Saturday, March 3, 2012

The power of positive

I think I have learned more from Dinah this week than she has learned from me. Wednesday we had a good workout, it was raining so I went straight to the covered arena and hand walked her. When I was on her left she was fine, but when I moved over to the right side, she didn't want to go forward and kept wanting to back up. I worked her through it using voice commands and then quit for the day. The next day, I was hoping the issue would be resolved, but no such luck. It was again a rainy day, and Dinah was even worse about backing up when I was on her right. She did not improve, and was actually getting worse so I knew we were not communicating properly. I think part of the problem was the rain on the roof of the arena, it was loud an very distracting to her. After about 20 minutes of trying to get her to go forward I decided to take her back to the round pen, and work her there. The round pen is smaller and she is more comfortable in there. Once in the round pen I worked her both directions and she was fine. I put her away, and she seemed irritated during our grooming session. I thought about this workout a lot for the whole next day. I think I was trying to force Dinah to go forward, instead of stopping taking a minute to breath, and making going forward the better option for her. I always tell my students make it easy for them to do the right thing, and hard for them to do the wrong thing. I think I forgot my own advice when I was working with her this day, I kind of expected her to go forward instead of rewarding her when she did. I also think I threw a lot of new skills at Dinah, rain noise, different longe attachment, rider, long lining, in one week, without taking enough time to review. I learned that it is so important to review first to gain confidence, and then start a new skill. This is why warm up is so important! The next day I went in with a different plan that Darby helped me come up with. If she wanted to back up, calmly and slowly keep backing her up until she wanted to go forward, and then as soon as she went forward lots of praise. This worked really well! I walked her all around the barn and even walked through it once! She tried to back a few times, but my new method of correction worked really well. Instead of telling her what I didn't want her to do, I ignored the wrong behavior and praised the correct behavior. Today I was busy teaching so I just had a short time before and after work, so I groomed her and walked her around the property. She is getting really good about picking up her feet, lifting each one before I ask. She has also learned to wear a sheet, which I am going to start putting on her to help keep her coat nice. Hopefully I will get to sit on her again next week.

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