10.06.26: No Condition to Continue

Interestingly enough there seem to be themes that reoccur in various situations some days. The lessons for today held one of those themes.
Storm's lesson was at 8:00 in the morning, which wasn't really any more comfortable in terms of the temperature and humidity than any one else's lesson for the day. To boot the round pen was in the sun for just about the only time that it is ever in the sun.
I got Storm out of the pasture and groomed up and headed to the round pen with all his tack on so that if Kirsten was able to ride him everything would be ready. I took the lead rope off of his halter, and turned to the center of the round pen, and Kirsten was pleased with how calm he was and how well he was paying attention. He followed me to the center, and then I asked him to move off gently. He did so at the walk, and then did his usual breaking into a trot and canter with a grunt and squeal. About the same time Kirsten and I both noticed that his girth seemed to be a little bit too loose, I had forgotten to check it a second time before I sent him off. I backed up straight to the rail in order to ask him to stop and face me, and he finally did so. I tried to get him to turn a little more square to the center once he stopped, and made the mistake of clicking to him, which he took to mean move off again. I backed up again, and he stopped along the rail, and I went to him to adjust the girth to make sure that we didn't end up with a mess. I returned to the center of the round pen, and since he was set up in a position to easily move to the right, I asked him to move off in that direction. He took the direction with ease, and walked off around the round pen.
As he worked, Kirsten and I had a discussion about the fact that his current pattern is the same thing that he did that morning, stick with me, then I ask him to walk off gently, and he does so, but then breaks into a faster gait. He settles reasonably quickly, but does not want to stop walking to turn and face me. Her recommendation was that he may need a little assistance breaking that pattern. She explained that the ultimate goal was to come to the round pen, turn him lose, and ask him to walk, and have him walk and almost immediately come back to face me. She felt that he may think that the right job in the moment is to do what he was doing. She said if he can figure out that barreling off isn't a good thing on his own, then that is the best solution, but he might need a little more support to see that it really isn't the right answer. He is allowed to do so if he needs to burn off some energy, but ultimately, he shouldn't need to blow it all out every time. I was really pleased with the fact that when I backed up as he was moving around really quickly in the beginning, once I got in front of him as he came around the side of the round pen, he stopped and waited, and then did not need to continue running off when we returned to the work. That gave Kirsten and I the big clue that maybe he thought that what he was doing was the right answer. Unfortunately, racing around for the emotional sake of racing around isn't the condition that we want his mind to be in in order to work. And if he continually feels the need to do that in order to find the mindset to work, then something isn't set up correctly.
We continued on, and she left him out on the circle for about five minutes in each direction. He was able to follow my directions with ease and a fair amount of lightness, though his responses didn't necessarily have a lot of speed involved, but that is the right answer right now. We worked on watching where his balance was, and when he tipped too far forward with his weight on the forehand, asking him to pick up the trot to get him to shift his weight back to where it belongs again. He was beginning to get less emotional about shifting between gaits and was able to stay more balanced at the walk than he had before.
He was able to work in both directions for quite a while without getting emotional again, which is a great thing for him. He had a harder time going to the right, but that is his tougher side anyway. Once he was really settled in Kirsten set him up to begin working on having him offer to allow me to mount. He gave me the instructions on how to get him to bring the saddle to me, and pointers for what I should do in order to mount from the high rail of the round pen. She went through the steps and showed me what needed to be done in order to mount safely and have him behave himself, and what to do in the event that he didn't behave. Then we grabbed my helmet and the reins, and got set up to mount. It wasn't very difficult, and he set himself up in the right position after only about one try, which was a good thing. He remembered some of the cues we had worked on before, and responded to the directions to step forward slowly, and brought the saddle right up to me. From the high rail of the round pen it is almost more like stepping across than it is stepping up, and he stood nice and still while I slid over into the saddle. Then we walked in a small circle, and went back to the rail again to dismount. I had to go around again before he set himself up in a good position for me to be able to safely get off again, but he responded well.
We finished up and I took him down under the trees at the other end of the arena to graze for a while in the shade. It was a good treat for him since the grass in the pasture is so burnt up right now. We hung out talking with people while he chowed down for a bit before I took him up to take off the saddle. He wasn't super hot, but I thought that he might enjoy the roll anyway. I took him back down and snuck into the arena and hurried him out of the way of the ongoing lesson and he put his nose down and enjoyed a scrumptious roll.


