Friday, December 31, 2010
The weather was beautiful--50 degrees Fahrenheit, snow almost completely gone. The only problem was it was a bit muddy. I came out with Blu on the featherlines. Today, I wanted to canter! I warmed him up with the touch it game. He was having a lot of difficulty, though. He did finally get lighter and in tune with my focus, though.
As we started in the driveway, I realized that Blu was going very aimlessly. I tied him to a tree and grabbed three buckets from the barn. Foci! We started up again. As I tried to keep the line out of the mud, aim Blu, drive Blu, allow Blu, make turns, etc, I began to get very tangled in my handful of lines. I had clean lines, but boy was I frustrated with them. Things were going to Hell in a handbasket pretty quick. Here is where I kicked myself for lack of judgment of priorities. Just let those lines get dirty! I have washed lines before. These lines are special because they were a gift from someone when I was in Colorado for the performance summit. But she would want them to get dirty to keep me from getting frustrated.
From the moment I stopped caring about those lines getting dirty, everything seemed to fall into place. My buckets were too far apart. Blu needed a small success. And I faced that I needed one, too. So, I made the distance about 30 feet and we went back and forth between the two. Once he had excellent focus at the walk, we trotted. I did not even attempt the canter because one day, it will just happen. Set things up for success, and success will occur.
I took off the feather lines and halter and Blu followed me at liberty to the trailer. I started with porcupine back into the trailer because I did not trust Blu to not leave if I did the yoyo game. Maggie helped by holding his tail out of the way, which he did not mind. But shame on me. I decided to give him a chance with the yoyo, and lo and behold! It was like we had a line on. He never got two feet in, but got one several times. Seems that the footing was difficult for him to manage (not icy, but mucky!)
I mounted up using my tailgate. He was great for that and it was at liberty. I rode around the driveway with carrot stick only when my youngest sister came around and wanted to see him hand me his halter. We had several flops and he began to throw his halter away. Good thing Ellie was there to retrieve it several times. Finally, he handed it to me two or three times. Then I haltered him. He keeps his head turned for me the whole time. It is really nice; I remember what a struggle it once was.
Back to riding, I pitched the stick. New milestone! We rode with NOTHING outside of the fence! And at all gaits! It was so cool. Of course, I kept us on the driveway, and he respected that, but he could have chosen to not stay on course. I did need to use a finger at the base of his neck to support a few turns, but it was hardly there.
After an excellent canter to back up transition, I dismounted and drew him to me at the trot. Then he followed me to the barn and I put him away.
Official Records Informaiton: Blu, 12/31/10, 2 hours, afternoon
This morning, when I got to the farm, it started raining. Just as I said "I can play in the rain!" thunder rumbled. I do NOT play with lightning. I was really bummed, at first. Then I kicked myself. I was obviously meant to study inside until things let up! I did just that. When I went outside, it was warm and beautiful. Maggie arrived from home to play with Ginger. Everything fell into place once I got the right frame of mind.
I feel like there is a parallel between the weather today and my session with Blu. Once I stopped worrying about those lines getting dirty, everything fell into place. And look how great things went! Just let them get dirty is to understand what the priorities are in life at any given time--it's savvy.
Natural Horsewoman Out.
Thursday, December 23, 2010
Blu, Evening, 45 minutes
I bridled Blu from my knees with maple syrup on the bit. When I mounted from the sistern, I used my glove to position him right next to me by flapping it on his hip. That needs to be refined.
We played the corners game with contact. He was having problems going in straight and backing up at first, but by the time we finished in the square pen, he was going forward much better and backing up with just my seat. I used the power of waiting. We just walked and trotted. After our best-feeling stop and back, we did a large circle in a really upward, collected, canter out in the open pasture. He was really underneath himself. I ended with a dismount back onto the sistern, unbridling on my knees, then I sat in front of him for a few minutes.
Misty, Evening, 15 minutes
I went out and just played with her. The circle was one of the last things we did, and we got a whole circle! At first she had her ears back when I backed her up, so I just waited. She walked a loop away and back to me then trotted to me with both ears up. It was a sort of improvised session, though. She and I ran back and forth doing sort of rollbacks that created a sort of figure eight (I can see that developing into something!!) she did a few really fast spins (180’s and 360’s), and then there was the circle. Now, it was a choppy circle that needs improvement, but it was a circle, nonetheless. Making progress!!
Natural Horsewoman Out.
Wednesday, December 22, 2010
Blu and I played the corner games at the walk and trot with contact. We played with body position, straightness, and backing. At the end, we cantered 2 large circles in a lovely, elevated canter.
Misty and I really played. She offered tons of great stuff at liberty. She was doing perfect, fast spins, we started a figure eight pattern with flying lead changes, and she got one complete circle.
Today, I had the right focus. I was just out to be recreation for my horses. I was not out to make progress toward a black string or prepare to impress the judges of my audition. I was there for those two horses.
Today was about watching their faces. Sometimes we forget to really look at their faces and answer the question of why we are doing this. I had a really good time and tried to make it fun for them. I hope they enjoyed themselves as much as I did.
Natural Horsewoman Out.
Tuesday, December 21, 2010
I read something today about making new habits. If I can remember, worry, and tie my shoe, then I can remember to tie my shoe in a new way and break the old habit of tying my shoe like I usually do. If I can realize the road I am going down, I can do something different. I just have to realize that I have a choice.
So, when Blu was having comeback issues with the yoyo and I felt that foreboding dread at the back of my skull and the heaviness in my shoulders, I sought to do something different--to tie my shoe in a different way. I may not be able to force myself to feel better, but I can do something different that causes me to feel better. I knew that one of the wrong choices would be to continue on with my plans and do more complicated things where the lack of draw would cause more problems and throw me into a vortex of failure and feeling horrible.
Another thing I might have done that would not help me feel better would be to get upset. I could have thrown a tantrum or something dramatic. I could have pitched myself onto the ground and gone blank. Any number of options are imaginable that would only lead to a melodramatic onslaught of tears or cussing or stomping off or otherwise. Obviously an incorrect option for this situation.
I decided to ask Maggie for help. I knocked on the window and asked her to watch Blu and me for a moment. Now, Blu had been freezing up at the end of the line. I asked him to come back, he went to sleep, I waited there doing nothing for a moment and then he suddenly came to me after several minutes. I went back to the porch and asked her what I should do.
"I don't know." And the door closed. I sat down on the porch. I wasn't crushed, I was just thinking. Blu was watching me and asking me questions. Then he climbed the steps and stood in front of me. Talk about draw. He just can't do it during the yoyo. . . Maggie knocked on the window--telling me to get my horse off the porch, I am sure. Should have told her I didn't put him there.
I went back to the driveway and began talking to myself. As I'd been performing for Maggie our poor little yoyo, I had made a realization of my own. That is why I was not upset when she told me she didn't know what I should do--because I knew. Not only did I know, but I was already doing it. I just needed to keep doing it.
I complicate things by second guessing myself. What needed to happen today was for me to accept that I am right. I am my biggest critic, I think, but I am often not a helpful critic.
Needless to say, I began to solve my puzzle without second guessing myself. I stood off to his side and drew him to me several times. This is not a respect issue, so I can move away as much as he needs. I began positioning myself straighter and further from him until he was drawing straight to me.
Then I went to zone 5 and drove him in a figure 8 around the two buckets. I started with the walk. I was very clear and slow with my signals. I saw when he reazlized what we were doing and what the cues were. Then I asked for the trot when it just felt appropriate--like not asking for the trot would be incorrect. I did my figure 8 of 1/2 trot, 1/2 walk. He got every transition smoothly and his turns got much better. I stayed light, and when the end came, I exhaled and he stopped thoughtfully. I asked him to come to me and he came. I took off his halter and asked him to come to me. Then I let him follow me away.
Is this a silly horse, or did I make a difference, here? What I believe is that I followed a pattern of natural progression. Everytime I moved on, it felt like the natural, proper thing to do. I just need to accept my intuition.
I find quite frequently that when I go to ask for help, I had the answer already and just wanted to believe that I was inadequate. I have to believe that I am capable. I am capable. I usually succeed when I attempt. I am capable of being friends with a horse.
Natural Horsewoman Out
Sunday, December 12, 2010
I put him back in his stall to document the name. I brought him back out and we played in the snow. He has been in the barn all morning (by choice, his stall is a run-in), so I knew he would be wanting to do some star-jumping. I was right! He was doing all sorts of contortions and airs above the ground. Again, I slowly shaped what he was doing until he was obedient and attentive. I began to be particular about where he made transitions and I had him do a lot of them. Once he was cantering steadily, we did changes of direction. At first, he was sticky on the direction change he has gotten stuck on before (changing from clockwise to counterclockwise), but I used two parts of the landscape and then he became confident and fluid with them. The first was a pine tree. The second was a hill with a steep drop off. Both caused him to make the decision to change directions and I think he realized I was being quiet while he did all of that puzzle solving. He was spectacularly atheltic.
To finish off our session, we went to the trailer. You know what? When I opened the door, he turned his butt to it and started backing up to it! Today he did not get his foot lifted in because right as we started, the wind really picked up and he wanted to face away from it—and so did I. So, I got him to the point of lifting his foot up to it, then we hustled back to the barn!
It was a very fun day with him. Two hours out in the blizzard. I did not need gloves as long as I kept my hand on the end of the 23' line! However, I forgot my hat! I had frozen locks by the end of the session!
