Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Loose Horse!!!!!!!!!!

You might get a kick out of this:
Blu escapes from the back pasture where the horses get good grazing, so he is not allowed to be back there until we get the fence fixed. Right now it is two strips of electric tape wire on T-posts, so he just walks right through it. None of the other horses care. Well, my mom wanted him to go out and we would just keep an eye on him...that turned into "he'll be fine for 30 minutes while we move the raccoon."
When I got to the back, sure enough, Blu was not in the pasture. Sigh. I walked toward him and he looked up and began power walking to me. Then he saw the other horses were going up to the front, and walked to the fence and stopped like "How am I supposed to go with them?" He did not fuss though; there was grass to be had by the fence! I stood on the lower wire and lifted the other one and he just looked up and said "actually, I am fine right here." I waited a few minutes before I reached down and put my hand under his jaw and aimed him. He went right under, no rush. There are only so many horses out there who are like that, and Blu is one of them. He brings me such joy when he does things like that. It's also nice that he does not have any qualms about being caught. The 6 or 7 times he got out before we decided to leave him up front, the neighbors would walk right up to him and put him in his pasture. The first time, he told me a story of getting his man-helpers gathered around and devising a plan to drive him up to a corner and then grab him. They went to commence the plan with one guy shooing Blu. Blu walked up to him and began frisking the guy as he was trying shoo Blu to the proposed place of capture .

That is my story for the night. No end of the summer session. Just a pleasant thing.

I also stood around with Misty doing treat stretches. She liked that and was really good at thinking her way to getting the one between her two front legs.

Natural Horsewoman Out.

Monday, August 30, 2010


ORI Misty 30 minutes midnightish 8-30-10

Misty. Goodness, she is my best friend. We have been through so much together. I worry that she doesn't like me, but puts up with me. I requested that a friend of mine (Megan) speak with Misty. She is an animal communicator (www.moonmare.net). Below is what she sent me about her session with Misty.

Misty is a thinker, but to the point of worrying. She is reactive. I’d say RBI in the sense that she is likely to worry for quite a while before you see it. If you ignore it, then you get the RBE head-up, jigging, nervous, barely under control horse.

She is a picture-talker, rather than using words. She finds safety at home; away from home is really overwhelming. She likes working with you. She likes to go slowly – probably far more slowly than you might think. This is the RBI side of her.

She is quite strong about NOT wanting to be retired. She finds the other person who rides her to be of very uneven energy and jerky in her motions. Her movements on the reins can be abrupt, as can movements with her legs. Her uneven energy affects Misty quite a lot. It unsettles her and she has a hard time settling again.

She really likes it when you sit in the pen/arena with her and she can investigate you on her own time/terms. She likes sniffing your head.

She gets a huge adrenaline jolt when she does things at speed. She sort of likes the adrenaline but it doesn’t help her think clearly. She needs someone steady who can amp up with her and enjoy the speed, but can then model relaxation for her and help her let down after the adrenaline rush.

She can zone out a bit, especially when circling. She gets into a sort of machine-like state where she just goes. Sometimes it startles her when she disengages, because when her body stops circling her brain snaps back on.

She wants me to tell you she is giving you a little shove with her nose. It is affectionate. Again, she is not using words. But the feeling is to not be too hard on yourself. And she is there for you.

I have been really beating myself up over this, and hearing this was very validating for me, since it assuaged many of my concerns and also verified some of my late hypotheses about Misty's true horsenality and motives.

I burst into tears and, at midnight, got out of bed and drove to the farm to see her. I got out of the Barnkat and left the lights on. I hugged her then sat in the pasture for 30 or 40 minutes. Misty stood by me, investigating. She smelled my hair, looked into my eyeballs, stood with her butt to me for a bit, kept looking at me from there, then turned around and stood by me again. Later, she bimbled away, but she maintained a sort of connection with me, rather than cutting it off and ignoring me.

During my sit with her, I was talking and talking until I had nothing left to say. After I stopped talking is when she left. It was very emotional for me.

Before I left, Misty was sending me treat vibes, so I went into the barn and got her some peppermint treats. Connor came over to see what was going on and I left the two. I was still very emotional. So much has been going on lately and I am at the breaking point, or at least I was. Actually, I think it is safe to say that I broke. Yes, it is safe to say that. But breaking can be a positive thing, a catharsis of sorts. I think it was necessary in order for me to move on with my life with some form of clarity.

My favorite part of Meeeegan's reply is the end. That means more to me than any one reader could possibly fathom.

Natural Horsewoman Out.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

It's Hard to Say Goodbye

ORI Blu 8-29-10 afternoon 40 minutes

I expanded on my plans from last night. You may or may not recall that last night I wanted to use my invisible arena to play with freestyle/finesse, but did not make it to the riding part because it got too dark. This afternoon, between my two work shifts, I was able to do a session riding in the invisible arena that I set up last night. I will also remind you that the invisible arena is 50' by 30' with two existing fence lines for two sides and the invisible corner (southeast) is marked by a tire with a ground pole going out west and north. There is a 4' log in the southwest corner.
| ...................^that's a tree
|.................................. N
|................................ W E
| ..................................S
| ................|
| ................|
|==..... ---O|
| \ That is a gate<--

So, there is my visual for you. I was going clockwise during my session. Notice, then, that we would be going toward the gate when heading east and Blu may be more drawn to going toward the gate instead of staying "on the rail." That is why I used the log as a place for Blu to aim for, to see a boundary that he could associate with.

Misty, Connor, and Blu were in the North Pasture nibbling what remained of their morning hay piles. Misty thought I was coming for her and she looked apprehensive about it. So, I thought it would be nice if I said hi and then surprised her by walking off and getting Blu. She did not give me a chance, though. She walked off casually and drove Blu away. I made a game of walking in her tracks slower than she was going. When she gave me her attention, I smiled, called Blu over to me, and started my session with him. Put that in your pipe and smoke it. :D Hehehe.

So, Blu haltered very together with me. I had the 45' line, strung carrot stick, and halter. I forgot gloves. Oops. No big deal, though. I rubbed on Blu for a bit because he really wanted to put his face on me and be held for a few minutes. Enough of that. I porcupined him out to a distance so he could see my face and body language, then I used energy phase one to send him out. I worked on straightness (he wanted to back crooked or back very crooked and go forward on the circle) for a little, but once that was fixed, I sent him out. Now, I did it very lightly because I could tell that while fixing the straightness, he had become very attune to my body language. I just pointed out with my finger a little bit, only at the height of my waist, and he leaped into the air and did a very left-brain introvert speedy leave then settle into a jog, then a walk. That was fine with me until he began to not connect with me. He actually walked straight away from me. I began a pattern where every time he disconnected with me, I yielded his hindquarters, brought him in, and resent him. Now, Meggie said that when I do this, I should send the horse out about as soon as he or she comes back, but I accidentally snuggled Blu a few times. I scolded myself and moved on.

So, now Blu is going around the circle with nice energy, connected to me, confident. So, I begin to ask him to think about the bridle on the barrel in the ditch. Initially, the changes of direction caused him to become flustered. I just kept at it and he began to do them before I got the "come here so I can spank you" look and then he relaxed. It took two changes of direction before he was fine. So, once that was sorted out, he stopped at the barrel.

I set the line down, went to him, unhaltered him, and rubbed his face. Then, after I picked up the bridle, he did something really nice: he turned his head to me and told me he was ready to put the bridle on. And it was true; he stood and took the bit and bridle very nicely. Then I beckoned him and walked off and he followed me to the saddle on the fence. He stood, only moving to swing his head at flies while I put the saddle on and tightened the girth. I got on, though, and he moved off as I before I had my other leg in the stirrup. So, off I went. I tightened the girth a notch and got on again. This time, he did not move until I was settled, but still before I asked, so I came down again. After I was satisfied with the girth, I got on again. This time, he stood and waited patiently for me to begin. I would like to clarify that his saddle was not dangerously loose and did not slip when I got on, but since I did not move him around before getting on, I knew that it would need to be tightened. Had Blu stood still for mounting, I would have gotten down and tightened it anyways.

Blu was going with good energy, so I did not feel the need to get his impulsion up before we went to our invisible arena. However, I chose to do a corners game so as not to cause him to shut down his impulsion. The pattern was go into the corner, stop, back up until he was thinking back, ride forward into the corner and turn. I did a lap and a half at the walk. At first, Blu's backing was heavy. I used a neck string to help him stop leaning on his forehand as I held my back up position. Of course, his back got much better. He was great at following my focus and going deep into the corners. Next, I asked for the trot. At first, he was having serious issues physically trotting. He tripped three or four times in a row on the second fence line that we trotted. So, my goal was for him to be able to physically perform that trot as well as to pick up the trot from the stop and do it into the turn. I did for a lap then, the next time we were heading south on the east invisible fence and he picked up the trot from the stop with no brace. Instead of stopping when we got to the corner, I kept going in my body. He was completely ready when we got to the tire and jumped right over it like that was the plan all along. I had him slow to a walk, then a pleasant halt. Dismount.

