10.07.04: Balanced on the Whole

Despite being rip roaring hot, I headed down to get Storm. After a quick fly spray we headed to our usual place in the round pen. Unfortunately it was too early in the day for the round pen to be in much shade, but I took him across and hung the halter and lead rope in the shade on a post. I turned to the middle of the arena, and he swung around to face me, and I gently asked him to move out, and he moved off to the left. I was really pleased when he was able to maintain the walk and not break into his little run off thing. So we settled right into work, and so long as he was walking balanced with his pole, withers and tail in line then I left him alone. When his head would dip lower than his withers, I would ask him to engage and step up into the trot. He was getting really sensitive to my gestures for requesting that he move into the trot. After a few repetitions I moved to swat a fly, and he broke into a few steps of trot. I practiced the difference between intent and idly swishing flies for the next couple of minutes to make sure that he could tell the difference.
He worked very well for a long time, really getting into a good groove of moment. He finally stopped and turned in, and I gave him a rub, and then asked him to move off to the right, which he was able to do calmly without any hesitation. He worked to the right for a while, but had more trouble picking up the trot if he got really out of balance, so for the most part I left him alone to walk and sort himself out. We'll just have to spend more time going to the right than the left and help him build up that side. He stayed calm and easy the whole time, which was a really good thing. He did check in with me a lot more going to the right than he had to the left, but that did not surprise me since he is still working out his balance on that side.
I finally backed up towards the side of the ring, and only needed to step back a few steps before he stopped and turned in to face me. I was pleased that he responded sooner, and we'll just have to keep practicing that cue as well.
Despite the heat I managed to be ambitious and once I turned out Storm again I headed down to grab Tali to work her for a little while. I put on the bridle and long reins on her and headed to the arena to discover that the next time I do this I should plan to work in the arena first then in the round pen. The arena has more shade early, and the round pen gets it a little later in the morning once the sun swings around a bit further. I set to work with Tali anyway, and we picked up where we left off in the session I managed to squeeze in earlier in the week. I just keep plugging away at the long reins and trying to build her stamina and balance. I started working to the right, and she was doing ok, though it took a bit of work to establish a nice round circle and help her find where the boundaries were. I was doing a lot of work taking up on the outside rein and letting it slide out again before she finally settled down. Once she settled into the work and began to find her balance it got a little easier and she was able to be a bit steadier on the lines and I did not have to work so hard to keep her straight on the circle. I let her work at a nice even rhythm for a while before switching to the left side.
We had to start over a bit with getting organized and figuring out where the boundaries of the circle were, but it came faster this time. She is stronger on that side anyway, so it took less work to get her to a point where she was lighter on the reins and better able to maintain the balance that way. Lap after lap I traced my footprints and the lines in the sand from the dragging rein and she kept trying her best to shift her weight backwards. We finally switched back to the right again, and I allowed her to work on that side for some time again. I could tell that it was beginning to get harder for her, she was heavier on the reins, and it was taking more to get her to straighten out again, and she was shuffling along dumping all her weight onto the front end with her head down. It is a stage in the progress, but it is certainly not a pretty one! I am eager for her to move past this, and on to better balance. In the moment it feels like she is going to struggle with this forever, though I doubt that it will be that long, so long as I do the work that is needed to help her through this. We'll get there some day.

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