Saturday, April 24, 2010

A huge positive step with Tina

So, so pleased! Her behavior did a 180 today.

I decided over the course of the last few days that it was time to take a step back with Tina and re-evaluate how things are going and how to progress. We were making nice progress in the fall and early winter, but it's felt like her progress has stalled and she's maybe even take a step backwards in her confidence and learning. I've spent some time thinking about why and where it seemed to change. I know our accident has had impact, but I also think her confidence has waned. It's time to figure out how to get her back on track.

The last session we had she was acting very RBI - afraid, tense, flinchy, spooky... not at all in a learning place and with very low confidence. I realize that I've been pushing her hard to be progress in the riding (as well as myself) and it's not working very well. Her time in the round pen was not successful the last 2 sessions and I've got to interrupt this pattern.

Today, I saddled her up and focused on confidence games only! I decided that I won't even consider putting a foot into the stirrup until I feel that her relaxation is back and her confidence is in tact. She needs to be calm, thinking, blinking and learning. I also decided to try a natural calming remedy to help take the edge off of her mental state. She's a typical RBE and she needs to be CALM. Calm is her biggest challenge, trust is a very close 2nd.

We focused on doing things slowly, precisely, calmly. We played with cavaletti's and her thinking through her footfalls to never knock a cavaletti. Jumping with the squeeze pattern (turn, face and wait! Waiting is hard for Tina). We played with the teeter-totter, standing and waiting for me to ask her to continue walking. Standing on the bridge with all four until she could lick and chew and breath a sigh of relief. We did lots of figure 8 pattern (she's gotten so great with that pattern and it calms her right down). And then, tons of Sideways! Sideways is a right-brained horses friend. I ask her for straightness and we didn't stop until she was calm and thoughtful about her footfalls. She can't go sideways properly if she's afraid. That movement really helps her.

This session was so great that multiple times she reached down to eat grass while I was asking for her to try something. She was confident enough to forget about me and eat grass! It's a big deal because the last couple sessions she's been afraid and tense. By me taking the pressure off of riding, she was the horse I had developed before the accident. I'm sorry that we had a couple bad sessions, but I'm pleased to know that she came back around pretty quickly and easily.

We are dedicating the next 7 sessions to advancing groundwork only. She will wear a saddle and bridle, but I will not attempt to mount or ride for 7 sessions. I suspect in the end she'll be ready for the mounted work, but we'll take session by session.

I'm so glad I took the step back. I want to preserve what we've built together and advance it. I don't want a scared horse feeling forced or intimidated. I want a confident and brave horse that's safe for humans throughout her life.

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