Today was a fabulous day for us! After a solid midday training session yesterday where we were able to hang out on the scary side of the arena at the end and some roundpen groundwork this morning, I rode Starbuck again and she did great, no bucking at all-- phew, what a relief!!! She did put her head down a couple of times (I pulled it right back up) and she does a lot of head tossing, but I think that as soon as she figures out that it doesn't get her anything she'll stop doing it... she's phased in and out of a lot of bad habits that way. For instance, she used to obsessively scratch herself on the tying post shifting her weight back and forth, every time I saw her doing it I would very calmly ask her to back up, then scratch her neck when she backed and stopped doing it. Rinse and repeat, rinse and repeat... after about a month of this she just stopped doing it.
I also took up a light contact on the reins at the walk for the first time today-- I could tell she was 100% comfortable and balanced carrying me so I decided to up the anty just a little bit. It didn't even phase her, she just kept on truckin'! I was also able to get a nice trot for two full circles to the right... the left is a lot harder for her and we needed some help from Virginia, but we ended up getting our two full circles to the left too. So, we've got a good solid walk where she tracks up and I don't have to nag her (much) and the beginnings of a nice trot, she steers and bends nicely without me getting heavy on the reins, our one rein stop is absolutely solid and she stands still while mounting and when I ask her to... what more could I ask?
Oh, yeah, I can ask her to rein-back! Since I think this is an important exercize even for starting a horse and I finally feel that she's got the forward motion idea down pat, I figured that we could give it a try. Here's what I did-- I'm writing down the steps because it worked so well, she figured it out in like a minute!
- Walk her up to the edge of the roundpen facing the fence so she can't go forward.
- Shift my weight slightly behind my seatbones.
- Take up a light contact and close my hands on the reins one after the other putting light intermittent pressure on the bars of her mouth.
- Squeeze my calves against her sides, then give a little kick, then give rythmic squeezes until she takes one little step back.
- RELEASE ALL PRESSURE IMMEDIATELY AND GIVE HER A LONG PAUSE (slightly longer than you were asking her to back up) AND GOOD NECK RUB!
- Repeat a few times until she does it without having to kick and then stop while you're ahead!
You can see it all in the video, it's really long (sorry) so if you just want to see the rein-back, fast forward to minute 24:45. I'm trying to record a couple of training sessions every week and I'm uploading them to my Youtube channel, I think I'll really appreciate having them in a couple of years.
Oh yeah, I also got a photo of the scar I mentioned in the Origins post a couple of days ago, if anyone's interested in seeing it (it's to the right of my hand, she's superfurry right now so sorry if you can't see it well):