ORI: Blu, 2 hours, 12-12-10, afternoon
Natural Horsewoman Out.
I read in a book authored by Mark Rashid something to the effect of "if you do not practice patience in every area of your life, you will not meet your potential patience-capacity with horses." In other words, if you cannot wait for your brother to finish his sentence before starting in with your opinion, you are lacking patience, and no matter how patient you are with horses, you could be more patient. The same goes for other attributes of a master horseman/horsewoman. If you have a short temper with people, are depressed about something, are pessimistic about your mother-in-law's visits, it will taint and/or retard your horsemanship journey.
The Bible also references the phenomenon of this seepage of character from one aspect of your life to another:
"Jerusalem, wash the evil from your heart and be saved. How long will you harbor wicked thoughts?"
*We sometimes harbor and tolerate the negative characteristics in other parts of our life.
"Jesus knew their thoughts and said to them: “Any kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and a house divided against itself will fall."
*If you are the kingdom, then you are divided in yourself when you have impatience in one area of your life.
Those might seem to be stretches, but I am very flexible when I draw parallels. In any case, this whole post is validated because I quoted the Bible (which if not a device of religion to you, is still a brilliant piece of literature on humanity, at the very least), right? Hehehe.
This is the reason that I am very concious of what I am feeling or thinking when I am not with my horses. At work, I try my best to improve my patience with my coworkers and to have an outlook that is the most beneficial to my workplace and my horsemanship journey. At work, I have finally reached a level of control over my thoughts and outlook. I attribute my better outlook with my horses to this success over my impatient thoughts at work :D.
Official Records Information:
Blu, 1 hour and 45 minutes, 12/10/10, afternoon
Before my ride, I wanted to stick with the program I have started with the trailer. Blu was great for catching and haltering, then we headed out to the yard to play with backing into the trailer. I let him graze first. When we got to the trailer, he was a bit tight. He was stuck in his feet, distracted, and when he did move his feet, he moved them too much. So I put him on the 23’ line to do a pre-trailer warm up. I played touch-it point-to-point in zone 5, first. If we touched trees, I allowed him to eat the grass near the base of the trunk, but only the grass right next to the base. If his nose moved away from the tree, he was redirected. He figured this out after two trees and his grazing relaxed. Also, as we moved onto the next point, he got lighter on the cues. That really helped him focus and loosen up.
Then we played the circling game. I yoyoed him out and in a few times, then sent. Now he wanted to move and his fast-going energy was all much more confident. He twisted and bucked out there. The ground is gently rolling where we were, so he had some hindrance from the topography, but not much. I slowly began shaping what he was doing. When he had stopped the twisty-bucks, I did a bulls-eye pattern (probably 3 of them) to get him focused on me at the center. His first few, he came to the center "too soon" (it was only that he should have came in straight instead of winding all the way in on a circle. this may not be correct form, but it still means he is focusing on me more than the outside of the circle). I would just say "hi" and resend to start over. However many we did, on the last one, he made it to the center by doing a "correct" bullseye. I let him make three laps at the smallest circle size before yielding him.
Now that he was more attentive, I got to where we had a steady pattern of "trot at point-x on the circle and pick the canter back up at point-y" with x as an slight uphill and y being a slight downhill. After several laps, he got lighter and quieter. When he came in, he came to a point and dove for grass, so I just backed him up and sent him out to try my come-back again. Now we did the same pattern to the left. It took very little time for him to quiet down and when I asked him in again, he came all the way in and connected with me. I gave him permission to eat and let him graze for a minute before going to the trailer.
With the trailer, in much less time than it took the other day to get a hoof on the lip of the trailer, we made the next step toward our goal of backing all the way into the ramp-less trailer: weight on the foot that’s in. When he puts that hoof in, it is cocked and just resting on the floor. All he did was really try to put weight on it. He was thinking very heavily toward putting weight on it. He loaded all his weight onto the foot on the ground so he could right his cocked foot in the trailer. So, next time, it is probable the he will have both his back legs in the trailer because I don’t think I see him dangling his other foot out as he bears weight on the in-the-trailer foot.
Blu eliminated a load in the garage while my dad held him so I could run inside and get some syrup for his bit. :D. As I walked back and forth cleaning it up, Blu followed very obediently and squeezed between vehicles that were parked close together—just several good-partner moments. Now we were ready to ride!
Mounting, Blu came nicely to the picnic table when I cued him and he stood very pleasantly while I got on. I took off his halter and bridled him from his back. He was so cooperative for that. Who knew that it would be so easy to teach him to be a partner for bridling while mounted?
He was a bit dull at the gate, but cooperative. He was specifically dull on when I was asking him to go sideways to push the gate shut again. I think the problem here is that he did not understand the purpose. He was very light for responsive for positioning himself to open the gate up. Hmm. . . how interesting.
I did a figure eight freestyle for a bit with breaks in between the pattern. During one of the breaks, I did the friendly game with leaning forward. Sometimes when I lean forward, Blu throws his head up. I don't know if this is a pain reaction or not, but today I practiced walking my hands up his neck with weight born on them. No negative reactions. I sped up the walking hands in increments and still no reactions.
I started to play the friendly game with contact then shifted to holding a steady contact for longer periods of time. I focused on keeping a nice, consistent, steady connection. When he tipped his head, I tipped it that much and more until he wanted to go back to the correct shape (I think that is part of Linda Parelli's game of contact. I don't know if I really can picture what she means in some of her written explanations). And that is how our 8’s went. I gave him a rest when he did something that felt good. I refined our hind quarter yields a bit, too—continuing to get those better.
Any time we backed up, it was really light. The contact was there, but the reins were not saying "back up"—he was doing it with just the seat. This was consistent all through the ride.
I ended after he did an entire figure with really light feel and excellent shape.
Dismounting, I laid on my stomach with my feet to his tail and slid off to the back. Not ONE head-bob. That used to really bother him, but now he is used to it. He did not even look like he was just "tolerating." Once I was off, he turned to me with bright eyes and ears forward.
I lead him gently by the jaw to his run-in stall where I gave him hay and stood with him for a while.
Official Records Information:
Misty, 15 minutes, 12-10-10, evening
While doing chores, I trimmed and rasped Misty’s hoofies; they are beginning to chip from the rock hard ground. Her front end just needed rasping, but the back needed trimming, as well. She stood quietly at liberty for me and lifted her feet with just a light touch. She jolted the back feet as I was putting them down, so I just did friendly game with them. I also cleaned her udders. I remember when she hated that. Now, she stood fine at liberty. For the rest of the time I did TTouches. I paid special attention to her back left leg to aid healing.
Official Records Information:
Misty, 2 hours, 12-11-10, afternoon
I played with Misty between work shifts. I wanted to bring her out to graze for a bit, maybe do a little bit of something on line, but then I wanted to go into the pasture and play with our close range circles at liberty. Hahahahahahahahahaha.
Misty and I hung out with Ginger and Maggie, Misty’s sister and my sister, for a couple hours instead. We played with the four bags of saw dust that were lined up in the driveway. While I was in my truck getting gloves, I Misty was sticking her head in the truck bag and talking to the tarp that was folded up there. I pulled it out of there and laid it over one of the saw dust bags. She had absolutely NO qualms about it: not while I carried it and not when it was on the bags. She was pawing the bag trying to step over one foot at a time. The bags were just too wide to do that, though, so she very slowly lifted up her front end and plopped it on the other side. Then she sidepassed off the line of bags. Later, I had her sidepass to and from me on the bags, too. It was good to see her so confident and cooperative.
Maggie and I kind of played "HORSE" the way you do with basketball, only we were doing it with horses. She would do something with Ginger, and I would do it with Misty. We reared on and off the back. First, Maggie had Ginger rear. Misty's rear is pitiful compared to Ginger. Ginger goes full up to the sky and holds it until Maggie asks her to come back down. Misty looks comical with her little strain off the ground like a chicken trying to fly hehehe. Then, Maggie had Ginger bow and she hopped on. I went to frog leap onto Misty, but we got into a laughing fit. I sprained my wrist the other day, so I had to be careful, but I could not compose myself. I just kept running into her butt and laughing. Misty was very good through the whole fool thing. Not once did she move out of the way as I charged toward her-nor when I slammed into her. Finally, with achy ribs--either from running into her or from laughing--I climbed onto the fence and she sidepassed to me automatically.
Now Maggie reared with Ginger. Ginger does little pops up and down. Misty does little tries then a big effort of a tiny lift off the ground. Hehehe.
Then we hopped off and did more stuff on the ground. We did sideways to us in unison. Maybe Maggie, Ginger, Misty, and I should do a performance together.
The last challenge was back to the sawdust bags, I had Misty stand on a bag and Ginger jumped over a couple bags that were standing tall-ways. This was a great illustration of Misty's talents and approach to things compared to Gingers, hehehe.
…all kinds of fun. I had a plan, but basically trashed the plan to play with Maggie. Misty and Ginger grazed a lot while Maggie and I talked and laughed. It was very relaxing and fun.
To end this post, I would like to return to my prefacing comments and present another idea. In addition to your outside-of-horses life spilling into your horsemanship journey, inevitably, your horsemanship journey will spill into the rest of your life; it's a two way street. In the 17 days, I had almost 20 hours of horse time in sessions. You better believe that had something to do with my progress in becoming more patient and happy at work. So, it is a circle of growth. One feeds the other and vice versa. So, play with your horses, and let it spill over into your life; grow as a horseman, and grow as a human being. I think that is what it means to become a true master of anything.
