Well, as you can tell from the title we have started a new and exciting phase of training! Flying lead chages are a pretty big mile marker. It seems like Bugs is ready to put on his “big boy pants”!! When we were at the show we were great but he didn’t know changes yet. I want to state loud and clear that I never want to over face a horse. I know that consistant success is built on a solid foundation. No two horses are the same. Recognizing when your horse is ready to move forward comes from a close relationship, one that is part instruction and part listening, a conversation if you will.
That being said, Marcy (my hunter/jumper trainer) and I feel that Bugs is ready. He routinely makes good decisions and doesn’t get flustered when he doesn’t understand a new lesson. He focuses and tries to solve the puzzle. The positive reinforcement really helps him to be involved and to perservere.
We had a flat lesson with Jan and her green horse, Annie. Marcy has been helping me to adjust my position and my seat is getting more solid with every lesson, well, nearly every lesson. Bugs was good, listening and soft. He had a bit of extra energy but he mostly keeps that to himself at this point. As Jan and I finished up, Marcy put a pole on the ground (across the diagnal) for Bugs and myself to work on a flying change. We discussed the next part of the lesson, the shifts in balance and positioning necessary to allow him and to support him through the change in his lead. My goal was to shift the balance as we crossed the pole. This can be a challenging proposition. You are channeling a lot of energy and horses can get excited, sometimes too excited. A flying change, when new, is a bold manuever and you need that energy, but it helps to know that you can bring your horse back to a soft, listening mindset.
Bugs seems to pick up the left lead easier than the right so we start off on the right lead. This way we can try to set him up for success when we are asking to change his lead. So, off we go! As we come across the diagnol I have got my ears pealed and a big smile on my face. It seems to me that Bugs likes to figure things out and finds comfort in being compliant. This moved him out of his comfort zone. He was not sure what was going on. He was trying to do something, but just wasn’t right. I think he feared that his actions might be taken as disobedience. The first couple of times he was a little wound up, maybe even a little worried. I just stayed very relaxed and focused on getting him back after the attempt. Then we started again, giving him time to settle into a nice calm, controlled canter. The next couple times he still didn’t get it but he seemed a little more settled. I knew that we were on the right path. His mind was more settled and processing as opposed to reactionary. On about the 5th time he got it right! I clicked, reinforced with a few handfuls of treats and lots of praise (he responds well to verbal praise too).
It is tempting to want to do it again right away but I recognize that the better thing to do is to let him rest in his success. I am very poud of Bugs and his good decisions. He really seems to enjoy the challenges that come with training. I am excited for this next week. We have trailer loading, backing up and flying lead changes to look forward to!!
More “Horses in the Morning”!! I was a guest on the show on Wednesday and discussed some ways to keep your horse paying attention and interested in the training process. This is a fun show and good info to boot!! Click here for the link to the show!