Today I was doing so well riding Wyatt that I envisioned myself calling his previous owners and telling them about our progress. He longes like a champ now. Under saddle he bends quite well and flexes at the poll. He's even cantering (you can't quite call it a "lope" yet) at a fairly respectable pace and holding his leads (most of the time).
We'd succeeded in cantering nicely to the left and I was just about to end our schooling session by cantering to the right.
And then my neighbor, who lives in one of the homes that borders the arena, let her pair of Labrador retrievers out to roam the hillside. Because the arena is set down in a sort of flood control plain, the dogs cavorting on the hill must've looked to Wyatt as if they were flying.
You know, just the sort of incomprehensible sight a greenbroke 3-year-old needs to see. *Sigh*
I lost his attention completely. He tuned out my hand and leg aids, which is always a disconcerting feeling. He began to snort like a dragon with his tail raised above his back. Then he headed toward the gate at a big, lofty trot. Naturally, I tried to deter him, but it soon became abundantly clear that Wyatt did not steer as well as I had thought... at least not when flying dogs were pursuing him.
Now, generally speaking, when I was younger-- and didn't have about $20,000 of computerized medical equipment implanted in my body-- I'd have stayed on and ridden through the distraction by circling, bending and/or galloping forward. But today discretion was the better part of valor. I gave Wyatt about 90 seconds to cool his jets. When it was evident he'd mentally checked out, I dismounted. Quickly. And then I introduced him to one of the most important tools of working with a young, green horse: The MRL (also known as the Mid-Ride Longe). In my opinion there is no shame in the MRL. It allows the horse to work through its anxiety or residual friskiness without me struggling to get him back into work mode. In about 5 minutes Wyatt had relaxed enough that I could climb back aboard and safely finish my ride. I've never been so determined to canter a horse around an arena on its right lead! Although the circles in the corners weren't quite as round as I'd like, there's always another day to polish them. Once Wyatt comprehended that he had to canter forward from my leg, give to my hand and circle when requested, and hold his right lead, I pulled him up, gave him a pat, and called it a day.
Tomorrow we'll repeat the whole lesson once more, minus the flying dogs. And without an MRL. I hope.
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