2016.03.26: Here's to Hard Work

Kirsten finally returned again! We got pretty far off track last fall into winter, and really weren’t making much progress. Kirsten’s new techniques are really wonderful but it is challenging to learn something when she hasn’t completely mastered the technique.
So we took a fresh start. It was a beautiful day and Eddie said that Storm was feeling playful when he fed early that morning, which I thought would be a good thing. We got off to a little bit of a rough start though. I brought him into the barn yard to groom some of the massive amount of hair falling off of him, and turned him loose to eat a little grass while I brushed. He was fine until I put the rope back on again and he suddenly noticed that there was a crowd of people at the round pen laughing and talking. This put him on edge and he froze in giraffe mode. I waited for a bit to see if he could bring himself back down, and when he continued to stay locked up I began walking him. Back and forth across the barn yard we went, continuing to move if Storm stayed distracted. Finally he started to offer licks and chews during our laps. I always kept myself between him and the round pen to make sure he couldn’t spin into me and we just kept walking. Finally he wanted to graze, so I let him have a little nibble, and then went back to walking, edging closer and closer to the round pen the whole time. We had a few set backs when he got a little more nervous, and spooked once, but we managed to stay mostly in the middle of the barn yard. Finally he chose to stay closer to the gate and graze, so I waited for a little while, and then walked him towards the gate. He froze once more, but then relaxed of his own accord without me needing to walk him and we made our way carefully through the gate and to the round pen.

Kirsten had me go ahead and get the saddle on and we set straight to work. She helped me set up the decarpentry lunging methods, and we started with a fairly heavy leverage configuration. Storm was amped up by this time, and so she put him to work. Engage the hind legs and encourage him forward to get him off the front end. If he tucks behind then he needs to be encouraged forward, and straight lines are more helpful. If he sticks his nose out, then using a tighter circle to encourage him to balance on his hind legs, and a little less speed is helpful. We were not able to play with the straight lines as much being in the round pen, but it was very obvious that he likes to lean on the rail instead of really working to balance himself.

Kirsten handled him for the better part of the lesson, talking me through the process, and then gave him to me to get a little bit of the feel. This method is HARD to learn. The trickiest part is maintaining the feel on the line without pulling. It is important not to pull in excess because it tightens the “reins” on both sides simultaneously, which creates too much pull, and can cause the horse to blow up. A light and responsive feel is very important when using this method, and is about as tricky to master as rubbing your belly and patting your head in an alternating pattern. We did ok, and he was really beginning to get tired by the time we finished.

Kirsten reminded me that I really need to simply WORK him at least once a week HARD in order to help his behavior improve. It is such a struggle to get through the sticky moments that it makes it hard to want to go do it. I have to remind myself that the tough moments will go away if we just get through them. Here’s to hard work.

Next Page: 2016.04.23: Two Times the Grind