Grace has been on her best behavior since the horse show. I'm over being mad about it but the first few days after the show of having one better ride after another really got me frustrated. Why can't we pull it together in the show ring? I had a group lesson at Sarah's last Saturday to work on Horsemanship patterns. Grace gave me one of the best warm ups ever. Her lope was outstanding and then it was time to work on the cones. As soon as we began our pattern Grace tensed up and took over. Sarah said it was because I was thinking about the pattern and not Grace. Grace feels the change - the shift in my energy and somehow takes that as a cue to do her own thing. We spent a good part of the lesson schooling her on the pattern working on getting it perfect because "perfect practice makes perfect". At the end of the lesson I was able to ride the pattern one handed - it was a pattern ride that I would be thrilled with at a horse show.
Sarah suggested that I set cones at home in no particular order and school Grace on them with no patten in mind. The goal is to keep Grace guessing and waiting on me. This is one of those times that I wonder what it would be like to own a less intelligent horse. I swear when I stop at a cone to begin a pattern Grace has every pattern she's ever been on going through her head. When we start the pattern she then recalls the closest pattern in her memory to the gait we are on and the direction we are going. She is convinced that she knows best and when I tense against her decision that is when it starts to fall apart.
Now, when I can get her to work with me and wait on me it is a wonderful ride. Grace is so sensitive to my cues I have to be mindful of how I breath. I've been so afraid of getting on her case, concerned that I will break her "spirit" and end up with one of those dead to the world show horses, that I let her tense up and take over. The result was a ride that neither one of us enjoyed. I've now been able to correct her without being hard on her, knowing when to apply pressure and when to release. The result is a horse that still wants to know the pattern, but is willing to wait for me to show it to her.
In the first video we are working around and through the cones in no particular direction. If I felt her anticipate going to the right, I made her go to the left. There are a few times that she tenses and lifts her head so I had to push her up into the bridle and correct her. The second video - and I wish it were better quality was the end of our ride. The lead change is from the right - which is her easy lead, to the left which is her more difficult lead. Her changes this direction haven't been this clean. You can see my reaction to the lead change - "good girl Grace, your done for the day!"