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Show prep and other things

I don't feel prepared, so I'm writing this to remind myself just how far we've come!

Decision making - he still tries to make decisions though not with the insistence that he used to. We've worked hard on this, and it came about due to the way I taught him to turn. In fact, I have now changed my mind that the Mane Event Bucking Fiasco was not just fear, but frustration/impulse control stemming back to this beginning training. (Ooops my bad!) This ultimately caused the problem, because he was nervous and wanted to catch up to Jay and I wouldn't let him, he got mad and "GET OFF NOW". He wanted to make the decision, I said no, and his threshold levels were very different in this situation. So we are working on it. Right now, there is significant improvement from what it used to be: In the arena it usually happens if we are at the stop, he will decide to walk on or if we are walking in a certain direction he will either try to change the direction or ignore a cue to change the direction. Grass is also a bad one for him, he wants to eat so he will consistently try to eat or grab, which I consider a decision. If he is under a lot of pressure, his threshold is a lot lower and he tends to snap, because I'm not recognizing it. He is a little pressure cooker and the warnings aren't obvious to me.

In better things:

Mounting block - This has to be his best move. People are blown away how cool it is to have a horse that can walk from half way across the arena to line up at the block, even if I'm facing his offside - he will spin around and give me the near side. He doesn't consider what direction I'm facing on the mounting block, so sometimes we mount on the 'side' of the block, but as long as I can get on I'm fine.

Nappy Transitions- Again I mentioned in previous blogging that I started carrying a small dressage whip. Not to smack him but just use as a tap tap tap if he decides to ignore my leg cues. I don't like kicking or spanking and the small whip seems to be a better and gentler reminder and I can be more annoying as a fly than as a martial artist (taptaptaptickletickle vs KICKICKICK). He is improving though sometimes will still not go forward into a walk. I'm going to probably have to take a huge step back at some point and do entire reinforcement lessons on transitions.

Turning - We still have some "decision" discussions. I will ask for a turn and he will ignore it. Then I end up having to ask slightly harder or use indirect rein. Hanna told me to ask with less pull and more sponging. I keep forgetting argh! I just need to keep rewarding softness and make the decisions less valuable. Otherwise his turns are improving. I would like him to respond more to my seat. I often exaggerate a lean which I'm sure looks ridiculous. And if he's not in the mood, I hang there like a monkey while he walks in a straight line.

Trot - still working on it. I've been trying to teach him to really stretch out using poles. At first I used 4-5 poles which helped increase his strength. Now I'm going to go back to 2 poles and reward a good stretch. I'd like to get it on cue and then ask when he is not over poles. Also working on bending and shoulder-in at the trot on his offside. It is very stiff and he is much more likely to make a decision on this side; not surprisingly. It probably doesn't feel good.

Shoulder in - excellent on the left, needs improvement on the right. I did this one day while in the presence of a rather rambunctious jumping lesson. You can imagine how a shoulder-in to the right went....."aaaand we are turning right. "

Other horses in the arena - Speaking of the jumping lesson, yes, I've been riding him in a very excited environment. It makes it very difficult to focus on lateral work or anything else, because we are constantly trying to stay out of the way. But his panic when another horse rides by closely MUST be addressed. I don't want him bucking me off at the show because another horse gets too close.

Circles - again, needs a lot of bending to the right. His left circle is great and he will offer this hilarious overbend because it is so easy. To the right he tends to bend outward, I can even feel it in the saddle.

Canter - transition to canter on the ground is improving. He is really smart about picking the correct lead. I haven't tried it in the saddle yet, since there is so much other stuff to do. Really we haven't focused a lot on this and I find if I don't touch it for a while, his upward transition gets bad again. (Nappy). Hanna reminded me to not reward him for crappy transitions. Just do the first one, then expect him to do better after that. If he ignores the cue, make him trot longer or slow down and then ask again. Only reward when he listens precisely or he will only ever give half-arsed tries.

Side pass over to an object - he is getting much better about this. He was uncomfortable with me asking him to get near a fence or a barrel, post, whatever it was. He especially didn't like it if I reached toward the object from the saddle, or picked something up from it. That would be cause for him to scoot further away.

We've worked on getting close to an object so I can grab a rope or a jacket from it. I ask him to turn his nose and look at what I'm doing or sniff the object. The jacket was the scariest item; he nearly pooped himself when I pulled it off the fence, even though he was looking right at it. Then I spent time waving the jacket all over him and behind him and over his head. Look it didn't eat you!

After one session I was able to grab the jacket and he wouldn't move, though you could tell he wasn't 100% relaxed, he tried his best.

Side pass over a pole - I remember trying this months ago and it was baby step after baby step and trying really hard to have him not backup or go forward over the pole. I think the shoulder-in and learning to balance helped because he will sort of "shoulder in" over top of it and manages to go in a straight line. The right side is not as good but then his shoulder in on this side is not as good either. But I was blown away when he crossed the whole pole without a correction.

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