And I think I made a bit of a mess of it last night. By the time I came in..I just didn't feel settled. (Usually it's like that when I'm going to be analyzing it all night.)
Nigel and I went through nearly the same routine as last night...but I didn't spend anytime hanging out with him in his stall. He came right up to me and put his nose in the halter...but he knows he'll get a treat for that so ...
The other thing I noticed was that again he was stopping and starting down the aisle. I've been monitoring that all along but it doesn't really seem to be getting better. Following or driving to our play space is such an interesting study in and of it self it seems to me.
With Lil I really had to experiment a lot to sort out what worked the best for her individual horsenality. Even after I figured out (reasonably sure) that she was innately RBI* I didn't get it right for her for what seemed like ages. Just walking up to the arena melted my brain!!! I started of course with the RBI strategy of waiting waiting waiting. Every time she would hit a threshold I'd wait. (and I'm a good wait-er). It took us a good 20-30minutes to get up to the arena (maybe 300feet) everyday and after a month or so it hadn't gotten better.
Finally last winter after scratching my chin for a while Linda's* words to me came back. "If its not working, try something else. You know enough now. Its time that you were free to experiment." and Pat's* words from the beginning of time. (lol) "There are no rules in horsemanship. Only principles, purpose and time lines."
Right. Lets try something else. What is the opposite? March like a leader. So that's what I did. I headed up there and each time she would slow down or stop I would let the line slide (22was so important here...trying to keep it out of the mud though) and just keep going. It was amazing! Clearly that was the trick. I really had the main goal once we got up there to get her left brained. After just a few days she was dragging me up there. Now THAT is magic!
With Louie it was always tricky because sometimes he was messing with me and I needed to prove my leadership with him. (although driving from zone 3* was the best way to do it with him.) And sometimes he did need to wait as he had gone a bit Right Brained. (again zone 3 driving. starting him off first and following was the most effective).
Back to Nigel. Like I said. It's not getting better I don't think... my gut says it is totally about me and him not having fun? I don't know though. Sometimes it seems like he's having fun and interested..but clearly not enough...or..something. Like I was saying yesterday though, I'm not sure whether to just continue playing and wait to see....? But getting down the aisle just dragging ass was bugging me more last night. At least with Louie and Lil they were engaged in doing SOMETHING. Either avoiding actively out of unconfidence or dominance. Obviously Nigel's passive resistance is LBI* dominance...but it just seems so apathetic!!!!!! (which it is of course. and that's what's melting my brain this time)
Anyway, I decided to not worry about it and we went out to stand on the stump. He went right over there whilst I was standing about 15 feet away. So that was progress. But nothing better about standing up there...not really. He kinda pawed at it like someone reaching behind the couch for something they can't see. Careless for sure. But why...?
Here's where I really started to go wrong. It was a much windier day..and colder so the environment had changed a bit from the night before. He was more looky. (first little clue) But I chalked his lack of motivation up to lack of incentive. He headed for the barn twice...just looked at the hindquarter the second time though and he came right back. (progress from the day before) So stand up there with two feet...give a treat and scratch his belly line. Both of which he seemed to like.
Then into the roundpen. On the way there he headed past it and off into the field. Now I started to really notice that this was repeating it self for too many days in a row. When we got to the roundpen he walked in just fine...I took off the line to move the barrels around...he went away from me but came straight back when I was done rearranging and had directed my attention back towards him.
I got the umbrella and snapped it and walked away with it at liberty. He followed me. Let me snap it open over his head and in zones 3 and 4. Rub him all over with it.....under the belly, legs etc. Move zone one 360 degrees both directions and the hindquarters too. I put a treat in the upside down umbrella to finish that off. For sure let loose. (second session. check it off on the assessment sheet.)
I know backing up is a key for him. Partly because of his horsenality and partly because on the circling game he tends to assume and head out. As we know from Pat's Eight Principles "never make or teach assumptions" so I figured I'd better nip that one in the bud.
I had set up a barrel with a treat on it and backed him to the end of the 22ft line and then directed him to it (about 3ft to the side of his mid neck) from as far away as I could. I noticed that his head went up on this part and his eyes got a little starey. (second big clue) I waited for a second until he blinked then tried again and he put his nose on the barrel and got the treat. In the end we got it two more times and the last time his back up was way closer to the barrel and he was clearly more motivated. (imagine that) He still literally drug his feet but it was faster and I only needed to use phase* one. Yikes that is a slippery slop with a LBI* huh. Not nagging. Long phase 1 quick 2, 3, 4. This is another thing I don't feel I have down effectively with Nigel. Sometimes it seems to work superbly doing it that way. Other times he seems to do better with moving though the phases more slowly....just not sure which is best or which to use when.... I suppose it'll be one of those stupid "figure it out moment by moment" things. arg! lol.
After that we played a short circling game. This is one part that went really well. We're working on canter laps. He did one each way after just a few tries and mostly I didn't even need to lift the stick at all. Which was BIG progress. I was thinking about motivating the LBI to maintain gait. I have tried the change direction every time he breaks gait thing with him..but in the end he just breaks gait then changes direction on his own then takes a few canter strides and does it all again. Plus the point here that I was trying to get at was maintain gait and DIRECTION.
