Today we just hung out together after I had trimmed Spirit’s hooves and I decided to just have a wee session with the techniques we’ve been learning. To use those techniques for a purpose is what it’s all about whether it’s trailer loading, getting ready to mount, riding or going through a river….putting feet up on a pedestal helps with all those kinds of things as it builds a trusting connection that gives the two of us a way of communicating. What I try to do is set things up where I ask a question which involves a task and through the process of Spirit asking questions about that task he uses his brain to figure out what it is that I’m asking him. This thinking process is what bonds us more. We started off with the ABC’s of that communication but slowly we are getting more fluid in this language together.
Pedestal Update: Third practise session….going pretty well….
Training Video 1 – Basic Familiarisation & Feel games
Familiarisation = getting Spirit used to things, energy, motion, noise using approach and retreat and not over facing him with stimuli. I want him to be able to become familiar with things and not be frightened or shut down. I’m looking for relaxation when doing this so I will go as gently as he needs but progress when he’s okay about it. This game is the most important one and as relaxation is the goal I will be able can return to it often to reassure Spirit to find that sweet spot regularly when he needs it.
Feel = This is where I ask for specific moves by touching the horse. I work on these to help him understand my riding aids and I want to make sure those are good before I ride him, more so because he will be going bitless so working on a feel from the halter/lead rope is paramount to a good bitless start. These moves are done by pulsing cues between halter/rope and hand on body and I’m looking to move all 4 feet in all 4 directions with equal understanding, lightness and purity as we go along…for now, just one step is good but I will make sure that one step is done well before releasing/rewarding so that Spirit understands.
Process = Play for 7 days in a row to ensure lessons are understood well. Just one step and reward after by a big breath out, release hands on lead rope and horses body to cause a stop, some scratches at his withers which he loves or even just resting next to him. I will give him a BIG reward at the end of each session with some of his favourite pony nuts on the ground just before I rub him and walk off showing the end of the session clearly.
Progress = After working on asking for one step for 7 days I will start to introduce more steps slowly, making sure I use my ‘pulsing cues’, this makes sure I end up with smooth moves and no brace in the horse (physically, mentally or emotionally / neck,head, body, legs, mind). I will show this progress as we go 🙂
Flight Checks are what I do after playing with my horse and before I ride off from the mounting block. I make sure I have brakes and can move all four feet in all four directions (forward, back, left and right). It also lets me assess whether I have a good Connection and to help the horse get balanced and flexible before riding off. If anything needs working on I will either stay with it until softer and lighter or I’ll get off and work on it from the ground.
Here is a short film of the Flight Checks I do and how they can progress. I hope it helps to remind you to offer and find the ‘light feel’ on the reins, where our weight should be and to use our focus, seat and leg aids before using the reins.
Once you and your horse can do these with lightness and no brace you will find you will need them less and less. I use them before riding off and practice them now and then but because our ‘muscle memories’ in our bodies and brains have the techniques and actions stored we can use them when necessary (ie. an emergency halt w/relaxation) but can now refine them so that my breathing out and a lift of the rein is suffice to halt. I want the muscle memories there for if and when I need them…this one rein halt will not work well if the memories aren’t there, we would both be so far removed from relaxation that it would actually cause more tension and braciness….if we can avoid that and teach ourselves and our horses to have a ‘trigger’ of relaxation when the rein is lifted then we will all be safer in an emergency situation that hopefully never happens.