What was months away is now just three days from today! My first ACTHA ride is this Saturday, and I am pumped! I had a great training session with Rocky on this last Sunday morning, and it feels like he has his brains back after getting a two and a half month vacation this winter.
He walked out of the pasture with his head level, calm eyes and a can-do attitude. We have been working on turns on the forehand and the haunches, and he has been doing much better lately. When I would ask for a turn on the forehand in the past, he wasn't rotating around one front foot very well. I discovered that if I tip his nose in, the movement clicks for him and he rotates like a champ!
The next challenge was getting him to turn on the forehand with his front legs in a square of logs. Rocky was confused, and kept trying to walk over the poles rather than follow the movement I was trying to achieve. I went back to ground work and helped him figure it out there by making him back up every time he tried to go forward. I also rewarded him and stopped him for each correct step, working our way up to rotating 180 degrees around the square. Then I got on him and did it again. After about 20 minutes I could rotate his hind end, ask for a side step on the forehand, then rotate his hind end again going both directions.
It also helps Rocky to get a break from doing exercises that are new and he has to think about a lot. Once he understands a concept, I am learning to do a less intense lesson like transition work to give him some time to process. After giving him some time away from the new lesson, I'll go back to it and make sure it sticks. So far this has worked really well for me and he seems to be retaining the information without becoming frustrated by too much repetition.
I think we have a decent chance of doing well this weekend, fingers crossed!