Today was another Cindy lesson. Since Fleck broke his butt (pulled hamstring muscle), Danny gets to go to dressage boot camp. :) Four lessons this month instead of two. BUT... I'm glad it is working out this way because I think I'm at a pivotal point with him. I keep saying that I am wondering if I'm going to regret not sending him to a trainer because I don't want to mess him up. But I also want to do the "journey" myself and I'm having fun! So.. this may be the perfect fix. Cindy is going to help me so that I don't make mistakes. She's already caught on to the fact that because he has naturally nice gaits, I tend to let him truck around in a less forward gait. So last month we worked on keeping him moving forward to improve his nice gaits.
Today was a nice warm sunny day and Cindy was teaching in the outdoor when I got there so I opted to ride up there too. Danny was pretty chill, especially after all his shenanigans the day before. We hacked around the edge of the property for a bit while we waited for our turn. I mentioned to Cindy how naughty he was the day before but how I had a problem getting him to go forward. So we started off at the walk and Cindy told me to stop kicking/nagging and to lift my toes and point them forward, rather than digging my heels into Dan. So then we moved on to the trot and it became more evident that Danny was getting behind my leg and being a putz. He wasn't in front of my leg and I was having to work way too hard to keep him trotting. Cindy pointed out that it was going to be difficult to canter up to a prelim fence if I was working that hard just to keep the canter. And that I would have a hard time asking for a lengthen or medium trot if I could barely keep the working trot. Sigh... She's right. And I HATE push rides... it's exhausting. And I don't think it's his fault... I think I created it a little bit. When he's rowdy, it's hard to push him on. And because we haven't really been working on connection, he's using that as an excuse to get behind the bit or slow down.
But we had a plan to fix it! I was going to help him learn how to be the pony I want him to be so that he can stay! And it's in him. He's not really a naturally slow horse I don't think. He can be QUITE forward on the trails. :)
The plan to fix it was to treat him like he was on the lunge. If he didn't move up when I asked politely, I would go to the whip. After a light tap if there was still no forward, I would get after him. Cindy said to ask lightly with my leg and expect him to keep a forward trot until I said otherwise. If he slowed down, a light squeeze and then a light tap with the whip. If that didn't work there was to be CONSEQUENCES! I was to move his feet! And quick! Articulate those legs. I'm not entirely sure it's exactly what she meant, but I basically spun him. The "crouching tiger" but with me on top. And once he started going forward in the spin, I could let him out and go back to happy trotting. It took a few tries (quite a few) as I had to figure out my timing and aids and figure out how to keep myself sitting tall and not fall foward and not give with my elbows in an effort to encourage the trot. But once I got the hang of it, he was able to understand and we started to make progress. Then Cindy had me tap him lightly with the whip a few times while he had a good trot to let him know that the whip tap meant I wanted the good trot.
Progress! I think now that I've been reminded of this, I'll be better about it and we can nip this problem in the bud. I'm really making an effort to solve/prevent/fix all of the issues that drive me crazy with Fleck. (No offense to Fleck!). Like for example, he will be forward. He will halt square. He will stand for mounting. (Okay, so that doesn't drive me crazy. In fact... I'm the one that gets impatient standing...). But you get my drift.