Saturday, August 11, 2012

Less is More

Today was a less is more day.  I'm still in search of softness from the start with my horses, and worked with Red and Pie today.  Dawn got another day off, with a good grooming, since I'm recovering from some sort of nasty respiratory infection.

With Red, the goal was to get him to move softly and responsively, in hand and on the lunge line, using the smallest amount of cue/pressure possible.  He's extremely sensitive and very easily fussed by too much pressure, as those of you who read about my clinic experience know.  I also wanted to work on his in hand work with me very close to his body - this tends to make him a bit defensive, particularly when I'm on his right side - and also on his moving away out from me on the lunge at my request - he tends to want to cut in.  My goal was for him to stay cooperative and responsive, with no fuss or muss.  He did very well - we worked a bit on head down, backing one (very slow) step at a time in hand and off my body language, and also worked on some lungeing at the walk using a line of cones - I wanted him to weave in and out of the cones in response to my body language.  It took a few tries to get this but he did very well, and was much less fussy for the in-hand work.  He volunteered trot a few times, but we're waiting until tomorrow to try more trot on the lunge.

Pie and I also had a nice session.  I did some leading work with him, focussed on getting him to "lead up" without my having to put pressure on the lead or pull him - he tends to be a bit sticky and hard to bring up the energy.  I used some of the advice from Bill Dorrence's wonderful book True Horsemanship Through Feel to help with this.  Pie's beginning to get the idea and is leading up much better.  Our mounted work was really nice.  I wanted to have the softness come through from the first moment, and rode him with a very soft, following contact.  Transitions were very nice, and I got immediate softening and backing at each halt without any tension or bracing, just by offering him a very soft feel from the get go.

Bill Dorrence's book is about developing feel in work with horses - to the extent this can be described in words, and that's a big part of where I want my horsemanship to go next.  I'll close with a quote from p. 143 of the book:
When we speak about having a connection with the horse through feel, what's meant by that word "connection" is the part that's in place when what you understand and do is directly connected to what the horse understands and does, on account of his physical and mental systems being tied in to yours, through feel.

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