Played with Maurice in the big puddles up the track today. He will normally avoid walking in puddles if at all possible, so with Hannah’s ”trotting is FUN!” in my head I decided that we would make puddles fun! After a few minutes c/t for successive approximations, Maurice was walking into puddles, standing in puddles, backing up in puddles, and – AMAZING – turning around in quite a narrow puddle and staying in it – when it would have been much easier for him to turn if he stepped out of the puddle. YAY!!!
I then got on him and repeated ”puddles are FUN!” ridden – but apparently ridden they are definitely NOT so much fun and preferably still avoided … which I don’t think is puddles so much as being ridden by me He seemed quite happy to stand in a puddle with me on him, but didn’t really want to walk through which I think is a lot to do with my tension and over-riding/steering to try to get him to go in/through a puddle rather than around it, even though I was trying to be very soft and focussed. I think going through puddles will be a good riding lesson for me, as long as I make sure they continue to be fun with me on the ground.
I was riding bareback and with two lead ropes attached as reins to the rope halter (haven’t used this before with Maurice but I’d only brought that one up with me as had been using it with Frankie). After playing at riding through puddles which was OK but nothing like we’d had from the ground, we went up the track as I wanted to work on verbal walk on and whoa cues while ridden. Maurice did his spinning around and going for home a few times and I reverted to my bad habit of hauling on the reins to stop him. When I got off I noticed that using the rope halter I’d exerted enough force to leave a depression in the hairs on his nose – omg not good This worried me so much that I think I am going to continue with the rope halter as it will make me much more aware of the need to be softer with my hands. Using a bit or normal halter there’s no physical evidence of the pressure I am using, so it’s easier to not realise just how hard I am pulling.
So … after he tried his spinning around to go for home we did lots of work of walking the way I wanted to go for a few steps – lots of praise for that, c/t for verbal whoa (he’s got this really well), c/t for flexion away from direction he wanted to go, then taking one step in the direction of the flexion rewarded with c/t and then we turned around to go the way he wanted. We repeated this quite a few times and it was lovely.
I’ve been really disheartened that Maurice who used to be my ”go anywhere, do anything I ask” horse has now got some anxiety about leaving home and I really really didn’t want to give up hacking – to the point where I’d even thought about just pushing him through his protests. After all, it worked when he first came here and he would spin around for home, I’d just be forceful with him and he didn’t do it anymore after our first few rides together. Behind my desire to get this fixed quick is that I’m horribly aware that at 23, Maurice may not have so many hacking years ahead of him and it’s something I really love and we’ve always both really enjoyed our ambles (and gallops!) around the countryside.
However, Im not the same person I was then and after today I feel very happy to just work up and down the track on us both being softer and more responsive, gradually increasing the distance until we can go for lovely hacks again without getting into any major discussions about which way we’re going