Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Dripping Sweat

So after a day of reading natural horsemanship articles on the internet, casually shopping for 15' leads and natural horsemanship beating sticks and getting some great perspective from you wonderful people and my horsey IRL friends, I went home quite ready to tame the bay beast yesterday.

When I got out of the house to finally do the deed, it was around 7 and the wind had died down, leaving a lot of hot, sticky humidity with nothing to break it. Arya came power walking over in the paddock, expecting dinner. I caught her with a rope halter, pulled off her mask and fly sheet (though I left her boots on, no idea why) and grabbed my whip and some gloves. I dressed for battle (or at least enough).

And I got a battle.

Arya knows a little bit of ground work from our earlier sessions, though I never actually pushed her all that hard with it before now. We stuck with the following exercises:

1. Woah / Change of direction: Arya is super smart, and did a lot of the classic TB "I know what you're going to ask so I'm just going to do it" which is going to be a habit that we will slowly break. She doesn't want to interpret me popping on her halter as a "woah" cue, so that also needs some polishing. She picked up changing direction quickly, and goes left really well, but right was a struggle.

2. Backing: Arya doesn't like to back up, and she didn't pick up on my cues well, though I was experimenting with different ways to cue her to back so my methods did evolve over our session. I need to pick one and teach it, probably.

3. Stepping under: we did a minimum of this, as Arya is still very left handed and is still mastering the basics of staying the hell out of my bubble, thankyouverymuch. To the left she will bend much better, and I could tell that she was really struggling to travel with her head bent in going right, which meant that the whole exercise was a struggle for her that direction.

Arya's default seems to be forward, which is positive; she's smart, and she seems to want to do the right thing 80% of the time, but has a strong stubborn streak. If I got lazy with my cues, or if she didn't think my body was in the right place, she'd try to run through my whip/cue/aid and keep going in the "easy" direction. She doesn't like when I get after her, and her default is to get mad and run and brace in reaction. Especially in her woah/turns, we had a big problem with her invading my space. I think this is 80% physical and 20% dominance issue (she's a very 80/20 girl). Part of it was that she just can't turn and go right without dropping her shoulder and diving into my space; she would earn a poke in the shoulder with my whip for that, which would usually send her forward in a flustered/worried way. I can see we have a lot of work to do in both strengthening her body, but also in her own mental comfort zone working in hand.

It was hot, and she was a stubborn girl; she challenges me when I let my guard down, or if I'm not foot perfect in my cues and I need to make sure I'm looking at myself before seeing her as being rebellious or bitchy. We both worked until we were dripping with sweat, but she recovered well after a bath and some time in front of her fan with some hay before I fed her dinner. It wasn't easy, and at times I didn't feel very safe, but I am eager to pull her out again soon to see how much of yesterday soaked in!

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