I took off the bridle, rubbed his face, and walked to the fence. Blu followed and stood to be haltered. We grazed on the way to the barn, where I took off the saddle. After a little more grazing, I sprayed him off (it was very warm). After I set him loose in the pasture, I walked with him, mirroring him as he laid down. I am going to make that a short term again, laying down, that is. He noticed.

Blu is a very difficult horse to say goodbye to. He followed me to the fence, so I just had to go get him a farewell cookie. Then another. Then I went back in and pet him. He followed me along the fence as I picked up the Parelli equipment off the fence, so I had to go get him one more cookie and give him one more scratchy before I got in the Barnkat and left.

This was a lovely little session, and during this fall semester, I look forward to having these short sessions that pack a punch in the success department.

Natural Horsewoman Out.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Pushing It

Blu 30 minutes 8-28-10 evening

Blu was really fun, tonight. I played with him on the 23' line, hoping to ride him in an invisible arena I built. I put the bridle on a barrel and was doing change of direction every time he did not stop at it until he finally stopped at it, and really thought hard. Then he said "That is what you wanted!?" Then I put the bridle on and let him follow me to his stall where I took the bridle off and fed him dinner. How nice for Blu to get to do something like that with the bridle. I bet tomorrow when I go to play with him and ride, he will be very willing to put the bridle on.

I read the book about Paddock Paradise tonight. I honestly sat down for 3 hours and read the whole thing, cover to cover. I took notes. I like it and my family is going to try it. Right now, I am going to google it and see if I can find other horse owners' Paddock Paradise blogs, journals, and results. I like the idea of sending in my findings to Jaime (the author) for use to gather further data on the subject, as this idea is very new.

I learned something REALLY important, tonight, and it is something that I feel is relative enough that I should share it on here. I was talking to Maggie about Parelli and Paddock Paradise and other things and telling her how I noticed that quite frequently, I am observing that when something is my idea, she tries to come up with arguments against it, but then she has her own ideas that are similar and they are ok. I asked her, after I told her that "Have I been pushing you to do Parelli?" It is a very important principle with horses: do not use force, rather, make your idea their idea, and make their idea your idea, but understand their idea first. Indeed, she had been feeling like I was pushing her to do it, just by asking if she was going to do it, there was a pressure and intention there that she could feel, and recall that feeling I was sending out, then unaware for the most part. But it was a mental push on her, and she felt it, so I apologized for having treated her in such a fashion. I told her that she could choose her path with horses and that I hoped that all my pushing had not pushed her away permanently. I also promised her not to push anymore. In fact, I told her I would not even ask her about it under the most innocent of pretenses. She appreciated that. It made me wish that I could speak to Misty.

As complex as humans are, in the end, you can speak English and maybe communicate the heart quicker. With horses, you have to be very patient and wait for them to truly understand through body language that I am no longer going to push her to do things she does not want to do. I did not ride her in the speed show on Friday night because I made a promise to her that I would not. That hardly means she could understand that until she was back at home save after an evening being ridden by my younger sister, Ellie. If only I could put her mind at ease. I don't really feel the need to rush the results so I can do cool things with her, but I worry about the toll it takes on her to feel upset, confused, forced, etc. for so long. I hope that our play sessions are helpful to her soul and as successful for her as they are for me.

Natural Horsewoman Out.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Jumping Barrels for the First Time

Blu, 8-25-10, afternoon, 45 minutes

**SPOILER ALERT**If the title didn't do it for you, this will: For the first time, Blu jumped the barrels with me riding him. Maggie was nice enough to take pictures. Unfortunately, she was not able to catch us in the optimal position, for the three times we jumped, but I am very grateful to her for her services.

I hung out with Blu for the longest time (off the clock of 45 minutes) before I decided to have the session. He was very friendly and whatnot and got several cookies from me, but mainly just being pet and scratched. I took him out of the pasture and let him graze with Ginger while Maggie and I talked (again, off the clock) about what our plans were for the afternoon. Blu waited in a stall while Ginger was let out back, then I saddled him and put on a halter and 45' line.

On the way out to the back of the pasture, I put him on the pedestal so I could set up a stansion jump for in case I decided that he was not ready to jump with me over the barrels--at least we could jump something. Blu waited and waited up there with four feet while I dinked around. He only had to be put back up there once, and then when I was ready to move on, he did not want to get down. I actually believe that this picture is me trying to get him off of it. He just looked at me so I began walking toward his hiney and then I saw it click in his mind and he got down and trotted to me.

I played the yo yo game and had to do some friendly once he was out because he thought he had to go off on the circle and he was thinking that unconfidently. He must not have had his Wheaties this morning because he was not as in tune to the energy phase at first the way he was the other night. This is a picture of my face of concentration. That is the current position that my hands are in during this motionless phase. As you can see, Blu is not very attentive. I did some quick phase four after holding this phase one for a while and then he was very responsive and attentive.

I noticed that Blu was drawn to the barrel set up pretty quick; he knew the pattern. He stopped and stepped over them first and I rewarded him with a really quick bite from the food barrel, which was about 40' past the jump. Then I sent him on again and had him circle me while I fixed the barrels (so he was circling the barrels). I was glad that he maintained gait and direction while I had my attention on the barrels and as I walked back to the original center.

Now he went over them. I was actually surprised at how confident he was. That was in the direction away from the food barrel, so he got to stand with me for a while. When he went over them in the other direction confidently, I decided he was ready to carry me--he looked calm and focused and he was doing it on a loose line--I liked it.

I did not have a 12' line out, so I just used the savvy string as one rein and the carrot stick. When he picked up the canter, it was a bit scrambly and worried, and I could tell he knew what the plan was, which was where his confidence issues stemmed from. So, I did circles AROUND the barrel jumps until his canter relaxed, making the circles smaller and smaller. When the circle's diameter was the width of the jump, he was really relaxed. . . and he was trying to go over the jump, so one time, I let him. It was so easy and relaxed! I went over three times because we were hoping to get a better picture of it, but after three times, I just decided it was more important to end the session than to get a picture of it. Every time, we did the same pattern of circling the jump, and every time, we went over it when I let him swerve OVER the jump. How often do you hear that? "My horse swerved to avoid running around a jump."Pretty cool.
That is a confident Blu jumping with slack in the line and everything.

Maggie missed the jump, but these are the first few strides after jumping our first barrel jump together.

And here is Blu, on his way down after the jump. Of course we are not going over the center because Blu had to swerve off the "not-jump" path and onto this one.

I let Blu go sooner so we actually went over the center barrel. That was our last jump for the session.

After our session, I took conformation pictures. I am going to start keeping a conformation and condition journal of Blu per Maggie's request. I think it is a good idea to see how his body changes as we explore collection.

Natural Horsewoman Out.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Exploring the Dynamics of Energy

1 hour 20 minutes

20 minutes

I am really beginning to grasp and explore the possibilities of use of energy as a communication tool. Tonight, while I was playing with Misty, something else came to mind in regards to energy. First, let me talk about what I knew about energy use before I thought of this new idea:

When I first started PNH, energy use as in chi and ora made sense to me, and I could feel the feeling I should have during the yo yo game to back the horses up. Over the years, I realize that, subconsciously, I have done some cultivation of that skill, though not as much as I could have. At liberty, you have only three things to communicate to your horse with: #1, your body language (this includes facial expressions), #2 prior taught cues (one cluck to walk, tap here to yield this, etc.), and #3, your energy. I have done a lot with liberty, and when I remenisce, I remember the changes I made in my energy to get various things with Misty.
I learned how to "bring my life up" in the saddle to go forwards, backwards, and stop.
In my lessons with Meggie, we have discussed using energy as a phase one for driving from zone 5. Then, of course, she challenged me to make my yo yo back up phase one into something smaller than wiggling a finger, so I made it just my energy. Then, when Blu understood that so fast, I decided to try pushing him sideways with just my energy as I faced his side.
On Monday night, Sue mentioned a Can You? she heard someone ask a student to try or consider: push energy out of your back or out to the sides. Intriguing! I have definitely done it subconciously at liberty, but I don't think it is really a solid part of our language, so I am going to make it a new part of our solid repertoire.

So, last night, as I was playing with Misty, I suddenly had another thought. What about drawing energy? Not like retreating from your horse, but drawing her in with my energy. I imagine that a good illustration is comparing energy to mass and gravity. I thought about energy as a finite thing in any given moment. I can push my energy out, and maybe the reason that it gets to be a stronger push out is because I have better focus and can cause it to be more highly concentrated rather than a weak, wide wave. Opposingly, I thought of putting all my energy into my core and deeper back. It must have looked like a constipated-looking person standing in front of a horse, but I know Misty felt it. I used my new drawing technique attract her in. I focused hard on that ball of energy in the middle of me and she looked at me all of a sudden. I relaxed and let it dissipate. Beginning again, I focused my energy and got a weight shift. Relax. Next, she took a step. After another relax, she took two or three steps. I relaxed again and called that good for the night--it is a little tiring for me!

