I bridled him and he took the bit nicely. For horses starting in the bit, I follow the bit with a sweet of some type. Surprisingly, Kholo couldn't figure out how to get this treat past the bit so he fiddled with it in the front of his mouth and then gave up. This tickled me! I picked a piece up and put it behind the bit for him. He'll sort this out in time. It was pretty cute, though.
We went into the arena and I started with lateral flexion. He didn't quite understand so I helped him along. He has a great nature - he tries and doesn't over-try. He's confident and calm and he doesn't get worried while learning. I know it's going to be fairly easy to help him understand what we riders are after. We played with isolation of the ends after he started to get a feel for the bit and what to do with the sensations in his mouth. I played the most with backing from my seat combined with bit pressure. Improving his backup will make the most positive changes in his halt. His backup and slow and tentative, so I'll be working on getting his backing motion more fluid and confident.
Kris and Rio were in the arena with me and I coached them along while I played with Kholo. One of the things I've really wanted to get Rio and Kris playing with is passenger riding. Kris has been challenged by Rio's sensitivity and trust has been hard to attain. Over the past year, we've built on Kris understanding how little it takes with Rio and now she can do soft transitions on a loose rein. Rio, in turn, has become a softer horse. He's much less reactive and takes things more in stride. He's pliable and willing to learn. He's a very nice horse and he fits Kris nicely. He has a lot to teach Kris. So, this evening, I was able to get Kris riding as a passenger for the first time. This means, in my large arena, Kris asks Rio to trot. Rio's job is to maintain the trot. Kris' job is to simply ride. Rio can go wherever he pleases and if he breaks gait into walk or canter, Kris responds by bringing him back to the trot. I could tell by Kris' expression when I asked her to try this that she was unsure. I've been waiting to get her doing this type of riding until I felt they could handle it together. It's perfect for this type of scenario - lack of trust in the horse.
Well, they did it and they were great! Rio covered the entire arena after realizing there was no comfort with me and Kholo. He trotted around and seemed to keep asking Kris what he was supposed to be doing. Kris kept him trotting beautifully and a few minutes in, Rio let out a huge blow of relief. I know I had the biggest smile on my face watching this. I'd like her to start each session this way for 7 sessions. She agreed to do that and she was convinced it was a good thing to do. She and her horse have some great times ahead.
Kholo was with me through all of this - feeling of the bit, learning me and beginning to understand. He's a smart boy and tomorrow will be a nice leap off the foundation we built today.
Kris got Cowboy and Rio trimmed after the lesson.
Kholo and the Herd
I don't like to introduce horses to the herd if they aren't going to live here. The herd is a tight knit family with an established heirarchy. Newcomers don't fare well and I keep them safe by separating them from the herd. Kholo had been in the stall and run for 2 days and I wanted to let him out to explore and move. I put my herd in the middle of the track and gave Kholo the track to himself last night. Well, this morning, when I came out to feed, Kholo was with the herd. I'm guessing he jumped the fence as no fence was down. The track is only electrical ribbon on fiberglass posts, so it wouldn't be terribly difficult to get through if the horse didn't mind the electricity. I guess Kholo decided he'd rather be chastised and pushed around by the herd than be on the track alone. I don't know how long he'd been with them, but they were all (especially Rain, surprisingly) telling him to "piss off"! I haltered him out and put him back in the stall and run. He sustained a couple minor bites, but he was fine. All the bites were on the left side, which I found interesting. He also carries his tail to the left. I'll be watching and studying that.
Herd behavior is so fascinating to me. I could watch the dynamics play out all day.