Does anyone else find that you you don't have a problem reading horses, until it comes to you own?
My horse has been a RBI since I got him. So I've always done the "slowly slowly" approach with him...
I have been able to notice when he is obviously LB and such, have been able to give a little more pressure when necessary, and correct minor dominance issues that pop up, all without damaging his confidence, and keeping the relationship in tact.
As stated elsewhere in my blog, we've never had much success cantering online. I have tried in the roundyard, and freaked him out, I have tried in a grass arena, and nearly got rope burn. The only time I have success with cantering online, is when he offers it! (twice in two years), so after watching Pat & Linda at Equitana, Pat working with a RBE and Linda with a RBE, I decided to turn things up a notch between Sante and I. They can do in an hour and a half, what has taken me two years to do, So I figured that I might try applying a little more pressure here and there to see what happened (ensuring that i read the horse correctly - See, I've been having problems identifying when Sante is being completely LB, when he has been RBI for soooo long)
I have noticed that Sante can't handle his adrenaline. Once he starts doing something that involves high energy, he throws his popcorn in the air, he just CAN'T think on adrenaline, but I watched how Pat & Linda have been able to work with RB's that have the same issues as Sante, and with Savvy, have come out the other side.
So, I've been playing lots of extreme friendly, and doing things like playing stick to me, and putting a little more pressure on him when he falls behind (usually when he's on my outside shoulder going into a turn), as long as I carefully balance this with the friendly game, he's been OK. Yesterday I gave frequent rests when he "got it" and caught up to my shoulder, and today, I tested what we did yesterday, and he had retained it, which was great.
So, after getting a nice case of rope burn last week, when testing whether he was able to canter online (something i haven't done in quite a few months) I decided that I was going to have to go back to the round yard.
I haven't wanted to work him in the round yard because its:
- only a 22ft yard
- high walled
- to claustrophobic for him
So today, we went into the roundyard! Having been laid up all week with a torn neck muscle, I've been watching LHB over and over. So I made the resolution to be clinical and unbiased in reading my horse and not giving him the benefit of the doubt, and wanting to upset my "little angel"
Some surprising results!
I put him in there, did some other games, like lead by the tail, spanish walk, and LOTS and LOTS of friendly, then moved onto the circle game.
I raised my leading hand and waited " he looked at me like "hmmmmm i think i know whats coming" So I lifted my stick and he dawdled off on the circle. Now, a RB horse would be like "I think your asking for a send, right? Where as a Left Brained horse would be like "Oh...... I suppose so..... * sigh*" The only difference was , He had his ears locked on me...
So off he went.. at a dawdle, and then turned away from me, into the wall and showed his backside...
How Interesting! This is the part where I assume he's not confident, but I decided to read the horse: Head low (not intro) relaxed tail swish, lick and a chew, and thought "got a 50/50 chance here" So I tagged him!
He faced up and locked two ears on me, So I politely asked him to go again.... Half a circle later he stopped, so I did it again, he continued to circle without incident, doing two full laps until i bought him in.
I played around with walk to trot transitions, and change of direction, taking note of the playful dominance he was exhibiting in the change of direction, reading this as all good signs that I could ask for the canter, and expect him to stay confident.
So, after a few difference cicle games, (giving lots of rest and reward between, and also changing it up with different games so he didn't get bored) , I decided to ask for the canter.
As soon as I put more pressure on in the trot, he fell into a running trot, I let one lap of this before i shortened the rope, and brought the cue in quarter of a lap behind his z5. He stopped, faced away from me, with his bum in my face.
...... How interesting?
I tried to get him to turn and face, but he thew his head in the air, and the rope rose over his back, and i lost the ability to turn him, he turned and faced of his own accord, with ears locked on me - I was even able to swing the rope ( from 22 feet away) in a big arc, so that it flew over his head, and off his neck, thus giving me back my control, and he did NOTHING.
No right brain explosion, no miscommunication, ears locked onto me "What now?"
So I bought him in, and literally said out loud "Ok, now, what have I got"
I check his ears, all soft and "floppy"
Mouth loose, he was actually licking and chewing on his way to me
Gentle swish of the tail
No miscommunication when i played the friendly
Hang on a tic!!! Thats Left Brained!
So, after a little while, I asked again, and got the exact same reaction, and when I bought him in, Left Brained.
So this time, I changed direction and asked again, he tried to do the same thing but I felt it and shortened his rope, I was giving him to much rope, he was doing this ridiculous spastic canter on the wrong bend, and was able to throw his shoulder at me, and "check out", So I got the canter, and he tried to break gait..
I ended up having to follow him around the circle, and everytime he broke gate I corrected him, flicking pressure in his zone 5, I then experimented with keeping the rope short enough so that his nose was tipped towards me, but I held my carrot stick horizontal to his shoulder pushing his shoulder out.
This worked! He cantered a whole lap until i disengaged him, and he came into me without hesitation!
Just incase he was a little RB I walked away from him, gradually drawing him in.
Did all my checks - checked ears, mouth, tail, and decided that YES, I still had a LB horse
What the hey?
So We went onto other stuff, and next time I played the circle game, I asked for walk and trot transitions only. I don't want him to think that its all about the canter...
After a few minutes of that, I asked for the canter again. I still found that I had to assist him in keeping his nose tipped towards me, Now, I don't read this as a Right brained "facing out because its to much pressure", more like a complete and total inability to hold himself correctly!, I judged this because each time i finished the game, he came to me, no worries and licked and chewed on the way in! He was a little blowy, but he was left brained!
I actually found that I had success if I kept the carrot stick in zone 5 and kind of "nagged him" somewhat around the circle. Once I have the fact that "this is a canter cue" ingrained, I will be able to stand still, in neutral, and just let him go.
I then tried a couple of transitions, trying to encourage him to go down to trot from canter from the cue, rather than letting him brake gait. This worked!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
I was actually able to get him to do the full range of transitions, albeit, I did have to apply a LOT of pressure asking for the canter.
But I am totally confident that I was dealing with a Left Brained horse, and not a right brained, as previously thought.
I still beleive that innately, Sante is a right brained intro when it comes to new learning experience, but we've been doing circling game for two years.... I just don't think he's previously had the ability to canter, or he's had bad experiences in his younger years, either way, He HAS been Right brained about it, but has come to the realization that he gets away with it, and has therefore gained confidence in the fact that I won't force him into it.
now that he has confidence, I can apply a little more pressure.
My savvy Journey just got so much more interesting