Day 30 – Phil’s Courage’s Journal

Morning feeding: Even though Phil stood out of my way to pour feed, his posture was very upright and braced. He came within my 16ft feeding space. I asked him with two fingers of pressure to get out of my space; he ignored me. I told him with a stern “BACK” and a wave; he half-heartedly made an effort to back. I immediately promised by up-righting my posture, squealing, and kicking dirt at him. He moved off and knew the drill. He would try to circle in at every opportunity, but I kept the pressure on him until I saw a submissive body posture. I circled the pen and he kept “two eyes” on me (a sign of respect). I asked for a back and turn on haunches with just a suggestion from my finger. I moved him in and out of his feeding dish just to reinforce I am Alpha. You must be on your game at all times. Phil must have sensed I wasn’t completely focused on him and he let me know it….Lesson on me this morning.

After breakfast Paige, my 10 yr. old daughter, and I tacked up for a morning ride. Phil was a little snotty about bridling this morning. I insisted on head down and would not remove the bridle from his face until he lowered his head. A mistake many people make when a horse is acting rude about bridling is they take away the bridle to reposition themselves each time the horse moves his head. This rewards the horse and teaches him that as long as head his is moving he is going to get a release. I held the bit in position and held the crownpiece with some mane so the bridle would not slip. It didn’t take Phil long at all to comply and he was rewarded with gentle bridling.

I did a little ground work and Phil said he was “ok.” I warmed up in the arena with asking for softness through flexion. Paige and I had set up barrels. I love using the barrels to teach bending. The barrel acts as a visual for me to gage how Phil is bending. It also gives Phil an incentive not to drop a shoulder into the barrel. The barrels are also a fun way to teach softness, bending, and circling. Paige and I like to play follow the leader and race against each other by weaving around the barrels at a trot. I asked Phil for a left lead canter departure from a trot. He gave me the right lead. This is ok. I just circled tighter and tighter on the incorrect lead to see if he would be willing to change. Phil said “no thank you”. I asked for another canter departure while circling to the left and he let out several sissy bucks. Phil was telling me he emotionally isn’t ready to learn lead changes. Since I started the left lead request I wanted to him to at least give it a try. He finally did give me a left lead and after 3 strides I dropped the reins for a reward and dismounted.

I will sometimes spend up to 30 days just walking and trotting. I will not move on to the canter or correct lead departures until I have complete control over the feet at a walk/trot. I have found that if a solid foundation is made at the walk and trot gaits, the canter seems to just fall in place. I also spend a lot of time working on leads in the round pen un-mounted teaching the “kiss” pre-cue. This means less work for me in the saddle.

First trail ride. Paige and I headed out for a short trail ride. The dogs were with us. Phil was ok with the dogs running up on us and jumping in and out of the woods. When we returned we spent a few more minutes in the arena. I asked Phil to step over the 18” jumps set up. He was hesitant about stepping over the oxer. I dropped the reins and gave him his head. I only kept a supporting leg on him and took my leg off immediately every time he thought about stepping over. I do want to mention with the young horses if you keep constant pressure on them either physical or mental they will find their own release by rearing and this can easily lead to habit. As soon as Phil stepped over the oxer I jumped off him and loosened the cinch. This was a good time to stop.