These thoughts of energy have opened up a whole new can of worms for me. Through Parelli, we do pay attention to this aspect of horsemanship, but I have never really explored this facet with so much focus as I am about to and am now, probably because I was not ready for it. I am now, though, so, here I go.

Onto the session with Misty:
I am pleased to report that Blu and Misty met me at the fence. Misty put her head into the halter, did take three steps back once her head was under my arm, but then she put her head right through the hole for her nose, instead of behind it.

I wanted to see Misty with an obstacle to see if I could work out what her motives were for that behavior of not wanting to leave the obstacle. We ended up at the tire pedestal and instead of pulling her away (that is by no means what I ALWAYS do, in fact, I have done pretty much everything. I am only interested in figuring out her motives for this behavior, not "what should I do?" because there are plenty of things I could do when it happens), I encouraged her to continue playing with it. She took a while to get all four feet on it because of a little bit of unconfidence about being up there. We did get her all up there and relaxed, then, to leave, I just walked off and waited for her to decide to follow me, hoping she would decide to follow me before I got to the end of the 45' line.

The next obstacle was a cone that she did not want to leave. Again, I encouraged her to play with it every time she asked me a question, because the pattern she follows when she has this look on her face is that if I ask her to leave it, she seems to misread me and go back to playing with it, almost like she thinks she has not gotten what I want her to do yet. . . So, she rolled the cone about 40' on it's side. I was almost getting frustrated, so I let her keep playing with it while I went inside myself and thought of how I should get her to stop playing with it. I could just let her keep going at it until she was done, but I decided to whistle to her. That means "Come here," and I have never made it mean anything. When she heard me, she looked at me, totally lost all focus on the cone and TROTTED to me. Hmm...interesting. This makes me think that it is a misunderstanding on her part and that she is just to focused on the obstacle that she is misreading me. It seems that what needs to happen is she needs to be allowed to play and play with it until she had built up enough confidence with it that she says "now what" and is really ready to see what I have to say. It will be tricky to figure out when that question is, because she asks me questions frequently, then just goes quickly back to playing with the obstacle as soon as I move. Maybe I should try just standing when she asks a question and letting her focus get more on me before I do anything. Hmm...can't wait to try that.

I will also mention that another thing I tried with an obstacle was to ask her to do something specific with my energy. Like, instead of rolling that barrel, jump it, and I would have a jumping energy. I did not really work tonight, but it will be played with and it is an idea with promise.
I played with my yo yo. She had to have some long phase one... quick 4 (which is me moving my feet) before she remembered what our new phase one. I refined my hands and did not lift them so high. I got her out 15' and called that success for the session.

Circling game was more about obstacles. She rolled a barrel 50' or 60' before I whistle and had her come in. I observed that she seemed to be focusing on all of these obstacles more than me, so did the bullseye pattern. By then, a long circling game had been going on, working on my send, which was not efficient in the beginning. I had done many changes of direction in an attempt to keep her from breaking gait, which worked. After my bullseye pattern of slowly realing her in, I played with transitions. I ended when she did her canter/walk transitions with just the carrot stick, which only took 6 or 7 circles to achieve.

Here, I would like to mention that I used sitting down as a way to pleasantly surprise Misty when she was feeling too much pressure. I think I did that when she was "stuck" at an obstacle once and it was very effective in causing her to relax and focus on me. I really liked her expression when I sat down: surprise followed by relaxation, then she came in and put her head down by me. She also lowers her head when I bow, and with all of the adrenaline tonight, I did that a lot to get her relaxed and back in a thinking frame of mind.

When I got done, I had her back up with 10 hairs in the tail. I clucked and she backed faster. I was very pleased with that back--not sluggish at all, very mentally engaged.

Overall, tonight with Misty was full of learning for me. My next session, I would like to continue playing with use of energy. On the agenda is more on observing her with obstacles and the bullseye pattern at the canter with a goal of maintaining that gait all the way in to me. I should also ride her some and play with my disengagement, lateral flexion, etc. and getting those even lighter.

Blu was my round up pony. I put the halter and a savvy string as a rein and headed out. He was so much better at working the gates, tonight. He really understood the purpose and was much more mentally on track with me, which lead to him being more physically on track. It was totally dark, so I allowed him to get relaxed at every threshold he had on the way through the bushy Middle Earth Pasture. Gathering the horses, I was so impressed with him because he did not rush off after them when they began to hurry up. He stayed with me, which was not easy for him. I did ride with a semi-disengaging rein until he relaxed into, but after that, I just let him walk really fast and he respected that, not breaking gait. When all the horses ran through the gate and he had to stay behind with me to lock it, he was completely calm and patient. Sorting the horses out into the North and South Pastures, was very difficult, and Blu got kicked twice (once on each shoulder, one by Hoosier, the other by Ginger). He was obviously running up too close to their zone 5s, so next time he was not paying attention and got to close, I jumped off him and charged the horse. The horses have much more respect for me than they do for Blu and they got out of our way. Blu looked at me like "Oh, so that's how you do it." I lead him around for a bit, doing all the driving on foot and Blu followed me closely. When he was really getting in tune with me, I decided he was ready to try it again and got back on. He did much better, driving from a distance and using his body language with the horses to be affective from a distance. Obviously, the horses did not respond appropriately to pressure. I would have liked to have a long pole so I could better teach them the proper response last night, but we managed, and after Blu followed me for a bit, I could tell he had more of an idea of what to do. He would zoom in with wide arcs and split them up, keep a distance that allowed him to stay safe as well as redirect if the horse strayed from the path we wanted him or her on, and to begin working another horse and leave the other alone if the horse did what we wanted. I did not have to steer so much and Blu went from walk to canter, to stop, to canter, to jog, to stop etc. superbly.

When I got down, he was stuck to me and very happy to follow me all over while I did double checks on gates before feeding. Good work, Blu!

Natural Horsewoman Out.

Bay Dancing Horse and Pepper Pony

I went to a Savvy Club friend's house today. I met her through the Savvy Forum. She is one of my many supportive friends on the forum. The Savvy Club has connected me with this amazing group of people in a thread called Carpe Diem! and I am so blessed to be a part of it. So, this is me being an advocate for the Savvy Club because of how it has connected me with the Carpes and with Sue and Dawn.

Ellie, Sue, and I enjoyed a quick lunch at Arby's. We caught up on things then we were off to Sue's BFF Dawn. Dawn has a great facility. It really struck me to see a facility so centered around Parelli. There were Parellisms hanging up, the indoor arena was a nice playground. It was so beautiful to me.

We watched some PNH DVDs with Dawn and enjoyed some delicious cranberry juice. We also played with her lovely dog. Then it was off to Sue's place.

Sue has a Paddock Paradise set up and it was interesting to see it in practice. Sue lent me her Paddock Paradise book.

The apple tree in the paddock was very fruitful and Sue showed us how the horses came running when she shook it :D.

Then we played with Sue's horses. I was very timid about it at first. I am tentative with other people's horses at first for fear of doing something wrong :)

I played with Bay, first. He is a lovely Arabian gray gelding. He likes to be called The Bay Dancing Horse. He does. His sideways was so sensitive and responsive. It was definitely more confident and clean than Misty or Blu's. It showed me what I was missing! I also played the squeeze game and a figure 8 -ish sort of thing, taking his idea and shaping it. It was very fun.

Then I played with Pepper Pony with the pedestal, using change of direction and reverse psychology to cause him to get on the pedestal with three feet. Sue said she had been have problems with that one lately, and I immediately felt determined to see if I could do the right things with the right timing and end up with more than one foot on the pedestal. Pepper is very cute, but he is VERY smart, more importantly. He was a joy to play with.

We all fed the horses apples and then Bay showed us some of his dance moves out in the paddock. On the way to our drop off point, Sue told me about something interesting that she had heard: sending energy out of your side and out of your back. . . how INTERESTING!

It was a very fun time. It was so cool to get to see them again in person--last time was in Ohio at the tour stop. I am so grateful to have the Savvy Club to connect me with other Parelli students!

