Sunday, April 13, 2014
Survivor Sessions: Right Brain Extrovert and the Dark Side of the Arena
In this session I was working with Johnny, my right brain extrovert (RBE). On his good days we have few issues with spooking, but this particular day there was a very loud wind and hail storm outside and he was not impressed with the far side of the arena. So I decided to get some of his sillies out and then work on being brave in all parts of the arena. Of course, I chose to let him move at liberty. And for a right brain extrovert sometimes this doesn't work to the best of your advantage, as they often seek to have their hand held in times of scary. But I've found with Johnny that if I let him "run away" for the first few times, and then have to trudge back to me; he puts it together really fast that running away is way more work than being brave and standing still with me in the scary part of the arena. Thus allowing him to create his own values behind his need for mental control and discipline.
You'll notice that I let him have his run around, but then ask him to stay in the far end with me. And that's when we get to work; with a RBE it's all about focusing in on something other than what is scary! One of the two most important moves we repeat over and over; are backing up and disengaging the hind end. I am specifically asking him to put his bum to what is scary and back into it, so he has to think about the sounds being scary not just what looks scary. It also forces him to find some mental control for something scary behind him; a horse's natural instinct is to run from anything threatening, especially is it's behind them or they can't see it. Evolution made them this way, so we need to be patient when we're training it out of them! Also, disengaging his hind end to make sure he can trust me enough to cross those hind legs over and put himself in a vulnerable position. By repeating these over and over; you'll see how much more calm he gets as he starts to realize that he doesn't need to be in flight mode. I then start to ask him to walk closer and closer to the farthest part of the arena, in this way I can see where his fear threshold is and work from there. I never push him past his threshold until he is ready. I also take time to show him that I can be safe in that far side of the arena, and if he trusts to follow me around, then he can trust to come over there with me too.
By the end he is totally relaxed and walks all the way to the far side wall to me for a breather, and even cocks a leg to relax. To end the session I had him follow me away from the scary side of the arena as we "ran away" together, but then we also embraced the idea of running to the scary side as well. Making sure we're even on all fronts.
From here I can feel confident that when I hop on to ride, we'll be schooling safely and effectively so I don't create any negative moments in the saddle. I always like to make sure we fix any mishaps on the ground, before we get in the saddle. It's much easier to take back a mistake on the ground and recreate a positive moment there, than it is to cover up a mistake in the saddle.
I've always found I work best with RBEs, Johnny and I specifically mesh very well. I love taking the time to become a leader that he can be confident in. And taking the time to play with him on the ground continually reaffirms my position as a strong leader that he can work with and for, without having to worry about being a highly reactive flight animal.
Keep on keepin' on!