I rode Top yesterday. Got him out of his pen, he seemed pretty quiet. Once we were to my tack area he was starting to build. I'd purchased a bag of peppermint horse treats earlier in the day.
I tied him up and started to brush him. He was fidgety. I went over and opened the bag of treats and stuffed some in my front pocket. When he started to fidget again I said his name and pet him. When he looked at me with any kind of focus I gave him a treat. Oh my goodness. We can stand quiet to get tacked up.
I led him down to the arena. He hesitated going in. I stopped, pet him and told him to quit being such a chicken and turned and walked into the arena...he followed. As soon as we got into the arena he noticed the BMX racers on the track flying through the air across the field. Now he is on hyper alert. Very tall, very rigid and staring hard at the BMX-ers. Great, Top has left the building.
I pull his head toward me. Brief eye contact and his head springs back up and over toward the BMX track. I pull a treat out of my pocket. No response. He is locked on to the track. I say his name, and pull his head toward me again...he is resisting looking toward me. I wave the treat under his nose. He follows the treat toward me and stretching down. I made him wait a moment quiet and then gave him the treat. OMG....he is cured. I have focus on me. (okay, I know, I have focus on the treats in my possession).
I hook the lunge line to his bit and start lunging him. Now, Top very often goes on 'auto-pilot' when lunging. He checks out, and just goes through the motions of lunging. When you say, "Whoa" you often get no response. You have to go bigger, and step forward, pull on the lunge and say it more firmly with a tug, then he trundles to a halt and looks at you vaguely.
He's trotting along on the lunge. I keep redirecting his nose to the inside of the circle. He is not present. I ask him to halt. No response. So, I make him halt. I drop the line and the whip, walk toward him telling him he's a good boy, and give him a treat. I walk back to my whip and the end of the line and ask him to go again. Have him trotting along and ask him to whoa. He keeps trucking along. I ask again, give a little wiggle to the line and he halts. I walk back out to him, telling him what a good boy he is and pet him, and give him a treat. We start again. He's trotting along, keeping his nose more in the arena than gazing out. I say, "Whoa." Top my have a future as the worlds largest reiner. He buried his butt and halted. I walked out, and gave him treat.
We made a couple more circles both directions and I led him over to the fence to get on. I get on, and my stirrups are way too short. (HMMM...interesting). So I have a student stand in front of him while I adjust them. (Oh yeah, he'll leave...in a heartbeat). I get adjusted. Stand up to see if I'm where I want to be, grab a treat out of my pocket. I pull his head to the left and hand him a treat. I ask him to move and he walks off quiet, no tension in his back. Seriously, none. He's never been this soft, even at Carrie's. So we walk around, trot around doing random patterns, he's actually hearing just my seat and legs, my hands don't even move and we are doing figure eights, leg yields. He is on. He got a little tense when another horse showed up. I halted, stood in my stirrups grabbed a treat out of my pocket. He lifts his head and nickers at me. Good lord. He is on this new program quick.
To my watching student I say, "Man, he caught on to this really quickly." She says, "We're talking about Top here. He didn't learn it quick, this has been done before." Uhm, yeah. Probably. I'll bet she's right. It would explain his inability to stand at the halt when I first started riding. He was looking for his treat. Who knows for sure. I'll just have to mix it up, so it isn't automatic. Can you see him in a dressage test...'halt at X'...and his head pops up and he nickers for his treat? How many points would that cost? lol
So, while I have issues with this method it is working. I will do it for awhile, or sporadically. I don't want it to become 'Pavlov's Dog'. This is a leg up for him...not the fix for his issue. It is a step in the right direction for sure.
Thank you Kestrel.
And yes I know, I'm collapsing my right side in the picture. (CRAP, I hate when I ride poorly).