I promise to stop the counting soon. It just helps me to keep it all in perspective. First of all he's growing (again) and turning into quite a handsome horse. His coat is sleek (even though he's shedding). His weight looks perfect and he's starting to look in proportion. I noticed recently that his whither has suddenly appeared.
As you know I've been reviewing last year's work to make sure there are no holes.
Session 5 was friday. I hurried home from work and got him ready. I wanted to work him before my friends arrived. I locked Irish in the barn and we headed up to the ring. He was alert but not too bad. As usual we had a few discussions about speed. Him wanting to barrel around and me convincing him that he's not a kite. I had to get a bit firm but it didn't take long to get him settled. It never does. Once the initial 'whee' is done he goes to work. I didn't spend too long on it. I then unhooked him and we did some work with him at liberty. We worked on turns on the forehand, backing up and baby leg yields.
He was doing well and then he got distracted by the grass that's starting to grow by the side of the ring. He headed over to eat so I used my lunge whip to get him moving. He doesn't get to pick when he works and when he doesn't. He trotted off and then spied d'Arcy laying by the side of the ring. He decided that he had never ever seen a dog before. Especially a black and white border collie. The one that photo bombs all his pohtos. He leapt in the air - straight up with all four legs straight. I swear that his hooves were 2 feet off the ground. When he landed he took off snorting down to the other side of the ring. I had to laugh. I couldn't help it. But I didn't move from my spot. I just stood there. He slid to a stop at the end and looked at me. He blew loudly. I didn't move. He started trotting down to me and about 20 feet away broke into a gallop and came towards me. I just stood there. He blew by me and I didn't react. He came to a stop behind me and I could feel him looking at me but I stayed still. I heard his footfalls coming in behind me and I felt his breath on my neck. I then picked up from where we were.
Session 6 was Sunday (it rained all day Saturday). The weather was sunny and feeling definitely warmer. I needed to do some chores first which included dragging the ring. I quite enjoy dragging the ring. I'm not sure why but I find it very relaxing.
I got Steele ready and we headed up to the ring. As we approached the ring I could feel him getting excited. I'm not sure if it was the weather, the dog in the next field or the sound of cows mooing but he grew about 6 inches taller and began to prance. Since he wasn't trying to pull away I just kept walking. Once in the ring I got him on the lunge line and we went to work. He was feeling nice and forward. Too forward. He wanted to just careen around but once again we worked on control. It took little time at all to get him settled but then we had the opposite problem- he didn't want to go forward. I asked him to trot and he gave a little shuffle and then back to walk. Um. what? No. That's not what I want. I asked him to trot on again. He halted and looked at me. As approached with the lunge whip to send him forward. He began to back up. I made sure that I wasn't causing it by coming at his head but he still was telling me that he did not want to go forward. Using very strong body language and a snap of the whip I sent him forward. I guess that it makes sense that we'd have discusions about this so I wasn't surprised. Once I had him forward I put on the side reins to get him stretching into contact. He did well at the walk but less well at the trot. He couldn't quite figure out how to deal with the side reins and trot. I let him figure it out but gave him lots of breaks. The reins were not remotely snug but they were another thing to deal with.
After a few minutes both ways with the side reins I took them off. I then walked him out to the middle of the ring where I put the mounting block. My goal was him to stand beside it while I went up and down beside him. I've done this in the winter in the barn but not up in the ring. He was interested in the ring but quite happy to stand still. I walked up one step and then down. After repeating that a few time I went up the two steps and down. He just stood there. I then went up the mounting block and jumped off. This is to simulate the dismount. He flicked an ear but didn't move. I repeated this a few times and he seemed to be Mr. Cool.
Session 7 was Monday. Today it's warm and sunny. There is a definite feeling of spring. I got Steele ready and we headed up to the ring. If you had been watching me you would have been completely bored. He had no interest in running around at all. He was responsive and listening right from the get go. After a warm up in both directions I put on the side reins again. This time his walk was lovely and over the back. He struggled a little at the trot and then he seemed to figure it out. We did lots of walk-trot transitions and then changed direction. After the side reins were done I unhooked them and then hooked on the two lunge lines to do a bit of ground driving. This is the first time this spring. It was a total non-event. I walked around the ring steering pretty well and halting. I only did this for about 10 minutes and then I called it a day. He stood still while I unhooked him and then followed me to the gate.
I'm pleased with how we're doing to date. I will admit that I'm letting him set the pace to a certain extent. I'm sure that there are times when I could push him a bit harder but I prefer to back off before he gets sore or tired so that he doesn't start to resent the work. It's easier to build on success then repair failure. And if I was a professional I'm sure that he'd be farther along. Which reminds me- time to give him a call...