Izzy and I continue playing western pony. Due to a combination of life and weather conditions, she's not getting out nearly as much as she would like to. (Seriously. She had 3 days off last week.)
Thus, when I got her out yesterday, she was "fizzy", as Jimmy Wofford would say. I tried my best. I let her run and buck in the indoor for a bit, then put her in a snowy turnout for about half an hour to let her wander and graze. Still, she was fidgety tacking up, and even spooked once while crosstied, which never happens.
I was not in the mood to ride the wired pony. Fortunately, I am a resourceful person who has a lunge line and a pony in need of a ground work tuneup. First, we worked on just standing and relaxing in one corner of the indoor that Izzy has decided is scary. Then, we did some basic lunging, walk/trot/canter both ways to get her settled.
The issue I wanted to address was this: Izzy has become very lax in her responses to me. I -had- to carry a lunge whip to lunge her, because she totally ignored me without it. I -had- to carry a dressage whip to ride her, because she wouldn't go forward without it. At all. So, instead of allowing her to further deaden to my aids, I decided that we would work on getting more with less. When she didn't respond to my verbal command (which she does understand), I would jump at her or throw the lunge line. I didn't particularly care if she cantered--I wanted her to actually REACT when I told her to do something. As soon as she responded, I backed off and told her she was a good girl, which she likes. We do need some help with whoa. It's the last frontier we're struggling with (ideas?).
Next, we did a bit of leading/responding work. I want her to move away from me without me having to physically push her. She thinks it's easier if I just lean into her and force her over. Lesson learned: the end of a split reins make a fabulous popper. She learned to pivot in a couple minutes. I wasn't worried about her form; again, I just wanted a reaction. I wanted to walk toward her shoulder and have her yield. At first, she got a little panicky/over reactive and tried to run backwards, but I would keep pushing until she gave her shoulder, then immediately reward her.
Our problems originate with me letting this stuff slide--I would ask for canter on the lunge, but not correct her when she made an unasked transition to trot.
Finally, we did the hardest part. Backing. She didn't think she needed to, and especially not if I wasn't physically touching her. We had several discussions about that in which she backed the while length of the arena. As soon as she dropped her head and focused on backing instead of resisting, I stopped and rewarded her. By the end of the session, she was backing several steps nicely and calmly without me having to get after her.
I finished up by hopping on for about 3 minutes and doing a few walk/jog serpentines to end the session on a positive note. I also have some super cute pictures of Izzy all tacked up, but I forgot to get them off my camera. Tomorrow, I guess.