Natural Horsewoman Out.
Tuesday, December 7, 2010
Blu was already focused on me. When I came out with his halter, he struggled on over to me (the ground is nightmarish) and waited for me to put it on. He followed me to the gate with some kind of threshold at one point. I don't know if it was because he was stuck (unlikely), he did not want to go to the gate, or he was having a threshold about the water trough. Later on I found out that he and the other horses must have been shocked by the water heater. At any rate, I waited and he followed me after just a moment. As I was walking, I was going very slow and carefully, as if focusing all my energy on maneuvering on the frozen mud lumps.
I did a sort of porcupine game on his halter by walking off around the pasture and expecting him to follow. Twice he put tension in the rope. When we made it to the back of the pasture. I stopped walking. I did not look at him or touch, I just waited. Soon, he began eating. His eating was very relaxed, which is good.
Next, we played with the tire pedestal in preparation for backing into my non-ramp trailer. The tire pedestal is probably over 12'' high and the trailer lip is only about 5''-6'' off the ground, so I figure that if Blu can attempt to pick his foot up on to the tire pedestal, he actually can do it with the trailer. Blu can back onto the tire pedestal if his hind end is on it, already.
My goal was to keep him straight. He was trying not to go introverted, I could see, and he was actually quite successful in keeping those eyes open. I waited when he needed it, but the waits were much shorter, today. By the time we were done, he was lifting his foot all the way up to where if it was any higher, it would be on.
On the way out of the pasture, I did several squeeze games in and out of the gate because they needed a bit more. . . clarity is the word, I think. At first, when I got particular, he got defensive. So, we did squeezes until he was relaxed, thinking about it, and had respect.
After letting him graze--and again he grazed nice and slow--I grabbed a tire and food tub with mash in it. He did not recognize that I was carrying food, which was the purpose of the tire--to conceal the food tub. I really wanted the food to be a surprise. Unfortunately, as I was setting up at the trailer, he noticed it. Oh, well, it still worked out just fine.
Now that Blu knew there was food, I saw NONE of the unsure horse from the "bad" night with the trailer. I sent him in forward, first. The rope was too loose and he stepped on the clip once, then the rope. But he was not to bediscouraged! He did not even back out. He just picked up feet until he was free and got in. When I brought him out and got him set up, he was thinking about what we were going to do to get the food. Really quick, he caught on to the back up to the trailer idea. His comebacks to me were much more confident, too.
He began to look back at his butt, like he was trying to solve the puzzle by looking back there--he would even look at his butt toward the side that did not have any food on it, so I am pretty sure he was looking at the puzzle and not the prize. We reapproaced so many times. I tied up his tail so that just when he had a breakthrough it was not ruined by a tail kerfluffle.
It is always so cool to watch the tries and attempts grow and get closer and closer to realization of the goal. But after so many times of lifting a leg a bit and putting it back down after just a moment, I got really excited when he began to lift it, then hold it and lift a bit higher, searching for the edge. We called it a day for the trailer when he picked up his hindfoot and rested inside the trailer. WOOHOO! Only three more hooves to go!
On to mounting . . . Blu did not sidle up to the picnic table automatically when I stood on it, but he came right over when I cued him to. He was relaxed as I got on. As I got on, I did a lot of approach and retreat, trying to find where it is that he starts to not like. I found out the other night that he was made uncomfortable by my boot touch his butt when I was crawling all over him with the same objective of ousting any yeah-but spots. No luck in finding anything that irritated him, today.
I should make a diagram for this:
So, the food is yellow, the blue is the gate, and the black circle is a tire. The whole purpose here is to get Blu's hindquarter yields lighter. The pattern is start at the food, walk the path indicated, 180 on haunches, walk forward a bit, 180 on the forehand (hq yield), and back the path indicated exactly so we end up at the food, again. Blu figured out that if he was more responsive, we got to the food faster. It seemed like he was getting duller hindquarter yields and we can't progress much if the hindquarter yields are getting dull. But I was just doing an infinity pattern that drove him crazy, and pretty soon, he would sull up whenever I went to yield the hindquarters.
When Blu performed the pattern with lightness and rhythm, I dismounted and let him finish the mash. I thinks some of it was frozen, hohohe.
I stood in Blu's stall and did TTouches for a good while, just to be with him.
So, today went much better for Blu and I hardly saw any of the negative stuff I'd been running into with him in the past few sessions. Good, good, good.
Natural Horsewoman Out.
Monday, December 6, 2010
Last week, I was in a really negative frame of mind and was not sure how to undo it. I emotionally emailed my Parelli Professional with the subject title of "don't drop everything to reply" because I felt like I just needed to reach out to someone but would feel better after sleeping. I did feel better after sleeping and I sent off to the P.P. this news. I wondered secretly if my life was going to be these drastic ups and downs forever, though. What would I do the next time a horse session left me feeling unsure of myself? Would it be the same story all over again?
ORI: Misty 1 hour 12-5-10 morning
Work got out early on Sunday because we were way overstaffed. It's too bad I didn't get great hours, but you couldn't have called me unhappy about it! When I went out to play with Misty, I was in a great mood. I decided that she would enjoy it if I brought out the ball. Connor took off when I kicked it into the pasture, but after her initial jump, Misty went after it.
Right off the bat, I got particular about where she rolled the ball--specifically, I wanted her to roll it to me. It was a lot of fun because she was so focused. I would drive her hindquarters away or to me to aim her, then I would hope that she pushed it forward. She was very engaged.
When I was done, I went to the center of my homemade arena, turned, and asked her to come to me. Just like that, she stopped engaging with the ball, hopped over the log, and ran to me.
I played the yoyo game after putting my head down (she puts her head down when I put mine down and it helps her to come off adrenaline, of course). For the most part, she was tight and defensive. I waited for rhythm and relaxation in her yield as I used my energy to push her back. I also kept a softer face and did a lot of waiting for a sigh or licking and chewing.
I was just thinking that even though she was having difficulty handling pressure, she had not left on a get-away-break. Soon after, she left. Instead of going to the front of the pasture, though, she went to the giant tire pedestal, stood on it with her front end, and looked at me. She was over 45' away. She has done this before, but what happened next is different from her "usual." This past summer, she struggled with disengaging from obstacles (she wanted to stay on the pedestal, by the cone, etc). From where she had left me, I signaled to her to step forward and come to me. She walked squarely over the pedestal and began coming back. She had no issues or tightness about leaving that pedestal. At first, she walked straight to me, but the curtain rod fence with bindertwine string was in her way, so she had to solve that puzzle to get back to me. At this point would be when she might just call it too much trouble to get back to me, but she thought it out and came around the fence.
When she came around the fence, I did a big smile and she got high up in her neck and bright in her eyes as she trotted to me. She was very happy and exuberant, which is normal for how she appears to feel when she comes back from one of these breaks.
I thought it would be a good time to try our close range circling game, but as soon as I put the pressure on, she got tight again. So, I waited for relaxation and then stood with her. I noticed some blood in her tail and checked her out the source; she had several small cuts on her hind leg. Those would be the results of Connor's abuse of her. Rolly eyes.
I decided to try the circling game closer to the front of the pasture to see if she felt safe enough there to handle pressure. As we passed the ball, she went to it and rolled it to me. I picked it up and ran to the front and she chased after me like a mad-mare. I gave her the ball and we played with it for a while. It ended up in the ditch (see map of the Greenhorse Farm). I told her that if she could get Timmy (the ball) out of the ditch, she could have a cookie. This was more a deal with myself that she would get said prize/bonus upon completing said mission. It took her a good 5 minutes (could have been longer), to get it out of the ditch and not roll back. She got her cookie.
"Shall we run a lap, Nan?" I ran to the back of the pasture and she came after me at a trot. I stopped to make sure that she would come all the way around to the East side my arena. When she made the corner, I ran as fast as I could back to the front. It is a little intimidating to have a wild-eyed Arab right behind you, so I was running for my life! She beat me, though. At the very end, she pulled out ahead of me. I put my head down and we walked around like that for a little, then just stood with our heads down. I have been told that she appreciates this.
Then, I made her a promise. In the PNH program, there is an -ism that goes "Never break a promise to your horse." My promise was that if she could beat her standing record of 1/4 of a lap in the close range circling game, I would take her out to graze for the rest of the time that I had before I had to return work, again.
By the gate, we got 1/3 of a circle to the right. Woo! I had 15 minutes to go, so she got to have 15 minutes of grazing with me on the lawn. It was cold, and I had my eye on the time, but I kept up my end of the deal and we grazed for every one of those minutes.
This session continued my amazingly high mood. At work, I had another very short shift and I was going to have time for a Blu session! I was elated.
ORI: Blu 1 hour 30 minutes 12-5-10 evening
By the time I got to the farm, it was getting dark (it gets dark so fast!), but I did not worry about it. I ran hot water on Blu's bit and wrapped it in a warm cloth and got him bridled and haltered in the stall he was standing in. Right from the get go, I let him clean up the loose hay in the barn. I was in no hurry. I was in a great mood.
Out on te lawn, I took his halter off and put it on the fence so we could do the dame command. But he was more interested in getting hay on the ground (there are stalks littered all of the the lawn). He tried once, but half-heartedly. Then he went into the barn. I let him get a bite in there before driving him back outside. He then walked off into the lawn. I sighed and went to get a can of grain to shake. I could sense this could go from being an innocent escape to graze into an all out leaving the farm. I was not worried, but just making observations. After I got him, I took him by the cheek piece and played the porcupine game with it and grazing. I let him graze but wanted to have him bring his head up when I put the slightest pressure on the bridle.
I found it curious that Blu was agonizing over grazing so much. And that is when I started to get a little defensive. I was letting him eat at every turn. I do not chastise my horses for getting grass--I only ask that they ask and that they are ready to focus when I ask. I take grazing breaks for them. What was I doing wrong that he should feel he needs to eat like his life depends up on it--and he was doing that; his lips were frantically nabbing every morsel. I let him graze until he slowed down and relaxation seemed to come back into his body.
It made me feel like I was really missing something, but at the time I could not put the dots together. This is the point that I should have put him away and gone inside to think about what he needed (or some similar plan of action). After being removed from the situation, I know Blu was nervous about a session with me. He has been coming to me, but he gets more and more nervous about me but he wants to be with me, so it comes out in his need to graze frantically.
So, we did yoyos with the trailer open. I stood behind the trailer as he backed to the trailer. I kept him straight. He tried to graze a lot. I just "patiently" asked him to bring his head back up after a few bites (on the outside, I looked patient, but on the inside, my nerves were becoming more raw by the minute). I never asked him to go in, I just kept him straight and let him work through the thresholds. He has backed into a ramped trailer, before, but not our non-ramp trailer. There is a 5'' step up. We worked on the trailer for what seemed like forever. I did some "snap out of it" on the line to get him to stop diving for grass, and that got his attention. I did not do it out of frustration, but I had not tried it and hoped it might be the ticket. It did seem to help and I followed it with a long wait.
I realize that I was quite upset inside (not as bad as I have been at times), but I was doing a lot of things right. That does not mean I was going to end in a great place. I wish I would have gone in way back when and saw what I needed to do FOR him. But I stubbornly persisted. I knew that I was NOT going to ride tonight, but I was going to . . . well, I don't know what I thought I was going to get done. I think I just wanted to hold out until Blu could stand at the trailer relaxed and focused on me. It was not that he was nervous about the trailer, he was nervous about me. I wanted him to prove to me that I was not a bad person, I think. I wanted him to give me validation. It was probably the most selfish thing I could have done, though.
Next, I worked on mounting for another eternity. From the fence, first, but the fence was so awkward with my clunky muck boots. So I stood on the picnic table. It was a bit about him getting into position, but it was more about him staying relaxed when I took my weight off him. I wore myself out dismounting over and over until he did not bob his head. Chiropractor is coming out this month. I can't take the wondering if it is all because of back pain anymore. Of course grazing was a problem, still.
As I write all this, I am not frustrated. That is why I did not blog this on Sunday night. It literally spoiled my mood. I consciously tried to push back the negative feelings and focus on my excellent Misty-session from earlier, but I simply couldn't. I went to Ellie's birthday dinner at home and came back to the farm to stay the night.
I started to blog, but stopped. I got "I feel really. . ." typed, but couldn't say exactly how I felt other than "I feel like praying." So, I said a prayer for peace within myself and that Blu would forgive me for being selfish, then I went to bed.
When I went to bed, I was thinking about last week after that session with Blu when I emailed my Parelli professional. I was thinking about how the next day, I was able to pick back up on a new page. So, even though I still felt bad and still felt like I couldn't control how I felt, I knew that I would feel better in the morning.
ORI: Misty 1 hour 12-6-10 morning
The next morning, I was up at 5 a.m. I got bundled up and went outside. I set up the spot light and went out to have a liberty session with Misty. I felt very fresh, not only because it was FREEZING outside, but I felt better.
It was funny because there were a half dozen kittens running around us for a while before they decided to go play on the fence. They thought I was outside to feed them! Misty was very tolerant of them playing around her feet. I shooed them off when I began an extreme friendly game. She was tight at first, so I just did approach and retreat until she relaxed. That took a while.
Misty could not go faster than a walk because the ground was rock hard and lumpy. That seemed to frustrate her. She did leave a few times and stand by her food bucket. She thought it was time to eat, too! I did S-bends with her to draw her back to me. Then, we did a close range circling game. I got a 1/4 of a circle before yielding her back in. I was not going to push it this morning because I was COLD and Misty was hungry. She got a cookie for her 1/4 circle because she looked at a kitten when she as she came in and forgot to think about cookies when she got to me.
I ended the session when I walked off and she followed me, then did not immediately frisk me when I stopped. Surprise cookie.
I had a relaxing morning feeding the horses and went on to have a long day at school. Next week is finals week, so I have to make sure all my t's are crossed and all my i's are dotted. Nevertheless, throughout the day, I was thinking about these three sessions. I was able to think about Sunday's good session with Misty and look back with a philosophical eye at Blu's session. I need to be particular without getting critical when it comes to Blu. He might need a heap of purpose poured into his program, too. He is worn out on following the rail. If I want him to have better HQ yields when I ride, I need a purpose. I thought of facing an open gate, yielding HQ, then backing out. Once out, he gets to graze. In my arena, I thought of putting a cookie or a food dish on a barrel, yielding the hindquarters, and backing up to the bonus. Also, simply working gates would improve his yields because the yields serve the purpose of opening the gate.
It is funny, because I read a few blog posts of Linda Parelli's last night and she was saying similar things to how I felt in one. She talked about how hard it is to do the things we know. Then, in another, she talked about controlling one's own emotions and the difference between not feeling sad and not letting sadness control you. She said that she likes to live like she is 10 years in the future looking back at today.
I want to be the human my horses dream of. I have to keep in mind that I am not trying to do something for myself, here. I am trying to do something for horses. My happiness is just a lucky side effect of my journey. I get lost and focus on myself, worry about deadlines, and forget that there are two horses who are free beings.
I will persist. This program is usually teaching you to persist with your horses, but I need to learn how to persist with myself and not become discouraged when a session does not yield miracles. I am learning to ride the waves; the crests that leave me smiling so big along with the troughs that should make me rock back on my heels and THINK and LEARN. Pat Parelli has never seen it take longer than two days, according to the -ism.
I leave you with one final thought: keep things in perspective. Try to remember not to sacrifice your horse to make progress, even if it is progress in this program. Kawabunga.
Natural Horsewoman Out.
Saturday, December 4, 2010
Blu, 1 hour, evening
Misty, 30 minutes, evening
My plan for Blu was to warm him up on line outside the pasture on the driveway and lawn, then ride him freestyle with one line in the pasture, but not in my arena, then ride finesse for a short period in a bridle with his Confidence Snaffle, also not in my arena, then take off everything and ride bridleless to my arena where I would dismount. This whole thing was about making a point that the arena does not equate to no fun. I created it so I could have a better format to play with follow the rail patterns, but somewhere along the way, it came to mean work to Blu. So, I will be having none of that!
I brought maply syrup out with me. Blu came right up to me when I came into the pasture. I got through our salutation then put the syrup on the bit. In the winter, I imagine it must be a shock to put a piece of cold metal into your mouth. That is why I usually run my bit under hot water, then wrap it in a hot towel to keep it as warm as possible for my horse. However, I will suffer the chills it gives me to taste the sweeness of ice cream. I figured it would be the same for Blu. He nabbed that bit and cleaned it right off. He was his usual cooperative self for haltering, which was good.
I walked him to the middle gate to go into the North Pasture and make our exit out into the lawn. You may or may not recall that yesterday, Blu was quite heavy on the line and disconnected from me for most of our time together. Not so today. He was following me closely right from the get-go. :D
I tied the syrup container high enough on the fence by the gate that I reach it so I could put more syrup on his bridle before my finesse session. You see? I was thinking ahead :D. As Blu squeezed through the gate, he did not yield his hind quarters very fluidly. But we headed off with me in zone 5. I wanted to drive him a spot near but not at the gate, then sidepass him to the gate. He was very confident with me in zone 5. However, when we got to the target point, he got confused and ended up facing me. So, I just put him back into position, drove off, to try again. This time, he got to the right spot and I was able to do everything just right so that I could get him to stand still there. I let him relax so he knew he was on the right track. Then we went sideways in both directions until he relaxed. When we worked the gate, he had arrived there sideways on the fence with complete confidence.
We did the squeeze game through the gate several times (until he was doing it fluidly with hindquarter yield, wait, and all). Once he was out, I gave him permission to graze. It was nice to mosey along. My dad arrived with a truck that he is fixing in my Gramma's garage. My dad loves Blu and we jokingly argue over who Blu belongs to--me or my dad. When we purchased Blu, my dad was hoping I would turn around and sell him for ten times the amount we paid for him after I'd trained him, but I don't think Blu is ever going anywhere if I have anything to do with it.
I let my dad give Blu a hug and then set off to a spot on the driveway to do the 7 games with. As my anniversary for starting PNH fast approaches, I was very nostalgic. Back then, we did all of our Parelli time in the drive way because it was nicely plowed and the lines didn't get so thick with snow and ice. So, even though the drive way is not covered in snow today, it still means a lot to me.
