Brett was first up this morning again. He and Pistol started with a review of their turns on the forehand and turns on the haunches -- and they nailed it. So, they did a few side passes and nailed those as well.
Mark's approach to side pass is different, in an interesting and positive way. Basically, Brett alternated the aids for turns on the forehand and on the haunches so that the front feet crossed, and then the back. In this way, the horse (Pistol in this case) was able to understand the method/reason behind the movement and to think instead of just react. She moved front, then back, and then the two movements merged into a fluid side pass.
The side pass work was interspersed with trot breaks. Pistol was initially overly ambitious; trying to "trot-alope," as Mark described it.
To get Pistol to relax, Brett asked from thought followed by a whisper of leg -- she was really close to getting it completely from thought. She transitioned into a beautiful, smooth, relaxed and balanced trot. It was so beautiful, that I just sat and watched and completely forgot about the camera.
I had a few minutes before going into the arena for my lesson, later in the morning, so I walked Tex out to the obstacle course. We had spent some time out there yesterday afternoon with Pistol, and Tex was stellar. He didn't do everything but he didn't snort or spook either. He studied the bridge, and the teeter-totter, and the logs. He wasn't too sure about the cowboy curtain but did eventually follow me through. We worked on it again this morning and he followed me through (rushing a bit, yes, but still).
For my lesson, we began by reviewing lunging.
The main focus this time was to get Tex to relax through the change of direction transitions.
When we got that going smoothly, I asked Mark to help us with the mounting block. I demonstrated our "usual" mounting block method. I walk Tex to the block, line him up,
then climb up the steps -- and if he hasn't swung away while I'm mounting the steps he does it when I get to the top.
So, I climb back down, line him up, climb the steps...
No, no said Mark. You are teaching him that moving away is what you want. When he moves away, you get down and lead him off. That's a release. You want him to come to you and to stay.
Mark worked with Tex first. He climbed up on the block and sent Tex to the side of the block.
Then, from the top of the block, he guided Tex to where he wanted.
If Tex swung his butt away, Mark stayed on the block and moved Tex back over to the side - and started over.
Eventually, Tex stayed put and Mark gave him a lot of praise and rubs on his neck and butt.
Then Mark climbed down and led Tex off.
When he was being consistently successful, I worked with Tex. Once he understood, he was more than willing to stand quietly at the block and get a massage.
The other thing that Mark mentioned is that I should consider having Tex tested for PSSM. It is a genetic condition, common in Quarter horses, that makes them uncomfortable, reactive and to have hard muscles (almost like tying up). He asked if Tex likes to roll or lay down. I said laying down, not so much; but there isn't a horse on earth who likes to roll more than Tex. He rolls back and forth seven or eight times; stands; goes back down and rolls a dozen times more. This is apparently a symptom of PSSM; horses roll to try to get comfortable. I called our vet and she said I can send a piece of Tex's mane to the University of Minnesota equine lab and they can run the test directly for me. I will do that as soon as we get home. There is no cure for PSSM, but it can be controlled with diet and exercise.
(Lytha, on your line breeding question, Mark suggested looking back five or six generations.)