Went to a private lesson today with Jerry Williams to address the issues Renegade has with horses in his bubble, especially zone 5.
Jerry had us start with me walking Renegade around the rail inside the arena while he rode his horse around the rail outside. Renegade was o.k. when the other horse was behind him and walking, keeping an even distance. He started getting unconfident and reactive when the other horse rode up along side or got too close, then he displayed his "nasty ears and evil eye" and tried to get into a position to either bite or kick. Jerry had me get him busy doing "something" and matching his energy. The more focused he was on the other horse the more active the "something" had to be. It didn't take long before Renegade figured out he'd better pay attention to me and stop worrying about that other horse.
Jerry then had me mount up and we repeated the exercises under saddle with us in the arena and Jerry and his horse outside. Sometimes the "something" was as simple as lifting a rein to ask Renegade to put his attention back on me. Other times we had to leave the rail and ride a circle or pattern, come back to the rail and resume the exercise. Then we tried having me riding patterns then coming to rest next to the rail by the other horse. It didn't take long for Renegade to look forward to resting next to Jerry and his horse and getting a rub with the carrot stick!!
Then we upped the game a bit more by having Jerry and his horse come into the arena along with another horse and rider. By this time I was feeling much more confident in being able to manage Renegade's behavior and if/when we had to leave the rail we were riding off energy, feel, and focus. Of course I had to exaggerate a bit for Renegade to "feel" me but it was awesome!! When we came back to the "resting/sweet" spot next to the other horse, Renegade got a rub and a rest. He started relaxing pretty soon. We even did a squeeze between the two other horses using the same strategy of match his energy/do less sooner. It was fun and Renegade did well.
Upping the ante again, we rode the rail with Jerry and his horse behind us. At first the distance was wide enough that Renegade was comfortable with it. As Jerry closed the distance Renegade became more unconfident/defensive and at about 15' he couldn't tolerate it any more and wanted to kick. Using our strategies, I matched his energy by lifting a rein, leaving the rail to circle or ride a pattern, etc. then resumed our place on the rail.
At this point we decided to stop since Renegade was more relaxed/less defensive about horses in his zones. Of course, this is not a one time fix but I now have some strategies to manage this and if I'm consistent with these strategies, we should continue to make progress. It will certainly take some time and this zone issue may never go away entirely but I'm better prepared and more confident now!!
I'm also thinking, my leadership just went up a little bit so maybe along with the love and language, I can even things out a bit!!!
Also...who knew problem solving could be so much fun!!! I really had fun addressing this today!!!!!!!!!!!!!