(That is Misty and me doing the yoyo. She is coming back to me at phase one. I was so tickled--and cold :D
Continuing on (I seem to be easily distracted this evening).
My idea behind bringing Blu out of the pasture was to see if that helped him not go into an introverted sleep. I was hoping it would be stimulating enough to keep him attentive. I was right. We played the friendly game, having him trot to me as I swung strung stick side to side. No problem. For a porcupine game, I placed my fingers on his chest to back him up. I just held them on the hair and waited. I kept his head in position or put it back if he moved it out of line. Just by doing that, he got it and back rhythmically and smoothly with just my fingers on his chest hairs. For the driving game, I drove his hindquarters with a wiggling hand/my eyes.
It was time for the yoyo. Blu's current hurdle game. I had no apprehension about it, I was just fully ready to be observant. I set it up so he was facing away from me. This way, when I asked him to come back, coming back would mean moving away from the road, which equates to becoming more comfortable. That, boys and girls, is called setting things up for success. Everything was phase one for three yoyos, and NO introverted naps. I moved on to the circling game.
I asked him to go slower than he wanted to go, which kind of blew his mind. Then, he wanted to go fast! I moved our circle to the lawn. We did changes of direction, downward transitions, and cantering. He was very twisty and up-going during the changes of direction, so I continued them until he did it more levelly. When he completed are really nice two laps at the canter--no twisting, no star-jumping, I brought him in and surprised him with a cookie.
For the sideways game, Blu was tense at first, so we just kept going until he relaxed. I was on his "on" side. For the squeeze game, I picked two big logs off the willow log pile and stacked them just so. At first, Blu side swiped them and made a "V" out of them. He got twisty again and when he traversed the obstacle willingly and as his own idea, he came in and got a bonus cookie (I think, either that or I let him graze for a while).
While we were out, I noticed that Blu often would not ask permission to graze, but dive in and speed grab. I would let him eat for a while until he slowed down to a less manic pace before politely asking him to come back up. Honestly, I make a point to offer my horses grass when we are out. In the winter, I command Blu to dig for grass and I dig for grass for Misty. So, I took this as a sign of his extrovertedness. When he is feeling introverted sleepy, he often puts his head down and bumps the ground like he wants to eat, but just can't get his lips going. As he relaxed, he became less jumpy about grazing.
I climbed onto the fence and got Blu into position. He did not come to me immediately like it was his idea, but he was easy to move into position, and once I got him started, he came over of his own accord. I looked in his eye and checked his ear as I placed a hand on his back. No apprehension, so I set on. He did a great job of working the gate, but kept going sideways after it was shut, so I practiced swinging it shut and stopping and relaxing. Much better!
Now, the plan was this:
Do a few figure 8s with the one rein
Ride over to the middle gate
Take off his halter/line
Take off his bridle
Syrup-up the bit and put the bridle back on
Ride to the front fence with the 3 carrot sticks, syrup container, and halter/line (technically, this distance was traversed with nothing but my legs, seat, energy, and focus because my hands were full)
Drop my cargo and put on the finesse reins that were laying on the fence
Do some figure eights with finesse
Go to the fence trade the bridle for a few carrotsticks
Ride with 2 carrotsticks to my arena
Dismount in my homemade arena
So, that is actually just what we did. For our freestyle figure 8s, Blu had nice focus. He was absolutely perfect for the bridling/unbridling while I was mounted, especially considering Misty had followed us from our figure 8 and was nagging us for attention. Hehe. He was excellent for the nothing-on ride to the fence. We trotted halfway and broke to a walk right when I asked. I felt him hone in on the gate, but when I asked him to stop with just my energy, it was like I'd thrown a brake switch. Phew! I love it when things work.
For our finesse 8s, I played the friendly game with contact. I would take a few steps with it, then go back to a casual rein. Pretty soon, we were doing one half of the figure-8 with contact, the other without. At the end, we did an 8 with contact. He likes the confidence snaffle quite well and was nicely rounded. However, I noticed once that he was not as good about pushing his ribs to the right. On our last figure, he got the whole thing very nicely, but I will continue to keep an eye on those ribs.
We also made a point to stay on the same track. We picked up the trot once, and on that transition, he floated out a bit, but otherwise, he was quite steady on the same path.
For our finale, we got to the middle, stopped with just my seat, and backed with just my seat, while we maintained contact. Super great ending to five minutes of concentrated stuff.
You know the rest of the story. Blu was not sour as we headed to my arena bridleless, but I noticed building apprehension about the plan (in him, not me). Once we were in, I kind of stopped steering him. He went to his favorite cone and got onto the fence and I stopped riding, and he stopped with me. I think it really surprised him when I got down and bid him adu. I wish I could have let him follow me back to his pasture, or something, but Misty was hankering for a smackdown of learning. (She'd been following Blu and me all night and she wanted her turn!).
I snuggled Misty and Blu for five minutes. I love to look at my "Big Spots" and "Little Spots" together. It is a rare spectacle for them to be within such close range of one another and not have one biting the other. Hehe. But I had a cookie for them, so they behaved to one another (last winter, I taught them that no one gets the cookie until everyone is being nice).
With Misty, I wanted to play with the close range circling game at liberty. Screw starting online or in a round pen. Misty has been super drawn to me, so I am trying out going without lines and we did it out in the open pasture. :D. When you start this, though, a smaller space and a line are nice things to have to set yourself up for success (remember the condescending "boys and girls" statement from before about setting things up for success?).
Misty was defensive about the yoyo, so I just got really playful until she was able to read me better. Then she got really rhythmic and much less tight or defensive. I had her back up about 20' then canter to me. She came barreling at me with her ears back the first time, so I immediately asked for the back up. Then forward, then back, then forth, then ba-and forth! Now she was looking at me with serious interest and came to me all "proud" in the way Arabs do. Usually it is when they are scared and on adrenaline, but I like to see it when it is positive like this.
Now that I had reinforced our draw with yoyo-rebar, I sent her. She turned around and gave me her butt. Hehe. She thought my hand was up to ask her butt to come over to me. I drove her around by her tail--that was really great as she sensitive to steering and she was backing smoothly. Then I did a sort of yoyo with her hindquarters--I yielded them, then drew them, then yielded, then drew, etc. She did not loose confidence and discerned between the two cues very well.
NOW, next time I sent her, she took a step and stopped. I yielded her and she came in. Resend. Stop after a step. At some point, I took off my coat and put it around her neck so I could have a connection to her head in hopes that she would imagine the line and draw similarities between what I was doing here and our circling game. That actually kind of worked, but it was ridiculously cold. I decided to do it the easy way. Everytime she stopped, I yielded her, and resent her. It became a fluid dance where she was taking more and more steps on the circle. When she made it to one third of a circle, I called it a night.
I loved on her for a few minutes then ran up to the front. I left her blinking in my dust. I whistled to her and she snapped out of it and came galloping after me. I beat her by. . . a lot. The commotion caused Blu to come check us out--at the speed of 5 o'clock traffic. I said good bye to my Nan (one of Misty's MANY pet names) and took Blu out. Misty was disappointed that she did not get to come out. I was cold, though and hustled Blu inside (stopping here and there for grass). I gave Blu hay in his run-in stall and brought out a handful of pelleted feed for Misty.
So, I was thinking, Blu and Misty go from one extreme to the other, as do I. We are all searching for that balance where the highs are not so high and the lows are not so low. Neverending self improvement. Today was a high, if you couldn't tell :D.
Natural Horsewoman Out.
Friday, December 3, 2010
When I tossed the kittens back on the fence, Blu smelled them. The kittens did not get frightened by him, so Blu was able to completely satisfy his curiosity--he nose kissed them to his heart's content.
When we left the pasture, Blu had to walk under the wire that he'd walked under to get in. He braced, so I just waited. Then he went under with no problem.
As we went here and there on an adventure to rescue the blanketed Ginger from the blanket-attacking Connor, Blu was not being a very good partner. He would take the slack out several times and he did not seem able to read my thoughts, sometimes. In this preliminary exercise, I concluded that I would not have time to play with him by the time that he was ready to actually play. It was a sort of hypothesis, and I was right: he braced before going into my arena, which means that it symbolizes something negative to him, once inside, I spent the whole time sitting on a barrel while he was introverted for the most part. He did ask me to itch his neck and he rested his head on my knee, but other than that, it was all just waiting.
When Blu woke up, I took off his halter and he followed me away. He paused at the shore to the muddy/watery section before the middle gate. I decided to go to the gate out of the pasture, because that seemed to be what he wanted. He backed out of that gate and I moseyed him to the barn. In the barn, I put hay in his stall, then put him out. He went into Hoosier's stall, even though he had seen me put hay in his stall. I waited for him to solve the puzzle and he finally lit up and went to his stall.
Next Blu session, I would like to do a sort of approach and retreat with my arena, and in the end, feed him inside the arena. Food is the way to my horses' hearts.
Happy Birthday, Ellie,
Natural Horsewoman Out.
Thursday, December 2, 2010
I decided to play with Misty because she has been asking to play for the past week or so. She would pop over to me when I was playing with or catching or letting Blu go. She stares me down as soon as I pull in. In general, she hounded me until I finally caved today. It might be just what Blu needs, too; it’s time when I am present, but not focused on him at all.
