Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Day Seven: Quiet Time

Official Records Information:
30 minutes

I took my director's chair out into the North pasture (Misty's pasture) and set up in the middle. It was an ugly drizzling mist in the cold air, so I couldn't take a book with me. I set my cell phone to go off in 30 minutes and began to stare down the woods. After 30 seconds, Misty came over to me. I gave her the rest of an apple that I had started for lunch and had been in the cup holder of my chair (fancy!). She spent 15 minutes with her nose on me, probably hoping another apple would come out of me. She was very mouthy, but I just properly protected my space. She also took some time between searching to push on my chair and to just stand with me. It is interesting how much she was hanging around me compared to last night, when I was in a round pen. I wonder if she was put off by Blu's presence? Blu almost always spends his entire quiet time with me, so maybe next time I will have quiet time with the two of them in the big pasture.

She lost interest and wandered around the pasture until the last 30 seconds, when she came back and checked me out as I packed up. I talked with my friend, who was playing with Conner online, then went back to the barn.

Official Records Information:
20 minutes

In the barn, I was going to just leave my chair and go inside the house to warm up, but I changed my mind and went to the stalls to let Blu in. In the stall, I just groomed him and danced to the Christmas music. He was in a strange stall, so he was content to clean up scraps of hay. When he was all brushed up, I began to work on teaching him to lift his hooves when I snapped my finger. Toward the end, when he started to understand that the snapping was the prelude to the pinching of the chestnut, he began to nip at his knee (not my finger, which was funny). I quit when he lifted his leg at the snap. I only worked on the front left hoof today.

Today was a good day for both horses. I was surprised that Misty was so inquisitive and was engaged for such a long time after yesterday ignoring me the entire time.

Natural Horsewoman Out.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Day Six: Two Grazing Horses

Official Records Information:
Misty and Blu
30 minutes

Today, I knew I would not have much time with the horses, and I wanted to evaluate their want to be with me levels. I decided to have a quiet time with both of them in the round pen. Our pen is 45' in diameter and lightly sprinkled with tiny blades of grass. My two left brain introverts loved it, as hard as it must have been as far as prehension goes.

The session started out with catching them and getting them into the round pen. Misty was at the center gait (between the North and South pastures) and I just let her into the South pasture so I could get her later. Then, I opened up the gate to the round pen and Blu came out to meet me. I let him stand with me and greet me for a bit before pointing to the gate. I had nothing as far as a means to yield them with except for my hand and energy, which is what I used when he turned to the gate but kept turning around. I sent him on through the spin again, and after he was lined up, I pulled him on the mane toward the gate. He finally got it and cooperated. He went straight to "grazing" and waited in there while I got Misty.

Misty had gone to the indoor-outdoor stall/shelter, which has a window so the horses can look out that or the door. I called her out, and I could see her listening to me, but she chose to ignore. I went in and yielded her hind quarters, then lead her by the mane to the round pen. Usually, she is not so easily lead by the mane, but today, she was really a dream about that. Her expression was pleasant, too. I think she was looking forward to checking out the round pen.

I sat on a barrel in the middle and sang songs to keep myself busy until my horse friend showed up and started talking to me. That gave me a good thing to focus on besides the horses. Blu hung around for most of the time. I tried (and succeeded in) pushing the barrel I was sitting on. He was very interested in what the heck I was doing. Misty just ate and ate.

Today was a good, relaxing day. It was nice to discover that my horses have retained their lead by the mane lessons. Also, it was good to see that Misty wanted to be with the grass more than me. On the other hand, Blu was very inquisitive and it was good to know that he found me so interesting!

So, that is about all for today, as it was such a short period of time!

Natural Horsewoman Out.

Day Five: Wild Child

Official Records Information
45 minutes

On Sunday, I went down to the farm with the plans of seeing the horses and then leaving, but after watching Blu run around, bucking, doing flying lead changes, rearing and crashing down on his pasture mates, I really wanted to play with him! I wanted him in the round pen so he would not disturb my sister, who was playing with her horse in the South Pasture (where Blu lives), nor my buddy and her horse, who was playing in the North Pasture. Another choice I made before I made it onto the pasture was that I would use a carrot stick today so I could make myself bigger if I needed to be.