Natural Horsewoman Out.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Reading Energy

40 minutes

Blu was in the North Pasture with Connor, the sun was out, but it was not too hot. What a beautiful day! I went out with a 45' line, halter, and bag on a stick.

good for catching-very nice feel, expression
Very good connection on the way out to the back of the pasture

Stopped at the tire pedestal and played with getting 4 feet on with as little line touching as possible from a distance of about 10’. He was fine with two feet and really good at inching on, but I could not time the “stop” right and kept getting two front feet-inch-inch-two back feet. Here is the kicker for me: he was confident enough to back up onto it once it was just his back feet on it! But then he would back off to just two front feet. I laughed when I asked him to come forward again and missed the stop again ended up with him right in front of me with his butt on the pedestal. You see, he went crookedly off it with the front feet and I had to pivot him around his hind end so that when he backed up on to it he would have room to back up and keep his back feet on it. He was confident and obedient enough to do that! I laughed at him and told him he was a really cool horse and put his face. He sure does like that. After 3 times of having him back on to it again, I got my timing right. Also, he was beginning to see what I wanted. I don’t think confidence was the problem at all, he just didn’t know what I wanted. Later on, when we were walking back up to the front of the pasture, I had him go to the pedestal and put 4 feet on it, and it was perfect because he understood what the goal was.

I decided that I should probably make his phase one for the yo yo better the way I was for Misty. Good plan because when I did the new phase one, he went back 3 steps right off the bat. Huh. HOW INTERSTING! He did not look unconfident, about it either—just simple obedience and understanding of what I wanted. As a reminder, my new phase one is for me to just push my energy at them, which I do by tightening my core and holding my fists up like I am driving a car. As I continue to refine it, I will want my hands to stay at my sides. Maybe someday I will just think “Back up, Blu” and that will be my phase one! Anyways, I played the yo yo game for a bit, doing the friendly game when he was out there because it looked like he was ready to go onto the circling game sometimes. I never used the old phase one during this session, let alone a phase 2-4.

Before doing the circling game and the jump I had set up, I had Blu go sideways with the new phase one. I figured that since he understood this so much faster than Misty did, I should try to find something that would stretch him a bit more. That horse went sideways (no fence) for 12 or so feet before I had to use the lightest phase with my hands to finish him off to the end of the 45’ rope. I was absolutely astounded.

Eventually, I did send him around in a circle. He went right off with plenty of step to get him out to the end of the line at a quick trot, but he was not scrambling or anything. It is interesting to see the difference between him and Misty during the circling game. His extroversion may come out in exuberance, or he just obediently maintains gait, for the most part. I was especially impressed with him when I had to go to the barrels to make right them into a line of three (end-to-end) and he just continued circling me, watching where he was going (the back pasture is a mine field of barrels and cones). I walked back to my original, maintaining neutral in my energy, and Blu still just circled obediently. The jump took most of our session up. I had to also keep 1/3 of my attention on the food barrel because Connor found it. When I first chased him off, Blu got flustered because he thought he was the object of my running and shooing antics. I just kept shooing in the opposite direction of him until he was following me curiously and confidently. Then it was back to the game at hand. Throughout the session from then on, if I had something to say to Connor, Blu was able to discern the direction of the energy and just keep circling if I was going for Connor.

One of the strategies I used in the beginning after his first refusal was to have him change directions every time he came to it, before he could even have a chance to jump it. When I finally did not change his direction, he went over it and got the come back and relax as a reward.

I think that in the end, he jumped the barrels 4-6 times total with various degrees of quality. When he went in the direction that did not have a barrel with food on the other side, I rewarded him by instantly disengaging him and giving him a long rest with lots of friendly game. It took quite a while for him to start aiming himself. My vision for our ending point was for him to go over it at the end of the line without me pulling or pushing him—even the slightest bit—so that his path would cross it. The reason that I had to have this smaller goal (originally I wanted to see if I could take away a barrel so the jump was only two barrels long) was because he began to not choose to jump it, but rather come in between me and the barrels. Indeed, when he went over willingly, I ended our session.

I already told you about how I played with the pedestal on the way up to the front. That was basically the end of the session (a very pleasant “letting him go,” too).

Natural Horsewoman Out.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Moonlit Round Up

Maggie and I were at the farm to feed the horses and it was dark. I was so tired because of work. Blu was so pleasant...good for haltering.

sidepasses to gate are getting better, waits at gate are getting better
thresholds-waited and then he was able to proceed with relaxation in a straight line

the mysticism of going out into the dark
the horses being drawn to us in the back and following us to Middle Earth

happy crow hops that I rode through
did not break gait to keep up with the others

did not hustle when we were closing the gate

I think that overview really sums up my ride quite well. Blu was a good partner tonight. It was actually quite magical because it was so bright from the moonlight. It was really beautiful.

Natural Horsewoman Out.

Striving for Excellence

Some people are content to enjoy a relationship with their horse safely and confidently. I am not one of those people. I want to see just how far I can go with these partners. I don't think that my destination can be defined, but I am on a journey towards it at full speed (I came up with that, you are welcome to quote me and reference my blog!). Today's session was all about finding excellence.

Misty, 1 hour 30 minutes, afternoon, 8-21-10

Misty was in the corn crib in the eastern doorway. She stepped in head first, but instead of following, I waited. She backed up to see what was going on after several moments of intense waiting. Then she went in all of the way and hid behind Connor. I went in and pet Connor. Pretty darn quick, she came up to me and greeted me with a very open face. I smiled back and held out the halter. She did not put it on as perfectly as I would like (really, I would like to hold it up and have her come running to it and then, with precision, put her head right into the nose hole!), but she was trying to get her nose in the hole and she waited very nicely with her head in the proper position (down and tilted toward me) except for only one polite correction in the middle.

As I walked off, I let the 45' line drift through my hands. I wanted to work through her thresholds if she had any, thresholds present not due to fear, but not-wanting-to-go-"work." She stopped at the corn crib doorway. I played the yoyo game to approach and retreat from the door way, and eventually, through the door way. The next threshold was the open way where a gate used to be in the pen outside the corn crib. Things got tricky there though because Blu was being a nuisance. (Here, I will add that Blu did not come right up to me, but now that I had Misty, he was all over us). So, I sorted those two out and when I was finished with that, Misty followed me right out. However, I went faster to the front fence than she did, so as she caught up, I was able to practice recoiling the rope really fast. All of the coils looked like coils, but some were slightly bigger/smaller and some were crooked like.

Leading out to the back of the North Pasture, I said "hey keep up, baby" by flicking the carrot stick behind me. As we went along, she was walking about 6' from me and I was level with her zone two, but she was scoping out the path for something to touch, stand on, stop at, etc. I just remained a viewer of her behavior and kept on walking. Every cone, barrel, etc. we passed, she gravitated to, but our momentum was always greater than the "gravity" until we got to the tire pedestal. Shooonk! She stood on it, but only then did she finally ask a question. Before, she was not connecting with me that way. I petted her then kept walking, letting the line slip along. At the end of the line, she raised her head at first, pulling a bit, but then she conceded and came along with me. I am thinking about that little behavior, as it happens with other obstacles that I am asking her to leave. With a barrel for instance, if she is trying and then asks a question, I might reward her by going on to another thing. She sometimes looks back to the barrel, as though she thinks I am going to tell her to try again, or maybe she is not even reading me at all and is just taking the reins. Then, she will also sometimes do this stiff opposition reflex sort of raised head thing. . . and I am not sure if I should continue walking away with a porcuppine feel, or if I should retreat and relax then reapproach; I have done both in the past. I will email Meggie (who is now in Colorado, I believe) and see what she says.

I have created a new phase one for my yo yo: Just my energy. At first, I did a long phase one with my energy, then I ran her backwards for about two horse lengths. Next, I did a long phase one and rewarded her slight shift backwards with totally turning off my energy and looking down. Her try just got bigger every time, and after about 10 repetitions, she was backing with two feet at a time, relaxed, and for about 15'! That was one of my homework items. Now I need to continue to use it.

I have this post written on a piece of paper, so I will finish it tomorrow, hopefully.

Very cool stuff!

Natural Horsewoman Out.

Friday, August 20, 2010


Horses are the sigh at the end of my day. When I get home from work at 7:40 p.m. after being there since 7:30 a.m., all I want to do is go to bed after a shower. I think about going to the farm and know I will be glad once I get there and that I will be practically new again after I have begun to catch a horse. Knowing that is what gets me there when I am this tired. I know I can't really get any rest unless I get some of the stress out of my body and mind; I know that horses are the big sigh that comes after a difficult day.

Misty, 45 minutes, evening, 8-20-10
Blu, 15 minutes, evening 8-20-10

Misty was by the water trough in the South Pasture. Blu was in the North Pasture. He saw me, wish-washed in his mind, and ambled away. I think that he did not want to do another Misty/Blu session. That is ok. I took it as honest feedback and continued on to go play with Misty. Misty came right to me and I gave her a cookie. She put her head right through when I held up the halter, but she took a couple steps back with a tucked/evasive nose instead of sticking her nose through the nose piece, too. I waited for her to stop backing and reapproached. This time, she put her nose in and also put it in the nose piece. I tied up the halter and sat by her front legs for a moment, feeding her cookies.