I took a halter on a featherline and a strung carrotstick out, but I was planning on doing liberty only. It was important to me that she had 100% ability to leave at any point she needed to. The halter was just a test for me to make observations about. She immediately walked to me when I entered the pasture; she’d been hanging close to the front since I pulled up in the Barnkat. When I picked up the halter, she did not look away, and when I did not produce a treat she did not leave. I did approach and retreat with the halter for several minutes. She would draw to the halter and put her head under my arm, but she would keep her head tucked instead of aiming her nose into the halter. In the end, I put the halter on her as she was tucking her head in. Once it was going on, she was very cooperative—she did not look defeated, either. As soon as it was on, I took it off again, which seemed to surprise her.
At liberty, I just tested things out so that I can draw up a program for her. Throughout the testing, Misty had to walk away or look away several times. When this happened, I just turned away from her and waited. She did a lot of yawning and licking & chewing. When she left me, she would get so far away, look at me, and come back. She usually went to the front fence, but once she went to Connor. The further away I was from the fence/her, the faster she came back to me. If I smiled and asked her to come back to me faster, she would trot to me from whatever the distance. She cantered to me when she left me way in the back of the pasture. I like this about liberty. It is like a gage for me. I will know that we are getting better (I at being a leader and Misty at being a confident horse) when she does not leave so much and eventually not all.
Once I’d stood by her doing nothing for a few minutes, I tested out her extreme friendly game. I sensed more of the toleration vibe coming from her. At first, she had her head slightly above the withers, ears concerned. I put her head down with my hand and returned to zone 5. It was clear, though; her head could be down, but her face was uncomfortable. I think I might try having someone else stand by and swing the carrotstick and string around while I move her around.
Next, I tested out her lead by the tail. She put me in zone 5 just by me lifting my hand. That was very cool. She lead with just a few hairs for several steps and could even turn with those 5 hairs. That was even better. All that practice, but it was so long ago!
I did several spins at medium range, sending the forequarters away and then, if needed, pushing the hindend before drawing the frontend to me again. I also tried multiples and got to 3 before calling it good. We also did both directions. So great!
We did a few rears--not too many. That is all good.
I wanted to see where my starting point is for the next big thing I am adding to our repertoire: close range circles at liberty; it is time for this one. I started with the yoyo. I had to do a lot of waiting and adjusting the amount of energy I used for phase one--she could not go back smoothly, at first. For her comeback, she would trot back to me with a great expression. I want to see her get more confident about the first "yo."
I started with a super close range circle that was only one step on the allow. I also did some sideways around me in a circle--all an effort to build up the draw and focus on me. I got up to a 3/4 circle, today. I also did several changes of direction. It was a good start and I can see how it's going to grow.
The final big thing I did was mounting from a barrel. We were in my homemade arena. I went to the barrel and called her over. She got into position when I waved her butt over, but then she stepped forward. I felt weird about this because it did not look like she was trying evade me by her facial expression. I scooted down the board between the two barrels and she did not move. I got on, no problem. A loose dog spooked her and I ended up dismounting when it was safe. Misty chased me back to the barrel, and the whole thing was repeated. Aha! She thought I was asking for her zone 5 so I could lead by the tail! I lead her by the tail backward until she was lined up with me. No problem at all, no negative expressions. I got on again, but the dog showed up again, so I never really did anything while I rode.
One of the most striking things is how much she recalled and how much sensitivity was right at hand after all this time. I stopped trying to pop my eyes back in after the fifth time they exploded out. And so went my Misty session, aka, hounding-horse with a good memory session
Natural Horsewoman Out.
Wednesday, December 1, 2010
I spent 15 minutes of undemanding activity. He came to me out in the pasture and was super cooperative as I put his halter on. I let him eat loose hay in the aisle of the barn, clean up Ginger's breakfast, and nibble on her good hay while I brushed him out. On the way to the gate, I let him graze through the newly fallen snow. As I looked out in the snow, as silly as it seems, I thought about how the snow's whiteness was symbolic of a comment I left on a social network this morning: "New day, new page." And today is a new day, for me.
Blu was lighter on the line when I asked him to stop grazing. When we were in the pasture, I drove from zone 5, practicing my energy-only phase one to go and stop. He only goes a few steps, and today he went further than he ever has because he saw a food bucket (empty, but this kid's always hopeful). He was actually, going off at a phase one or pricking his ears back to me when I did it. For his whoas, I just synchronized with his stops.
On the way out to my arena, Blu stopped. I waited with light phase on the line, checked to make sure that he was not being accosted by Connor or Misty, and he followed. I think this was a clear, "Please not in there" sign from him. So the first thing we did was push snow away for him to graze while a stood by or pet him. We worked our way over to the fence for the "demanding" part of our session.
As we began the yoyos, I did not have any braces or concerns in my mind. As he showed signs of distrust and anxiety, I did not get offended or come down on myself. As the yoyos continued, I did not feel any frustration building--none. It was all a stark difference to how I felt yesterday. It is a testimony to the power of outlook. Sometimes, when I come out to see the horses and I have had a rough time before hand, I start playing and I feel better. But yesterday, the session just exacerbated the negative feelings. I learned that when I feel that way, the best thing for me to do is put my horse away or go out to graze.
I did a lot of waiting for Blu, and I kept to the same pattern for all 10 yoyos. It went as follows:
1. Wait for Blu to confidently face me. He would look this way and that, distracted or otherwise. I just waited for him to focus on me. I did nothing but stand there.
2. Back Blu up. If he goes crooked, fix it. Blu was on the fence, so it would be easier for him to back up straight. I would step out or look at his hindquarters if he started to go crooked.
3. Ask Blu to come back. Turn away to the East and wait for him to wake up. Once Blu was out there and I asked him to come back, he went to sleep. I would turn away from the wind and wait. It took anywhere from 2-5 minutes for him to come around. When he did wake up, he would either come right to me on his own or I could invite him in again and he would come in right away. Sometimes, when I turned to him, he would go back to sleep, so I just went back to waiting.
4. Wait for Blu to be confident about standing in front of me and focus on me. I would let Blu nab some grass, play with his mouth if he was needing mouth contact, or just stand there if he was being unconfident. It was basically a repeat of step one and so we would start all over again.
On one of his yoyos, when he was ready to go back out again, I walked off. We were done and I was cold. In his stall, I asked him to give me the halter . . . and he shook it threw it over the ledge. I guess the concept of handing it to me is still not firmly understood in his head. I gave him and Misty hay and the other horses hay, and went home.
This morning was an hour long session and it was the first day of snow. I hope it is the beginning of a good winter season for us.
Natural Horsewoman Out.
Tuesday, November 30, 2010
Anyhow, I spent two hours trying to find answers with Blu. His introversion was back pretty strong and I tried something new for it, today. I yoyoed him back, but when he got to about 6' out, I asked him to come back. He would get stuck, I would stay at a combing feel on the rope, and after a few minutes, I would move to pressure toward zone 5 and he would snap out of it and come right in. I also would let him get out there, then turn away from him for a long time. As it went on, I began to get very frustrated. I started talking to myself--always a bad sign--and degrading myself.
Blu never got smacked, spanked, yelled at, or anything, but I am pretty much 100% sure that he did not enjoy the emotional environment I was creating. As I thought about that, I decided it was actually a possibility that Blu might be going introverted because of an emotional problem I had at some point during the yo yo. In any case, as soon as I felt myself getting upset, I looked for a way to end the session.
My whole treatment of this experience with Blu is to find the positive parts of it, or at least ways to learn from it. That is why this blog is titled puzzles. More and more I realize that so many aspects of communication are all about the semantics and language. You believe in synonyms, but I kind of don't. "Problems in Paradise" was my first idea for a title, but that made me feel bad. Puzzles are games that have an answer. Problems can be icky and it might turn out that there is not an answer to find. So, I am going to piece this together and learn from it. We will see what tomorrow brings; I would like to have a session in the morning. I will not do it if I see it is going to be like today, but I will at least do something good with him.
The best thing about today is that Misty was trying really hard to get me to choose her.
Natural Horsewoman Out.
Sunday, November 28, 2010
handing me the halter again
tiny bit frustrated at one point, so I relaxed on his back and waited for it to go away before moving on
Saturday, November 27, 2010
After fixing up my homemade arena, I went to the back pasture to round up the horses. I did not have any equipment on me, but I felt like that would be okay. I could either have Blu follow me up, or I could catch him once everyone was up. I whistled and sent Connor off, which set everyone into motion. As the mares headed in behind Connor, I got in line. Connor began running and the girls followed suit. I wondered if Blu would go after them, but he was just following me with his head low and quiet, about 15' behind. I expected that, but it does not make the moment less-savored and it was not wasted on my soul.
When we got to the gate, we found an interesting puzzle. The gate was not locked open, so it was only agape about 4'. Connor had gone through, but Ginger and Misty were behind it wondering how to get through. In order to go through, the horse either had to cross a puddle or open the gate. "Let's show these ladies how this is done," I told Blu. I walked through and turned to watch. Blu stopped when Misty began pushing the gate shut. She almost had it shut when she changed tactics and began pulling it open with her nose. Once she had squeezed out, Blu came right through. Ginger ran past us, but Blu stayed right there with me.
Blu followed me to the other pasture. But when I went to yield his hind end, instead of yielding, he just walked off indefinitely. Interesting thing to note and I took it into consideration when I was thinking about what kind of horse he was going to be today. This was a very LBI thing he did.
