Prior to his month off Shinobi's progress was just sky rocketing and it appeared that he had reached a whole new stage in his developement and we were starting to really uncover and expose a completely different horse, in a good way! I was slightly worried that it would take some time to reach this stage again after such a long time off, I could nt have been more wrong and i have never been more happy to be so wrong!
My plan of action was to base this session on rebuilding some boundries as he had become more dominant and this attitude didnt allow for much co operation. I dont mind my horses being dominant if that is who they are, what I do mind is when it goes beyond the point of them sharing their opinion on something iv asked and reaches the point where they no longer do what I ask because they feel incharge. What i mean by this is, for example,
When we're doing a figure of 8, I dont mind that when I push them through the middle they toss their head, or pull a face, because they are just expressing the way they feel about it, my goal in this instance is to change their attitude so as they want to do it, and they enjoy this. With out the feedback of a tossing head or pulled face I would nt know that this area needs to be worked on. Its okay in the respect that he is just expressing himself. He is still acting like a partner
If when I push them through the middle of the figure of 8 they do not yield, because the more dominant one does nt yield then I do mind, that not not okay, this behaviour needs to be addressed. Its not wrong, because he is again expressing how he feels but its not a suitable behaviour for a partnership. He isnt being my partner.The majority of my horses are dominant and its not my goal to take it away and make them subserviant, its a part of who they are, instead its my goal to get them to want to follow me and not work against me, and by the end of the 4 weeks my horses were'nt working with me.
So with the above plan in mind i clipped the lead rope on the halter, focusing my attention on lots of mind games, lots of reverse psychology, lots of less sooner, long phase ones and quick phase 4's, lots of driving and little drawing him towards me, have independant feet ie concentrate on moving his feet not mine. Im ready for this...
No i wasnt! And i could nt have been more happy!
Yes we had a little attitude but thats a Left Brain perogative but we no "Why should I's" "You cant make me!" "Whats in it for me" "NO!" we had no "Too much pressure, please stop" "Im hiding now" "I wish i was invisiable" "I cant" instead we have "Zooooooom!" "Ye Hah!" "I want to canter this way, now this way" "Im bored of walking... im trotting" "Yes!"
His confidence has reached such a high that it has spilled over into enthusiasm and its been in the past couple of months that he has really began to express this enthusiasm. Its the newest change in him so far and i think it is the most prefound change iv witness during our Parelli journey. This new stage in our journey has opened up a whole world of new doors and possibilities to explore.
I decided to channel this motivavtion and energy into something productive and thought id shift the focus of the session to building on the foundation of jumping, ie focus on getting him more comfortable with going over things.
He used to have huge confidence issues with his feet and was always reluctant, and would often get quite stressed, about putting his feet on things, or walking through barrels etc but in the past few months we have actually done a our first ever ridden jumps, so this idea i kind of wanted to build on.
I lowered his head (the cue i give that indicates its okay to eat) and walked away to go and re arrange some poles, once he had relaised i had gone i heard him walk over and begin to follow me, no getting any closer he began to trot after me and took the most direct route to where i was which just so happened to be acrosss the trampoline. Another nail in the coffin that was confidence issues with feet. Trotting, at liberty, over the trampoline, by himself, his idea!
Things were going well with the figure of 8's so i thought we'd stick to this and incorporate the poles. Doing a figure of 8 meant that he couldn't negogiate his way round to aviod them like he can and does on the circle, he had to go over them and not only that but he was having to go over then at funny angles and change his striding. The focus became less about the pole and more about maintaining the pattern inspite of them and before long he was doing this beautifully. He was lengthening and shortening his stride, going over at funny angels, sometimes stumbling on one but guess what...
In the words of Linda Parelli "It wasnt about the...... pole. It was about where he was going and how he was going to get their, the poles weren't the focus just something that had to be considered"
Becuase he had picked this up so well i thought i would up the anti and raise the poles, only ever so slightly but this would now begin to cause Shinobi to have to lift his feet higher and build his confidence in negotiating something more difficult.
We did this at the trot and he did it perfectly, the poles were so low that he didnt have to jump over them just lift his feet up. His trot became more enthusiastic and so i asked for the canter knowing full well what this could mean. The canter would set him up for an actual jump, if he had the confidence and willingness to negotaiate the poles at the canter then he would jump through the middle resulting in a flying lead change. His first ever flying lead change. This rested on him maintaining the canter and jumping the centre, the two things have moven to be Shinobi's biggest troubles.
HE DID HIS FIRST FLYING LEAD CHANGE!
So proud of my handsome boy! Proud that today he accomplished another 'first' but more proud becuase in order to achieve it he had to over come the 2 biggest things that have held him back, his confidence to go forwards and his confidence to go over things. Shinobi is just blossoming and once again demonstrated his dramatic change from a horse that had a broken heart and a broken spirit, that used to hide behind his eyes, never engaged, and never expressed himself to a horse that is so confident and enthusiastic, so much so that he wants to run and play and express himself.
I feel that today also saw a progression in our relationship. Cuddles and physical affection has never been welcomed by Shinobi, infact he used to see this as another form of pressure and it would trigger alot of his introverted, defensive behaviours. A meaningful reward to him would be either letting him eat, just standing quietly with him or scratching his hind fetlocks but today, for the first time ever, he actually rested his head on my shoulder and tucked his nose under my arm and head in my chest. Our first cuddle.
A short video clip of me and Shinobi playing today. Its the very first few minuets, iv literally just clipped the halter on so what you see is how he was feeling today, its all him!
Its nothing fancy. Its much better than that. It demonstartes the change in him. No longer a horse that never engaged, that had a broken heart and broken spirit, that hid behind those eyes, now he is enthusiastic, confident, motivated, engaging and expresses himsel. No longer a shut down, cant move RBI.