After my meeting with Cowboy Dave I promptly zipped up to Seattle for a day and Switzerland/Germany for four. It was a quick work trip (my first! so exciting!), and gave me plenty of time to mull over my horsemanship lesson in between strolling through Zurich and cycling around Konstanz.
I got home on Monday and knew I wouldn’t be riding, what with the jet lag. But I headed out to see Murray and play with my new tools a little.
We don’t have the same type of whip at the barn that Dave does, but we do have a long dressage whip (maybe one of those ground whips that they use for piaffe?) with a small piece of caution tape tied to the end. This posed the perfect new problem for Murray. He had never seen the “flag” before, and I was pretty sure he would not be a fan. I was correct.
I worked on the basic-est of basics that Dave started with Murray. I waved the flag around behind me and tried to release every time Murray was standing still. I waved the flag over my head, and Murray was not the biggest fan of that. But he got over that too. Then I started bringing the flag over toward Murray’s side. He skipped to the side, and I got a bit lost. I needed him to stand still so I could remove the pressure, but I couldn’t get him to stand still with the flag anywhere near his side.
(At this point I’m like oh. you went too fast. So point taken, babier steps next time.)
Murray was very interested in looking at and touching the flag, and I let him. But ultimately, I wanted him to pay less attention to the flag and pay attention to me. I tried to remove the flag when he flicked his attention back toward me, but all of his body language said “I’m not comfortable with that flag near me.” His body was bent away from the flag, and his head and neck were craned around like he was physically going to shield his shoulders from the Evil Plastic.
On Tuesday I was struck down mightily by Evil Travel Sickness, and was literally bedridden for much of Tuesday and Wednesday. On Wednesday night, I was lamenting to friends about the bullshit schedule I have this fall that means I’m looking at a little more than 4 weeks available for riding between now and the end of the year. Megan told me to stop being dumb and ride my horse, because I can still make valuable progress in the connection over four weeks.
So on Thursday I went out to ride my horse. But first — flag games!
Thursday the game was a little more lackluster. Murray was not scared of the flag — hooray! — but he was also less interested in playing the game with me.
When I went to walk backward and draw him toward me he planted and let his neck stretch out to ridiculous lengths. I stuck with what Dave said and gave him more time (not more pressure), but I’ve played that game with Murray and I do not have the patience that he has. So instead I asked another way (turned around and walked with him beside me), which worked better. (If you have experience with this type of thing, you should tell me about it. I have no fucking clue what broke there.)
I also played around with the pressure/release concept during tacking up. I did not abandon the treats, but I did add pressure (girth) and take it away a couple of times while we were standing in the aisle. I’m not sure it did anything, really, but I wanted to reinforce the idea that the pressure comes and goes away.
And then I rode, and he felt awesome!