We meandered out to JT's field, fairly chill, and hung out with her on another horse while she watched a training horse work for a few minutes. Then they both went back in and we were left ALONE. We walked the circle of death exercise, cavaletti on their lowest setting, to give him something to focus on and then headed into the ring. He didn't bat an eye at the mats on the way in this time, good boy! He was however high pitched calling every so often and did hump his back and carry on a little bit to express how he felt about being left.
When JT walked out she asked how he had been since our lesson the week before. I described the feeling and she asked if he felt that way now. YES! Her response was "Okay, perfect, today we deal with that." I <3 her. So we dealt. She said we were going to do a million walk-trot transitions, and we did. We also got 4 cones marking our circle so that we could not meander around the ring.
Walk ten strides, trot ten strides, rinse and repeat. The cue to walk was voice "WOAHH" slightly more volume and definitive ending to the word than the settle, low pitched, calming "ho-oohhh" (pardon my lack of phoentic spelling), shoulders back, stretch up, close the knee and thigh. If that doesn't work, one short bump with both hands, then release. If that doesn't work, then turn inside the larger circle and do a small circle until we are walking. Then lots of praise. Then trot. And again. Then we took a break.
When we started up again, when we had to turn to a smaller circle to get the walk, we would change directions through the circle. He started balancing himself and getting straighter, it was magical.
Part of my difficulty of replicating lessons at home is that I have too much time to think when JT isn't telling me things. Like my internal dialogue gets shushed by her input during lessons, but it is running full blast while at home. "His neck is so twisty, how do I straighten that, (helpfully pulls on inside rein) maybe he's got cervical OA, maybe this is just the way he is and he's broken. I'm breaking him more... etc etc etc" It is not that he is perfect in lessons, in fact that day was a great lesson in dealing with non-perfect baby horse. But I have less time to spiral out of control about how everything is awful. And instead we fix it, but by riding him properly, forward and off the inside leg.
We practiced that walk-trot circle the next day, briefly, and it was there! Enough so that we cantered. And then did a few more walk-trot transitions after. With the realization that I needed to mostly stay out of my own head it went much better.
A few days later we went cross country "schooling" for the first time. Aka we met a friend at Majestic Oaks and walked around. He was super about almost everything. He took a bit getting his toes wet and then had several panicky moments once they were wet because the water was moving under him. He did body slam his friend once doing this, so I caved and stood in the water while he danced around until he got it sorted out and stopped dancing. Down side, I had wet boots and half chaps for the rest of the ride. At least I hadn't brought my tall boots out for this ride.
He did the BN ditch like it was NBD. We looped parallel to it, showing it to him with both eyes, for maybe 3-4 loops till he stopped acknowledging it, and then we stepped over it. Super good job. He also walked over a few entry fences - a coop, a log, and something else that I forget. He did want to kick up his heels a bit after these, I needed to just push him forward but was feeling a little tentative and didn't do a great job of that. He also stepped up and down banks without a second thought. Good boy!! Overall, very pleased with him. He was brave and forward. Regulating between things and overall was a bigger deal than any of the jumps/ditches/banks themselves.
Since he pulled a shoe at some point during this adventure (since I'm a dope and forgot to put bell boots on him), I took him out in hand to the hay field near the barn to work on emotional regulation away from his friends a few days later. It was pretty interesting, he was fine when we first got out there, but when I stopped to let him graze, he kind of realized he was alone and didn't have a specific job to do to keep him occupied. So he trotted circles, cantered circles, and pulled and bucked and threw in a couple of rears for good measure. All out of my space, so per the cowboy, just let 'em do it (also what on earth would you do to stop it). The few times he came into my space, he tick-tocked back out of it just fine even when he was on high alert. He also changed directions on his own and did some self-inflicted work tracking right, cool that he wants to stay even-ish. Eventually he settled, heaved a sigh, and started grazing consistently. He got a softer look in his eye, and I hope realized that he can be fine away from friends. I hope he also had the realization that temper tantrums don't actually get you what you want.
|He kept staring off and screaming. This isn't pointed towards home, I'm not sure if someone else's horses were responding to him, but I couldn't hear any. He's a little ribby, the GY's and I are still learning how to feed a growing baby.|
|But he did settle down and graze|
|And I grazed on blackberries|
|I only bell booted the foot that still had the shoe on. He looks pretty cute in green!|
Next week he goes to JT's for a bit of a boot camp while I'm out of town for 5 days. I need to write a Ben update too. He had a great recheck on Wednesday and is going back to work, thank goodness.