As most of you know, my pony's work ethic is somewhat lacking. Interestingly enough, my kindergartner got the same marks on her report card last week. My horse and my kid are only two weeks apart and they both have work ethic troubles? Hmmmm.....
Anyway, I'd love to hear some thoughts about rewarding and work ethic. My big goal right now is forward. It trumps all of my smaller goals (pay attention to me and go where I would like to go). Without forward, we got nothin'. I would also prefer forward without the tantrum beforehand. So we've been working on that, both on the lunge and in the saddle.
We don't have an outdoor arena. We don't have trails. We don't have cones and other interesting things to set up. Our arena is not big enough to set up poles if there are more than two people riding and lately, there are always four or five people and a lunging horse in the arena. It makes it hard to even do serpentines and other things to break up our endless circles.
Yesterday she didn't want to lunge. She kept suddenly spinning and facing me and jumping with all four feet off the ground. She even did some amazing 'airs above ground' while trying to get out of lunging. We worked through it mostly, but it was annoying and occasionally dangerous to have your horse suddenly spin around and leap through the air. Then she would stand there, her head high, not moving until I got around behind her with the whip again. I kept trying to catch her body language BEFORE she did it, and in the end I got better, but I was never entirely successful.
So by the time I got in the saddle, she was already tired and very hot and sweaty. It has been unseasonably warm during the day (mid to high fifties) and she is wearing her full set of winter woolies. So I got on and she was reasonable. Not great about forward. Not great at all. But there was no bucking and she trotted and cantered when I asked. She was mostly paying attention and she wasn't snarking at my leg constantly. So after only about ten minutes, I gave her a loose rein. We went back to work for another two minutes after a short break since this has been a problem for her. She bunched up a little bit, but then got back down to business so I kept it short. My reasoning for this is that I don't want her to think that if she offers forward, she's going to get worked into the ground. On the other hand, is this instilling a poor work ethic? We ride for 45 minutes to an hour in my lesson, but my rides are generally much shorter. 20 minutes is a long ride for me. Mostly because I want to reward her if it's going well and I worry that going around in endless circles isn't much of a reward.
So, what are your thoughts on this? When you're training a green horse how do you instill a work ethic? And if you can't get out of the arena and you can't use 'objects', how do you keep it fresh?
Saddle fitter comes today at 11am!! Update to follow.