I never realized that I would feel the difference. Or maybe it would be more accurate to say I did'nt realize how much of a difference I would feel. I'm still getting it sorted out in my mind. Sonny and I are beginning to feel like partners.
This breakthrough occured on a miserably hot July day; the heat index was over 100 degrees. I only went to the barn to just see him and see if it was too hot to play. It was. There's precious little shade anywhere, and I'd previously tried playing in the few shady areas without much success. I had tried under one tree in the pasture, but the weeds were tall enough to keep causing drag on the line to the point that Sonny kept thinking that I was calling him in. I played one day under some trees along the driveway, but the area of shade was only 10 feet by 6 feet, so we couldn't do too much and remain in the shade. I did improve lead by the tail, got a start on lead by an ear and the chin that session. So, having ruled out a play in the shade, I turned him out at liberty in the paddock with Strawberry, and plopped myself down in front of a fan on the concrete pad outside the stalls, just 'behind' the paddock fence. Just sat there for a while contemplating turning him back into the pasture and going back home, but stubborn as I am, decided instead to take advantage of clouds passing through and see how long I'd have with each cloud coverage to play untill the sun popped back out. Lazy,,or rather, energy economically minded, esp on such a steamy day, I was all about NOT haltering and re-haltering, so that left Liberty. Liberty in the intermittent 'shade'. Well, it was worth a try. I can't tell you how very glad I am that I tried! Sonny gave me the best liberty session we've ever had. He only drifted away from me a few times, and it was relatively easy to reconnect with him each time by yielding his hindquarters to get 2 eyes and 2 ears. Then he would follow me all around the paddock, turns and counterturns, squeezed between me and the fence, squeezed over barrels in both directions with a 'stop, turn, and face' afterwards, walked with me to the pedestal, then gave me four feet on the pedestal (where's my cookie, mom?), trotted to me with exuberance from accross the paddock almost every time I asked him to, and gave a pretty good effort at sideways at the fence. He turned with me in a small circle, me making small steps-small circle, his a bit bigger ,but close to me. I could yield his hindquaters, then flow that into a yielding of his forequarters to get the beginnings of a 360 turn, and he even gave me one lap of a circle game. All this in a 100 x 150 paddock. I was amazed and thrilled. Once when he was drifting away I laid the savvy string accross his neck and he yielded toward me with the lightest of a touch from the string, then remained reconnected. Wow!
But, the feeling of partnership didn't really surface until the NEXT session. Finally I'm able to keep slack in the rope thru most of the games, and when we are going place to place, I'm not leading him, we're walking together. I sometimes had to pause and reconnect, but I never had to 'drive' as in tapping with CS, I'd just 'feel for him' then bring up my energy and try walking again and he would walk with me. Also, no hesitation from him if I stopped and backed up. I think that once I had to wiggle the CS/SS to ask for the back up, but several times, he backed WITH me without any SS or wiggle on the rope. As fresh and small as this new feeling of partnership is, it's already awesome. I am very excited to watch it grow. And I'm very, very much looking foward to the session some day when we have it under saddle as well as on the ground!