All this leading from behind/sharing space is paying off, I think! It started off rather depressing again, her just cantering across the pasture whenever she felt like it. Then, we were getting a little better, and she started to leave, and I just said, “WHOA!” She stopped, rather surprised. I was pretty surprised, too. We then kept playing with it (I walk toward the space behind her, so she feels a draw to turn – I don’t look or face at her body that would drive her away), me saying “whoa” or making an “ah ah ah” noise if she started to walk off, and she soon got it!
I would change my body position and ask her to turn in and switch eyes, and when she did, we’d walk a few steps, then stop, treat, and share space. After a while, I’d have her walk around me again, and we’d repeat, and repeat. I tried not to be too picky about her sour face when she turned in (which did improve a little), but did have her put her ears up before I’d give her a treat.
The turning all the way in and switching eyes seemed to have a very good effect on her. She had a definite goal and behavior she could do whenever she wanted a scratch/treat/rest.
Same Principles in Lunging
When I took her to the outdoor, I used the same principles. Her understanding that she could bend in and switch eyes helped her bend a lot more on the lunge, being more focused on and softened to me, which was super.
More Traditional Collection
As you know, I’ve been playing with “direct communication” of collection, asking her back directly to come up in movement. I did that for a while longer today, but it was just falling apart. She hated it and it was hard and things weren’t going well. I still love the reinback to trot exercise, but I think I’ll stop using it as a direct-communication collection exercise.
What I played with instead was getting that stretching in walk/trot on a small lunging circle, then asking for some yielding along the wall, then continuing on the circle. In the yield at the trot, she stiffens and hollows right away. We kept on playing with it, using lots of endotapping (although I use the neckrope to “tap,” squeezing in time with her outside foreleg when needed) and she started getting a lot better. Her collection she was showing that way, though not nearly as “extreme,” seemed more correct, an extension of the stretch, just a stretch upward, versus more of a contraction.
Riding: Focus, Little Mare!
I jumped on bareback and we instantly had some difficulties with attention. Her head flies up and ears lock on to Invisible Threats of Mass Destruction. Because Invisible Threats of Mass Destruction aren’t very conducive to training, I wanted her to ignore them. The best method I had was to use endotapping, so I did.
I got stronger with it today, and she actually didn’t seem to mind too much. Essentially, as soon as she’d start to check out, I’d tap – sometimes hard – on her neck until not only did her topline lengthen again, but her focus came back to me. We did this for some time.
What was amazing is that her turning improved so much when she was truly focused on me and relaxed. I could do small walk figure 8’s with decent bend on almost all leg, as long as I was tapping with one hand to keep her relaxed and focused. I needed a lot of tapping along one particular fenceline part, which, between the Horrible Foraging Killer Chickens and the Fascinating Interesting Grazing Foal, was quite a challenge as she kept ricocheting off of it with her head in the air. But we just went back and forth along it, insisting she stay on the fence while keeping a level topline and focused attention (and when she did, click and treat), and it got a lot better.