When I began walking to the gate, Blu saw me coming in his direction and began walking straight to me, so I stopped and waited. We continued on to the gate together. Going through the gate, I pushed his frontend away and he immediately knew what coming next because he lined up his butt and backed out toward me as I backed him by the tail. After I haltered him, which he was super cooperative for, I grabbed a couple brushes and groomed him on the lawn while he ate. I let him graze for about 10 minutes.
In the pasture, I wanted to test his yoyo and observe what the introversion at the end of the line looked like today. I rubbed his belly and loved on him, first, a friendly thing so he didn't see me just come up and start pushing him around. He tentatively stepped back (unrhythmically) with my phase one energy. I played back and forth from phase one to phase three energy. Too much causes Blu to shut down, but too little was not enough to back him steadily. I only had 12' of rope to work it out, but he was going slow. I found that he was most comfortable if I turned my belly button away from him slightly. As I did a phase two of energy. (MILESTONE: phase 1-3 are only energy based, no wiggling of anything. There is a phase 4 for energy, but phase 4 is really whatever it needs to be to get him going).
I waited for Blu to go into his introversion, but he wasn't, so I asked him back. I softly combed the line. He was not coming in, but I did not increase the phases. He did not look worried per se, he just looked like he was processing. It seemed that the send was not enough to put him into an introverted state, but it was enough to get him a little tight. I just stayed steady and smiling as I combed the line lightly. When I saw him think about forward, I stopped and waited. After several seconds passed, Blu released the tension completely and walked to me. I noticed, though, that he went to the left of me and stopped with me at his withers.
After a few more yoyos, he was getting even better at coming back. Not one time of introversion! This was very encouraging, indeed. Then, the song on the radio sang to "set me free" or something. I can't remember how the song goes, but that is why at that moment I took the halter off and put it on a fence post. The God of the Radio was telling me it was time for me to try my yoyo at liberty; this was the ultimate test for my progress.
I sent Blu out at a phase 2 of energy. He backed up steady. I waited, looking for signs of him going to sleep into introversion. Nothing was happening, though. However, he was very distracted and looking at everything but me. This could have been his next step away from introversion: instead going inside himself to escape me, he just doesn't look at me. So, I stepped my left foot back further and completely relaxed my body at the same time as I looked even more away from him. When he looked at me, I invited him in. After a minute, I leaned over to look at his hindquarters. That got him mobile and seemed to unstick him. He came right to me, all at once. I was very satisfied with this.
Next was mounting. I spent 15 minutes jumping around while he took swings at me. I tried all kinds of things: I kept my hand up by his head and just pet his face while he was trying to bite me; did the funky chicken when he came my way; stuffed a cookie in his face once; kept my hand on his mouth while it was in reach and played nibbly with it. Everything was not working, in fact, I could see it was getting worse and making him more upset. I thought this was either the dark before the dawn, or it was not working for him. I also wondered what sort of dawn it would be if that was the case. Would give up with a sour face? I did not want that.
I was standing there, now, thinking. Blu was just waiting for me to start jumping again, so I left him to sit on a tire-do the unexpected. He immediately and curiously followed me. I ignored him and he walked away to nibble on the scumbly greenery. I looked around and saw the halter. At this piont, it dawned on me. It was time to channel all biting thoughts that Blu had built up into something positive; it was time for some dame commands.
Dame is the command form of "give" with the direction of "me" at the end meaning "to me". So "give to me" in Spanish. I walked to the fence, climbed on next to the halter, and waited. He was not ignoring me, just eating, so I knew he would come over. He came right over and was all innocent looking, but I knew all those biting thoughts were in there. I proceded to piont to the halter and give the verbal command. One loop at a time, he lifted the line off the post, and dropped it on the ground. Then he got the halter and the whole item was on the ground. I tried dame, then. I had never done the command in this postion. He picked it up on the first try and lifted it to me. I missed the catch before he dropped it, but this was amazing. He has still not made the solid connection that the goal is for him to put it in my hands, so you can imagine my excitement. Unfortunately, he wouldn't do it again, so I had to climb down and get the halter. In fact, I got the halter 4 more times before he finally handed it to me from the post. Blu was in position for me to mount, so I asked permission and got on. No sour faces! Now, with the halter on the post and the line in my hand (so could just reel it in if it fell on the ground), I did the dame command from his back. This is a first attempt. The first time, he grabbed the leather popper and pulled it off the halter when he pulled down instead of lifting it up. I lamented for a moment. Now my Parelli halter is not proven authentic. Sigh. But the next try, Blu handed my unproven authentic Parelli halter to me!
I gave him a cookie and then we went to snag my carrotsticks off the fence. I got one, but for the second one, I cantered a lap around and tried to grab it as we passed by. I got it, but lost my grip on it. Regardless, it was a success in my book.
We rode off to my arena and proceeded to have a great ride of changing directions and sticking to the rail. I just remember it being a great feeling when I was done.
I would like to assert a thought upon you. I have been struggling through this mentally, at times. I wonder if I should ask for help solving the problem, but I imagine that I will be told to do what I am doing already. Then, before I get around to asking, my efforts are fruitful and the problem blows away.
Natural Horsewoman Out.
Thursday, November 25, 2010
Official Records Information Blu/45 minutes/11.25.10/afternoon
Blu was in Hoosier's run-in stall when I arrived. He gave me a nose kiss and came out into the aisle. I was already ticking away at my strategy for the session. He was in a good mood, but being a bit oblivious to steady pressure as I maneuvered him out of the aisle way, out of the barn and into the open lawn. Even as I gathered up my equipment, I was planning.
I wanted to add hindquarter yields to his legs-only repertoire, but I knew that we would need to play with that sensitivity, first. I also wanted to check on his yoyo and see if we could have a better start with the yoyo.
By making clear phases, I woke up his sensitivity to the feel on the line when he is grazing to a soft touch to lift his head from his beloved grass. That sensitivity would last throughout the session and this instance played the important role of a daily touch up for his porcupine game on the halter.
I fixed a downed section of my homemade arena by driving a disembodied wooden handle into the ground with a hammer. I don't know what I did, but I ended up with said hammer swinging through the air. I caught it by the head, but the way I pulled it too me, the handle bumped Blu's nose and surprised him. I think I would not be including this part of the story in the world publication of my life if it was not midnight, but it is midnight, so I am crazy-unintelligent. Needless to say, I yoyoed Blu to the end of my 12' line and continued my maintenance. He was fine but that could have been much worse.
Next, I went to a fence line of the homemade arena and I was going to do a yoyo on the rail, but I thought better of it. I should start out this thing that causes him to go introverted with something nice than sending him away. So, friendly game rubbing his face, massaging his lips, and scratching his neck to relax him before doing something very demanding. . .
With the yoyo game on the fence, we hit a milestone: no shut down when he got to the end of the line and he was able to come back to me straight, all on the first yoyo. I recalled the other day when his yoyos got progressively "worse." I tried the yoyo again. I thought he was going out, but he didn't. He came back to me with just a suggestion. Phew. I will tell you, it is a little nervewracking when something that has never been a problem and is as basic as the yoyo game come-back starts going strange. I am glad to be on the right track to sorting this out.
As far as the send half of his yoyo, that is looking better, too. Once I was ready the first time, Blu was looking to the east. I stepped forward and rubbed his ribs. I could sense he had some apprehensions about the pressure that would follow this position of me facing him. That massage straightened him out almost immediately and I waited a moment before sending him away so he relaxed. I used my energy-only phase one, but I had to experiment with energy levels to find the "just right" amount because at first he was saying "that’s too loud."
On the 4th yoyo send, once he was out, I sent him on a circle and did 1/2 circles on the fence because those hindquarter yields on the fence were going to be the focus during our freestyle. So, in a sense, were practicing what we were about to do.
After the 1/2 circles were getting fluid and relaxed, instead of changing his direction the next time he came to the rail, I sent him sideways. I did not have a carrotstick on me, so I just had my intent and body. I only asked for about 15 feet then stopped. Blu was not looking at me for severl moments. I just waited through that. Then he looked to me and came to me upon invitation. Little did he know, he was now in position for mounting up as he stood in front of a barrel (said barrel has water pooled on its end and Blu quickly drains that. This information is important for later).
Mounting took a long time and lots of friendly game. I started on the ground and once he tolerated me jumping by his side, I stood on one of the upended barrels that makes up a part of my arena rail. Blu seems to prefer I don't swing on from the ground. I don't know if this has to do with physical pain on his part or if it is a something that just upsets him, so I try to find something to stand on.
Blu was biting, pinnin his ears, and swinging his head when I was on the ground. When I was on the barrel, I played with come sideways to me. Honestly, sideways game is not so good for Blu, but he figured this out pretty quick with the 12' line. He was not as violent when I was on the barrel, but he was defensive. This makes me think that this is not about pain, but in a confidence thing. If it is confidence related, I think I should keep treats out of it. Anyhow, I did approach and retreat until he finally said I could get on. He waited quietly for instruction once I was on, too.
The first priority was to take him to the water trough if he was thirsty enough to slurp up the water in the end of the barrel . . . well. He had a big drink at the tank.
Back in the arena, I made up a pattern in my head and began riding with one rein. I would do a tear drop change of directions at one cone, and at the other, we would do hindquarter yield to change direction. I pretended like I did not have that rein, I just needed it as support for the hind quarter yields. Once we had several light yields, I took the line off by doing a lateral flexion with no reins. He was good waiting for me to do that.