We just stood and watched the three horses in the South Pasture playing for a while, and then I began to stalk him as the older horses calmed down. My stalking got the horses riled again. Blu kept running with the older horses, so I positioned myself between Blu and the older horses. Things got a bit easier when Maggie got her horse. Now it was just Blu and Hoosier. I communicated to Hoosier that I was not after him, and once he understood that, Blu was just a lone nut in the pasture. It was a lot of fun to dance that dance! We did million dollar moves with a lot of life in them, spins (which he does not know how to do, it just came out that way), and such.

I got him latched on and he followed me to the round pen. I was surprised that he turned, faced, and waited when he got in, rather than going to the nibblies. I led him to the fence and round penned him the way the Reis Horsemanship does, kind of. I did not pen him beneath my gaze the way they do. I worked on transitions (backing, walking, trotting, halting) and there was a cavaletti set up in one part. I wanted his expression to smooth out when we went up to the trot or quickly to a halt. When I was done, I had just that. I stopped when I got that relaxed and willing transition.

Once again, Blu turned and waited once he was out the gate. I gave him a hug and he followed me to the barn, where he stood in the stall that opens directly to the outside as I did some chores.

That was a GOOD session! One of the nice things about working with two horses is that if you have a rough day with one, you can count on having a great day with the other!

Natural Horsewoman Out.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Day Four: Increasing Distance

Official Records Information
45 minutes

Attracting Misty to me took an especially long time. She had very sticky feet! I had to be persistent and patient (in the proper positions). I even lost her focus several times. It was probably about five minutes before she latched on. Next time I will be a bit more insistent, maybe add a bit more drive, as her curiosity is really growing.

When I finally had a connection and momentum, I drove her to the tire pedestal. She was instantly interested and touched it. I rewarded her interest with three pellets and a short rest. I cued her very slightly with a little tiny point forward and she began to go through the phases of standing on it (touching it, pawing it, one foot on, back off, one foot on, two feet on, etc). My goal was to have her stand on the pedestal with four feet, but I was 100% willing to accept whatever the situation warranted, be it more or less than what I hoped for. She had a pretty firm handle on standing in it with 2 front feet, and I began to ask for the back end. She kept looking away, so as I cued, I would slowly back away until she could swing her head back to forward position. Then the phases would go up from wiggling my finger to shaking the string in my hand. I ended up being about 30' away from her at the greatest distance! And that is where we got the most done. I never got 4 feet today, but she did finally go over it. The closest we got to 4 feet was when I was far away, cued her, and she stepped her back legs all the way up to but not on the pedestal. I rewarded her and she stepped back with her legs during the rest.

After she stepped over the pedestal and moved on, I was leading us to several barrels (about 7) upended and set about in an area. I was planning to have her weave around them. She left me, simply veering from beside me. I backed away from her and yielded her hind quarters, smiled, and went to sit near a barrel, back to her. After about 30 seconds, she came back to me and I decided that that was a good time to end. She had her head lowered while I massaged her front legs. We relaxed for about 5 minutes, then I left, her following me to the fence.

I feel like today was a rough day for me because I misjudged our progress. I think that next time will be a 100% quiet time day. I was surprised at how she was so sensitive to me from the great distance, and that she could not handle me being close. Online, Misty is very confident with the pedestal. She will run to it and wait for a cookie. I could not believe the difference between that and this!

Natural Horsewoman Out.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Day Three: The Biting Bandersnatch

Official Records Info:
45 minutes

Blu was at the gate that separates the north and south pastures (they are the main pastures that they live in. I generally use the north, which has most of the obstacles. It is VERY large). As he came through, I protected him from the other horses by shaking my head at them, flicking my fingers at most. Even though I don't work with the other horses, they are very respectful of me because of all the run-ins they have had with me (Because Blu is younger, he is an easy target, and ALL of our horses are the dominant type). Blu waited patiently for me to work the gate and followed me as I left.

