Iv always described Blaze as a willing Left Brain Introvert that is quite happy to move her feet, infact she often favours the faster gear when out on a ride and i still think that is a fairly accurate description but today it was obvious that she was going to have to move her feet before i had any chance of gaining her attention and getting her to focus. She wasn't bouncing off the walls by no means and she wasn't fidgeting on the spot but at the moment every movement of my body and the stick meant move your feet and so i took her idea, backed her up a few steps by wiggling the rope which at the moment seemed to mean yield the front and send put i upped my phase to correct and retreated when she responded correctly and after a few crooked steps i sent her to the right and allowed her to circle. She trotted around quite happily and to ensure that mentally she remained somewhat present (trotting is her gait, she's most comfortable in trott and so tends to switch off) we moved over to a line of obstacles which presented the choice of squeezing above or between; 3 barrels, a tyre and 2 cones. It worked like a charm. I remained in neutral and everytime she was presented with the obstacles there were so many choices she could make and there was no suggestion from me it was completely up to her to think her way past them, she even stopped a couple of times to access what to do. Soon enough she began licking her lips and i felt that becuase she was now actually thinking rather than assuming everything i did meant trot she might actualy stop and think about what it is i am asking her do so we begin going through the 7 games.
Game one, Friendly Game. I swung the rope over her back and whilst she remained Left Brain she still moved around trying to find the correct answer. She tried trotting out on the circle but i knew she would switch off if i continued friendly game on the circle and becuase she never looks at me directly (this is one of the main things i want to work on, it isnt so much that she is confident and feels the need to aviod any pressure by looking away, its more she is just disinteretsed) if i walked backwards allowing her to move her feet i know she would again just switch off and end up walking to the left of me and we'd end up circling only this time with me walking backwards in her zone 1. Instead when ever she moved her feet i threw a loop down the line and asked for just a single step backwards, a kind of correction for the step she had taken. It wasn't a case that she needed to move her feet in order to think, instead she was just trying to find the right answer, trying to find out what it was i was asking and so was offering the first thing that came into her head- moving. Whilst continuing to throw the stick and string over her back she ended up moving her feet backwards forwards left and right, each time i threw a loop down the line and then allowed her to try something else and then she quite moving her feet and just stood there, bingo! I rewarded by returning to a neutral position (i know when playing friendly you should already be in neutral but i had to come out of it in order to correct) and continued to throw the stick and string over her then quit. We repeated on both sides.
I decided to skip game 2, her Porcupine Game is normally pretty good and i find it is easier for the horse to drop there head and eat when playing game 2 compared to game 3 so we straight to the Driving Game. Whilst yielding her hind is something we do when warming up normally it's only a step or two, never enough to make her change eyes. Being a Left Brain horse and this being something we have the beginings of i began driving the hind quaters. As you'd expect there was a good few pacy circles before she yielded and changed eyes, now looking at me with her left eye, no longer her right. Whilst getting her to yeild to the point where she swopped eyes took a fairly long time it didnt take long for her to learn the phases and become resposive to phase one, soon enough she was yielding a step or two with just me bending at the hips! Again we repeated both sides, they weren't magical but instead of running in tight circle she was now starting swing her butt round and my phase one was being effective. Pretty good start. We moved on to the forequaters and supprisingly she found his very easy, yielding at just a phase one, however, there were a couple of things that needed extra attention. I noticed she was anticipating the command and so we spend lots of time rubbing her face with the stick before and after driving the forequarters so she didnt assume that the stick meant move you feet! And secondly when she moved her forequaters over i had to ask for a step backwards so as she accosiated yielding the front end with a backwards motion as she was begining to yield less and step forwards. After these few tweeks her driving the forequaters over looked great. I drove her bakwards, no real problems there and so we moved onto Game four; Yoyo Game.
We do this a fair bit and so i wasnt supprised when she responded appropriatly with a back up. We spend the next few minuets jumbling up the 3 games, switching from driving to friendly with some yoyo thrown in and some porcupine on the nose (which she did great with, as usual) to back her up so i could yoyo her out futher. She licked her lips a few times and i could see her taking more notice of my energy and body language so as to work out if i was asking her to move or relax.
Game 5, the Circling Game. I wanted to focus on defining the 3 parts of this game. The send. I backed her up and asked her to stay there before i sent her which as i suspected, she wasn't expecting and she tried to begin circling, i corrected with a loop down the line and she backed up a step and waited. The allow. I then sent her to the right, took up a neutral position, and allowed her to circle. Now the part i new would be needing the most work because it would involve her having to engage with me head on. The bring back. I asked her to disengage her hind and helped her by wiggling the rope a little, she stopped and began to yield but as i was expecting in order for her to yield to the point she'd swop eyes and face me i ended up a long way down the line, practically next to her, holding her zone one still whilst i asked the hind to yield. We repeated this and she did improve, she even walked the most direct line to me she has ever when i disengaged her and drew her back to the centre, again it wasnt magical but it sure was progress! Slowly but surly she was begining to think about seperating her body into the five zones and moving each one independantly rather than respoding in usual wooded fashion where it looks like her body is one solid block.
We ran threw the 5 Games, jumpled them up, went back to things she was good at etc. Whilst we had gone threw things she has done before, for the first time we had gone through them in student/ teacher mode, actually teaching her the games step by step rather than just myself using them as tools to move her feet- a very one sided conversation! She did well and seemed to have picked enough up that maybe we could turn it into a conversation.
Bearing in mind that she seemed to be in a "want to move my feet" mood i decided to use the circling game as the primary tool to help evoke some mental engagment. Sent her and allowed her to circle at a walk. I decided to ask for a transition at the barrels, so when she got there i came out of neutral and asked for the trot which she did, when she past the barrel again i used the yoyo game to ask for a walk. We repeated and the transitions down became just as smooth as the transitions up. Then i added in 2 more gates, halt and canter and she did really well. She was licking and chewing and becoming more and more responsive so when she past the barrels i came out of neutral as to gain attention but i didnt asked anything, i just observed, wondering what she might do. She transitioned down! Eeek i was so happy, she was actually thinking about what we were doing and made the choice to change gait. It may not sound like much to you but online Blaze can be so robotic unless she gets to go whizzing around at the canter so for her to actually be thinking about what we're doing, put forward her own idea's and share something she had thought off is brilliant! I went back to neurtral whilst she circled and did the same thing when she passed the barrels and she transitioned up into a trot! Game Over!!!!! I disengaged and we stayed at the centre of the circle, lots of face rubs, she lowered her head like always and let me scratch her ears and we enjoyed each others company reflecting on the great session we just had. Simple, basic, crooked, and wonderful!