It's funny how we take the simple things in life for granted sometimes. Like walking down the driveway. My mare had a big issue with this. First we were walking away from the barn and all. the. other. horses. Then I expectd her to walk back. Without all the tenseness, anxiety or anticipation, let alone speed. Was I crazy for asking her to do this? Apparently I am.
My mare lacks confidence in herself and her work. She hasn't really learned that I will help her get her thru things yet or that she will be ok on her own (for real), but we're getting there. Walking down the driveway has been a big deal for her. Something we finally accomplished.
A while back even just taking her to the local arena and not just getting on her but being able to really work her and get some solid accomplishments laid out was a big deal. If any of you remember me taking her along with my WB mare over to Cindy's place (in AZ), she was mostly along for the ride to get used to working and listening , somewhere other than at 'home'. Her first time there, she was all about taking in the sights and riding her was probably not the best idea, which I decided only After I was on her back. Yeah, smart...
The second time I took her, I figured I would do some long line work with her. Get her to moving around the arena sort of on her own and let her figure things out without me on her back and both of us staying reasonably safe. She worked okay for the most part, but walking her around to cool off afterwards was a different story. She wouldn't settle down and ended up sweating nervously more than she had from actually working. This is why being able to ride her at the arena was such a big deal. Not just walking her around, but getting some actual trot and canter work in too without her losing her shit and walking around afterwards to cool her out too- monumental in her case.
My friend and I decided to take our horses out one day, just a short ride down the street. Out and back in 15-20 minutes or so. Nothing major, just a quick trip out and back. Her horse was fine for th most part. My mare got anxiuous and jittery going down the driveway. To the point that my friend's horse was slowly putting distance between us, which added to my mares building excitement level. The other day we tried riding just ut the diveway. Pretty much the same results for my mare. She got herself all wound up and worked up over nothing.
A few weeks ago I decided that this driveway work would best be sorted out on the ground at first. I worked her in the round pen and to cool her off, put her halter on and led her down the driveway. There was excitement and nervousness and she thought she would ignore me, walk over me and do her own thing. She also figured out pretty quickly that I wasn't buying it, not playing her game, letting her ignore me or walk on top of me either. If she turned her head away from me, I brought it back to where she had an ear on me. If she tried going in front of me and looking back, I put her back in her place beside me. If she tried 'leaning into me' and getting in my space, a well placed elbow reminded her it was not appreciated, allowed and not happening. If she took her attention Off me, I just insited she focus on and worry about me, rather than whatever got her attention over there. The first time was pretty bad, but the next time it got better.
Then I rode her down the driveway. She got all kinds of nervous and high strung. What was I thinking, insisting she focus on me instead of her pony whinnying in the barn behind us, the cows-> 3 fields over, the sky being above us, the ground below us, and the tree next to the drivway on the neighbors property? Going out was one thing, coming back was another.
She tried to turn her head back towards the barn, but did keep moving away fom it. Sometimes we inched along, other times we moved a bit more quickly. There was no even-ness in her stride. No rythem in her movement. Coming back she wanted to prance and jig because I wouldn't let her go and let her just take off. No, mean ol' me kept insisting that she walk instead. What a grump I am for that, I know.
The next few times she did increasingly better. She started to relax more and while there were 'rough spots' along the driveway where she would tense up and start losing focus, she started to piece together the idea that when she wasn't paying attention I would ask for her to focus and listen to me. Focusing and listening meant remembering I was up there and wasn't putting up with her misbehaving. Bummer! Slowly things were getting better. There was improvement. Her walking down the driveway was starting to happen more and more. Coming back, she still tried to jig and prance, but that was also going away. Jigging and pancing meant we had to do circles and sometimes ended up walking away from the barn again.
She also got fussy in the face. Leaning on one rein or the other- whichever one was keeping her from the barn. baring her teeth in frustration, opening her mouth with the western bridle in hope of evading the bit and just trying everything she could think of to let me know she didn't like the idea of cooperating and going so damn s.l.o.w. when she could just run back and be there already.
The circles and walking away from the barn became less and less. The initial 'leaving' to go down the driveway became less of an issue. She began to relax a little more each time, both going out and coming back. We were making progess. Slowly, but we were making progress nonetheless.