It’s amazing what an attitude adjustment for the trainer can do to a session with a horse.
Last night I headed up to the barn with a new lease on Smokey’s training. I’m not going to take his little aggressive antics, but I’m going to be more patient and let him come to the conclusion that he would rather work than not.
This worked out perfectly.
I arrived and walked down to the small arena that makes up part of the fence on the pasture he rules from. He was across the pasture, but came speed-walking right up to the fence and followed me up to the gate and waited while I grabbed his halter from my tack trunk (which I forgot to take pictures of again).
By the way, I know horses love being dirty, but Smokey is basically chestnut right now. He found some kind of mudhole and proceeded to put his entire body in it. He was so filthy that I didn’t’ even want to bother trying to get him clean, especially since the likelihood of more rain is about 100%. Speaking of, did you know that Atlanta has officially had more rain in 2013 than all of 2012 already? Yeah, this is why I can never go ride. Anyhow, I didn’t groom him because I’m lazy and a terrible horse mom and he didn’t seem to be too upset that no one in their right mind wanted to be close to him.
Filthy and lovin’ it
One of the panels had been moved from my “round pen” and I thought I would take that as an indication that I needed to start weaning Smokey off the security and direction of the round pen walls for his longeing. I have tried longeing him in the open arena with the round pen collapsed against the sides with very little success, so if I take one panel out and get a win from that, it’s a step in the right direction.
Open panel from inside the round pen
I walked Smokey around the arena both inside and out of the round pen and asked him to do pivots mostly on his front end to get his butt moving away from me when asked. He was much more willing early in the session and seemed to actually enjoy doing what he was being told. We worked on backing and paying attention outside of the round pen and he did a pretty decent job of it.
I had decided after the last session that we needed to switch back to the rope halter. He was becoming disrespectful and heavy on the flat nylon halter, so I had to move back into something he would listen to better. This worked both with the close-in groundwork as well as on the longeline. He was much lighter on the longeline and more responsive to me tipping his head in and generally just listening. He threw his head a few times, but mostly while balking at having to trot past the open panel on the round pen.
I had him walk around the round pen quite a few times before I asked for the trot. I knew he was going to try to slip out of the pen through the open gate and didn’t want him to get any grand ideas. Because he was so light in the halter, I think he almost forgot it was on and when he was asked to trot past the open panel the first time, tried to duck out. He didn’t get far, mostly just tossed his head and turned in towards me. He stopped with pressure on the halter, but after he wrapped his mind around it, he actually just walked back into the track he was on….without my encouragement! The next time he got around to the open panel, he didn’t so much as toss his head at it. I think he eyed it, but he can eye whatever he wants so long as I keep that inside ear on me.
I also worked on getting him to back up from a distance ala Buck Brannaman. If I shake the line he’s on, he should back up, no matter how far away from me he is. I think this might help with the aggressiveness that I’ve felt from him, and will help me to feel safer around him knowing I can get him to back off at any time. I had to use the training flag to get my point across at first, but once I did, he was actually more pliable overall. It’s like he needed me to TELL him what to do for once instead of ask him to do it. I think this is a pretty big turning point in our relationship. It should really help moving forward, if I can keep that mentality.
I moved him outside the round pen to the other side of the arena and did some close-in pivots and backing before I asked him to walk circles there for a while. He did a really great job of ignoring the open panel and only once made any effort to go to it. I think I need to mix up the scenery some with him to work on his focus. He’s a smart horse and I know he’s bored with walking and trotting circles until he’s tired. I’m going to try to pony him around the farm a little with Colors as my trusty mount. We’ll see if we can get a “trail ride” going.
Open panel from OUTSIDE the round pen (oooh… ahhh)
After I put Smokey away for the night, I walked out to the arena where everyone was lessoning. I got to ride Rodeo for a few minutes and it felt great to be on a trained horse and just ride. That probably wasn’t the best idea as it just fueled my fire for a second horse that I can’t afford. All in due time, I’m sure. Either way, it was amazing to ride again and after a good session with Smokes and a little ride, I feel much better about the whole pony situation.