Was Sydney ever naughty on Thursday! Whenever Sydney spooks or does something odd-ball during a lesson, JL's first question is always, was that dirty?
Speedy is never dirty; his spooks are legitimate. He might buck, but it's always out of exuberance. He expresses his opinion by pinning his ears, sucking back a little, or his favorite, curling up WAY behind the bit.
Sydney on the other hand does dirty very well. When he's in a mood, he looks for ways to be a jerk. Since I've yet to come off him, (Oh, Lord, hear my prayer and know that I am not boasting. It has been through your protection that my butt has remained in the saddle. Do not take this as a prideful statement. Amen.) I don't know if his intent is to lose me, or just be an ass.
His version of dirty is to launch up and forward and then drop a shoulder and spin. It is a brutal maneuver and always gets me loose. If he would take one more step, he'd completely unseat me, but since I can usually yank him to a stop, I have time to regroup (so far).
On Thursday, I started out on the buckle and then picked a super quiet canter around the arena's edge like I had done the day before. I brought him back to a walk, took a moment, and then picked up the canter from the walk. I was working in my dressage "court" and was cantering down the long side when he "heard" something. He sucked back, and when I squeezed him forward, he let me have it.
Through much trial and error, my trainer and I have learned that when he pulls a dirty spook, it is best to rip into him. I planted his nose on my knee and sent him whipping around with my outside spur while I whaled on his neck with the flat of my hand. I stopped him. I asked for forward and continued about my business like nothing had happened.
My reaction to his "spooks" (especially the rear), is mostly to just be loud and in your face. I smack his neck with an open palm and pop him in the side with my heel or spur enough to get him moving forward. The whole thing lasts for 10 seconds or so, and then I act as though nothing has happened. The point is to let him know that rearing or threatening to do so will get you in BIG trouble.
We picked up a trot, and he did it again. The second time, I added some very stern WHAT THE HELL DO YOU THINK YOU'RE DOING? kind of comments as I used my outside leg to send him in a brisk circle and whaled on his neck. Now don't get me wrong. I am not beating my horses, and I am not spurring them to create any wounds. I don't think we accomplish much when we "punish" our horses, but in THIS case, with TWO dirty spooks, Sydney needed to understand that his reaction was not acceptable. It's dangerous and can easily get both of us hurt.
I sent him forward again at a walk on a very loose rein. He didn't spin, bolt, buck, or rear after that. We didn't have a very nice ride, BUT his brain clicked back on and he tried very hard to listen.
We spent the better of part of 20 minutes tracking left at the trot working on relaxation and submission. Once I felt him sort of relax, I changed direction. I was prepared for a ginormous fight since the right is his more unbalanced side, especially when he's anxious or tense.
Surprisingly, he relaxed very quickly to the right. All I did was ask for a very straight neck. I moved his hindquarters around and insisted that he be straight. While we didn't have much stride length, he was at least willing to listen and try. I decided not to work on the canter as I had accomplished what I wanted, which was to let him know that when he's feeling wild and crazy, he doesn't get to act on it.
After I untacked him, I turned him out hoping that he would gallop and buck it out. I don't know if it was a good thing or not, but after he rolled, he simply moseyed around and waited for me to come back and get him. I think that I was able to ride him through the wild and wooly feelings he was having and that by the time he was turned out, the tension had been resolved. I think that's a good thing.