Friday, July 30, 2010

My Second 2-Star Parelli Professional Lesson

BEFORE YOU READ: It is very late and I have not bothered to proof this post, yet, so be patient with the grammar, spelling, and sense-making of my words--thanks!

Official Records Information:
Misty, 2 hours, 7-30-10, evening

I quite enjoyed tonight's lesson. Before Meggie got there, I had to get Misty warmed up, so I got there an hour or so early to do that. Misty, Connor, and Blu were up front and the other two horses were out back. I took Blu and Misty to the round pen--Misty in a halter only being led by my pinky, Blu with the 12' line around his neck, Connor trying to get by us--the whole thing could have ended badly, but I set it up for success. I made sure that Blu and Misty were not going to get into an argument with one another by leading them around together and giving them pellets when they got close to each other. Misty's ears would pop forward and Blu would stop thinking about nibbling Misty somewhere annoying. Then, I shooed Connor away by shaking my head at him until he cantered off in a fit. By the time he came back to the gate, Blu, Misty, and I were standing together on the other side.

Safe in the round pen, I let Misty graze at the stubbly stuff in there with Blu for 5 minutes so I would have fewer "I am not happy with this change in environment and Connor is running around" emotional issues when I started playing with Misty. While they ate, I brought out the plastic bag on a stick, a carrot stick and string, and a 23' line.

When I got back, both horses looked at me. I let myself in and they came over to greet me. I stood and pet them and gave Misty pellets whenever she tolerated Blu. Then I shooed Blu out of her space and began to assess how the tail leading was coming. After a few phase 3 with no rhythm in the yield, I decided to wait until I had done something to get her more focused on me, first.

I was wearing a pirate hat from the craft store--it's for Blu's costume at fair--and I decided that would be another good friendly game to play with Misty. She liked that pirate hat, I think. I should have taken pictures.

Exactly what order I did the following items is kind of foggy, so bare with me:

Figure of 8 at liberty to get our communication up and running. She was very focused on me. At first, she wanted to turn away from me when she was supposed to go around the left cone. I would step to the right and swing the carrot stick the way I do when I ground drive and she responded correctly by moving her zone one to the left. Then, when her left eye was to me, I would step back and draw her in. She was very willing to come in--had a very innocent look on her face. After two of those, instead of letting her come in, I would send her around the other cone. After that, she did the pattern no problem.

Now, Misty was very connected to me and I had her at liberty (this one of the things that I am not sure about where it happened in relation to the other events). I began my tail leading and progressed us from a couple steps back at phase 2/3 with a little bit of hair to--wait, no she must not have been at liberty or maybe I put the line on her because I moved on to turning and using the line as a phase 4 to move her hind quarters. I think we got through one figure of 8. . .

Put the line on and played my circling game. I was not getting straight backs for sending, so I would correct her and back her up again. I worked on stopping with the carrot stick by stopping her at the gate, where Blu was on the other side of and a tire was leaning against it. That worked very well. Later, when I was circling for Meggie, I would have to work through the opposite--having her continue without stopping at it. That was not too bad, though, I don't think. I also would use it as a marker for her downward transition.

Meggie arrived while I was examining Misty's shooed hooves and deciding to not run her at fair. I will do ground driving with her, but if I show in Speed, we will most likely just be walking/trotting.

Circling in the round pen notes:

My send was pretty disrespectful on Misty's part! She was not backing straight and she was definitely not backing rhythmically. I used long phase one, quick 2/3/4 to fix it, but I need to pay special attention to this game for homework. I did a thing where I looked and flicked at her hiny if she took a crooked step back. Meggie had me do the friendly game at various parts of the backing up to make sure it was not a friendly game issue. It turned out to be more of a respect issue

Slack in the rope still needs work, but not too much--she made a lot of progress in that tonight. She was able to ignore the weeds in the round pen, and when we left, she got back to putting slack in it there, too. However, she sometimes takes it out. Meggie noticed that when she is going left she is tending to look out more and I told her that she is usually fine going to the right, but going left, about half the time she is counter bent and looking out.

Change of direction. I worked on my timing (per Meggie's advising). I was going back into my bubble, but not soon enough because sometimes Misty was going into that space in the center as she changed direction. I realized that subconciously, I was thinking that if I went back sooner, Misty would not be pushed forward but go around behind me or something. I have never thought this to myself, but once when I was doing as Meggie said and going back sooner than I had been, I got that feeling "oh no, she won't make." Then I was like, 'wait of course she'll make it!" Kind of the BFO for the night. That really made her changes snappier. My homework in regards to this is to refine it.

Next was canter/walk transitions. We worked on my timing--asking her to go to the walk right before she was about to break from the canter anyways and asking for the transitions in the same spots. Misty began to do both up and down transitions better. I personally was thinking it was pretty cool for the time we spent on it. The benefit of having a PP there coaching.

We moved to the pasture to work on the other direction and see how her slack in the rope held up with out the round pen to shape her. It was not perfect immediately, but we ended well. Now I just have to make it all the norm. One of my homeworks is to now have a long phase one, quick 2/3/4 or 4 for the transitions. As an important principle as I do this without her, remember to take care of Misty's responsibilities in order: if she has no slack in the rope and poor transitions, I take care of the slack in the rope first, then the transitions.

Misty's lead by the tail for Meggie came as a sort of sidenote after we talked about the circling game, Misty's looking away, etc. She was not really connecting with me and I could see she was thinking slowly. I really wanted Meggie to see how far we got with it with her own eyes, but mayge next time--which is not until August 17th! Since I have two weeks to work on all this, next time we will have a riding session.

Looking away: I think I sometimes I misread her "ignoring you" face as an unconfident face. I know I did tonight, at least twice. I definitely don't always misread it, but that is another thing on my homework list--when I think she is being unconfident, I will ask myself "Is she really unconfident??" That is so basic, but obviously I need to work on it.

Reading unconfidence properly
Looking away--what creative things can I do to end this when I am sending her on the circle or the yoyo
straighter yoyo/send
continue with lead by the tail
refine the transitions and change of direction
slack in the rope
Phase one long, phase 4 for transitions
General "attitude problem" of Misty's
~how can I make a game out of things to make things more interesting?

Overall, I was really glad to hear that Misty was being more disrespectful than unconfident. I am assertive and building confidence does not come as naturally to me as building respect. I can instill confidence just fine. I feel that this is kind of the turning point for Misty in her emotional condition. She has been so unconfident this summer and now several respect issues have been sprouting up lately, which means she is probably getting her confidence back. I know that sounds twisted, but that is how I feel. So, there.

Natural Horsewoman Out.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Returning to Jumping--it got even better!

Official Records Information:
Blu, 1 hour, afternoon, 7-29-10

I squeezed a session in with Blu in between work shifts. I saved horse time for last because I had a lot of 4H responsibilities to take care of, first. By the time I got the two jumps set up and all my stuff out for Blu (23' line, halter in a barn know, carrot stick with plastic bag on it, and a Korsteel broken snaffle bridle), I had an hour for Blu. My plan was to warm him up on the ground with the 23' line, then put the bridle on and jump, then take the bridle off and jump and do some other freestyle things for the cool down. That just so happens to be just how it went.

I am very fond of Blu's relationship with me. He is so easily drawn to me--he comes when I call--then he sticks to me really well during and after our session. I do not take what I have with him for granted. Since I have to work so hard for Misty's heart, I can truly see all of the value in the way Blu is with me. So, during my sessions, I am constantly keeping mind that I want to have the highest priority be that after the session, Blu still wants to be with me.