Once we were away from the other horses, his mind began to wander to poop on the ground. I looked at his butt, and he had his eyes back on me immediately. I smiled and pet him to balance out the dominance with relaxation. He followed me when I started to walk backwards, but I was walking faster, and he was falling behind, so I cued him to trot by trotting my legs. He shook his head and put his ears back as he started to trot. He has always had this problem, that he gets aggressive when I ask for the trot. I work on it a lot, and it is one of those gauges for our relationship that pops up when things start to get rough. I immediately stopped him with a hand out, and he slid as he stopped (it is a bit mucky), which also made him shake his head, but then he licked and chewed. I held out my hand, and he approached me with a much more peaceful expression.

After a treat for such a pleasant choice of interaction, I began to groom him with my hands. As I got to his belly, all of a sudden, he swung his head around with his mouth open. Fortunately, I have super ninja-ballerina reflexes and I deflected him with an elbow, and the second attempt got a kick and a squeal in the face (my boot print is still on his cheek). I recalled as I was heading out to bring him over that he was being a nuisance to his two pasture mates. He was running around and trying to bite them, but they would just deflect him or get really annoyed and run him off. Once, Ginger turned around and landed a squealing kick like mine right on his chest. I got the same results as Ginger, too--Blu licked and chewed. I abandoned the grooming and put my hands all over his mouth. When horses bite for social reasons, they need that release. One of the best ways to flush it out of the system is to activate the mouth. When he stopped moving his lips at my prompting, I rewarded him with 3 pellets. Although that was it for the dramatic biting episodes, I decided I had better keep a safe distance today from both ends of him and focus on driving him away from me for respect. I did not have a carrot stick, but I did have my fanny pack, which I would unbuckle and use to extend my reach if driving the air did not work.

I drove Blu to a group of barrels, and in the spirit of leaving the horse alone to figure it out, I sent him to it and let him figure it out. Today, he only rubbed them with his face, licked them, and bit them, but he knows how to go sideways over them, jump them, paw them, roll them, and tip them over (some I had standing up so he could do that if he wanted to). During the barrels, he got bored with having to figure it out himself and he started to leave. I yielded his hindquarters easily, but I had to do that dance described in the previous post to unstick his feet in order to draw him back to me. I decided it was time to move on from the barrels and accept the touching and licking and rubbing he had done. Tomorrow (or next time) will be better.

I wanted to take a whack at his attitude (figuratively, not literally) with what Dennis Reis calls the "Million Dollar Move." It is simply yielding the hindquarters, and as the front end catches up to you, you push it on through then turn to the hindquarters of the new side the horse has given you. It is similar to the Falling Leaf pattern in PNH. It helps to relax horses with a lot of energy, but it also is just a ton of driving, so it helps to win some driving games fast and earn a lot of respect. I also worked on driving backwards, sideways, and just yielding the forequarters around. Blu went through the phase of lashing out at being challenged, but I had my fanny pack! This would not be very useful if Blu had been actually using all of his force, but he has some serious ingrained respect for pressure built in, since he was started in Parelli at a young age. This attitude has only surfaced this fall as serious. He recently got a mare added to his side of the pasture, and he seems to be going through puberty. But, he can maintain his respect through this phase! I don't like using things like this as an excuse for bad attitude. My cues stayed very light and he became super responsive. When I finished, he had his head in my arms and his eyes were soft. He accepted my leadership.

Next, to test the driving I had done, I played stick to me, transitioning to stops, walks, or trots, as I made a loopy line for the gate to put Blu away. He put his ears back at the first step into the trot, but when I put my hand on his neck, he relaxed again. Really, this was great progress, and a perfect ending spot.
Blu wanted to be with me afterwards, so I hung out in his shelter with him and pet his face and neck.

From today, I took that Blu needs to be taken seriously and I need to treat him with the delicacy of a stallion through this phase (he is a gelding) of his. I was surprised at how much move had in him, even if it was angry looking. I will be watching for a consistent soft impulsion, rather than the aggressive intrusion into my space.

