Two days later, I find that I'm still dealing with the aftershocks to my self-confidence and concience after our spooky ride on Sunday. I've watched the video a few times and think that she's actually a lot calmer and behaved a lot better than I was giving her credit for, but I have a nagging unease which won't let me quite look forward to our next big-arena ride and am sure that my tension will be evident to her as soon as I climb into the saddle. When reading stories from other trainers one of the phrases that stands out to me is "holes in their training" or "incomplete foundations", and I think that the spooking thing is just that-- something I should have focused more on from the start but just basically ignored, hoping she'd "grow out of it". So I think that before I retry a ride in the big arena, I need to go back to basics and work up from there, not only to fill in these holes in her foundations but also to build my own confidence so I can be the fearless leader she deserves.
With this in mind, for the next couple of weeks we're going to go through some lengthly desensitizing sessions as well as drilling some under saddle exercises in the roundpen; here are some examples of things I hope will help us set up the building blocks for confidence and control while riding in an open space:
- Run up and rub
- Sack out with plastic bag while in motion (moving backwards, forwards and while longeing)
- Sack out with something noisy (shaking a can with beans, set my ringtone to loud, etc...)
- Work on "spook in place" on scary side: Walk toward the house, rest and rub when she relaxes facing the house. Longe for at least three circles when she spooks.
- End sessions grazing on the scary side only.
- Drill simple patterns from saddle in roundpen (circle, figure eights, turn on hind- and forequarters, rein-back, walk with lateral flexion).
- Ride over cavalletti in the roundpen.
- Ride in roundpen with plastic bag on end of stick, sack out from saddle.
While I feel good about this plan, I also don't want the roundpen to be a crutch for us, so I also need to research some strategies for how to reassure and control Starbuck when we go back into the arena. Enter today's training video featuring Clinton Anderson (yeah, yeah, I know, but you have to admit he's got some good ideas and is a great communicator) on how to handle a spooky horse under saddle. He first refers to really getting your horse sacked out which I covered above and then talks about redirecting your horse's "spook" energy by moving her feet purposefully. The idea is that every time she spooks, she gets a good ten minutes of serpentines, rein-backs, circles, and other exercises, with the final result being that she stops looking for things to spook at and starts striving to not give you any excuses for the extra workout. One of the reasons I want to drill those patterns in the roundpen is so Starbuck can recognize the cues when I need to repeat them in the big arena. I'm also going to ride with some cones or markers set in a triangle pattern which I think will make do cloverleafs, circles, eights, etc... much easier for ditsy ole me to remember to do.
Anyhow enjoy the video and happy training!