Once Izzy made it to the far end where the evil corner lurks, his body grew rock hard with tension. I let him stand there looking in hopes that he would take a breath on his own and walk away, but then Speedy joined him in the staring which only validated Izzy's fear that a monster was somewhere at that end of the property.
For the record, there's nothing there. Behind the trees are a couple of horses in a large field. Apparently, horses in a field are terrifying to well, horses in a field.
In any case, on Saturday, Izzy completely forgot how totally awesome he has been for the past two months. To his credit though, even though he was quite worried, he kept it together with only one felonious moment. Instead of walking for 10 minutes and then picking up a trot, we walked for nearly 20. The trot work wasn't great and neither was the canter, but he listened without any bolting or serious jackassery.
Anyway, here's a link to the spooking video if you're interested in checking it out. Essentially, Graves explains that spooky horses need confidence. The one thing in particular that resonated with me is how she really rewards bravery. When we reward their bravery, we help them build confidence.
I also pulled out my copy of Is Your Horse a Rockstar? and reread Izzy's personality type, the Wild Card. Graves's advice tied in perfectly with what Dessa Hockley says about the Wild Card, "Once they feel safe in their world, they will love to show off and be on center stage ..." Hockley also talks about how difficult the DEAF (dominant/energetic/afraid/friendly) horse can be to ride when you are dealing with a dominant side that is also afraid.
By rewarding and praising Izzy's bravery, I am acknowledging his dominance while honoring his friendly, all things Hockley says are key to being successful with the Wild Card. On Sunday, Izzy was much more relaxed in general, but I decided to make the corner of death our lesson for the day. We've done this lesson a few times over the past few months.
We started out by just walking past the corner. Each time he passed by, I praised him for being brave which is very different from being "good." We then moved on to trotting and ultimately cantering. He was quite willing to work for with me which was a major improvement over three months ago.
In less than 20 minutes, he was cantering past the scary corner without throwing his body around in an effort to escape. I really think he knew he was being rewarded for his effort rather than the quality of his dressage work. He looked so proud of himself!
My toolbox is getting fuller week by week thanks to Chemaine Hurtado, and now, I can add yet another tool courtesy of Laura Graves, rewarding bravery. If Graves can get her Wild Card to the top of the dressage world, I am pretty sure I can get Izzy to at least First Level, maybe even Second!