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.

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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