I did one ride after that last post where I attempted the Tough Love attack. I got after him with Mr Tappy when he pulled his shit, and Mr Tappy was relentless in his corrections. That did...nothing. Bobby wasn't any worse for it--he didn't freak out even more because he was getting spanked--but he didn't take the lesson to heart. He didn't acknowledge it at all.
So I scrapped dressage rides. He wasn't acting up during jump schools (another vote for the lack of work ethic there as jump schools are fun work), so that's what we did ride after ride. Recap on those rides, and more recent ones, will come tomorrow, but first I want to write about the dressage work we've done the past few rides.
It's been sane, and lovely, and totally without dramatics.
The first dressage ride back I did on him simply because I ran into BM teaching make up lessons over the holidays and didn't want to interrupt. I'd trotted Bobby around in the indoor quickly while Hubby was dragging the outdoor for me, and he grabbed some video before we headed out there.
strange formatting due to my wonderful, wonderful phone.
He was quiet and calm during the brief time we were inside, but that wasn't much of a break through. In the rides where he was being a nutter, he started off fine, but once asked to continue working, that was when he'd have his melt down. The big test then was to see how he would take to having to restart his work after moving from the indoor to the outdoor and having a break between the two.
The footing was a little slimy, so we never made it to the canter, but we did quite a bit of trot work, including firing off a few lengthenings which were sure to rile him up in those earlier rides in December. He remained cool in his work, and we finished with absolutely no theatrics.
I was--and am--still firmly set into doing more jump rides than flat rides, but somehow we ended up doing two more flat rides in a row before getting back to over fence work. For both of those rides, he continued to go to work and not make a fuss.
I've come to the conclusion that my posting throws him a bit off balance, and honestly I'm better at managing my ride when sitting the trot anyway. Trainer was a staunch believer in the sitting trot, and that's pretty much the only way we rode in her lessons, so that's what I've switched to doing the past several flat rides.
Also, because he does better right off the bat, and his meltdowns were coming after being asked to go back to work, I've made our flat rides short but intense. From the first step away from the mounting block, he needs to perform to the best of his abilities.
The walk needs to be long and forward. The trot needs to be uphill, collected, and forward. He needs to lengthen and shorten his stride at the touch of my legs or the slightest pressure from my seat. The canter transition needs to be quiet, the connection maintained, and the step easily adjustable.
And then we're done.
Sometimes I'll cool him out with some stretchy trot if I feel he's in the right sort of mood. When we do get to do this, he drags his nose along the ground, but only for a few strides at a time before he loses his balance and gets quick. That's strength work, and we'll build on it as the brain catches up.
He's no longer bucking or cross firing in the canter. He's not evading the contact, or trying to get out of the correct bend. The lateral work is uninspiring, but it's quiet. He takes a correction and moves on. If I need to push for more, I can do it, and he gives it.
I'm also heavily praising him for these rides. I stuff handfuls of candy or sugar cubes in my pockets, and he looks for his treat when he knows he's stepped up to the plate. Maybe he was feeling insecure before and he needs this sort of "Do your work well and get rewarded extra well" confidence boost. I don't know, but this new approach is working for now.
Going forward, I'm going start incorporating ground poles so we can work a little longer during each ride. I'm hoping these jump-like objects will keep his brain distracted from adding on more time to a flat ride. Of course, they also have the added bonus of stretching out or compressing his stride and making him focus on what his feet are doing. My barn also has stacks of cavaletti blocks, so I'm excited to use those, too.
We'll see how long this lasts, but for now, it's a good plan and it's working.