Saturday, May 1, 2010

3-in-1 Horse Play Day

Official Records Information
Connor 5-1-10 afternoon 1 hour 20 min
Misty 5-1-10 Afternoon 40 min
Blu 5-1-10 afternoon 40 min

I was a busy body today!

I did not let myself leave the barn until I had a plan, but I got out there and completely ditched the plan pretty quick, as I realized it was a stupid one (it was too ambitious for Misty, who needed a shorter session). When I am making plans for what to do with my horses, I take into mind their horsenality as well as our relationship. Misty is a Left-Brain Introvert and, of late, I have been getting a lot of skeptical and antisocial vibes and negative feedback from her, lately, so I have not really been doing a lot with her, and when I do, I make it a short period of high quality time. My initial plan had too many things in it. I ended up doing only two things with her for 40 minutes. But first, I had to catch her without "catching" her. I wanted her to be compliant to having the halter on. Things started on a very good note. She met my eyes as I came from the car and came to the fence. I gave her some grass when she met me at the fence. I came back and stood at a barrel and she came right over with her ears up. I gave her a cookie and scratched her head for her. The green ball was about 15 feet from us, and I pointed to it. She started to walk to it, but about half way to it, I felt her break the connection with me. It is weird how tangible the nonphysical connection begins to feel, now. Anyways, she obviously left, and I made no attempt to stop her. This is not about me asserting myself on her. This is about her making a concious decision to be with me. So, I gave her about 5 minutes before I decided to move on. Other days I have proceeded to just sit there or wander around the pasture, but today I decided to move on. I mean, we have 4 other horses!

Instead of playing with Blu, I played with Connor, the horse that Bridget plays with (my mom's horse). Bridget is learning how to neck rein, and even though Conner already knows how, I wanted to see if I could polish it a bit so Bridget could make her cues more subtle. Here is a list of the gear that I put on Connor after catching him (I yielded his hindquarters back and forth several times before I just approached him and gave him a lot of scratches):
An O-ring/egg butt snaffle head stall so he could have it in and get used to something inside his mouth while we were playing.
Rope Halter
12' line
Savvy string around neck
Western Saddle & Pad
He was fine for saddling and for the in between tightening checks, I did some showmanship practice with him. He is getting very good at setting up. He is very responsive compared to other big horses I know. Of course, the other big horses I know don't have Parelli or natural horsemanship principled handlers. He is getting snappier trot departures and more consistent pivots, though he still goes a bit crooked sometimes. Also, his back up needs a lot of work. Bridget will have an easy time of getting him ready, though.
I had 5 barrels set up in a line, about 10' apart that I wanted him to weave through. I used the savvy string as a phase one, switched to neck reining lightly with the reins, then more ounces into the rein, then I added a finger to the rein for direct reining support. We got the weave at the walk pretty quick. I decided to give him a break from the weave pattern and let him lope around the pasture in big loops. He relaxed a lot and did a lot of blowing out of his nose. While we were rolling around the pasture, I guided him over an 18'' jump, and he just went right over. I was still prepared for the jog weave to be much more difficult, but it seemed that the preparation at the walk was helpful, and I was able to get him responding to leg and light savvy string pressure. I had an image of Bridget riding Connor bareback and bridleless. To finish our ride, I had him back up from the weave barrels. I had some initial opposition reflex, but then he relaxed and slid back. It is no wonder that his back up in the saddle is not the best seeing how it is not the best on the ground. I will pass that along to Bridget. If she can get him more responsive with that, I bet quite a few of his dominant behaviors will dissolve for her.
I dismounted after he backed up so nicely. After the bit was out and the saddle off, I took him out of the pasture to walk him around (it was 80 degrees here in the Lower Peninsula!) because he was pretty hot. I let him grab a couple mouthfuls of grass before I began walking him out. Bridget was asking me about practicing road safety, so I decided to walk him around the U-driveway and the stretch of road between the drives for the walk out. He did not care about the cars that flew by--and they were going 60 mph. I was pretty sure he was pretty road safe. So, Bridget just needs to work on feeling safe on the road herself. He is such a swell horse.
I gave him a bath after walking him out. He stood stock still and really enjoyed it. Then we grazed for a good 5 minutes and I put him in the dog pen where there is good grazing available. He stayed in there till I finished with Blu and Misty.