Natural Horsewoman Out.

Day Two: The Pedestal

official Records Info:
45 minutes

I only worked with Misty, yesterday. She never left me through the whole thing, and stayed in tune to and intrigued with me for the entirety of the session. I started by attracting her to me by improving my draw via improving my drive. I spent most of my time with her working with the pedestal (12+ inch high tractor tire filled with dirt), then I walked to the fence to leave, but since she followed me at the quick pace I kept, I stood and gave her a good massage.
I spent a while attracting her to me, and we made some definite progress. I would do the typical catching dance where I stalk her hindquarters, she yields them and gives me her eyes, I stand up, smile, and retreat from her, she follows. When she stops, I would judge what kind of stop it was then respond with the proper dance step. If she had an ear out of place (not focused on me), her weight was beginning to shift away, or her eyes were not latched to me, I would repeat the stalking etc. If she was completely focused on me with her body and mind, stopped because of a lack of momentum or reason to follow, I would unstick her feet by simply casually walking (still standing up straight and smiling) sideways in an arc around her that would eventually take me to her hind quarters. But I never made it to her hindquarters to stalk them because she would come unstuck and start following me again. It was slow going, but I am glad I did not become frustrated and just grab her mane or start driving her. In fact, I found that I have been much more relaxed than I have been. Sometimes, I used to feel the frustration start to tickle the edge of my consciousness, but now, nothing. I just become more interested. I am also less hurt when and if she moves away or won't follow me because I just become more interested in how to fix it. The fact that I have come to accept the answer makes it better, too.
Once Misty was following me with momentum, I walked to the pedestal and pointed to it (her cue to interact with something). She knows what this means and has stood on the pedestal many times. However, since she was at liberty, I rewarded her as though she was just learning it (with 3 tiny pellets of her feed). I started by rewarding her for looking at it, then shifting her weight, then taking 1, 2, and 3 steps, then lifting a foot, then pawing it. I spent a lot time in between asking for more to just stand and relax, rub her, etc. I was so proud of her when she pawed it, that I rubbed her and decided to end the session by walking away. She seemed a little baffled at that and stood at the pedestal just watching for the first several steps. Then she hustled after me (at the walk). I gave her treats and massaged her (as I said) when I got to the fence. I left before she got tired of the back lifts that I did after the enjoyable massaging.
I hope that I have communicated how much these TWO sessions have made me feel about my relationship with my horses. If I reach my goals set in the previous post before a month is up, I will start online before planned, too. I can't believe that I have had so much success. I thought I would be spending a little bit of time with my horse and most of the time doing the attracting dance.

Natural Horsewoman Out.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Free Training, Day One

