The black flies have come out in droves and Carmen seemed to be really bothered by them. I'm not sure if they have black flies in Virginia or if she's just sensitive. She also was not impressed with fly spray so that is something to work on.
I brought up her bridle with the new bit and brow band (sorry no photos). My plan was to work with her on the ground and then proceed to mounting. It is amazing how well the breathing works. Carmen tends to get a bit fast in her gaits which makes her unbalanced. To balance herself she lifts up her head and tenses her back. I worked on getting her to slow by slowing myself and rewarding her verbally when she settled into a more sedate pace. When she does that her head lowers, her back comes up and she flows forward. I want her to learn that that's the gait for her.
We went up and down the ring, stopping for brief breaks and then carrying on. I was just starting to think that it was time to put her bridle on. I asked her to walk and Irish was coming along the rail. All of a sudden she pinned her ears and began to back into him. Whoops. Poor Irish stood there going 'huh, what?' I got after her immediately and sent her forward. She needed to know that that was not a good decision. I prefer to work on that from the ground rather than under saddle so I spent another 15 minutes lunging her and setting her up by Irish (thanks Irish and Cynthia). Because I knew what to expect I could prevent that unwanted behaviour at it's first glimmer- it was all in her eye. As soon as she looked like she was even thinking of Irish (rather than me) I sent her forward into work. She's smart so it didn't take long for her to ignore him again.
Now it was time to get on. As I walked her to the mounting block I made sure that I was breathing. I was perfectly fine getting on and then getting off if I had to. After a few tries, she stood still at the block and I mounted. I asked her to move forward. We walked around and I stayed away from Irish. She showed signs of wanting to follow him but I was clear that that was not in the cards. Make the right thing easy and the wrong thing hard.
I asked for trot and she hesitated about going forward. Now with Steele I could have simply given him a small kick and told him to get on with it but I wanted to give her a chance to figure it out. I believe that with Carmen you could easily get into a fight. So as we trotted and walked I made sure that I was being as perfect as possible:
- sitting up, not leaning
- keeping my hands, arms and shoulders soft
- not gripping with my legs- just gentle nudges when needed.
- using lots of praise when she was right.
- if she was more resistant I did use my voice to growl at her - like I do on the ground.
- I kept my post steady and slow so she wouldn't rush.
I could feel me start to lose her attention so I used the exercise I learned from John in our clinic last year- I picked up a trot for a few strides and then sat to allow her to walk. Repeat a few times, change direction on the circle and repeat. As I did this exercise I felt her come back and begin to relax.
We took a walk break for a few minutes. I lost her attention again so I asked her to trot and she was quite resistant. I don't know why- perhaps it's being in heat -Irish was going by behind us as well, perhaps because it worked before to end the session, perhaps she plain didn't want to. I'm positive that the saddle was fine as she wasn't doing what she had before and it felt more like a question rather than an 'ow'. I did my best to keep myself the steady and calm centre and rode the circle. She tried to turn off the circle but I opened my inside rein and asked her to stay in (now I know an opening rein is somewhat controversial but in her case it worked).
Then all of a sudden her back softened, she lowered her head and we had the smoothest, loveliest trot going. I rode it for 2 circles (telling her that she was awesome), asked her to walk, halt and I hopped off. I wanted her to think about that part and I didn't want to jinx it. I will likely push for more later but this seemed good to me.
I think we were both happy with our session.