|Homeboy don't even know what's coming for him..|
One of the major takeaways from the Lainey Ashker clinic was that Dino needs a hefty dose of respect for me as the brains of this operation. Seeing as how I still felt like I'd been hit by a bus on Tuesday, I decided to start my respect training from the ground with some in-hand work.
I wanted to see Dino remain attentive to me at all times, respect my space, and react immediately when I put pressure on him or walked into his space. Armed with a long lead rope and a dressage whip, I set out to reestablish my leadership.
We began with leading, which seems silly, but I know I'm not alone when I admit that I can get very lax about my horse leading in an attentive, disciplined fashion. I can often be seen dragging Dino up from the pasture at snail's pace, my pony dawdling at the end of the lead rope and frequently stopping to snatch a mouthful of grass or contemplate the meaning of life.
Clearly, this has led to some problems.
|Fat Pony does what he wants, and Fat Pony wants to eat.|
The really interesting result of this little exercise was the way that Dino responded to each correction. After I made it clear with the whip that he was not where I wanted him to be, he would drop his head, lick, and chew in a sign of relaxation and submission.
So. Interesting. No 'tude, just, "Yes ma'am." It was almost as if the corrections were allowing him to relax because he knew what the rules were.
Once Dino was reacting in a prompt and respectful manner to my basic walk/halt/rein back requests, I switched it up a little bit. I changed the speed of my walk, tottering around like a crippled old lady and then sprinting away, and asking him to move his shoulders and hindquarters away from me, as well as lunging him on a small circle at the end of the lead rope.
While it took a few taps with the whip to make it clear to Dino what I wanted, by the end of the session he was behaving VERY well. He was watching my every move and giving instantly to whatever pressure I put on him.
|"I'm ready for my close-up."|
Dino was now so primed and sensitive to the whip that I actually had a hard time getting him to stand at the mounting stump! We 'lunged' in a circle around the stump until I could get him to stand quietly, and then hopped on.
And WonderPony was ready to roll! On our walk down to the pond field, he was mostly very forward. As long as he kept up an energetic, swinging walk, I tried very hard not to give any sort of leg aid or driving aid with my seat, and just sit in neutral. There was maybe one time when he slowed down and I gave him a squeeze, which he ignored, so I had to tap him behind my leg with the whip. But Dino reacted promptly and appropriately by walking faster, and aside from that I didn't have to correct him at all on the way down.
He was really quite good once we started our work for the day. My only goal was to have Dino react promptly to EVERY forward aid, and to commit to correcting him immediately if he chose to ignore me.
|Round. So round.|
That's the stuff.
I also got some of the best walk-canter transitions ever, because my pony was actually listening to my leg. Go figure.
By the end of the ride, Dino was at the point where he was answering every subtle forward aid immediately, and it was awesome. Even after walk breaks on a long rein, I had absolutely no trouble getting him to trot or canter off with a light aid. There were even a few times where I swung my seat to get him to step into a bigger free walk, and he trotted instead, which was excellent!
I am very curious to see how this work will carry over into locations where Dino is historically balky and rude, like indoor arenas or our jump field at home. Knowing that he's not going to totally melt down or have his brain fried when I get on his case about going forward gives me a lot more confidence in riding him successfully and tantrum-free wherever we go!