Here, I would like to say how awesome Blu's trot to back up with nothing but the seat is, now. He took a wrong step toward the inside of the arena and I was able to correct by changing my focus to an 1/8 more to the left than center. It was very cool to feel him respond to that.
His corners could have been better, surely. I think some corners game would fix that, though.
The hindquarter yields puzzle went unresolved for the most part but it's on the way. I was close to a learning breakthrough for him when my dad pulled in the driveway to whisk me away--I had lost track of time!
I dismounted and Blu followed me at liberty to his stall where I gave him some hay. Good boy!
So, next time, hindquarter yields and no using treats to resolve any facial expression issues during mounting because it is most likely not a dominant thing!
Natural Horsewoman Out.
Tuesday, November 23, 2010
There are times in our lives when it feels like we are hindered by things in life that are simply out of our control. You can't bring lost loved ones back, you cannot force the world to grant your dad a better job, and you can't make someone like you better. It's like trying to wade through set cement at times like those. I think that during periods in my life where I was wading through set cement, the reason that I was able to make it to the other side was the presence of God and particular people in my life who were so inclined to support me. They came out with their chisels and pick axes and gave me a hand. Yes, I am completely indebted to those people and I keep my eyes peeled for people who need me to give them a hand in the same manner.
There are other times when we are hindered by things that are within the field of our control, but we chose to bear the hindrance and wade through the water (at least I do). I would say that these items are things like work, school, chores, or being a member of a family. You might think you have no choice, but you do. All you HAVE to do in this life is be born and pay taxes, and you don't even HAVE to pay taxes!
I would chose to wade through the water, though, and so will you, because you are an excellent person, and so am I. By this I mean that I would chose to endure the less loverly side of family life and making money in order to achieve my dreams. If you take too many shortcuts, the quality of your life begins to suffer for it, as does the quality of the realization of your dream.
On my left wrist, I have been wearing an orange bracelet that says "Reveal your horse...Discover you potential...Live your dream." It means a lot to me, because, to me, it is not just a slogan. To me, it is a motto, a mission. I am on a mission, and come cement or high water, we will succeed.
So, today I dealt with some water, literally. It is stinking freezing! And, last night, the water was left on for 12 hours. Luckily, my arena is in the back of the pasture, which is slightly higher then the front end. Nevertheless, I wore muck boots!
I walked to the back, didn't see anyone, walked to the front, and there was Connor about to leave Middle Earth. I greeted him and started to the back. I had been unsure if the gate to the back was even open, but now I saw it was, and apparently, as Connor called the horses, it was an official water break. Misty and Ginger called back to them. I did a whistle neigh and Blu called to me. I called again, and Misty called back. I saw movement through the brush and headed up. Unexpectedly, the three took the other way around, thundering up to Connor.
I watched the social interactions. Ginger flirted and struck out at Connor. Misty hovered around Connor like a bee. Blu was in the wrong place and oblivious to that fact. He wanted to touch Connor, too. They smelled each other, and I could see it was secretly turning into a dominance thing. It stayed very quiet, though, as Blu stepped back reluctantly. Blu's position amongst those three horses did not improve--he was still in the middle of them all. Suddenly, Ginger took off and Connor brushed by Blu to do the same. I fell in behind Blu and Misty took the caboose behind me. In a single file line, we all marched to the North pasture and got drinks (I did not drink out of the trough).
On the way to the North pasture, Misty was right on my heels. I gave her a treat and she gave me an ugly face and walked ahead. I just smiled and kept going. She stopped suddenly. I offered the halter and she probably would have walked off if I had taken it off right after it was on. Other than that reservation, she put her head into position and everything very nicely. She was also light on the line as we worked the gate and went to the water.
Next, we went out to graze. I stood at the gate and asked her to give my her hindquarters by raising my hand and doing the "come here" signal. She immediately did it. I think it is really cool that after all this time, she still remembers that so well.
Shortly after, Blu came up and I let him come out to graze. Then I took Misty into the dog pen and let my gramma's dogs in. Misty was pretty good as I went about my business. She wanted to smell the dogs, which made them nervous, though.
We went back into the pasture the same way we came out. This way took a bit longer. I had her tail and worked through her opposition reflex until it clicked and then it went very smoothly. She got a cookie for that.
Now I wanted to do something interesting with her--not just the boring seven games check up. I spotted a tire and asked her to come to me. She drew to me no problem, then followed me as I backed up to the tire. I stood on the other side of the tire and did a few yoyos away and to it. They were nice yoyos. She was sensitive, but could have been more rhythmic in her away. Also, she was getting distracted in the beginning, so I would rub ribs that were poking out with my carrotstick handle. On the third return, I stepped back so that she had to maneuver the tire to get to me. I waited a long time as she thought about it. I held a light phase on the rope and released when she tried. Each try got better until she finally walked around it and came to me. I don't mind her walking around it at all; she was solving a puzzle the whole time.
After some rest, I went to her left side and asked her to please sidepass to me. She was already in position. I had to gently block her from stepping forward a few times and the savvy string had to lay over her hip, but she did it very nicely once all her tries came together and she knew what the goal was.
I felt like this was a good place to stop for today for Misty. Our next goal was to get Blu into the pasture again. I left the gate open and began to drive him in that direction. I made sure to let Misty eat and have good timing with our little breaks. As we got closer, I saw Ginger notice the gate was open. She began to head up to the gate from the back of pasture. It was like a game of billiards, now! I was not going to make it in time if I went slow and mosied--we were 30 feet from the gate and Ginger was picking up speed. I aimed my string and shot Blu toward the gate as I sent Misty into a position to block an out and he collided with Ginger just as she came out. He rushed in and Ginger, a bit beffuddled, spun around and trotted back in. I stopped Misty and smiled. I let her eat a few bites before going over to the gate. Blu and Ginger asked if they could come out while Misty had that grass and I told them no (politely, of course).
I took Misty over to Connor and let her go, hoping that would keep her from trotting off. I did not take the halter off until she kept her head in position. She turned away, but then seemed to think better of it and stopped. I gave her treats by having stretch her nose to each hip. Then I stood at her tail for a while before leaving. It was very pleasant.
On to Blu! I walked over to him with the halter and 12' line. He stepped over to me and put his head right in. I pet him a bit before walking off. He followed, but he had a sour face. Hmm, I thought. I wasn't sure if he was in the same mood as Sunday, but I most certainly was not going to get right on and ride bridleless on windy day like this on a sour-faced horse!
I walked through the flooded drain pond (6' around, 2' deep, 1' of water in it after 12 hours of water flowing out of the hose last night). He went around it. So, naturally, I played the squeeze game with it: I pushed him to the other side of it and squeezed him between me and it. At first, he tried to look at it, assuming he was to squeeze through it. It surprised him when I pushed his nose away and told him with our language to NOT go in the puddle/pond. I also did some circling with me standing in the pond. The final thing we did with the pond was for him to go through it. He stopped and went to sleep (introverted). It took him so long to wake up. I just stood and waited, facing away from him. Finally, he put his nose down by the water, did a big snort (good kind), and shook his body. We moved on.
He stood on the tire pedestal then I began the yoyo game with his butt to the tire. He backed up to it and came back without sleeping. I thought that maybe he was staying alert to the tire's position, so he did not go to sleep. The best part was he came back with the lightest phase. The next send, he did fall asleep. I waited, he woke, I asked him back, he came back. Then the final send was followed by a very long introversion. This was even longer than the last one. I squatted down because the wind was so cold. When he came around, he finally looked at me. Big snort and he started to eat. After a moment, I stood and asked him to come back to me. He came right back. It makes me wonder why each sleep got longer with the pedestal. He is quite used to this exercise. In fact, he backed right up to it everytime. I am going to think about it tonight.
I went to the fence, set him up, stood on the fence, got permission, and mounted. He was great. No pinned ears. Worried at first, but then fine. I had the halter, 12' line (one rein), and two carrot sticks. We rode off to the arena with a nice forequarter yield. I liked it, but I had to use my leg.
In the arena, Blu was full of it at first. He did not buck, but he wanted to canter. So, we cantered around on the rail. One of my curtain rods fell in, so one corner was always shallow, but with the canter, he did not really do ANY high corners. Naughty! He did go high in the corners for him, though, so props for that. We had done change of direction and I could feel him start to run out of gas. Next time we hit the cone, I stopped. BAM! He slid to a stop and started backing up, and all I had done was stop riding in my seat. It amazes me how ready he is for the halt. We did changes of direction in the tear drop away from the fence. They were large, so I would like to refine them down to smaller tear drops. We did canter some more. I was getting terribly cold, so I ended it a little sooner than I wanted (I would have liked to do some more changes of direction).
At the end, I had him laterally flex without reins, took off the halter, and and rode a lap with just the carrot sticks. We cantered around arena, went high in the two corners we passed . . . and when the cone came, I stopped, he stopped, and his feet slid into the stick fence and toppled it over! Another BAM! only with crashing, too. Then we did a bullseye into the center where I dismounted by sliding off his butt. Blu did not even lift up his head.
Blu followed me to the back. When I left, he deliberated over who to follow before walking off to follow the horses heading out to the back. I was really happy.
Natural Horsewoman Out
- 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.