Our on the ground warm up consisted mainly of the circling game. I started with the figure 8. He was not doing the pattern on his own, sometimes he was not maintaining his gait, and once he went RB and pulled to the end of the line and trotted off. I just tracked behind him and as soon as he relaxed I called him and he came right to me, like "Oh, hi. What just happened?" I decided to work on his change of direction and maintenance of gait on a simple circle for a little. When he was more relaxed and maintaining gait, I went back to the figure of 8 and he did it perfectly. Then I moved us into the canter and did moving circles. I was very pleased that he maintained all through it: he went over uneven ground, did flying lead changes for the two changes of directions I asked for, went over a big lump--lovely. Then, the tire jump was in his path and the kid targeted it and went straight over the middle. Nicely done Blu! I had him come in after that. He got a long snuggle and scratches. I was going to work with his unconfidence with the barrels so maybe I could jump him over them while riding, but I could tell that he was going to take a while (and I was on a time budget), so the first time he finally looked at me with a question, I welcomed him in, took off the halter, and he followed me to his bridle.

Just to mention it, Blu is excellent with bridling. He is relaxed, takes the bit, head low--I like it. Then, he stood and waited while stepped out of the pasture (just 15' away) and turned up the radio. Lalala. Also, he stood nicely while I vaulted on. First I tried to off my bad ankle and I just oofed into his side as I changed my mind--hurt my ankle anyways. So, I ran over to his other side and got on that side. On occasion, Blu shows displeasure at me getting on and I then work through it until he gives me permission, but today he was happy to go from the start.

For a ridden warm up I did follow the rail in my invisible arena. I used the northwest corner fencelines then, as the southeast corner of my arena, I used the tire jump. First I just rode a lap at the trot--which he offered--to see where we were. He was cutting the corners and bowing the invisible sides. So first we did corner to corner to straighten those line. I only did each corner once. Note that this means he had to stop right in front of the jump. I trotted then cantered then changed directions and did the trot and canter laps and all of it was straight and quite precise. Then, I changed direction again, trotted a lap, cantered a lap, but when we came to the jump corner, instead of turning right I kept looking straight ahead and Blu jumped it like that's what we were doing all around. I knew we were ready to begin our jumping session.

I had the stansion jump set at 24'' (his highest jumping record, so far, in his jumping career--which is this summer), then the was the tire jump, which is only between 12''-18'' high, but is 2'' feet across. I had the barrel with food on it set up 30' after the 24'' jump. First thing I did was jump the tires, then rest, then loop around and jump them again. The second time he did not put as much effort into it, and like dingbat I decided to loop around and do it again. This time I heard his hoof scuff the tire and he went over the space between the two cones I had set up on either side of the jump (about 8'') instead of the center. So, to fix my transgression, I cantered around to the barrel of food, let him get a little bite, stood and let him chew it, then tried the tire jump again. That time he did it perfectly. I am glad I immediately realized that I made the wrong decision in looping back around and jumping again. When your horse is not motivated, doing it again is not going to make it better! Duh!

I tried several combinations of jumping. Blu did knock the 24'' over the first time he went over, but then he was clean the rest of the time. At the end of the session, I went over 4 jumps without stopping for food and I put the jump up to the 30''. He did just barely clip it when it was at 30'' and the wobbly/rotted stansion pitched a fit and fell over. However, that jump was so full of try, that was it for us. I got down, took the bridle off, rubbed him and let him eat, got back on (his necklace was already on), and rode to the trees where I had the carrot stick and bag hanging. He did not react at all when I pulled the hanging carrot stick from the tree. Good boy, Blu.

Our bridleless ride was super. I rode through the weave pattern at the jog. When he got that, I did the tire jump then jumped over the stansion/pole mess that was left of our 30'' jump, and then stopped to let him eat. Then I did a short bit on his spin progress and backing up with the plastic bag, both of which got better. He is just beginning to spin quicker without me using the plastic bag and backing is better, too.

Afterwards, Blu followed me to the fence. He watched me take care of my gear then stood while I sprayed him off from the other side of the fence. He loves getting sprayed. He is even very good about having his face washed. You know, it's great to know how to use the friendly game to get your horse comfortable with things like that, but it is very special for Blu to just be this way. I can hardly take credit for a lot of his good attributes, other than to say that I have not ruined them.

Natural Horsewoman Out.

Homework Lesson

Official Records Information:
Misty, afternoon, 1 hour 15 minutes, 7-28-10

Misty did not come out to me, again. I sat in the corn crib on the steps with a carrot stick, 23' line, halter, and fanny pack of pellets. As soon as I settled my things and turned away from her, she walked straight to me and stood. After I felt her relax completely, I gave her a few pellets, which she greedily accepted. Then I began to halter her, which took (my estimate) about half an hour. I would hold the halter and do approach and retreat with it in the arced position. She progressed her draw through the following stages: look at the halter, touch the halter, put her head under my arm, stand while I pulled the halter string over her ears, put her head down into the halter. My goal was to have her do everything on her own: I did not want to lift the halter onto her head, for example, I wanted her to put her head down into the halter. I would rate the final haltering a 5 out of 10 because she still had inklings of reservation about being haltered, though it was better than other times.

Now that Misty was haltered, I assessed that she was pretty alert, attentive, relaxed, and whatnot. So, unlike last night when I went to do lead by the tail and she was still quite introverted, I knew that now would be set up for more success. So, I did and she took a step back on the first try with a phase 2/3. I did a few more, gave her some pellets, and went out to the pasture, where I furthered our lead by the tail progress. She was so cool. This is, I believe, the furthest I have ever gotten with this concept. Twice I asked her to take 10 steps back. Not only did she do that, but she was going a diagonal pair at a time (as opposed to one foot at a time) and she was doing so with rhythm and good speed. Also, I only had a pinch of hair between my fingers (not even the diameter of my pinky). Several times, she backed up to me with just me stepping back! That's just what you get when you work on things when your horse is in the right frame of mind.

I changed gears to one line driving, but I used her tail to back her up every now and then because she offered it. I had to be very clear as to whether or not I wanted her to go forward or backward because at first, she was trying to back up every time I wanted to go forward (confused, not disobedient). But once she understood me, she was reading my energy VERY WELL. To stop, I just exhale, to go, I bring my energy up and start walking. I was surprised at how well it went. I did not do any trotting because I was so pleased with her and I did not have enough time to take her out to graze and come back and start up again. So, that was this morning/afternoon. Pretty cool, huh?

Natural Horsewoman Out.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

What? Catching Issues? Don't sweat it: I got this.

Official Records Information:
Misty 1 hour morning 7-27-10

I went out this morning with a plan to work on my PP homework. I wanted to specifically further her lead by the tail progress as well as to do some ground driving with trotting. I met both of those goals.

Cherry, 45 minutes, afternoon, 7-27-10
Cherry the MorganX is very sweet. I was warned that she was the type of horse who you could whap as hard as you liked and she would not move. So, when I was doing any yielding, I did light, light, light phases followed by a delicate flick to the udder, nose hairs, or chest. That got her very light, very fast.

When I got my helmet to ride, I was warned that Cherry does not like it when the rider taps the helmet while riding. I found out that she also does not like to have a lot of other commotion on her back. I tried to lift the helmet back by its visor, but the thing came unvelcroed.

