Thursday, September 30, 2010

Blu Lecture

I forgot about a lecture from a painter visiting my university--no worries, it was not required--so I came home after my last class and had a session with Blu. I wanted to focus on the million transitions pattern on the rail, today. I was also planning on doing a vigorous ground session beforehand after his antics from the morning!

I did a sort of million transitions on the circle, then when I asked him to maintain gait at the canter, he was happy to just be left alone. However, I noticed that he was not as full of himself as I had supposed he would be. I was expecting bucking and flying through the air.

Since Blu seemed to be so quiet, I decided to play with the pedestal, specifically backing up onto it. In the process, we found out that Blu was not really wanting to stand up there with four. I just want to note this as strange because he usually is fine with standing up there with four feet. I wonder if his back was sore and squeezing himself up there was a little painful (?). Anyway, we accomplished success on the first level toward the backing up onto something pyramid: he finally began to think about the possibility of solving the puzzle, which I set up for him, by stepping onto the pedestal. He did not succeed in lifting his foot high enough, but he was lifting it rather than moving his haunches over so he could back up next to the pedestal. That is where we ended that.

When I saddled Blu, he was quite unhappy about it. I recalled the pedestal and decided to just ride bareback. I had to work through him swinging his head back. When he stopped swinging his face at me, I swung on.

I rode a lap in each direction at the walk to see where we were with plain old follow the rail responsibility. He was solid, so I stopped on the fence and took off his bridle. We rode the walk and trot, and Blu did very well. I noticed when we were changing directions from the stop (so it was a pivot), Blu did not get it. He was backing up, but he did not read "move your forequarters away" from the neck ring pulling to the right. That obviously is something I need to clear up next session. I did not canter because I had not cantered in the bridle and the canter is very difficult for Blu, physically.

When we were ready, I stopped by the bridle to put it back on while mounted. Blu was not being extremely uncooperative, if at all. I was leaning forward and putting it on, and he did not seem to know what he should be doing. He was just standing there quietly with a confused look. He does not like people leaning forward on him (possible back issue? Having the chiropractor out), so I think he was seeking relief when he put his head down. When his knees began to buckle, he put his head back up, and all of a sudden, he turned his head toward me. I sat up (and caught my breath, as my lungs were being CRUSHED by me leaning on Blu's withers). When I leaned back down, he put his head toward me and was very cooperative as I put the cavesson, bit, crown piece, and throat latch into place. Phew! Principle to purpose.

I did the transitions for my million transitions every time we passed one of the cones in the figure eight set up on the inside. I did only walk-trot transitions for a while before adding the canter in. I think it would be a good thing to move my arena elsewhere because of the irregularity of the ditch and the nutshells. At least to begin with. The canter was very difficult for Blu to get into. It seemed like he couldn't think himself into it, though, not that he didn't want to. I just stayed patient, let him learn where to expect a change, and he got much better.

At the end of the session, he had a much floatier gait and the canter was easier. It was not as easy as I would like it to be, but I will look for it to improve as we continue this exercise.

Natural Horsewoman Out.

Strange Rain

My mom and I went down to the farm for our morning horse time. She was riding Connor and I was going to play with Misty on the ground. As I was playing with Misty, my mom opened up the center gate and let the other three horses in with us. I do not know what drove her to do so, but she did . . . and shortly thereafter all kinds of strange things ensued. First, it began to rain. It did not look like it should be raining, and it was very light and more of a general atmosphere, not a condition thereof. Next, Blu began to run after Connor and mount him, bite him, and generally pursue with haste. Several times, he ran in front of Connor and stopped in his tracks, causing a trainwreck. My mom and I were laughing so hard. Connor was so well-behaved throughout Blu's antics: he did not pin his ears severely, kick, or bite. He just looked extremely annoyed. My mom and I can only make the conjecture that Blu is taking advantage of Connor's position as a ridden horse to do whatever he wants to him. It was very, VERY strange.

My mom was flailing her hand at Blu to shoo him, but it was only effective until Blu came back again. So I chased him with Misty. We were on the chase when all of the sudden the line came tight. I looked back and Misty was planted on the tire pedestal. I said "Okay, that's fine," and played with Blu for a moment. Misty stayed the watching me for a long time. I would check back in with her every now and then. Blu calmed down after he came to me and got some attention from me. That is when I planned to have a very vigorous session with him in the evening. I was only away for about 4 minutes (probably less) when she left the pedestal. Now, some might think this was a bad thing, but it all a part of her breakthrough with obstacles. It took several minutes for her to disengage from that obstacle. I never told her to get on it. The proper response when it came into her path (which it didn't, she actually went out of her way to go to it) would have been to focus on me and go right over it. So, it took that long for her to realize that she did not need to be on it.