We broke for lunch and opted to eat in the house and cool off a bit. We returned to the heat again and migrated around to the other side of the arena in what little shade was left. Most of the afternoon was spent wishing for a breeze watching the rest of the lessons. We were running a bit behind, so I waited a while before I headed up to get Tali out of the pasture. I left all of my things out in the barn aisle, so I didn't have to really prep anything. I headed to the pasture to get her, and she stepped away from the hay feeder and came to me, but then turned away. I put my hand on her rump, and she stopped, and I slipped the halter on her and we headed into the barn. She was quite itchy, so I gave her a good scratch while I groomed her up and saddled her.
We headed down to the arena just as Holly and Beth finished up, and I got her set up to long line to start with since it had been several weeks since I worked with her. I got her set up and  we incidentally started to the right, which is also her harder side. She progressively got faster as we continued around the circle, using about half the arena. She developed her usual wobble spots and I began to be able to follow her pattern and anticipate where she was going to waiver so I could be prepared and keep her straight.
We switched directions, and it took her a bit to try to get reorganized going to the left. She started going faster and faster, and broke from the walk, into a scrambling gait of some sort, and then into a trot, and then into a canter. She raced around for a while, and Kirsten encouraged me to let her work through it, and to just support her as best I could and keep her straight. My circle became much smaller in order for me to stay balanced to help her. I had the inside rein locked in against my hip to maintain some control, and I had to drop my weight a few times to make sure that she didn't get away from me. I could barely adjust the outside rein, and really didn't need to a whole lot since she was pulling against me so hard on the inside anyway. She eventually calmed down eventually, and was really able to settle down into the work and get a lot more stable again. Her little meltdown seemed to get her a little bit more organized again.
Kirsten had me switch back to the right side again to see if she was more consistent going in her more difficult direction, and she was a bit steadier again. I wasn't having to correct so drastically or quickly, and her head tossing was settling down considerably. Kirsten was very pleased with the degree that she was attempting to shift her weight back to her hindquarters. Because she lacks the strength and stability in her hind end, she was having to speed up and throw her weight around some. Kirsten felt it was a good sign that she had flipped from being dead quite and slow to the other side of the spectrum, and it is only part of her progression in an attempt to find her balance in the correct position. Nothing replaces the time spent practicing and building the muscles and correct habits in the body.
Kirsten decided that it was a good point to do some riding work, and so we checked her girth, took off the long reins and I climbed aboard. She did very well for the most part, and I was able to help keep her balanced, and she was responding well to my cues. She was struggling some when we would turn to cut across the arena, and was really falling out, and once she got to a certain point I was having trouble getting her back into the correct path of travel on our circle. Unfortunately I wasn't able to do quite enough soon enough to keep her from getting that out of balance. After a couple turns, it did get better, especially with Kirsten's coaching. We switched directions, and she began struggling with it even more. Finally Kirsten asked me to stop her, reposition myself so that I was set up to move off in the correct direction, and then ask her to move off again, repeating the halt and reset process as soon as she started to take bad steps.
When I finally made it back to our track again, I stopped and we spoke about what was going on so that I could make sure I understood. Kirsten said that I was giving her the right aids, but that she was falling out of balance so badly that she was blowing through it. That made me feel a bit better that I wasn't doing something wrong, but that it was Tali just being so badly out of balance that she couldn't respond correctly. So the halt would enforce that she shouldn't continue forward in that condition, and she needs to stop and reorganize herself so that she can try again. It is a better solution for myself, and for Tali. As we made it around again, Kirsten identified that Tali was just plain tired, she just doesn't have the stamina to support me and really push her balance for very long. So we finished another lap, and then moved along the fence where she was able to be a little bit more stable, and then I got off. My poor legs were like jello after that, and I could really tell that I had been working hard. I was a little displeased that a large amount of it was due to being tense trying to ask her to cooperate.
I took her up to the barn again, and took the saddle off and found that she had two dryer spots behind her shoulders that both had ruffled hair. I was somewhat pleased to note that they were very even, so the issue was balanced, whatever the problem was. I turned her out, and by the time I came back up at the end of the last lesson, she had already rolled and covered her back in the dirt, leaving a very dirty spot across the sweat marks of her back.
We have our work cut out for us...

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