It's working! The groundwork session last evening with T.S. was just incredible for me!
I was ready and waiting to get to work as soon as T.S. arrived. He was pleasantly surprised to see I had bought my own training gear while he was away. And he liked the tools that I bought. I will give a shout to E and M Natural Horse training supplies, who make good quality training tools at a very budget friendly price.
We went into the polo arena to work. I had told him I've been kind of keeping to the smaller arena behind the barn and he was expecting me to want to go there to work but I told him, no. I want to train in the polo arena while he was here to work with us. Then If I encountered any problems, I had him to coach me through it. T.S. liked that. Hey, I figure if I'm paying for the training, let's challenge ourselves and then when he's not here the rest should come easier.
T.S. also told me this time he was going to watch me work with Rugby and refine my cues. He was transferring the training tools from himself to me. And I agreed, that's exactly what I wanted to do this time, have him watch what I've been doing on my own the past month and let me know if I've maintained or backslid.
Long story short - I maintained everything and even perfected the cues and communication for the "quieter" exercises such as the backing on the line, desensitizing and the flexion work. I have noticed in the last 2 weeks, it has been like it has just "clicked" in Rugby's mind with me. He and I are connecting better than before. There's a level of trust that is blossoming here and I am working like mad to keep it building. I've even noticed my horse likes when you cheer him on verbally. When he's trying and getting it, if you praise him gently in a "happy voice" he will arch his neck and his eyes become "soft". He then gives you even more. T.S. loved that and told me to keep using that discovery to bring the connection closer.
When we moved into the lunging, it started out well. We've got the whole disengage the hindquarters and shoulders, change direction communication down. Then T.S. challenged us and told me to start working all of the arena. It got a bit rowdy when Rugby decided he didn't like the polo goal at the far end of the arena. He was trying to avoid going there and I wound up sand skiing on some of his circles on the lunge line (note to self: Draft horses on the lunge can be like holding onto Superman's cape!) But T.S. kept urging me and encouraging us and we worked Rugby past it until he approached the goal and I released the pressure and allowed him to stop and rest there. And he did! (and boy was I tired, too!) Then we did some gentler work to ask him to move away and approach the corners and goal at that end of the arena.
And it was amazing to me when Rugby followed my cues and approached the objects as I asked, with no avoidance and complete respect. Then T.S. explained something that clicked with me, He said, "You realize that now you are communicating with him from 22 feet away, and he's waiting, listening and focused on your direction. Imagine now how that kind of connection will translate under saddle". I can and I am so excited!!
T.S. complimented me. He explained that part of his training is to watch my body language as I work with the horse and my experience has served me well. He said he liked that when Rugby got rough, I instinctively brought all my energy inward, even bringing the line end behind my thigh with my free hand while continuing to hold with my other hand and "sitting" on the line to act as an anchor until the horse settled. He said you'd be surprised how many people don't figure how to do that and can get their shoulder dislocated or pulled off their feet.
Our assignment now is to continue doing what we are doing, but now Rugby has to wear his tack as we do the groundwork. In 2 weeks, T.S. will come back and we are getting back to riding. He feels we are ready! I know I am! Bring it!