Saturday, August 21, 2010

Dawn Switches Over

After our experience a couple of days ago, where Dawn reverted to her bracing behavior and then we worked our way back to having softness at the trot, I was interested to see what she'd do today when I rode her. She'd had yesterday off - it was very hot, we'd had several pretty strenuous work sessions and I also wanted to see if some time to think about things would help her.

Today, from the moment I got on, she was almost 100% consistently soft at the walk and trot - I think she's made the mental switch over from bracing to softness. I think she's convinced that being soft is more comfortable and the way to go, and the session where she reverted to bracing may have been the turning point. She got to reevaluate her old way of going and see for sure that it wasn't as comfortable as softness. There are still moments of braciness, and there will continue to be, especially as we try out new or more strenuous things - horses will sometimes revert to older, known behaviors in these circumstances. One area in particular we need to work on is the first step of backing and the first step of walk after halt - when she's halting, she tends to lose focus and braces until I regain her attention - I think this means that I'm losing my concentration when she's halted and therefore I'm not continuing to give her direction, and then we have to recover that continuing focus and connection from the halt into the first step of backing or walking.

Now that the basic softness is there, we can begin to refine things. We did a lot of transitions and figures, with the trot as our main gait. We did some shortening of stride at the trot. We're starting to work on lengthening of stride at the trot - this is somewhat of a challenge for her as it can result in faster steps not longer or some braced steps. So we did a lot of transitions between shorter and longer strides at the trot, and if she thought about rushing or bracing, I directed her into figures to allow her to rebalance and refocus. Now that she's no longer doing the "curl-up" instead of softening, I'm encouraging her to adopt a somewhat lower head position, where the poll is not the highest point, and to step up into this from behind. This will help a lot with the lengthening of stride, and with maintaining softness throughout her neck and shoulders.

We did a number of sets, and then for our final test of the day, we did a figure eight with some modest stride lengthening on the diagonals and shortening on the turns, went straight and halted while maintaining the softness - she absolutely nailed it! And we were done for the day, and she got a well-deserved rinse off. I just love this horse - she's amazing to work with!

11 comments:

  1. Sounds like you've convinced her that softness is better than bracing. That's a real accomplishment and I'm sure from here on out it will be smooth sailing with more intricate work. I can tell from your post how happy and thrilled with her you are and you should be. It's taken some time but it was all worth the effort. Congratulations!

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  2. When they soften and become responsive like that it is wonderful , like suddenly you are on a different horse!
    Funny, my post was about maybe too much whao, but like you said too much go has its own issues. Here's to balance between them

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  3. Hurray for Dawn! Yes, it does sound like she has figured it out. Sounds like you two had a great session, congratulations to you both! :-)

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  4. Wonderful news. Dawn is a bright girl who seems to really think about what she is doing. You seem to have had the key breakthrough you've been working for. Once she learns to like softness, you are really going to have some fun upping the challenges.

    Congratulations.

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  5. Yay for you and Dawn! It appears that your daughter may be horseless soon ;)

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  6. Wow that is some great improvements! Congrats! Hope she continues to be soft!

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  7. I can't stress enough the importance of having a horse that knows how to give to pressure and soften on the bit.

    Hope things just keep going in a good direction!

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  8. Wooohooo for softness! It sounds like Dawn is figuring out that softness is more comfortable for her. That's a huge step forward!

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  9. That is wonderful news and gives me hope for my jughead.

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  10. Yay that it's going well!

    My horse started to do the crunch neck thing too. -_- Luckily it is fixed now!

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