Wednesday, September 14, 2011
What It's All About
I invited Cricket to come play with me. She accepted and so we began . . . with haltering. Just the softest touch to ask her to keep her head lowered and towards me. Just the softest reminder to please bring her head back.
My idea was to squeeze out of the stall and head to the arena. Her idea was to squeeze out of the stall and grab hay from the bales stacked across the aisle. We went with her idea . . . why not? After the initial, frantic bites, I asked her to yield her HQ in a half turn followed by her shoulder in a half turn, all with a "hurry up and get back to the hay" attitude. Suffice it to say, she didn't believe me. At least not at first. I repeated the pattern so she understood that I loved her idea and could she please consider my idea. I also added in some sideways away, sideways towards, hurry up and get back to the hay.
In the arena, there was a 3-barrel pattern set up and my plan was to use that to do some free-form change of direction. I decided to keep everything at the walk or trot. She doesn't want to canter and I'm tired of telling her she's wrong.
I started slow, just using the barrels as objects and asking her a series of "can you" questions. We played with all three barrels before I asked her to circle.
At a walk, she made it past the first barrel and at the second barrel, I wanted her to go around and draw back to me. She wanted to jump. But only half way. I wish I had a picture of the expression on her face. She was so proud of herself. This is something we've been working on and she knows I like it and she knows it almost always yields a cookie. She was right - I loved it and gave her a cookie. It took more effort to do what she did than what I wanted.
She showed me she wanted to jump so I changed my plan to "go around or go over." As we approached each barrel on the circle, I asked her to either go around (and maybe draw and redirect or draw and stop) or go over (maybe half way, maybe all the way, maybe jump and stop or maybe jump and keep going).
It was so far from perfect but it was so much fun. She started asking questions and participating. Her energy never really came up, except for the jumping, and that's okay.
We finished with some upward transitions following a change of direction. It's a pattern my friend taught me to help the horse prepare for FLC. I asked Cricket to change direction at the walk and then immediately move into the trot. I don't know if I really set us up for success but on the last one, Cricket put in an energetic trot and held it through the change. I figured that was enough and told her how wonderful she was.
Leaving the arena, I sent her back to the hay and we played some more with her idea. I opened her stall door and asked her to back into her stall and quickly come forward for more hay. She liked that a fair bit and it was a little bit of a challenge to get her to stay in her stall.
Last night made me aware of how I have drained the fun out of being with my horse. Up until now, it's been about what we need to do or worse, what we cannot do. It's not been about what we can do or better still what we want to do.
This is supposed to be fun. It's supposed to be recreation for both of us. So what if she's not perfectly bio-mechanically correct, so what if I ride a bit like a drunk monkey, so what if she doesn't canter on line. We'll get there . . . when we're both ready.