Had a fun sesion with Denise and Bruce on Saturday. Denise just passed L1 with Dakota, but is currently horseless, so she's filling in with Bruce until he goes to Pagosa with and extern in July. Of course, Bruce graduated L2 a couple of years ago with my friend Hazel. My feeling is that he is not a pony who really wants to do L2 again, so the challenge is to find ways to help Denise progress and help Brucie progress, too with the time that we have.
Denise needs to learn the L2 material, I have things I want to do with Bruce, and I also feel that the three of us would benefit from having a look at the Impulsion Programs from the original L2 pack. Denise would also like to begin riding, but is pretty rusty and a little unfit. This is nothing two enthusiastic women and a Fell pony can't handle! Today we made a start!
And it really started when we went out to bring the horses in. We decided to lead them in by taking a shortcut through some pretty lush grass. However, we made sure that we owned that grass! They got to stop and enjoy eating some, but we gave well defined signals for "yes you may eat" and "now we are walking and not eating", This went really well and set us up for the day, I think.
Before we started we also talked about how Bruce switches between Left Brained Introvert and Extrovert, and that we need to see the changes and deal with him accordingly. When you get his energy UP then it's good to go fast with things and keep him engaged with lots of little changes and plenty to do. And also to be as firm as he is with other horses. Treats would just be a distraction. However, when he's quiet, unmotivated, "stubborn" treats may help to get him going again and we may need to slow down.
It was windy, so we used the small arena behind the visitors shed. It's currently full of tasty kochia weed, so I was glad we'd already had the grass discussion. We started by letting them eat while we tried some simulations from the latest L2 DVDs. Handling the 22' line in the Yo-Yo game - where to put all that extra rope, Denise did really well with this. I made some discoveries about keeping my hands more still and creating less "noise" with the rope, which was useful. Then we worked on power positions which led us to trying other things that help when a horse tries to run off, as well as those that just lean on the rope and say "NO!"
We had a little look at the backwards test from Backwards and Sideways in the Impulsion Programs. For this you try to back your horse about 30' between a lane of poles or other markers. It needs to be straight, willing, etc and you need to do it in 30 seconds. This is meant to be a ridden exercise but we adapted it and started off Yo-Yo style. I tried this first with Iona. She was pretty willing but very crooked. I improved it after a couple of tries. Bruce was really slow, so I stepped in and showed Denise what I thought an effective phase 4 would be for Bruce. I reminded her that although she is learning this, Bruce knows it well, so she doesn't need to act as though she is in the teaching phase. We had already talked earlier about Bruce's leadership style in the herd and how we might try to mirror that when playing with him. Subtle phase one ... VERYFAST!!! phase 4. We both got more interesting in his eyes, it seemed. I then hopped on Iona and demonstrated the ridden version of this with one rein, and then Denise tried it from zone three.
Denise did some bareback mounting and dismounting, and then I played with Bruce a little while she watched. We did just a little backing and drawing on the 45' line. But I didn't want to wear this out after what we had already done. I finished up by riding the Figure 8 Pattern. Bruce and I are only on the Level 1 Freestyle version of this as a partnership. It did start off a little sticky, but we were soon pretty good in walk after a few rewards at X. When I got a couple of rounds in trot I was very pleased. However, I was still using my reins more than I would have liked. So I tried again in walk and was able to use them much less. Yay!! I was pretty sure that doing the trot again in this session would result in me using the reins more once again, so I decided to trot the rail a couple of time aound the arena, then I turned him in and finished at the X we had been using in the Figure 8.
As so often happens, I felt that I did a much better job because I had someone watching me to whom I was explaining things as I went along. I don't quite understand why that improves the quality of what I do so much, but I'm sure it does. I must think about that! The other thing that I'm noticing is that when I watch Bruce objectively when Denise plays with him, I seem to see his tries much more easily and read him better than when I play with him myself.
Denise and I had another session on Sunday, which I might find time to write up later. It also went really well, and I'm sure that this can be a successful recipe for all three of us.