This morning Brett had his third, and final, session with Mark. While Brett was tacking up Mufasa, there was some commotion and Mufasa pulled back on the lead line. Brett released the quick-release knot and Mufasa settled down. At the start of his lesson, Brett asked how best to help Mufasa in a meltdown. Mark told Brett to act like nothing happened; to go about his business as usual. This boy, he said, needs confidence from you.
Then they got to work under saddle. Mark noted that Mufasa has questions about his job under saddle and this leads him into worry. Brett needs to always go back to the foundation/basics between he and Mufasa. He needs to get a positive response from Mufasa with pressure at less than one (on a ten point scale). Mark explained the Japanese concept of Maai, which means shared space. There is shared space between everyone and everything. Most of the time, things just go along but when things go bad, the person in charge of the space is important. Brett needs to be close to Mufasa at first by maintaining light contact with the reins. If the reins are too long, there is too much space, and Brett can't be there to help Mufasa. Brett needs to feel the point of meaningful resistance in Mufasa, the point at which Mufasa starts to do what is asked of him in a movement. The amount of resistance created is very small.
They started with work on the halt. This is how Mark explained how to teach Mufasa a soft, light halt.
Don't release in halt until he gives. Don't pull -- either of you.
Keep Mufasa's head straight. If his head is off by one degree, his hind will be off by three.
You need to give and soften in the stop; not push him into your hands.
Stop internally first; think about stopping; it isn't a physical change. (Mufasa hesitated, feeling for Brett). Eventually thought will be all he needs. Think about stop, then stop, and wait -- look for a stop with no brace, with softness.
Turn without the outside rein (Brett was trying to use inside leg to outside hand). Don't use your leg. You don't want to set up a brace.
Shorten the rein. Take contact and wait. Keep his head straight.
Getting the distance correct in the contact is key.
Don't let him do it for you. If you pull, he has to push. Hands low. Give him time to figure it out.
The backing work cleared up misunderstanding for Mufasa.
The initial brace is why he had trouble. He was waiting to be pulled back. Mufasa needs to work it out himself and do it. His feet were going backward before (when pulled into a back) but not his mind. It's like memorizing the answer of 1+1=2 without learning how to add. Mufasa needs to learn to add; to think; to feel better because he understands. By waiting for him to figure it out, without pressure, you are showing and not telling. You are doing this together. Help him by explaining what the heck we're doing. He's offering stuff (sideways) we don't need because it's how he got release before. Pick something on the fence as a target and use that to keep his head straight. If you look at the back of his head, you will go in circles.
Mufasa figured out that he needed to go backwards and took a few steps back. With a little more practice, Mufasa was floating backwards with 0.5 pressure from Brett. It was beautiful to watch and Brett couldn't believe how it felt (neither could Mufasa).
We want this same soft feeling in everything we do. He gains confidence because there is consistency in everything you do. If he doesn't understand, it feeds anxiety. You want him to wait for you, not have him take you. That's the leadership he needs.
Brett walked a very relaxed Mufasa around. Gather the reins, think about stopping, stop, wait for him to soften. When you get him home, stay consistent. Have the attitude, "How can I help you with this?" You have his best interest in mind. Stay in walk until you have reinforced the feel. If you have good feel, you don't need to back. He's a good guy with a lot going for him. Even with his issues (which will drop away), you bought a good horse.
Brett and Mufasa have a lot to practice before the next clinic with Mark. Because there is no doubt that the next time Mark comes to California, Brett and Mufasa will be there. We felt fortunate to have the opportunity to have Brett ride in the clinic with Mufasa. Many of the other riders came from too far away (Washington, Alberta Canada) to bring their own horses so had to rely on ones at the barn. One guy trailered his horse down from Oregon, a two day trip. We were only four hours away, closer than most of the other participants.
Mufasa was happy to get home tonight. He immediately rolled in the pasture and got caught up on the news from Flash. I can just hear Mufasa saying to Flash, "Guess what? Being with people is a good thing!"