I retrieved her from the stall she went to and continued playing with her. At the time, I internally wondered if it was ok for me to disengage with her while I played with Blu, but in retrospect, I think it was important for her to be left alone with her obstacle to think about it.

I had a great session with Misty.

So strange, huh?

Natural Horsewoman Out

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

New Ideas #1 and #2 and Other Interesting Things

Blu got out, so Maggie was walking up the pavement path at the neighbors with him as I was just about to go out back and find him. I took the time to brush his mane out really well because he had roughed it up pretty bad while he was getting out.

I him up with the circling game, working up to the canter through up and down transitions. I noticed that he was not making very straight yoyos, so I made a personal note to play with that in the session. He was doing quite well with taking cue from the carrot stick by the time we were finished. I did have to wiggle it and going from the canter to the the trot was easiest for him. Perhaps I should focus on this again in the next session because he could have had smoother upward transitions at times. He was, however snorting a lot, a sign of relaxation. I was doing my transitions very quickly and I could see him shaping his body into a more condensed form as we went along. I played with a new facet of change of direction by asking him to change direction at the halt. This idea just occured to me while I was asking him to halt. If the horse maintains gait, which is responsibility #2 for the horse, change of direction should look like a 180 degree pivot on his haunches. Blu wanted to walk off after his pivot, at first, and it was not quite a pivot, either, but after only 3, he got the picture and would pivot then wait. I started changes of direction for whenever he went off on a tangent, thereby taking the slack out of the line.

After the circling, I saddled him and went to the invisible arena. There, I played with the yoyo, focusing on straightness. I wanted his head to stay straight, because that is where crookedness starts, usually. If he was not focused on me, I would step to the side, or even just look with my head at his hind quarters to straighten out his head. That generally prevented him from taking a crooked step. He wanted to go out on the circle instead of rest, so I also got him thinking about forward and backward by doing many yoyos.

I sent him out to do a figure of eight around two cones and worked toward the goal of only stepping a little backward or forward and otherwise being quiet. Check, goal reached.

I put his bridle on, tightened the girth, mounted, cantered out to a cone in the back of the pasture, and stopped right at the cone. I needed the cone for my precision figure of eight because I replaced the bucket positions with two cones. We cantered around the pasture, into the invisible arena, dropped the cone in its position as we cantered by, went straight to the rail, still cantering, and followed the rail at the canter, then transitioning down to a walk. I think Blu was very impressive and connected for going along with the whole thing so pleasantly. He could have not stopped at the cone, he could have spooked at me dropping the cone in place, he could have not latched onto the rail so well. But it was all just as nice as can be.

After letting him relax with the fluidity rein, I commenced the corners game because I could feel Blu shutting down in the rail pattern. I think it is time for it to become much more interesting. I am thinking that next time I ride, I will do a million transitions on the rail. I played with picking up contact, and he was quite compliant. I only did it at the walk and trot on the rail, and I maintained a finesse position in my body into the figure eight. Circles are very helpful in getting Blu shaped upward. He is so maluable on the circle. An idea I would like to try next time is to try shaping him in a curve opposite to that upon which we are traveling. I did canter on the circle, but only to the right because he could not collect himself to do even a simple change, so I went with the trot. I think I need to be thinking more about a resting spot for Blu in the figure eight. I only started to stop in the middle when it was getting very sloggy on the circles. That helped improve his impulsion. On another important note, the support rein is very important to Blu right now to keep his inside shoulder up.

We tested his freestyle follow the rail responsibility to let him unwind from finesse. At first, the invisible corner needed rein to keep him in, but then he began to follow my focus better. I would like to see this get even better. Perhaps trying it bridleless would be a good idea so I can have a very clear image of when I am touching him.

Overall, tonight, Blu had much better stops, in that he is shifting his weight more to the back than usual. I will look for that trend to continue.

I took Blu out of the gate and he was much better at working it than Misty. He was patient and cooperative. He has room for improvement, but nearly as much as Misty. His strong point was positioning and waiting. His weak point was sidepassing. That should go on my to do list!

