Friday, December 2, 2011

Working To Resolve Drifter's Issues - With Video!

It was a really beautiful day - for December - the high just touched 40F, with sun and almost no wind.  Since Drifter and I had unfinished business (see the prior couple of posts), I started with him today - if I've got a hard job to do I always try to do it first.  My objectives were simple - to get some decent lunge work at the walk and trot - my definition of decent work includes changes of direction and speed only when I ask for them, and when I do ask for them, that they be smooth and without resistance.  If that went well, I would get on and do some walk and trot work - with the key here being no balking (or worse, rearing) on the upwards transitions. After Drifter's performance yesterday on the lunge (see the prior post), I wasn't sure how things were going to go today, so I took along a companion for safety - my husband - who also did duty as a videographer.

I'm not usually one who goes in for dominance-based methods of training, or theories about how horses interact with people.  I don't believe that most horses are trying to dominate the people in their lives - but there are exceptions.  Drifter, like our Lily, is one of them.  Give him an inch, and he'll take a mile - if he gets away with nudging you with his nose, or head butting, or pushing through you when you're leading, next thing you know you've got nipping, then biting, then worse.  He's not mean, just trying to figure out who's dominant in his world, and he's always watching very carefully to see where he stands. So in his case, I need to pay attention to where his body and feet are at all times, and never let down my guard - he's a challenge to work with but I think he's worth it.

The following video - it totals about 4 minutes (double click on it to see it full screen) - has a number of clips from our work session today - he was actually much better today than yesterday - we've been working on leading and personal space issues - with lots of backing out of my space, and I think that's helping.  It's very interested for me to be able to see this in detail - I experienced it but seeing it is very helpful.  I hope you enjoy it - pay particular attention to the timing of how I interact with him - I don't always manage to get ahead of him but I try to be right in there and not hesitate.  Also pay attention to his body language - where he's looking, where the feet are going and his head, ears and tail - they all say a lot about what he's thinking. (And note that there are some things I'd like to change about how he lunges - I don't like it that he tends to turn in without being asked to, and that his cue for a change of direction is a jiggled line - I didn't teach him these things but they're minor problems at this point and we can deal with them later.)

In the first clip, he makes at least three attempts to change direction without my asking him to - I correct all three as quickly as I can.  In the second clip, there's another attempt to change direction, which results in some spectacular rearing and plunging as I block it and tell him that isn't acceptable behavior.  This clip ends with some nice licking and chewing - note the pick tongue coming in and out - he's beginning to decide that maybe I'm in charge.  Clip 3 is the first changes of direction at my request. In clip 4, we're able to do some nice walk work with changes of direction - note the lowered head - he's not tired as we didn't work that long, but he's much more relaxed and willing to cooperate.  In clip 5, I'm mounting up - it's far from perfect as he tries to move out a few times, but is able to stand when I ask - this clip is included mainly for contrast with a later clip.  Clip 6 gives a picture of his excellent walk work.  Clip 7 is where I'm letting him know I'm carrying a crop, which I want him to know I'll use if there's any balking (or worse - like the rearing I got earlier this week) when I ask for an upwards trot transition.  Clip 8 is the trot transition - he thinks about balking (watch the tail and head) but doesn't follow through although there's still some resistance and reluctance to move forward.  Clip 9 starts with him beautifully springing into trot from the halt, and some nice trot work.  In clip 10, I've gotten off, but instead of putting him away I lead him straight back to the mounting block and get on (much better this time) and we immediately go off in trot - there's only a little tail swishing this time and no hesitation.

Drifter's definitely a work in process, but I feel good about what we accomplished today.  Until everything is routine, I expect we'll be doing groundwork before our riding.  Oh, and not to leave out Dawn and Pie - I rode them both today and they were both excellent - Dawn and I had a great session with much trotting and lots of transitions, and Pie and I did some trot work in the arena and also had a nice trail ride with Sugar.

Pretty good for a December day with horses!

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