I had a really fun session with Ben tonight. Nothing earth shattering was done, but it was a nice, bonding experience. We're really getting to know one another.
Today I tacked him up with my bareback pad and western cinch. No reaction. Hmm...maybe it is the dressage girth that is bothering him after all. I have a fluffy sheepskin cover for it, so i'll try that and see if it remedies anything.
From there I "natural horsemanship"ified him. Haha, not really- but I did play with the carrot stick and string, mostly to see how desensitized he is, and if he has any gaping holes. My observations: when Ben is nervous about something, he wants to crowd and come closer to the human he's working with. He does not try to flee- he seeks protection from the herd. A little confidence building will go a long way with this guy.
Once I was done twirling ropes on orange sticks, I thought I'd start to teach him to stand at the mounting block. I am not a fan of mounting from the ground- especially in an english saddle. So I like to teach all my horses to stand at the block until I'm ready to get on and move off.
Ben wasn't particularly worried about this at all- he just had no idea what i was asking for. So we played with it for a bit. Lots of "Good boys" and pets. If he happened to move, I'd back him up a few steps, let him think about it, then bring him forward, and re-halt him at the block. That brings me to observation #2: Ben is a minimal effort kind of guy. LOL Basically-he follows the path of least resistance and wants to do the easiest thing out there. So asking him to do something tough, like backing up, translates well for him.
Standing > moving feet backwards
Once we were reliably standing at the block, I upped the ante and started petting him all over from up on the block, and ultimately hoisting my body over his back. That of course made him move, but the correction worked again, and not too long he just stood there at the block while tossed myself around like a ragdoll. Ok maybe not that dramatic, but I did flop on him a few times.
He loved all the praise. When I brought him back to his stall- he didn't even go back right away to eating- he was just watching me intently with a "are we gonna do something else now?" kind of look.
Our session energized me- I am jazzed to keep going with him! This weekend is going to be fun!