Not too long ago I had taken the two mares down to Cindy's place to use her arena. We got to talking about our horses and training like horse people do and what we both had a laugh over, was having someone work with us or our horses and thinking, I already know this. I've done this before. Where have I heard this and how many times??? And someone she knows had told her, Do you know how much I've spent on lessons, to have someone else tell me how to do something I already know how to do?
When Cindy had taken video of me riding Aruba a while back, I had sent links to one of my friends up north. One of her suggestions for getting my horse to stride out, engage her back end and step up under herself, sounded awfully familiar. I had read it in one of my many books and when I emailed her about this, she not only knew which book I had and mentioned, but knew the author. Not knew OF her, but actually KNEW her. Yeah.
So fast forward not to me getting several rides in on my mare, trying the things my friend has laid out for me to do, seeing some successes happening already and being stoked about it. But there's always a setback or three... While Aruba has developed a Lovely, very forward walk, she gets a bit rambunctious and wants to break into a trot all on her own. Her stops are improving but she would pull the Stop & Pop, the instant she stops, she pops her head up like a giraffe. She might stop, but she tried to creep forward and took any movement from me to mean, go ahead and walk forward.
So how do I stop the creeping? Ask her to stop again. Create that invisible line as if it were a wall and she can't go past it until I say go. if we had to back up a step of two? Well then back her up. The stop & pop? Well we're still working on that, but it is greatly improved. While she still gets excited about working and tries to break into a trot on her own, half halts, asking for bend, moving the shoulders or her butt over one direction or the other can sometimes slow her back down or I just ask her to stop. If she tries to creep a few steps, we back up a few stops and stop again. We have been doing a whole Lot of up & down transitions. Walking, trotting, stopping, waiting, a step or several backing up and of course all of this is at random and mixed up. I have to say that my mare is developing a really nice looking butt! Remember, the muscles that work will be where they sweat.
In all of our work though, besides the progress, there was still a few things needing to be fixed. This late can be a bit bullish and pushy at times. I found myself holding onto the reins in what sometimes felt like a tug-o-war. Now we can never out muscle our horses and if this continued, she would begin ignoring the bit and my hands, so obviously it needed to change. My friend reminded me to let her go and then ask her to come back to the contact. Let her go and pick her up again. Besides remembering to keep my hands wide, up a little and everything else.... While she may start out this way, as we worked thru things, later on she would relax and give in to the work and soften up.
Last night when I rode, I decided to try something different. I got on and we waited until she relaxed before moving off. When we moved off, I let her go a few steps and then asked for the stop. There we stood. Then I asked for a turn on the haunches or for her to move her shoulders over a few steps. Stop and wait. Side pass a few steps the other direction, stop and wait. Move her butt over or turn on the forehand, stop & wait. Walk forward a few steps, stop & wait. We moved around the pen, little by little, stopping & waiting in between each move as I asked for her to move her shoulders both directions, her butt both directions, side pass both directions and walk off relaxed.
While she did really well moving her shoulders over and turning on her haunches, and the side passing, turning on the fore or moving just her butt over was a bit of issue. More so to the right than the left. She tried to move off, move into my leg, not away from it, backed up and acted as if she had no clue what I wanted. I asked her to stop, let her settle down and asked again. It took a few tries and then I got about 3 steps. Take what you can get and go from there. There's always more time to work on it later and ask for more. Look at it like building blocks.
As we worked at the walk, now I asked her to move over one direction or the other as we went around on the rail. Some counter bend, bening to the inside, on the rail, of the rail, use your corners, throw in some straight lines and mix it all up. When we moved into our trot work, she didn't try being bullish at all. What I got instead was soft contact the entire time and a comfortable, easy to sit trot. She did really well. Well enough that I actually had to push her a little to show her, she has a few gears at each gait. Not just fast like she wanted to, not just slow as if she was about to litter out, but somewhere in the middle is a nice, relaxed, working trot. Slowly, we're getting there. It takes time, but we're getting there.