Yesterday I played with my friend's gelding again, this time in our big arena that is surrounded by food. He was a bit skeptical of me at first, so I took it slow playing 7 games with him in the middle of the arena to create a bit of rapport with him. Because Xena keeps teaching me how important that is. Once we had the games going well, emphasis on friendly, I decided to ignore the food and put him on a pattern. I need more obstacles in the arena, but for now we have 2 small cones. So I sent him on a figure 8 around those.
At first he wasn't paying any attention. He had focused all of his attention on the grass on the other side of the fence. Our direction changes were like fighting the tide. But it actually surprised me as to how quickly he noticed we were on a pattern. Within just a few repetitions, I didn't even pick up the stick and he looked at the cone and did a tight circle around it! Then I sent him over to the grass to eat... because he's allowed to eat if it's my idea lol!
I let him eat while I did a simulation of this with my friend. I was her naughty horse, and she had to make sure I stayed focused on the pattern, and teach her when to stop. Takes a bit of rope savvy, that pattern. We grabbed her horse and I first did some put your nose on it with him... I think he must have some emotional attatchment to food because he's always nervous when I take him away. I asked him to snif the first cone, he did. I asked him to snif the second cone, and he sniffed it, licked it, picked it up, and tossed it! RBI victory!! Then I felt he was confident enough for his unconfident owner to play with. As she was learning the mechanics of it, dropping the stick, accidentally missing the cone, circling, forgetting to disengage... he began to think of the grass less and less, and I had her quit when she got one successful figure 8, with him totally focused on her. Then I had her send him back to the grass.
By the third time, as soon as she started walking back to the cones he picked his head right up and offered to follow! I let them end on that note (and because it started raining) to go grazing.
It's moments like those that remind me that no matter how frustrated or stuck I feel with my own horse, this is what I want to do with my life.