Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Blu and Misty: a novel


Official Records Information

Blu and Misty
3 hours

This morning, I did not really have a positive plan. I knew what I wanted to do with Misty if I played with her; I knew what I wanted to do with Blu if I played with him; I knew what I wanted to do if I ended up playing with both of them; I just did not know what way we would go once I got there.

Misty did not want to be caught, but Blu really wanted to play. He was picking up the carrot stick, walking off with my line, trying to hand me the halter. I almost haltered Misty once, but then I changed my mind because I knew she did not want me to halter her. I played a little with Blu, specifically pointing and commanding him to "dame" the halter (meaning "give me" in Spanish), which I have not worked on in a while. So then I haltered Blu and took him up to saddling him. And so ends the preface to my novel and begins . . .

Chapter One: Saddling Blu and the Figure 8

Blu is not a morning horse. That is one of the reasons horse shows are tough for him: too early! So, I was not going to just saddle him up and go play with Misty, and I knew it would probably be a while on the ground. I was right.

Two cones. Two cones out in the pasture waiting to be turned into figure eight centers. Blu was not seeing that. I did not want to micromanage him through it, though. He wanted to not go at first, so I spanked the center to get him moving through that spot with more speed. Well, then it was that he was not connecting with me and hauling zone 1 off into no-man's-land after coming through the center. So, I did pattern interrupt and got a "Oh, good morning" look from him. Finally, after much "AAAAHHH"ing and whatnot from Blu, he jogged a nice 8 with no intervention from me, and then did one cantering with a flying lead change.

Blu was very happy to take the saddle. I walked him around for cinch tightening. I put the 23' line with halter attached on the horn and rode off to catch us a Misty.

Chapter the Second: Catching us a Misty

This endeavor took probably an hour. I am not in possession of a cell phone or a wrist watch, so who knows how long it really was. I got close a few times and then she changed her mind. And by "got close" I don't mean that I snuk up on her and almost wrangled her from Blu's back. If you have been keeping up at all with the times, my catching troubles with Misty have nothing to do with me physically being unable to catch her; I am paying close attention to her mind. When I say I came close, I mean she was following us around, but purposely not putting her head near me, and sometimes walking off. Once, I was in the process of haltering her when Blu decided to touch her. I could not stop him in time to save her feelings and she huffily walked off. I called Blu a jerk and told him he should not touch a lady like that, especially the temperamental ones. I doubt he took it to heart because later on he was touching Misty again, only then she was caught and could only make dirty faces at him.

Anyways. I have a lot of luck doing the same thing I do on the ground when I am catching Misty from horseback, only I don't get so tired because Blu is doing all the running around. At first, I just stayed on her tail going a little bit slower than she was until she understood that we were not going to give up. When she moved into a trot and canter and was getting a bit upset, I did pattern interupt, as, thus far, she had just been circling through the corn crib (a building with an entrance on two opposite sides). As she hustled through and made a wide arc to the door, Blu and I cut in close and hustled faster so she would have to turn around go back into the other door. It only took 2 or 3 of those before she moved into phase 3 of catching: Dancing.

Dancing, as some who have read since the beginning of time would know, is what I call that thing when you yield the horse's hindquarters, turn around and arc to the other hindquarters, rinse, lather, and repeat. Then, whenever the horse moves toward you with the front end, you "fade out," as Linda Parelli says. This sounds simple, and it is, when you are on the ground. With a horse, it means your horse has to be very connected with you, because the facial expression matters. Blu is finally understanding that he needs to have a driving face when we are driving the hindquarters. He has the inviting face for fading out down, and we utilized his sideways and back up a lot. Misty took a while before she could trouble herself to look inviting. Interesting, not surprising, but interesting. The goal of dancing is for the horse to keep moving the front end toward you and follow you. It took a long time and sometimes she would be following and then something would happen, as I said, to cause her to disconnect and we would have to dance all over again, but it is perfect for me because Misty is following us, choosing to be with us.

Interesting note before we move on to chapter three: at one point, my mom showed up and was chatting while Misty was standing in the corn crib after Blu touched her (see earlier). My mom went through the corn crib on the way out and patted Misty on her way through. Misty was happy to be touched and followed my mom curiously to the door way. I wonder if she was hoping my mom would take her out back where the other horses were or what. Interesting, though. Maybe she was saying, "Wait! Don't leave me with Dumb and Dumber!!" Just kidding about Blu being Dumber.

Chapter 3: The Circling Game--my lesson homework, no less!

I went over to the Northwest corner of the pasture and worked on my circles with Misty. Blu, I will say, was totally still. He did not even try to eat. He seemed to understand that there was a purpose to standing still and keeping his head low. Or, maybe I am just thinking too much of him and he was just happy to finally stand still. Good boy, Blu!

I worked with the yoyo game first, made sure she was backing up straight, and rhythmically and coming back in ok. Once she was, which was just one or two yoyos to get the better rhythm, we were off to checking for slack in the line. No problem! I think that having Blu be the center of her circle did a lot towards that nice slack in the line as well as her concentration on the center. It is a very interesting thing, in deed.

Her canter to walk and walk to canter transitions came next. She can canter comfortably for a full circle or circle and a half before I ask for the walk. I had to do long phase 1. . . quick2-3-4! to get the walk at first. I called it a good time to end when she cantered right off then came down to a walk when I lifted the "longe whip" (that is what I use to work with horses from horseback, but I don't whip, of course).

Chapter 3+some: Ground Driving from Horseback

I tested some things, introduced the concepts. I used a figure 8 pattern to help us have a goal of doing a complete figure 8, but it was by-in-large a big testing and introducing item for both horses. Blu needed to get a bit quicker at stopping when I did as well as keep a polite distance from Misty's business end and Misty had to get comfortable with stopping with us back there and make the "this is ground driving" connection. It took a while, lots of correcting, and lots of Blu somehow ending up tangled in the lines, but we got our one good 8 and called it done.

Chapter #5: Grazing and Mama/Baby Relationship

I rode the kiddies through the gate and took them over the hill to graze. In between grazing, I would go around the yard and ask Misty to stay next to us. Not behind or in front, but next to us, like a baby and mama. Blu was a very good mama, and after Misty understood the rules of the game, she was a very good baby, cantering, walking, trotting, jogging, stopping suddenly, you name it. After our last lap of success at the canter followed by a stop, which both horses did superbly with, I got down from Blu and "hand grazed" them for a bit. Then I took them back to the pasture and let them go. Blu of course followed me and Misty followed Blu. Good boy, Blu. It was a very special horse conga line, and I conga-kicked all the way to the fence with the saddle.


After a lovely morning with my two spotty horses, I gave them a pile of hay. I had to split it into two after a bit because Misty did not want to share. I sprayed them with water, which chases Misty away but Blu enjoys. That only works while the water is on and I had to leave, so I separated the piles. Oh, Misty.

The End.

Natural Horsewoman Out.

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About Me

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

What We Are Currently Playing With

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