Since this is my last week off of school before Summer session starts (yeah I know, who takes summer classes anyway? Doesn't that defeat the purpose of summer!?) I have been spending long days with Marley. Between ground work, play time, and relaxing together, I spent about 5+ hours with him today. I'm loving it though, especially because while I don't want to think about it, I might have to say goodbye to him in a week and I'm thankful I have all of this time to play with him between semesters.
Marley was excellent with the tarp today and was actually playful when I brought it out. When I opened it up to place it on the ground and shook it a little bit, Marley came over with his ears perked like "oh I know what to do now!". He couldn't be less nervous about it, so I decided that when I would ride him later I would bring the tarp out and leave it on a barrel for something new.
After working on some of our in hand maneuvers and round pen work, I tacked Marley up to ride. Today I wanted to work on him moving forward without pressure (something I'm working in with my own body) and continue where we left off with our transitions. Again, I feel like it's going to be impossible for me to get to everything we are supposed to be prepared for in the competition, but you know, I've kind of come to terms with that. I think Marley is pretty great, and if I bring him home, then I guess that's all that really matters. If I don't bring him home, I hope whoever does will take their time and be patient with him, because that is what he knows.
My stirrups are feeling more comfortable every day, and my goal is to lower them one more hole before the competition. I'm constantly reminding myself to relax my legs, and then when I do, I have to remind myself to relax my core, but it is helping and we have gotten some great moments of sitting trot.
After a great ride I hosed Marley down and decided to start something new with the clicker. I have been trying to decide how I was going to teach Marley to lay down. Traditionally, people will use ropes to teach the horse to lay down, and while many people are comfortable with this technique, I have never done it so I was afraid of damaging any trust I've built up. I've seen it trained when horses offer to paw at the ground and then the behavior is shaped from there, but that takes a very long time and Marley doesn't lay down a whole lot so I don't know that he would think to offer it easily. He does however love to get a good roll in every time he gets a bath, so I decided I would try to capture the roll by hosing him down, taking him to the paddock, then clicking and rewarding as soon as he lays down to roll. He did roll, just as I had suspected and when I clicked I also said "Down". For now, he has no idea what it means, but I'm hoping if he can associate that word with laying down, then I will be able to shape a captured behavior into something a little bit more refined that I could hopefully one day get under saddle even. Once he was down and I rewarded him, he was surprised and didn't try to get back up. I started petting him and moving his neck and head around, touching his legs and his back, and generally just tried to make this whole new experience fun for him. I have sat with Marley while he was laying down before, but never in a training session or in the middle of his paddock, and never had he been rewarded for it, so he was a little shocked. My plan is to repeat this (bath and then paddock) for the next few days to see if I'm able to get the behavior on cue. I have no idea what to expect.
|Kisses on day 23|