Monday, January 23, 2012

Rondo lunges, tantrum-free

Last Thursday, instead of a riding lesson I asked my trainer to work with Rondo a little bit.  I'd been passing over him lately in favor of riding Panama — primarily because Panama is easier and faster, since I can just hop on bareback — and I was feeling bad for ignoring Rondo's training.

She lunged him in the round pen so that he couldn't try running away from her again, and despite some displays of anger at the beginning, he actually ended up doing rather well.  Initially he kept trying to spin around and/or kick out, and he was clearly not focusing much on her.  When she'd use the whip to drive him forward or keep him from turning around (not whipping him, mainly just using the motion of the whip), he would toss his head and rush forward, obviously very angry about this new development called "having to work."

And then he got it.  He stopped fighting her, did what she asked when she asked, and all in all just calmed down.  It was like he realized it was easier not to fight it.  He even demonstrated that he remembered stuff she taught him two weeks ago, like bending and disengaging his hind end.  We were both really pleased with how he did once he got over being angry and indignant over having to work.

Yesterday I went out to the barn and decided to lunge him again.  It was incredibly windy, and he was a bit amped up, so we went into the indoor arena — I figured lunging him in the wind would be more explosive than lunging him in an arena with the potential for him to decide to try to run away from me.  And my trainer would probably be horrified (I haven't told her yet), but I decided to lunge him without the rope halter or lunge whip.  Both belong to friends, and I hate borrowing other people's stuff (even though I have permission), and I also hate having the lunge line and the whip to manage.  I'd prefer for Rondo to be able to be lunged without a whip one day, like Panama.

The result was surprising.  Rondo showed absolutely no flares of temper, and next to no resistance to what I was asking.  We had to work a bit on turning to stay in the circle on the side where the rail wasn't there to make him, but usually a couple of quick tugs on the line reminded him to make the turn.  He responded pretty quickly to the verbal commands for walk/walk on, trot, and whoa — it's obvious he understands them all quite well.  I did have to throw the end of the line at his butt a couple of times when he tried ignoring the commands to trot (clearly testing me), but that was all it took to get him going again.

I suspect that his good behavior had a lot to do with his last session with my trainer.  I think it finally "clicked" with him last week, and he realized that 1) he's going to have to work, and it's better to just do it than to fight it, and 2) it's not really all that bad.  It did cross my mind that the lunge whip might have been pissing him off, so his good behavior might have been because I wasn't using one, but that doesn't quite make sense since he did throw a fit and try running away from me a week and a half ago, and I wasn't using the lunge whip then, either.

In any case, I only lunged him for 10 or 15 minutes yesterday, but as well as he behaved, I think he earned that short session.  If nothing else, it will reinforce the idea that working with me is easier and more enjoyable than working against me!

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