Friday, June 5, 2009
Elly seems to have gotten over her little tiff with me for taking her out in the rain. After our last ride (which I blogged about below), two days later I took her out into the arena. She was a little distracted, looking for monsters to come down off the hill out of the woods but I just kept focusing on the single rein riding as a way to access her mind and body. Slowly but surely, she stopped worrying about outside things and got softer and more responsive. I've noticed an interesting thing that I need to think about, which is that I feel she bends much better to the right, and yet she seems to have more trouble taking treats to the right when I am riding. To the left, she is much more likely to have her nose poked out on a loose rein, whereas to the right, she bends easily, although she can get curled under. But when I hold out a treat in my left hand, she easily turns to take it. If I hold one out in my right hand, she hesitates a moment, and then seems to struggle to turn to get it as if she has a stiff neck. I hope that even taking the treats will help soften her up as she bends right with her poll higher....
I taught a lesson on her today and had the student go "back to basics" with her, first on the ground, then under saddle but in the round pen mostly at a walk and riding on the buckle. This student rode her all last year but took the winter off and even though her position is good after a winter off, she and Elly seem to have lost all communication. Elly basically just tunes her out and the rider is not a strong personality so the last lesson was pretty frustrating as she couldn't get Elly to do anything other than plod along. So I handed her a clicker and a pouch of hay stretcher pellets and started off by just having her reinforce Elly for stepping brightly off and then staying with her for several steps. Then we added in some back steps to practice the "cha cha" exercise of Alex Kurland's. I would call out "five steps forward" and when they had done that "3 steps back" in a random pattern. I helped the rider with her positioning, food delivery and being solid in her presence.
After this was going well, I had her do a few minutes of asking Elly to give her hips in a very simple exercise to lead up to giving the hips at the mounting block. I really had to chunk this down for the girl as she repeatedly got stuck and Elly responded to this and stalled out as well. Hips don't give when they're stuck! Finally we had a couple good responses from both horse and handler and I felt Elly was much more in tune with her handler, so I had the girl mount up.
At this point I had her repeat the go forward cue and click/treat for a prompt step off just as they had done on the ground. But now, the cue came from her leg. I know how responsive Elly can be to a leg aid and it is very frustrating to watch this girl kick away at her sides while Elly tunes her out and plods along. All it took was one click for a trot step transition and Elly said "OK!". A light touch from the girl's leg and she trotted right off. We repeated this many times so the girl could experience just how easy it can be. Not only that, but after all the hip gives and treating with the rock back, Elly put herself into a nice little self carriage several times- even though the girl rode on the buckle the whole time. I even managed to get a couple photos!