Yesterday the young fellow was rather fresh, after being spelled for a week over Christmas. Mark took the keys yesterday and said my aim for him was to have him moving from the leg/whip onto the contact. For Mark being the experienced and stronger between us the 'discussion' that occurs when the horse learns to step across with his hind-quarter on the circle. The 'discussion' is the giving and taking of the rein through the contact of the line - somewhat encountering some resistance until said contact is accepted. Being on the other end of the line there is an amazing difference in his 'going' - for want of a better word. When the hind-quarter steps across and under the horse there can be a give in the rein and there is a rise in their back as they carry themselves.
I found that there was a fight with me, which depended greatly on my ability to walk a small and direct circle whilst lunging. At the moment we are working on travelling up and down the arena. Our aim for the past two days was improving Dart's ground work. Moving the circle slowly, encountering props and stops along the way. As I stated, a young horse will look for any excuse to stop, to question their leader. Young horses need a clear direction, reiterated by the contact of the line, and they must always be in-front of their leader; in-front of the leg. Horses don't know what you are asking, they have to be given the opportunity to work it out for themselves - accept and understand what is being asked of them. Lick and a chew later and you see that the horse has understood, is mulling it over as they continue on.
Today, as I was lunging under Mark's watchful eye I felt Dart pulling, particularly on the right rein as a result of my allowing him to lose the rhythm and let him fall behind the leg. Just as when you are riding and the horse gets behind your leg you are no longer the leader. They prop, they rear, they stop, whatever their method of payment it serves as a challenge to the rider. Mark advised that he is a clever horse and as a young fellow he is not abnormal in his displays of youthful disagreement. In saying this the horse must then again yield from the rider and accept once more their place in the herd, if you will. When he stopped and I got behind his shoulder, the literal relationship of my body and the aid of my whip caused him to be in-front of the leg, moving once more into the contact.
The legendary, George Morris said to me last year: 'your greatest aid is your brain'. People believe it is either the seat or the leg, even the hand but without the brain they would be pointless. You have to become a thinking rider, a thinking leader for your horse. To know when you need that extra leg, extra give on the rein, the movement of the hind to get your horse in the frame you want. To react and get the right reaction in turn. That is a thinking rider. The same applies when you are lunging.
A horse, such as Dart, is pliable but also disagrees, playing and questioning. In order to keep him from learning bad habits we have decided to give him a spell, without me playing with him on the lunge. I will still be de-sensitising him to his surrounds, training him to accept the rug and a fly mask and so forth, each making the starting process that little bit easier when the time comes in a couple of months.
As of Friday I will have some news on Rion as I am having a lesson with Mark on the trouble maker.