The week’s unusually (and lovely) warm weather with lots of sunshine faded through the day and again turned to cold and damp drizzle and rain. I wasn’t willing to work Jack off Dee again and have her slip, especially after having a horse fall on me last week in the same conditions. I also knew I couldn’t rely on my training wheels forever, and some day this horse-and-girl combo were gonna have to fly solo. Things had been going pretty smoothly, so why not start today?
Catching Jack went smoothly as he was in the habit now of being caught in a soft frame of mind. He led pretty nice and even offered me his right side where I led him into the barn (yay!!).
I started off by revisiting our work from a flatbed trailer, but this time I chose a different one which had been parked up close to my landlord’s pole barn. It had a space between the trailer and the pole barn just wide enough for a horse to fit through, which was nice and convenient for me. I asked Jack to lead up to the left, and he stayed with me as I worked on slowing and speeding his feet up, yielding the haunches and bringing the front end through, and leading up to the right. Everything was smooth today and he felt real nice, so I sent him through the “tunnel” up against the pole barn.
He didn’t hesitate going either direction, and I liked his new curiousity.
It was time to get to work on circling. I’d previously not been able to send him right without him getting afraid and confrontational, and speeding up and bowling into me as fast and hard as he could. I decided to use the gate of my roundpen to help wean him into “big boy” groundwork.
I stood between the gate and roundpen panels, sending him through and past me. If I needed to, that gate was there to help act as a buffer between me and any thoughts of charging or crushing, I could open it up into him, but I didn’t think I would need it. He walked through pretty relaxed away from me to the left, which was a nice change over the past week where he was so insecure he couldn’t leave me, but so confrontational he couldn’t be around me without charging me.
Once he made it through the gate, I untracked his hindquarters and changed positions so I was once again between the panel and gate to send him back out. This way we had a kind of continuous loop, going in the round pen and back out, working on sending away from me on both eyes, untracking the hindquarters, and bringing the front end through away from this gate.
I experimented with positioning and found it real helpful to send him to the right through the gate and to the opposite side of it, where he had to keep right flexion, lift his shoulder so it didn’t bump into that gate, and before running into the panels rock his weight back. Perfect! He never got tight because he never ran into any pressure from me, he just had to think his way through the situation (and I was happy that he was in a thoughtful state of mind, because last week he might have taken my round pen down) and get his body set up to do the right job.
Once he had his weight rocked back i could swing that gate to the left and bring his shoulders through.
After a little bit of this, I’d send him out of the round pen and instead of directing him back in, ask him to complete a full circle to the right, then if he looked a bit worried and his thoughts went to crowding in on me, I could send him straight and back into the round pen. It almost turned into a little security blanket for him, that anytime he got worried he knew he could rebalance himself and lift his shoulder just by being directed somewhere on a straight line.
In no time at all, he was circling left, facing me, and changing onto the right eye to circle around me without any help from saddle horses, trailers, or gates. It wasn’t perfect, and I sure didn’t want to push it and lose what precious progress we had made, so I put him up, feeling hopeful about Jack and what his future might hold for him.