Working away on a configuration guide for complex enterprise software, I suddenly had a horsemanship question pop into my head and at the same time remembered that my gold membership comes with a question hotline. The past few times I’ve called, I spoke with Julia. This time I spoke with Emily.
Some background: Rocky is very alert and ready to react to any change, especially as his vision is not 100 percent. (Hence my recent wondering about his being innately RBI, who acts LBI often because we’re usually in a comfort zone.) But he also has a highly developed sense of humor.
On Monday he had a few foot-planting spooks (way better than his “teleport 15 feet to the side” spooks!). But he also had a foot-plant that felt different. I can’t even explain now why — his head was up, ears perked, feet still, just like his real spooks, but something was different. I think it was the look in his eye. He turned his head just a little and looked at me and I swear his expression was of the “gotcha!” variety rather than the “mom is it okay?” variety. This is when I used Linda’s gold summit tactic of creating some driving game commotion with my reins. Not a phase 4 whack but more of a phase 3 annoy. (“Be like a fly. A fly can get a lot from a horse.” )
On Tuesday, he had a few halts that weren’t foot-planty but were obviously “what are you gonna do about it” and “let me sniff around this object here because it’s more interesting than you … this poo is more interesting … this stump is more interesting … ” I laughed and grinned at this — in my pre-Parelli days I would have been frustrated and unsure — I hauled on one rein to get his head up, and went through phases to get us forward. However, I don’t want to teach him to push into the pressure, or to start a tug-of-war. The real goal here is to teach him not to stop just to be a butt, even though he has the funniest face when he does it. (Do other breeds roll their eyes or slant their glance toward you, or just Appaloosas? Maybe it’s just more obvious because of the Appy white sclera.)
So I called and asked if it was okay to ask for a backup during these types of halts. “Like when Linda has Remmer go even slower. Oh you want to trot slow? Ok good idea, let’s trot even slower! But still trot! Isn’t the backup the downward transition from the halt?”
Emily said yes, that is one tactic I can do. Another is to employ the reverse psychology of “walk slower! even slower! slooooower! but don’t stop!” However, Rocky already plays the “I’m just gonna plod” game, and I don’t feel confident enough to play walk-slower from the saddle. I will do it on the ground though.
Gotta put all the pieces together, too. Allow him to make the mistake, then respond appropriately, rather than dulling him by anticipating and preventing and micromanaging. But make it more fun to keep going forward than to stop, because when he stops I go “great idea! let’s stop even more! back we go!” And then my idea (forward) will become his idea as he figures out that the way to keep me still and undemanding is to keep going where we’re going — where he might even get to graze or play in the water or even get naked and roll, because going where we’re going is fun.