So, another day of groundwork! Snickers was very eager - waiting for me at the gates and nickering. We left the paddock at once and used the patch of grass by the barn again. Snickers was very good about concentrating on me and not trying to munch instead, although he did have to be reminded once or twice. We worked on simultaneous movements, mostly at the walk, as he had eaten his dinner not long ago, and on yielding all the quarters to pressure. He also had to climb with his front legs on a rock and then circle several rocks, while I was standing on one of them - this confused him a little at first, as he thought I just want him to line up to the rock for me to mount him. :) We also worked on the Spanish walk and it is making a steady progress - hoping to get this on camera soon. :) Then, targeting. Targeting the marker in my hand, on the ground or on an object is really steady now, so I added some difficulty and he learned how to go out to a target I throw further on the ground and touch it. We did it at liberty and, although he needed me to go with him the first times, he got the idea quickly. He also learned how to target his head through a hulahoop, which he just did instantly!; how to do vertical flexion at liberty and how to lay his neck over the back/neck of another horse. As he was showing signs of wanting to continue, I started working on him taking an object in his teeth in a more controlled manner than he's doing it now. Besides, while doing all this, he looked like he was having a really great time - that's always so nice to see! :) I could ditch my training stick and for a while the halter, and just have some fun with my darling boy outside the confinement of the paddock - such a nice evening!
For a food motivated horse like Snickers, they really do, but I really try not to overdo the treating and always to ask for a polite and disciplined behavior when treats are around. He can quickly turn nippy, if that's not taken into consideration. :)
Yay! The floodlight for the arena is up and it's really great - I'll be able to ride without problems this winter whenever I can and when it's not too slippery!
Yesterday, however, it WAS too slippery, even for groundwork, due to a rainfall during last night. The horses are now stabled for the night, except for Snickers and two of his buddies, who spend the night in a huge shelter with a smallish paddock attached. The boys looked real dry and comfy there, and seemed to enjoy each others' company.
I took Snickers to the arena for a short while, until I (and he as well!) got fed up with all the mud. However, we did do a little groundwork with walking/stopping/turning/backing up from a larger distance (the whole length of the rope). He needed a little reminder during the turns, as he at first wanted to rush ahead or to get closer, but there was some progress and I was happy with the results. We then sidepassed in a circle around a huge willow (which Snicks hadn't done before), and I decided to leave the arena after that.
We went to a relatively drier patch of grass by the barn where Snickers practiced his Spanish walk, climbed with his forelegs on a large stone and we did some target training. I'm quite impressed - after only two 5-10min sessions Snickers is already touching the target, when asked, not only when I hold it, but also when I put it on ground or any object, when I hide it, we "find" it later and I cue Snickers to touch it, and he also agreed to bow when I put the target in between his front legs. This thing has a potential after all. :)
As Snicks had been heard coughing a little, he got his temperature taken by a friend of mine who is more experienced in this kind of stuff. It might be that Snicks got his temperature taken for the first time in his life and he handled it like a champ. The first two tries, he fidgeted a little and raised one of his back legs, but with the third try he just stood there the whole 5 minutes. And - yay, his temperature was completely normal, so nothing to worry about. :)
I agree completely about 'over treating' - much preferable to have my horses obey and comply with pressure and release, or a simple, "Good Girl!" Followed by a stroke on the neck or a kiss. They always know when I'm happy with their behavior :)
Thanks a lot! :) I don't know about myself, but Snickers is amazing indeed - a life changer!
