I trailered over to a friends today with Rain so that we could hit the trail together. She's having some fear issues with her mare and the idea was that I would ride her horse and she'd ride Rain. Her mare is LBI with some LBE tendencies. She's a dominant confident horse and she's caused a lack of confidence in her rider. I warmed her up on the ground and she quickly got with the program. She's a nice horse, very nice, but she needs a confident leader or she takes charge. I established up front that there was no reason to doubt that I would be the leader.
She actually did quite well on the trail! She wanted to move out, so I trotted and cantered circles around Rain so that my friend could go at her pace and Lynx and I could move out. I'm sure we looked funny to anyone that saw us. :-) I was very specific with her. I wanted her to know that I was in charge of her feet, so I often asked for a single step at a time. It took her about 15 minutes to realize it was much easier to follow my lead than have a lot of her own ideas. I moved her out whenever I could to help her have some fun and brought her back down if my friend became unnerved.
When we got back, she was in such a great place - calm, soft, no emotional brace in her mind. I was pleased (I've always liked this horse). So my friend rode her at all gaits and enjoyed herself for about 20 mins while Rain relaxed and grazed and I watched. I love helping horses and I really love helping people with their horses.
When I got home, I brought Tina in for another ground session. I put a new, heavy western saddle on her that I'm trialing for colt-starting. Tina could tell the difference between this new saddle and the other saddles I've used. She bucked quite a bit the first 10 mins. I was surprised that she bucked but she's just telling me she still hasn't accepted the saddle. That's good to know, we'll keep working on it. She's calm and easy for the act of saddling, but wearing it on her back while she moves is still quite a challenge. She's extremely sensitive!
We played in the round pen with disengaging, nice circle game at the trot and canter, and some sideways. I just wanted her feet moving so I could help her relax. When she started to blow and the adrenalin was waning, we got to work with the ball. She did very well! She pushed it multiple times in a row (vs just one push) with her legs and nosed it a lot. She was showing a bit of interest in it. I was very glad to see that behavior! She would once in a while get startled (the cinch? something else she sensed?) and I decided to stop the ball work and go back to getting her relaxed and blowing. Change of direction works very well for this as she draws in to me when I step back and fluidly moves back out in the opposite direction. She can do wonderful lead changes at the canter with this maneuver (this is COD). Her draw was quite nice, which means she's feeling safe with me, not thinking to avoid me.
It started to rain, so we did a little teeter-totter until the rain got hard and then went into the barn. I wanted to get some hoof trimming done on her and decided to keep the saddle on so she could wear it longer. Her feet have come along so nicely - I'm proud of where she is with her hoof shape. She tends to flare so she needs frequent trimming to keep her hoof wall intact.
My sister walked in with a plastic bag full of apples for the horses and Tina became so unnerved by the bag! That's our next feat - the plastic bag on her body everywhere. This will be a big challenge for her but it will also help her get to the end of that extreme fear. I've got bags hanging and blowing in the wind around the barn now and in the round pen. She's still got a special reaction when a bag is in a humans hand versus hanging around attached to an object.
We'll keep building! This was Tina's 4th session of 7 for confidence-building.
After the weather passed, I pulled Gem out and did some liberty with him. He was cute. He's so playful! We had some fun working on his cutting pattern (moving left/right fast when I do), flc at liberty, stick to me. I taught him to rear and he enjoys getting his hooves in the air. Now I will refine it so he can do it w/o a buildup to it and only when I ask specifically.