Yesterday's session with Dove gave me the opportunity to see her more Right Brained Introvert side. Previously, I thought she was more Left Brained, but simply unconfident, and that may prove to be her innate horsenality, however this time, at least, I felt her tendency was to lower her head and freeze or hide, and lock up mentally and physically.
At first I only noticed that the Porcupine Game was a little sticky. It took quite a bit of persistence on my part to make progress beyond a few steps. However, it improved and I even got some full circles of the hind and forequarters. I had been thinking of her as fairly "easy" and it took me awhile to notice that somehow, Dove wasn't quite as "present" as in the last session. Still, we successfully went through the motions of some Driving and Yo-yo tasks, so I thought I'd teach her the Circle Game.
At first the sends appeared to be understood well enough and she would set off, only to get stuck after a couple of steps. Getting a true disengagement was hard. Then the sends got more difficult, and she was just freezing up, and eventually put her head nearly on the ground and just shut me out. Okaaay... even I could read that as RBI. What to do?
I admit that I was a little short of Savvy Arrows for this. I am realising an uncomfortable truth about my horsemanship, lately, which is that I am better at technique and theory than I am at psychology. Especially acting on the psychology that I know, sometimes. However, my RBI experience is pretty limited, so I forgive myself! At least I knew to try something different. Even though she had responded to the send, I knew that she had no idea that she was supposed to circle. But I remembered the old "short range" Circling Game from the original Level 1 pack. At the time I studied L1 it had seemed like hard work to do this. (Well, I probably just wanted to see my pony run around in pretty circles at the end of a 12' line, more like!) However, it worked a treat for clarifying things. She was still very hesitant, though, and hadn't come out of her shell much, so we didn't go back to the long range game. I'll start short range next time and progress from there when we're ready.
I really don't know why Dove got up on that particular side of the corral yesterday. She has seems more positive and confident around us at feeding time as the days go by. I decided to stand on the pedestal and play some gentle Friendly and Porcupine games to finish the session. That was alright, although I could still feel her sort of holding herself apart from me. Then at one point I sort of stuck a finger in her mouth, in fun, as I was rubbing her face. Interestingly, she made a sudden change. It was simply as if she suddenly woke up and joined the party. I can't really describe it much better than that. Her eyes lost that vacant look and she looked at me more confidently. Huh! So that's were we left it.
By now, the rest of the herd were part way up the track from the arena, so I decided to walk her out to them. As we passed the water trough, she wanted to stop for a big long drink. At that point I guessed that she never got her morning drink. She lets the other horses push her away repeatedly when they congregate at feeding time, but makes her own arrangements to drink once the pressure is off. I probably haltered her and brought her in before she had a chance to drink without noticing. I can't help but wonder whether this discomfort was enough to upset her, and maybe the finger in the mouth triggered something that temporarily compensated. I'll probably never know, but I'll definitely make sure she doesn't go thirsty in future!
Jumping with Ony
I spent most of my time with Iona. First we had a really nice session with the ball. It was just windy enough that I knew the ball would leave us if I put it in the arena, so I decided to try the round pen. Last time the ball was out, Iona surprised me by being very interested in it, biting it, wanting to push it around, etc. She knows what the likely human games with the ball are, but that was the first time I saw her so voluntarily engaged with it. So I was hoping that the limited and more boring landscape of the pen wasn't going to take the shine off things. It didn't, and I managed to get her to push the ball both to me, and to a barrel that I directed her to. Neat! We also played around with a few circles and Figure 8s while we were there.
I had obstacles set up in the arena with a plan to play with the On Line and Freestyle. Among them was a tiny jump that I wanted to ride over. I haven't jumped in quite a long time, and although I'm not always that confident, I have been missing it. To help my confidence, I wanted to get Iona to jump it loads of times while we played On Line. Maybe I was a bit too focused on that. Iona sure thought so! It seemed to take every strategy in the book to get her motivated, or at least willing, and I hadn't really positioned it for ease of play, but it was too heavy to take the time to move - or so I decided - so we were squeezed in between a bunch of other obstacles that Iona kept "running into" and stopping.
We also played with the tarp and pedestals, where I spent some time asking her to to HQ or FQ yields while she was on them. And we played with some poles and jumps I had put out for Hunter's last session, which were fanned out in a semicircle. Again, it took quite a bit of experimenting to get her going over these enthusiastically, and I'm not sure that all the exuberance was really positive energy. That's something I will have to watch. I've been rewarding exuberance, but I know some of it is a bit snotty, and I probably don't want to ride that! We did have some nice moments where she would go sideways away over one pole, then forward to the next pole and sideways back toward me. That's coming on nicely now, and I don't see any sign of her trying to use it against me, as people always warn you of.
I got mounted up, and tried to play every game with at least a couple of obstacles. I'm generally not getting as much good stuff ridden as I am on the ground, and I'm going to have to think about why. Probably, I think "Oh boy! Now I get to ride around and have fun!" but to Iona it just translates to "More work, and Kris doesn't know when to quit!" However, at least she was pleasantly surprised when we got to the jump and didn't just jump it, but did things like back up to it and rest, or walk over it and turn around.
She had a couple of small tantrums, mainly about being sweet on the gate. I was riding with a stick, and she got really mad at that stick and bit it! Grrrr! We kinda worked through that and did some more interesting things, repeating some of the things we'd done On Line. I decided I didn't want my stick for the jumps, and was really pleased that it wasn't too difficult to ask for a circle which included the jump, and it was fun! I really don't know when I last jumped in a saddle, but jumping in my bareback pad seems to have helped everything. It may have only been a tiny jump, but we were nice and smooth over it and it felt great. We finished with a victory lap of the arena in canter, and I blew her mind by insisting that she gallop to the gate. Whoopee! Had the sense to take her to the middle to rest and dismount though!