Inspired by the "Road to the Horse 2011" on DVD which arrived last week, I've decided to implement an intensive training program to get Brody ready to be ridden. Brody's been with us almost one year now, and he came to us with a suspensory injury. But the vet came last week for Brody's vaccinations, and gave the go ahead to climb on and ride. Woohoo!
Brody may be physically ready to be ridden, but mentally and emotionally he is not. (And, of course, there is the not-so-small matter of purchasing tack.) Since I'm not expecting to be back at work for another two weeks, I'm substantially increasing our training time with the goal of moving Brody to a significantly more respectful and willing state of mind so that I can safely begin to ride.
For anyone who's not yet heard of "Road to the Horse", it's a colt-starting competition which gives three clinicians only hours to train untouched horses in side-by-side round pens, and then compete against each other on those colts. This year, the first I've watched, was a "Legends" competition pitting Pat Parelli against Clinton Anderson (the first two-time RTTH winner) and Chris Cox (the only other two-time winner). WOW.
So this week I increased the frequency of our training sessions, working around the abundant rainfall. We trained Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday, and then I had to travel for a family event this weekend. Brody seems to be enjoying being challenged and engaged, with very positive effects on our quotidian tasks. This week he stood still for fly spray, and willingly stuck his nose into the halter every single time. We're still working on yielding forequarters-- I've repositioned myself with my navel on the same vertical plane as Brody's eye, as Mr Anderson instructs, because Brody kept stepping forward with his far leg instead of stepping away by crossing his near front leg over the other. We also practiced backing, and I got better at starting with just the slightest pressure and then if necessary continuing to increase pressure until I got the energetic response I desired-- at which point (and this is key) I immediately ceased the pressure.
Putting Brody on a circle and calling for frequent changes of direction brought out Brody's inner Black Stallion. When I clucked my tongue for increased speed, he bucked. When I switched the rope and stick from one hand to the other in the first steps of asking for a direction change, Brody reared. So we have a way to go before riding. But I'm excited about the journey, and Brody seems to be enjoying it, too!