So, I am experimenting with a new approach to Delight. Don't worry, it doesn't involve carrot sticks, bitless bridles or training with 'lightness and joy'.
Since I moved her and RC to boarding for the winter, she's become much more reactive and a little more tense. My working theory was that she just needed to settle in. Well, it's been six weeks and I've changed the saddle that I use on her (which she's much happier about) but she's still very reactive. She's happy to go to work, and other than pinning her ears when the blanket comes off, she's still the sweet mare that I know is in there.
My new theory: she's not getting enough 'play' time to stretch and use her body on her own. She's in a solo turnout (because RC tried to get her hemmed in to beat her up, that jerk) for 8 hours a day in a 20' x 30' pen, but it's not the same as being out all day in 5 acres with RC (where she can either get away from him or ignore him, which ever she prefers). Add in the high energy feed that they have been switched to, and what I have is a very fit young pony with not enough exercise.
Free lunging in the morning and actually working her in the evening. It makes sense because I have time to ride two in the morning- with time to spare- but not to work all three. This way I can work Tilly and RC then let Delight stretch her legs out a bit without 'working' per se.
But wait - doesn't it piss me off when people free lunge? Why yes it does, so I am not going to just let Delight run around willy-nilly, cutting corners and doing rollbacks because she's all amped up and being chased by the whip. She still has to go in the gait I ask in the direction I tell her for as long as I ask. Really, it's just lunging using the whole arena (which works out since no one is around in the mornings)- even the 'scary' places.
Delight seemed to really enjoy it this morning. She could trot around in her big long trot and get everything loosened up. It's really startling to see what she looks like from the ground. For one thing, this is one fit young horse. As she's trotting and using her body, it's easy to see her using that long back muscle to lift her shoulders, or flex the muscles in her hindquarters when she does a transition.
Maybe I'll start a trend of actually controlling the horse on and off the lunge line. HA! Who am I kidding?
Today is the first day of my experiment, so we'll see how it goes...