Here’s a recap of what Z and I are up too and how far along we have progressed.
We start with about 10 minutes of lunging at walk and trot to warm her body muscles before we do stretching. This is in her headstall with my cotton rope in the roundpen. What I’m looking for during this part of the session is relaxation, responsiveness, and focus.
After quickly learning the head down cue, we moved into transitions – where I want her to walk-trot-walk smoothly and in a relaxed manner (no head up, dropped back, trailing hind legs). I saw some real progress with this the last session, indicating to me she is “getting it.”
Next we do her stretches. These include the head stretching forward, the head between the legs (which she is extremely stiff with), the side to side, the lumbar lift, and belly lifts.
After warmup and stretching, I move into putting on the Western saddle and go back to lunging. One reason for this is because the relaxed state of mind she brought to initial lunging is lost when she goes under saddle, which is of course the exact opposite of what I want to achieve.
Again, I’m looking for relaxation, responsiveness and focus – it takes a bit longer at this point to achieve what I’m looking for. Tension is evidenced by the higher head, the inverted back, the rushed gait, and the uneveness in rhythm. She is definitely stiffer moving to the right.
During both the lunge sessions I’m using clicker training with sliced carrot as a reward. I repeat a lot of the same exercises done in the warmup such as w-t-w transitions and the spiral in and out on the circle.
Afterwards we do some riding at a walk, looking again for relaxation but also to feel her gain a balance under me by holding our weight on all four legs. This is where I need to step it up more -I’d like the riding to be at least half the session in terms of length. Part of the reason that is not happening is because of the heat (yesterday was 106) and partly due to my own level of gaining confidence with her. Each day I’m riding longer and doing more so it’s coming – just slowly though.
Usually I give her a bath afterwards and some hand grazing time.
What I’d like to be adding is backing – I’m so bad about skipping this and not doing it but it’s important. And adding in more of Peggy Cummings work especially with doing some serpentines in the large pasture. I’ll see what I can do about this over the weekend.