Yes, Ike is a four-year-old, but he is just now working his way through the terrible twos. The Mayo Clinic website notes that human two-year-old toddler development is characterized “by mood changes, temper tantrums, and a familiarity with the word no.” Hmm, this behavior sounds very familiar except that my toddler weighs close to 1200 pounds and can knock me off my feet with a push of his oversized head.
Under saddle the terrible twos are evident with Ike ignoring my half halts or bracing into the contact followed by a quick head flick to try to jerk the reins from my hands. He also has started to bolt as I’ve mentioned before and will not slow down until he is good and ready. I’m having to think on the fly and come up with suitable punishment. Putting him in a time out in the corner of the arena just doesn’t seem feasible. When the naughtiness rears its ugly head, Ike is subjected to one-rein flexes or repetitive walk-halt transitions.
Half halts were the focus of our lesson today. The take away? I need to work on my timing and be more black and white in my request until the lesson sinks in with Ike. He likes to put on the cruise control and truck on while I’m squeezing/releasing/breathing hard from all the exertion. Ms. C was calling out when I was to be executing my half halt. Phew! My arms were burning, and I’ve got a blister on my hand where my wedding ring and my rubber reins rubbed. I’d say that Ike heard and responded to about 60% of the half halts today. At least I can finally do more and more sit trot since that is when I achieve the best response. The rest of the time I’m pretty sure he said, “la, la, la, I can’t hear you!”
Ms. C also had us work on some shoulder in which also tested my ability to time my half halts while also achieving the appropriate angle. It is a shame that we just can’t track to the left all the time…yes, that is the easy side. But Ms. C knows our weaknesses too well so we spent the majority of this portion of the lesson tracking right. Ugh, that dominant right shoulder did battle with my body today. Too much bend in the neck, hindquarters falling in and falling out, the left shoulder unable to move because Ike’s right shoulder said no. We could get about 5-6 steps and that was it. Guess that is better than not getting any at all. It is going to be a while before we are ready for Second Level!
Canter is also coming along. Ms. C told me the secret to improving Ike’s canter……can you guess?…..I know you will be shocked by the answer……….yes, it is the half halt. Felt like I used my entire body with each stride and by the aches in my muscles tonight, I’d say that I did use ever fiber of my being. Going to do it all again tomorrow if I can creep out of bed in the morning.