I am not sure what we did, next, but I know that the reason for the title of this blog that I was particularly impressed upon by Blu's sigh at the end. We had rounded up the horses and I was at the back gate, shutting it. The gate was shut, but I waited by the gate for Blu to relax. I sighed and then he sighed with me. That sigh was very important to me. Yes Blu was relaxed, but also, just for how things were going in my life, I liked to focus on the little thing of having Blu relax at the gate. Later, that night, when I named this post, I realized that the whole night had been one big sigh for me.

Natural Horsewoman Out.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

We Belong

I taped my ear buds into my ears with masking tape (My ears are small, so the buds only stay in if I sit really still. Even then, there is no guarantee they will stay in), put my MP3 player into my ball cap, and drove off to the farm. My MP3 player is largely '80's music, and one of the songs that I heard during the session is called We Belong by Pat Benetar ( http://www.elyrics.net/read/p/pat-benatar-lyrics/we-belong-lyrics.html ). It fit perfectly to my session as a whole.

Misty and Blu
1 hour

I pulled into the driveway and parked under a walnut tree. The first thing I saw was Misty looking right at me, then some several feet from her, was Blu, also watching the truck. It warmed my heart, and as I got out and began walking over, I suddenly wasn't sure who to play with. Before I got far from the truck, I knew this was a great opportunity that should not be passed up.

I greeted each horse and called them to the gate. Blu I sent into the yard and Misty I lead closer to the barn where some long grass was. I knew this was important because she would be more likely to go off over the hill or to the neighbor's house.

Both horses contentedly grazing, I went in and picked out the two halters and then chose the 12' line for Blu and the 45' line for Misty. I know that sounds weird, but here is my rational: I wanted to play with the 45' line to work on my rope handling skills, but if I had to deal with two long ropes, it may have been too much tangling. Now, eventually, I would not mind playing with both on a 45' line, but for now, I wanted to keep it "simple'' so to speak.

Misty was not skeptical about being clipped on, and of course Blu could care less. I lead them off and Misty lagged behind Blu's butt while Blu kept right up with me. I yo yoed Blu through the gate back and forth a few times, then went through. Misty was grazing around the corner, so I put a little feel on the rope then spanked behind her drive line. Blu was confused about his job, at first, but I just let him drift out of place from his position behind me and then put him back into place with my free hand.

Misty finally came through and I stood with them for a little bit. Then we headed out to the back of the pasture, both horses coming along, looking very interested. When arrived, I yo yoed them out and got right to it, sending them one at a time out on a circle. This was just a testing night to see what kind of things we have right now. I know that these two are excellent with the circling game at liberty in the round pen. This past winter, I was able to have them go in OPPOSITE directions on the circle at the same time and not have a collision nor have one try change direction to follow the other. But lines attached are a different story.

Here are my discoveries and notes on the circling games we did together:
Whoever is on the inside is much more connected than the one on the outside. The one on the outside relies heavily upon following the inside horse's lead for changes of gait or direction.
When Blu is on the outside, he tends to get naughty and try biting Misty's back. Things worked out much better in that respect when I was circling with Misty only 6 feet away and Blu all the way out.
Things generally work MUCH better if the outside horse is much further out than the inside horse.
Wear gloves (I did tonight, and I know it was a good thing)
The line of the outside horse does the porcupine game on the horse on the outside by pulling him forward, and the horse on eth oustide by pulling her back. Would like to see this be more significant to the horses.
The horse on the outside had a bad send--would stand dumbfounded while the other horse pushed against him/her

Once I had gathered enough observations about what needed work, I took Blu to a line of three barrels end-to-end on their sides and ground tied them there. He stayed there trying to figure out what he was supposed to do with the barrels the entire time I was playing with Misty. I played with Misty's circling game on the 45' line for 10 or 15 minutes, using the whole rope. I fixed her send, but then she was running around like a maniac. So, I did the bullseye pattern to get her thinking more about me. That worked nicely and I was able to do some transitions stuff. I got to where we were just using the carrot stick. I could tell that she was still on a lot of adrenaline, though, so amongst having her come in and lower her head with me bending over as the cue to do so, I tried a mirror me sort of thing. I planted the line so it was about 15 fee long and then made an rounded rectangle shape for laps. I had her canter and it was fast and frantic. She learned where the line length was and respected it pretty well. I let her drift a bit on the corners in the beginning, because she was just learning the pattern. I mirrored her frantic canter, but then, I began to do a less frantic canter on the short sides of our rectangle as well as stop allowing her drift. She began to mirror me on those short sides, which would make sense because it was more difficult for her to go so fast around those short sides, which were basically just smallish half circles (but not quite). Then I made the change between the end caps and the long run more drastic: I would canter faster than her on the long sides and go even slower on the ends. She began to mirror me instantly. You see, I think her LBI started to kick in and, even though she is an Arabian, she was saying, "whoa, I don't need to go that fast" (I was going pretty fast), or she was just caught off guard when I went even faster than she was. Pretty soon, I was able to keep the slower canter going on the long sides. At the end, I was covered in sweat and absolutely out of breath and Misty was totally calm after our stand-with-head-down rest. We probably did about 20 or 30 laps, and I was going with her the whole time. I recovered quite a bit from bowing our heads.

Misty's change of direction toward Blu
Misty's excellent stick to me
More circles with Both horses, only they both did much better. No crashing or colliding.

Blu catching with Misty (Blu wandered off, so we drew him back to us)

I am so exhausted and I work tomorrow, so I hope some of this can be finished up tomorrow.

Natural Horsewoman Out.

What Waiting Means

Blu, 9-19-10, 1 hour 15 minutes, morning

Sometimes, it is hard to do what we know. We know it is good to eat a balanced diet. Even as we take a second serving of fried chicken, we know it is going straight to somewhere we don't want it. We know that flossing is very important to help prevent gingivitis and plaque build up, but (I don't know about yours) my dentist complained all the time about how so many of his patients did not floss enough (me included). So, it is no wonder that in the progressive and provocative program which Pat Parelli proudly presents, students know a lot, but don't practice what they know. I think that is a major function of the professionals. We hear all of the sayings enough--thanks to Pat's genius--but is that enough to cause us to practice doing them?

I am dumbfounded almost every time things go so smoothly with teaching my horses. Recently, leading by the tail and teaching Blu to jump. I just patiently followed the perspective from principle to purpose, from process to product, and Misty can lead by one hair from her tail and Blu jumps 30'' with total confidence, relaxation, and willingness. It was not hard to physically do, but I had to do what I knew and have patience.

As I was standing with Blu at the end of our jumping section of the session, it struck me that this had been so simple, and yet, it would have been so easy to not go as many jumps as I needed to, to not persist, to release at the wrong time, to ask for more jumps, to beat it to a pulp, to not play for tomorrow, to not recognize when it was time to quit. Recognizing when it is time to quit usually makes us think of us asking for too many laps, for not stopping right when it was just starting to feel REALLY good. But I think that many people quit too early. They don't have the patience to wait for the good feeling--they don't think it's ever going to come. For those of you who do not have faith that the good feeling will come, you may not be persisting long enough. Getting to the good feeling means that you need to have a super clear visualization of exactly what you want from the horse, and your visualization for each session should be appropriate (the first session, I just wanted Blu to not avoid the barrels or stop and paw them--I wanted him to attempt confidently) for the session number it is. Keep playing with it, use what you know. I am predisposed to believe that many Parelli students know a lot more than they think they know, they just haven't applied it. Wait for the good stuff to happen.

With those words, my session:

For Blu, I am taking a break from increasing his height and conquering barrels. I guess that I never noticed that he basically never jumps them unless it is in a panic, and then he has absolutely no control over himself and barrels go spinning and flying. Any left-brained interaction with barrels is him rolling them or pawing them or scrambling over them trying to step over one foot at a time; all of those are great, but sometimes, it would be nice if he offered to jump.

You may have read in previous blogs about his barrel progress. Well, today, I wanted to play some more with it as well as play with the 45' line so I could continue to practice my rope handling skills.

Blu is on the North Pasture with Connor and Misty, which is where the playground is. I was in the South Pasture moving the remnants of a bad round bale into the old goat pen so it could be used as a mulch. Blu waited for me at the gate. When I came through the North, he got some snuggling and he followed me to the front, waiting again while I changed shirts and got his stuff (45' line, halter, bag on a stick). I was pretty stoked that he was so happy and drawn to me; I knew this would be an excellent session.

I used the barn knot and haltered him then led him out to the back where there were barrels laying all over the place. I was pleased with Blu moved right off with me to the back of the pasture where all manner of barrels were strewn about.

Once we arrived, I stopped and did friendly stuff for a bit. This is friendly game stuff is very important, folks. Far from a waste of time. It's another thing we all know, but may not be done enough. I started by just standing and rubbing his face, scratching his itches, some belly lifts. Then I took the bag on a stick and did extreme friendly game to make sure he would not react to it out of fear when we began playing. He was all good withit shaking under his belly, between his legs, behind and on his sides, but his head came up a little when I shook it over his head. We worked through that apprehension in short time using approach and retreat.