Next time I ride plan:

Bridleless follow the rail to warm up
Rest in the middle of figure of eight
Add a jump to the rail for interest--Throw the whole follow the rail repertoire into it (180's, changes of direciton, million transitions, yo yos, corners game, exiting the arena surprise, sideways)
Straightness in the YoYo
changes of direction at the halt

Natural Horsewoman Out

The Power of Positive Attitude

This morning I got to see how Misty was doing after last night's kerfuffle. She looked at me, which was good. Starting in that moment, I was positive. I just blogged about last night's session before going to the farm to get this session started, so last night was very fresh in my mind. I knew that today needed to be a new day for me, but also to remember the lessons I took from last night. My plan was to focus on exuding positive energy, to be very sensitive to her thresholds, and to end it when it got to feeling really good.

Catching her did not take so long, today. In fact, I had prepared to myself mentally for the event of Misty not wanting to do anything today after last night's ride. She was actually quite tractable. I did the S bends to catch her, heading always to zone 5, turning away or fading away when she moved her front end toward me. She was actually following me after only a minute or so. Then, after standing with her for a moment, I put the halter on. This process did not take long, either. She got more cooperative, aiming her nose into the halter sooner.

After some friendly throwing savvy string around her body, I began drawing her to me. She was sticky, so I maintained a light and rhythmic pressure on the rope. When she looked at me, I walked away from her at a good pace. This technique worked exactly as it is supposed to. She walked faster and faster trying to catch me, putting more slack in the line. When the rope began to drag on the ground, I would reel it in a bit more, and in this way, she ended up right next to me in a very non-confrontational way.

Our walking put us all the way in the northwest corner in the invisible arena. I rubbed her and then played with leading her by the tail. You may recall that last night she gave me an extremely awesome back up toward me. Well, Misty was, right off the bat, leading backward with just about 10 hairs, and very smoothly. I then dropped her tail, but continued backing up myself and also lifted my hand and did a beckoning hand signal. She kept backing up. When I wanted her to stop, I held out my palm in a stop signal and I stopped. She stopped. I backed up again, this time without touching her tail, but using my hand. She did it. Isn't that great? Then I played with steering. That is the next thing to make this better. She needs to steer by her tail as well as she can be steered by a rope. I just did simple sidesteps, picking up where I left off. Today, she needed support with the line (light), so that should improve. I also asked for her to move her hindend around when we were already in motion, and that needed the light line support, too, of course. It is looking very good.

I moved onto the yoyo with just energy. Super. She was so sensitive. I was thinking about using a more positive energy to push her away, though. What I mean is most easily communicated using the analogy of facial expression. Rather than frowning to send her back, I tried to have a more calm face. This could also be equated with telling her to get back and asking her to please step back. I noticed that when I frowned, she would look away, get tense and stiff, and/or roll her eyes. When I was more relaxed, she was more relaxed and could keep her eyes on me. This might also be like using less energy to push her back. It was very thought-provoking for me.

Circling in arena, I had her stop at each cone. This pattern was the option that would allow her to be very "correct," or, in other words, the pattern that would her idea my idea the most. Remember, she wants to stop and engage every obstacle. I did not want her to stop at the two tires, so I set it up for success by pushing her away from the tires before she got too close to them. She only got through 6 cones before she stopped at that 6th cone, put her head down, and went inside herself. I waited. As I saw her begin to come out of it, I put the softest feel on the rope, the lightest porcupine. She felt it, though and I could feel her enter the very start of panic--a brace. I waited it out until she relaxed and tilted her head just a tiny bit. That is precisely when I released. This became the game. Remember that when I pull, her answer has previously been to go at the obstacle with more focus. Playing this very light, slow game, we progressed to moving her head, in total, about 6 inches toward me. Then, all of a sudden, the next time I put a light feel, she lifted her head all the way up and looked at me, confidently and curiously. When I beckoned her to me, she came straight to me. That was a huge success.

I wanted to reward her with some nibbling in the pasture, but she was not interested in eating! She just kept looking at me. I would point to the ground, and she would put her head down and look at me. That was really cool. So, I just itched her.

