Thursday, March 10, 2011
The Mythical "Go" Button
Today I decided was the time to work on encouraging Sora to go forward. This was something that she was overwhelmingly good at. When I first got her the barest move on my part would send her racing to the other side of which ever field we were in thanks to her previous abuse and lack of human contact. In other words she was extremely right brain dominant. Now she is so left brain dominant that it is almost hard to get her to move.
This summer I trimmed her hooves right in front of our garage door without any type of restraint, she wasn't even wearing a halter, while my dad revved his Ducati in the garage which made a sound like an airplane taking off. Not only did she hold still, she was actually relaxed. Regularly she stands still in front of me while I jump up and down, cluck, wave my hands around like a nut case and throw a rope at her. I actually am proud of this because it means she will be a willing and nonflighty riding partner, however she does actually need to move sometimes as well and since I am against using pressure, such as a whip, I need to think of a different way of teaching it.
Today I got started by jogging with her jogging next to me. With me moving she happily matches my speed right along next to me but won't go fast or slower. I tried getting her to outpace me by swinging a rope next to me but she was having none of it and I was worried, although she gave me no reason to be, that if I increased the pressure she would kick out at me as she passed. I therefore gave up on that method and started doing some free lunging.
In AND a horse that will lunge freely in a perfect circle around you without a single piece of tack is spoken about in hushed tones but thanks to Sora's high food motivation it was something that I could ask for fairly quickly. The problem is getting her to turn off and leave the circle which is necessary at points both for AND and for my purposes today. The pressure of flapping a rope at her and clucking wasn't working very well so I started to reward any tiny movement away from me and it started to work.
After some work, and exhaustion on my part, she actually started to run in a line away from me, getting extra grain for a canter or gallop. I would wait until she was a couple steps away and then call "check" and she would spin and gallop back to me for her treat. Eventually she was going several strides away from me and I changed up the game a little.
One thing that many people in AND are able to accomplish quickly that I've always had trouble with is mimicry. Sora will do many things to mimic me such as backing up, pawing, almost rolling :) and so on and she will trot or walk right next to me but she won't mimic me from a distance. As soon as I start to move in the same direction as her and not point my front at her she just falls into the circle and comes right to me. So today I used one of her established tricks, backing up when she is in front of me facing me, and would get her started out "lunging" and then start moving in the same direction. This is something that I have tried before but I tried it harder today and in different ways. It was quite rough but I actually got her to mimic me cantering which is what I really want. The reason for this is that if I can get her to canter mimic me at a distance and learn to mimic canter where she can move faster than I can, I can get her to mimic canter right next to me at a slower pace and therefore teach collection at that gait. Something that I am striving for.
Oh, and the picture is two year old Sora from before I bought her although right at this moment her mane doesn't look that much better :/ I truly meant to get some pictures but my camera battery was uncharged. I'm hoping to get pictures this weekend since it has been so terribly long.