I got down and backed away while sticking and unsticking the visor. Then I retreated while I tapped my helmet. Successful licking and chewing with those and I got back on and repeated. I got down when she was able to handle her final fear with my cowgirl hat making straw noises.


Misty 20 minutes, evening, farrier, 7-27-10

Misty 1 hour, 15 minutes evening 7-27-10

I am going to say it now: there are no words in the human language capable of describing the feeling of my horse cantering to me with her face aglow. When it first happened this past winter, I burst out crying I was so completely overwhelmed. Now, I do cry tears of joy quite often around my horses, but let us strike that from the record, shall we?

I feared that I would have to wait a terribly long time before that would happen again. I know I have spoiled it, now, but let me tell you about tonight with Misty.

Off into the pasture I went. Misty sneaked off to the corn crib structure. You might know that this is her safe place. So, I went out, noting her behavior on the way. I stopped and backed up 40' when she got very uncomfortable. She was turning her head from me and looking at everything but me. I turned my back and waited. When I felt her look at me, I looked back, and sure enough she was very tentatively looking at me. I smiled and turned my back again, but then she retreated back further into the corn crib. Hmm. . . well, I decided that I could continue waiting there or I could go closer and sit somewhere close to her comfort zone. Either one would have been "right" for that instance, but by going to her safe place, it would not be such a stretch for her to come to me.

I sat down on the edge of the foundation of the corn crib facing out and waited. I watched the bats flitting around and diving for their dinner. I listened to Hoosier knocking something over in the barn. I thought about the farrier's visit. . . I did not pay any attention to Misty behind me. Faster than I thought she would, she came to my shoulder and put her head down by me. That was nice. When she began to relax even more, I gave her a cookie. I waited some more before pulling out my barn knot halter and halter her while sitting down. Definitely some reservation from her for that, but not to bad. I did not push her through it or anything.

I did approach and retreat and she began to get more comfortable and looked at me. I began to play with leading her by the tail, but within the first few responses, I realized it would be more productive to do it when she was in a better frame of mind. Like this morning, after I got her mind focused on connecting with me and being curious, she was able to learn a lot faster. I could have continued and eventually she would relax and figure it out, but I decided to retreat again, instead.

I sat back down and after 5 minutes or so, I decided that I could indeed wait for Misty to relax some more, but I have the savvy to get her relaxed faster with some on line playing. So, I walked off to the open pasture area and began some on line stuff. We circled on the 12' line and Misty curved her body around me in both directions very nicely. Plus, she was trying to stop at a cone and play with it in an effort to appease me in some way. Unfortunately, I changed our good circling game into a stick to me / mirror me game. We did some cutting game steps and then I was just playing: having her trot to me, stopping, rolling back, etc. I thought to myself "Gee, I wish this stinkin' line could come off. . . " and took it off. I decided that if she took off, that would be my cue that this was a bad idea. . .

I proceeded to play with her. We ran around the pasture, did cutting with each other, reared up, went sideways over a barrel, lead by the tail (!), and amongst all of this wild liberty, Misty ran to me on several occasions. Once was just when I ran backwards and had her run to me. Another time, after one of our sit-and-chills (where I sit/squat and she puts her head down by me and comes off some of the adrenaline), she did not come off it enough, we were in the back of the pasture, and she just took off for the front of the pasture where Connor was standing. When she got there, she looked around, spotted me, I smiled and jumped up in a little canter, whistled, and she cantered and possibly galloped to me. Then, as she got close, I had her slow down and go sideways a bit. Then we sat and relaxed. She stood in front of me (I was sitting) and put her face right in my face, forehead to forehead. She stood like that for a long time. I don't know what that means.

I played a while longer, got to having her take several steps (5-8 with rhythm) back with just the tail, and then told her, "Why don't we run around for one last lap?" I trotted then cantered then ran all out. I looked behind me and she was pumping along chasing me down. I came down from the canter to the trot rather than stopping abruptly. We did that once and I was afraid her new front shoes would rip right through her feet.

Tonight did not go as planned, again, but I got homework done and had a lot of fun. That is a lot accomplished, in my book.

Natural Horsewoman Out.

Advice on LBI

When I was playing today with Misty. I tried to focus on what I was doing to motivate her.

I had nothing with me but a fanny pack of pellets and she was at liberty in her pasture (we are almost through level four on the ground). I rewarded her honest tries, marking in my head her tries. I think of tries like thresholds, but these are generally thresholds of will-do, not confidence; the first try may be to only take a few steps at the trot, but next time I ask, I would expect more than a few steps, for example. So, I rewarded with a few pellets every time her try broke a threshold. I played with the ball this way, driving her to it from a long distance, first. I immediately saw a change in her facial expression when she realized that I was driving her to something. Up until then, I had been standing right next to her, but when I saw she knew what the game was, I stopped and just pointed to it. She went to it, rolled it, then looked at me with a bright face. From the first touch to eventually me kicking it and asking her to canter after it, I progressively worked through those thresholds of try. In the end it looks like a big leap, but the whole time I was taking baby steps with her and letting her tell me what she was willing to do for me. At the end of the session, I also had a break through that ended in her offering to sidepass to me through a simple miscommunication (she thought I was asking her to sidepass to me but I was asking her to back up, though the sidepass achieved the same thing the back up was going to be used for) then I developed the cue by repeating it (our first sideways to me at liberty!)

The reason that I chose the ball is because now Misty really understands the purpose to the ball and she loves to push it around and dominate it utterly (it was not always like that).

So some things I think apply to your situation are
1. search out the slightest try and reward that then let it build (and expect it to build) to greater tries
2. find something your LBI enjoys doing or playing with and use that as a base to build up his play drive and motivation (ie, Misty likes the ball)
3. try to stay out of your LBI's way when he is trying. Because they don't want to go, it is easy for us to want to micromanage them, but you would be surprised to find what happens if you give them time and space

Natural Horsewoman Out.

Pedestal Stories

My gelding was rightbrained while I was waiting him to go left-brained during the sideways game at the trot/canter. We went all over the pasture and then he saw the pedestal and practically dragged me over to it and jumped on it and looked at me, totally calmly. I let him rest there for 15 minutes while a gabbed with a friend and quietly celebrated him getting on the pedestal with all four feet for the first time .

Misty also offered it to me. I was over 50' away at liberty and orchestrating her from there. She had gotten on the pedestal and I pointed for her to continue forward. She would inch forward and look at me, I would smile and point gently again, she inched forward, and so on until she was standing with all four feet on it. That had not been my intention, but that is what happened and I went with it.

This pedestal is a giant tractor tire, at least 4' in diameter and is only 18'' high. Both of my horses are not confident enough to stand on the 2' in diameter and 2' high pedestal.

Natural Horsewoman Out.

Ball Chaser

Whew, what a long day.

I got to go out and enjoy the unusually warm weather (70 degrees!!) for a bit with Misty. She was feeling kind of neh today, so I just messed with her mind and not too much with her body. I spent a lot of time waiting for it to be 100% ok with her to put the halter on, and then, after all of the things I had done to get that, I walked away and sat far away from her and began playing with the ball by myself or sitting down or something and she was like "What are you doing?" and pretty soon was over wanting the ball and chasing it etc.

