I usually take a few days after a clinic to mull over what I've learned and sometimes I find it helpful to write down what I'm thinking about!
If you've been reading for very long you'll know that Zorro has been struggling with the bit pretty much since he started carrying one. But his face is so sensitive that he tends to over react to the halter, so bitless doesn't seem a good idea. I don't want to cause him pain in way to get him to listen.
His issues have gotten so much better but he will STILL open his mouth when I am asking him to slow down or turn. It's super clear that he isn't 100% putting together, contact with his mouth means something about his FEET. At this clinic Claudia had me being a little more firm with him. If I asked him to whoa and he didn't then I needed to follow up with support from the lines to have him whoa. At first he would open his mouth and then stop. Then I noticed that he would stop moving his feet without being dramatic about the bit. Hmmm. Claudia said, "Let's focus on his feet doing what you are asking and then his mouth will follow." I've been so worried about causing him to open his mouth that I haven't been particular about him doing what I'm asking with his feet. AND he is so GOOD when we are long lining that I think he is understanding, until something happens in the bike that he doesn't like, then he loses it. He will get there. It's just taking a little longer than I had originally thought it would!
This is a perfect example of direct line thinking - I was worried about him opening his mouth so I lost my ability to be particular. This isn't fair to Zorro because it blurs the lines for him and makes it difficult for him know what the correct answer is. This can also be called nagging. I hate it when people nag me. I need to get better about this! Be particular and also be fair.
In so many ways Zorro has been easy and sweet. But there are things that have taken a lot longer than other ponies I have trained in the past. Halter training him was an interesting endeavor, getting him used to other people besides myself took some time, helping him not over react to anything and everything took more time and then getting him confident with himself and me took more time. All that hard work and thinking outside the box has REALLY paid off because he is a pretty wonderful guy. At least I know that when he finally understands something 100% , he will always know it.
I have to say that his trailer anxiety has lessened. When we arrived at Carrie's place he was a little nervous about staying in. Then I opened the back door and let him settle before I took him out. When I went to get him he was happily and quietly munching on hay. I untied him and asked him to unload and he said he wanted to eat a little more hay! I love that. When we got home it was dark and late and had been a long day, but I unloaded him the same way I have been, I opened the back door and left him to eat for a little bit. But this time we had Sky running around screaming. Zorro was totally quiet in the trailer and just munching his hay. When I went to unload him he came to the back of the trailer, then I had him turn and go back to the front of the trailer and he happily munched more hay. Then I had him go to the back of the trailer again and he waited patiently until I asked him to unload. He quietly stepped out of the trailer and then immediately turned and would have loaded right back up! I was tired and it was windy so I didn't ask him to do that, but I was so happy with his confidence.
Again, a time when all of our hard work paid off - Sometimes it just takes time.