I know I brag too much about Rogo's sweet personality, but guess what? He has a flaw. Yes, it's true, unbelievable as it sounds, there's one bad thing he does. He runs away on the lunge line when he doesn't want to work. He has since the first time he was lunged. I've never been strong or skilled enough to hold him when he was really determined to get away, and thus he's learned he can do it. Trust me, I've worked hard to bring it too an end. I've gone months with no incidents, always to have him slip back when I thought it was safe. I'm sure I don't need to tell you this is a dangerous habit - horses aren't equipped to make decisions about where to go in our world.
I've never ended a session because he ran away - he always has to go back to work. Also, although you'd think that this would lead to big time bad manners across the board, it doesn't - he's kind, soft and safe to be around in every other way so I guess I let it slide for too long.
The two main things I've done to hold him on the lunge when he's really determined to get away are:
- thread the lunge line through a girth strap and up to the bit, so that if he tries to run he'll pull his head around (this would require side reins so the bit couldn't pull through, or putting the lunge through the nose band and bit and fastening it back on itself), and
- thread the lunge line in one bit ring, around the poll, and fasten it to the other bit ring, so that if he tries to run he'll put pressure on the bit and poll
If I do this, he learns not to try to run, but eventually when I stop using these stronger methods he goes back to running, especially if I push him at all. I wonder if anyone else has had this problem and if so, how they've fixed it?
Anyway, a couple of days ago he ran twice in a row and I just had it. It's very dangerous to him/others and at best he isn't willing to work at all when he does this. So I put side reins on to keep him from getting his head turned out (a prerequisite to running off) and put the lunge line through his bit, around his poll and into the bit on the other side. Then I worked his ass off. I insisted on instant and complete obedience - walk, trot, canter, trot, woah, trot, etc., etc. and step smartly when you do it and do it NOW. He was very taken aback. He's never been pushed that hard or had me demand instant and complete obedience.He tried to run several times, couldn't do it, and then did the best work he's ever done on the lunge - beautifully round, hind quarters engaged, gorgeous gaits.
I won't say I'm happy about it. Being demanding with him doesn't come naturally to me (maybe with others, but not with him lol). And I'll also quickly add that I don't believe that being tough and demanding all the time with him is the best approach. He's a confident boy which has it's advantages and I don't want to 'break' him as such (even writing that makes me cringe), but we need to come to an understanding that he doesn't defy me by running away whenever he feels like it. I'll have to find the right balance and it's going to have to be stricter than it has been.
I'm sure it's no coincidence that our ride the next day was amazing. Big beautiful gaits and responsiveness to aids - love it. So there's my confession - I was tough with my baby and although it didn't feel great I still think I did the right thing.Today I rode Level One test 1 for the first time and he went through it without a hitch, although it needs polish (going into the corners more, more pronounced lengthenings). Doug took some pictures and much to my dismay Rogo's nose is still stuck out - yuk. I desperately need a teacher to keep me on track. Doug helped me and will help me again tomorrow. If it isn't too awful I'll post a video for future reference :)