14.07.24: Catching Up

Here I am again, with Kirsten's return just a few days away, and I haven't had much time to work Storm. Thankfully the quality of work is such that we continue to progress despite a lack of time spent working on things. I fed the horses and then got to work with Storm. Despite being a little excited at the gate (I wouldn't bring him in first since I knew I was taking him out instead of turning him back out in the pasture), he settled right down when I got everything together to work.
We headed into the round pen and since he was a little distracted we started with backing up.
He struggled a little bit and was pretty heavy in my hand as we backed up, so we did a few laps. He was moving his feet mostly in a diagonal pattern as he backed up, but his neck was sometimes high rather than low. He was making a lot of effort, though, and we did two laps in each direction. By the time we accomplished that my arms were tired and I was relieved to get him on the reins and move forward. I'm sure he was too!
We settled into the long reins, and he was working hard. It took me a little while to remember that Kirsten had recommended that when he tucks behind the bit that I need to release the contact and encourage him to go forward. Trying to encourage him to go forward while maintaining contact doesn't work! Once I began to "give the reins away" and encourage him forward at the same time he began to work harder to shift his weight back on his hindquarters and really push forward. He had a few bursts of annoyed energy with a squeal, but that didn't last long and he got right back to trying. I know he's struggling, so I didn't mind a little frustration on his part.
We worked for about an hour and managed to really make some progress. I was pleased with his mind set and how hard he was trying. I unhooked the reins and we headed back to the barn. I noticed that he was acting really super calm, so I decided to do something differently and headed into the barn through the small door closest to the gate rather than through the large door closest to Storm's stall. The door is tricky to maneuver because it is "normal" sized for people, and has a bump in the threshold to keep water out, and that can be slippery. To the side of the door is the window awning, and so it is narrow, and then enters the dark barn from the bright outside. I didn't hesitate at all heading into the door, and we kept right on walking down to the spot where he usually stands in front of his stall. I didn't give him time to think twice about the fact that it was different and unusual. He looked around a little wide eyed with his head up a bit, but as soon as he realized he was back in front of his stall where he was used to things he calmed down again. Since he handled that change so well I decided that we would simply have to change something small each time we work. Whether it was going in a different door, or going out a different way, or walking down to an area that he hasn't explored yet, we'll do a little something different each time we work.
I was pleased with how well he worked and the progress he was making.
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