Happy Autumn, everyone! What a beautiful time of year. Things are hopping around here. A new grandson was born last week, and is just so perfect and tiny. They're coming over today for lunch and hugs.
I had my weekly lesson with Tumbleweed yesterday, and it went very well. We are still working on what it means to get him balanced in his body. Being a young horse, these are new muscles for him, and it is important for me to help develop them. First, however, I have to see what I'm supposed to be developing, and Regina helps me with that from the ground. When he's using his whole body, his attention and focus are so much more engaged, too.
Yesterday, we focused on two new goals. The first was pointing my belly button the direction I want his foot to go. Regina wanted me to envision my belly button pointing towards the exact spot on the ground where I wanted to see his foot land. This slight, straight twist of the torso (not down) is very effective. I had him in vertical flexion at the walk, loose rein, twist, then leg, and follow up with a rein slap if he didn't respond.
The second issue she addressed was my rein/neck cue for the turn. I had been laying the rein on his neck and using my leg, but she wanted me to bring the reins up to my opposite shoulder and hold until he figured to move off of it--towards the shoulder. At the beginning, Tweed didn't know what the cue was, and he backed up trying to figure out if that was the answer. Regina told me to hold it, hold it, hold it--and allow him to struggle, but as soon as he moved off of it for the turn, quick release. We did that over and over until all it took was the slightest movement over towards my shoulder, and he knew it meant turn. The turns were so much more balanced.
Our hour went by quickly, and she wanted to end on that positive note, but I always like to have him open and close the gate for me to get back to my trailer. Tweed decided he wanted to get over to Regina for some friendly trainer/horse bonding time, and when I asked him to turn (with the rein cue we'd just worked on,) he resisted to go the opposite direction toward Regina. We had a little bit of waiting and backing again, but finally he decided to make the turn, and walk over to the gate to open and close it with me. (Ha! The lesson is over when it's over, and it's not always over when we think it is!)
I'm going to have new sand brought in for my outside arena and put together a small round pen in the center so that we can have lessons at home soon. The equestrian area closes down for the winter around mid-November.
Regina has a philosophy that whatever note you end on each season, that will be where you take up in spring. She never puts away a horse until the training has ended on a positive note. She has seen over and over again the horse's amazing ability to retain that information, if it's solid, and start up where they left off.
Winters are always a surprise around here, so we will keep going until we can't, and keep ending on those positive notes, both for Tumbleweed and me.