Friday, February 15, 2013

Sometimes, You have the Answer, but Linda Parelli Still Needs to Prove It to You

In the summer of 2012, I learned something important and it is time to share it.

It's funny how your dreams come true in interesting ways. You know where it is you want to be, but it is so far away, you wonder how the heck you are going to ever get there. That is the ride we have to take, the horse we have to mount, in order to find out. So, when Kristi Smith asked me about getting a lesson with Linda Parelli I realized that I had been riding that dream ever since I got off the couch (literally) in the spring of 2010 and printed out the application for a Fast Track at the Parelli Campus in the summer of 2011.

I was in an Externship lead by Kristi in 2012. We were six weeks in--half way through--and things had been getting steadily worse between Blu and I. I was not really panicking, but I was pulling out all the stops and trying everything and going to all the resources at my disposal in an attempt to turn things around. Blu was putting less and less effort into everything and all of the help from interns and finally Kristi was not really making the changes that any of them expected would happen.

In 2011, during my first Fast Track, an instructor told me my LBI was actually an RBI. I decided that in order to live with this fact, Blu would have to categorized as an extremely confident, centered right-brained introvert because he is definitely a confident little booger. He is sweet and agreeable, too, though, so I did live with it. I called him a cuspy-pony--one on the cusp of being LBI or RBI. In non-Horsenality terms, that means he was a good-natured horse who could lose confidence if pushed too fast but could also be confident and even naughty.

The interns I got help from gave me strategies for improving our results for both Horsenalities. Then Kristi played with him herself and I could tell that she felt "yucky" about the result--something was not adding up. Where there should have been improvement in the way of a spark or a "Yeah!" or some kind of increased effort coming from a deeper place where the horse's true intention comes from, we were getting a little fizzle.

So, Kristi, being the amazing instructor she is, went up for further assistance with diagnosing Blu's poor performance. And when you are Kristi Smith, "up" means Linda Parelli. And that, my friends, is how I got to be waiting in the Extern playground with my trusty Blu for Linda Parelli.

I cannot say in words that I know how relieved I was when Linda reached her hand forward to offer Blu the horseman's handshake and, when he bumped her hand with his cute little nose, she said, "Left Brained." In the first words of our lesson, I learned how important it is to believe in myself and trust myself a little more when it comes to my horses. During my Fast Track, it would have been more valuable for me to not let the use of Horsenalities be used to change the place on the chart that I let my horse fall.

It is okay if your LBI gets unconfident every once in a while. It is also perfectly acceptable if your LBI getting unconfident looks like an RBI. It does not even have to mean that he is a cuspy-pony. It just means he got unconfident. It is your responsibility to build his trust back up, slow things down, and FIX IT. Fix it, for your LBI.

That's all for today, although that was not all for the lesson with Linda--she went on to see what we were missing--but I want to share with you how much simpler things are than they appear. My horse was not some bipolar quadriped. Don't get me wrong--he can be tricky--but that does not call for changing who he is at his core in my mind.

There is more to come--I need to tell you about two more important things. One probably will not be a surprise. The other will, but it is going to be a blinding flash of the obvious for you, I'm sure.

Natural Horsewoman Out.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Sweet, Kind, Gentle MICROMANAGER

For two weeks I have been in an Externship lead by Kristi Smith. Today, I put my foot down and raised my hand. Even though I wasn't sure which mediocre on line or liberty task I would ask for help with, I knew that if I did not take action today and get direct coaching right away, I would continue down a path to nowhere.


Kristi is an amazing teacher; every demo is filled with something to help us reach a higher quality with how we converse with our horses. I was incorporating many of those ideas into my horse development time with Blu, but it seemed like we weren't making any head way toward any of our goals. So, when Kristi asked us who needed help solving an on line or liberty puzzle, I shot my hand up along with eight other students. All my puzzles I was afraid the answer would be to just make a program and give it time to improve little by little. It seems like that is always the answer. But I did not care. I hoped and prayed that Kristi would tell me there was something I was doing to get the results we were getting, something I could immediately change in myself so I could begin getting different results.

