We had a delightful play date at the ranch today. It started out damp, but the rain held off and the sun broke through before lunch, giving us a perfect Autumn day.
We played on line in pairs – one person with her horse, the other as observer, coach and cheerleader, as horse and human played with obstacles in the arena. It is easier to see where communication is going wrong if you aren’t in the middle of something and great to get positive feedback when a little change in communication makes a big change in your horse’s response. We spent an hour or more checking out what worked and what still caused the horses concerns. People helping each other, having fun and all for the good of the horse.
When horses and humans were moving together in trust, we then turned individual horses loose in the arena to play at liberty with their owners with the rest of the group discouraging the horse from looking for comfort away from their owner. What a study in contrasts! Debbie’s Gabe is an exuberant LBE with a strong bond to Debbie. Grace’s Casper’s is an LBI with lower energy, but still hooked up with Grace. Laurie’s Smidge demonstrated a lovely soft connection with Laurie as they danced, weaving cones, walking and stopping together. Sahara, Maia and Tiara all found the multiple people and horses quite intimidating and took quite a long time to find their human, but what a beautiful thing it was to see the horse realize that safety and peace was to be found with their human. Great examples of taking the time it takes and doing what the horse needs to build rapport and trust with your horse. Loved it!
We broke for a potluck lunch, had lots of horse talk and then went back out to play with some basics of teaching your horse to ride with just the string around their neck. First step is making sure that the horse understands and responds to your body language and reins when you never take the slack out of the rein. If that is in place, then it is all about making it clear to your horse what each gesture means, asking softly, clearly and waiting to reward that smallest try.
Smidge had finished up his 30 days of schooling and was heading home with Laurie. Before he left, Laurie rode him in the pasture and into the pond. No leaps into the pond, unless you count the leap of faith of horse and human in each other. Smidge entered the pond quietly and equally relaxed watched Gabe splash his heart out.
All in all, a very good day.