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Wizard Session 220: One Step Ahead

April 4, 2011

Wizard

Saturday, 4/2/11

After a fun day of working on photo projects, I worked with Wizard on the longe line. Since there was a competition in the indoor arena, we used the dressage court in the far arena by the woods. Wizard was FRESH from the time off and because I did not turn him loose in the arena before I worked him.

We started without side reins and I asked him to walk and trot tot he left. I could tell that he was really amped up, and I did not want him rushing to the right (his mentally sticky side) so I fastened the side reins. He trotted left quite nicely, with good rhythm and focus. I reversed him and got a big NOPE! from him. He stopped. He barged me. He spun. He did everything he could not to go to the right. The arena we were working in is definitely the most “exciting” since it has woods around it and no fencing so I tend to get the most animation and least focus in this arena.

Since we have some time to work exclusively on ground work while I get my back figured out, I took the opportunity to work on this refusal to go right and get to the core of this issue. Under saddle, Wizard rushes a little to the right but after a few months of riding, he was just as good to the left as to the right. He’s actually far worse on the longe to the right- I never have issues under saddle to the right anymore.

I asked for him to reverse the same way I always do, and it failed several times. He became more concerned, both crowding me by bumping me with his nose and by doing little “wheelies” with his front end. I would not quite call it rearing, but he was definitely not keeping all four feet on the ground. To protect his and my safety, we broke the behavior down even more. When he crowded me, I backed him up. I really hate using backing up as negative reinforcement, but the crowding is dangerous for both of us, and he is evading my cues. I placed myself on his right side with the longe line in my left hand and the whip in my right hand. I walked alongside him, asking him to go forward by touching his hind end with the whip. We did this several times, halting, walking, over and over. He “fishtailed” a few times, swinging his hindquarters away from me, and that meant I did not have control of both front and back ends. After a few more repetitions, he was no longer evading the forward cue and I was able to transition him into longeing on a small circle. Once he was confirmed to be listening, I made the circle after about two rotations. He then trotted PERFECTLY to the right, listening, stretching into the bit, with good tempo and no evasions.

I really hate to work through issues like these, and I always prefer to “finesse” a horse into doing something, but when Wizard is being unsafe and I cannot find a physical reason for his behavior, I occasionally have to reschool him. The whole longeing session lasted 25 minutes, including his cooldown, so it was not physically intense. He barely broke a sweat under his girth. But it was a lot of mental work for him. And me! The true test will be to see how he responds the next time I work with him.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. April 4, 2011 8:29 am

    Beautiful picture!

  2. April 4, 2011 10:53 am

    Sometimes it’s good just to remind them exactly who is in charge. 🙂

    Well done my friend.

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