Blu and I were second to last, so we sat through seven horses. Kristi played with each horse and changed as necessary for each horse and I waited in anticipation for what she would do when she had Blu. I kind of didn't want her to take him from me because I was sure there was something I was doing and I wanted her to see it. By the time she got to us, she let the other students go and get their own horses, so it was just one on one with no audience.

I decided to ask Kristi about our draw because it would seem that was the root of all of our issues. When Blu has been leaving me on line or at liberty, he does so like silly putty being pulled apart slowly. It just gets pulled further and further apart, the connection between each slowly getting more and more tenuous. Then, it just stretches out to nothing and Blu walks or jogs off very slowly. He is easy to catch again and if he is on line, he is easy to reconnect with, but I could not figure out what was triggering his decision to leave because it would happen at the strangest times. The specific example I used was with the Yo-yo game. Blu would cut himself off from me at a certain distance one day and another distance at another day. It was difficult to make 1% improvements when the starting point changed each day. Kristi told me that the starting point will change from day to day, week to week. The idea is to make a 1% improvement from the last time you played with that particular maneuver by the end of your session. This was a HUGE B.F.O. for me because even though it makes perfect sense and I am sure that is how I consciously understood it, what I practiced with Blu was not that.

Kristi had me send Blu out on the Yo-yo and I stopped before I felt him leave, and waited for a question. Next, Kristi helped me with the next big B.F.O. for the night. Once Blu asked a question, I drew him in, drew him in, drew him in, drew him in...Blu did not have to even think for himself because I left a light feel on the rope! So, Kristi was able to diagnose his very gentle leaving--he was leaving because I was very politely and gently micromanaging his every step. Since he was not needed to participate in a conversation, he left "I see you don't need me for this, so I will be over here."

Under Kristi's auspices, I played a new game. Send in the Yo-yo with a micro release after each step, wait for a question, draw in, put the belly of the rope on the ground and let him come in. If he stopped to eat grass, I started over with the draw. It was amazing how different this game was for us!

I am excited to put this into practice with all of the games and all of the savvies. It is such a small change and speaks (I think) to Kristi's observation skills. Such a small change that will make a HUGE difference. Onward and upward.

Natural Horsewoman Out.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Our Old Stomping Grounds with a Facelift

LeAnn Thacker picked me up from the apartment complex to take me to the barn, per my request. I was going to Durango and knew the only time I would be able to play with Blu would be prior to that trip.

As we pull in, LeAnn asks if I have seen what she did in the arena. The previous weekend, we had thrown all sorts of fun things in the arena. They came from her trip to Washington, where her home is. It looked like a some kind of battle ground where the barrels were trying to put down a revolution of logs, posts, and a sturdy corregated drain pipe. Judging by the exploded innards of log (it did not fair too well when LeAnn backed over the slightly rotted wood with her horse trailer), the barrels have the upperhand.

Now, LeAnn is quite pleased with herself because she spent hours at the barn yesterday cleaning up and setting up the arena. I follow her down and see what looks like what I have always dreamed of in playground: is one corner posts lay on the ground like sleeping soldiers, rhythmically set apart from one another; a square outlined by four logs awaits spins and bounces next to Norman the roping dummy; in the center of the arena, four standing barrels mark the corners of the Question Box; next to the Question Box, a pile of logs squeezes between two upright barrels like so many books between orderly bookends; off in another corner, the corrugated pipe shoots out from the base of a lone standing barrel, waiting for symmetry or completion; adjacent to the pipe's corner, three barrel musketeers lay head to foot, a happy trio supported by rocks that keep them from rolling off into the pile of logs; marking the midpoints of each of the sides of the arena, four barrels act as sentries to all the excitement going on in the various quadrants. The insides are, in fact, quadrants because this arena is set up to accommodate the Cloverleaf pattern and follow the rail, LeAnn explains. It is lovely. I am momentarily worried that there is no empty place to play the Circling Game on the 45' line, but the feeling withers away next to my excitement about this transformed space.

Blu has been standing between LeAnn and me this whole time; he puts his nose on LeAnn's neck or nuzzles my hand, seeming quite put out by our attention on something else. He follows me to the barn and reluctant goes inside as his eyes adjust to the dark. I get the 45, his halter, and stick and string from the tack room and we head off to try out the arena in all its splendor.

