Remnants of the round pen.
Back in the days of my bucking bronco, I worked a lot on ground work. I learned the Seven Games of Parelli. (You can read about them here, you can watch them below.
(this video is worth watching if just to see the foal play
with the umbrella about 5 minutes into it)
Then I worked on adjusting my round penning into the "bonder" based on Marv Walker's techniques (an interesting conversation about it here).
Then in the clinic I worked on containing my horse at the walk.
So with all this under my belt I felt like I could do anything on the ground with a horse. We could create a complete meditation circle from hoof prints if we wanted.
So why couldn't I get Smokey to "Join Up"? Why did I feel I was losing my brown belt ability?
Frankly it's part of a theme that's going on. There are a few realities of having a young horse that keep coming up. As good as he is, he simply does not get stuff yet because he hasn't done it for years in various situations with various people.
For example, while he's been worked in the round pen, it's been by one person. Something that I was doing was subtly off. Even when I saw the trainer, D, work him, he didn't quite come around like I'd have expected. He was inconsistent in his reactions.
He'd react in unexpected ways, raising his head at times he shouldn't. With me, he'd stop and look at me, then turn when I didn't ask. WTF? And when I got after him, he just spazzed. And not "good, he'll learn a lesson" spazz. The "I'm not listening to you cuz you are so weird!" spazz.
It was time to think more about what I was doing and explore what I needed to change. Since I had been watching the Chris Irwin videos (you can find here), I have been impressed with how extensively he explains things. Some times it feels a little ad nauseaum, but really, by the end, you GET it.
So I watched his round penning video. He is pretty harsh on existing round pen techniques. He works more from what you do with your core - and it carries over to saddle work as well. (my rein technique is getting better too, thanks to some of his suggestions).
Based on what I saw, there were several things I was doing wrong.
- One, I might be looking in the right place (not at the eyes or face), but my hips were wrong, sending a conflicting message.
- Two, I didn't use the dressage whip/carrot stick correctly to stop arrogant behavior. It's not just about increaseing the energy with the whip, it's how you increase it - twirling versus raising, versus shaking.
- Three, I didn't consistently push on the right spot (like the barrel or shoulder depending on his movement) when he came off the rail.
- Four, I didn't always recognize the good behavior quickly - I was focusing on achieving the wrong thing sometimes (like gait or turn) when my first goal needs to be acknowledgment of my place in the herd. Then, in time, we can work on refinements.
So for the last two sessions we've done round pen work. Once just the round pen, and today a session before riding.
And each time he joined up.