Natural Horsewoman Out.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Sometimes, Things Just Don't Go As Planned

Official Records Information
Blu and Misty
1 hour 30 minutes

I worked 13 hours, today, went straight to the farm after work. I just wanted to see my horses before I took a shower and went to bed. That was the plan: see horses, pet horses, drive home, take shower, go to bed.

I really needed to work on some of my homework from Meggie's lesson, but, gosh, talk about depleted. My inner horseman was not awake. Then, some things happened. Thanks to my sister, whose pseudonym escapes me, I had one of the best horsemanship sessions I have had in a long time, and I got a lot of horse homework done.

Dang it. Her name is Maggie, OK? She is 17, my little sister, and her horse is Ginger. I have talked about her before using a pseudonym, but I can't remember what that name is. So Maggie rode over on Ginger and asked if I wanted to ride around with her. I kind of grumbled, not grumpily, mind you, and shuffled off to a barrel. I figured it would be OK to squeeze this horse interaction in before I went to bed. I don't even remember getting on behind Maggie, but as soon as Ginger got there, we were off, the three of us. Then Maggie said, that she just needed to get me close enough to Misty that I could get on. I thought she was joking. I did not know when I was going to get down from Ginger, probably when Maggie told me to.

Well, Blu happened by before we got to Misty, so, naturally I got on him. I was laying over him while Maggie went and got a halter and 12' line off the fence. I did not know what Blu would do, so I kept my legs together in case he decided to eject me. I know that sounds haphazard, but Blu has been known to get these thoughts in his head, and I was tired and living in the moment. Blu did move off once, but he stopped as soon as I put my hand in front of his neck and pressed. Good porcupine game response, Blu!

Maggie gave me the halter and line and Blu, bless his soul, turned his head to me and let me put the halter on as I lay gasping for breath from his withers pushing on my diaphragm. What a good boy. I knew then that this unplanned affair was going to be just fine. La la la.

I rode around, yet again, just savoring this horse interaction before I went to bed. However, once again, I was wondering to myself "when will I get back down and go home?" I did not really answer myself. All I know is that my inner horseman was beginning to wake up. Not quite, ready, but definitely making waves.

Blu and I did some lovely snakey S bends through the cones in a weave pattern. He was really bending very nicely around my leg and moving sideways a bit like he should. Then, Misty happened by. I just decided to start playing the catching game with her. To make a long, beautiful, should-have-been-caught-on-video story short, one thing led to another and Misty just put herself in the round pen, and I just shut the gate and continued the catching game there.

As all of this is going on, Blu is doing awesome. Granted, Misty is MUCH better about reading ahead and paying close attention to my seat when we are driving horses, but Blu did some really great things tonight. There was scarcely a time when he did not do precisely what I wanted. I particularly recall an exquisitely happy moment when Blu and I were running ahead of Misty's motion to cut her off from going somewhere when she was in the open pasture. We had to go in an arc to her zone one, then slam on the breaks and do a rollback to the right to accomplish what I was after. All in the moment, this was. It was not until I got to the round pen and shut the gate that my inner horseman came to and I ditched that stupid go to bed plan and began doing my homework.

I put the halter in a barn knot and played the catching game from Blu's back. Blu was magnificent. He had to stay 100% in my seat because my upper body was doing other things like helicoptering the line and tossing it at Misty, flicking Misty, leaning over and yielding Misty's hindquarters. . . Like I said, I can definitely see where he could improve, but BOY! He is making progress.

After a lot of approach and retreat and driving and drawing, Misty was following Blu and me around the pen. Viola. Now I just had to halter her from Blu's back. Now, this, I knew, was going to be difficult. It would take A LOT of approach and reatreat and friendly game. So, homework of friendly game with creativity is done. And it was even my original idea! To do it with horses. And I don't think I have ever played it while I was riding another horse and playing it with Misty. So, there you go.

I started by testing her connectedness with Blu and me. I backed up, yielded her hindquarters, and just observed her response. She was pretty in tune and trying to follow along with us. Next on my list was getting a line of communication on her. I tossed the rope over her neck then threw another loop around her neck by swinging it around her head. It took several tries and my loop plopped on her face and ears. But, she was ok with this because she knew it was all friendly game.

Now that I had something I could use as a way to say more to her (not to drag her around by, mind you, as the thing would just slide off) I was getting closer to my goal of haltering her. Ideally, I would get her to draw to us well enough that she would put her head in my lap so I could halter her. That is what Blu does for me when I do this with him. I would back up a bit then push her hindquarters over with Blu's. This was not making sense to her, so I decided to use more friendly game. I rubbed her back (that's what was next to me). When she sighed, I stepped forward and massaged her neck. When she relaxed, I reached my hand up and stuck my knuckles in her ear. She LOVED that. She began to rub her head on Blu, who welcomes any nonviolent gesture from other horses. When I picked of the halter, she was completely OK with me putting it on. I was very pleased, of course.

Now, it had been a long while, this catching game and then the haltering game. But now that I had her, I was ready to practice driving some. I requested that Maggie retrieve our Pink Lounge Whip for me since she was done riding. I walked Ginger in my left hand and Misty in right and Blu with my seat until Maggie came out with the Pink Lounge Whip. Blu was so cool. Everyone behaved. Harmony.

I have not used the Pink Lounge Whip for anything but the friendly game of getting Misty and Blu ok with the sound of its crack (am I just tired, or is that last bit a tad comical?). But I wanted it so I could reach Misty with something stiffer than a string. I played the friendly game with both horses, first, to make sure neither of them feared it. I also made sure Blu understood that he could relax if it was flailing around, as long as my seat was quiet.

I began by driving from zone 3, then I slowly moved us back. I just did simple testing tonight. I tentatively worked with the weave pattern. Pretty much just working out some gross motor skills. I was very impressed with Misty and Blu. Misty could not understand to yield sideways to me, but she was definitely getting it.

I dismounted eventually and put Blu away. Then, before feeding Misty, I worked on leading by the tail. Not much progress, just refreshing her memory about it so she could work on it with me tomorrow.

I cannot believe that all of these good things happened when I went with a plan to go down and just see, MAYBE touch, my two lovely horses. I guess it's sometimes a VERY good thing when things just don't go as planned.

Natural Horsewoman Out.

I feel like this was the first time I did this, riding BLU while I played with MISTY. Usually, it's the other way around.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Too Much Bleach.

Official Records Information:
20 minutes

Today was a two shift work day. Yesterday, I did not even have time to come home between my 2 shifts--I left the house at 7:15 a.m. and got home at 10:00 p.m. No horses yesterday! I got to the farm today and had hardly any time to do anything, so I started with a plan in my head to work on some of my horse homework. Well, little by little, as Misty was not wanting to be caught, I changed that plan, and it finally ended up being this:

catch Misty
tie her to the fence
tend to her hock wound (it's almost healed)
detangle her two witch's knots
fly spray her

Misty was not running away, but she was not coming to me. I played with the halter with approach and retreat and she was putting her head away from me a lot--also going a bit introverted at times. At one point when she had been introverted for a while, I began to do approach and retreat with her teats. She has gotten to the point where she will not kick out violently, but it is still not her favorite place for me to have my hands. Slowly, she came out of her introversion: she started to blink; she stomped at flies again, which she had been ignoring; she swished her tail at me. As my approach became cleaning her teats off, I found an itchy spot down there.

