Our rides over the weekend involved some hairy stuff (no rearing though), but I decided to let the dressage aspect of it all fall to the wayside in favor of tackling it all like a young horse training issue. What does that mean you ask? Well …
When there was nothing but a tense ball of fury beneath me on Saturday, I decided to get in two-point and ride it out in a hand gallop. Which I did for a Very. Long. Time. So long in fact that I started to worry he might never slow down. Once he did begin to tire, I asked for a bit more canter, and then I put him to work at the trot.
My approach was to say, see I am not going to hold you back, but if you keep going like a maniac, you're going to be very tired. It seemed to work since by Sunday, I was able to do 10-meter figure eights but I had to show him that he could walk the straight side between the two circles. When he finally figured out that speed was not the purpose, he started to anticipate the walk stride and relaxed completely. Finally, Dude!
It seems as though he's trying to figure this out. He can't go left, right, up, or back. WTF? is what he's thinking. So it now seems as though he's going back through his list of evasions trying to find the right answer. His oldest evasion was to run through my aids and get the hell out of the conversation. That didn't work for him this weekend so I am hoping that we are finally, finally getting somewhere.
He can't hear my seat when he's like that, so my recourse is to pull him into a smaller and smaller circle until the difficulty of that maneuver slaps him in the face and he remembers that I am up there. If I can't pull back and he won't listen to my seat, I have to do something other than let him bolt around the arena; hence the small circles.
Since he was tired already, JL had me work on asking him to go faster so that I could practice slowing him down with a rocking rhythm. Since he already wanted to slow down, it worked beautifully! Here's how it goes.
As he increased the speed (because I asked for it), I planted my inside hand and rhythmically rocked the outside rein to a specific count: hold for two counts, let him go. Hold for two counts, let him go. If he slowed quickly, I let him coast a bit. If he didn't slow, I rocked firmer and held for longer and released for less. This is supposed to teach him that when I let him go and he takes that to mean RUN faster, there will be a follow up hold. It's a steady rhythm that he knows is coming. It's not just a hold until he slows down.
He was already a bit tired from his previous days of work, but he tuned into the exercise almost immediately. Once I had it to the left, our more reliable direction, I worked it to the right to a great deal of success. I still need coaching on the frequency of the hold and release time, but I get the exercise and have been using it all this week in preparation for this weekend's clinic.
JL is hoping that when we enter the arena for the clinic, I'll be able to use the technique to slow Sydney's RUN reflex and get him under control.This won't work if he's gone totally looney tunes, but if he's at least partway with me, it might help. I'll let you know how it goes.