Thursday, November 3, 2016

Testing the Miracle

A miracle has to pass a few tests to make sure it's a real miracle, right?

I figured the best way to put this "cure" to the test was to take Leah out on the trail--loose rein, massage, PLASTIC BAG.

Yes, the miracle cure is holding a plastic bag in my left hand, and when she bolts left to avoid crossing water, walking through mud or when she wants to go see her buddies--I shake the bag in front of her eye.

Rebecca suggested putting the bag on a small crop, and I will probably do that for the next ride, but I have to say the cure worked!  She bolted left several times--down hills, in front of the Waste Water Treatment Plant, when she spied a large down log, when she didn't want to cross water--but I shook the bag and she jumped back over and stayed on track.

All the massage and bending, weight loss, and exercise has made her a much more athletic and balanced horse than she was three months ago.  She was able to perform all kinds of pretzel contortions without tripping up.

Here are some highlights from our ride.




It took us a good hour working through several large puddles like this, first, on the ground, and then in saddle.  (And the bag came in handy for that, too.)


I rode a loose rein the whole way and just rode the speed bumps.  If she broke out in a trot, I'd pick up the rein until she walked.  If she bolted left, I put the left leg on her and shook the bag towards her left eye. A couple of her early bolts happened too fast and were too powerful to get the bag up there in time, so I rode them to the left, circled back around and got my bag in place. Eventually, I had speed and direction control with no reins.


Me, Leah, and my plastic bag.  Unfortunately, I ingrained bolting to the left into her because I didn't have a way to stop her until now.  Too much back and side pressure made her go up.  The bag, however, seems to act as a separate entity--not of me--so Leah and I can maintain our partnership.  She even seems to like me much, much better than before the bag.

She did awesome on a loose rein!  I couldn't ask for more.  With time, I don't think the bag will ever be needed because she seems to be a quick learner.  And, I got my HORSE BACK!


The scary down-log.


Teaching her to walk through water.


Putting it to practice in saddle.  So proud of her!


10 comments:

  1. Interesting! I couldn't do that without Carmen losing it but I'm glad that it works for Leah.

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    1. Ha! Yes, Carmen is a hotter horse. I'm kind of surprised it doesn't make Leah lose it. I think she gets so committed to the left, that when I surprise her on that side, she can't commit equally strong any other directions. Oddly, it gets her back in the thinking mode.

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  2. I'm so glad for the both of you!

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    1. Thank you. It definitely opens up another training window, and this time I'm more prepared for it and willing to make it about just she and I.

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  3. Hmmm interesting. The bag obviously gets her attention and breaks her train of thought/ingrained reaction. It will be interesting to see if it continues to work- or even if it is needed at all after a few more sessions.

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    1. Shirley, it's as if you were there. You are right on two things--1.) It breaks her thought process. Rebecca noticed, while watching us, Leah's eye on the left starts to harden over--almost bulge--and locks onto a spot at the left--then she bolts there. It could be any spot. When the bag jumps out on that side, it kind of snaps her back to reality and into the thinking mode.

      2.) How long will it last? That's the big question. My hope is that riding her on a loose rein--letting her build confidence and pride in her work--massaging her on the right side to keep that right eye and ear in the game--which works 9 out of 10 times all by itself--all of that, with the bag used sparingly--very sparingly--will result in her just leaving that evasion tactic behind.

      On yesterday's ride, as soon as she saw the bag--before I'd even used it, she did much better circles to the right, at the trailer--before we'd left. I had to use it at the log--and the Waste Water Treatment Plant along the river--but then she'd do good for a long time. At the water crossing, it didn't work as well, so I didn't use it as much, and instead dismounted and went into the water myself at first. She joined me. Then, we progressed to the video above, and then to the saddle water crossing.

      All of that is to say, the bag is a great piece of the puzzle to stop the bolting, but I hope it will soon be a very small part and the other things--the confidence, the pride, the parternship, are what will maintain this.

      I sure hope so.

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  4. What is her reaction when you shake the bag by her face? I would think that she would bolt in the opposite direction, but it sounds like you are saying that she settles down and stops bolting in the original direction.

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    1. It's another counter-intuitive thing. She commits so strongly to the left--it's as if her right brain completely shuts off. When she sees the bag, her right brain reengages, but I don't think it can respond equally forcefully on such notice. So, I get a stalemate of sorts. It's weird, I know.

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  5. I couldn't do that with my horses because I'm pretty sure they would freak out but if it works for you and Leah then it does qualify as a miracle cure.

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    1. This has become such an ingrained evasion tactic with her, the bolting to the left, I was willing to try anything to stop it. I wasn't sure how she would react, but I was surprised to see that it wasn't bad. But not all horses or situations are the same. I'm on a creative journey with Leah now.

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