SAFE’s volunteer riders and their horses spent last weekend working with Joel Conner. Here’s a report from Ann A about her session with King:
I worked with King in Sunday’s groundwork session. I had not worked with him before and really enjoyed getting to know this sweet, sensitive boy. He responded well when I kept everything calm, quite and slow. I started by working him in a half circle between myself and the wall. He was quite nervous at first and wanted to rush through. Joel had me work him without the flag and use only my leading hand to keep him from feeling too much pressure. He got progressively better with each pass but did not want to stand on my right side. He would spin around and try to rush immediately back through to my left side where he felt more comfortable. I had to bump him back to keep him from rushing through. When he could stand quietly on my right side I rubbed his forehead and had him pause for a moment before sending him back to the left. He was ultimately able to walk calmly from one side to the other pausing on each side and waiting for me to send him back the other way.
Following this we worked on the walking half circle exercise. Joel wanted us all to use a flag for this one. King is still fairly fearful of the flag but was able to do quite well after our work next to the arena wall. I was primarily working on my own coordination switching hands on the flag and lead rope. I used the flag very minimally to cue him without scaring him. King was a bit stressed and really wanted to scoot around to avoid the flag. He only got really scared a couple of times though. We did much better on our second pass down the arena. He could use a lot more work with the flag and this exercise in particular.
King is doing fairly well with backing from a hand on the halter knot. It did not take much to start him back although I had to encourage him to flex at the poll and get soft. I only backed five or six steps each time but he was stepping with his feet in diagonal pairs. When we tried backing a circle he would take a couple of reaching steps and them bog down and get stuck. He could use a lot more work at this.
King was a bit nervous leading along the wall. I gave him a bit more space and kept things calm and quiet. He handled it well and got good at keeping slack in the line and following a feel. I did not try trotting because I wanted him to stay calm and relaxed. He stayed focused on me and I only had to bump him back a few times when he was late backing. He was not as comfortable being led from the right side and will need more work on that. He tried to put me back on his left side a few times.
King is quite soft and light at bending his head to the left. He followed my feel and kept a float in the lead. When asking him to bend to the right he would bend his head about 45˚ and then start moving his feet. He took quite a few steps before he got his feet stopped. I had to use a bit more pressure to get a 90˚ bend. It took many tries before he was able to bend to the right without moving his feet but he did eventually get there.
All in all King is a nice horse to work with and has a lot of try. I was really pleased with the progress he made today.
More photos of Anne and King: