Overall, a poor week. Z seemed to be going backwards with more resistance and I can’t say I’m happy about it. Actually, I can write that I am very unhappy about it and spent some time talking it over with husband and Molly about what to do.
I knew we would arrive at a tipping point where Rugby Guy was going to reach an end to what he could teach her. Because of the type of riding/training he has had and youth, his philosophy is too much based upon domination: I will make you do this! When you couple that with a horse like Z who thinks Game On! Let’s Fight to the Death! neither one is going to emerge as a winner.
A domination philosophy (you will obey me or else!) often manifests itself in working the horse to a state of extreme tiredness. I understand that sometimes you do need to ride through a moment of misbehavior with a 5-10 minute correction, but I am talking about riding at a canter for 30 minutes after an hour workout or lunging for an hour etc….
Escaluating Demands = Escaluating Behavior.
Dominance + Aggression = Resistance and Conflict.
This notion doesn’t work because if you ride a horse that long all it does is condition them physically for the next ride so they can put up longer resistance. You’ve seen the person who chases their horse in the roundpen for an hour or who lunges for an hour? Are they wearing the edge off? Or are they conditioning the horse with stamina to present a longer state of resistance next time?
Another problem with riding a horse to a very tired state is that ability to learn anything decreases as tiredness increases. IMO that is why Rugby Guy is seeing a resurgance of resistance halfway through the ride.
I personally prefer to teach my horse that from the git go I expect cooperation and obedience. We are not going to “wear the edge off” before that happens. Corrections can start happening while leading and saddling the horse. If the horse has excessive energy then do some play liberty work before riding to gain their attention and cooperation.
How I get there is with reinforcing behaviors that I find desireable and not permitting other behaviors that are negative. For example, when the trot was becoming more tense, leading to some mini-explosions, I entered the arena and talked to RG about another topic while he rode. He relaxed his demands on Z and hence Z relaxed. She gave him some very nice walking steps. Note how her step increases (compare distance between the hind legs in the last two photos and between the first and last photo) and her neck reaches forward. The goal is to get this at trot.
With all that in mind I decided that starting next week we’ll be changing our schedule. There will be no more rides unless I am present. I am going back to offering guidance through the entire ride instead of letting RG have the autonomy to decide what to do. His other work with horses has been to turn them into those who could do speed events; I am not interested in a horse who thinks that when I get on it means go and go and go. In the beginning when Z was too resistant to be moved we did need to encourage that; now we need to encourage listening behavior.
When I had originally talked with husband and then Molly, I was ready to throw the baby out with the bathwater. I didn’t want to explain myself to RG about what I wanted as he often backslides into his old ways – which is typical of young people. However, Molly convinced me to perserve and I think I had a good discussion with RG on Friday, reminding him that we aren’ t making Z into a horse for him, but a horse for me.
For example, he may not want to use the mounting block but I want him to do it. Eventually, Z may be used by a child and definitely I use a mounting block so she needs to be trained to approach, stand quietly and not move off after being mounted. I use this as an example of how what someone else may think “what the heck? That doesn’t matter,” it’s really about what the owner who is paying you to train wants.
I also got on her very briefly at the end of our Friday session. I’ll be doing this on each ride from here on out. As soon as she is relaxed and giving some nice trot work, I’ll get on and start getting myself used to the idea that I will be taking over 100 percent in about 8 weeks or less.