14.04.27: Back on Track

Kirsten returned, and brought good weather with her this time. Yay! It was a gorgeous day, perfect for a lesson! Of course, due to the (mostly) lovely weather, I had not had the chance to work with Storm much anyway. But that never really matters for my lessons.
I wasn't sure of a direction since it had been so long since we worked with Storm. Kirsten was pleased to see how calm he was, his overall demeanor was much more relaxed than it had been when she saw him back in November. It was a good improvement, and a big step forward for us. I explained a bit about where we were and the little bit that we had done, and opened it up to her for suggestions. She agreed that he had lost a lot of muscle through the winter, and wanted to get him back to work - both his mind and his body.
We headed to the round pen, which (to my happiness) she agreed was much larger and sturdier with much better footing than Graham's round pen. He was skeptical once, but fairly easily and mostly calmly made it into the round pen. She had us start with hand walking. She explained that hand walking on the circle was a good way to baby sit. If he was having a tough time calming down this was the best method to help him find his head again. It put him in a position of receiving a lot of support, both mentally, with me next to him, and physically being between me and the rail of the round pen. It worked his body and mind, but kept him from blowing off steam. It allowed him to move his feet, but in a controlled responsible manner. It took him almost five minutes in each direction for him to really make a change and settle in. Eventually he began licking and blowing and breathing again. I could sense the shifts even with him behind my shoulder as we worked. When we switched directions he had to settle in again, but made progress faster than the first time around.
As he got calmer and we could trust that he wasn't going to blow up, she had me change to a longer line so that I could work with the safety net of a line for control, but to handle it as if he were at liberty. Being able to trust that he wouldn't blast off at liberty was the important part, and the need for testing the waters with the longer line in the beginning. He worked very well on the line and maintained his responsibility of behaving while continuing to work. We eventually took the line off, and gave him the ultimate test of true liberty in the round pen. He did very well, and continued to relax. Kirsten gave me guidelines for watching his connection and the quality of the connection that I have with him when playing with the boomerang concept. He would turn to face me, and if his head was high and he wasn't relaxed, then the rules were very tight. If his attention wavered in that posture, then he had to keep moving. If his head was below his withers, and he was more relaxed, then I could cut him a little slack and help suggest he refocus on me by wiggling an arm or stepping to the side to draw his attention back. The corrections were all based on his own behavior.
He did extremely well, and settled right in. Kirsten explained that she worked with several of the horses in training for marathon sessions of 2 - 3 hours of walking in the small arena that she has. She said that the dramatic improvement in their bodies and mindset was amazing. Marathon sessions are probably harder on the human than they are on the horse, but they are extremely powerful tools to develop big changes quickly in a horse's body. Hopefully I can find the time for a few marathon sessions some time soon!
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