Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Seeking Relaxation

This morning, we made it back to the indoor arena. However, I woke up late and my stomach is still bothering me, so we took it easy.

I sent Guinness onto the trailer from about 35 feet away, no rope at all. :-)

More and more, I've come to realize that Guinness isn't relaxing much in the indoor arena. (A couple of weeks ago, I had the revelation about him not relaxing on the trailer. I came to the conclusion that he wasn't getting enough TIME on the trailer with all of our short trips to find relaxation..)

The most obvious place that this tension shows up is when I confine him in a stall in the indoor arena. He has improved and isn't pawing or rearing, but keeps his head up and looks around a lot. We spent time today just hanging out in the stall with me encouraging him to put his head down and to calmly eat.

After playing with the stall, we went out into the arena. Once again, Guinness was really looking around and not lowering his head. Nothing weird was going on outside.. We fooled at liberty with jumping some small jumps and stick-to-me. All went great.

We played with circling on the 22' at a walk & trot, and with change of gait and direction. He was very obedient and willing, but had a very hard time maintaining gait all the way around one time. (Something to really focus on in future sessions.)

Next, I backed him out to the end of the 22' and waited for some signs of relaxation. I even sat down on the ground in order to really be neutral. It took him what felt like forever to lick his lips. Hmm. It took a bit longer for him to lower his head and sigh. When he did, I tossed a cookie his way. (Probably not necessary, but it felt good at the time.) We repeated this twice, and then walked over to try it in the stall.

On the way, he stopped at the mounting block, so I laid over him totally bareback and he gave a huge tail swish. I hung there for a minute then slid off and tried again. Another huge swish along with a head swing, so I jumped down and backed him up firmly. The next time was much better so I put my feet up behind me, and then eventually slid off over his rump.

Once back at the stall, I wound up sitting in there with him while he picked at hay for a few minutes. Then we loaded up and headed home.

Back at home, I noticed that the other two horses were acting very jumpy - probably due to the super cool air and breeze. This had probably been affecting Guinness too.

The upshot of this is that I think that when my boy is concerned, he switches from motivated LBI/LBE to - get this - RBI!

He is really obedient and compliant, and still pretty brave and low key about it. However, his head rises a little and his neck gets stiff, his breathing gets shallow and his eyebrows knit. (Looking like a worried Great Dane.) It is all pretty subtle, especially compared with Smokey who lives in RBI-land.

I need to look up the Needs hierarchy for horses again (Safety, Comfort, Play, Food - I think). I suspect that this lack of relaxation with me is the root of the small leadership issue that I have with him. He still seems to feel compelled to seek equine companionship at some level when anxious, or at least he doesn't really tend to relax with me until he gets home.

I'm not sure where to go with this yet, but it is a huge insight..

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