Friday, February 27, 2015

Licorice Shows His Anxiety

I had my second lesson with E and it went well.  Licorice showed his true colors at the start of our lesson by losing his mind over a horse that was walking on the trails around the property.  The horse would show up through a gap in the trees and then disappear.  Licorice whirled and spun and snorted and kept his head high and tense.  We walked and walked and walked.  He eventually settled down, but E was surprised at his behavior.  We talked about what this meant in terms of long term calmness.  She said it's harder to work on horses that spook at things in the distance because there isn't a way to train that.  Either he will overall calm down as we work with him or this will always be his button.

With that in mind, we're giving it 90 days to see what happens.  If both Licorice and I can move forward through our anxiety in the next 90 days, then we will re-evaluate.  If we can't and I find myself back in the position of avoiding going out to the barn, then I need to come up with a Plan B.  But, no point in thinking bad thoughts right now.  We've got learning to do!

This lesson we worked on moving Licorice through a space (such as through the barn doors) while I stood still.  He did great!  So we got to move on to more exciting things.  We did the weirdest lunging exercise I've ever done.  It involved me walking in a straight line from one end of the arena to the other, while Licorice circled around me.  Licorice needed some reminding that he had to keep going, but overall he did really well.  E said this will keep him engaged and that once we can do this at a walk, we will move to a larger circle and do it at the trot and then at the canter.

Finally, we ended up with sideways along the wall.  Licorice was pretty terrible at this, but he figured it out quickly.  One of the things I love about E is that her energy is very consistent.  At no time did Licorice get stressed out about the process, even when E had to get big to get him to move.  As soon as Licorice stepped sideways, E would immediately remove the pressure by facing sideways (instead of at him) and relaxing against the arena wall.

E stressed that after EVERY exercise (the sideways, the going through spaces) that I needed to let Licorice rest for at least a breath.  She said that's what will give him time to process right now.  The beginning phases of this, it's important to be really clear about what we're asking and to make sure that Licorice gets the idea that as soon as he does it right, he gets to relax.  And since the most important thing we want from him is relaxation, this is key to me being in the leadership role.

At the end of our hour, Licorice stood next to me yawning over and over and chewing and licking.  E said this was a great sign of relaxation.  I asked if it would make more sense for E to train Licorice and if that would be more effective.  E said that she could get him trained faster and easier, but that in a week I would end up with the same horse.  She said it made much more sense for me to be the one handling him.  I like her style.

Today, I will get those pictures taken.  I'm planning on having today be a pony spa day so there will be before and after 'goat beard' pictures too.

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