I thought it would be interesting to share a little about what I'm focused on for the next couple of months mainly because right now my focus isn't on riding. It's not that we don't need to work on that because of course we do, it's just that with Katai's recent progress and my interest in showing we're riding above where I'd feel comfortable signing up for a show (training levelish). However we've got other things in our way that will prevent us from showing or certainly from having fun showing which is my ultimate goal.
Anyone who's followed this blog is pretty aware of the journey it's taken to get Katai here. Often though I don't think I share how difficult Katai really is (maybe I'm scared after having J tell me to put her on a meat truck). For all that she's amazing, brave, and pretty unflappable under saddle (although she certainly can have massive tantrums when she wants to) she's actually extremely reactive, panicky, stubborn, and a bully. While she is a bully she's also so reactive and inclined to panic that it's really tough to use tools that would work with other horses and tools that I was able to use in the past. It's a really thin line between appropriately correcting her for naughty behavior and pushing her into flight and fight mode where she can't learn and just becomes reactive.
I truly wish that I'd been able to get her earlier in her life and that we'd found Jane earlier because I think both things would have helped. I'm completely aware that I've made mistakes with her but I certainly have tried my best and really tried to learn from my mistakes.
|Maybe at our next show she'll only do this|
a few times rather than for the whole show
Jane has been a real turning point though with her message of just letting Katai be right sometimes. I've stopped trying things that have worked for other people (be the leader all the time) and started to just do my own thing (read Jane's thing) with her which is namely, very little "discipline" and lots of soft, gentle patience past the point where most people would be patient. Suddenly, under saddle, she's stopped having tantrums, stopped blowing up, and become much more manageable even when she does get hot. That, of course, doesn't mean no discipline but certainly less than I've been used to. However, I haven't had the opportunity to try this on the ground since in her normal space, with her normal routine she's got absolutely impeccable ground manners (because I care ALOT about her behavior on the ground).
With that in mind, I went to the barn on Sunday with the only item on my agenda being to expose her to the horse trailer for as long as possible. I did what I'm calling "boredom training" and pretty much just stood on the ramp (for about an hour) while she did all of her panicked pony things until eventually she decided to actually walk up the ramp on her own. Literally on her own since I didn't put an ounce of pressure on her or ask her in any way to join me in the trailer.
|At least she's been able to practice her Levade?|
Once she stopped panicking she was in the best mental place that she's been. She actually calmed herself down and then I had my pony back. In that mental space when I led her and she ran her shoulder into me I very firmly moved her out of my way and then went back to coaxing and petting and baby talking her.
|We also practiced some movements similar to this.|
This will come in handy for dressage at some point right?
I didn't stop there on Sunday though I walked her all over the farm (lots more baby talking and petting and patience), stood by the side of the trailer and simulated how it would be if she were tied there (without the risk of actually tying her), and finally put her in cross ties in the barn and groomed her. She was still pretty up and then when the other horse in the barn left she had a meltdown. I had to use the panic snaps on the cross ties but then I just (gently but firmly) backed her. She'd blow up, I'd back her down the aisle with just light pressure and then stand there and pet her and baby talk to her. More blowing up, back down the isle the other direction and more baby talk, rinse and repeat. Eventually she actually calmed enough that I could put her back in the cross ties. Basically I treated her like she was a weanling. Finally we quit on that good note.
|Lots of these to choose from really|
So, the real goal for the next 1.5 months is lots and lots, and lots of exposure, changes in routine, and trailer boredom training every. single. day. that I'm at the barn