I have a younger sister who is also a student of the horse, and we share with one another our new findings and such. We also critique one another and work through all sorts of problems together. The other day, she was talking with me at the kitchen table about some of the other forms of natural horsemanship that she has been studying recently (I say "forms," but really, they are just other aspects). One of them was free training. I am familiar with this form, but in case my dear readers are not, free training is training without ropes and halters. It is based around the idea that the horse will always be your gauge, that you will know you are doing things right if your horse does not leave you.
Well, this part of our discussion particularly got my gears working. You see, I am a reasonable person of sound mind and body, so I do not choose a form and stay faithful to it to the point of worship. I believe that knowledge is a cyclic and radiative substance that cannot be contained and completely trapped inside one place. That is why I must continue to draw on the entire world's archive of knowledge. I decided that I would deprive myself of ropes and halters in my ground work for one month. Starting today, I will document to the best of my abilities how this month of liberty, free training, naked, call-it-what-you-will ground play.
The reason for all this nonsense is very simple: I need it to become better for my horses. I have reached a level of respect online, but I have experienced a great need to develop in my horses a stronger desire to be with me. Neither of them hate me: they will both come to the gate when I arrive, put a lot of effort into tasks, let me do all sorts of things with them, and will both follow me. The problem is, I have plateaued. I am not growing. I have reached many goals, and now, as I set new ones, I have found that the biggest goal is not a maneuver or level of collection, but for my horses to do anything with me and be happy about it. That means I have to change, and that means that the rope, which is great for teaching respect to the horse, but a crutch to the human who is ready to take the relationship to the next level, has to GO!
You may ask why I am only focusing on groundwork, and the answer is that in riding, you still have a direct connect to influence the horse, unless the horse bucks you off. Both of my horses are great without a bridle and saddle, and one does not even need a string around her neck. But they cannot get away from you when you are stuck on your back. Yes, they could run off with you or buck you off, but at this point in our relationship, that level of fear and not-want-to do not exist. They can say they don't want to, but they cannot go somewhere to get away from me, to tell me just how upsetting I am. At liberty, you push to hard, and they are gone.
Through this program, I am going to have these goals for myself:
  1. become more aware of the "whole horse" as he or she is before my eyes. I will need to be more sensitive to his or her body language than I already am so I can read exactly where the limit is and exactly when the good feelings can be found. A part of the body language that I don't focus on enough right now is the movement in the body: "how choppy is the gait?" and "how tense is the body?" rather than: "what do his eyes say?" and "what are his ears saying?"
  2. become lighter. I am sure that there are times when I am using pressure that is much greater than necessary. We all want our horses to be light to touch, and by being consciously aware of the possibility that my horse can leave me, I will become softer in my phases or cues subconsciously.
  3. become more relaxed. Part of what makes horses so enjoyable to me is that they are a calm in the storm for me. But in the summers, during show season, I become a monstrous, goal-oriented, hyperventilating psycho-woman, and this summer was particularly hard because I was actively fighting my anxiety and knew the mistakes I was making, and was often losing the battles. Well, I want to abolish that attitude within myself of trying to accomplish something other than a relaxing and beautiful relationship with my horse. I know that when I get that, the fancypants stuff will come to us naturally.
I have two separate sets of goals for the horse part: one for each horse. Even though both horses have the same basic personality, their age difference and their simple individualism makes them two completely different creatures. Misty, my Egyptian Arabian, is difficult to motivate and becomes skeptical easily. She is typically sure of herself and likes to throw me back on my pockets (figuratively) when I start to get my nose pointed in the wrong direction (up, that is). There is no doubt, again, that she enjoys being with me, but she does not always willingly stay in my presence. Without further ado:
  1. runs to the gate to meet me. currently, she walks to the gate. The way that your horse catches speaks volumes to how strong her desire is to be with you and how well the last time went. After a rough session, she will acknowledge me, but I have to play the catching game for x amount of time (x goes up as the session before gets worse). It would be an honor if I was such a good part of her day that she ran to the gate to meet me.
  2. sticks to me relentlessly. Misty has great draw to me, I just want to up the ante. No matter where and no matter when, I want to be her leader.
  3. circles me at a close range and out in the open. currently, she only circles in the round pen, and with that, around the edges. better relationship=better circles
Blu, my Quarter Horse Appendix, is a doll. Here is his list:
  1. has less frequent bouts of unconfidence. at liberty, Blu tends to get bracy, like he needs me to hold his hand through everything. I will be looking for more confidence as the month goes by.
  2. sticks to me no matter what. like Misty, Blu can get sluggish and just not stick to me as well as possible.
  3. more lift in his feet. Blu tends to drag is feet a lot. over the summer, I created a program to work on this, and he is so much better, but he is ready to start making it over jumps.

