Thursday, March 17, 2011

Some Fireworks During a Lunge Session with Shadowfax

I've been lunging Shadowfax semi-regularly in preparation to starting to ride him again. I haven't been writing about our lunge sessions, because a lunge session that goes well is pretty boring. And he's been doing pretty well. Not perfect, but he generally listens and does what I say even though I may have to repeat myself several times. However...he was rather different today. I don't know what the problem was, or if he was just in a hyper mood or what. But today's lunge session had some fireworks.

I suppose I had a little warning of what was to come when Shadowfax didn't stand perfectly still while I was picking out his feet. He normally doesn't move a muscle, but today, he was wriggling around a little, not bad, but compared to how still he is normally, it was noticeable. But I didn't really think much of it at the time. Once I started lunging, things seemed to go normally at first. But then he kept speeding up. He broke into trot before I asked him too, and even though he slowed back down when I kept saying "Sloooowwweeerrr, sllooowwweerrr", he was just wanting to go faster. We went counter-clockwise first, as usual, and even though there were a couple of exciting moments when he kicked up his heels and tried to go faster, he mostly behaved.

But when we switched sides and went clockwise, things got rough. He just kept speeding up and starting to run. I could slow him down, but it took some work and he would shake his head and object. So finally after the third time he bucked and went into a gallop, I decided that if he wanted to run, then by damn, he was going to run. So I yelled, "RUN!" and just held him in the circle as he ran full out. And he ran. Boy, did he run. For a big boy, he can be fast when he feels like it. And he kept running. And running. My arms were shaking from holding him in the circle. However, when he finally started to slow down, I waved the whip at his rear and yelled, "RUN" and kept him running. He slowed to trot and I waved that whip and yelled, "RUN" and made him keep running. He tried to slow several times and I just kept yelling and waving the whip and made him keep going. If he was going to challenge me by bucking and running, then I was going to make him regret it by making him run until he never wanted to run while lunging again. Eventually, when he was looking truly tired and he slowed to a trot again, instead of forcing him to run flat out, I asked for a canter and got a decent canter. I cantered him around the circle a few times and then asked for a trot. He IMMEDIATELY dropped into a trot. I made him trot several more circles, then asked for a walk. He immediately slowed to a walk. I walked him around a couple of times, then said "Ho" and he stopped.

I walked up to him and patted him and talked to him as I switched the lunge line to the other side of his bridle. He was sweaty and tired, but wasn't even close to being in any distress. I started him going counter-clockwise again and this time... he listened to me. He really, really listened. He had one ear facing forward and the other facing me the entire time. I walked, trotted, walked, trotted, cantered, trotted, walked. And he did everything exactly when I asked. I ended the session by just walking him for what seemed a really long time. It probably felt even longer to him. He was so tired that he wasn't picking his feet up as high as he ought and tripped over uneven ground a couple of times. As soon as I felt that he had walked enough to cool down slowly from this rather intense session, I asked for a stop and got it.

I led him over to the trailer to untack. Most of his sweat had dried and he felt cool. So I gave him a nice grooming/rubdown and gave him a few carrot sticks. I tried to do some carrot stretches with him, but he really doesn't know how to do them properly (that's something I need to teach him). He kept trying to bow instead of doing the stretches, so I asked him to bow a few times and rewarded him for doing so. I unhaltered him and let him go, but he started following me back to gate, so I worked a little on having him stop when I stopped as we walked towards the gate. That trick he knows pretty well, but it's something we've always worked on with him haltered. However, he did great even though he was at liberty. Paying as much attention to my body's movement as he did to my verbal command. At the gate, I gave him another carrot stick and told him he was good boy. Which he is, even if there were some fireworks during the lunge session.

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