Now, Misty's head is VERY itchy. She will target a still stranger and go rub her face all over their back. Other than that, it is rare to see Misty making faces while you scratch her. Well, she was absolutely enthralled. She began to stretch her back legs out (park out, that is) and her neck was super arched--the whole 9 yards. I could have caught her sooner, but I was pretty happy that Misty's least favorite place for me to touch just became her favorite place.

By the time I got to the fence, I only had time to spray her belly, put dermagel on her hind leg, and spray her mane with detangler. My mom detangled her mane for me after I left. I was pretty happy from that itchy spot discovery, though, so no big deal, here.

Natural Horsewoman Out.

Friday, July 23, 2010

My First Parelli Lesson

Well, the title should say it all: Today was my first lesson with a licensed Parelli Professional. Her name is Meggie Allen. She has two stars, which in Parelli language means that she is qualified to teach Parelli students in the on line and freestyle (riding without contact, as opposed to finesse, which is riding with contact, as in dressage) savvies up to level 4.

I decided to scrape together money for lessons because with my job the way it is, right now, I come home so tired and I have so little time off, that with all the things I need to put time into, I can't be as constructive in the horse part of my life. I will admit that right now, I am doing an excellent job of sticking with programs and having success with both of my horses. However, I know that by taking these lessons, whatever progress I would have made all by myself will be doubled with a Parelli Professional, if I utilize her properly.

I will start with my homework to have ready for next week:
#1. When catching, try using the barn knot.
#2. Present some creative friendly games.
#3. Present some creative porcupine games (lead by the _____).
#4. Work specifically on lead by the tail.
#5. Get rhythm in the yields of the porcupine, driving, and yoyo games.
#6. When driving from zone 5, use a change in my own energy to make upward and downward transition.
#7. Work a lot in the trot when driving from zone 5.
#8. When doing the circling game and asking for a change in direction, go back to my original spot after the change is complete.
#9. Work on downward transitions, backing up, and halt to canter/canter to halt transitions on the circle
#10. Work in the round pen with the circling game to improve body shape on the circle

When she arrived, Meggie stayed in her truck getting things situated and I went out and caught Misty so she could watch that. Misty was really awesome. I crawled into the pasture and she poked her head over Connor and I smiled and stood for a moment. Connor came up to me and said hello, Misty behind him. I gently drove Connor around me so he would not take off but so I could draw Misty without her getting sucked over to him or him driving her. Then Misty began to half-heartedly move off. She came right to me when I leaned down and looked at her hindquarters. I held the halter out in the arc with my arm and she came right into it. She puts her nose a little behind the halter at first, so I waited for her nose to go in it, then I slid it on and tied it up. I stood with her for a moment and rubbed her, worked on untangling a newly forming witch's knot--that sort of thing.

Meggie asked me to show her the best of the first 3 games, which, I decided would be the friendly game if it was right off with no warm up. Misty was just slightly stiff as I whapped the ground and helicoptered the carrot stick. She was definitely having a "bearing-it" sort of stiffness and not breathing. As I continued, we looked for her to get more relaxed, which she did.
One of my homeworks is to come up with more creative friendly games. Here are some of the things I have already done with Misty:
Dragging things from the saddle
Plastic rake head on a line (those are good for doing the helicopter with if you are handy)
Green ball
Tarp (walking on it, dragging it, being rubbed with it, wearing it)
Tarp fill with water
Very complex Tarp over four pillars of stuff to make a trailer simulation
Plastic bag
Handling her teats, tongue, back legs
Bathing (this one still needs work, though, as does friendly game with another horse)

So, what I think I want to present next week is another horse. Misty is very aggressive with other horses. So, I will play the friendly game with Misty, with another horse as the thing she needs to get comfortable with.--Looking at this the morning I posted, I guess I have already done this friendly game this winter when I played with Blu and Misty at the same time. At liberty, I would have them both trot to me, and if she did not get a cookie until Blu got there. Pretty soon, she was not trying to beat the tar out of him to keep him from coming to me. Then, when I play with Blu at liberty or on line from Misty's back, I would give her treats every time Blu got close to us. Do you know how hard it is to play with two horses when one horse is bent on driving the other horse nuts (Blu) and the other horse's M.O. is to bite, kick, and otherwise mame said horse?

Therefore, I need to come up with another new friendly game. Some of the ones that come right to mind are snapping our old lounge whip and decoy birds.

Next, I showed Meggie plain old porcupine game with my hands. Misty was very dull (Note: especially in the hindquarters)! I did not panic, I knew that she would be; there were things going on, we had not warmed up, of course she was not going to be light. But Meggie wants me to work on rhythm in the yields. The same with the driving game and the yoyo game. She did back straight on the yoyo game, though, she was just distracted and choppy.

Next, we worked on driving game and lead by the tail. First, she wanted to see us back up from zone 3, 4, then 5 using the yoyo game. Then, we evolved that into backing with the tail. With lots of waiting and releasing at the proper time, she took a couple steps with just the tail and I would say it was a phase 3 for our current phases.

I did one line driving on a 22' line, for the instructor. Misty was terribly upset, though because right as we were about to start, all the other horses were let out back. So, I regained her attention by driving her to the giant tire pedestal. Misty got reconnected very nicely and we went off on our figure 8 with two cones. As we went along, her rough turns and out-of-sync modality totally changed and she began to keep her hindquarters lined up with me better. I called it good after she went around the cone that was close to the out gate without veering and being very soft. However, I forgot to bring my energy down, first, so that is on my homework list, for sure!

Next, I showed her my circling game. We moved to a different part of the pasture and things were going on next door, so Misty's adrenaline came up a bit. I had to wait before I sent her at first because she couldn't look at me. She was pretty tight in her body and there was usually not slack in the rope. I did some changes of direction and did not go back to my original spot after I completed them, which is bad because that means I am letting her invade my space. Another thing on my homework list that I just need to remember to not forget.

When we were done, Misty relaxed a lot as we talked. Then, I rode Misty out back and let her go near her buddies. On the way out, she was a little tense, but on a loose rein. As we got closer to the outback, I did some leg yields and halfhalts to make sure she was still thinking about me. When we got to the field, I asked her to all out run and I got a nice, short passenger lesson with her swerving to avoid bushes and such. When I said good bye and left, she stopped eating and followed me for a little bit before she realized "what am I doing I am where I wanted to be!" and stopped and ate again. That was really cool.

Next week, our lesson plan is for me to have Misty warmed up upon the instructor's arrival so we can get right into her good stuff. We are for sure doing the circling game in the round pen and I will show her my lead by the tail and creative friendly game. Today was all about feeling out where I am during my warm up time. She also got to see pretty much every side of Misty because of all the distractions that went on. She was never her left brain extrovert self, though. It takes a lot of playing--and usually a green ball--for Misty to really get all geeked out and play hard.

So, great day.

Official Records Information 1 hour, 30 minutes, evening, 7-23-10, Misty

PS I brought the horses up riding Blu (who had walked himself 1/2 way out of the fence when I got back there!). When I began approaching, I called out and he saw me and began to walk to me with pauses and staring. Misty began to walk the same way. Then they both relaxed and ate again. I watched as Blu began to eat himself out of the pasture and decided he was the choice horse to ride! Misty stayed relaxed and did not take off until I was on Blu driving everyone up. Blu is so silly; he still is not as job oriented about driving the horses up (the way Misty is, who loves to drive all the horses back home), so he still tends to get swept up in the heat of the moment and want to run with the other horses instead of pay attention to the job. I will note one really great moment when I was making a wide arc at the lope around to Hoosier's business end. Then, all of a sudden with my body I dipped in and basically did what I would do with my body if I were on the ground doing a fast driving game. Blu boogied right with me and Hoosier's eyes nearly popped out of his head. I said to Blu "That was cool!"

