I grabbed him from his pasture and he was reluctant to come with so I decided to use more pressure by clucking and then tapping him with the end of the rope and he seemed to respond better. His ears perked forward because he realized that I was in charge, and that for the longest time I forgot I was in charge.. but today I was in charge.
We walked up to the barn and I knew I only had a few hours before I would be picked up by my barn friend. So instead of spending an hour cleaning him, I spent around 15 minutes, making sure his feet were picked and his girth and back were clean.
I noticed his whole demeanor was different. Sky wasn't the happy relaxed horse that I had become to used to seeing.. who you had to convince to do anything instead of cuing and getting a response. His face read different and I asked him why he wasn't happy. His ears were set back as though he was thinking about something with utmost concentration. It was then I decided that we needed to have a ground work day. We hadn't done any groundwork in so long, other than lunging, and there was no one else around so we had the entire barn to ourselves.
So I set upon gathering all of the most wacky and trivial things to desensitize him to. Clippers, blanket, towels, my jacket, whips, rope (oh I should put him in his rope halter today!) So I changed his halter from leather flat to his green rope one. He seemed keen on what I was doing. His ears started to creep forward a little but when I noticed they would fall back again. They weren't pinned.. he was watching me closely.
I piled all of my objects and tools together under one arm and grabbed my saddle and bridle in the other. I only had his lead rope draped across my shoulder, and he followed without being told. He didn't try snatching for grass and he didn't try running away. I threw everything into the arena floor and he didn't move a muscle. It was unlike him.. it was like some tired lazy dead soul settled into my usually lively and loveable horse.
I grabbed his lead rope and lead him around. He was following with very little effort. I stopped and he did the same, paying attention to my body.
I positioned myself next to his barrel, and put a little pressure to ask him to move over. He stood still. I did it again and clucked.. he stood still. I stomped my foot on the ground and he SPRANG to life. His eyes wide and his feet splayed and his tail up. I calmed my body down and asked again. He moved forward. No... wrong answer.. I kept pressure on and clucked again, following him. He was so lost, so confused.. and then.. he took a step over and I released pressure. He took a big sigh and I said "good" and asked again. He moved forward.. wrong answer.. I kept the pressure even and asked again.. he took a step sideways and I said good. I eased up on the pressure but kept it there, and he kept going sideways. I told him good and eased up some more. He braced against my pressure and I clucked and he moved into me. He was testing me. I clucked, keeping the pressure and adding a little more before whacking my leg with the leadrope. He FLEW away in one huge step, my pressure still on his side, and he begun to step sideways. Good! And again... good boy. And again, and again and again. I took all the pressure away and he stopped. Woohoo! I stroked his face. A simple but effective reward for his hard work.
I asked him to walk on, standing by my side. I slowed my paced and asked for a ho.. he kept walking. He wouldn't stop walking.. and then he finally stopped a good meter in front of me. I went back to his shoulder and asked him to back up with steady pressure back on the halter. If horses could roll their eyes... he took a very reluctant step.. a very slow uneven step backwards. It wasn't even a full step.. it was like he picked up his foot and put it down again. I realized my horse had absolutely no respect for pressure, he had gotten so much release.
I filled my body with energy and begun to spin the rope infront of his face. Nothing. I spun it harder and faster and the end bumped his nose. Nothing. I smacked him on the chest and he ran INTO the pressure. NO wrong answer! I turned and faced him, spinning the rope and he marched backwards in very large motivated steps. I made him ho. And he stopped on a dime. I asked him to back again and he marched back without hesitation. Good boy.
I took the rope off, and begun to sack him out with it, letting him sniff it, before rubbing it on his face, neck, barrel, hind. Around his legs, through his legs, on his belly, on his tail, around his ears. Everywhere. He seemed happy with the rope. I folded the rope in half and looped it around his front foot, I added pressure.. he did nothing. I gently leaned on his shoulder and added pressure and he lifted his foot up, happy to oblige. I took the pressure away and he set it back down. I did this on all of his legs and he was a perfect gentleman. Then I took that rope and I spanked the ground with it, facing away from him. He was alarmed, and spooked in place but didn't bolt. I stopped and rubbed on him. I threw my rope in a pile on the ground.. he breathed softly, knowing it wasn't going to hurt him. I patted his neck, his ears pricked forward, one focused on me.