So I thought about just focusing on getting a snappy canter depart. Especially since that was coming along so well anyway. I thought maybe if he got those really sharply and kept having to do them that that would motivate him to just maintain gait. As soon as we got a few canter departs really nicely he was happy to canter a full circle. Which is of course when I brought him in for a rest and scratch. It was a bit suspicious that he was as motivated for forward but heading into the canter he was snorting and hopping up in the back obviously LBI.
Saddling was not the best either. He wasn't too hip to the standing still. Nibbling (ha beth. private joke. she raised him and used to call him Nibs aka Nibbler) on the grass at the edges of the round pen. So off for the circling game some more. I thought we'd work on change of direction at the trot. That went really really well. Definitely check offable.
Then we chipped away at our sideways. Again this was not the best. He kept leaking forward and has been ever since I've been teaching him. I don't use the fence because I don't like the curved rail for it. I had to stop and think for a minute. I didn't want to have him be "wrong" for too long. For that matter I didn't want to be wrong for too long. lol. So time to swich strategies. I held him by the snap. Then asked the front and then the back to move. Got it. So that's good. We'll stick with that a few more sessions for sure. Sideways is the only thing on the Level One Online assessment sheet we haven't checked off.
Stand still for saddling now? Yep. No problem. Another cool thing we have now is after I saddle in three stages I can take off his halter and he'll follow me over to the bridle and seek the bit. Then he'll follow me at liberty over to the fence so I can get on. Although, last night his sideways to the fence required a little asking on my part at phase 1. (mostly now he just scuttles over without asking. . . clue number three?)
Our checklist* went pretty well. ( I even found a new cool itchy spot up on his mane) ....except....forwards straight and then back up straight. The difference last night was that the forward seemed a tiny bit impulsive. (clue number four) I noticed that one but wasn't sure if it was an assumption thing or impulsion thing.
So off to work on our Freestyle pattern. Maintain gait, maintain direction and follow the rail. Better. But.....very "motivated " at the walk. (clue number five) A couple times he did veer off into the center. Hoping to be done. Especially after we had done one lap. My goal was one lap without a correction. I did go to phase 4 to turn him with the carrot stick once. It was very effective..but I didn't feel good about it. Writing it now makes me a tiny bit queasy. I know I made that decision mindfully and with the best intentions of being clear which I believe is in his best interest... but .... I'm not sure now if that was right.
He only thought about changing direction towards the rail once and I think that was a bit of a misunderstanding. My carrot stick came down a slightly while I was brushing the hair out of my eyes. I really tried to be careful about keeping my eyes on the track of the rail where I wanted him to go too. Even looking into the bullseye..turning my head will send him in there if he's listening to me.
So by now its really getting dark again. Annoying. And windy and even chillier. He put a ton of effort into staying on the rail for a lap and a half so I decided that was enough. Except I figured I'd better start stopping on the rail. We have the go much better now and he seems to be really starting to assume about the bullseye. Well, yikes! Not really listening for a change after all. (again he must have just figured out follow the rail and knew that that was the easiest way to get done. comfort, discomfort and rewards still weren't engaging him) It took us like four tries to be able to stop and stand still (clue number six!). He did lick his lips and lower his head though. So I hopped off.
Now............................................. here it is. I took the saddle off and low and behold. Sweat. Nigel hardly has ever sweat except on the super duper hot days we've had and even then only under the girth. Last night it was very wet under the girth and under the cantle. It was like 58 degrees outside. Dammit! Now I knew the truth. Rachel's (fabulous 3Star Parelli Instructor and my coach. http://www.donandrachel.com/) words went thundering through my head. "Left Brained horses don't hardly sweat." Certainly not when they don't normally and when it's not hot. I felt like crap. Arrrrrr! Will I ever be able to raise my hand when Pat says "raise your hand if you know how to read....a horse"? Or does he mean after like forty thousand missteps. Bloody hell.
He followed me around after we got undressed but now I could see he was a little more starey than I had really noticed before. On the other hand, he was totally frisking me for treats..even bitey (which I am keeping an eye on as we go along) and pushing on me with his nose. In one last ditch effort to help him engage, I backed him from the roundpen into his stall. (about 50ft). Blech. He did it but it still didn't feel good. Blech Blech Blech.
Poor Nigel. I really did make a decent mess of it. As horses do live in the moment, he softly turned, gave me lateral flexion when I took off the halter.. and didn't really seem angry with me. (although that at least in a way, that would be something)
Thusly I went inside unsettled to obsess all night. This morning my gut says...four days of undemanding time and see where we are then. Don Jessop (Rachel's husband and equally fabulous 3 Star Parelli Instructor) says "you've got to first stop the washing machine before you can rearrange the towels so it'll be more balanced." humph!
At least I'm better now at listening to my gut.....and at least in the Parelli program I have a plan to start with. This journey is such a love hate thing sometimes. I couldn't live without it.....oh how I love love love it.... but analysing my mistakes, not having pat answers, change and self improvement are such a pain in the butt.......