Natural Horsewoman Out.

Following the Rail in the Invisible Arena

Official Records Information:
1 hour

I woke up and it was still cool, but SO humid! We have major thunderstorms forecasted for today, though, so I fed our cats and dogs, got my sister up, popped myself into the Barnkat, and chugged off to the farm.

There was torrential down pour yesterday, so I did not want to jump or canter too much, if at all (the pasture was a mess). Since I am SUPPOSED to have a lesson with Misty tonight (!), I decided to do some freestyle stuff with Blu.

Ginger and Hoosier were in Hoosier's run in stall eating hay, so I opened the door and called Blu. He came around the corner from the watering area and ambled on in. I let him into the aisle and put his halter on, a 12' line, and a neck ring. I also played a bit of friendly game with the plastic bag-on-a-stick to make sure we were all set to do a session with it. "No problem," he said.

On the way to the North Pasture where I would play, we grazed, with me picking the grassy spots to stop.

After another quick friendly game with the P.B.O.A.S., Blu did a perfect phase one yoyo, in and out. I let him stand with his head in my arm for a bit before moving on to the circling game.

After a very obedient, quiet send, Blu went off on the circle at a jog to the left. I noticed that he was very tight and that there was no slack in the rope. After he completed 10 circles without trying to go into a walk, I resent him to the right. Huh, slack in the rope, swinging jog. . . looked to me like he was having difficulty bending his body into a counter-clockwise shape. So, I had him change directions. He brodke to a walk to do so, so as soon as he broke to a walk going left, I had him change again. Going to the right, he could maintain just fine, so I used a barrel as a terget to change directions around. I continued that pattern until he would maintain his pulling-on-the-rope, struggling jog to the left. After about 4 laps, his body relaxed, he put slack in the rope, and he bent his body properly. I stopped passing the rope behind my back and let him wind himself down to me in a bullseye pattern. Viola! He got to stand with me for a long time while I pet his face and snuggled him (he is a big snuggler).

Next, I sent him on a circle again, but this time, I did not go into neutral. I had him mirror me. I did the must suttle canter that I could in my body, and he saw and cantered right away. He slipped a few times, and each time he slipped he would ring his head and buck. I would just keep on cantering, let him regain balance and off we would go. I did a short cow cutting game with him and then we stood together for another long while. Actually, I squatted at his head and he followed my example and put his head down by me. This is good!

I put the 12' line into reins and led him to a barrel. First I got right up on the barrel (which I had to balance on because it was on its side!), but Blu told me he did not want me to get on by moving away. So I sat on the barrel for a few minutes and rubbed him. When I got back on, he did not move away, but he got tense in his body. I waited for a few minutes there (BALANCING ON A ROLLY BARREL--this was no small feat, this wait) until he sighed. Then, up I went. Blu there was a collapsed jump in front of him, so I am sure that had something to do with his not going forward, but I definitely believe that waiting for him to relax had a lot to do with his not walking as soon as I was on.

We rode over to the Northwestern corner of the pasture. The tire jump I had used with Blu the other night was torn apart (that would the the work of Connor and Misty). I used the two existing fence lines as rails and then used the invisble line going perpindicular from the fence lines to the jump as my other rails. I walked for a bit and made the few corrections I needed to. Then we transitioned to a jog. I noticed that on the invisible, shorter rail, Blu was not going straight. Rather, he was puting a curved cap on the end of his three sides. So, I began to stop at the jump in between the tight squeeze of a tire and the ground poles/log. When he would lick and chew, off we would go again. Soon enough, that curve went away and he would go deep into his corners and straight to the invisible corner. Then I stopped stopping: we went through that tight squeeze/corner, turned, and were off on the long invisible line. The neighbor's dog came out and I felt Blu tense up when he noticed Elwood. So, instead of not stopping at the corner, I did stop him so Blu could relax. After two more beautiful laps, I called it a day and hopped off.

We spent 5 minutes grazing and I sprayed him off with the hose. Then I put him into the pasture and called him into his run-in stall where I gave him some yummy hay.

Natural Horsewoman Out.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Blu's Flying Lesson

Official Record Information:
2 hours

I have jumped 4' with confidence with Misty, but Blu is really not naturally gifted in the area of jumping. So far, we have achieved confidence in the 18''-24'' range. So, when we are jumping 2' on Blu, it's like jumping 4' with Misty.

I went into Blu's stall to get him because he had just been fed so I did not want to make him choose between me and his dinner. I let him finish before haltering him and taking him to the other pasture. There, I stood with him and itched him for a while before beginning my on line warm up.

For his warm up, I focused on purity of gait, then confidence jumping over barrels. While Blu was struggling to maintain the canter, I arranged two barrels in a jump with ground poles on either side of them so they would not roll around if he pawed them or scrambled over them. I used his recently masterd skill of slowing down with carrot stick wiggling at zone one so he could trot, walk, and stop during the circle. My assessment is that he could use some more purity of gait exercises at the canter, as he really struggled physically to maintain. Also, going to the right was easier than the left.

I changed from purity of gait to jumping over the barrels. Blu is not confident with barrels. He pretty much always tries to step over them one leg at a time. I won't try jumping him over them in the saddle until he does it on the ground. So, I sent him to it then waited until he asked a question. When he did, I would wiggle the Carrot Stick in zone one until he backed up a bit, then resend him. He progressively got more and more of his zones closer to the other side. The 3rd or 4th time he looked at me, I decided to reward all of his efforts with coming back to me. I leaned back and beckoned him. He looked forward over the barrels and creeped his zone 4 really close to his zone 2 and scramble/jumped over and trotted to me. How fun. I scratched him for a long time before sending him out on the circle. I did one lap where I pulled him between me and the jump, one lap where I pushed him to the other side, and on the third lap, I allowed him to line himself up and he went right over, very clean and proper.

Blu stood patiently tied while I set up the food on the barrel and set up two more jumps. When I got on, he was totally stuck. I put a savvy string on my wrist, but I never used it. I waited for a bit and asked again for him to go and he was more obliging. So, we were off at snail pace walk. I stopped at a cone and rested. We did point to point riding that way, and with in 5 rests, he was loping off. It felt really good!

During one of my point to point, the tire jump just happened to be there. He went right over, no hesitation or swerving. That was how the night went. He was also putting much more lift into it. It was a totally new feeling, like every jump was effortless. I tried the barrel, but we only got to the point of scrambling over and I accepted that. I tried to incorporate a barrel into the stansion jump after I raised it to 2', but that was not going to be doable tonight either, he told me. So, I took the barrel back out and just soared over the 2' jump. It was just so cool feeling. He was totally ok with going over multiple jumps before getting to visit the barrel, too.

I tied the savvy string around his front leg and led him back to the fence to unsaddle. Once he was naked, he followed me to the gate and I sent him through the gate and asked him to turn, face, and wait. Then I led him to the water trough and hand-carried water to him to scrub his sweat spot and chest. He also got a good drink. Then he followed me to his stall where I gave him some hay.

I am euphoric, right now. I was so tired: I worked for 10 hours today and in between shifts I worked at home and played with Misty. So, it has been a full day. I could have gone home, had a steak, and gone to bed. I am so glad I took this path.

