After our lesson on Saturday I wanted to work with Carmen again. Sunday was forecasted to be even hotter so I wanted an early start. I also was hoping for it to be a short session. Our last two sessions had been long and demanding physically/mentally. But I knew that how long it wold be would depend on my having a clear plan and how she responded.
In thinking about her response to the crop I wasn't sure if she understood it as a 'go forward' cue. I decided to check this with the ground work. With her halted I tapped the crop against her side where I would tap when I was riding ( just behind the leg). Within a few minutes that she had no idea what I meant by it. She simply stood there looking at me calmly. So I realized that I needed teach her that when I tapped I wanted her go forward. We practiced a good 15 minutes and we made progress but I was sure that wasn't fully engrained. If I wanted a o use the crop as a tool when/ if she balked I need to have it as an automatic response. Because of that I didn't keep the crop when I rode.
She stood still while I mounted. I've learned that this is a good signal as to our ride. When she stands the ride is usually pretty good. If she moves then usually it's a tenser ride. I started at the walk getting her supple and seeing if she was listening. She was the best she's ever been. She was quiet and responsive, not fussing in the bridle and not looking around. I was very happy.
I then asked for a trot and her mood changed. She was behind my leg and did not move forward. It was like a hose with a kink in it. I encouraged her forward with soft squeezes and she slowed and dropped to a walk. In the next few minutes it was clear to me that she was looking for a fight. I did not want a power struggle but I couldn't stop either. I decided to refuse to get into an argument with her. Instead I spent the next 10 minutes doing dozens of walk-trot transitions close together. I would ask for trot, trot 3-4 strides and then go back to walk before she balked. Our ride looked like this:
Walk 3 strides, trot 3 strides, walk 3 strides etc., My theory was that this way it was always my idea but I didn't confront her directly. Slowly I felt her begin to relax and get less grumpy. With a sigh she finally softened and gave me a forward trot with her back up and her hind end engaged. I trotted 2 circles, walked and gave her a long rein and lots of praise. I switched direction and we repeated it all again. This time she came to me much faster and her trot was even better. I brought her to a walk and halted and hopped off.
I was happy that I was able to keep my cool and not react to her shenanigans and stick to my plan.
The next day I didn't ride at all. Instead I worked on the 'moving forward from the tap' lesson and eating bits of carrots in troll corner. It was cute to see her change from 'OMG trolls!' To ' ooh carrots'. I want to replace her negative emotions with more positive ones.
With the tapping I simply kept up the tapping until she moved off. I would stop as soon as she even thought of moving forward. I never made it painful. At first she was quite curious and looked at what I was doing. She tried different 'answers': sideways, backwards and forward. I only rewarded forward. If moved sideways or back I went with her. By the end she was moving right off from the tap. I also realized that this will help in teaching her to self load. My goal is to have this so automatic that if she balks and I tap she moves forward without thinking.
I'll let you know how it goes. Wish me luck.
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