Friday, January 16, 2009

The Sigh

Now, if only I could get him to comb his hair and wash his face!

Last week Nuzzling Muzzles asked me how I kept Steve Holt! looking so relaxed. She noticed that I was doing a lot of petting and reassuring in my videos.

While he often looks relaxed on the outside, Steve Holt! likes to walk out when he's feeling nervous. You may recall our first venture outside of the round pen and my commenting on him feeling nervous, yet he didn't look like he was. That's because Steve Holt! likes to walk off his edge; he keeps his feet moving in an effort to keep things together in his mind. He's like the kid who needs to twiddle his thumbs or play with something with his fingers in order to help his mind concentrate on the task at hand. I made a point to spend a lot of time on the ground praising him when he did something as simple as drop his head. When I practice our in hand obstacles, I never ask him to do anything completely. For instance, when I set out two poles to back through, we take a few steps, stop for some petting and praise, then take a few steps more and repeat the process. This has helped him learn to not rush through things, and it's helped him to learn to relax while his feet are still.

Once in the saddle, I continued the reassurance of petting and praising whenever he relaxed and dropped his head. It doesn't matter if we're walking, trotting, or loping; if he relaxes and drops his head, he gets rewarded with kind words and petting from above. I try not to emphasize the negative; I don't do a lot of picking at the things he's doing wrong. I want to enforce the good things at this point.

As the relaxing has progressed, the harder work inside the round pen has begun. I've been spending more time moving, circling, changing directions. Kyle mentioned (yesterday?) that the key to a good whoa was movement. And certainly I've seen greater strides towards that once I started working harder. Wednesday had Steve Holt! preferring to stay at a steady walk and he didn't offer to kick up his heels when asked to lope. Despite another horse being in the arena, he was relaxed and ready to listen. And when I asked for a whoa, there was an immediate response. Not an immediate stop, mind you, but he was more than willing to take it down a notch.

Yesterday we made even greater progress with the whoa. More circles and turns and then out to the rail of the round pen where it's time to relax and stop. And for the first time?





The sigh is something I've been waiting for. Head dropped and totally relaxed.

I've also been out in the big arena the past couple of days. Wednesday he wasn't too sure about losing his security rail and really struggled to make a few circles at the trot. Yesterday saw a big improvement. So big, in fact, that I rewarded him with a walk around the entire arena rather than staying at one end. Now, how can be walking all the way around be a reward? Well, silly, the other end of the arena has that mirror he so adores! Only yesterday he was in for a surprise. He walked around the corner, turned to see his reflection, and there I was, perched on top of that handsome horse!

Now, I know some of you were wanting to see pics of trail dayze last night, and we did get a bit of video. But alas, we were home late and I'm clueless on how to get it off Darling's camera, so we're held hostage until school lets out and she gets a chance to upload it. Today Froglander is coming to visit, and tomorrow we've got another lesson with Curt. I've been plagued by a headache all week...sure hope it goes away!


Linda said...

I've been preoccupied the last few days so just catching up with you! I'm glad you kept your seat and didn't take that visit to "Club Dirt," as you put it. That wouldn't be fun. It looks like he's getting his "Whoa" now, too!! I have a real "forward" horse like that, too. He's like 17 or 18 years old now and still the exact same way. It's great on trail rides.

Nuzzling Muzzles said...

Thanks for doing a post on this. I love those sighs too.

gtyyup said...

The sigh for me is a sign that they're getting it...along with the chewing thing...great going Tracey!

Karen C. said...

Tracy, I love how you take your time to figure out what Steve Holt! needs to keep him relaxed, and you recognize when he is ready to move on or when he can handle a little push. I have been learning a lot by reading your blog last year and again this year. So many people try to rush things, or get caught up in the 'he/she is already doing this or that' instead of paying attention to the horse.

You all are doing great! Thank you for the great updates!

Karen C.

Shirley said...

I absolutely love that photo of your boy! Wonderful progress, and I hear you on that teeny little thought about how nice it would be to keep Steve Holt!

Rising Rainbow said...

I love the sigh and it must be seem like a huge accomplishment coming from a horse like these mustangs. They sure have lots of reasons to never feel comfort around humans. Way to go, Tracey!