Smart Pony

Aslan is such a smarty pants.

As per Hanna’s instructions, I’ve started working on a few things: head up, shifting his weight back and following a long target. These behaviors will address his desire to plow the arena with his forehand while holding his head in vertical flexion. But he caught on quickly to the weight shift, so I'm very proud of how smart he is. Now to learn that under saddle and hold duration! (Hanna said this could take months).

Head up: I put a target on the end of my horseman’s stick and held it up high, with the cues “head up” and a hand raise. I swear he was doing in on cue within 3 minutes. I didn’t need the target anymore, I would just lift my hand and say “head up”. (Consequently it could just be a reaction to me lifting my hand while standing close to him, but I’ll take it.) I also did a few head down exercises as well, but we didn’t focus on this much. After he became consistent, I asked him to do this while at a walk. He would put his head up (and then slow down, I think out of confusion more than anything), so I rewarded one step, then a few. On session two I asked for this at a lunge and got it once or twice. He tries really hard.

Weight shifting: I stood beside and encouraged a step back; but I had to click before he actually moved a leg. At first he was assuming I was shaping a backup. But I was hyper vigilant of only clicking the weight shift. Occasionally he snuck a foot movement, either out of confusion or maybe he felt like he was losing his balance. But he tried really hard. My only concern is that he tends to step back with a heavy forehand, like dragging his forehand backwards. (Lazy cob!) I tried to ask him to lift his head while backing. Hopefully he will offer a better sit at some point. (I’ve seen him do it when I spray under his tail with water, so I know he can! We both hope I don’t have to resort to that!) On session two, I actually caught him moving his front legs backwards but not his back legs. He clearly understands I want him to lean back! I laughed when he did this, since it was rather clever.

Follow the target: He caught on to this game quickly so we worked on trot and “whoa”. The challenging part was convincing him that he didn’t have to lean on me to follow the target, especially with me on his off side.

Hanna suggested these videos for my issues:

I ended up building a sort of "around the round pen" type thing and he really liked it. He made me laugh when I was trying to get him near the mounting block, he walked over to the round pen and crashed through it and stopped and stared at me as if to say, "Let's do this instead!!" What a goof.

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