Northenstar, I'm sometimes amused how Snickers loves praising - the louder and happier I praise him, the better he behaves and the happier he seems. He's a superstar and wants to be acknowledged. :)
Today I started out with the filly. Since our last session where she confronted me with various tricks of dominance and was faced with a fact that these tricks won't work on me, she seemed to have thought everything over and acted as a completely different horse! Walking and trotting in hand - effortless, stopping and backing up with no problems at all, and an overall positive attitude! We worked also on yielding the fore- and the hindquarters. Hindquarters yield much easier, but she is still tended to try to barge ahead of me instead of yielding the fores; however, we're slowly getting there. Of course, there was a healthy dose of daily desentization and I practiced a soft response to pressure in the rope halter when the line is used as reins. Will be slowly preparing her for bitless ground driving. All in all, she was such a pleasure today and I'm coming to love this girl more and more. :)
Then I had to hurry to brush Snickers, as we had an equine masseuse coming. She practices the Masterson method and I really liked her in-depth attitude towards examining and then working with a horse. She was very right about the fact that most of Snickers' tension comes from his mind, not from his body, and she gave me some good advice in what I can do to improve his relaxation in our daily activities. She concluded that overall he's a healthy, normal boy and that was good to hear.
After she left I had intended to take Snickers for a walk in-hand (as no work was to be done after the massage today) and to work with another gelding, but it started to rain so heavily that I had to cancel these plans for today. So, instead I just fed Snickers, as he was doing his best "wet, fat, native English pony" impression and acting all offended for me not being fast enough with the bucket.
A wonderful lesson with my favourite Dressage trainer. She helped me a lot with a seemingly simple advice that greatly benefited in a more balanced seat - and a more balanced Snickers, who accepted contact willingly! I am hoping to invite her on a regular basis from now on.
Later I did some groundwork with one of the geldings and, in a whim of the moment, filmed some tidbits of some simple games with Snickers - will do something more in-depth and better some other time, as time was a bit short this evening. Here's the result. :)
I love these silent evenings, when it's just me and the horses! Besides, since the floodlight was set up, I can do more training, not just hang around (which is nice, nonetheless, I want some training progress, too.).
Last night I first worked with Snickers in a patch of grass by the barn. He was quite feisty and at first tried to be more interested in the grass, not our communication. Every time he tried diving down for a munch, I tapped him with the whip lightly to remind him, and with each time he grew more and more fizzed about things not going his way, until he decided to try and just speed around me at the end of the rope. He was full of beans, jumping up in the air, squealing, farting and kicking dirt, and I understood he just needed running his sillies out, before we could continue. From time to time, I'd offer him to tune back into me, but, if he ignored that, he just got sent out again, until he finally returned. I then walked him a little and did a bit of a calming massage, after which he was good as gold. We worked quite a bit on sideways and sideways combined with an active trot forwards - we did that in the pattern of a rectangle, the long sides of which were done in a trot, but the short sides were sidepassed. We also continued working on the Spanish walk and I tried asking for shoulder-in, which was quite good even to the stiffer side. After all this I invited him to lie down, which I hadn't done for a while due to not wanting to roll him in wet mud or grass. He popped down immediately and was quite happy about it, so I rewarded Snicks with a good grazing break. During this break, one of the barn cats, Fritz, joined us and hopped on Snicks' back, where he napped and purred all while Snickers was slowly walking around.
After the break I lead Snickers into the barn, as it was much lighter there, and we worked a little on our target training. I introduced Snickers to the concept that different objects have different names, and he started learning two new words - "frisbee" and „rope". The result I will try to achieve is him being able to target the object I call out, while showing both of them, and, after initial training of these object/names separately, Snickers chose the right objects among the two a couple of times. But I'm not expecting immediate results in this, of course, he still needs to learn to really differentiate between the objects, and to be more patient. :)
I still had some time, so I let Snicks back in his night paddock and took the filly out for a session. I wasn't sure how she'd react to being alone outside the barn with the rest of the herd stabled (except for two mares who were still out in the paddock and whom she saw, so they might have contributed), but the filly was wonderfully calm and cooperative. She even didn't mind going completely away from the barn, out in the darkness and closer to the woods. Only after six short sessions she is now leading well at the walk and at the trot, has become more polite in turns, stopping and backing up, has started yielding her quarters, yields to pressure in the halter and is okay with ropes being thrown and rubbed all around her. I'm very excited to be working with her! And to remember how, when I met her first time, she was being lead by pulling the halter and by bribing her with sugar cubes... It was clearly not a horse problem.