February has started out slow. I didn't ride or train the first three days. But today, on the 4th day, I made it back out to continue training Leah to neck rein.
The way I teach neck reining is--
1. Lay the outside rein on her neck to ask for the turn.
2. If I don't get the turn, I apply leg pressure from the outside leg. (At the beginning, that caused her to start trotting, and I had to pull both reins back to ask her to slow back down.)
3. If I still don't get the turn, I lightly pull the direct rein (the side of the turn) the way I'm asking her to go. At that point, the outside rein is still on her neck, the outside leg is still on her side--all three asks are in place.
4. When I get the turn, I release all three.
We have been working on this consistently for our last three rides, and today she was doing really, really well. Before today there'd been a nervous energy, especially when I applied the outside leg, but now that she's starting to turn as soon as she feels the outside rein on her neck, she's much more calm. She seems to prefer the loose rein with neck rein turn.
When the chiropractor was here last week, she said Leah doesn't so much have a problem turning in tight as she has forgotten how to turn in tight. She said that she seems afraid to turn in--like she's lost the muscle memory. She said she sees that sometimes, after injuries. The horse hurts, so the hurts stop moving that way, then the horse is scared to move--or forgets how to move. She said the best way to fix it is to really work on it--every day.
I thought I'd also apply that to her movement at the trot and lope. The last couple sessions, I've worked her at liberty in the arena (avoiding anything too tight and constricting). I just want her to feel what it's like to really move again--in a big, wide circle. It was fun watching her as she stretched into her lope and felt for her balance. At first, she carried her head pretty high--as if her front and back were two different sections, but as she warmed up, the two halves seemed to come together a little bit, and her movement looked more joy--filled, the way you see them when they're running, and feeling good, out in the pasture.
Concerning Leah, there's another item. I was going into her stall and asking her to turn to me, but when she wouldn't, I'd go to her. Little by little, I started to see that as a sign of disrespect on her part, so the other day, I smacked her in the hind with the leather popper on my lead and asked her to face up. She did. Today when I went in, she turned her back half away from me, but when I went to pick up the back of my lead, she immediately turned in to me as I'd asked. That was a confirmation that she really had been disrespectful.