First, I let him trot around me in a moving circling game so he can see all the new fixtures. He is looking at Norman, playing with Koda (LeAnn's dog), offering the canter, and generally accepting this environment. So, we begin to play. His canter is there for me and we go around the arena, sometimes over a jump, sometimes around barrels. His canter is energetic, but not panicked, and he does not lean on the end of the rope or go along like he could break gait any moment. Instead, I completely trust that he will keep going. He has gone around me at least ten times without stopping (length of the rope varies due to obstacles, but we have had a full range from 12' to 45'). I ask him for a change of direction and he does a simple lead change with propper flexion, so I aim him to a little pile of hay that I don't know anything about in the way of how it got there. We go off again and the next time I ask for a change of direction, he does a clean flying lead change and that is when we end, once again, at the pile of hay.

I take off the 45' line to play with it while munches and catches his breath. I practice throwing it out with both hands and recoiling it, then I practice throwing it out behind me. It works out so well, I am quite surprised. Satisfied with my results, I touch Blu's forehead and climb over the fence to get my riding equipment.

I come back and climb the fence again. I ask Blu to step to me and he does. When I get on, he does not toss his head up, and as we leave the hay, he does not flick his tail. I sort of repeated the wandering practice to make sure he is not worried about the new toys with me on his back. When we begin the Question Box, he is offering the canter. I am riding with two Kidz sticks and quite pleased that he is so eager to go forward.

After the beginning, Blu is attentive and does not need any prompting from the Kidz sticks to stop, go, or turn. He was so great! He was stopping nicely with his weight on his haunches from the canter in the question box (and his canter transitions were effortless and I just had to look up to get them); he walked to, jumped over, and walked away from the logs jump; we did spins without sticks; he did straight lines to leg yields to sidepass to leg yield to straight to sidepass etc. without too much trouble; he trotted over the cavalettis without knocking them, floating himself over nicely with only a few knocks; he held neutral lateral flexion without any sticks for 10 seconds. I was pleased with his performance and after a stop with a deep seat and little 3 foot slide marks (imagine if he has sliders on!), I dismounted, by sliding off  his rump and onto the ground. He followed me to the gate with a couple wistful attempts to go to the little hay pile, which I negated by lifting a Kidz Stick. He squeezed through the gate, turned, faced, and waited while I locked it, and followed me up to the little pen he would spend the day in.

I helped LeAnn clean up the paddock, cleaned and filled the water troughs, and dumped the wheel barrow out. It was such a nice time with Blu, I kept running it all through my head. I considered what we could do to progress. What could we do to improve on what I had today? Here is what I have come up with, now:

  • Spins at liberty in close circles
  • Refine (count strides, get particular) the sidepass, leg yield, straight exercise, maybe add half pass
  • Bullseye pattern with the canter
  • Be particular about the size and shape of the circles in the Question Box pattern
  • Ask for a change of direction from further away and without hay
What fun it is to have an inspiring playground. Our old stomping grounds, but with a much needed facelift and a little surgery for the gutted log!

Natural Horsewoman Out.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Tonight was my first session with Blu since Thursday. I have been working on a moving project that has taken considerable time and effort. Now it was back to the arena.

Blu did 2 very solid laps in both directions at the canter. It was just there. I set up a barrel squeeze for him to jump over, then I set up two with one on top. He went straight to it and changed his mind at the last minute. I don't remember how the barrels got knocked down, but they did and he went around a few times before he did a huge jump over the mess of the three barrels. Next time, I would like to focus on being more in control of his feet by sending him out to the barrels to jump them then turn, face, and wait to do it again.

I played with Blu at liberty for a bit. He did spins and ended up at one point running around and around the arena. I let him and waited for him to look at me. It was interesting because he was suddenly running around, seemingly unprovoked. In the end, though, he followed me around the whole arena while I picked up rocks and threw them out.

He was really stuck to me the rest of the night and I was actually really happy. His runabout the arena was just interesting.

Natural Horsewoman Out.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Today we did just what I said we should move on to when I posted yesterday--we did more transitions to encourage the canter.

