So last Monday, my resolve strengthened by an unseasonably cool evening, I actually pulled out my saddle in order to have a "proper ride."
I started our session with a little grazing time. Cricket is on a dry lot all day long and I have found this little ritual helps me ease out of "work day" mode and it gives her a chance to have a little smackerel before we start our real play. I often incorporate a few leadership elements: don't pull on the rope, move to another pile when I ask, etc.
Cricket was very resistant to leaving the grass and heading to the arena. She was dragging on the rope and diving for grass instead of following me. I know this is important but I kind of brushed over it.
Once in the arena, I began our ground play session. Cricket was very introverted - much more than normal. Hmm, how interesting. I took as much time as she needed to lick and chew. I spent what seemed an eternity mirroring her while I waited. She was very lazy about yielding her shoulder. Hmm, how interesting.
I saddled her up and we started a session of follow the rail. I am working on developing the patience for pattern work. As my PNH instructor says, horses don't get bored, humans do. Every horse understands patterns but the human often lacks the patience and dedication to follow through until the horse understands that it is in fact a pattern.
After some walking the rail and corners game, I asked Cricket to trot. We are still having head shaking issues. They are drastically reduced from last year but the problem is not fully resolved. We had some good transitions before the head twitching started back. I checked my position, made sure I was riding balanced and properly engaged and just continued to ask for transitions until she smoothed out and started offering some relaxation. I am finally developing the confidence to ask for and ride a forward posting trot with a casual rein.
All and all I have to say it was a great session. Her head shaking is not as intense as it was even three months ago. In reflecting on it, I can see that I failed to establish proper leadership from our grazing time and that affected the entire session. I need to tune up her shoulder yield and remind her that she is to sit on her butt and move her shoulder, not spin from the middle. I need to ride her longer. I think a longer session of riding until she truly relaxes - through her whole body and mind - may do wonders for the head shaking.