It kills me that I don’t have any media from my lessons (you won’t mind some Rocket pics instead, right?) because recently Aria and I have been doing so well together. I mean…aside from the fact that I still can’t properly communicate the most simple of cues: turning/making a circle.
On Friday I sat in 3 hours of traffic but that didn’t bother me at all. Apparently the trick is to play soothing music! Aria worked really well on the lunge so we didn’t lunge for very long. The wind was blowing like crazy but it was a non-issue that day. When I got in the saddle Aria went straight to work on her flexion. Baby was in the zone. It wasn’t until I started riding her around the ring and asking her to make a 20 meter circle that we had problems. She went into full princess mode and we fought and fought and fought.
By ‘fought’ I mean every time she didn’t do what I wanted I asked her to turn on the forehand or to back up. At one point I even had to give her a few spanks with my…I don’t want to say crop/whip because it’s just some of that flexible irrigation tubing with a bit of foam taped to the end (yup, baby horses get soft and squishy riding tools for their corrections!). We ran into ‘K’ twice when she tried to peel me off using the fence. FYI: that pissed P off. Lol. Aria got major mare side eye from P.
It was the most hilarious ride I’ve ever had on Aria. Major middle fingers were being given all around. Every time I asked her to do something harder than what she was refusing to do she would get more pissed off and escalate her evade. She doesn’t have to do what I ask but then we definitely do something harder, like backing up. I’m a big believer in this method. The idea behind it is that the horse will eventually realize that it’s easier to do the first thing you asked because it takes the least amount of energy. For a lazy horse Aria doesn’t always take the easy way out right away. Haha.
Plus it gives you the immediate opportunity to praise your horse for doing something right and takes their mind off what they were doing wrong. If you watch R work he never corrects a horse negatively or tells them ‘no’. He only looks for chances to praise. Bad behavior is stopped by asking for a different behavior that can be praised. Usually this different behavior will be more difficult than whatever the horse was doing prior.
His favorite thing to say when a horse acts out instead of performing is the horse is asking to be backed up so they can be praised. It always makes me laugh because it works. Training techniques like that always ‘wow’ me. Not because they are a magical training secret but because they’re so simple and in the right hands so subtle. It’s really inspiring to see someone work with a horse at that level.
Anyway, back to my ride on Aria. We eventually worked through our problems with P’s help and got to a place where Aria was responding without pitching a fit. As soon as that happened P asked me to canter and I picked it up while tossing over my shoulder ‘are you trying to get me killed?’. I didn’t hear what P said in response but it started with ‘that’s why I like you…’. I’ll take it as a compliment to my new found confidence. I spent the last half of my lesson cantering Aria around on both our good and bad side. I’m still pretty stiff going left but Aria feels really solid under me. Actually she felt solid the whole ride, even when she was throwing her royal tantrum. I’d say that’s a huge improvement from the wiggle worm noodle she was when we first started together!
I also think I’ve found the common link between every crap-tastic performance from Aria. It’s always during her evening nap/feeding time. Understandable that the baby is going to be cranky but she’s just going to have to deal because we may very well have a show during that time in the future. Although I wonder if there’s a way to mitigate the bad behavior when leaving her food?