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.

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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