Last night I rode the TWH and did some trail exercises to prepare for the judged trail ride this weekend and I have to say I am impressed. I have always called him "Fluff for brains" because he tends to forget to think, I am starting to think brain cells are growing and are replacing the fluff!
I started by desensitizing him while on a lead line to a grocery bag, something that he had traumatized him long ago by simply existing. While he leaned back and thought about losing it, he kept his head together and eventually relaxed. I then repeated the exercise with a grain bag, once he realized it smelled nice he had absolutely no problems with it haha.
I saddled up and headed to the arena and did a quick warm up. The first obstacle I worked on was the one I figured would cause the most concern, walking over a tarp. Why did I think it would be an issue? Because he hadn't ever been asked to do it before. I pointed him to the tarp and...he walked over it. Without even looking at it, hesitating or even flicking an ear. I was impressed! I tried even going over at a trot and he didn't care, success!!!
The second obstacle was much easier, 4 poles in the shape of an L to walk and then back through. This was easy and required virtually no practice, neither did side passing over the L shape. He has that down. We then went to the third obstacle, a rope gate. This was pretty hard for him back in 2009 and it took a good bit of work to get him to understand the concept back then. It appears as though the work paid off because we opened, walked through and closed the "gate" without a single hiccup. Imagine me dancing in your head, arms flailing and looking like a dork, that is what I was doing at this point.
The fourth obstacle was also easy, take the rope for the gate and walk in a circle around the jump standard it was tied to. The goal is to make sure you can walk in a small circle with control, if the horse moves too far out then the rope will pull the standard over. Easy-peasy. The fifth obstacle was a bucket on a barrel, need to pick up the bucket and move around with it, simulating picking something up and moving it to another location. We went around the arena at both a walk and trot before putting it back. While he had a little problem keeping the speed consistent in the trot, he had no issues with the bucket.
The sixth obstacle was the only one he had an issue with. It was the grain sack on a jump standard, I was using it to simulate a rain coat. I picked it up and shook it all around. For about 5 seconds he stood still but could feel his tension mounting. Right about the time I felt he would explode I picked the reins back up and sure enough he scooted. I spun him around a few times until he stood still and repeated it exercise and he stood like a gem each time afterwards. Success!!
The last obstacle was the other one I thought we would have issues with, picking up the grocery bag and shaking it. He decided it wasn't worth the effort to burn those calories off and so he stood there like he didn't care. Yay!
I am so proud of the TWH and am really looking forward to tomorrow's ride. I am so much more confident that he will do well now that he put in such a great ride last night. Keep your fingers crossed, maybe the TWH has actually matured now that he is 9!