On the way down to the arena where the halter and line were, I could tell that whatever keeps Blu stuck to me was kind of weak, so I stopped every 5 to 10 steps and gave him a cookie. By the time we got to the gate, he was connected really well and ready to go. I asked him to do a spin and then we put on his halter.

I asked for a little sideways using just my energy and hip. He could go away and come back without the stick and he stayed sideways. We got to about 6 feet.

Today, I found it really easy to know what it meant to be effective. When Blu was slow to leave the barrel, I spanked the spot after he had begun to slowly leave and the next time he went right off and didn't flick his tail.

The game tonight was as long as you are not cantering, you are going to be making lots of walk, trot, stop, and back up transitions and I will be micro managing those transitions all the way around the circle with no neutral. When I asked him to canter, I would immediately go to neutral. If he broke gait, which he only did twice, I went back to micromanaging. It worked superbly! He completed two laps in both directions.

Tomorrow, I would like to start thinking about asking for a change of direction at the canter applying the same principle of lots of transitions if he doesn't maintain the gait through the change.

I was so happy with where we left off. We did some liberty--two spins in a row and a clean cantering stick to me. Unfortunately, the clean canter was followed by a not clean one when Blu left. However, on the up side, we got it back together and when we went back through the gate, he waited for me to shut it and he cantered with me to the top of the corral.

It feels good to have something work like this.

Natural Horsewoman Out.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Contentedly Cantering

What a beautiful day it is when you can end it with a settled heart and quiet mind. I believe that everything is just fine and will continue to improve. Blu is doing so well with his cookies and transitions and sideways maneuvers that I can tell he is ready to go to the next step with it. He is increasing his positive reflexes to opposition reflexes ratio and he is getting stickier to me--usually.

Tonight after work I played with Birdy for an hour. She is such a hoot. I built her a little fort and played with the kitty toys with her. She really enjoyed herself. Playing with Birdy helped me feel so happy. I wanted to get right back to her as I was leaving for the barns.

At the barn, I walked down to the arena with my equipment--right past all the horses. Blu was watching intently--somewhat surprised, I think. I put the cookies on the three barrels and waited for Blu. He came down from the top of the paddock, followed by Faith and Cheyenne. He put his head in his halter better than yesterday--still stretching toward it, first, but quickly deciding to put it all the way on.

Blu did circles at the walk, trot, and canter in both directions. I did a few transitions. I decided that tomorrow I will do more transitions to get things more exciting because tonight Blu was a little sticky sometimes. He did maintain the canter at 40' for a lap and a half. Tonight I also kicked one of the barrels out after a while. Time to get more for less!

We also played with sideways, but as I told myself yesterday, tonight we started close and then expanded to the full length of the rope rather than using the whole rope and halving as necessary. We got to 45' away and to with evenness and only a little forward stepping! Another thing, when Blu did not look at me from the barrel, I did not tug or pull--I just got a little closer. By the time we got to 45' he was giving me his attention just by the hinging of the carabiner clip. Oh, it was exciting!

I played with him at liberty for a while and enjoyed some Spanish walk lessons then we did some spins and stick to me. He did 2 spins in a row. It really started to click (we are kind of reminding him on those) with the spins.

He ran off during a stick to me when I asked him to canter. Then I ran with him and when I skidded to a halt, so did he. He then walked off, but it was  better connection he kept with me for a while. I trotted behind him until he began circling me at the trot. He even kept going while I sat down.

You would think that I would end it there, but I took him off and asked for a canter again, then the girls got all worked up and so did he. He gallopped and gallopped all over the place, even after the girls stopped. I just kept on going until he looked at me and trotted to me calmly. Then we went for a walk around the paddock to get him cooled down since he was so winded. I played with laying him down by crouching and tapping his hocks--I think we are on to something there. 

Everything ended so well--I can't wait to get back there. As Birdy sits on my legs, I think it is funny because just this afternoon, that's what I was thinking about her. How contented I must be to have to animal friends I am so ecstatic to be around.

Natural Horsewoman Out.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Maintain Gait and Maintain Direction: Simple

Learning when to do what and why you are doing that and how to deliver the message is much more complex a puzzle that one might think. The reason it is complex is that I made it so; the reason it is so complex is that it is so simple that I must come up with a convoluted wormhole of logic. I imagine the reason I do this is that I find it initially impossible to believe that it could be so stupidly simple. It would seem that life really is what you perceive it to be--and so are the puzzles that come along. How much more we could enjoy life--how much further we could go--if we allowed it to be simple and beautiful.

