I had a good visit at the barn yesterday. First I free lunged Dan. I put some good music on, put out ground poles and played with him for about 15 minutes. I ran around the arena with him, so I'd get a work out too and he went through the poles really nicely. When we finished that I did a bit of clicker work on getting him to look away to get a treat, stand at liberty without moving and just started asking him to back from a voice command only. He's very quick with clicker training, but it's been a couple of years so we're brushing up.
When I went to put him back in his stall he had to go by a horse who always leans out and tries to nip the horses who go by. Dan hates him and on this occasion he hopped up a bit and struck at the air with both front legs in quick succession, hard. He's never done this before and has always led very well. Luckily I was beside him and not in front of him. Maybe he wouldn't have done it if he thought he'd hit me, but it was too close for comfort and even though he was provoked he definitely shouldn't act this way. I haven't faced this issue before, ever, so I had no plan for a reaction. What I did was give a very firm verbal 'no' and immediately made him back all the way down the aisle. Then I had him stand for a moment and then led him out, quietly this time without a reaction beside the nippy horse.
Last year Dan was stalled beside this horse and disliked him so much that he made himself lame kicking the stall wall that he shared with him. This year we put Dan in another barn, but we have to go by the nippy horse to get back and forth to the indoor ring. Dan gets along with most horses, but about three years ago we boarded at a place where he was stalled beside a grumpy horse (also very nippy) who Dan took a big dislike to. He doesn't take well to horses who try to pick on him. When our three horses are home Rogo is the dominant horse, but he is very quiet about it and all the horses get along, although Dan is kind of a tease to Rogo and Savanah. He pulls their tails and tries to get them to run, etc.
I've warned Jen, who's riding Dan, to keep an eye on it and I'll continue to do ground work with him, as Jen does too, but I'm not sure if there's anything else I can do about it.
After this I free lunged Rogo and Savanah together over poles. I kept the boppy music and ran along with them too. I'm getting so much exercise! I've started running with our dogs too (we've turned the riding ring into a dog turn out for the winter). Animals LOVE it when you do this. Who knew? Both horses and dogs act very happy and excited when I run along with them and they get so energized. Maybe it's wishful thinking, but I think I'm feeling a little stronger already?
After all this I rode Rogo. The ride was fine - contact was good, bending was good, energy was okay (worked for it but it came). I also think he's finding his balance at the canter and I'm very slowly but surely getting into a better canter position on him. It's really helped to be lunged on Savanah.
Now for a confession - I think I've discovered a reason he may be breaking more in his canter, and it isn't just loss of balance as he learns to use his hind quarters more. The riding ring needs to be raked and the track along the walls is worn to the base along the middle of each long side :(
This means hard footing and Rogo is bare foot for the winter. I'm feeling pretty guilty. I didn't notice the footing was getting thin (there's a 'path' but you can't see that the sand/rubber footing is so worn unless you walk over and carefully examine it) until yesterday. He isn't lame or acting up, I just noticed he isn't as happy to keep his canter and he's always loved to canter. One big hint was that he pulled against my hands and cantered into a corner, where the footing is deep, and he hasn't done this since he first started cantering under saddle and hadn't really figured out how to turn. Sooooooo ... I won't be riding until the ring is raked. I may do it by hand. There isn't the cushion needed and also without the proper footing it could be slippery for a canter. Come to think of it it wouldn't be good for the base either.
I finished my afternoon at the barn with some clicker training with Rogo. This is all new to him, so we worked on him looking away for a treat. He turns his head so far back he almost touches his side, so I'm thinking I'll make sure he learns to do both sides, and then he can do bending exercises all on his own! :)