"Respect is appropriate response to pressure." I heard Pat Parelli say this once, and the ring of its truth is undeniable. Whether working on the ground or in the saddle, a horse's appropriate response to pressure is essential to any activity. Brody definitely needs (re)education on this!
Maybe lack of cooperation is his passive-aggressive platform for establishing dominance, or maybe I haven't been consistent enough in establishing my expectations and requiring him to meet them. Whether Brody's ornery or confused, or some combination of the two, this basic element is the foundation of our work, and my focus this week.
I'd started off this season back at the beginning, with basic ground work exercises-- backing, circling, sidepasses. But at the root, Brody's inconsistent response to pressure (lack of respect) still needs to be addressed. Somehow, I received this week an e-mail from Equine.com of the May issue of Horselink Magazine. In it is an article and video by Clinton Andersen on teaching your horse to yield his forequarters. Don't you just love when the universe does that?
Today we got a break from the rain, and by the afternoon part of the pasture was dry enough for some slow, close groundwork. I read the article, watched the video, and headed out to the paddock. I looped the end of the 14 foot rope around Brody's neck a few times, leaving enough slack below the clip for me to hold it about 12" out. Following Mr Anderson's instructions, I then stood next to Brody, facing him with my navel on line with his eye. Holding my stick horizontally in two hands, I tapped the air four times towards Brody, then moved closer. When he moved his forequarters away from me, crossing his left (near) front leg over his right, I relaxed and rubbed his neck with the stick. We did that a few more times, and Brody began giving me the desired response after only two or three pushes on the air and taking two steps away before I relaxed and rubbed him.
As so often happens, Brody's other side was a different story. He turned away from the pressure, but didn't step away. First he tried to walk forward, but I yanked back on the clip a couple of times and backed him quickly for a few steps. I tapped the air again, and Body began pivoting away, but his front legs didn't move-- he was moving his hindquarters, not his forequarters. I positioned myself a little further back by his shoulder, and signaled again. Brody turned and mouthed the stick, pinning his ears and glaring at me. I moved in closer, still tapping. He took one step away, crossing his right front leg over his left. I immediately relaxed and rubbed his neck. Brody sighed and licked his lips. I smiled, knowing we were getting somewhere. The very first brick in our new solid foundation.