Misty was still not coming to see me, so I walked over to the gate between the pastures and let Blu (who walked over from where he was to greet me, as usual) onto Misty's side. She came over to me, probably to see if Blu was getting candy. I told Blu to go toodle off after some itches, and he did. Misty was walking away to stand in a corner, but could definitely feel that she was maintaining a connection...almost like she was telling me to stop her (?). I yielded her hind quarters and backed up and smiled and she came right over. I did not make to give her candy or pet her, I just leaned on the fence and kicked up a leg. She and I stood like that for good bit before I put the halter on with her permission. She really felt good when I put that thing on her. She searched for the halter and really cooperated.
She followed with a nice connection to the set up of barrels. This time, I was going to use them as targets for going sideways. I set her up and started to ask her to go sideways to the first barrel, but I had to gently clarify what I was asking as she was pretty darn sure I was asking her to come to me. I did not get fast or upset, I just rubbed her and started over gently. She tried going forward and tried to come sideways to me a few more times. When the light bulb went on, it was pretty clear to me: she went right to the barrel. I let her relax at each barrel for 30 seconds to 2 minutes. The next barrel was much easier to go sideways to, so I then asked her to come sideways to me. I had the savvy string over her back for that time, and she did it just fine, but I wondered if I could get her to come to me by just wiggling the stick over her back, and when I had success with that, I tried it with just the carrot stick raised while I backed away. Tah dah! Meanwhile, Misty was really relaxing, and I was enjoying the look on her face. Every barrel had a cookie on it, by the way. Also, I followed a pattern of two barrels forward (away from me), one barrel back (to me).
As we were getting to the end of the barrels, a huge explosion went off at the neighbors. Misty jumped in her skin, her head went up, and she took a few steps, but she did not "go anywhere." I did not ask anything of her or hold her back at all. That was important, I think. I let her stand for a while before I began backing up and lifted the stick. She bobbed her head, licked her lips, and came sideways to me. The connection was reestablished, and I was so proud of her. I had even been frightened by the explosion! I decided that we could not have a better ending spot than that for the sideways part of our session.
I took the halter and line off and itched her head for her. Then I pointed to the ball. This time, I had set up us for success with the ball closer. She went right to it and we began our going along. She got a cookie everytime she touched the ball, then as she became more motivated, I did not give her a cookie until she got it to roll. We did that and parted on very good terms. In fact, after I caught Blu and brought him to the barrels, she was all up in our stuff and trying to do what I was asking Blu to do!

