Yesterday I spent the morning on a photo outing - it was the annual World Wide Scott Kelby Photo walk. When I came home I decided to do some work with Steele.
Because he and Irish are together 24/7 I do separate them from time to time so that they get used to being apart for 'work'. This time I left Irish locked in the lower field while I brought Steele in for work. Irish hung around the fence line, and, while he did not look impressed, he was not horribly stressed. Steele was the same. There was no calling while in the barn and he was very well behaved heading up to ring.
On the lunge I've been working on two main things:
1. Promptness with transitions.
2. establishing a steady and even pace that is not rushed.
When Steele first starts out he is often excited and wants to bomb around the circle at full steam. This is not good for his joints, for getting him to settle into a proper working gait or for getting him to listen to me. When we first start I keep him on a smallish circle because I just want him to walk. He wants to barrel forward into a trot but I keep him walking. Once that gait is established and I believe that he's tuned in I ask for a trot and enlarge the circle. If he breaks to canter I bring him back and we start again. I work on being consistent- if I didn't ask for it it's not happening, firm- I'm not going to wait 3 circles for him to decide to walk and low key- one of us has to be calm and since I'm older it probably should be me.
Since I only lunge him about 3 times a week he can be a bit excited. A word that I'm working on is 'easy'- that means settle down in your gait. He's really starting to get it. After a few circles of walk I asked for a trot and he took off in an excited /rushed manner. Eeeeasy I said and he immediately slowed up into what I think is his working gait. At that pace he relaxes over the back and settles into a steady rhythm.
We're working away (about 8 minutes in) and he's being fabulous when all hell breaks loose down in Irish's field. All of sudden he starts bolting around and screaming his head off. Steele immediately raises his head (up periscope), tenses through his back and begins to look very worried. At this point I have no idea what bee has gotten into Irish's bonnet but I am welcoming this as an opportunity to work Steele through this. When we go off to clinics, shows or other fun events there is a high liklihood that there will be a horse acting up. He needs to learn to focus on me despite what distractions there are around him. This is why I don't pen up the dogs when I work with him or ask Ed to not do work while I'm riding Irish or working with Steele. All that happens is that the lesson changes.
So as Steele begins to think about bolting away I ask him to walk.
he flicks an ear at me. Not now, I have to run around
Yes, seriously. I bring him in closer so he has to walk.
Irish is still pitching a fit. He walks about half a circle but then trots off again.
His eye starts to soften and his posture relaxes.
you are so clever
I tell him.
I swear that he preens.
Irish is still screaming his head off and running around. Out of the corner of my eye I see a group of riders coming down the road. Aha! Now, until he moved here, Irish has been boarded his entire life. He has seen people ride away and come back. He's been in fields by himself and with other horses. He has been to shows, clinics and trail rides. He's never ever worried about riders and horses. I have no idea why the sight of riders coming down our road sends him into a frenzy, but it does. Every.Damn.Time.
Meanwhile, back in the ring my attention returns to Steele. I have to teach him that what's happening down there is irrelevant. What matters is the two of us and what we're doing. And do you know what? He rocks it. For a horse who's almost 3 (next month) he settled back into work remarkably fast. He would glance down at that field with Irish running around but did not react other then to look. One ear remained on me. I was thrilled with him. And told him so. I knew it was time to end because the lesson was done. But I got a bit overexcited and when he was trotting instead of asking for a walk and then a halt I said "and whoaaa'. He flicked an ear at me. Oops I thought, I've never asked for a double transition (from trot to halt would be a double) and was about to correct it when he dropped to walk, walked 3 strides and halted. It was a perfect training level trot-halt transition. It was even square.
As we walked out of the ring Irish was now standing at the gate of his field practically vibrating. Steele walked calmly and contentedly beside me. We went down to 'rescue' Irish. As I opened the gate, Steele gave him a nuzzle as though to say, 'what's up bud?' As Irish went blowing by us Steele continued to walk calmly with me and followed me into the barn for his groom and well earned apple.
I gave him two apples. He totally deserved them.