Natural Horsewoman Out.

Misty's Really Itchy Spot

Official Records Information:
Misty 7/21/10 afternoon 45 minutes

I finally am getting that look I love to see in Misty's eyes right from the start. I was setting up the cones for our weave and she was trying to connect with me the whole time. When I picked up the halter and 45' line, she was less enthusiastic, but still wanted to maintain connection. So I did approach and retreat and with in a few minutes she was putting her head into the halter.

Before my play session, I tied her to the fence and tended a wound on her back leg. The results of that situation were great. I stayed persistent and polite in the proper position until she understood what was going on. She also did better with the fly spray (more PPPP).

I did some one line driving, but the flies were driving us crazy so it was hard for us to concentrate on one another. I did a couple tail yields, just to remind her. I got her set up for two line driving and we weaved through the cones nicely. I was going to try a figure 8, but she gave me the greatest look as we were beginning it, so I asked her to come in. She was trying it her neck with her back hoof, so I helped her out.

I spent the rest of the time I had with Misty itching her neck in that spot. She nearly fell over on me she was so enthused with me scratching her itch. It was funny.

Natural Horsewoman Out.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

More than One Jump for Blu

Official Records Information:
2 hours

This session started out BEAUTIFULLY! I went into his pasture and began calling him. He poked his head out the stall window and I just smiled and called again. Then I waited. He waited. I waited. Then he backed up and went out the door with what has to be a smile on his face. He ambled straight to me. I scratched his itches for a while and just enjoyed his friendly company. This sort of behavior is perfectly normal for Blu, but it was still nice.

So, I already had a jumping course set up of 3 jumps. One was cavalettis followed by a barrel jump. In our on-the-ground warm up, Blu had serious issues jumping the barrels. I finally kicked out the cavalettis, and he did a bit better, but not too much better. I decided to not jump the barrels in the saddle! As a side note, Blu had great feel on line. He was also very relaxed. He would sometimes settle into his Western Pleasure jog, but I could subtly point forward and he would pick up his life a bit.

We went through our showmanship pattern two times. The first time, we had some issues with setting up, but the second he was better. I noticed that he did not raise his head so much when we trotted. I also had tweak his pivot a bit...and his backing could use some more speed.

I saddled him up and he was very connected with me. Warming him up (this time under saddle) with transitions, I noticed that he was still relaxed. When we made transitions, he was going up nicely (which is a really good thing for this LBI), but coming down heavy on the forehand. I kept at the transitions until he wasn't pounding down on the brakes so much.

After tightening up the girth, we began our jumping. One jump was two tires leaning on a log, flanked by two upright ceramic drainage tiles. The other was the jumping stansions set at 18'' with a ground pole in front of it. Both had barrels about 40' beyond with food on them (not in bowls). First I did each jump individually with stops at the barrel. Blu was doing well, but I was behind him, so I focused on my equitation over the next set, which was to jump one, stop, jump the other, stop. Now that Blu and I were together, I tried jumping the stansion jump, not stopping at the barrel, jumping the tires, then stopping at that barrel. He did it perfectly, without even hesitating! It was so cool, but my mom didn't see, so I did it again, but this time I jumped the tires first and then the stansions. He swerved a bit to the barrel, but I just redirected him gently and he did not argue. I did this twice more, though because I did not reach far enough forward over the stansions and his back legs knocked it off. We also raised the jump to 24''. Does that make sense? Well, no matter, the last time we did it, we did it together and it was very nice.

I took off his bridle, got back on, and rode with the plastic bag-on-a-stick and bridleless for a bit. We loped and jogged around to cool him off and I did two spins. Those are getting faster, but we need to get it down to being a lower phase. We jumped the tires with no swerving or trying to duck out. Just simple readiness. It was great. Tomorrow, I hope I have time to increase it to 3 or 4 jumps before he gets food.

I rinsed off Blu's back and we grazed and walked him out until he was cool. Then we grazed for a good 10 minutes before putting him in his pasture. After I let him go, and just let me tell you: we did it!

Since Blu was wet, I knew he would roll, so I led him around at liberty. I put my head down and walked around and he mimicked me. He did not have it in his head to roll, though, because when I stood up straight, so did he. I put my head down again, though, and began gently pawing with my foot (Blu knows to paw when I paw) and I saw that light go on. I then buckled my knees and plopped down. He began to buckle and walk, too. As he rolled, I stayed focused on him so we could reconnect when he stood back up. As soon as he was up, he looked right at me, and lo and behold, there were about 5 pellets left in my pocket from this afternoon. Yeah! Blu laid down on cue!

Natural Horsewoman Out.

Two Line Driving Drives Me Crazy!

Official Records Information:
1 hour 30 minutes

I spent the morning working in the pasture, and throughout, Misty was saying hello every now and then and getting pellets from my pocket. When I went to catch her, she was having none of it. I would rate her spirit at a 3 out of 10, though, because she did not put to much try into getting away. She made one loop around the corn crib and then came right to me when I backed up. I put my arm in an arc so she could duck under and tell me she was ready to be haltered. I only had the 45' line coiled, so I put that around her neck like a thick necklace.

I could waited and was patient on the way to the halter, letting her work her way out of her emotional introvertedness. Her feet finally got less sticky and I knew she would be able to handle it when I offered the halter. She put her head into position and I got that feeling that it would definitely be a great session on the relationship part.

My sister was waiting for cool things to happen so she could take pictures, but she had to leave before photogenically cool things could happen. I played some friendly game and did some more waiting, all preparation for a successful zone 5 driving session. I checked her hindquarter porcupine and found it wanting, so I fixed it up to a nice phase 1 or 2.

I drove through the weave with one line, first. I noticed that she was beginning to "follow me with her hindquarters." This is when the horse moves herself so that you are directly behind zone 5 again. This means that you are using less rein to move her. I was glad to see this! She was also very confident about the carrot stick swinging not meaning for her to speed up, but for her to move her forequarters over.

I did notice that we need to tackle tail driving. Misty has been doing PNH for a while, she should know how to be lead by her tail. Seriously.

With everything going so smoothly on one line, I made it into two lines and havoc began. Not with Misty: she was so connected, confident, smart. Me, I kept getting the rope tangled in her feet. I was working on the figure eight, which is a lot of flipping. Misty did great, though. I also noticed that she realized the pattern, today. Some of the highlights are:
When she was tangled up, dropped a line and asked her to sidepass to me. I did not have a carrot stick because I am not handy enough, yet to do a carrot stick AND two lines (a decision I made after a lot of flops with all three things in my hands!). So, she did it with me (standing 10' from her) wiggling my pointer in the air and arcing my arm up as if it could grow and tap her other side. How cool is that?
I asked for a bit more go during the figure 8 and she smiled and trotted. No ear pinning, just "Yes, ma'am!"
Everytime she got unconfident, she looked to me, which is huge. And I don't mean her feet got stuck and I went through the process of waiting and waiting for her to look at me, I mean she stopped and looked right to me.

I stood with her for a little while and rubbed her all over. Then I walked her out back and drove her from zone 5 with one line while the other horses zoomed and flitted around. While she got through an adrenaline rush, I did the falling leaf pattern. Then she snorted and relaxed into normal driving. She was going, not impulsively, but with a good swing. When I saw her begin to put the brakes on, I knew she had reached her happy grazing spot: the perfect place to let her go. It was under an apple tree and she began searching for apples after I rubbed her face. I picked several apples and gave them to her. She decided I was a good thing to stay near to and would circle the tree, get an apple or two from me, and make another circle of searching the ground. I was able to pleasantly say good bye.

