Ok, first things first. If you are picturing Ridley, on one side of the jousting lane, snorting and pawing, the woodchipper down on the other end, snorting some chips and revving its engine (do they have engines?), this is NOT what happened.
Yesterday was one of our sessions with Tom and we were planning on doing some more work with the tarp. As this is still a bit of a hot button issue for Ridley, we work in the indoor arena where there are nicely defined walls and closed doors and no wind.
My barn owners very kindly let me know that this was the only time they could get the rental and that they were really sorry about running the machine while we were riding. They didn’t have to be though! To some, this is an annoyance. To us (Tom and myself), this is a training opportunity! Ridley would beg to differ.. but hay, that’s his choice.
Since we were inside, the noise wasn’t too bad, but it was intermittent, which means he never really turned off the ‘high alert’ mode. Add in a couple tarps hanging off some standards (we weren’t going to make him jump them this time around) and lots of random mini obstacles to focus on, I ended up with the closest thing to ‘horse show’ mode at home.
Perfect! What better opportunity to practice for the super skittish and energetic horse that I don’t normally see (to that extent) until we are off property.
We worked on relaxation.. which didn’t come easily or fully, but we got glimpses of. We worked on using our surroundings to get the body shape we wanted (he will totally bend predictably around the scary objects) without having to force the shape. Getting Ridley to think things are his idea is part of the game. Finally, we worked on some small jumps, trying to set him up for landing the right lead, getting him to relax on the approach (or at least not charging the jump) and then working on getting him back without a fight.
While none of this came easy, quickly or completely, the framework needs to be laid down. The more Ridley thinks these things are his idea and perfectly normal, the more quickly it will come the next time. Tom and I chat a lot during our sessions, and we tend to be reading from the same book, so to speak.
I have the ability to force the issue with Ridley and make him do certain things, I call them my veto cards. It doesn’t lend for a happy horse though, and you only get so many. I generally describe it like dealing with an adolescent boy (sorry guys!), you need to finesse the situation such that they think its their idea and all will be right it their world.
I am happy to say that we did not spook at the woodchipper and even while he didn’t get entirely where I wanted him to be, he used his brain enough that he was still able to work and give me a good effort. He even tried to eat and attack the tarp. Feeling brave, he was.
It’s really hard work to be on high alert all of the time, but he finds the energy!
Ridley 1, Woodchipper 0