I am doing my thinking tonight. I did some yesterday, I believe, too. Blu is such a good teacher for me to learn about the simplicities of life and to learn how to have confidence in my decision making. When I stop believing in myself, things begin to slide a bit. I must have abruptly stopped believing in myself last summer. Looking back, I recall feeling that suspension of self-confidence. Quite simply put, that is when the web of complexities began. I no longer knew up from down or right from left. The good news is, that is also when I embarked (unknowingly) on my journey toward this understanding of allowing simplicity to rule.

Blu has not been too keen on holding up his end of the responsibilities of maintaining gait since we came to Colorado.  On Saturday, I was playing with Blu on a 45' line and my friend Maree was watching while waiting for her severely introverted horse to relax (Maree is an amazing horsewoman and does a phenomenal job with all the horses I see her with). I was feeling torn about what route to take with Blu because I projected complexity onto him. I didn't know how to get to the answer to the puzzle "How do I cause maintaining the canter at the end of the 45' line to be Blu's idea?" because there were so many ways to get there that I didn't know whether or not were working answers. Never mind the scientific process or even the very elementary process of elimination. Then Maree suggested I just put food on some barrels.

Putting food on barrels is what I did with Blu to help him decide that jumping things was fun and a great idea. Of course. The worst thing that could happen is it didn't work.

The next morning was Sunday and I took some honey dew rinds and put them on the barrels while Blu stood obediently in the center. When I started out, it looked promising, but then Blu got to a barrel and shut right down. I wasn't sure if he was going introverted or if he was just something else.

Later that morning, I asked a Parelli Professional named Molly Sanders about what Blu had done that morning. Molly suggested being more provocative by doing lots of transitions. "But he tends to get worried when I do that." Simple. The answer is: ADJUST TO FIT THE SITUATION. Be provocative, then, if it gets too much for him, ADJUST to being more consistent.

I played with that concept, mixing it together with food rewards. It worked because I adjusted when I had to--I did whatever Blu needed. If he needed a rest, I let him rest. If he needed me to become more of a sweet spot, I became more of a sweet spot. If he needed me to be more provocative--get the picture.

It is difficult to explain the kind of helplessness I got caught in by projecting complications onto situations that were simple by nature. The feeling I had froze me up and made me think that it was better to do nothing than to try something new.

Tonight, I got to feel softness with Blu. We even broached that is quite difficult for him to get near--change of direction at the canter! I will tell you:

I was on the phone with my gramma when I walked into the paddock with Blu's halter, 45' line and carrot stick. He came up to me and stood by me. Then, after I kept talking and sort of ignored him, he turned around and backed his butt up to my back. When I hung up with Gramma, I turned and was surprised to see his butt. He looked back at me when I scratched his butt and brought his head back to me. I offered the halter and he stretched toward it. I clucked and he stepped toward it, but not all the way. We played that game a little bit--it was fun.

He is much more responsive now on the circle and I had him jog a small circle around me on our way to the arena. I tried something different by asking him to change from circling to driving from zone 5. It actually worked well and I think it is something I want to pursue with him.

The circling game is going really well. I am careful to the right at the canter because it is weaker side and I don't want it to become sore. We don't ignore it completely and tonight we worked that side more than any of the nights so far and he did not get upset about that. He is so agreeable when I ask him to canter! I love it. In the beginning, he offered a canter and I asked him to come in.

Later, I was wanting him to maintain the gait on a longer line. First, I aimed for the canter from a stand still. Every time he left at a jog or a walk, I immediately yielded him and started over--no pets, no cookies, no rest, just straight back and out again. He got it on the 4th time and that time I asked him to come in, but I gave him a cookie and let him rest. The went out and was cantering around. The circle got bigger and bigger and then he took off--as in started charging around. I let him slide then power positioned him to a stop and we got into interesting thing about the whole charging deal. I was completely clearminded and consistent. We did changes of direction until he could do it calmly. Then he cantered around calmly. I grew the circle and asked him to stop at the barrel.

