I've been doing a lot of thinking since my last few rides. As you could probably tell I was a bit frustrated. I came to some conclusions:
1. I was making everything negotiable. Moving ahead, stopping, going to places- all of it was up for discussion. I was backing down from using the crop becasue she had such a strong reaction.
2. I was letting her push me around on the ground as well- invading my space, pushing me over etc.
In short, Carmen was making far too many decisions. But, also,
3. fluttering grass and trees are truly a scary thing for her. Her prey instinct is very strong and she's very wary by nature.
4. She's very sensitive (not news, really), intelligent and learns quickly.
5. Carmen's reaction to pressure is to get away from it. So of course bolting is her response when she's not liking something or is frightened.
Based on that I made some decisions:
1. I have to crystal clear in my intentions and have the guts to back it up.
2. I can only be as firm as necessary otherwise there is no learning
3. I need to give her options other then running away.
All of it needed to start on the ground.
Tuesday I came home, changed my clothes and went to the barn. Ed had already brought them in and fed them (I was late). I put on Carmen's halter and the lunge line and we walked out of her stall and up to the ring. It was very windy. Good.
I started with leading-she was to walk beside me and stop when I did. A few times she barged ahead and I was clear that she was to back up and NOT pass. She refused to back and I tapped her smartly on her chest. We did this up to the ring.
By the time we were there she was leading perfectly. In the ring I then added in asking her to square up at the halt. If a hind leg was out I would tap it to have her bring it up. She completely ignored the taps. The horse that can feel a fly on her rump stood like a statue and did not move her leg. I realized that this had been building- she would stand there for five minutes and not move the freaking leg. I realized that she felt it was an option. So I changed it- small tap, stronger tap, WHACK (not on her leg directly I didn't want to injure a tendon but on the haunch. She would move her leg -too far of course but I was okay with that- I wanted her to MOVE. A few of those and she started moving on the second tap. Then the first, then as soon as I pointed the crop.
Clever horse- I am on to you now.
I then went to lunging. I wanted crisp and listening transitions and she was not to fall in on me on the spooky parts. I didn't care how she felt about it, I just wanted her to go there. We lunged up and down the ring with stops in between to do in hand work. Once she slammed on the brakes and refused to go forward and I gave her snap of the whip. Another time she tried to run out and I brought her to a whoa. I can't talk her out of being wary of the waving grass and trees. But I can convince her that listening to me is far more critical.
By the end she was listening and tuned in and no more was I 'negotiating'.
It took all of 30 minutes (at the most, I really didn't have a watch on). We then grazed and I put her back in her stall.
I always do ground work before I ride but I'm going to do at least one session a week on only ground work so I'm not anxious to be sitting in the saddle.