Finally rode Bandit again. Briefly. A while back, I sprained my shoulder enough that I didn't trust using it if anything happened on horseback, I tried one ride and mounting up, pulling with my left hand on the mane...OWW! Then I hurt my back, caught what may have been flu, and in general had an unpleasant couple of weeks. My back is better, I'm mostly over the respiratory thing...but I re-injured my left shoulder again yesterday. Oh well. It is nice outside and I figured 30 minutes in the arena would be good for both of us.
And it was, but rougher than I expected. Someone at our neighbor's house decided, just as I got on Bandit, to rev up a dirt bike a bunch of times, then zoom past our little arena while popping wheelies. I say someone because the neighbor's wife grew up around horses. Doesn't ride any more, but she's talked to her kids about horses and the kids always seem very respectful around horses. They seem to understand that Bandit can be genuinely frightened, and what kind of weirdo would want to frighten a horse for no reason? So maybe it was a visitor.
Anyways, Bandit did some nice sideways moving. Actually turned away for a moment, but got him turned back ASAP. Turning away is generally a harmful reaction in the desert so I want to keep him focused on facing threats. The last couple of rides, whenever they were, I was trying to transition to the Momma Bear setting for stirrups. Worked well today, I'll say! Good to know he can zip sideways while using Momma Bear stirrups and have everything feel very solid!
Worked on posting after the dirt bike left. And eating. Me posting. Bandit eating. Each of us got some of what we wanted. Near the end, Bandit got very antsy again. I couldn't figure out why. I had taken one foot out of the stirrup in prep to dismount when he got agitated, so rode that with one stirrup. Got him briefly calm, then did a high speed dismount. About 30 seconds later, the dirt bike reappeared from between some houses, and zipped up and down the street gunning the engine and popping wheelies. Bandit was SOOO unhappy about a dirt bike rearing and screaming and trying to throw off a giant horsefly - which is what a lot of dirt bikers dress like! Couldn't blame Bandit, but it was probably just as well I wasn't armed. Not sure Mr Dirt Bike even knew we were there.
When Mr Dirt Bike went in to the house, I took Bandit back to the corral and fed the horses.
Not at all how I would like my first ride in a few weeks to go, for me or for Bandit. The only anger I felt was toward Mr Dirt Bike. Couldn't see a face, but it would be VERY unusual for one of the neighbor kids to act that way. Bandit was behaving well under the circumstances. From a horse's perspective, he bent over backwards trying to make things go well. If my shoulder is throbbing now...well, that isn't Bandit's fault. As far as I'm concerned, he behaved like a champ.
[Edit to add]: FWIW, at the Momma Bear setting, my security in the saddle really does seem to be rooted in my lower leg, not my "seat". Guess VS Littauer managed to teach me SOMETHING, even after his death! Maybe Santini's "perching" in the saddle works. Although I'm not supposed to be able to learn anything from reading a mere book...
...but when a horse scoots sideways, having your security in your lower leg instead of your rump REALLY seems to work well!
What I failed to realize back then was that by ramping up the intensity of my leg pressure, for example, while I did get the result of him moving away from it, I had obtained the result I wanted with a substantially negative byproduct. Yes, he moved off my kicking leg, but the sharpness of my kicks had made him more nervous and anxious. Now I had to deal with a more reactive horse, which meant very often I would feel the need for stronger rein contact to control the nervousness that I had actually created. As I used stronger rein contact, the horse got even more nervous, and the downward training spiral had begun. What I was doing was forcing the move away response rather than teaching the move away response...
In addition to "Ask, Tell, DEMAND", I can't count how often I've been told to sharpen the aids by then using "Ask, DEMAND BLAST IT". Maybe Mr Emerson is more accustomed to Thoroughbreds, Arabians and Morgans...but he seems to believe jumping from ask to insist is a good way to start a fight. I'll add another Tom Roberts story here. It remains one of my favorites, although I don't know if I have the patience:
This horse was a confirmed jibber. He would not move when ridden alone. He just stood.
We were all eyes - and ears! How would the Captain fare with THIS horse?
[The next day] Promptly at 9 am, the Captain mounted and began to talk, as was usual. He was a most interesting lecturer, and he went on, and on. He made no attempt to move the horse, which was what we students were all waiting to see.
He talked and he talked. It was not until about 11:30 am again, that he suddenly seemed to realize the time. Again, the Captain drew his watch from his fob pocket and appeared to be most surprised to find it was so late.
"I'm sorry Gentlemen", he said , "I had no idea I had been speaking so long. Now what was the matter with this horse?"
"Try and get him to move", yelled several voices simultaneously.
To our utter astonishment and confusion, the horse cantered straight off down the School.
After a few minutes work, the Captain returned smiling..."Gentlemen, I have deceived you...Yesterday, when I mounted this horse, I immediately recognized I had to deal with a jibber [horse who would not go out alone]. I could feel he was determined not to move. The hour was late, and I knew I would need time. ALWAYS ALLOW YOURSELF TIME. Never fail to allow yourself plenty of time when about to start on a difficult horse - whatever the difficulties he presents.
"This morning at 9 o'clock, I mounted this horse with several hours ahead of me. The horse was determined not to be ridden forward. But I, too, was determined not to move.
At half-past 9, we were both still determined not to move. 10 o'clock came, and he was still determined not to move. So was I.
At 10:30, I could feel he was starting to become a little restive - but I was still determined not to move.
Now, at 11;30, we are BOTH ready to move."