I had three extremely positive experiences this week that validated the choices I've been making with the horses I've been training.
1. Jasper--Jasper hasn't been used much for the last several years, so coming to my house has been a bit of a shock to his system! One of his issues is that he gets anxious when he is tied, especially if he is tied away from the other horses. I'm a firm believer that a horse that struggles with being tied, needs to spend more time being tied.
Tuesday I tied him on the far side of the arena from the other horses. He yelled and kicked and reared and carried on like a psycho. I think everyone was glad when we went home (except for maybe Jasper, who spent a couple more hours tied up in his pen).
You all saw the video of what he did on Wednesday.
Yesterday I tied him on the far side of the arena again. He pawed a bit, whinnied a few times and then...nothing! He was so quiet and still during riding lessons that I kept looking over to make sure he wasn't dead or something. Progress!
2. Jasper again--As far as I am concerned, groundwork is invaluable in developing respect and control with any horse. If the horse is respectful and responds positively to my cues from the ground, I know he will be much more likely to do the same under saddle. Because of that, I have chosen to not ride Jasper for a bit until he is working better for me from the ground.
Jasper's former owner has been asking me each day if I was going to ride Jasper. I kept saying I want to do more groundwork. He then asked if I would mind if another friend tried riding Jasper. That friend has over 50 years experience training national level show horses. I would have been a fool to turn down the offer! The other trainer rode Jasper briefly, then came back and said, "This horse needs more groundwork."
3. Raven--One of my goals this winter is to help Raven learn to relax. She thinks that every movement or touch is a cue to charge forward. There are a couple of things I am doing to fix this. One of them is "cruising " or playing the "passenger game." In other words, I allow her to run anywhere she wants in the arena, but she needs to keep running for 15-20 minutes. Her lope has started to feel less frantic after doing this several times.
There is another highly experienced trainer that comes to the arena most mornings. He stopped me the other day, saying, "I saw you doing something yesterday that I don't see here too often." (In my mind, I kind of gulped.)
He went on to tell me that he thought it was really good that I was allowing my horse to run straight lines all over the arena, instead of just following the rail or loping circles. (Yea! I felt all warm and fuzzy!)
There you have it. Validation.