Ria- Update 7
Ria and I have continued to do a lot of groundwork over the last month, interspersed with a few rides here and there. We’ve continued to do a lot of liberty work, which she and I are both enjoying a great deal. It seems to really be helping her with her focus and anxiety so far. At this point in time, she will happily follow me around at liberty when I ask and match steps with me. She understands how to back up, stay, and come to me on request. She is also now very good with the “touch” command (where I indicate a particular object and she touches it with her nose), which I’ve been using to help redirect her attention when she’s anxious. I’ve been using a lot of positive reinforcement training with this, sometimes with healthy, sugar-free treats, and sometimes with just a lot of praise. We still have a way to go under saddle in terms of getting Ria to relax consistently, but I’ve been working on developing a relaxation “reset” button for her with some bending exercises.
A new disposition?
In addition to our training, I started Ria on a new calming supplement a couple of weeks ago, which the jury is still out on. Before starting her on it, she would become wildly anxious if another horse whinnied nearby, to the point where she couldn’t concentrate on anything else and even reared up on me a few times on the ground. For the first week or two of giving her the supplement, it seemed as though her anxiety was greatly improved. After a few more weeks on it though, I’m not so sure. Last night and today for the farrier she was a bit of a nutcase, so I may have to keep experimenting to see what works for her.
A new barn
We found out in mid-March that our barn would be discontinuing boarding services at the end of April in order to focus exclusively on therapeutic riding, so I’ve been actively searching for a good replacement situation over the past several weeks. I have a good back-up option at the moment for her, but our ideal farm doesn’t have a stall open yet. The owner of that farm is hoping to have one open in June, but in the meantime I’m looking for a temporary place to keep Ria. I have two more farms to check out this upcoming weekend, which I have high hopes for. Both have round pens, which I think would be excellent for working with Ria in. They also have huge grassy paddocks that I know Ria will absolutely love.
A few new techniques
At the end of March, I audited a groundwork clinic in Maryland with a friend of mine. The trainer, named Ponti Kriti, has a lot of excellent friends and mentors who I really admire for their horsemanship and approach to training, including Warwick Schiller, Sharon Wilsie, Elsa Sinclair, Ross Jacobs, and Patrick King. Already I have started to incorporate the mindset and techniques I learned in this clinic, such as giving Ria a choice as to when to start working (which Ria has really responded to). I actually have a groundwork lesson scheduled with her for this weekend so she can work with me and Ria.
Submitted by Lauren Floyd, WVS club member