For most of the 4.5 years since I bought Rocky, he’s been training me more than I’ve trained him. Today, I realized the balance has shifted. Today, he walked through a water obstacle because he trusted me and I told him it was safe. Today, he asked for some time to get over a threshold while I was riding him outside the arena, and I gave him the time but I also stuck to our goal of completing the circuit — which we did, with leadership and without emotional reactivity.
I thought about goals before I stepped outside the front door.
Relationship Priority: Respect/Leadership
- Pattern: Circle game
- Equipment: 22-foot line
- Gait: Trot
- Location: Front arena, which is a challenge
- Quality, Rocky: Soft, with the beginnings of “bend,” nose tilted toward me
- Quality, me: Steady, non-spastic movement, fluid
- Quantity: 1 lap
- Pattern: Follow the rail
- Equipment: Halter, clip-on reins, bareback pad; barrels to mark the two corners we often cut
- Gait: Walk
- Location: Covered arena, and if that goes well, reward with ranch trail
- Quality, Rocky: Straightness
- Quality, me: Balanced, fluid
- Quantity: 3 or 4 laps in each direction in the arena; one lap on the trail
I did have more focus today, and felt confident even during Rocky’s threshold, when I suggested going forward but he let me know that he thought 180s were a better idea. We practiced some “oh yay, you feel limber enough to do a tight 180, let’s make it a 360! now let’s go the other direction!” And I felt no less secure than I feel in a saddle, thanks to the bareback pad.
In the spirit of nothing means nothing and everything means something, our time today also included friendly game with the cinch, direction change on the circle at the trot, rest time, looking in the front window of the house, grazing on-line, and standing still for mounting. This last one was a Big Deal, as I’m working on my own confidence levels about hopping up from a mounting block or tack trunk, instead of climbing on the fence and lowering myself to his back.
Tomorrow is a rest day for Rocky and we’ll see how things go on Friday with our straightness and balance. Rocky does seem to be enjoying the sessions. He’s not swinging away when I line him up to mount, and he walks with an interested expression. I do feel like we are “together” in this.