Wednesday, November 10, 2010

First I can't get him to canter, now I can't get him to stop

Actually, I could get him to stop. I just shortened the lunge line and firmly stated, "HO". I just couldn't get him to properly transition downwards into a trot.

To start at the beginning... I lunged Shadowfax again yesterday evening. He did fine going counterclockwise, which is the direction we usually begin because it's easier for me to hold the lunge line in my left hand and the lunge whip in my right. (Should we sometimes go clockwise first? Or is it okay to always start in the same direction?) After we'd switched directions and were going clockwise, he transitioned nicely up into a canter, but when I tried to slow him to trot, he wouldn't slow down. There were no fireworks or anything, he just kept cantering. Considering that up until now, my main problem lunging him has been getting him to canter, I wasn't expecting to have trouble slowing him down to trot.

My usual method of getting a downward transition is to say in a low and slow voice, "...and...trot..." or "...and...walk...". He usually transitions downward before I finish saying, "and". (To get upward transitions, I speak faster and with an upward inflection, "and trot!" or "and canter!". I usually have to repeat a couple of times.) Since, in the past, I had trouble getting him to canter, I decided to let him keep cantering for a while. When I thought it looked like he was getting tired, I tried to slow him down again. He still wouldn't slow. I couldn't let him get away with ignoring me again, so, as I mentioned in the first paragraph, I shortened the lunge line and said "HO" and he stopped quite easily.

Once he stopped, I made him stay at a walk for a while in the same direction. Then I switched directions and did walk, trot, canter, trot, walk in the other direction. He did fine. I switched back to the clockwise direction, but since he was pretty sweaty and breathing a bit heavy, all I did was walk him. He walked quite calmly, and when I said "HO", he stopped within two steps which is pretty good for him. I went up and petted him and gave him a carrot stick.

After switching to a lead line, I tried to get him to bow, but he seemed to have forgotten how. Despite the fact that he had done it quite well the day before. Oh well... I finally got something close to what I wanted and so I gave him a carrot stick. I led him back to the paddock gate where Ziggy had been standing and watching us and turned him loose.

I chained the paddock gate in the open position and walked toward the backyard gate. Of course, Ziggy, Shadowfax and the donkeys all followed me. I gave each of them a carrot stick and a pat. And this time, Shadowfax was a little better about waiting his turn. He is learning.

I am going to try to be more regular about lunging Shadowfax and doing other work with him, he definitely benefits from consistency. (Doesn't everyone?) But we'll have to see how it goes. Shadowfax is a very sensitive horse. He can tell when I'm in a bad mood and it makes him nervous. I'm pretty sure that that is one of the main reasons he threw me. I was having a pretty bad day that day. I let my emotional turmoil affect my riding, which led to me being a lot more aggressive in my cues than I normally am. It made him nervous and he acted out. I will have to make sure that I can be calm when working with him, and know that on days when my anxiety is really acting up, that it is probably better to just stay away from him. I learned that bit of knowledge the hard way. But hopefully, now that I have learned that lesson, I will do better, and Shadowfax and I will work well together.

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