November 17, 2009 (it's late, now, so it may post as November 18)
45 minutes (Misty 25, Blu 15) Afternoon

I put a handful of pellets in my pocket and went into the pasture, intending to do a simple liberty session while I waited to meet someone at the farm. Misty met me at the gate and I gave her three pellets and rubbed her for a while. I wanted her to relax with me, and to be honest, I wanted to relax, too. My attitude was not to evaluate our progress, but just to be and let things happen. I found the big ball that my student donated to our toybox for the horses. It was left out in the pasture, so she had already existed with in her environment and I decided to introduce her to it formally. Her expression and attitude also helped me make this decision: she was very relaxed and calm, seemingly ready to go nowhere.
The first thing I did was take the dried up stem stalk of a weed and use it as a stick to tap her withers. This is my signal for her to move forward, but the weed is so light, that it would help me find how soft I could be. She walked forward very easily with the gentlest tap all through the session. I also focused on releasing when I saw the thought pop into her eyes--before it even began to happen in her body. I found that this helped to speed things up. I asked her to touch it progressively with her nose and hooves. I used treats to reward her, and she became intrigued with the ball. Next, I bounced it off her. She showed a reaction, but just the slightest of uncertainty. The minute her expression began to smooth out, I quit and gave a treat.
I could bounce it off all over her body (I did not try the neck and head today), so it was time to move to bouncing it off the ground. She did not like the sound it made, so I began to run away with it as I bounced it to provoke her interest. Well, she came running after and past me, tail flagging, head up, energy high. She stopped by her horse leader. He is one of the ways that I can know whether or not she feels I am the safest place to be, because if she runs to him, I am obviously not. So, I started to bounce the ball to her in a zig-zagging and back-tracking fashion. She had calmed down quickly and now just watched with a hint of unsureness. When I got to her, she was relaxed and I gave her a treat for that.
I returned to what she was confident with as far as the ball went: touching it. I took it a step further, though and had her push it. When it rolled, I would drive her to it again. Well, I wanted her to go a little farther after scooting here to there until she was pushing it hard enough for it to go 3 or 4 feet. I pushed it with my foot, planning for more of a 10' venture, but it kept on rolling and rolling when the wind caught it. I watched her eyes go a bit dimmer and she turned and walked away. How interesting, for me! She was not going to go get it, one of two things: she didn't want to expend the energy, or she still did not associate cookies with her effort with the ball. Either way, I was just thinking, how great is it that she can tell me that was too much too fast (if she'd had a rope, she would not have even tried to leave, and I would have gone on blissfully ignorant).
I made things right with her really quick (that meant approaching her with her permission and being with her for a little bit) and changed to Blu. He had been standing at the gate ever since I arrived and was very curious about the ball. He was well behaved as I brought through the gate, waiting behind me while I latched it back up.
Blu was not as sensitive as Misty: it took a long time of weed-tapping to get him to go forward sometimes. The ball was a non-issue, which is no surprise: Blu has a huge playdrive and is usually confident with new objects.
When I finished, he was more sensitive and responsive.
I was very light and happy after this session: so glad that I did this!!

Natural Horsewoman Out.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Programs: because horses are like computers

"Horses are like computers: they never do what you want them to, but they always do what you tell them to."
~Pat Parelli (or anonymous: Pat was the first one I heard say it)

Today, I spent the day studying to prepare a program so I can accomplish some of my goals. I really just needed something to focus my sessions. I know that there are a lot of things I want to work toward, but having a program can really help you to organize and chip away at the problems/goals.

So, for those of my possibly nonexistent readers who would like to know how to create a program, I will show you now:

Step 1 (one): Brainstorm. I find that lists are the best things to start with for me. I can list goals I have, dreams I have, problems I want fixed, etc. The lists that are in straight stacks are nice, but it may help to put them all over on a big sheet of newsprint. The purpose of brainstorming is to discover just how much you really want from your relationship with your horse, as well as to have a nice pool of problems to pick from. Be bold: if it is in your mind, put it down. You can edit later. If you think it would be cool to ride you horse through a ring of fire, I better see it on your initial brainstorm--personally, I have long hair, and it would SO get singed. The brainstorm should look like a swirling vortex of goals, fears, dreams, and nightmares about the relationship between you and your horse. I always feel like there is so much on my mind, that the big newsprint papers are necessary, but I suppose that if you had to, a normal sheet of paper would be fine.