I yo yoed him out, but it was crooked and he was trying to go out on a circle right away. I did not punish him, I just began yielding his hind quarters and reeling him in as he got closer. After a couple of those, he finally decided this was a yo yo. So, nice phase one, two feet at a time--looked good. I will lessen what phase one entails and increase his speed during our next session, but I was happy with this and he did not get duller as he got further out. Good, good, good. I got the feeling that he was getting "Oh, brother, not the yo yo game," after a few yo yos, because he was not wanting to come in, and as he stood there, it was not a "I don't like you enough" or a "I am too unconfident" vibe he was sending. It was like "Why should I when you are just going to send me out here again?" So, I began to give him longer rests with me and then, once when he came in, I had him go sideways in front of me until he was lined up with a barrel 20' away. Instantly, he was looking like "Ooh, what's this, this isn't a yo yo at all! How interesting!" He was much more attentive as I yo yoed him back and he went straight back to it with more speed and yet at the same phase one. When he got to the barrel, he did not slow down but began pushing it with his hocks! That takes a lot of confidence in zone 5! I was really pleased with his expression. I sent him to the left and he went right off with connection.

Our circling game started out with Blu not using the whole line, so I fixed my send the way I learned in my lesson. Blu stopped at a barrel, and since it was set up, I used two barrels to do a figure 8. The barrels were only about 20' apart and I was at the end of the line, but Blu was catching on quick. For the change of direction, at first I had to use the "come here so I can spank you!" look as I reeled him in. That fixed his change of direction pretty quick! Then, he came off some of his adrenaline and couldn't maintain gait, so I spanked the middle of the eight. That got his adrenaline up again so I had to let him work the canter out--he would cross fire, do simple changes, counter canter, drop the canter for a lap. When he made it through an entire figure eight and was mentally, emotionally, and physically collected as he made the flying lead change, I quit and let him rest. This was one instance where I waited for it to feel good. If I had quit sooner, then he would have been on adrenaline, scattered, and not learned much.

For our rest, I took the 45' line off and let Blu follow me to a barrel. I sat down on it and waited. At first, Blu went over and nibbled some stubbly grass, but when I called out gently "Bluuuu," he came right over and stood in front of me to have his head pet. I thought about how lucky I was to feel his soft muzzle--that is always something non-horse people point out "feel how soft his muzzle is!"--and I appreciated him for his soft muzzle and that he was letting my pet his face. Misty does not like her face pet--just scratched--so I appreciated Blu and let him know.

Blu followed me around as I gathered two barrels to put with the one I was sitting on two make a three-abreast-barrel jump. Then, he followed all the way to the front and waited where I left him while I filled a treat bag with grain to put on a barrel for our jumping session. When I came out, he was right where I left him by the fence. Then, he followed me all the way back to the back of the pasture, did not hesitate when I went to the 45' line and waited for him to come over and get hooked up. I dumped the grain on a barrel 30' from the barrel jump.

For the first time, Blu stopped at the jump. I did not give him time to think about it too much, he was already starting to push it. I changed his direction after half a circle, changed it again. The barrel he had nosed did roll quite a bit and he squeezed through the gap in a sort of hopping manner, so I let him get some grain. Next time, I stopped him. I had to work a bit with having him really stop--he was a little bit on adrenaline and wanted to go forward. Finally, he got the idea and stood still while I fixed the barrel.

Now his idea was to come in towards me as he passed the barrels so he didn't have jump them. Every time he put too much slack in the rope that way, I brought him in, did not let him rest, just a touch to the forehead to acknowledge him, and resent him. I would say that it took about 6 or more resends before he finally jumped them. He was really awkward and crooked. He went straight to the food. I will mention here that the other times and throughout the session, save one instance, Blu did not drag toward the barrel with food. He would ask me, "Can I stop?" but if I did not say yes, he kept on cantering. His maintenance of gait was excellent.

Then, it took another 4 resends before he made it over. Like the first, this jump was not perfect and his back feet knocked on the barrels as he was in the air. Another interesting note is that I would only let him grab a bite, then I pulled his nose to the side so he could chew. He only tried to push against me once or twice the first time, then he put his nose by the ground and chewed his food.

Then, it took a while. I just stuck to my guns and kept the visual of what I wanted (him going physically correctly over the jump, with confidence and using the length of the rope properly) in my mind. Finally, a beautiful, confident, willing, jump. I knew that was the picture I had in my head and I coiled up the 45' line, walking toward him as the line shortened. I waited for him to clean it all up.

On the way to the front, I had him walk over a pick-up-sticks set up. He did not pick his fee up very nicely, but he did not avoid it. Then, I had him put all 4 feet on the pedestal. It was so easy for him to understand me. First two feet, then a reward for shuffling those two feet forward, then a reward for three feet, then a reward for four (some left over grain). I told him "whoa" and pressured the halter nose piece a little to ground tie him while I went and picked up a carrot stick that was left out the other day. When I got back, he was waiting up there with all 4 feet, very patiently. I dug out some more left over grain. That, I thought, was EXCELLENT.

Now I took off the line and headed for the gate into the front yard at liberty. I pointed to the ditch, which he had to test out. As I headed off, he was investigating still. When I got to the gate and called him over, he came with really good movement at the walk. He wanted to walk right out after I got the gate open, disconnect, and eat. I porcupined him back into the pasture then drove his forequarters around and yo yoed him out. He kept his head up, waiting for further instruction! I pointed to the grass and he ate while I shut and locked the gate. When I moved off, he came with me for about 15' before stopping for grass. I took care of the equipment, grabbed some apples, then came back to Blu. I had him lift his head and then lead him to some grass.

It was very pleasant grazing. When I let him go, he followed me down the fence line. I picked him some more grass. Then I went in the barn to turn on the hose to hose him off. When I came out, he had gone away, but I called him back and he came. He stood while sprayed off his damp chest, then I gave him another handful of grass. I really enjoy my relationship with Blu and the progress we make when I wait for the good stuff to happen.

Natural Horsewoman Out.

When We are "Whapped"

Misty, 1 hour, 8-18-10, evening

I got down to the farm and Misty was in the South Pasture eating hay with Ginger. I got my stuff (45' line, halter, savvy string and carrotstick) and opened the barn door into the South Pasture. . . and SURPRISE! Misty was standing behind the door already! "Hi!"

I walked out and left the barn door open. I thought she would go in, but she came to me and we put the halter on after some friendly. She was much better about reservations and she solved the puzzle and put her nose straight down through the nose hole on her own.

I was going to go play with two line driving in the North Pasture, but then I decided it would be better to do it in the round pen. So, off to the round pen we went. On the way, she had a nice feel on the rope, unlike the other day when she was a little heavy on it.

In the round pen, I let her go and hung up the 45' line so I could do some liberty, first. I know this might sound backwards, but just from haltering and on our trip to the pen, we had reached a point of connectedness that I felt we could go right into liberty.

I started with the friendly game again--remembering that Misty tends to get nervous in new environments, sometimes. So, I checked to make sure she was ok with the carrot stick flying around while I stood in zone 5. In the process, I had a lapse of skill and whapped her in the face. Now, I see that "whap" is not a word, according to my spellchecker, so let me define it:

whap (wh-AP): vrb. 1. to accidentally cause the savvy string to come into contact with a horse during the extreme friendly game 2. to hit the something with the savvy string during the PNH program, i.e. extreme friendly game

So, Misty's head bobbed and I ran to her and threw my arms around her face and appologized and rubbed. She seemed to be saying "Ok, ok, please get on with it, quit snuggling me!" I did a few helicopters to make sure she had accepted my appology and she seemed even more bored.

I knew that beginning the lead by the tail now would be in poor form because she was bored and disconnecting from me. NOT! I did put the line on her and started lead by the tail. I used the line to wake her up by wiggling it when she did not respond fast enough. After she was light, THEN I took the rope off and got fingerful-of-hair backups. I checked her steering and put the back up to use by starting a figure eight. I started her in the middle and backed around a tire. It was like watching paint dry, but we did it. Only, we only got around the tire. She did not want to back away from it! I did some yoyo to and from it, making the yo yo back longer and longer. When we made it to the middle of the cone and tire, I knew it was a good spot to give her a long break. We started up again, backing to and around the cone. Paint drying, but I was able to lead her by the tail back to the middle, albeit at tail phase 4. I called that success for the night. It had taken us the better part of 20 minutes. Lots of dry paint everywhere, though.