Later in the Evening. . .
I went out back to bring up the horses for evening play. I had nothing with me because I figured they would all just run up anyways. Well, I got out there, and no one seemed to care that I was telling them it was time to go up. I even tossed a wild onion at Connor's butt and he just flinched and yielded. I was standing next to Misty and began talking to her and picking grass. She let me take her and lead her up by the jowl. Ginger followed us and I let them graze on the way up.

I rasped Misty's feet at the barn and put on a halter and 12' line and out we rode. It was a good passenger lesson. I enjoyed myself, and Misty was very agreeable. She was also so patient when we were shutting that gate back up--very nice sideways to shut it and whatnot. I took her out to graze after that, which is what we did for about 20 minutes.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Music in the Air

Official Records Information
Blu, 7-17-10, afternoon, 1 hour
Misty, 7-17-10, evening, 1 hour 30 minutes

I was at work from 7:20 a.m. to 12:40 p.m. and then from 2:45 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. In between shifts and directly after the evening shift, I went to the farm to play with the horses. I am glad I have my driver's license and the Barnkat to get me from work to home so quick. I was also in the mood to play. A few times these past few weeks, I have been so tired that I just could not get into the right frame of mind to do anything but collapse into bed.

Both times, the horses were out back eating grass, so I had to bring up the horse I wanted. Also, today I rode with the MP3 player. I highly recommend riding with music because it provides artistic inspiration, lightens your mood, and gets you into rhythm.

I suppose all things begin with the beginning, so that is where I will start. I had a plan in my head to ride Blu freestyle (specifically bareback on a loose rein in the natural hackamore with a carrot stick and neck string as support) while doing the million transitions (a transition every time the music's tempo changed). So, off I went to the back pasture, halter and 12' line in hand.

Blu, Hoosier, and Ginger were in their own little herd. Hoosier was the zone one, Ginger was zone 5. Blu preferred to stay with the herd, rather than break away and come to me. Interestingly enough, Ginger was very drawn to me. I decided this was a good thing, because without Ginger, the herd would most likely not take off at a canter or gallop. With Hoosier leading, the fastest the two would go was a lively jog. So, I haltered Ginger. I was very gentle and I put my heart into it. I respected any thresholds and did approach and retreat if needed. I was able to maintain connection with the two-gelding herd all the way to the South Pasture, which is where I easily drew Blu to me and haltered him.

I quickly tested his sensitivity and responsiveness, then I played a long distance stick to me on a circle--that is, had him mirror my movements in each gait the way I would be asking when he is right next to me.

And so unfortunately, I don't remember what went on with Misty or even how the rest of Blu's session went. I think I rode Blu and did one million transitions with the transitions being when the music's tempo changed. . . how sad.

Natural Horsewoman Out.

Saturday, July 3, 2010


Yesterday morning, when I rode Blu over the cavalettis with the grain at the end, he knocked the poles like crazy. He had floated over when I was going straight on a circle in my warm up with him on line. . . I thought that I was such a bad rider that he could not manage to trot the things with me on him. My mom set me straight tonight!

~Official Records Information: Blu/7-3-10/45 minutes

On the ground, I started with just a simple y0-yo on the 23' line. He was unconfident about it, thinking it meant that he had to circle and also being reluctant to come back to me. So, I played with that for a bit until he was backing straight all the way to the end of the rope and coming back with a simple beckoning gesture.

During the circling game that followed, I moved the circle around so that a barrel was in our way. I started with reverse psychology, pulling him away from it when he got close. After 5 laps of that, I let him stay on track with the barrel. He avoided it at the last moment and I wiggled him to a stop and changed directions. I repeated until he was more focused on the barrel. This time, he stopped at the barrel and asked a question. I rewarded him by asking him to come back in where he stood and got scratches and relaxation. When he came to the barrel the next time and asked a question, I pointed him on to go over it. He pawed it, looked at me, put a leg over, looked at me, then scrambled gracelessly over the thing. It was a lot of honest try in that feat, even if he looked ridiculous.

Next was to put the circle onto the cavalettis. Just like in the morning, he floated right over beautifully. I got on, though. . . and he was scrambling like he did this morning. He was still straight, not swerving, etc, but his coordination was gone. "He can't squeeze that big stride into those cavalettis," my mom shouted. (!) How exciting! Blu's stride got bigger when I got on! So we set the cavalettis further apart, and voila, presto, shazam, call it what you will, Blu floated over the cavalettis with me on his back. It was SO much better than when he was just going around in circles, hitting the cavalettis over and over again with no rest.

I did a few more dry cavalettis then added a 12’’ then 18’’ jump, and that was our evening. Absolutely . . . AWESOME.

Natural Horsewoman Out.

Friday, July 2, 2010


I tied Blu up while I got some things around then I saddled him. On the 22' line, I fixed his yoyo, which just so happened to turn out to be an "I think this means circle" yoyo. So, lots of friendly game and just asking him to back up a little at a time then come back to me, and it was fixed in less than 5 minutes.

Next, I actually asked for a circle. I had him rest at obstacles until he was going straight to them when he saw them. He also got much looser and more relaxed in his movement. This was all in preparation for my genius plan, which I will now divulge below:

I am quickly deciding that there is no way that Blu will be wanting to jump without some incentive. He can't do these workouts where we are just pounding around and around in endless circles jumping the jumps. His movement is NOT getting better, in fact, it's quickly getting worse. He is avoiding jumps, not jumping the centers, he is super tense, and there is a lot of indecision-swerving before hand. If something's not working, stop doing it. I can either stop jumping or find a new way to accomplish my goal.

I once heard the Parelli's tell a story about a horse who had been jumping for years and then just stopped jumping. No one could get him to jump anymore, either. Then, they put a bucket on the other side--without the horse knowing it--and Pat got him to jump the jump, and SURPRISE! There was food. Bonus! He got to the point that he was jumping better and then they had the horse jump two jumps before he got food. It's one of the basic principles of teaching horses--over time, to increase the amount of effort they need to put in before they get rewarded.

So, I had been stopping Blu at various barrels that are all over the pasture to get him thinking about obstacles and to get him moving better. Now, I was going to have him go over the cavalettis and stop him at the barrel with a food bucket on it. Then, I would add a jump to the cavalettis.

The first time I moved the circle to the cavalettis, I just moved it next to the cavalettis. His body tensed up, as I predicted it would, so I waited there as he trotted around until his trot was more relaxed. The first time, Blu totally braced against the halter and went around the cavalettis. The second time, he started on the cavalettis, but cut out at the end. Since that was his honest effort, wiggled him to a stop at the barrel. He missed the barrel so I turned him around and sent him back to it for a bite. The next time, I did not have to guide at all. He was focused and floated over the cavalettis. Way to go Blu. I did that 2 more times before I changed the cavalettis to something more difficult: an 18'' jump at the end. Blu knocked it the first time, and destroyed it the second time, so I decided it was too early to do something that difficult and took the jump down to a 12'' cavaletti. That time, he made it over without knocking anything and I ended there.

I cannot tell you how beautiful it was to see this horse's change in expression. I can't wait to pursue this path and see where it takes us.

Natural Horsewoman Out.

About Me

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

What We Are Currently Playing With

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