|see Carmen's excitement at being back in the ring?|
In the end it doesn't matter that Carmen is fine with flags. What matters is whether she's okay when things happen that I didn't prepare her for. Tristan advocates doing short lessons and leave it when the horse demonstrates that they understand what is being asked of them. It doesn't need to be perfect before you leave it. I have to say that this is indeed working for us. At least on the ground.
Even though I haven't been doing targeting lessons once the ring froze, I have been trying to incorporate the idea in things as they arise. For example, when I was using the shop vac and moving the hose it, naturally, spooked the horses. But when Carmen stopped to look at it I would stop moving to 'reward' the behaviour I want.
I've been really focussing on my own body language and level of tension so that I'm not inadvertently adding to it. When she gets super tight in her body I've been drawing her attention to it so that she can let go.
On Sunday I introduced Carmen to the 'clappers'. I honestly thought she would leap out of her skin when I used them. But instead she simply looked at me like 'really?'
On Monday I knew I wouldn't have time to ride but I would have time to do a short session. I brought up my 'box' of toys. I set up my phone on the fence- it's not in good focus but it shows how she is.
The first part is playing with the flag. She's not supper impressed with it flapping but she's not losing her mind. The idea is to reward the release of tension. which can take some very careful observation. sometimes it's just a 'letting go' of the posture. I need to make sure that I don't simply teach her the trick of 'I drop my head and the bad thing goes away'. I want her to be interested, not shut down.
I got a kick out her at about 3:50 mark where she wanted to check out the toy box and see what was in there.
The second half is me setting up the plastic bag (which she has little issues with now) and ask her to work around it. This time I set it up closer to the 'spooky' side of the ring. I like how her posture is mostly relaxed with some brief moments of tension. When she wanted to check it out I let her. I have no idea if that is 'correct' or not but I want to encourage the curiosity in her since it's been a long time coming out. If I'm in a show and she stops to check out a banner I will likely loose as many points as if she bolted but it would feel way better to me.
Our session really wasn't very long. Just enough to set up expectations and success and then stopping when it felt good. I was happy with us. Especially since we were up there at dusk which is not Carmen's favourite time to be in the ring.
So far I'm happy with how things are on the ground. I'm away right now but am looking forward to see how this translates to under saddle.