Rosie suggested that I set up a cone circle track like Jive Pony use at shows, so that the horse will stay inside it at liberty and I can practise vaulting on my own.
I set it up yesterday with driving cones, short lengths of bamboo and white tape and it's working really well.
I took Bella in there first, at liberty, and got her to walk, trot and canter around in time with me but slightly further in front of me than for our usual liberty work, with me holding onto imaginary vaulting roller handles, so she'll be in the right position to able to pull me on board. She very quickly worked out exactly where she needs to be to get clicked and was trotting and cantering powerfully and enthusiastically beside me, after waiting for my lead to set the pace. I found out that I heavily favour the right canter lead myself and will have to work on the left lead!!!!
Kate was next, again at liberty, and she was very spooky so I just slowly and methodically chose my own pace and stuck to it, and clicked her when she was where I wanted her to be. She began by stopping and staring at things then trotting to catch me up, or spooking and zooming off then coming back to join me and I let nothing she did change what I did, she just had to fall in with me if she wanted to get clicked and treated. This very simple job with no pressure or penalty for getting it wrong and praise and treats for getting it right is just what she needs after so much pressure from her previous owner. She understood the job in hand very quickly and was totally chilled out and relaxed in a short space of time. She hated going into the school with her previous owner but I had a job getting her to leave it yesterday!
Jack has had very little work for a while now and was full of the joys, cantering around bucking repeatedly and really enjoying himself. I stayed in the middle circle out of the way until he had sobered up a bit then did the same as with Bella, plus a little Spanish Walk and started to teach him to bow. He settled really well and gave me his full attention by the end of the session.
With Grace I just worked on running with her and keeping her well up in front of me, and on getting her to keep going when I run towards her. I noticed in the videos how much more cadence her trot has than it used to have and timed my clicks to try to encourage that as well.
I really like the cone circle. All of them were happy to stay inside it and if they got a bit fresh I could step into the middle circle out of the way. This is particularly useful with Jack as he can't see me properly on his bad eye side and does cannon into me occasionally when he's not concentrating on me. I hate to react to that or for him to see me flinch at all as I never want him to think that I'm nervous of anything when he has to trust me to make up for his partial sight in one eye, and it can be hard not to when you have nearly 600kgs of horse veering your way!!!
It also allows me to give Kate all the freedom she needs to make her own choices and decide that she wants to work with me, which is exactly what she is consistently choosing to do already.
I'm going to try Crystal in there tomorrow. She can still be a bit sticky at times to keep going forward so I want to work on enthusiastic forward movement through choice rather than as a result of pressure with her.
At this rate I'll have so many vaulting ponies I'll be spoilt for choice!!!!!!!!!!!!
This is my new blog to continue my journey with my Dales Ponies. It will also be the story of my building a new life for myself, alone now, except for my friends, horses and dogs, since my partner died in March 2009. We had lived and worked together, mostly twenty four hours a day, for nearly 28 years and I have never lived alone before. It is a tribute to my wonderful friends that I am still here, still sane(ish) and ready to re-invent myself. I love them all more than words can ever say and can never thank them enough for all they have done and are still doing. It is also a tribute to Alexandra Kurland and 'The Click That Teaches' that I know how to save myself now. To new beginnings.......