I went and picked up the halter and line to go get Blu. He was over by the Northern fence line. As I approached, he began to eat faster, something I notice they do when they know I am going to come and take them from the grass. I let him eat until he slowed down again. Then I rubbed his itchy spots. I stepped back and yielded his hindquarters, and he immediately connected with his eyes, but very calmly. I walked backwards and he began to walk then trot to me when I began to trot. I did not put the halter for a little bit and I did some stick to me to evaluate the quality of his connection with me. He seemed very relaxed and happy.
I took Blu to the line of barrels and had him weave through them in a new way: I had him follow me instead of driving him through them. That was pretty rough at first until he caught on! He was frustrated in the beginning when he did not know what I was asking him, so I slowed down. Once he mastered that, I stopped weaving through, but I continued to have him follow me as I backed up. He got that fast. Next, I went straight forward by his side and drove and drew him through the weave at the trot. Piece of cake.
I was going to get on, but I decided that I wanted to try the 18'' jump while I rode, so I played with the jump on the ground, first. I started with the circling game. Went over very nicely several times. I switched to the squeeze game to add the turn face and wait factor so he would recognize the pattern when I was on his back. After 1 or 2 nice ones, then he seemed to decide that it was better to just kick it over and step over. Too, smart! I was satisfied that he was confident with it, so I got on by vaulting on. He stood still very nicely.
I rode through the weave, and today, he was so much more relaxed and responsive than the last time. He even jogged through and steered very nicely. Then I began to make a bigger loop around one of the barrels and line him up with the jump. He went right over. I liked it, but I only asked for about 3 jumps because we were just doing so nicely!
I took Blu out to the road to do what I did earlier with Connor. Blu is usually very reactive to traffic, but I had a plan. He was pretty worn out from our session, and the grass is really nice by the road. . . Well, we got out there, and I was focusing him on what surface he was on to keep his mind occupied. That really did seem to work because he was too busy trying to step on and off the pavement to pay much attention to the cars. Then, when I asked him to go down in the ditch, he said "Ah!!" and jumped over it, very right-brained. Hmm! So, I made it my goal to have him going through the ditch with confidence. While we worked on that, many cars went by, and he did not care. The whole road thing took about 7 minutes.
I gave Blu a rinse with the hose to cool him off and too set up my last goal in the session: the lay down. I let him go in the dusty part of the pasture and walked along with him, mirroring him. Then, when he lay down, I did, too. Tra lah lah! He was silly and tripped as he lay down. Too cute! My plan is to continue this pattern of rinsing him off and then laying down with him. I also go out when he is napping and sit with him and itch him. We have had some great moments when we were hanging out together. Someday, I will be able to lay down, and it will cue him to mirror me.

Hurrah, this post is finally over! What an ordeal! 2 days in the making...

Here is another version of this post:
I went to the farm and Misty met me at the fence and I gave her a handful of grass. I stood at a barrel and she came up to me and I gave her a cookie and scratches, but when I sent her to the ball, it was just too far away and she got half way there and decided to leave. So I spent an hour and twenty minutes playing with Connor. Britney has to learn how to neck rein, so I polished that a bit. I also worked on showmanship things like setting up for inspection. He was very well behaved and compliant. He really took to the savvy string rein-ring. (We did other relaxing things, too)

Next, I let Blu into Misty and Connor's pasture for later and played with Misty for 40 minutes. Most of it was chilling and getting scratched, but I have some choice things to share with you. A load of jackasses were at our neighbor's house doing everything they could to scare the horses. I did two things with Misty: I had spaced out barrels to target for going sideways to and from me on line, and then I took off her halter and we chased the ball at liberty. The boys shot or exploded something and it shook the ground. Misty's head came up and she took a few steps, but after a few seconds, started to back away from her and then I lifted the carrot stick and she bobbed her head, licked her lips, and came sideways to me. Connection reestablished! Then, they did it again when I was at liberty. Somehow, I did not jump that time, and Misty just spasmed and continued to focus on the ball. I saw one of the boys look over to see if she did anything. He looked disappointed and went back to the group of idiots. Ha, find another farm to terrorize, kid! These is PNH hosses!! .

Then I played with Blu. He is too cute, all the time. His highlight was after I bathed and grazed him, let him go in the dirty, bare part of the pasture. I walked around with him, waiting for the inevitable. When he started to go down, I laid down. He tripped on his way down and he fell. He is the only horse that I know who TRIPS AND FALLS DOWN WHEN HE IS TRYING TO LAY DOWN. That is comparable to tripping and falling into a chair as you are trying to sit in it . Anyhow, we are making some very natural progress toward him learning to lay down on cue.

I made it back inside in time for the Derby. I love that jockey (Calvin Borel). He has practically no teeth, he always cries when they sing My Old Kentucky Home, and his general antics are just so funny. I still really don't like the TB racing industry, but I think that Bayou character is hilarious (obviously).

Natural Horsewoman Out.

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About Me

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

What We Are Currently Playing With

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