It felt like the right place to end the circling game so we played the sideways game to the barrel. The first one was sloppy, but the second was better. The first one we did 45'. The second, I halved the distance. On that, I think what I learned was to prepare him for that distance better. Start out with it being halved--don't even allow the sloppy to happen. Yes, that would be a wise decision for next time.

We did some more with his Spanish walk--wouldn't you know Maree can take credit for our growth on that fun trick.

We spent the rest of our time together at liberty. He circled me in the paddock and the arena. It was a nice circling at the walk.

May your day be simple and thoughtful.

Natural Horsewoman Out.

Friday, March 30, 2012


I miss Misty and Mao and my family in Michigan. I was hoping that they would all come here this summer, but it sounds like Mao is going to stay in Michigan. For a while, thought it would be wiser to leave Misty there, too. Now I see that I must follow my heart in this matter and bring her here. It is the way that I am choosing to go with this and I know my family will support me in this decision.

I have also decided to give Misty a job this summer--she is going to help student's on their journeys as a lease horse for Parelli courses. She is almost to level 4 with me--she has flying lead changes on the ground and in the saddle, we just need her to say "yes" more often. I think she will make a great lease horse for students because she knows her stuff, she just needs the right approach to give it all to you. She is a sensitive mare with a lot of dignity. Yes, a good lease horse, I think.

I learned about the some of the ins and outs to leasing a horse by speaking with people who had leased their horses out in the past. One of those people is someone I am pet sitting for and I am so excited to do that. I love taking care of animals. On that note...

Birdy came into my life as a companion on Thursday evening. The Humane Society here in Pagosa approved me as her adopter and she came home with me. It was so special to me to have a new kitty in my life that is my very own. The last fuzzy critter I dragged home was Tinkerbell, a gray orange and white calico who was abandoned on the hiway behind our back pasture. That was many years ago, so I was due for a new pet in my life.

It is funny because over the years, I have been spending so much time taking care of other people's animals; I had a job as a kennel worker and since I have been in Pagosa Springs; I make extra money taking care of pets for folks leaving town; my friends got me hooked on visiting the local Humane Society to play with the cats and dogs there. All are such happy experiences for me because I really enjoy interacting with animals. With all of those cases, however, I go home and it is really just me and Blu.

So now the team is Blu and Birdy. Slowly, I am getting used to the fact that I get to keep Birdy; she is going to go home with me, wherever home may be; home changes a lot, lately. If I ever have to leave town for stint, I get to have a trusted friend take care of my own cat. What a concept.

Mao and Misty stay in Michigan. Soon, Misty will come out to join us, and the nice alliteration I am enjoying will be no more. I think I would rather lose the alliteration than spend any more time out here without Misty, though.

Natural Horsewoman Out.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

All Good Things Must Come to an End

Don't worry, the title is not implying that this blog is over. In fact, it might be more appropriate to say "All good things must come to an end eventually--and that eventuality is not yet" as far as this blog is concerned. No, no, as far as I can see, the world will suffer these babblings for some time to come. In fact, the title may or may not have been a way for me to begin by affirming that we are not at an end.

Since joining Parelli as an employee, my life has been turned upside down. I have been to a mountain and ridden half way down it with no plan of ever doing so; Blu has been through his first of no more to come big wound with big vet bills for me experience; my Colorado family has moved twice, and so have I; many other big deals for me, including my Dad's birthday, which entailed surprising him with my presence--something I don't think anyone in my family forsaw being a surprise in previous years.

Being away from home is

I will leave it at that.

Blu is doing much better now and I am ready to begin tracking that. We have some things to accomplish together and it is a full intention of ours to get to it--Blu probably just doesn't know it yet.

So, in lieu of a lengthy post about horsemanship, Blu and I leave you with the above text and hope to have an exciting report for the world, tomorrow.

Natural Horsewoman Out.

Monday, January 16, 2012

War Horse

The only reason for this title is that I saw the movie tonight and it was moving. I always get fidgety during the training parts of movies like that, but I am trying to learn to just enjoy the gift of suspension of disbelief.

