Right leads- Check
Rope Gate- Check
Running off with me on his back- Check
Not running off with MK on his back- Check
Getting to graze on yummy grasses after a job well done- Check
Our lesson yesterday was outside, rather than in, which was nice since it was very nice out. I did the warming up part, and the initial ground work part while MK worked with a new colt who was getting a saddle for the first time.
We talked about my last ride and about how Trax bailed when the rope touched his and what I did about it. He liked what I had done, and decided we would work on that some. So we looped the rope on the horn and around his butt and just walked around. First he tried to run away from it, but pretty soon he was walking calmly and and standing quietly with it.
When I climbed up on him we started with our laterals and Trax really did well. He actually bends further to the left than the right now, which is amazing since the left was his bad side before. He will even hold his head there after I release him, so that is very cool.
We stepped up to some trotting and bending at the jaw, and again he is actually better on the left now than the right, so obviously I need to go back to working both sides instead of just focusing on his "bad side". When we went with a canter he immediately tried to run off with me. I resisted the urge to just give him his head and let him wear himself down some, because I don't want to reward him by giving in. We did a one rein stop, and then tried again. Same thing. It was a little frustrating. What was not frustrating was that he is getting pretty good about giving me the right lead when asked.
MK said to quit one rein stopping him but instead just bring my circle down slower so that he has to slow down. Once he gives me the trot then go ahead and make my circle bigger, when he takes off again, do the same thing over and over again until he gives me the soft canter. Our goal is to get him to no longer depend on a one rein stop to slow his butt down. Eventually Trax started wearing me out, so I stopped him and said, "Your turn." Then promptly ran to my truck to get some water.
I wish I had some video of MK riding my horse. It is so nice to watch. Not that he doesn't have to work with him, but his messages are so much clearer to Trax I think. It is just cool to see my crazy paint horse transform into something that is soft and supple and athletic looking instead of all over the place. Or it could just be that I like the way he moves (the horse not the man) and I don't usually get to see it, since I'm usually the one on his back. I always take my camera with me, but am always so busy watching and learning, the thought of photo shoots always falls by the way side. One of these days though, I will get some.
Anyway, once he had him settled down some, he took him to the rope gate and let him rest. I literally laughed out loud when Trax reached down and pushed the rope with his nose a few times. Good boy! it was nothing for him to pick up the rope and rub Trax's neck with it, and then ask him to step through. I expected him to just complete the task but instead he pushed him back and forth through the gate several times. Each time letting him rest after a job well done. Then he finished the task and hung the rope up.
Then it was my turn. I got on him and trotted him around some, pushing his shoulder and asking for softness which he gave me pretty easily. Each time he did, I released and praised. We stopped at the gate and rested, and once again, he pushed the rope with his nose. Good good boy! It was no trouble to open the gate and no trouble to push him through the gate. I did like MK did and asked for this several times with a rest after each pass through. Then I asked him to move his hip so we were parallel with the gate to line myself up for hanging the rope back up. We got stuck there. Every time I asked for the hip, he would give it to me,, but not without backing up first which put us too far away to "close" the gate. We worked on this for a while, each right step got a good long rest and rub both front and rear with the rope. Finally he went where I asked and let me close my gate. I gave him many praises and big hugs and a nice long rest.
MK asked if he could get back up on him to show me something that will help us. So I let him, of course. He took Trax away from the gate and moved his hip from one side to the other, over and over again. He suggested that before I even attempt the gate, ever, to do this with him just to remind him what the different cues mean. Then he said, "Your horse gets frustrated easily if he isn't sure what you want. You tend to forget to pull your leg off of him after he steps and so he starts fighting you. I want you to remember that your spur is your last resort, and your cue is your leg. The minute he heads the right way, pull that leg way off of him so he knows he is doing right." Then he demonstrated.
He rode to the gate picked up the rope, pushed the hip through turned him around pushed the hip back rode him forward a step and closed the gate. A darn near perfect execution! Well not really perfect because it is supposed to be slow, smooth, and easy, and Trax takes fast steps rather than slow, but the end result was that HE DID IT! So he stopped and rested him and we did not work on the gate again.
After that he had me get back on him and work on his front leg crosses. It was, guide with the inside rein, keep forward motion with the outside leg and the minute he crosses over with correct leg, release and walk forward a few steps. This exercise is not just for him but for me as well. He is trying to teach me to learn what it feels like when he takes that correct step. I am starting to get it, because it is smoother than when he crosses behind. Once he actually took 2 steps correctly and MK said, "Stop right there, that was perfect! Don't do anymore, just walk him out to cool him down and then untack him by the gate." So we walked around and around, then picked up our halter off the fence (without getting off!) and then rode him to the gate. He nosed the rope again! Its like he is saying, "I have defeated you, rope!"
Once I got him undressed I let him graze a little. Talk about pure bliss! He would take a bite and then just kind of gaze at everything going on around him while he chewed. I loved the look of contentment on his face.
The last thing MK said to me was, "A horse like this is hard to find. I wish I had one like him."
I have to say that I really enjoy riding with MK. Not just because he gives my pony great compliments but we really have a good time. He is very good about telling me what I am doing wrong with out making me feel stupid. What ever he sees me struggling with, he finds a way to help me through it. Even more important is when he sees me doing something right, he lets me know also. I try to respect what he is doing by paying close attention and applying it to my riding.