I've been thinking about whether I had the balance right with Iona. For years I thought she was purely a "stubborn, dominant, lazy" Left Brained Introvert (although at that stage the terminology wasn't around). When the Horsenality model arrived, I realised that some of her behavior was actually fear based "Right Brained Introvert". So I went through a period of taking care of that part of Iona, now that I knew about it. I'm sure she really appreciated my new level of understanding, but it possibly made me a more hesitant leader, and that is not what a dominant horse needs. I did a little Horsenality chart on our recent problems, and all I saw was extreme LBI behavior. Oh. I guess that's where we are again.
Played with Iona yesterday. I audited a group lesson with Kime Conkright on Sunday, and she said something that really impressed me about how there is always a chance for a new beginning when you go get your horse to play. She was suggesting to a student that playing for a bit, then putting the horse up for awhile, getting her out and playing again, etc. might be a good strategy. I thought it might be worth a try with Iona this week. Things are going to be hectic getting ready for the demo on Sunday, and at the same time I want to spend a lot of time with Iona, both playing and sharing undemanding time. So yesterday, one session was just grooming her, and the moving her around, etc. that this involves. Even that was hard work. I had no draw, she didn't want to look at me, or put her halter on or be led. Yech!! Then I left her while I did some other things.
Came back and we played the Circle game. I am trying to increase how many laps of trot or canter we can do. This may be one of the reasons we are having these big disagreements lately. I believe that Iona is "ready and able" to do this. I believe, in fact, that playing with this is going to teach each of us some things we now need to learn about Rapport, Respect, Impulsion and Flexion. However, because I'm still searching for strategies and because Iona is so dominant, this is causing her to "up the ante" and revert to some old behaviors. Like refusing to go forward, charging, threatening to kick, bucking... Yep, she did all of those. Happily, at least it doesn't scare me, and I don't get angry anymore. Frustrated, occasionally, but I do my best to manage it!
We went out to the playground and worked on Weave. This went a bit better than it has been. I think NOT doing Figure 8 and Weave on the same day helps. She finds this too predictable and boring. Perhaps if I can mix them up. I did mix some circles into the weave session, and that worked pretty well. I didn't stay at this too long, though. Too boring for her. Yes, I know it's not the Pattern that's boring, it's the way I'm presenting it. I think I try to go too fast, when actually, being more particular might be more interesting and provocative.
I left her in the roundpen while I went and did a few things. I came back with a bareback pad and hackamore. She did a great job of finding her bareback pad and letting me put it on, although once again I lacked the patience to really wait for her to sniff it. (I am beginning to suspect that this is a huge mistake, by the way!) She was very grumpy and didn't want to do much in the pen. I persisted and insisted as politely and passively as I could. I never hit her, but she did run into my stick a few times. We spent a lot of time discussing circles and Stick to Me, but very little time actually doing them. I tried to end on a good note, and decided to go ahead and ride.
That didn't go very well except as a rodeo event. I wanted to do some Figure 8 at trot around two barrels. Again, I think part of the trouble is boredom, (she could do this years ago) but the lack of respect and impulsion was not appropriate. So lots of bucking. I got to work on my independent seat and emotional fitness. Yea!! Eventually....finally....we got going and did the pattern with a nice trot and a pretty good attitude. We quit for the day.
Throughout the day's sessions I felt nothing but love for Iona. YES, I was frustrated! After all we are supposed to be riding in a demo on Sunday!!!! and I'm not sure it's going to look that good. However, I was also very firm with her. I was fair, I was friendly, but I was as dominant as I could figure out how to be without being mean. And I spent the evening wondering whether I could stand another day like that, as I didn't really know whether it had done any good.
Today my plan was to groom again, put on the bareback pad, do one short roundpen sesssion and then take her out to the big pasture for a passenger lesson-mosey-grazing-thingy! I usually bring any horses I want to play with in from the track just as they finish their bucket feed. I was trying to catch up on a few chores while they ate, and before I knew it Bruce and Iona were starting to leave the feeding area for goodness knows where. I was some distance away, but thought it was worth a try, so I shouted "Iona! Wait!" She did, and when I got there and called her she came right over and put her nose in the halter. Hmmmmm.
I was very particular with her about how she led, how she went through gates, but also particular to reward her (treats) when she did these things well. She mostly did them really well. Grooming was nice. Then I hung out my washing. Came back. Had reasonable draw. Decided to see if she would go with me at Liberty to get her pad on. We walked toward the saddle stand where I had put it. That's near a wate hydrant. She's always thirsty, so I filled a bucket and she had a drink. She found the pad and sniffed it. sniffed it again when I was in position to put it on. So far, so good.
I thought I'd just carry on at Liberty, and although she was slow, we made it into the little back yard and into the roundpen all at Liberty. I really tried to match her slow walking speed, and I think that helped our Rapport. In the roundpen session the bad stuff did come up again. However, I tried to be particular. I didn't find that I had to be as dominant as yesterday, and after a bit things went well.
We then walked through the arena, out to the track, through two gates, to a mounting block where I lined her up, messed up my mount, had to get off, reposition her, got on again - all at Liberty. All at Liberty! Nothing on her head at all, just me, my pony and our orange stick. I just let her eat for awhile, then did a bit of passenger - eat - passenger - eat, first walk and eventually trot. Her lateral flexion was fabulous, she maintained gait at the trot very well after a bit. Let her eat a bit more and we called it a day. Oh, that is, after doing the whole untacking and turning out song and dance also at Liberty.
They say you have a 50/50 chance of choosing the right strategy, and I guess that what I did yesterday must have been right, if today was anything to go by. I wonder what she'll do tomorrow.