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Collection and Lateral movements

May 23, 2016

In the last couple of lessons Aslan has been a bit over excited at the start, almost high anxiety and wanting to go go go.  This is odd for him and it might be related to the rainy cool weather we just started having.  Usually he is enthusiastic about getting started but the high anxiety and wanting to act like a spring chicken is new.  Our walk all the way to the barn consists of him snorting and trotting like a high spirited Arabian.  He is calm to brush, but in the lesson, he spends a lot of time trying to move forward anxiously or rush into his favourite behaviors.   Who stole my horse and replaced it with this one?  I was like, hell no I'm not riding *that*.  

 

The good news is that I'm getting lots of practice teaching him to come down.  And even more interestingly, he calms down if I get on and ride.  Usually he is LESS confident if I get on, almost like he doesn't have me to look at anymore.  Regardless, it does take 15  minutes to get him offering behaviors without anxiety and he blows out a lot.  I spend time desensitizing, doing head down exercise, working quietly on a trick behaviors and stuffing his face full of food.   At one point I even decided to work on downwards transitions to get him thinking "SLOW".  This is the first time I've really had to focus on downward transitions, normally we struggle with upward!  I can see us doing a juggling act with forward vs stop over the next 6 months. But today after working for half an hour on behaviors, he finally went to zero and I could tell he was done LOL  Either full, exhausted or mind blown.  Or all three?  Start of lesson - 90 miles an hour.  End of lesson, 2 miles an hour.  Weirdest session ever.

 

Anyway, we are working on lateral movements and on holding collection at the walk/trot/canter.  Aslan LOVES lateral work and incessantly offers it, so I've been telling him no and then cuing for the actual behavior we are working on.  Once he does it right, I reward him by allowing him to do lateral work.  I really lucked out with that!  Tricks are "smile" and pick up a Frisbee for the start of fetch.  

 

The collection work is obviously my favorite and I'm seeing him offer it a lot more in all areas.  It makes me so giddy!  The process has been so educational too.  A horse can totally put their head down or curl up and still not be collected.  I knew that before, but I can actually see it now.  And since I have a cob, he loves to push his face into the dirt, slow down and ride his forehand like a plow.  I have to push him forward so he will collect up and I grab it! He is really starting to "get it".  Some of this unwanted anxiety actually kind of helps because he prances a bit and allows me to capture the collection.  Then I bring him down and do a calmer exercise, since over the long term I do not want to reward anxiety. 

 

Some of the tools I am using are trotting poles (strength building) and I am also teaching him to trot a smaller circle around me and *try* to use collection instead of just going slower.  It's hard for him but amazing to watch; he really has to curve his body inward and ride his hindquarters, which looks very bouncy hahaha.  He struggles with either slowing down or leaning outward.  I am gentle to pull him back inward and achieve a slight curve of the neck, but sometimes he tosses his head left and right.  If I push him forward we get it for a second but it is so easy for him to throw his head up, speed up and lose it all. Clearly not easy, but he is doing well.  I just need to be careful I don't get so excited about seeing his neck curl and let him drop onto the forehand into a false collection.  I could totally see myself doing that.  

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