Tuesday morning was time for Fiona and Jazz to have their session with me. This week ground work, and I wanted to work with Fiona to get more feel from Jazz. The first part of this being asking Jazz to take responsibility for her own weight and balance, rather than searching for the end of the lunge line to lean on. Jazz does like to find the end of the line or hug the school fence to help her balance, allowing Fiona to hold her together or go at her pace rather than her going at the pace Fiona sets, sometimes leaving Fiona left behind and/or ending up in the ‘pulling war’. I’ve seen this in a number of horses, in a number of situations, all to varying degrees. The person gives a cue with the rein or reins/rope/leg etc, the horse either ignores the cue or matches the force of the pull in the opposite direction, the person adds a little more pressure, the horse matches and/or adds a little too, and the cycle continues as they each get stronger and neither of them are getting anywhere or learning through the experience. In Fiona’s case this was not a dramatic situation, given Fiona’s inclination to be soft and kind and having a soft energy about her, the pull from her was not great, Jazz’s responding pull/lean was only enough to render Fiona’s pressure somewhat redundant and ineffective. She had swung the balance of the relationship in these moments to 51% Jazz 49% Fiona. This is not to say that Jazz was being ‘naughty’ as she was only doing what she had inadvertently been taught to do, as we hadn’t addressed this yet. (In the beginning with Jazz it would have been inappropriate to remove this safety net, we needed to work on her understanding more of what we were asking before we could ask her to do so without the safety net of the line to balance on a little). I introduced in the session working on transitions, allowing Fiona to stay closer to Jazz where they are both more comfortable and the conversation between them is clearer. The focus in the transitions was not just to get a stop or go, but to consider the quality of the stop or go, and whether Jazz was leaning on the line at all to achieve it. At first when asking Jazz to walk on, Jazz would, after 3 or 4 polite requests move forward, but in rather a nonchalant, la di da, fashion, often falling in to Fiona’s space a little as she did so. The halt was then a mini leaning war before Jazz eventually decided to dribble to a stop. So I quickly went through with Fiona what was happening in a person to person scenario, and showed how she can use vibrations in the line, or putting the pressure on and off (softly!) so that Jazz no longer had the option to lean on her through the transitions, meaning she had to work out for herself how to balance her body for the request. The moments of pressure on, are Fiona’s request for something (in this case to slow down to a stop) and the moments with the pressure off is Jazz’s chance to respond (hopefully by stopping). This of course was new to them both so at first it took a few tries, but after that Jazz began to understand she was being asked something, and started to be more aware of the more subtle cue in Fiona’s energy which came before the pressure on the line. Although she still needed the physical cue of the line being lifted, she was then responding to it much more quickly and much more balanced. The walk on then also improved as Fiona didn’t try to drag Jazz along with her energy (not a physical drag with the rope), Fiona set up her thoughts for the plan, gave Jazz her energy cue, backed up by the body cue (which Jazz was now waiting for) and the quality of the walk on improved also. We progressed this up to the trot, and I showed Fiona how to manage the times where Jazz goes too quickly for her to keep up, and once again the transitions improved. We also added in then the idea of Fiona being a little further away, only a couple of feet at this point as they had both already had a lot to process, but to add in the next step for them to practice with over the next couple of weeks. This piece of the puzzle, although seemingly quite small, I feel is quite a big piece for these two in their journey. It really is taking away Jazz’s training wheels, now that Fiona has set her up in body and mind to be able to succeed. I am looking forward to seeing them in ridden work next week, to see how much of this has transferred for them both from groundwork to ridden work and the effect that it has on them both.