Sunday morning, I schooled Winston. He met me at the pasture gate and ducked his head into the halter. After a good grooming -- he was filthy after snoozing in the mud -- we walked out to the small arena. I've been working with him there instead of the dressage court because it has a fence around it, creating boundaries.
One of the neighbors behind us had a couple burn piles going. With the rain we had Saturday, the ground was damp and many people in our valley were burning their trash. Winston lifted his head high, sniffing the air and listening to the snapping, crackling flames.
I worked with him on the lunge line first. Hmmm. Winston is normally a pleasure to lunge. He knows the words "walk," "trot" and "canter." He is normally very prompt off of a spoken "aaaaaand trot." Somewhere in the past week he lost his vocabulary. I know Katy uses sounds (cluck to trot, kiss to canter) but it has never confused him. I tend to cluck and kiss when on his back so he knows both. I wondered why Winston had lost his bilingual skills.
After working on transitions to get his attention, and waiting for Winston's back to loosen up, I walked him over to the mounting block and climbed on. He had decided that the burn pile wasn't anything to worry about but he immediately started testing me. Hmmmmm, again. Not normal Winston behavior. We got to work and he pretty quickly got religion about working with me and not against me. We worked until he was focused and consistent; then we called it a day (I had trees to plant).
I wasn't thrilled with the changes in Winston's way of going; both on the lunge line and while I was riding. The only thing different this past week was J riding him. I could see that J's comments to me that she didn't know how to work him were accurate. He had lost his bearings a bit. Clearly, much as I really liked J, they were not a good fit. Winston was taking advantage of her. No wonder she was afraid.
I talked to Katy later in the afternoon. She had spoken with J and they both had reached the same conclusion. Katy said she had noticed the same things when she worked with Winston last Friday and that prompted her call to J.
We are moving on to Plan B. Katy will ride Winston one day during the week. I will school him on the weekends. Katy will come watch my lesson with Sandy Savage next week. That way, Katy will know what direction Sandy wants us to go and Winston will receive training from both Katy and I that is consistent. As the days get longer, I will try to ride in the evenings after work. We'll keep moving forward on this journey to strengthen our partnership and skills.