Saturday, September 08, 2012

Phil Boot Camp 2012 - Days 5 & 6

On Day 5 Phil saw the pony chiropractor, and on Day 6 we had a lesson. It was a pretty rough lesson compared to the last one that ended on such a high note.

We walked to warm up, and then went to the trot. Phil was being super fussy about going to the bit, and was not making a connection. He'd either suck back behind my leg, or leap forward and run. My trainer wanted him to come over his back, relax, and stretch into my hand. She had me put him on a long rein, go up into two point position, and ask him for a long canter stride. Her idea was that getting off of his back would allow him to relax the back and come up under the saddle, the long rein would encourage him to stretch down, and the longer stride would let him stretch his whole body in a big relaxing stride.

Well, Phil thought that wasn’t a great idea. At first he was a little okay with it, but after a few minutes he got a little freaked out by having me lean forward with my butt out of the saddle. I knew what his anxiety was all about. During his previous training, two point position at the canter, plus asking for a long stride forward meant "hand gallop", which also meant "If you're not FLYING around this arena, you're in trouble." And "in trouble" meant whipping and spurring, and that's when Phil would check out. So after a few times around the arena I had to stop him, because he reverted back into panic mode.

Once I got him walking , I explained to my trainer what the situation was, and why I had to stop him. We had a talk about how we were going to accomplish the goal of the exercise without freaking Phil out. Phil needed to learn that my lifting my seat off the saddle doesn't mean anything bad, and that I should be able to push him on a long rein at the canter without having him freak out. Once he can accept this he can come over his back and relax. This will be very helpful in the future when he’s fussy, or distracted at a show, or just tight and not really wanting to work.

So we did the same exercise, on a 20 meter circle, and worked at it just a little at a time. Phil was pretty upset, but we just kept at it in very calming way. I went to slowly raising and lowering my seat on and off of the saddle, and built up to a bigger canter, then back down. By the end of the lesson he was doing what we wanted - long rein, up in the back, and big relaxed stride.

I’m not saying it was easy, or pretty in any way. When we were done, there wasn't a spot in either one of us that wasn't soaked with sweat.

Although it was hard for us, it was a great lesson in many ways. My trainer and I were able to identify a problem, work through it, and reach the point where she wanted us to be. And in the end we got good work done.

There was no video from that lesson, but I'm working on the video and write up for the next lesson. It was great!

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