Cricket is laid up with a mild upper respiratory infection. She came home from camp with a cold. Apparently she's feeling better as she jumped (or climbed?) out of her stall this morning. It may be awhile before we can play again!
I've been thinking a lot about Circle Game since I returned from camp. Not only did we do quite a bit during our group sessions but it became a major theme in the private sessions as well.
In my first private session I asked for help with transitions into the canter. Cricket has become grumpy and either refuses to maintain the canter or goes around in a choppy four beat canter. I knew the issue was in the send but I didn't know what I was missing so I had no idea how to fix it.
My prerequisites were rhythm, relaxation and connection at the trot and a snappy back-up. I had the trot circle going well so we checked the back-up. Here was a major BFO. I could get Cricket to move out of my way but it was with tension and brace. There was no softness because I was yelling at her. Once we got that sorted out, it was time to move on. Except not so fast . . .
When I had Cricket back to where I needed her, she turned away from me. I have been reading this as unconfidence and I've been retreating and waiting until she turned back. Wrong approach! Yes, she is unconfident and turns. But it's not a fear based lack of confidence. Cricket doesn't respect my leadership and turns because she's frankly not interested in anything I have to say. Hmm, how incredibly interesting!!!!
I used three short, sharp bumps on the lead rope to ask Cricket to give me two eyes and two ears. It rocked her little world and it changed our circle game. Once I insisted she look at me, we started getting better departs. Once the departs were better, the canter was better.
It was also here that I learned how ingredients should be separated out in order to be fixed. Cricket has gotten lazy on her disengage and I tried to perfect it in the circle game. Nope. I need to accept her bring back and tighten the disengage outside the circle game. Oddly enough, as my send and allow improved, so did my disengage.
It was in another private session, not mine, that I had another BFO about the circle game. As Pat Parelli tells us over and over, horses are masters at judging distance. Not depth perception but relational distance. My friend was having trouble with her horse staying out and not getting tangled in the tail end of the 22' line. She was instructed to back the horse out to the circle she wanted her to maintain. If you want a 20' circle, send your horse from 20' away. Same for a 6' circle. Don't send them and expect them to go out further. You didn't ask for it. It was amazing the difference it made in the horse's understanding of the circle game.