Today's ride was short although not so sweet. I think I was the biggest problem in the equation today. I just wasn't into it. It is an odd thing to hear those words come out of my mouth, but then in light of all that has hit me in the last couple of days, not too surprising.
I was all set and oh so excited to be able to go to a Dick Pieper clinic this weekend. Yesterday we learned that Mr. Pieper is ill, and will not be able to facilitate. They have found someone else to fill in, and I am sure she is more than capable, but she is not (cue angels singing) Dick Pieper. So at this point I am kind of on the fence about going. Yesterday I was still going for sure, today I'm more like "meh". Who knows what tomorrow will bring. I have decided not to make my decision until Friday morning. Yup, nothing like waiting till the last minute.
On a side note: I do hope that Mr. Pieper is going to be okay. I do feel kind of selfish putting my own desires above another persons health....kind of.
Then there were some personal issues going on within in my household which tends to take the wind out of my sails. In fact it is down right depressing. But I shall not dwell on that here, either.
So I did finally get off my butt and go ride. But my heart wasn't into it. My head was some place else and there was very little connection between the my partner and I. Still we muddled through.
However I did manage to come to terms with a few topics that are floating around the blogesphere. Over at BEC's several of us are waiting patiently on a post about on and off switches. And I have been thinking about those team penning horses I saw last year. Those horses went from being baby sitters to fire breathing, cow eating dragons, and back to baby sitters in a matter of seconds. On top of that, those horses were the ones who were REALLY good at their jobs. Where as the horses that were wound up all the time had a really hard time focusing on the task at hand. They were just too amped up.
So then I took that information, the information that BEC is starting to lay out, and what I know about my horses past and started piecing things together.
It used to be that we did laps around the arena to get him "warmed up" but pretty soon I came to realize that all that did was take him up (on) and keep him there. He went to far and bringing him back was next to impossible.
So then I went to avoiding loping at all costs, which was good. It kept him at a lower energy level, and made it much easier to keep his brain engaged and on me, rather than on the dark place he goes when he leaves town. On the down side of that, getting him to move his feet with any sort of urgency was also next to impossible.
So my next goal is to find the happy medium for this guy. Today, even with my lack of desire to even be there, we kind of had a little tiny bit of a break through.
It started with a couple of slow circles and lead changes. He was getting chargey and a little high headed and out of control. I wasn't digging it AT ALL. So when he refused to break down for a change I ended up just driving his butt into the dirt and making him stand still. While we sat there I thought for a minute.
I left the lead change exercise, took him back to long trotting and then we went back to lead changes. He was better but still head high. So we went to the serp drills, and then back to lead changes. At one point he even did his own flying lead change, and I was like "Hey! What just happened here???" But getting him to do it again...well I wasn't sure how we did it the first time, so repeating it was not happening. But he did finally give me some very nice one or two step lead changes, and I was happy with that.
Then we went back to long trotting, serp drills, and leg yields none of which were what I would call nice. After a bit we just walked around a little and then tried our imaginary flag work. He got too hot too quick and I started to lose him again. This time we went straight to long trotting until he was soft again. After I had him soft for a while, I asked for the flag work again and this time...he moved his feet with purpose...was following my lead...was giving me the best stops that I am capable of asking for...and although he still got a little head high, he never got out of control.
From there I went straight back to long trotting until he got soft again, then we walked, then we did leg yields and they were pretty darn nice. Then I called it a day. I think we were out there 45 minutes.
So what I am learning about Trax is that he can and will flip like a switch, but the results are generally disastrous or even dangerous. Trax is a horse that needs to be brought up gradually, not pushed past his breaking point, and then brought back down slowly. If I take him up, then just stop. He will stop and stand still (most of the time) but the minute I ask for forward movement again...it is balls to the wall because he is still wound up so tight. So if I bring him up slowly, monitor his mental state constantly, and then bring him down slowly (before he blows a gasket) it will slowly allow his "rubber band" to gain more elasticity.
I wish I could take credit for all of this super cool revelation...but I can't. I have to be honest and say that I had some help (okay- a lot) from BEC. She is the first one to introduce the rubber band analogy to me (quite some time ago) and we did have a long talk today about Trax and the best way to help him turn on and off and how to push his boundaries without pushing to far. I would strongly urge anyone who is more interested in the subject of the on/off switch to keep a weather eye on HER BLOG. I'll bet dollars to doughnuts there is a killer post coming up that really breaks down the entire thought process. The girl has her training brain in 4WD right now, and good stuff always comes out of that! (No pressure BEC- lol)
Tomorrow I will go back to ground driving...and not just Trax....very excited about that! I'll try to set up the tripod and get some killer video of it.
Oh one thing I forgot to add earlier is that I am noticing one really big change in Trax and this has nothing to do with the supplements, the chiro, or anything else. It is everything to do with what I have changed in our training sessions. When we lope now, he is always waiting for the stop cue. He knows it is coming, and I can feel him "reading" me every second waiting for that cue. (okay well most of the time anyways) This is a huge step for him. It is how I know that he really really wants to get this stuff right. I still don't think it is because he is just so damn happy to make me happy, but he has suddenly decided that stopping is awesome and to me....that is awesome.