Today was a great day for Aspen and myself! It started off really relaxed as I fed her her vitamins and doctored her little cuts and belly spot where the flies keep attacking. I got all the stuff I need and I'm going to be making some fly spray out of water, vinegar, and eucalyptus oil this afternoon....I wonder how she'll smell? :)
One of my new little projects is to get Bambi more halter friendly so I began by rubbing her all over with my halter, well wouldn't you know who got jealous?! Ms. Aspen was all up in our business trying to nose the halter until I finally put it on her! What a compliment! :) I brought her into the arena with her bareback pad on with a focus on upping the ante of some of our games. We played with the barrels, which she still isn't too keen on jumping, but perhaps it's because she is always kicking them and trying to stand on them (and I let her) so it never winds up getting jumped! This horse wants to put her feet on EVERYTHING! There's an upside down water bin in the arena that I use to hold up my poles on one end for a jump (yes, a little ghetto). The bin is close to 2'6" if not taller and she is always trying to put her feet up on there as well! I'd let her if I didn't think she'd break right through the old bottom with any weight on it. We played with some traveling circles and then with the weave and figure-8. Aspen really has the pattern down and is making quick, close turns around the buckets to stay right on the pattern. She's even offered to pick up the canter a time or two during the middle where it changes direction. So today I decided we'd try it at the canter allowing her a simple change in the middle. I started by having her pick up the canter on a circle then as she rounded one of the buckets once our direction/gait was established I asked for a quick change of direction and tagged the middle of the pattern. She hussled right through with a head toss and flying change around the second bucket! I let her go a full circle to think about it and get us set up to do a change of direction again. She remembered that I tagged the center of the pattern so she maintained the canter through the middle, doing a quick simple change, then back around the bucket. We got a few 8's when I asked her to come into me - she came around the bucket, switched leads in preparation for the turn but realized right then that I was actually drawing backward so she switched leads back again and cantered to me with this beautiful expression on her face. It was just an incredible moment!!!!
We also played with some sideways and jumping a higher jump as well as developing a snappier back up during the yo-yo. I gave her a long phase 1 then snapped my string out at her front legs and boy did she fly backward, ears forward, licking and chewing! The next time I wiggled my finger at her she had a really positive look on her face while cruising backward. Hmm, maybe I've been too much of a carrot person lately - afraid to upset her or offend her and haven't been as provocative or as firm as I really should be? Note to self: be a progressive leader!
After we played on the ground we then went into the round pen where I let her loose at liberty to try a few new things. I had her squeeze between me and the fence a few times then set her up on the rail and asked her to back up then go forward again, yo-yoing, but instead of me in front of her I was standing a few feet away from her Z3 and using my stick in front of her nose and behind her tail to direct the yo-yos. It went really well and she had no thoughts of escaping out forward and leaving.
I mounted, less than gracefully, from a bucket - which she stood still for as I jumped and wiggled all about to get on. :) What a great horse! So glad she has the 'hurry up and wait' idea programmed in her mind for moments like that when I can't quite get my act together! I got some great feedback from Kris Hughes on the Savvy Club forum about my concerns with Aspen not wanting to go forward. I did a lot of thinking and decided that at this point I can't be too particular about her staying on the rail, not eating grass, and trotting every time I ask. It's too much and it's stilting any forward energy we had. So today I got on with the idea that she could go wherever she wanted and each time she stopped I'd rub her and then ask her forward. We have some grass in the round pen that was a terrible distraction for her (next time I'll do this in the arena) so I struggled a bit her her trying to dive down and eat every 3 seconds. I wanted the grazing to be my reward to her so when she'd eat I'd create a little motion and jiggle the reins or slap my leg until she put her head up. Pretty soon we had a nice walk forward so I lifted my energy to ask her to move faster but not necessarily trot. I wanted to be polite and find a good phase 4 within my phase 1 - at the slightest inclination that she was thinking about picking up the pace I went back to neutral. Within a few minutes we were trotting! No humpy back, no swishy tail, but we did have a grumpy face. I used a suspension rein to keep her head from going down when it looked like she was thinking about kicking or bucking. We got about two laps of trot total and a nice calm stop and back up, so I decided to call it quits there. I am so pleased with the progress we made and can't wait to see what tomorrow brings. :)
After we were done playing together I took her out grazing in the scary corner of the pasture for close to 40 minutes - it was really great bonding time and when I got up to walk back to the pen she fell right in step with me and walked the whole way back like that.