Yesterday was my first actual play session with Cricket and Bleu in over a week. It was worth the wait!
I started with Cricket and the dreaded Figure 8. Our perpetual Achilles heel. In a very direct line and predatory manner, I decided Cricket would do the Figure 8. In a very oppositional and prey animal manner, Cricket decided I was not to be trusted.
She was super-laggy on the feel of the halter coming forward. Not normal for her. My first thought was "we're gonna' fix this right now." By whacking at her to come forward. Hmm, not the best strategy for my LBI.
I decided, instead, to adopt the "take two days" pose and just held the lightest feel on the rope. She wasn't pulling, she just wasn't following the feel. I waited. She waited. Finally, she just stepped into me. I turned away and allowed her lots of time to lick and chew.
At the Columbus event, Linda talked about the focus of tag the middle should be on the ground not on the horse. Hmm, how interesting. I was tagging the ground with the focus being on missing the horse when in fact it should have been on hitting a particular spot behind her. At first I didn't think this subtle shift in focus would matter. But I was game to try - nothing else has worked.
So we start the pattern. Slowly. Because she's LBI and that's how we start everything. Just when Cricket got this "oh boy, another figure 8" attitude, I picked a specific hoof print in the sand and just as her butt cleared that spot, I tagged the ground with intention and focus.
YOWZER! My little mare zipped out around the cone. The best part - she tried to be offended but because my energy and focus had absolutely nothing to do with her, she just couldn't be upset. As Cricket would come around, I'd get a strong focus on a specific point in the middle of the pattern and I'd build the intensity to strike just as she passed that point. It wasn't too long until she was offering a canter to get out of the way. No pinned ears, no swishing tail, no crabby mare attitude.
We stopped when I felt her to be really motivated and I just turned her out to graze in the paddock.
Next was Bleu. Right off the bat, I was very pleased with how confidently she left her stall and walked toward the arena gate. Usually she freezes when I take her away from her herd. Not this time. She walked easily into the arena but when I went to close the gate, she wanted to come out. No worries. Approach and retreat. Squeeze game in and out until she could stand confidently in the arena.
We continued with Touch It on the 12' line, using cookies on barrels and the pedestal to help her follow my focus. We're working with the feet on the pedestal but she's still a little hesitant. At least twice, during the entire session, she offered to place a foot (or two) with confidence and we walked away on those super tries.
I introduced the Figure 8, using the 22' to give her drift and room to balance herself. She sort of zones out when in motion and I want her to check back in more often. I used a Z1 interrupt to help her think back to me. I'm not sure we made big strides (well, she did, with those long legs) but I feel we ended with more connection than we started.
Circling on the 22' was interesting. I want to get the rhythm, relaxation and connection. She's pretty rhythmic and she doesn't entirely loose connection but there is little or no relaxation in her movement. At one point she blasted into a canter and was entirely too emotional about the whole thing. I was pleased, however, because we have been working on canter and I feel she was offering it, albeit in a RB way, trying to find the right answer. I tried to be polite and passive yet not push her off the cliff.
Interesting thing, she seems to prefer to dwell in front of me, rather than behind. How interesting! Cricket likes my back - taking all the pressure off. Bleu will maneuver herself to be more in front of me before she releases her adrenaline.
I was very pleased with both horses. Tonight will be low-key as I probably won't have much time. I'm hoping to get a good mix of play and undemanding time this holiday weekend