Monday, July 26, 2010

Negotiating with a 4-Year-Old

. . . is never a good idea.  Last night we returned home from a small vacation and I worked Louie for the first time in a few days.  I decided he had had a few days of rest and has been moving pretty well since his injury, so I'd try riding him.  Well, he did a pretty good job, he even took his right lead on the first try- and he had just an absolutely perfect canter departure from a walk- collected and steady.  I was so happy and proud of him for getting his right lead, and for doing it so well, as the right lead canter has proved the most challenging and long-standing obstacle in his training thus far.  We finally got it! 

So. . . a little while later I went to canter him on his left lead.  Well, Louie and his toddler way of thinking, decided he is only going to use his right lead from now on. . . .  I pushed and pushed and we tried and tried until he was trotting sideways down the rail, grinding the enamel off of his molars, and doing pseudo roll-backs.  He was pissed off!  As was I.  Why is my horse, who for his entire life has preferred only his left lead, suddenly deciding he can only canter on his right lead?  . . . Just as the fight was escalating to the point where I was certain to lose my temper, and then of course lose the battle, we stopped and sat there and stared at ourselves in the mirror while we thought about it for about 2-3 minutes.  During that time I looked at Louie's handsome, yet anxious expression and patted him. He relaxed.  I relaxed.  Then he told me the answer to my question, "well, Mom, it's because I thought you really wanted me to do my right lead!  By the way you have been riding and what you usually ask me to do, it's quite clear that you prefer that lead."  Hmmm. . . I guess this is true, we have been working so hard on the right lead that I virtually never ask him for his left.  I was just so enamored to have finally gotten the right lead that while I was upset about him not getting the left lead, all that fighting was almost meaningless in comparison to the huge success that we had just had. 

We went along and did some nice walk-trot work, trotting over a few poles, etc to get our minds off of the canter.  It was almost 10:00 pm and both of us were drenched in sweat after that fight, so I thought we should kiss and make up before the ride was over, so we went for a nice walk down the driveway in the moonlight.  Louie chose to do this.  I just gave him the reins and that's where he went.  There was a lot to look at for Louie as his eyesight in the dark is much more keen than mine.  It was refreshing, cool, and a great relaxed opportunity to bond and for me to make it up to Louie.  We'll work on the canter more later.  "For today, let's just enjoy this ride."

Well today we rode in the outdoor, the big day to tackle the canter leads once again.  This time, after some phone coaching from Sandy, I let Louie run into the canter if he needed to, and much to my liking Louie picked up his left lead on the first try.  After a while we cantered the other way, and Louie picked up his right lead on the first try.  Neither transition was as clean as our beautiful canter depart last night, but today was a victory for me, having asked for- and received both canter leads on the first try.  Today's ride was really not a battle, but I think we're making progress toward a victory on the war of canter leads. 

1 comment:

  1. Ahhhh the old trap of focusing on the bad side and neglecting the good side.

    Grey's right lead is sticky too. I have two rules I follow. #1. Work the left as much as the right. #2. Always ask for the left first and let him be successful before asking for the right regardless of how you mix the routine before, in between and after.