Thursday, May 10, 2012

Changing Ourselves to Change the Inside of the Horse

Dawn and I had an excellent session today.  Her softening work at walk and trot is now very good and consistent - which means I'm being more consistent with my following/allowing and also mental softness. We did a fair amount of shortening/lengthening work at trot, using my mental imaging of my own body and legs doing shorter/longer.  Her transitions were also very good.  Then we did a bunch of canter work.  My objective was to help her with her anticipation/anxiety about canter - she tends to get worked up and lose her softness.  We made a lot of progress today in some important ways.

Here's a comment that I left for Story on her post today on her blog All Gear No Skill, where she was talking about how her mare tends to anticipate:
My Red is a big anticipator, too, and he's also a mind reader - if I even start to think about something, he's already on it. And he tends to brace when he anticipates - it causes him anxiety, I expect due to the way he was ridden in the past. I have to be really clear in my thoughts and energy with him - only thinking it if I want it and being sure to think - and direct him to do - something else [instead of what he's anticipating] so there are no mental gaps (in me), if that makes any sense. So getting ahead and leading him with my thoughts and never leaving him to fill [in] with his own ideas of what might be coming next. And I also have to always stay very soft with him, even when he braces - never brace against brace but instead redirect - don't know if that makes any sense either. Because I don't up the ante when he gets anxious or braces or starts to anticipate, he's starting to let go of the behavior. So it's not so much that I'm trying to change his behavior - bracing, anxiety, anticipation - as trying to change the degree to which I'm engaged but still soft with him. In my experience, horses that anticipate tend to be worriers, so helping them let go of the worry will reduce or eliminate the anticipation - making a change on the inside of the horse results in a change in the outside of the horse. Hope that helps.
This is also so true of Dawn - she works herself up because she anticipates, and wants to perform oh so perfectly, and becomes more and more up and braced as we do canter work.  My job is to stay very centered and calm, direct her and not worry about her anxiety but instead reward those moments when she's able to calm herself and respond to the softness I'm able to offer.  So we did a number of canter departures, right and left lead, and then I asked her to soften for a number of steps - on the straightaway for the right lead where she has trouble bending to the inside on turns, and on a large circle for the left lead - followed by a downwards transition - I didn't worry too much if she braced on these transitions at this point - all I do is think the new rhythm and exhale, then trotting until she's able to soften again, then walk on a loose rein as a reward.  The point for her was to end each canter sequence with softness and calm trot.  She was able to do this, and did very well not getting worked up as we repeated our canter sets.  I told her many times what a wonderful mare she was.

And then Pie and I had a very nice short ride - about 10 minutes of forward walk, working on getting softness and engagement, with some halts and backing thrown in - and once he was consistently soft at the walk, some walk/trot work, keeping our trotting sets brief and with big turns - about another 10 minutes.  He did very well, his trot felt good, and there were no bad steps.  There's one more day of his paste Oroquin-10 treatment to go, and then we're on the low-dose decoqinate for another 90 days.

And here, on the same topic of making changes in ourselves to help our horses, are a set of posts from The Horse in the Mirror about a recent clinic experience she had with Peter Campbell (I don't know him personally, but he reminds me a lot of Mark Rashid in what he says and also seems to be very much of the Ray Hunt school of thought) - the posts are very good and get right to the heart of the struggle that's involved when we need to make changes ourselves to help our horses make changes, particularly in circumstances where we've really gotten crossways with our horse - Red and I, and also Dawn and I, have been on this journey as well and a lot of what she said resonated with me - read them - I think you'll benefit:

One Right Way to Work a Horse
One Right Way to Work a Horse - Day Two
One Right Way to Work a Horse - Day Three
One Right Way to Work a Horse - Day Four

When I'm at the Mark Rashid clinic in Cedarburg, Wisconsin in June, when Mark asks me what I want to work on, I'll say I want to work on me - my horses are fine and if anyone needs to make some changes it's me and my horses will be happy to cooperate once I can do that.  (The clinic is at Black Star Farms, and the first clinic runs from Friday night, June 1 (the pre-clinic demo/workshop for riders and auditors), with riding from Saturday, June 2 through Monday June 4, and the second clinic (I'll be riding both Red and Pie in this one) from Tuesday, June 5 through Thursday, June 7 - hope to see some of you there - Pie and Red and I will be there throughout the seven days.)

No comments:

Post a Comment