We jumped right into riding and working with the horses this week and got a lot done. It was so refreshing to be back in the arena this week learning from Des and riding with Brenda and Jenna. The goal this week for me was to get Rocks going under saddle with the flag in hand as well as introduce him to the cattle paddle. He still does not have much appreciation for the flag, but he has come to get more comfortable with the flag in his groundwork. His trickiest place is anything coming up over the front of his head and ears. When he came to me you couldn’t get a halter or bridle on him without a fight. He wouldn’t let you brush his mane, touch his ears, or rub his upper neck. For him these areas were a no no zone.We have done a lot of work with haltering and bridling and he is now soft a relaxed with his head low to the ground for both. Our struggle came when I started working him from sitting on the fence with the flag. He got a thousand times better after about five sessions having him stand with me at the fence with the flag as it rubbed and waved all over him. The largest mountain for him to climb is changing direction and having to walk under my arm and the flag to get next to me. We finally got there with the flag both directions. For Rocks everything on the left he is much more comfortable with compared to the right initially. I’ve had to work harder on that right side with the flag. Of course the most difficult direction to change was from left to right coming under the flag. Once that place became better for him and he would walk under my arm and the flag with less coercion I knew we were ready to ride with the flag!

Our first ride back I worked him through his ground work with the flag and then we did our work on the fence with the flag. Once he checked all of his boxes with the flag in the groundwork without being anxious or flighty about it. I knew it was time to get on! Des had me work on small circles while rubbing him down with the flag as soon as I picked it up. That way if he got nervous or wanted to scoot off I would still have control and be able to keep the flag on him. After about 10 minutes working both directions Rocks settled in like he had been ridden a million times with it. Then we rode off walk, trot, and canter with the flag waiving with rhythm all around him. He worked both directions through all of his transitions completely relaxed and blew us away with how he handled his first ride. Rock’s finished his ride with the flag being rubbed all over, including his ears!

I also had the fortune to start him on the cattle paddle this week. And anyone who knows Rocks, knows he’s a spook with sounds. The cattle paddle is very loud and make a lovely rattling noise. I introduced the paddle to him the same way I originally did with the flag, on as much of a united circle as we could muster. He just needed to hear it and feel it while maintaining a good walking rhythm as it worked all over his body and around him. For the most part, he understood the game from the times with the flag. Our struggle came when we got to the fence work changing directions on the fence. Des was super helpful, by coming in to support him on another horse by sending him forward with the flag anytime he wanted to leave. He eventually realized the sweet spot was when he got back to the fence next to me by coming under my arm. We didn’t let off the pressure until he would stand quietly with in that space. Once he understood his feet would have to keep moving and that there was no rest except when he found this spot, it became easier for him to relax where he was at, rather than be defensive. We still have much work to do before riding with the paddle, but for two sessions in, I would say he’s doing pretty good! Till next time…