After our last show fiasco, I decided I'd take Mac out of dressage training for a little while. Really this doesn't mean too much except not having a weekly lesson - he lives at home, he's not ridden by anyone else but me, and he's not in a disciplined program. But I figured that we needed a change of focus to get through the naughtiness he exhibits when he gets scared or excited - he needs to learn how to control his emotions (with my help, of course).
After much searching and reference checking I found Susan Wirgler and took him over for an evaluation a couple weeks ago. She agreed that he does have holes in his training, although there were some things that he was good about and she said he's got a good brain and is a nice horse (she hasn't seen his studdish side yet!). She did some basic ground work with him - yielding shoulders, yielding haunches, working with a rope, just general foot work - and he responded well.
Since our first appointment, I took him back to the place of the first bucking incident where I came off. There was a dressage clinic going on that I audited and I brought him along for the ride. He was pretty good - I rode him twice on Friday for 30 minutes each time and once on Saturday. He (of course) fell in love with a Haflinger mare who (of course) was his neighbor. On Saturday when we were riding, she was also out - he was making googly eyes at her so I took the opportunity to school and work on getting his attention. Once his focus turned to me I got off. We hung out in the same general area as her, but when he started vocalizing a bit, I took him away and walked him around the property. It was a good schooling session.
Today I took him back to Susan's and we did more work in the round pen but this time she got on him and I got on him after her. She started with a lunge whip with a baggie on the end, but she didn't chase him with it. She just stood in the middle of the circle and moved it around. He was pretty agitated at first - uneven in his gait, tense, head high, going back and forth between trot and canter.
Once he settled down, his body softened and he became more relaxed.
After going both ways, he got to stand there and relax.
The next exercise was for him to stand there while Susan swung the whip around and draped it over his neck and head - here he's alert and a bit curious, but he stood well for the whole time.
After this exercise she bridled him up and she got on . . . and commented that he has a great walk! She did some walk, trot, canter exercises in both directions - mainly working on forward - and then I got on.
Wow! He felt so soft and supple! It really was amazing and I was so happy to feel the change in his body. I think this training will be really good for him and it is obviously something he missed early on and something I'm not skilled enough to do on my own. I'm looking forward to learning some new skills!
Now he's home and we'll have another lesson in a couple weeks. In the meantime, I'll continue to take him to new and different places and see how we can work through it together.