Aslan and I did a fun thing on the weekend - a play day at a ranch. Sadly the last one available since they sold their gorgeous property and are moving on in life. But I hope someone else will start hosting these.
A number of odd obstacles are set up in the arena. They range from balls, cones, ramps, teeter totters, cowboy showers, small jumps, barrels, ball pits and so on. The object is not to just get over or through the obstacles, but to work on communication, respect and confidence. There are also a number of exercises that can be worked on, not just "get over it". Can you back through it? Can you go fast from obstacle to obstacle without fear? Can you go over the obstacle sideways? Can you stop on top? Can you stop half way off? Can you listen to my body language and go in and out without pulling? Are you distracted by other horses?
The morning consisted of ground work, the afternoon consisted of riding.
Aslan was a natural at most of the course, since we have done soooo much groundwork and targeting. I'm also a very confident leader on the ground. The riding, not so much. Both of us lack confidence. I can become a passenger quite quickly if I find myself distracted or worried, which gives Aslan an opportunity to start thinking for both of us. Especially on a short trail ride. No one pointed this out, it was an epiphany. I also won't be doing trail rides with a lot of horses until we can get good with just one other horse or two other horses. I personally can't concentrate otherwise.
According to the host, Aslan was also being sassy to me when I would give cues to increase speed over obstacles or on the lunge. I personally interpreted this as personality/excitement, or if he reacted strongly, fear and a lack of confidence because I used too much pressure. She said, "no, he is being a stallion and challenging you." Yes I saw a few signs of disengagement from certain exercises (head tossing left/right, nose out counterbent and being slightly pushy despite being rebuked over and over) but usually he cooperated anyway. Obviously if I pushed too hard he would get really over reactive. So I figured it was all fear then. Nope, she said he was being a big sass and telling me where to go. She has experience with way more horses than I do, so I let her demonstrate.
She tuned him in using traditional horsemanship ala Jonathan Field. She expected Aslan to listen without challenge, walk beside her in a certain spot and not get