Making Positive Memories
Since the heat index here in PA is approximately 5000, I decided that yesterday evening would be as good a time as any to do some low-key schooling in the jump field to give Dino a more positive experience in that area than he's had as of late.
I made sure to check my agenda and arbitrary expectations at the gate. This ride was not at all about me, it was about Dino and taking as much time as he needed to start feeling good about working in the jump field. Sometimes I get so wrapped up in what I want to accomplish that I don't give my pony the kind of ride that HE needs in the moment, and yesterday was not the time for that nonsense.
So we walked. And we walked. And I reminded EuroPony that Leg Means Go and that his job is to maintain the speed I ask for until I ask for something different. While I did have to get after him a bit at first, there were no tantrums and he was not quite as offended as he normally is when I tapped him with the whip. Sure he threw his head up and pinned his ears, but he also went forward, which was a win!
I worked on easy things: transitioning from a stretch to a working frame, halt, rein-back, big circles, shoulder-fore, and transitions within the walk until he was focused and soft. Once Dino was feeling warmed up and forward, I gently moved into trot. Again, not asking for a whole lot, just that he go around in a generally balanced manner and listen to my leg. It was not beautiful dressage work, but it was compliant and soft and willing, so I was pretty pleased! My entire goal for the ride was to, under no circumstances, pick a fight with Dino. So far it was working!
As he warmed up in trot, he got more forward all on his own, and eventually just slipped into a little canter on his own accord. I tried my hardest to stay soft and following through my entire body and just leave him alone and let him roll along, giving just the barest squeeze with my calves if he started to break to the trot before I asked.
We ended the ride with some trot/halt/reinback/trot transitions, and once I got a nice soft reinback we quit for the day.
I definitely count yesterday's ride as a success, even though I didn't get to 'work' on anything. Taming the pony'tude is a difficult task, and I hope this easy, happy schooling session will go a long way towards convincing Dino that the jump field is not all bad.