10.10.13: Verification

Debbie had been struggling working with Dix, and so I offered to get up on him at some point and check things out to see what was going on. Over the time that I had seen him being worked by various people I noticed a couple patterns that seemed to be happening.
She had gotten here and worked Dix for a little while already when we headed out to begin evening chores. About the time we headed down she was coming back up for the arena, and commented that she was bored with being in there, so she was hoping to take him out and around the pastures for a short ride before he was fed. The only trouble was that Dix had other ideas entirely.
The challenge with Dix is that he's another boss horse. And if he figures out that he can ultimately control the situation, he will, because after all, why would he want to do anything that somebody else suggests if he doesn't have to. That's just not what bosses do. She quickly gave up on trying to head out to the field, and decided to stop for the evening, and suggested that I ride him. I agreed, and so we took him back down to the arena again, which he was not thrilled about since he had just successfully managed to avoid heading to the field and was hoping that it would be dinner time. He kept attempting to stop on the way down the hill, and had to be encouraged onward every few steps. We arrived at the arena and I traded my hat for Debbie's helmet, and clipped his reins back on the bit and asked him to follow me to the mounting block. That's when he decided to really dig in. He just was not interested in doing anything, and stood there with his neck all stretched out like a mule ignoring the pressure on the bit. Finally I reversed things and asked him to back up fast. If he wasn't going to come forward then I wasn't going to argue and we were going to go backwards instead. I stopped and asked him to step forward again, and again met the same resistance. After allowing him ample time to make any attempt to move forward and getting none, I backed him up once more. After the third repeat of the pattern he decided that shuffling forward a few inches was better than being driven backwards. He was working every trick in the book to try to get out of what was happening, including bulling into me. That met with some pretty sharp reprimands of not crowding my space. Slowly I worked to re-balance his forward and backward motion until he would come forward off the pressure on the rein with a few fingers pressure. It was not as light as I wanted it, but at least it was workable.
I stepped up on the mounting block and asked him to move to where I could mount, which he did so with surprising ease. I rubbed him all over, and jiggled things and shifted the saddle. When he finally stepped away, I just repeated the process again and asked him to come over to me once more. It took a little more work than the first time, but he finally moved into position, where again I rewarded him with scratches. We repeated the process once more, and finally I felt like I had enough of his attention and focus to mount. He started to move off as I swung over, which I was expecting as well. I immediately stopped him and backed him up to the place where we started. We had a few issues with him wanting to stand still and not hustle off now that I was mounted, but I simply kept asking him to stop and stand still. He ended up standing facing where Debbie was watching from the fence, and I asked her to tell me if my feet where level. I could feel how crooked he was, and did not do anything to try to correct him. As I suspected, she told me that my left foot was hanging a little lower than my right foot, but only by about an inch. I shifted my weight and moved it down through the right side of my hips and into my right leg. I asked Debbie if it was correct, and she said yes, and asked if I had shifted the saddle. I told her no, the saddle wasn't what was crooked. It was the posture that Dix habitually defaults to. I told her that its not the equipment, but how Dix carries himself, and it is entirely fixable. As we talked, I held some contact on the reins, but only enough that I could make corrections when he attempted to move off before I asked him to do so. He jerked his head down at one point and I suddenly felt his ribs shift over again, so I asked Debbie to check to see if my feet were level or not. She confirmed that my left was once again lower than the right, but by less than when I first got on to ride. I shifted my weight once more, and finally asked Dix to move off. He tried plowing into the gate, but I simply redirected him and continued to encourage him to move off. We ended up heading around the back side of the arena, and moving along the fence line. I continually checked in to find out where his ribs were and continually work to push the ball back down where it belonged. As we walked down the fence line, his head continued to go up; Julius was in the round pen working and Dix seemed to be a bit agitated by whatever was going on. I knew I didn't want to get into that, so I simply turned Dix towards the center of the arena. I expected him to make a dive for the gate again, but was pleasantly surprised when he was staying steady under my seat and hands. I picked a point on the other side of the arena and rode to it, and then made an easy turn down the fence line again, and purposely turned again just before reaching the fence line and heading past the gate, and then stopping close to the mounting block again. Dix was quite and followed my guidance easily without chomping the bit, without fussing and throwing his head around. I returned to Debbie and told her it was nothing more than how he is ridden and not getting sucked into his drama. He didn't want to stand quietly when I stopped, so I finally got him to a point where he held his composure for a little while and then slid down. The evening was getting cool and it was getting darker and there was still feeding to be done.
Being able to try out some of the things that I have been working on with Tali and Storm and having the verification that they were really working with how Dix responded to the cues knowing that Dix doesn't have any experience with being ridden in that manner.

Next Page: 10.10.16: The Ball, the box and the T
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