I spent the majority of the night laying in bed planning out today's ride. I knew exactly what we were going to work on and how we were going to accomplish it.
Well I know you all know about "The best laid plans"
We warmed up in our usual manner only this time I made sure that the circles were of my choosing, not his. It was all going along smoothly. I was impressed with my horse and with myself. So I decided to move on to something else.
The imaginary flag.
And that is when everything fell apart.
I thought that maybe if I gave him a little more room to execute this exercise we might would do better. I was so wrong.
We worked across one end of the arena, trot or lope forward then stop, then back 5 or 6 steps, turn the head, push the shoulder and ride him out of it.
In a matter of minutes I had a pissed off horse, which in turn pissed me off and the next thing I knew we were racing around the arena out of control, at a high rate of speed. Think 500 mph.
I was mad.
He was mad.
And it got us no where.
So I drove him hard. I mean really hard. I went from letting him take me around at his choice of speed and I laid into him and made him go go go go. He was asking to slow down and I wouldn't let him. If he even thought about it I would squeeze again and keep him going.
During that time a million things went through my head.
"I hate this horse"
"This is ridiculous"
"We are never going to get this"
"I'm going to sell him"
"That's crazy- who would want him"
"You are just letting your anger get the best of you"
I was crying and could barely see where I was going anymore
"I can't do this"
"I don't have what it takes"
"Yes you do"
"You love this horse"
"I do love my horse"
"He was trying- you put it on him to fast"
"Make your messages clear"
"I don't know how"
"Yes you do, break it down"
"Okay, I can try"
"Do for this horse, what no one else has ever been able to do"
"You made a promise to him."
"Then follow through"
Then we walked.
As we walked I bumped my reins with my hands to make him drop his head. As soon as he did I released. The second he raised his head I did it again. And we did this over and over and over again until he started walking with his head down some.
Then one of the times I was bumping I threw in a whoa, tried to quit riding, and then immediately asked him to back up. After the back up we would execute the turn and do it again.
This became our drill for the day, only we did it slow. Very very slow. Walk 20- 40 feet- stop, back up 10 feet- execute the turn- start again.
I changed the distance we walked each time because he likes to anticipate rather than waiting for my cue. I always tried to wait until he had his head down to ask for the stop. It helped him stop.
And then he did it.
A dead stop and two steps back on his own.
I felt a glimmer of hope.
We kept going. In the other direction (towards the open end) he still fought me, so we kept going until he didn't. I worked hard on envisioning the stop, convincing myself that we were going to stop, riding for the stop instead of bracing for the fight. When I could do all those things, it worked.
Finally after what seemed like an eternity he gave me a dead stop in both directions.
I breathed a long sigh of relief.
He was getting it.
So we rode out the arena and down the road. All we did was walk and I kept asking for his head down and he kept giving it to me, and ever so often I would ask for the stop.
What I found though is that he is still anticipating the "ride out" afterwards. So we worked on just standing still after the back up.
We went all the way around the block. Most of it was good, some if it wasn't, but if it wasn't we did it again, and again until he got it right.
Now here is where I found myself wondering how do I connect in his brain the bump bump bump back on the reins with a lift of the reins. I mean he is super soft on that bump, but a lift still gets a lift. I don't know how to transition from one to the other. I tried moving my hands down the rein, lifting and bumping at the same time. A couple of times I got the right reaction and released immediately, but it wasn't consistent.
I still don't have my answer, but I'll find it eventually.
So we kept going. The minute we turned back down our street things started to fall apart again. I swear it took us longer to get down our road than it did for the rest of the ride.
But when we turned towards the drive we stopped and backed up one more and it was instantaneous and smooth and I called it good.
When I got off his chin was all red and I thought he was bleeding, but it was just the dye from the leather and his sweat. He was really sweaty. He got a nice hose down, a roll in the pasture, and a snack.
He worked really hard- I worked really hard, and it took us a long time but we made some progress.
Now it is time to go to work.