I put the 45' on her again and made it into two lines for driving. I yo yoed her out and in a few times before sending her right. I let her go for a bit and feel the rope on her and get my thoughts organized and my visual of what I wanted into my mind. It was just the friendly game. I wanted her to do transitions with my energy only. I thought this was a good goal because we were at such a close distance, the round corral was shaping her body so she could focus on me, and the lines gave me the ability to instantly speak to her so I could refine her response time.

Her canter was very rushed at first, so I did a rushed canter in my body. Slowly, after about 5 rushed laps, I began to slow down in my body and settle into a more relaxed canter. She did, too! I played approach and retreat with the canter for the rest of my session until she departed with relaxation into a nice canter. That was the highlight. Not much to share about the other gaits as I did not really do much in the way of correcting; she is really good at mirroring me in the walk and trot. I played with going slower or faster in the gaits. One thing I did not do was back up. Hmm.

Before I left, I lead her by the tail from one side of the round pen to the gate. Three hairs, phase one.

As I left, Misty came with me--all the way to the fence! That was really awesome.

Natural Horsewoman Out.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

My Fourth 2 Star Lesson

Official Records Information:
2 hours and 15 minutes (30 minutes before lesson, 1 hour lesson, 45 minutes after lesson)

My next lesson is on September 17, so I have on month to play around with what I learned today, which is a lot. I decided that I would not ride in today's lesson because I have not had the chance to make much progress with my homework for riding. So, I asked Meggie if we could start "reintroducing" the 45' line to my sessions. Now, I got my 45' line last August. When I first started using it, I was like, "Golly, this is ten times worse than the awkwardness that happened when I transitioned to the 18' line (I had a homemade, not yacht braid, line for level two. I do NOT recommend going that route. I had no other choice, at the time) because it was not only SUPER DUPER way-longer, but it was a totally different material. So, I worked really hard to get excellent at handling it. It lived at home with me, I tied it to the fence and practiced reeling the fence in as I coiled the rope, etc. etc. Over the winter, I became an adept user of it. I especially liked that in the mud, it did not get super heavy the way that a yacht line does. However, I have used the 23' line a lot this summer (I now have a 23' yacht braid)--a lot more than the 45' line. I did use the 45' for two-line ground driving, but even then, with my lessons, we have been focusing on one-line ground driving. So, at fair, when I was using the 45' line, I noticed that I was about as rusty as my truck--the Barnkat is VERY rusty--at handling the line. In addition, Misty was super rusty at her responsiveness with it. And that is the rundown of exactly why I requested a 45' line session.

I specifically wanted to play with the yo yo game and the circling game, as both were seriously affected by the distance. Misty would reach a certain point and not back up as responsively, and circling, she circled too close. Of course, this is an instance where I could have played with it by myself and gotten it worked out on my own, but when you have Parelli Professional at your disposal, you ask for help. I am really growing a lot in that area--usually, with horses, I suck at asking for help. I have my pride and I would much prefer that I can stand back and proudly exclaim "I did it by myself!" I think that I have finally realized that there is no shame in asking for help. I read books and watch DVDs, why do I draw the line at asking a live person for help? Big stuff for me.

So, onward ho! To the lesson!

Pre-Lesson Warm Up
Can you say "Misty rocks!" for me? I went into the pasture with a halter and strung carrot stick. Misty immediately walked into the corn crib. I followed her until she was in, which put me at the opening to the pen in front of the corn crib. I whistled and waited. Like a deity descending upon her worshippers, Misty walked out of the dark of the corn crib and came straight to me, ears forward, rhythmically walking. I thought she would hit a threshold and stop, or see the halter and have a change of heart. No such luck. The stinker just came all the way to me and got a cookie.

In my mind, now, the plan was to do some lead by the tail at liberty (permitting I did not have to go back to the line to work on it) with the pedestal and cones. I was a short for time, so that would be all.

I played the friendly game--extreme and massaging--by her zone 5 and then moved on to lead by the tail. I played with stopping at cones and then started to drive her forward to the tire pedestal. I yo yoed her on and off the pedestal, just her front feet, using lead by the tail. I played with it until she could respond with just 3 hairs! It was getting close to when Meggie should arrive, so I quit there. When Meggie got there, I finally got to show her a nice lead by the tail. It's about time!

The Lesson.
We started on the 23' line. The yo yo was a bit busted up, so we fixed it, first. She was nodding her head up, as if anticipating a quick phase 4 as she dragged backwards. The remedy was to stay light and just wait for her to use her whole body to back up, even if it was just a single moment in the right position. When that happened she was instantly rewarded with a release. The other tactic was to ask her back in a lot. We played with that for a while until she was much more relaxed.

Not much to say about her circling game, I guess. We did one, I think.

Then, onto the real meat of the lesson: the 45' line! The yo yo was not having a problem with her bobbing her head, but she was going slowly back, if at all. Meggie walked me through the following:
long phase one. . .
marchy run at horse's zone 1, driving backwards
retreat to phase one or stop and begin again

The idea is that Misty had two options: 1. phase one 2. CIRAAAZZY LADY COMIN' ATCHA!!
We played with this until we hit a stopping point. I will be playing with this more later. Moving on, I sent her, and Meggie got to see how unexcited, too close, and dull Misty was on the 45' line. The solution: fix the send. Meggie asked me to please fly Misty out to the end of the line (walk, jog, canter, whatever, just flying her). Three whaps "where she was" on the ground in front of me and she was flying. When Misty put too much slack in the line or made it too taut, I brought her in and resent her. Meggie told me it was important that she did not get a chance to relax when she came in, because the point of this bring back was to show her that if she did not stay at 45', no more or less, away from me, I would just resend her again. When we got some nice circles, it was over.

We saved the last few minutes to go over some 45' rope handling skills.

Meggie and I had some pretty in depth discussion as I was playing. We discussed my showing Misty and the sticky situation that it was and how I should handle it with savvy. I can't go into depth publicly, but this will serve as a reminder to myself that it happened.

She also talked about how at the ranch people are reminding you all the time that you are exactly where you need to be. It's kind of like what Linda says (she is quoting someone else) that life is perfect and unfolding precisely the way it should. It's an important thing to remember because it really affects your attitude, specifically affecting positive change in your attitude.

The other subject was that, as an instructor, you don't always feel like a winner at the end of the day. There will be some students who don't actually want to learn, as crazy as that sounds. It is the instructors job to do her best to facilitate learning and accept the place the student is at in her journey--not only on a level 1-4 platform, but on a platform of personal development as well. I guess I had never thought of the fact that there might be some students, who I would not be successful with. However, it did not turn me off to being an instructor--it's still my goal.

Natural Horsewoman Out.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Terrified for Loss of Limb

Official Records Information
1 hour or so

When my mom got home from work, we loaded up the horses and headed off to a park to go trail riding. Good news: Connor went into the trailer confidently and on the first send. Also, no one bribed him in. It was very lovely.

I played with Blu on the 12' line before getting on him and heading off on the trail. He was very good.

On the trail, he did not want to lead. When he was behind, he wanted to bite the rump in front of him, though. I had the rider in front of me swish him. When he was getting close. Once, when we were traveling two abreast, Ginger bit him in the ear when he was getting to close to her face. Then she kicked him in the jowl when he was invading her rump space later. He is fine, but he did not invade Ginger's space anymore!

Two pheasants flew up and my 12 year old sister fell from her horse and was trampled. Blu was excellent for the spook, and so was I. I did not get tight. I just let him go and then slowly bent him to a stop. It all happened fast, but I remember that I was very relaxed. He was calm and quiet while I checked Ellie and my mom, who had also fallen off. Maggie was fine and held Blu for me while I helped the others. Once we assessed the situation, it was decided that she would ride her horse the rest of the trail and my mom would lead her horse as well as have my little sister use her reins. Her leg was stepped on and badly scraped. She was a real trooper, though. She was not against getting back on, which I made sure to check, as I was prepared to carry her home myself. Hoosier did not have anymore problems on the way home, thank God.

I made light of the situation on the rest of the ride and we all had fun, regardless of my little sister's injury and the traumatic experience that it was for all of us. However, I hope that my family learned something about some things tonight.

Natural Horsewoman Out.

Waken the Bacon

I got up this morning just like I would if I was going to work, but instead I went to the farm with my Mom and Maggie. Day off!

Official Records Information:
Misty, 8-16-10, morning, 45 minutes

I went out with a carrot stick and halter. Mom and Connor were already playing, and Maggie was just bringing Ginger into the North Pasture to join. Misty was behind the corn crib, I assumed, because I could not see her anywhere. So, I walked into the corn crib and whistled, then I crept forward to see where she was. Through a bush, I could see her standing there. I whistled again and backed away (she never spotted me through the bush) and waited. After a few moments, she came in, ears up and walked right to me. I gave her a cookie and we stood together and said good morning.

I took the halter out and began to do approach and retreat with it hanging under my arm. She was putting her nose behind it again, so I worked with that with her until she put her nose down in it. She put it on! I stood with her for a while.

