My new, extra-trainer, Rebecca, came over last night to help me with my "Leah Homework," and I got lots of answers to our issues.
I rode Leah first and showed Rebecca the T-Bone exercise. Leah did her usual blowing out to the left. Rebecca asked me to close off the left and open up the right. I couldn't do it. The memory of last week's fall was just too strong, and I wasn't willing to go there.
I asked Rebecca if she'd like to ride her, and she said absolutely. I watched her for a while and afterward we had our sit-down assessment.
1. Leah has had a lifetime of moving "her way" and the new way is difficult and a little painful for her. She anticipates turns & asks that cause her discomfort & tries to evade them. She needs lots of work moving the new way, strengthening muscles, breaking down muscles, and flexing. We'll work on massage (tonight), bending, and saddle work that teaches her body to move in better ways.
2. The reason she fell last week, Rebecca believes after watching us, is that she went to the left and I braced her to the right. When you pull against a horse--bracing them--their natural instinct is to pull back and brace the opposite way, causing her to trip up. That said, she thinks Leah is a horse who doesn't care much about falling. We'll work on give and take to avoid the bracing.
3. When you block Leah's forward and side pathways to get out, she wants to go up, but Leah is a slow thinker so you can feel what she's going to do long before she does it, giving you time to do something different.
4. None of the things I mention above should be problems with the right approach in her training.
5. Leah wants to please & is always looking for a way to do what's asked as long as she doesn't feel trapped.
6. Leah hates it when you say, "Good Girl." Hates it! She'll throw her head up every time.
7. Trail riding is probably much more pleasant for Leah because it doesn't ask her to move her body in ways that are painful. (Which explains why she did so well on the trail.)
8. With #7 in mind, Leah hates the arena work. Arena work, to her, is hard & boring. We won't spend much time in the arena. Rebecca is going to show me things I can do with her out on the trail that accomplish the same thing.
9. Rebecca is going to put a bunch of rides on Leah for me in the evenings. We're going to switch back and forth with her, and together we're going to shut down the evasions.
Rebecca is a lot like my other trainer, Regina, and her willingness to come to my home and work with me in the evenings will supplement my 2-3 lessons a month with Regina. Also, having her put rides on Leah, along with my trail work, will help Leah get in shape faster. It'll also fill in the holes and help me get past the fear of another fall. A very real fear, considering last night's assessment, but there ways I can avoid it.