decided to work on light responsiveness to the reins.
The entire time in the saddle my one goal was to get light response to the rein when I lifted for flexions. I had to be sitting in neutral. I had to ask with lightness. It takes patience to offer lightness and wait until it happens. I kept reminding myself that my plan is to develop a light response.
Responding to the rein doesn’t include moving his feet, but because he did, we ended up doing a lot of circling at the walk. This provided relaxed stretching on both sides of his body in very light work. It also gave me lots of practice timing a good release and starting over with the same plan. Not deviating, changing to something "more fun or productive". I stuck to the plan because light responses to the reins is necessary in so much advanced work.
What was I waiting for, again? Well, now you know – for him to breath. Let Go! Lay down any defences in his mind that I see in his body, his posture.
When that happened I simply dismounted and took him in to treats and much appreciation.
That is the story of truth in a trainers day, even with a solid mount that I've had for twenty years because I know, quoting Mr. Ed, that "a horse is a horse, of course of course."