I learned in session five why our infinity pattern broke, after we did so well in the first three sessions. Session four was pretty bad, and session five looked to be getting worse. But then I realized that when I switched the lead rope from hand to hand and pointed between the cones, I was also projecting my energy ahead of zone 1. Salsa is sensitive and smart and he would stop and look at me, like, huh? You’re clucking (phase 2) and then raising your stick (phase 3) but there is a wall extending from your hand that goes for about a mile, so I can’t possibly keep trotting forward between those @#$%^ cones.
Horses teach humans and humans teach horses.
In the middle of session five, he finally got through to me. If he broke gait on one of the circles, I sent my energy behind him, in zone 5. We got a lot smoother after that. It is still challenge to get two full figure 8s without a brace or a gait change, but that’s not the point. The point is that we are checking in with each other and have actually managed to communicate. (And I suppose the 50 percent reduction in brace is pretty good, too.)
Communication is two or more individuals sharing and understanding an idea.
Today we had the magical sixth session. For consistency, we practiced the figure 8, hindquarter yields, sends, allows, grazing, and circles. For variety, we did the session out on the lawn (because the arena was full, but hey, it worked out great).
We also attempted our first creek crossing using a squeeze game pattern (send, allow, turn and face). Salsa has followed me easily down one bank, across the bed, and back up the other bank, with and without water in the creek. But sending him from one bank to the other was an eye-opener. Instead of send, allow, turn and face, he did more of a slide, snort, scramble, and soar up the other bank. He landed and took two steps and immediately thrust his head down to graze.
Don’t make or teach assumptions.
Because Salsa is usually pretty accepting of things, it was a surprise (and kind of fun) to learn that he is not as excited about crossing the creek first, without a human to follow. I don’t know how he would be if I sent another horse and then sent him, as I did not try that today. We played around in that area for a while, sometimes including the creek in our squeeze game, other times just playing near it.
He also had no problem getting in or out of the trailer. But he got anxious about being up into the furthest corner of it, and we did a lot of approach and retreat before he followed me into that first slot without hesitating. I also played with the stud divider that blocks that first slot off from the other three, closing it just a little and then opening it and taking us out. Each time, closing it a little more. Until eventually both Salsa and I were standing at liberty in the slot, stud divider fully secured, pretty much relaxed.
This is important because he is going with us on Saturday to be River’s trailer-and-quarantine buddy. We can’t have them both loose in the trailer on the way home, so we are putting Salsa behind the stud divider. He can still move around and they can touch noses if they need to, but they will be separated enough for safety. We can’t use a regular divider because he can walk right under those.