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.

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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