Step 2 (two): Break It Down. Before you begin studying and researching, look at the list--or swirling vortex--and, on a separate surface, break each issue down into what you feel are the ingredients to the item. For example, if you have written down "Get rid of that ugly expression my horse has on his or her face when I ask my horse to run with me" I might say that one of the ingredients that create this problem is how much/little your horse is drawn to you. This secondary list is helpful to develop problem solving within your own reasoning. As you learn more about horses and commit more to memory, all of that problem solving will become integrated into a repertoire that you can access within yourself anytime. It might be interesting to go back to this list after researching and seeing how many ingredients are in common.

Step 3 (three): Research It. Tackle you original list and cut out what you want to save for later. If you have "the ring of FIRE!" next to "nicer expression when running beside me" you would decide to put "the ring of FIRE!" on the back burner, for sure. Now, go to your personal library of horse learning material and see what you can find about what is on your lists (you should study things related to both lists to maximize your success). If you get a feeling that there is not much there to find, move on to the internet, the public library, or your friends' personal libraries. You should have an idea of some natural horsemen and horsewomen that you like. Look into buying their books or products, but also, see what is available online. I will warn you, though: in case you did not know, the internet is full of psychos! This means that some of the things you find there will be far from awesome and miles from natural. Actually, a good start if you are really green to natural horsemanship, is to Google it and see what turns up. There are all kinds of different programs to check out. If you have good judgment of intellectual value, the world is full of the right answers--they are just not as abundant and often not as cheap as the wrong answers.

Step 4 (four): Conceptualize. At this point in the game, I take the notes I have from studying and researching and make a concept web for each goal, issue, dream, etc. This helps me further organize and make important connections to what I have learned about what was on my edited list. I am back on a giant sheet of newsprint, as webs can get hard to read on tiny sheets of 8x10's. Something else might work better for you, but the idea is that before you go to a schedule builder, you connect the research to your brainstorm.

Step 5 (five): Use Concept Map to Navigate Self to Success. Break the item down into its ingredients, if there are any. The key to success is to set everything up for success, so start with Day One being successful if you accomplish small goals. If my horse was impossible to catch when she was out in the back pasture, Day One would not be "catch mare in back pasture." That is the path which leads to tears. Day One would be "sit in small paddock for one hour with mare." Do you see how this would work towards being able to catch her in a big space? Now she knows that you don't just come and get her and work and put her back. You would progress to sitting out in the back pasture for X amount of time, throw in some giving her treats during one of these quiet times somewhere in there. Just make sure you have progression in the original plan, but know that you can deviate if, as you evaluate each session, you think more or less time needs to be spent on something. On the other hand, some things may be so basic, that you cannot really break them down too much, or it is just something that needs to be introduced to your horse for the first time and you know the ingredients are strong. Simple. Start the new pattern up so that it is small, slow, and very clear. Each session will work toward the complex pattern that you want in the end, and the horse will begin to understand it better. For something like picking up the feet, you would progress to the horse holding up the hoof when you snap your fingers near the hoof, but start with just having success when your horse shifts his weight and cocks his leg. As you write these schedules down think about how much progress you think that you and your horse are capable of per session; that should tell you how many sessions you need. I myself hover around 5 to 10.
Step 6 (six): Beautify It! I am an artist, and I am possibly--but not likely--OCD about recording everything neatly, so I like to have an attractive final draft. I just use plain old Microsoft Word and hit print!