These movies are most enjoyable for me because I often see in the horse the marvelous characteristics of my horses. I think it is a horse person disease that when we see horses--at a show, a clinic, in a movie--we wish ours were with us. It made me wish Blu and Misty were with me. Sometimes you wish they were there so you could patch things up with them. Other times you wish they were there because you know that the great things inspiring you in that moment are within a stone's throw and you only need your horses there to complete the puzzle.

After Sunday and Monday play sessions with Blu, I was definitely feeling the latter of the two.

Yesterday, I was a little tardy to the barn and ended up with a lot of time with Blu by myself as the rest of the people were done and leaving.

Apparently, before I arrived, he was quite excitable. Looking back, I think it was because he could sense the snow coming. I am telling you, that horse gets so excited about snow, it is not an unlikely hypothesis.

We played some more with the telescopic pole. He had sideways to and away going well without fear!

When we were doing a circling game, he took off and was bucking and tossing his head. This was not quite the same kind of "eeee, I can't do that" leaving from before. I ran with him and we ended up back at the barn. I asked for zone 5 driving and we haphazardly wove through the columns.

When we were done, I put him on line; this was an entirely different animal leaving for entirely different reasons. He was flipping me the bird!

On the 22 foot line, we played the circling game. I only asked for the trot. He had nice flexion and slack in the line. I played with his change of direction at the halt before I put on his bridle and played the game of contact with him.

The game of contact was really exciting. It was so cool to watch him figure out that reins meant go. I ended when he took a step forward from a halt into the contact.

Blu is superb at stretching into the contact. He is also quick to relax. He did a lot of blowing out. We are going to have so much fun with this!

Today, I almost missed my window to play with Blu today. We had a blizzard dumping on us all morning and most of the afternoon, so I was waiting it out, hoping it would slow down before the day was over.

My neighbor is the one who prodded me about it and when I looked outside and saw it was quiet (finally!), I hopped on out.

All the horses were in the arena when I got to the barn. I called to Blu and he perked up. The next time I called him, he headed up. The other horses followed.

I wanted to play on the 22' line instead of at liberty because the snow tends to give Blu a bug up his butt and I knew that it would be better to have him on line if that happened.

We played the circling game for the first time since that weekend with all the huffing and puffing and would be dust (if it weren't for the snow and ice). Well, it was the first time on line since that weekend.

At first, when I asked for the canter, Blu got really tight and kept trotting. I learned something here, because where before I would have said "Aha, I am not being effective, let me get closer," I recognized that he was already under enough pressure. What he needed, was for me to wait. So I kept on with the swinging of the stick and came out of neutral with a cantering body. As soon as he cantered, I went to neutral and asked him to walk. The next time, he did not need me to canter, but I did have to keep swinging for a while. Next time, he did not need me to keep swinging so long. Then, he did not even need the stick.

Granted, I was asking for the walk as soon as he gave me a canter. The first time I accepted a sort of harumph little leap of the canter. I noticed that he was shaking his head at first--a sign of confidence. I think that is interesting with all of the tension. I think that it means that he was not worried that I was going to go stronger with my phases, but I think he was expecting I would and daring me to do it. "Make my day" sort of. Instead, I did just the opposite. And the moment he gave me what I was asking for, I quit.

Even better, I was finished before he spiraled. He was great when we were done with the circling game.

I took his halter off and began to play with the Spanish walk a bit. We have the pawing bit down, now we need suspension. He learned so quickly to hold his leg up and suspend it. Next will be to stretch it out.

It was so nice to be quiet with him after that. There is great satisfaction to be had when you end on a good note. Ryan's advice to keep the sessions very short popped into my mind.

Natural Horsewoman Out.

About Me

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I am a young horsewoman with a million things on my mind. I have been a student of the horse all my life. As a little girl, I had a desire to understand horses on deeper levels. I believed that there was no such thing as a bad horse, and I believed that all horses were beautiful. One might say that I was a naive child, but I guess I don't have an excuse anymore, because I still believe all of that, and Parelli Natural Horsemanship is helping expand on this perspective.

What We Are Currently Playing With

  • Moving Close Circles at Liberty
  • Soft, Balanced Canter on 45' Line
  • Zone 5 Driving