About a hundred years ago, possibly longer, I went off to a weekend festival. On the way to Reading I crashed my car into the back of another one and rendered it undrive-able. Never mind, Richard, the guy whose house I was borrowing for a couple of nights said that it was okay, I could borrow his - a perky little red convertible. He worked for the Ambulance Service at the time. When I arrived at the Festival the man on the gate said that the car was hot. "I know!", I replied with glee, "it's fabulous". What he actually mean, I realised later, was not that the car was hot in the sense of cool but that it was hot in the sense of it was badly overheating. Oblivious I drove away from the festival later only to end up broken down in the middle of a housing estate. A man from the AA came out and started to work on the car but something he did set off the car alarm so that it started to wail, "Weeee, weeee, weeee, weeee", quite loudly. "Can you switch that off he said?". "I'm not sure," I replied, and flicked a likely looking switch. This is the bit where you'll remember the bit about the Ambulance Service because straight away the car started to scream, "Nee-nah, nee-nah, nee-nah, weeee, weeee, nee-nah, nee-nah!!!". I don't think I have ever felt more mortified in my life.
Today was an interesting lesson not just in know you're switches but also just how adaptable horses can be to the different signals and cues that we employ to communicate with them. Dear Lou, a Quarter Horse, has been trained using Parelli techniques and her owner is well aware that she still doesn't know what all of her buttons do. Occasionally she will unwittingly press one and Lou will back up without any pressure on the reins and it was only today that she learned that you could ask Lou to walk on by taking an in breath. Here I am trying her out for myself which was very enjoyable.
Later I worked with Yeshe and Dawn. Dawn has little power in her legs and therefore needs to teach Yeshe to do move his body to different cues that she can reinforce with clickered treats. Today we working on lateral movements. Whilst his back end will move over to the cue "Over" coupled with a touch from a bauble on a stick, his front end just wanted to go into pressure when he felt the same cue. Instead we found that lifting the rein on the opposite side and gently neck reining him had the desired effect.
I can't speak highly enough of this young pony and the special relationship he has formed with Dawn. He is sensible beyond his years and naturally benevolent. Dawn got on him for the very first time today and was positively beaming. She also drives him and can lead him form her wheelchair.
Email 22.7.13: Had rope over Yeshe's neck whilst putting Dually on him to do 5 minutes of waiting for softness and just ended up astonished. Actually I was stunned…...two light pulls on offside of neck to ask him to move closer and he crossed his front legs over, moved his shoulders towards me. He was grazing, with permission, in gated area so was distracted and even lifted his head slightly to look at me as if say 'is this what you want?'. Jackpot and double jackpot.Both sides the same and lightest touch I could create. Didn't bother doing any more - was so pleased." DS
Finally I worked with Clare and Nile working on using the most subtle cues to ask him to slow down and speed up. This involved a lot of breathing and counting; sometimes just thinking.
Like a girl in a shoe shop I couldn't resist trying them all for size today.