Sunday, June 14, 2009

The slightly less cranky mare

Things have been going well for Lic and I. We are cantering all over the place, and my consequence for her bucking seems to be very effective. She bucked twice this ride... for her, that's not bad at all! Once, I think she scraped her leg on some brush, and once, she was pissed because I was slowing her down out of a dead run. (I blame myself for that one in the first place for letting her get away from me.) But, here are some things we have accomplished in our past few rides:

-A pleasant canter and lope
-Rating the canter with my seat
-Half-halting out of a too-fast canter (almost a gallop, really) into a nice lope
-Backing using mainly alternating leg pressure with a supprotive rein
-Practicing/improving her jog

Best of all, she has learned that upward transitions without a command means work... I can actually feel her "thinking" about trotting, and changing her mind without my intervention. Also, we had a couple good spooks, but she is getting better at spooking in place, since my reaction to a bolt is an immediate one-rein stop and making her walk, calmly, past whatver spooked her several times. She still transitions downward without command, that will be the next thing I tackle, but for now, I'm happy working on one thing at a time. These are victories for me, too- I am still a relative newbie to riding and owning horses, so Licorice's improvements are reflections of improvement in my own riding and horsemanship.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Learning to be effective

The last two times I rode, I did something I felt bad for- I was caught off guard and yanked on her mouth because I was left behind. Oops. At least both times I got left behind it was for an undesirable action (a spook and a bolt). Meaning, at least I didn't pop her in the mouth for doing what I asked.

The first ride was the other day after it had finished raining. Somehow that day, I forgot to bring my common sense, because a storm had just passed, it was 20 degrees cooler out, and it was close to feeding time. In my mind, that meant it was a great time to throw on a bareback pad and hack down the street, without so much as lungeing first. Ah well, I remembered my helmet.

Shocking as it is, with all of those factors in combination, Licorice was a little on the fresh side. Yes, unbelievable, I know. It was go, stop, *snort,* spook the whole ride. We saw a coyote, which made her edgy but thankfully didn't make her explode. Finally, about 15 minutes in, she was wired and freaking out. I asked for a canter (have we lost count of the stupid decisions I made that day?) and she literally leapt into it, like she was jumping a fence. Recognizing that my poor little mare was out of her mind nervous, I decided that a *walk* would be more prudent. Unfortunately, she started trying to bolt at every little thing. A dog, another horse, the wind. So, my plan of action became clear, as I imagined my trainer in my head saying "Make the right thing easy and the wrong thing difficult."

Okay, so every spook or attempt to bolt was met with a one-rein stop, bending each way, and backing three steps. One our way home, Lic kept trying to break from a walk to jog without being asked. Stop, bend, back. It only took about 5 reps before she got it. By the end of the ride, I could feel her "thinking" about jogging, and by lightly lifting one rein just shut her down. I cued for a jog for the last block as a reward, and she jogged slowly and smoothly on a loose rein like such a good girl.

The next day, I rode out into a field. The ground was still soft from the rain so she was more than happy to canter when I asked. (This is making me think even more that I need to buy some boots for her when riding on hard ground.) Everything was fine until we turned back toward home- she threw two big bucks and tried to bolt. So, i met this with the same technique as the day before, but with a little more oomph, since I want to teach her that bucking and bolting is a big no-no. We stopped, she got to spin three times each way (not like a reining spin, obviously, but a tight turn) and then back about ten feet. The she got to canter back to where we started (this, too, was initially met with resistance, and she was given the same stop, spin and back routine) and try again. This went out for about ten minutes, and finally, a light went off in her horsey head, and she realized it would be easier to just canter than all this spinning, backing, and repeating. So we cantered back through the field, good as gold, no bucks!

Long story short, I feel like something clicked in my head- to calmly but firmly redirect her to doing something hard and repetitive when she's bad. She's a smart cookie, if I'm consistent, I know this will work. And even though she wasn't perfect, we made progress, which is the most important thing to me.