12.12.12: Three's Company and Four's a Crowd

On 12-12-12 I managed to get to spend a little time playing with Storm with some friends. I promised two friends they could ride at some point and finally the weather was nice and there was time to be had. He was still a dirt ball (nothing had changed from the weekend before...) and so it took a while to groom him with just the curry and then attempt to vacuum the dirt out of his coat. After that was finally accomplished the four of us headed down to the arena for some play time. I brought all the toys I had with me and started him out on the long line to work his transitions and find out what kind of frame of mind he was going to be in. He decided he was going to start out in a race horse kind of mind again, so I let him blow out some steam until he was ready to work. He was moving out so fast that he was leaning on the rope and I worried that he might lose his footing in the sloppy wet sand and scolded him while I held the rope firmly against his weight. He finally slowed down, and we got down to business, and worked in both directions for a little while to allow him to find his balance. He was working hard, and I didn't want to wear him out since he was going to have to be ridden for a while. We finished lunging and I asked him to walk up and down the fence line for a little while one foot at a time to help him find his balance again and really get centered. 
I checked in with my friends and they agreed they'd rather see me ride him first, so I got organized to climb up. I set to work with him really making him focus on being balanced so that when the others got on he would be able to maintain himself to a certain degree. He worked well to the left and then to the right shifting his weight. He struggled a little more to the right, which is normal, but was able to make some progress.
I got down and shortened up the stirrups for Terra, and let her climb aboard. She was nervous before she got up, but I knew all of that would disappear once she was on board, and I was right. She worked him on the circle for a while and worked him between a trot and walk, and then began making bigger laps of the arena. She came around and then headed down the long axis of the arena, and asked him for a canter. He was a little confused, but finally got himself organized enough to canter. He came around for another full lap before dropping back into a trot. She worked him around the full arena again, and he decided that it was a good idea to get excited in the "scary" end of the arena. Ed and I sat on the fence laughing hysterically as she chattered to Storm working him through his little temper tantrum. She worked him in the scary end of the arena and managed him through one small bolt/spook, and then helped him find calm again in the corner where things were frightening him. When she finally returned to the other end of the arena he was chilled out again, and not interested in running off or getting overly excited about anything. I was really pleased that the first attempts at the canter had gone well, and he didn't get too emotional, though it did bring his emotions up. I am looking forward to having Kirsten ride him when the time is right to help him through more of his emotions better than I will be able to before I get up there with the expectation of asking for the canter!
She finally decided she had enough and slid down and I adjusted the stirrups so that Ed could climb up. I got Storm set up on the long lines so that Ed could feel things while I helped Storm to maintain his balance. Since Ed had no experience I began walking him through the concept of the ball and finding it. I was surprised at how quickly he began to find it by the simple 'thought' of doing something rather than attempting to physically make a change. I continued to experiment with guiding him to find center and be balanced while he worked to interpret what it was that I was asking. He began to feel more comfortable, and asked about how the reins worked, so I switched the setup around and put the lead rope on Storm and attached the reins so that Ed could work on a little guidance himself. I walked beside him at the end of the lead rope to allow him as much room as possible while he worked and experimented with asking Storm to move left and right. As he got the hang of it I switched to walking in front of him backwards, and had Ed steer Storm left and right like a boat at the end of the lead rope, which delighted him to no end. He was very excited to feel the pieces coming together a little bit. We returned to our circle and I guided him through a little bit of trotting which took a lot of work for me to keep up with him, even on the inside of the circle and Storm 12 feet away from me at the end of the line. Ed was having fun, and was delighted in ride, and how it felt to ask an animal that is almost one ton to do something and have him willingly respond. I look forward to sharing Storm more often in the future.
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