30 Days to Poplar Place: a wrench in our training plans

If it’s extra energy I wanted, it’s extra energy I got today. Johnny had yesterday off since I got my hip injected (more on that in the next post). All the added calories have been great for our rides, but it appears that he needs an energy outlet even on his rest days.
It didn’t help that I chose today to strap on the spurs for a little lateral refresher training. In all fairness, he didn’t give me any sort of warning that he was feeling ‘hot.’ But, as soon as he felt steel touch his sides, he went into ‘trapped’ mode. Even though I kept my hands very soft and the contact very light (or even none at all), the confines of the arena and no place to run (so to speak) resulted in a very tense, tight-backed ride. I ended up removing the spurs AND dropping my whip. It got so bad that he actually bucked–a real, ‘I’m-trying-to-toss-your-butt’ buck. Not long ago, I would have whipped his little hiney and worked him into the ground for that, but I’ve come to realize that particular approach does not fare well for the OTTB brain. Instead, I gave in and compromised–asking only for rhythm and relaxation. It took awhile to get the relaxation (which I believe must come before rhythm), but after endless circling, figure 8s, and spirals-in/out, he finally relaxed enough for me to take up some contact and begin work. Of course, by that time, he was physically, emotionally, and mentally drained, but I managed to at least end on a good note. And, then, we went back and did some whip desensitization and sensitization. I desensitized him to gentle touches and strokes on his hindquarters and upper legs by leaving the whip on his quarters until he relaxed and tolerated it (on both sides). I then sensitized his sides and legs by lightly tapping and clucking and insisting on quiet movement–not dashing away.
Hopefully his back won’t be too sore tomorrow, as we’re going to go back to work on our show jumping one last time before this weekend. It’s too late to fix anything, but I want another session to be sure I have his attention before we go out.

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