Today with Coco I started off just with a saddle and a long lead, guiding her out at a distance, just following the lead, getting her to bend and do some soft circles and follow the lead of the rope. I wanted her calm and walking in nice rhythm. She was far more relaxed, and when I ask for energy it was energy without any flee. I quite quickly went to steering her just laterally with the bit in her mouth – same thing really – opening up a circle and then tightening up a circle and steering her, then following me for a bit, then I would do the other side until she started bending to the bit and softening in the circles to the feel of the bit.
Once she was doing that I put Ebony on and just started to guide her around with someone on her back. I worked on getting Ebony to speed her up a little bit just to get her to bump her and get some energy using her legs, then slowing her down and picking up energy again. Ebony had a couple of little trots on her back to help Coco to relax and balance at the trot.
She is slowly getting more relaxed and not so worried about things. I was walking around and I would lift the rope up and there was a lot happening – the dogs running around and Ebony’s little brother was climbing on the fence. I noticed that Coco was really starting to relax to random things that were happening and focusing on the guidance that I am offering her which is nice.
I then took her out in the paddock with Ebony, though a gully and on some big circles that bought her back into the lead before going back out on the circle again. She looked about a bit at the other horses in the paddock but she handled herself well and on the whole lesson she didn’t spook and rush at anything. All of this is deliberately done at a calm walk. There is no point going faster until she can handle the walk.
Towards the end of the lesson I introduced the whip again – she wasn’t completely relaxed but she is starting to accept it and isn’t so frightened of it – I could be quite close to her to crack it today. She had a bit of a rush to the whip on her bad eye but she calmed down. It still does create tension in her.
So this time I introduced it after she had worked and she was focused and relaxed. Originally, I introduced the whip right at the start of her training to find out how reactive she was when I hadn’t done a lot with her. I also wanted to show her right from the start that the whip was a part of me and it wasn’t a tool of punishment or something to be frightened of. Imagine if she was scared of my hat – well I wear my hat – it’s a part of me so she doesn’t need to be afraid of it. She needs to know that from the start. The other factor is time – she is only here for a short time so it was important that any potentially big issues get tackled with time to resolve them thoroughly.
I am really just doing things like this so that if I find something that worries her I can work on that and offer different things. Eventually it will the relaxed focus that she has in her personality together with her accepting the leadership that people offer that will make her not worry about the random things that happen out the paddock that you can’t really control.
Finally, teaching her to soften in the bit and take some backward steps. If she softens I release. If she takes a backward step I release. She will put the two together soon enough.