Thursday, August 19, 2010

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.

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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