Two circumstances have coincided:
1. The pedestals and teeter-totter are in the small roundish pen attached to the lower barn because the final touches are being applied to the new indoor arena footing.
2. Pax’s family is in England and I promised to play with this eight-year-old Canadian gelding while they’re gone.
So…every morning I take Pax to the roundish pen. The area is about 20 metres in diameter and this is a blessing! I’m so used to working in the arena where there’s plenty of room for a horse to leave when he’s not interested in participating. The roundish pen is small and there’s no place for the horse to go. He’s stuck there with me! Pax has always been a strong supporter of the saying I heard forty years ago in Tennessee: “Don’t stand when you can sit; don’t sit when you can lie down.” This probably translates in horse language to: “Don’t canter when you can trot; don’t trot when you can walk; don’t walk when you can stand STILL.” Pax has the “stand still” down pat!
However!!!!! In the roundish pen I’m able to reach him in one or two strides so he’s not doing much standing!!!!
The result? He’s actually looking quite perky. He trots off the split-second I ask him to go forward and often offers a canter stride or two.
With all this enthusiasm coming from Pax I decided to revisit his piaffe in-hand.
Two years ago I introduced him to Albert Ostermaier’s teaching method for the piaffe. Pax understands to lift one hind leg when asked. He also will lift the hind leg on the far side. BUT he hasn’t quite made the “leap” to a rhythmic, alternate lifting of the hind feet.
There’s been about an 18 month hiatus in my working on his piaffe. I restarted him during this mini-training camp. After watching his half-hearted efforts for two days I did some serious thinking. Sure…he’s a LARGE-boned horse. Sure…it’s probably tiring to pick up those big hooves. BUT I’ve seen this critter leap for joy in the paddock so there is some energy inside this Canadian. Obviously, I was missing something. I went through the mental images of Albert working with horse after horse that I had stored in my brain. That’s when I remembered the initial stages where he had the horse raise one hind leg quite high and hold it up. Perhaps THAT was the missing link. Surely after holding a leg in the air (a very heavy leg) Pax just might prefer picking each hoof up, alternately, with a nice rhythm.
I’m heading out to the horses now. Today is my second day of “piaffe training 101”. I’ve got my clicker. I’ve got horse treats, AND I’ve fortified myself with TONS of patience…