I have had a few days of reflection and consideration about TJ and how he is progressing with the training.
It has been looking alright on the surface; he has had the saddle on, long-reins and if he does get scared, recovers quickly. However I really don't think he is 'getting it' to the degree that I would like him to.
I have done my best to take things at TJ's pace and broken it down into steps that I thought he could manage. As an example of this, for most horses, to teach 'give to the bit' I would break it down into ten bite sized pieces, teach one after the other and the horse would have a good idea within the first lesson of about 20 minutes. With TJ I broke this down into at least 100 smaller pieces, taught it over many 10-15 minute sessions and he appeared to grasp it reasonably well. Or at least that's what I thought.
What I have discovered over the last couple of days is that although he is going through the motions he really isn't 'with me' in the sense that I need him to be. He appears incredibly attentive, and he is, but not always for the right reasons. I need him to be attentive because he is engaged and wondering what he is going to learn next not because he is even in the slightest bit worried.
Yesterday I stood with him for some time in silent contemplation. For the first time he bought his nose to me in an inquisitive manner. The only other time he has done that is in a defensive mode and he hasn't done it at all for a while.
How to maintain the spirit of this gorgeous animal and convince him that what I am suggesting will be fun. You can see what I am talking about when you look at the photos taken by Rodney Pople a couple of days ago. This is another one below.
I could just work him into submission, as is so often done, but he will slip into a sorry state of learned helplessness which, of course, is completely unacceptable on every front.
To continue at TJ's pace and see where we are in 30 days time at the competition.
I will post a lot more video of his progress and explain my approach during the sessions.