In my little vlog from this morning, I filmed certain sign on purpose. You can see me placing my hand on various spots on Joker's neck - I am not pressing at all, simply holding my hand on his coat, not even touching the skin much. I know he has some level of tension in his neck from the way he moves but by his reaction you can see clearly when I discovered his problem spot.
Notice that he doesn't react much to normal grooming, or even patting, he is a little weary (check his facial expression, ears and position of the head) and also watchful as another horse in the field is playing with fencing (and eyeing up my camera which I had rested on the post). However, when my touch changes into searching touch, he doesn't want me there. It's quite a normal reaction of any prey animal, he knows I know he has a weakness there so he tries to shake me off.
This and many other observations are the key to me when working with any horse. My routine with Joker is a good all-round, non-manipulative, relaxing massage that isn't complicated and any horse owner can learn it. Once I'd run my hands over the points he fidgets at, I repeat again, this time stopping for longer and waiting him out. He relaxes to the point he has a snooze for a couple of minutes and then we start in the arena.
Today was the third time I worked with him and he is learning quickly that he isn't allowed in my personal space. Thanks to this I can suggest to him how he can position his body in a more gymnastic way as he works on a large oval. If I wasn't next to him, he would happily fall onto his inside shoulder and moved with his neck braced to the outside on the right rein and drifted out on the left rein. His natural crookedness, reinforced by chronic issues, governs him strongly at the moment so he isn't enjoying the work as much as he could. Keeping myself very close I can influence his posture better although I haven't asked for much yet.
I liked his attitude today. He had a couple of moments when he tested the purpose behind my actions but was otherwise obedient and tried hard to do his part.
It's not my aim to simply make him go around better, I want him to enjoy it and discover more comfortable way of moving. He pushes much stronger through right side of his pelvis too which makes elastic turning difficult for him.
His jog had more spring today and he offered bigger trot by himself towards second part of the session. Sadly, the rain started to fall and I had to hide my camera so no video of the better set.
I want him to move with less bracing through the neck on the ground before I get on him so the next session will be polework and then jog sets again focusing on lateral bending, softer, lower neck and deeper over step.
Now, I've got to cook some pasta for dinner and then evening book work for me so until tomorrow!