For this post I first want to revisit some of Ducati’s history.
Ducati is a registered Australian Stock Horse and came to us before he was three. My daughter found him at a Performance Horse sale and fell in love with him. I thought he was way too young, but she said she would be fine with him – and he had a lovely personality. He was also voted the ‘star horse’ at the sale. The owner was a nice lady and I think he was started quite well – but probably much too young . He performed beautifully in the ring – chased the cow around – moved athletically – his owner was a good rider and kind on his mouth – and so he came home with us.
We had a saddle fitted – Emma rode him a couple of times – and then fell off….. she was going beautifully – went into a canter – he seemed to collapse in the hind end and falter…. and that was it for her – she lost her confidence.
Ducati was then ridden on and off by others over the next few years. He was always a gentleman, very willing – and caught on quickly. I rode him a few times – always feeling a bit uneasy because he was an athletic horse with quick turns … Then several years lapsed where he wasn’t ridden at all…
Now here I was, in the arena doing the ground work with positive reinforcement. During the ‘bitless bridle experience’ I had time to ponder.
I still felt I was missing something. I had gone through all these steps to rectify the anxiety I had caused – but still something troubled me. Then it came to me..
It was my perception of Ducati!!! I saw him as a quick learner, athletic – a can-do horse – a high achiever – I expected quick results from him, no fuss, willing to do what the others can’t/wont.
So my perception was hindering my ability to really ‘see’ him – This is what I said to myself:
“So……I’ve never treated him like a ‘beginner’ – I expect more from him than the others. And he delivers – – but at what cost – underlying anxiety. Was he not given a chance to just be a baby? …. Started as a two year old – expected to learn the ins and outs of campdrafting. It reminds me of a child, pressured way too young to perform – the anxiety – whether internal or obvious – takes its toll. Peeling off that armour reveals a still young, vulnerable horse, trying desperately to please.”
How do I remedy it? Acknowledge it first – then start to look at him through new eyes …. or a ‘new frame’……has he learnt that to be accepted he has to be perfect – but sometimes he just can’t? I need to get through it’s okay to mess up, it’s okay just to ‘be him’.
The next day I went to him with new eyes to see if I could meet him somewhere where we could begin this journey again …. with the skills and understanding of good clicker training – but without my expectation.
I felt very emotional – I’d had this image in my head of what I thought about him. My previous image had not been helpful. So I added my new image into my relaxation work with Ducati.
Slowly we started again – my number one priority was to train with no signs of anxiety. This was hard to do at times. Ducati would become anxious/excited. He would chortle away – always so excited to be training – and then I’d almost see his mind start ticking “What’s next? What will she ask me next?”
So I started more repetitive behaviours. We would partially walk around the cone circle then head for the mat. I sometimes asked for head lowering – or I gave him a massage – then we would repeat that behaviour. I was looking for a clean loop – and in that loop had to be a calm horse.
Now this worked sometimes – not all the time. We then did walk and trot transitions and walking with the halter and lead rope. Over the time I had been doing the cone circle work – and teaching him to stand square on the mat, his body changed – he was just shining!
I’ve put together a ‘before’ and ‘after’ photo. Now to be fair – the ‘before’ is a photo from when we were coming out of winter – and it’s from around 2011 – when he was 10 – before clicker training. The ‘after’ is the feature photo. It’s from 2017 – when he was 16 – he was waiting for me to get organised for a training session.
This was all from this very gentle cone circle and rope handling work. He was truly blossoming. And his eye became softer…
All these small details made a difference….
Now it was time to reintroduce the reins and introduce the mounting block…..
COMING UP – THE DESIRE TO RIDE AGAIN
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