12.05.28: Plugging Along

Memorial Day is always the unofficial start of summer. This year it might as well have been the official start, it was hot and humid right from the beginning. I didn't have too much on the to-do list, and wanted to make sure I spent a little time working with him, so when I got up and found that the herd was hanging around the gate and the run-in shed so I hustled out to try to grab him before they decided to head out to the grass for the day. I had already decided that I wasn't going to bother riding, and that I'd work him on the lunge line and then work some more on the in hand work to see how that was coming along.
I got organized and headed down to the arena. It was really nice to start out in the calm quiet of the morning with no one else around. He was in a pretty good frame of mind, and got himself organized on the 45' line pretty quickly. He was not making completely round circles, but it was reasonable enough. I asked him to pick up the trot, and let him sort things out for a while. He was starting out a bit high headed, and it took him a while to find a more comfortable position. It was interesting to observe his struggle going to the left first since this is the more challenging side in this moment. It took him a long time before he was able to drop his head and really shift his weight back. I forgot to start the timer, so I left him out there for a while and simply watched his effort to note when he was beginning to make changes. I did ask for one canter transition, and got it fairly easily, without too much fuss to boot. He held it for a little while and then settled back down again, and worked on his trot some more.
I finally changed directions and allowed him some time at the walk to regain his breath a bit and then asked for the trot. He was able to better give me balance much more quickly going to the right now, which was great. I allowed him to work on it for a while before asking him to step up into the canter. It was much more of a struggle in this direction and I got almost an entire lap of super fast out of balance trot before he found the next gait. More canter transitions on this side will probably help smooth that out. Again, it came without any emotional excitement, which was really positive for him. It was probably too hot to get excited about much!
I was getting really irritated with all the bugs, so I decided to put him back on the lead rope and work on the light in the bridle work. I remembered (genius!) that I had a long buggy whip without a fall on it, and realized it would be perfect for working in hand - plenty long to reach his hind leg while still standing all the way up by his head! We started heading to the left since that was the more challenging side, and it was taking quite a bit of finesse and work to help him find the weight shift backward. He is mostly heavier on the back up than coming forward, which according to the process that Kirsten outlined should mean that there is a change coming soon. I certainly hope so because it is really hard to encourage him backwards when he wants to weigh a ton. I attempted to be conscious of my own breathing while working, and I could tell when I was able to multi-task that it worked, but it was a super challenge for me to manage the lightness in my hand, ask him to stop and then back up, and then ask him to come forward off the hind leg at the exact right moment AND breathe!
We worked down the rail almost to the end of the arena, five steps forward, six steps back, four steps forward, three steps back, two steps forward, four steps back, six steps forward, three steps back. When we made it close to the end I turned him around to come back down the fence on the right side. I couldn't really tell a difference in either side, other than to know that they were both a lot of work! Way more challenging than rubbing your tummy and patting your head!
We made it back to the beginning of the arena, and I decided to call it quits. Whether he was tired or not, I was! I took him back up to the top of the hill and untacked him, and then we went outside where I gave him a long sponge bath to help get some of the salt sweat out of his coat. They've been so hot that they've been sweating just standing around for the past several days. He didn't seem to mind all that much, and I spent a good long time soaking his coat from the top down one sponge full at a time.
We finished up and I used the sweat scraper to slick the water off of him and grabbed my carrots and clicker to play around with that for a little while. He very quickly figured out I had treats, and it was a challenge to get the timing right so that he wasn't paying too much attention and got too grabby about the entire deal. He quickly connected the clicker to the treat, and so I tried using the sweat scraper as a target for him to touch. I think he was beginning to understand it, but he was still having trouble with the concept of "touch, don't eat the scraper" and "touch the END of the scraper, not my hand, that hand doesn't have treats!" I also learned that sometimes shoving a treat in his mouth means having his lips all the way around my hand and slurping the carrot off my hand. I only ended up dropping a few of them, and he was a good sport about it. We'll have to play around with that some more and hopefully develop a bit better language than that! Here's to learning new things!
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12.05.28:AT Lesson: An Hour for One