Well, what a difference a day makes! Yesterday morning I had the most AWFUL ride that I have had for quite some months! She was totally unfocussed and running through my hands – it felt vile :o( Maybe because of the hardwork she was a bit stiff – BUT – I had only intended on doing some long loose stuff after the last two days of engaged work. Also although I ‘thought’ I was looking forwards to working with her and had my head in the right place, because I was fretting a bit about my follow up smear after my op last year, in retrospect I think my energy must have been more jittery than normal. So this probably did have an effect although I didn’t think I was displaying any ‘bad vibes’ she obviously picked up on something – animals are such a good barometer for the ‘true’ emotions of people although we try and hide it well.
I cant remember what book it was in but this was termed as the ‘authentic self’ and how horses (and indeed animals in general) are so good at seeing straight through the bravado and acts of humans and respond directly to the ‘authentic self’ and that is why animals are great at sussing out people – even the real GOOD actors cant fool ‘em lol!!!
Anyway back to the session – although on reflection some of this behaviour was probably due to my ‘wired’ energy and some of it may be due to her being a bit stiff and finding it hard to engage as well therefore her evasion has always been to RUSH – I haven’t been happy about her poll area since the Chiro came :o(
As some of you are aware I have been practising ‘poll flexions’ for a while now to great effect (IMHO!) and although I know deep down that Antsje hasn’t released 100% to me, compared to when I first had her it’s a massive improvement. Im not sure WHY she is so protective over the poll area, but I know whenever she is stressed or on high alert immediately she adopts the high neck / fixed poll posture, regardless of being ridden or out in the field. It is a ‘friesian’ thing I think, well all horses raise the head I know but its very pronounced in this breed. So, as I was saying, since the Chiro treatment she has been very ‘fixed’ and ‘protective’ again over this area, noticeable when Im putting her headcollar on and off and also the bridle. When I have been trying to do the flexions she would flex to the left but I could barely get her to flex right – and when I did I then couldn’t get her to make the smooth move back to the left which makes the crest ‘flip’ over. Its as if she was stuck! I havent pushed the issue too much since the chiro as I haven’t wanted to interfere with anything and in honesty it doesn’t seem to have had a big effect on the riding after the initial few days where I got a bit panicky!!
So after I had ridden, I tried again with the flexions and I just could NOT get her to flex! In fact when I asked her to stretch her neck down just straight, it looked kinked **sigh** So I decided to do the thing that seemed to have unlocked the poll when I was experimenting which is to walk her round on a very small circle making sure her shoulders are moving AWAY from me and putting my hand on the top of her poll and just trying to flex the poll and release the neck down. She was really struggling to keep the ‘AWAY’ movement and kept walking into me, but I was quietly insistent and all of a sudden I felt something give and even heard a slight ‘crack’ and all of a sudden she started licking and chewing and released her neck down. I must admit I was little horrified in case Id done something AWFUL!! But I tried rocking her poll form side to side and although not smooth, she was able to flex each way so I left it at that.
Today I decided to do some work in hand just off the cavesson to incorporate some more of this flexing type of work and the ‘Lossyglossy’ (losgelassenheit) stuff on the lunge.
First off I just walked with her around the arena on a loose rein and each time she got all tense and high necked I encouraged her to relax her neck and clicked and treated when she did. She has a particular part of the arena where she can see the road and always likes a good GAWP but I worked on her keeping her attention on me with a relaxed low neck. Once she was consistent with this I stood in front of her and tried the poll flexions – and Lo and Behold, she was as soft as butter with her crest flipping from side to side! I clicked and treated so she understood this was the movement I wanted :o) Then I sent her on the lunge first in walk then in trot concentrating on a low relaxed neck and a swinging back – she was very good and on the whole kept nice and loose even as she passed the ‘gawpy’ spot ;o) I did have to whistle at her a few times to bring her focus back to me lol lol! Then I bought her in close and did the small circles with my hand on the top of her poll and there was very little resistance today and she was able to keep her shoulders mobile and moving away from me!
I sent her back out on the lunge and we did a little bit of canter trying to get the same kind of relaxation as we have in trot. She actually tried very hard! She knows she has to release her neck forwards, but balance I think is still an issue so she gets so far but cant quite release fully and is still a little tight through the back. I realise that some of the neck position is ‘posturing’ on her part for a click and treat hahaha! BUT it is serving a purpose because although not correct yet, this position WILL enable her to build the strength required to fully release the back and neck at some point.
So after a highly frustrating morning yesterday, today could not have been more different! I was so pleased with her efforts, and so relieved that her poll seems a lot looser and I haven’t broken her! In fact even when we had finished and she was standing tied up while I was putting her rug on she was doing lots of ‘yawning’ and chewing so I do think Ive managed to release some more tension again today :o)
I will be interested how this correlates into riding tomorrow as although not massively noticeable I do think she has been struggling with releasing fully into the right bend – made quite obvious by the reverse pirouette video where obviously she was leaning on the inside rein / shoulders and getting stuck. We’ll see!