Week two going into three for Ranger. We had sessions in the ring and out in the fields. We practiced standing while being mounted: on, stand, off, stand, repeat. Ranger has probably in the past always walked off and on down the trail, so he got to have the experience of standing and getting cookies are carrots. When a horse walks off without me asking, I feel very much the energy of leaving me, even though I am on their back and I go with. Their mental attitude is not one of with or partnership.
While it is not difficult to get a horse with you, it takes different tactics in different moments with each horse. Therein lies the challenge, I am constantly learning new ways and discovering holes that can create distraction. Usually, I use my voice first, touch second, and then in the saddle I make more commotion or on the ground I jump around a little and see if I can be more distracting than what they're looking at. Sometimes it is a combination of all three. If that is not working, I start moving them and changing directions and even will pop over jumps, giving them a challenge to pay attention to the here and now and me. This has been improving all of the horses I work with. Especially in their calmness. I am realizing that the more quickly they can relax, the easier time we all have. I just recently watched a video of groundwork by Warwick Schiller where he talked about responsiveness and relaxation. How sometimes responsiveness becomes reactiveness and sometimes relaxation becomes dullness. If you spend enough time going between the two states eventually they will merge and you will have a responsive relaxed horse. This has become such a fun experiment for me. I feel much more confident pushing a horse to the edge of reactivity, then coming back fully into a state of relaxation. It is important that they know what that state of relaxation feels like, although sometimes pushing them a little first and then bringing the energy back down helps them find that place.
in my life this is out picturing as the realization that outside of working horses one on one, I am tending to be anxious and reactive. It is very challenging for me to let go and relax quickly after having a high level emotional response. I am desiring horses that are relaxed and responsive, and I really see that this is the desire I have for myself as well. Thankfully, I am practicing this every time I work with worse. Now I see how many opportunities I have throughout everything all day.
Returning to Ranger, he practiced staying on the rail and maintaining the walk. We did some pad work, and that further develop his trust and confidence that truly I wanted him relax. Ranger's such an incredible example of obedience. He will do exactly what you were asking for, and be mentally somewhere off with his friends in the pasture. Late last week something clicked for him and he let go of a majority of his skepticism around me. When I arrive at the pasture now he is like one of the herd. Curious, affectionate and almost looking forward to working with us. I look forward to next week!