In the process of haltering, Misty had backed out of the corn crib. After our nothing time, I stepped away from Misty and watched my mom. Then Misty came up behind me and I gave her a cookie and itched her. I put more distance between us this time and watched. My mom said to me "By the time you catch her, I will be done." I replied that I had already caught her, and she walked up to me. I itched her itchy spot under her belly back by her udders, a place, I thought happily, that she used to hate me touching. Now, I tied the savvy string that was on the carrot stick to her halter so she had a carrot stick/savvy string line. That way, I had a safety net, because Misty had not had breakfast and horses were coming and going, so it was more likely that my draw would not be as strong as last night (meaning she might not come back if she left). She followed me to the next part of our session with slack in the stick/line combo.

I wanted to do some more lead by the tail. There was a cone and the big pedestal nearby, so I decided I would back her to the cone then back her past the pedestal and drive her forward. First I had to teach her to drive forward. I got it! When she backs up when I am trying drive her forward, I put my fingers out in bunny rabbit form (so my hand looks like a rabbit with two ears being the two fingers) and point the fingers at her but. It turns me into the porcupine she does not want to lean on. She understood that pretty quick.

When I turned her, I used the carrot stick to support if I needed to, which I sometimes did. Misty was also not as light on her tail phase, but she was very good at backing up and not turning around. The cone went well, but then I had to accept her try when she went to the cone again instead of to the pedestal. I did not give her a cookie, but I did not make her feel wrong by correcting her. I rewarded her try with relaxation and tried to set things up more clearly. I had thrown the cone away from us after she touched it the first time, and she had gone to it again. This time, I started with her nose at it so it would be clear we were not backing to it. That worked much better. We made it to the pedestal, I turned her with her tail so she was facing it straight on, and clucked to ask her forward, as well as raising my energy. She started to back so I held my fingers in front of me and let her run into them. She immediately went "Oh, yeah!" in her body and touched the pedestal. I waited while she thought, licked and chewed, then she stepped on. Cookie!

I took her out to graze for 5 minutes then we fed all the horses.

Natural Horsewoman Out.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Carry On, My Wayward Son

I am laying in my truck (the Barnkat) listening to the radio and thinking about what I will do with the horses tonight if I get out of work soon enough. My coworker who has the keys to the kennel is late, so I am enjoying this time of peace and solitude. Carry on My Wayward Son as sung by Kansas is on the radio and I think about the lyrics as the artist sing them. It is one of my favorite songs.

Later (I have made it to the farm), I sit and talk to Mom and Maggie for a bit, trying to decide whether or not I will play with Misty, go home and go to bed after dishes are done, or go out to dinner with my family. I wishy-wash myself back and forth, feeling how exhausted I am in my whole body. My feet ache from walking all day on cement, and the pain has transcended to my knees, hips, and back. Then my head is pounding and I feel dizzy and clumsy from all the mental exhaustion and anguish that work caused.

"I am going home," I say very half-heartedly. Then I don't move. Maggie picked a carrot stick out of the carrot stick bucket and lifted a halter of the wall. Then she took my hand and put the two natural horsemanship tools into my hand. I instantly felt a slight change in my energy and sighed inside, knowing it would be another long night, hoping that I would keep it short.

We three gabbed a bit longer and when they left, I went in and filled a treat bag and picked out the 23' line. And so began my evening with Misty.

Official Records Information:
Misty, 8-15-10, evening, 45 minutes (? maybe a bit less--not sure)

Misty was hungry, so she was already throwing out a line of communication--no pun intended--at me. I caught her eye easily then smiled. I went through the fence, stood up, smiled, waited for a moment, then whistled. Something interesting happened, then: she turned and started heading for the corn crib. I thought "How interesting." I immediately thought that last night's session, during which she seemed happy, may have been too much cantering for her--too much work--to have fun. Or perhaps she was just realizing that I came out to play, not feed. Either way, I did not move because I could feel that she did not have a lot of intention behind her exit.

Once I was next to her with her focus on me, I gave her a nibble from my bag then stood by her rump to do some massaging friendly game and extreme friendly game--all to prepare us for a successful zone 5 session. I got a feeling that she was connecting to me more and more. I decided she was ready to be haltered.

I walked up to her front with it and said hello. Then I did approach and retreat with it arced in my are and with in 1 or 2 reapproaches, she put her head down under my arm. She puts her nose down, but misses the halter by putting her nose behind it. It is an observation that I will look for changes in as she gets better about haltering herself. She was very willing to stay as I tied the knot--I did not feel any reservations coming from her.

I wanted to do something on the ground, because I still needed to soak in all the stuff that happened last night when we rode. I specifically wanted to play with lead by the tail and see if I could make some more progress--like steering left and right. I had the 23' line, but that was the extent of my plan. Once the halter was on, I went straight to leading by the tail, and the line just never became necessary, so I never used it.

I started with a little lead to get her on the same track as me. Then I tested how few hairs I could hold. With 5 hairs, I asked her to take 2 steps back. That is pretty darn cool. Next I wanted to start playing steering. My phase one was me stepping to the side, phase two was in the tail, phase three was more in the tail, and phase four was a gentle tapping support with the carrot stick on the side of the haunch I wanted her to move away from. I was surprised at how fast misty got it. I rewarded the slightest try, had great timing on the release, etc, but still, I was pretty impressed with my buddy.

Now that I had a newborn item in her lead by the tail repertoire, I knew the best way to cement it in was to put a purpose to it. A cone was about 15' away, so I used the steering to line her butt up with it, then I began backing her up to it. I had a single-digit number of hairs in my finger tips, and we were going at a good clip. When I reached the cone, I let her relax for a moment so she might start thinking about why we stopped. Then I backed her up the rest of the way so she was next to the cone, stopped, and waited for her to touch the cone. She was looking at me at first, but I just smiled. I completely left her alone and after about 10 seconds she bobbed her head, touched the cone, and licked and chewed. Sweet!

There was another cone about 30 feet from this cone and I kind of wanted to try going that distance, but I knew it was a bad idea to at least not take a break from all of the tail-leading before tackling that one. This cone had been a shorter distance so that we could try a longer distance, but breaks are good for soaking in what just happened.

I walked away and whistled to her. She looked, but did not come to me, so I beckoned with my hands. Still nothing, she even looked away. So I turned around and crossed my arms. that was new for me! Usually, I would have started to walk to her hindquarters. I think this was much more provocative. Also, that is a lot of foot moving for me while she stands totally still. I waited patiently for about a minute before peeping behind my shoulder to see if she was looking as intently at me as it felt. She was! I felt like a four year old as I whipped my head forward again and giggled. I looked again and whipped my head away again. I knew that when I did turn around and beckon her to me, she would come right away. I was trying to decide if I should wait much longer when I heard her coming up to me. "What are you doing?" she wanted to know. "Do I get a cookie?" "Yes!" I laughed and rubbed her for a while.

When I left off the next time, I looked back and smiled and she came right along. I had her touch another cone, so she could keep think about touching things. She really felt good and I wondered what she would do with a barrel on its side, an obstacle up ahead of us. She rolled it and I gave her a cookie when she pawed it. I asked again for a jump over it. Instead of lifting my carrot stick, I really lifted my energy. She bobbed her head and pawed it again. Close enough for today. Cookie.

There were two barrels next to one another 10 feet from us, so I trotted over to them. She came to me, but saw the barrels and put her ears back and walked away. I did not panic. I just watched where she was going to go. She went to the first cone I had her back to and touch. "Good, girl!" I called, and smiled. She looked up when she heard my voice and came trotting back to me, ears forward, face bright. When she got there, I gave her a cookie and sat down at her feet for a bit. It was so pleasant. She had her head by me or on me the whole time.

I returned us to the second cone. I steered her into position with the tail and started backing. On the way, I made steering corrections with just the tail hairs. She was doing great and we were about 10' from the cone when she turned around and touched the cone. I put her back into position so she could back up to it. I think that little correction offended her because she walked off. She went to her feed bowl by the fence, smelled it, looked at me, and trotted back to me. Now we could begin again. She backed right past the cone and put her nose right on it, which prompted another cookie fest.

I just thought of something important that I could do better next time. On the last time that I was backing her up a long distance from one cone to another, she got to about a horse length away and pivoted around and touched it, rather than backing up past it. I should have rewarded that with a rest since she was trying to do what I wanted, rather than making her feel wrong by putting her back into position. I should have let her rest at it for a bit, then smiled and put her back into position and started to back up to it the way I wanted her to.

I was very pleased with tonight. Misty had really great draw, she got to be haltered and then not put on line, we made huge progress in leading by the tail--we cut down on the number of hair I use, we learned to steer, and we increased the distance. I am very glad that Maggie put the carrot stick and halter in my hands.

There'll be peace when you are done.

Natural Horsewoman Out.

About Me

My photo
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