+ You might find it helpful to create some kind of evaluation at any point before you begin creating your regimen. These are especially helpful for knowing what your horse's learning capabilities are regarding a certain item that you have not addressed in eons, such as handling the tongue without a big scene.
+ Many smaller goals do not need entire sessions spent on them, such as the tongue handling example. Rather, they can be integrated into every session as a less than five minute sub-session. On the other hand, some items will be main focuses and you want them to be given the proper amount of dedication. Make sure that the days you choose to have a session on one of these main squeezes, you have enough time to give the horse and yourself a good education.
+ Too many goals at once can make it difficult to make progress. Try to set up your program so that you tackle a few things at a time then move on to the next program. If you create multiple programs, think about making the goals in each compliment each other.
+ Don't forget to review old things. Programs help us to teach and explore new ideas, but they can also help you recycle and advance. Each program should have an equal amount of learned patterns, ideas, etc. that you are simply advancing on. If you can ground drive your horse very well, now, maybe you will advance to driving a cart. Or perhaps your horse will stay by your side online, but you want to advance that behavior to liberty.
+ Never cut out down time from a program. I recommend that you set goals to have X amount of time devoted to down time each week or each month, depending on your lifestyle. This is good for horses of all breeds and personalities. Take a book and a carrot and sit out in the pasture or outside your horse's stall and be with them. If your horse likes to hang out with you during this time, learn some massages or just rub your horse. At first, your horse may ignore you, and you might feel like it's a waste of precious time, but if you keep at it, you will begin to see better results in everything you do with your horse.

So, with that said, I hope that someone out there, a someone who, like me, is an avid student of the horse, can make sense of this and try it. For now, I am just happy that my one active student can access this and use it!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

The Blu Ball

In the past few months, Blu has been developing an extremely high play drive with the other horses. He really likes to start stuff with his two pasture buddies and becomes very theatrical and animated. It is a entertaining just to watch, but when he is tied to the end of a rope--a rope that is in my hand--it is even better!

I have been very busy with life, but I am good about making time to work with the horses. Misty is on a 6 week no riding treatment for hill therapy, so I been perfecting ideas on the ground with her as far as my end of the deal goes, then applying them to Blu. The Parelli falling leaf pattern has become an invaluable maneuver for me because it really puts the pressure on to move and quick! He has really sped up his cutting, too. I can ask him to run, trot, or walk to me, as well as to stop and back up at any point in that journey. He floats sideways away from me at all gaits, but I am still in the process of teaching him to halfpass toward me (Misty can). I did a lot of experimenting with variations in gait today: I tested out his ability to mirror an elevated trot, an extended trot, and an elevated canter. He was so full of energy, that these first experiences came out pretty well. I imagine it won't be long before he can piaff and passage on the ground. I can hardly sit still just writing about it; that is how much I enjoy horseplaying with Blu.

Even though I only spent an hour and a half with him this afternoon, I worked on a wide variety of things today because I was moving through them so fast. He was just on fire!

We covered the weaving pattern (in the english saddle with natural hackamore) the walk and trot. I recall his left turns being of less quality at first. I will look for the carrot stick to become used less in the next session, but for the most part, he was responsive to my leg and weight aids.

I transfered to the figure eight at the canter. He was so light and responsive in my hand, that I had him making nice patterns in a matter of several minutes.

I am working toward finding Blu's talents and improving his non-talents. I have definitely found one of those non-talents of his 4 year old self: jumping. I spent the summer teaching to pick his feet up over ground poles rather than trip over them. So, today I had him work with a raised cavaletti pattern. First, I had him circle around me as a walked the circumference closer to the pattern. He became curious and I used reverse psychology to keep him interested in it. I drew him away from the pattern whenever he looked at it. Then I had him go right next to it so he could see how the last one was higher than the others and get a feel for the distances between each. The first go over, was caught off guard by that last, higher step and kicked it with his first hoof before correcting. The second time was flawless and he had a very attentive look on his face, so I moved on.

I mounted back up and worked on bending his body with shoulder-ins and hind-ins. It was his first experience with that concept, but he did remarkably well. His butt doesn't go in as well as his shoulders do, but it was a good start. I worked on collecting the slack as he shortened his frame and then releasing after I got to the hover craft feeling. He was really happy to stretch his neck out and relax in between collections.

Those are just the highlights from today: we did more. I was so pleased today with those results. As always, the moment I get out of the show ring, my horses and I relax and learn. After such an afternoon of learning, I massaged Blu while he grazed for 5 minutes.

When I let him go, I released him in the back pasture where his pasture mates had been grazing all day--and where the good grass is. Did he race out to go find them? No, he followed me back to the barn! I was so humbled by that. It was a real compliment.

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