I picked up the rope and he stood still. I then "sent" him away down the rail, he was happy to do it. He had his attention on me as he took very nice big ol steps forward. I moved to the middle of the arena and let him walk freely. I then asked him for a nice trot and he picked it up no problem. He did it.. but he acted as though it was a chore. "Oh look, mom is lunging me again.. woo... trotting... fun... yawn." He stopped in the corner nearest the pasture. No, wrong choice. I spun the leadrope and he did nothing. I clucked and he ignored me. Silly mom.. she can't do a darn thing! Oh yes she can.
I charged at him, spinning the rope and as soon as he moved away from the corner, I changed my energy level to a 1 and let him move out. He kept trotting, confused as to why I did that.. his tail was in the air and his nose pointing to the Sky. His back hollow and his nostrils flaring. I asked him to walk... and he did it without fighting. But he didn't look at me, he was focused on what everyone else was doing, now that they started to pile into the parking lot. No... wrong answer Sky. I clucked and spun the rope and he kept on trotting, he looked at me with interest. I asked him to move into a canter and he picked up the right lead. Good boy! I let him canter freely, he wasn't hollow and he felt good. He stopped at that corner.. and I gave him a few more chances before I charged at him again. Off he took in a dead gallop, huffing and puffing. I moved to the center of the arena, and kept sending him around and rail. I cut infront of him and softly directed him to change reins. He did it perfectly. Good job Sky!
I let him trot, he was so beautiful and he had all eyes and ears on me. He was begging for me to let him walk. Sure.. let's walk. He came walking toward me, so happy that we were done. As if! He stopped short a couple of feet.. and I motioned for him to come closer. He took 3 huge steps before he was respectfully near. I stroked his face and rubbed his ears and under his halter. He was just beginning to sweat. I walked with him (without the rope) to the pile. "Nope.. I'm not going there!" Sky planted his feet. Wrong answer. I sent him off to work at the trot and he stayed on the rail, without cutting corners. After a lap I told him to walk and he came over to me, huffing and regretful.. he knew that was a bad choice. We tried again, but now a boarder was in the indoor and was whipping the ground and making a mess of things. I didn't care.. he worked with whips before. Off I sent him again, and again he came to me begging for the work to end. He followed me up to that scary pile, without any problems. "Oh it's just all of my tack!" he thought and he sniffed it and stood patiently. I sacked him out with my coat, the towel, the crop whip, and he stood happily and securely still, a new found respect for these objects.
I put the rope back on and tied it to make reins. He stood still as I tacked him up with a dressage pad, saddle, and then his bridle. I put the bridle ontop of the halter... let's try something new today!
I got on him, he wouldn't stop walking like a grandpa so I tapped him on. He did nothing, even with loose reins. I kicked him and he jumped forward. Good. I used a softer leg aid and he walked on well for awhile. He slowed down again.. no! I put my leg on, he didn't listen. I tapped him.. nope. I kicked him, OH! OKAY! I'LL WALK ON! As he stretched and drove himself forward into a nice walk. We picked up a trot, my hands holding both pairs of 'reins'. I first rode with the bridle reins, asking for contact and half halts. He was great, except he kept trying to auto-pilot. No! I used more leg and he ignored me. No! I kicked him over and he snapped his focus. OH! Okay I'll get over. I used a softer leg aid and he moved over. Good boy! I rubbed his neck with my inside hand. We did circles and serpentines and figure eights. He was wonderful! I decided to try the other set of reins, and tucked the leather ones under the pad. As soon as I did, and put my leg on.. he was round, he was forward and he was listening. We trotted around the arena in the most amazing sitting trot I've ever done. I remembered to roll my shoulders back, tuck my bum, and not pinch.. "dead weight" I thought and boy did it work. We did leg yields on and off and track. We did circles and figure eights and rode between barrels without spooking or hesitating. He was so happy... so forward, and I felt like a new person.
I stopped him and hopped off... I took off his bridle and saddle.. putting it on the fence. I got back on bareback to cool him off in just a halter. He was hot and sweaty so I spent time cooling him off, but with that forwardness and impulsion. He was so happy, so round.. he wasn't chomping on the bit or pulling back. His nose was down and he stopped on a dime!
I even stopped him in the middle of the arena, straight.. and we stayed standing still for over 10 minutes (after he wasn't breathing hard and cool of course.)
Sky got some hay in his stall before dinner.. he was so happy and he was different.. in a good way.
I feel different too.. I've awakened. I'm a new woman! With a new horse :)
And I can't wait to ride him and canter him tomorrow! My friend is going to lunge us! :)
Happy riding days, everyone! Hope you've all had wonderful days!