My play sessions with Cricket have just been little things. But some of these little things seem to be netting big results.
I have become more particular with her when leading her from her stall to the arena. We only cross 20' of aisle way but to her left is the stack of hay and to her right, the observation deck under which the feed cans are housed. Pretty big temptations for a very food motivated horse.
Rather than allowing her to drift to the hay stack and nibble, I've begun to insist she stand and wait while I refasten her stall door. Or if we walk down to the tack room, past the feed cans and desperately close to something that could be called grass, I ask her to focus on where we are going and to stand while I get whatever it was I forgot. She's getting better. This will take time as I'm the one who allowed the bad habit to develop. What I'm noticing is that she's more in tune with me from the get-go once we do start playing. Hmm, interesting what a little leadership can do.
In our ground play, I've become more particular about her attitude during the send and the change of direction on the circle game. In re-watching one of the SC DVDs, I came to better understand that her pinned ears may be her nature as a cow-y horse but her evil/driving thoughts need not be directed at me. I've started using a pattern interrupt to stop her in her tracks when she gets her "drive the momma" thoughts. I've had to balance this with maintaining her confidence. As evidenced by her somewhat erratic ear movement, she's quite conflicted in her thoughts on the change. I'm doing my best to accept her tries without allowing her to slip back into evil thoughts.
The net result is a horse who is now much more willing to canter. Odd for my little LBI pony. Even when I ask her down to the trot, she's prone to go back to the canter. Love it. Trying not to take advantage of it.
Riding is our littlest thing right now. I'm trying not to over-do anything. I still have discomfort from my gall bladder surgery but it seems to be improving. I rode her on Tuesday. We used follow the rail (consistency) with circles, walk to halt transitions, back-up, change of direction (variety) to warm up. When I asked her for the trot, she was forward and quickly became a little RB and spooky. I eased her back down to the walk and did more follow the rail. I asked her for just a few strides of trot and then back to the walk. Within one or two transitions she was back in harmony with me. I stopped and dismounted. It wasn't about the riding. It was about re-establishing my leadership and getting her focus back on me - despite the barking dogs, howling coyotes and the weird half-light shadows at the back of the barn.
Little things that seem to be growing into something big.