Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Learning patience

A lot of our work lately — both my trainer's work, and what she's asking me to do — is centered around teaching Panama patience. I've known he's lacking in that department at times, but being in a new place is really highlighting his shortcomings in this area.

We started really focusing on the issue last Friday, during my lesson. In fact, the entire lesson ended up being about it. Basically, Panama wouldn't stand still next to the mounting block for me — a problem we've been having lately. (I have rarely ever had access to a mounting block, so I think it's a new thing for him. He used to stand next to a fence for me to mount when I rode him bareback, but as my trainer pointed out, he's not used to standing next to a block in the corner of an arena.)

Anyway, on Friday once I got him to stand still and let me mount, my trainer asked me to just have him stand for a few minutes while she ran back to the tie stalls for his halter and lead. He was starting to relax, but when she came back and he saw her, he started getting impatient again. He obviously associates her with work, and just wanted to get to it. He started pawing, so she had me dismount, haltered him, and tied him to the rail in the arena.

I think she was expecting fireworks or something, but Panama actually stood pretty well. He moved back and forth a bit and remained quite alert, but even when we disappeared into the lounge (where we could watch him without him being able to see us), he was fine. He did whinny to us when we came back, of course, because he's just cute like that. But overall I think he was much more self-regulating in that situation than my trainer expected.

Then we went back to working with the block. Panama kept walking forward when I was almost ready to get on (a habit that he sometimes has when I'm mounting from the ground, too). For a while I was circling him every time he would do that, but it clearly wasn't working, so my trainer had me back him up instead — all the way across the arena if necessary — then let him stand for a few seconds before walking him back to the block to try again. Finally he got the point and stood for me to mount.

When he got better about standing, my trainer told me to make it hard on him — deliberately tap my toe against his belly, pat his neck and rump and saddle, and even grab the saddle and pull on it a little bit — to get him used to the idea of standing still for me no matter what. I did as she instructed, and he took it fine.

Finally I mounted — and although my trainer told me to make him stand for a few moments, Panama started to walk off. So then she had me walk him around the block and stand next to it again. Well, he didn't want to do that, so we spent quite a while "fighting" over whether he was going to do it. My trainer coached me through it, and I think because of her help I ended up "winning" that round: Panama eventually allowed me to park him next to the block and stood patiently until I got down.

We spent nearly an entire hour on Panama's patience Friday, from when I first tried to mount to when I dismounted for the last time. But it did the trick — when I rode Panama in the indoor yesterday, he only stepped forward once, as if to test me. I had to work a little again on parking him next to the block, but he figured it out much faster this time.

Another thing my trainer wanted me to work on was getting him to stand quietly in the cross ties. He has a habit of tossing his head when he gets bored, which annoys me, so she said I need to get him to stop! That particular habit was resolved pretty quickly once I focused on it, though.

Finally, Panama's lack of patience showed up today while my trainer was riding him. I think I mentioned when I was at the last barn that he would pull with the bit when he got bored. He was being pretty impatient with my trainer today, and started doing the same thing to her. She spent most of the hour working on getting a nice relaxed walk and trot from him. I think he's been pretty spoiled by my short rides and not having to work through boredom very often. I'm not saying I want him to be bored all the time, but he does need to learn to just ride sometimes, and that it's okay to just relax and enjoy the ride.

With issues like these cropping up, and with the new facility and more stuff we can learn and do, I am really glad my trainer is going to be working with us twice a week again, instead of just once. Her riding one day and me riding the other seems to be working quite well, for both Panama and me, and I have confidence that we will work through his patience issues before too much longer!



At November 10, 2009 at 5:49 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sounds like you're making good progress!

At November 11, 2009 at 9:11 AM, Blogger Nuzzling Muzzles said...

Did your trainer say why the head tossing had to stop? Bombay does that while standing in his stall. I've never tried to stop that, because I just think of it like an autistic child who is stimming, or a child just burning off excess energy. Of course, a horse that throws his head into someone's face could break their nose, but Bombay knows better. What method did you use to get it to stop?

At November 11, 2009 at 9:54 AM, Blogger jane augenstein said...

Gilly was taught to stand still while mounting when he was young. That was one of the first things he was taught. And to step over to whatever I am standing on. He has never had a problem with standing still, why? Because he is LAZY!!! Getting him to go forward at times is a problem! LOL
Good luck with Panama!

At November 11, 2009 at 11:19 AM, Blogger Katharine Swan said...

NM, I was actually the one who wanted the head-tossing to stop -- it was driving me crazy. For one thing, it makes the cross ties jingle loudly every time, and the buckles on the cross ties are also snapping him in the face every time. I'm surprised it doesn't bother him, but it annoys me to no end. Furthermore, he was doing it when I was trying to brush his face, mane, etc. It was becoming like a nervous tick and when my trainer saw how much it bothered me, she encouraged me to do something about it.

Jane, Panama has SO much energy -- going forward is all he wants to do! Sometimes I think laziness would be nice! ;o)

At November 11, 2009 at 11:20 AM, Blogger Katharine Swan said...

Oh, Kate, didn't mean to forget about you. :o) It does feel like we're making good progress, and I'm pleased! In a way though it's good I didn't post about it on Friday, though, because after our lesson I was feeling pretty discouraged -- even though we accomplished what we wanted, it took a lot of work and was quite a frustrating experience.


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