We played the circling game with changes of direction to build connection because she was sometimes going off the circle path on tangents away from me. At one point, she stopped and put her head down in an introverted manner. I waited for a bit before slowly moving toward zone 5 to snap her out of it, then she came to me with ears up when I beckoned her. After rubbing her face and withers for a moment, I began walking to the front.

As we were heading to the front, I trotted then cantered around, stopped by the gate in the same position as last night and asked her to sidepass away from me while I stood facing forward by her shoulder. She did it right away, and I could tell she was making a connection to last night.

Once we were out, I waited for no brace before lettiner her graze. She licked and chewed before grazing. Once food was out, I trotted to her hay and took off the halter there so that there would be less of a disconnection once the halter was off.

This morning was so positive. It took all the things that I did wrong last night and righted them. Also, Misty was very willing to be with me, much more than I had hoped for. Positivity rocks.

Natural Horsewoman Out

Monday, September 27, 2010

One Step Forward, Two Steps Back

One of the concepts that has been difficult for me to master is knowing when to end. I am usually pretty good at it, now, but every now and then, I do not end "when it feels good," but instead keep going. When this and other mistakes happen, however, I have grown in the ability to forgive myself, know that my horse will forgive me, and to move on from whatever point that mistake will put us tomorrow--usually a one step forward two steps back sort of deal.

This idea of forgiving myself has been the hardest concept for me to master. My breaking point was realizing that by being mad at myself, I will make no progress with my horses. In fact, it will likely cause me to go backwards and become dull. I have enough on my shoulders as it is, I don't need me up there, too. I have told Misty's story(ies) so many times, and each time, I seem to konk myself in the head. Look, hindsight is 20 20. Get over it. Learn what you can, change what you can. Also, the doom and gloom that becomes my energy does not make sensitive Misty want to be near me. Blu is a great "feel better" horse, but Misty needs someone who can be her "feel better" human.

And so, on I go with tonight's brilliance and then blunder.

I went painfully slow while catching her. I took a long time standing far off, a long time sitting while she came and stood by me, a long time haltering until she was accepting every step of it, a long time yoyoing in and out of the corn crib because it was a major threshold.

Now that I have massively condensed the enormous amount of time I contribute to the catching portion of the session: I had her on a 22' featherline and she was really sticky, so I started--you guessed it--slow. However, it did not take any enormous amount of time. She got on the pedestal with two feet, put up the other two feet, but then after hardly a moment put her front feet down. Blu is an expert at backing onto the tall pedestal from 4 feet on the ground or 2 feet on the ground, but Misty hardly considers it to be an option. This puzzle really helped her get her gears going in her mind so she get her gears going in her body. I cued her to back up and I quit when she had stepped her front feet back to the tire and then once lifted her foot up and thought actually realized the possibility. After that, she came right off it and was quite attentive.

In the arena I built for Blu, I went in with the ridiculous idea of having her circle me and see if she could ignore all the cones and tires, but before she got to the end of her yoyo (which, by the way was done without any wiggling, all energy), I realized that was stupid (she is not ready to have that tested), I decided that a more successful plan would be engaging her at everyone of those cones by using the weave pattern. Misty got stuck frequently. I would just keep asking for her to go without putting on too much pressure. She eventually got the picture and paid more attention to me. I rewarded by asking her to come in.

I sent her out on a circle and moved it out of the arena. Apparently, the weave exercise worked well on getting her to be more aware of my focus, because instead of stopping at the cone that came close to her path, she asked a question but did not change gait. That was a really great thing for her to do. Brilliant. I was able to say, "no, but thanks for asking."

I checked her canter to walk transitions, taking it easy at first by only asking for the trot then walk. After that, she had really nice canter to walk and walk to canter transitions. . . Then we ran around and did the cutting game and rollbacks--stuff she loves to do when we play. At the end I stopped and backed up really fast. I backed up faster than she was and ended up behind her. She backing up straight and very quickly, not turning toward me. When I stopped, she stopped. It was really great. Now that we were both up a bit, and I was thinking this would be a good place to end, I bent over and she put her head down. She got her head itched, snorted and shook.

I would like to say that I took off the halter and went up to the front or that I took her out to graze, but instead, I made reins out of the 22' featherline and got on. Now, I would like to say that I got right backdown because she started to move off as soon as I was on, and that once she waited patiently after I mounted that THEN I got down and took her out to graze. But what I did was let her walk off and get relaxed. She targeted Connor who was in the invisible arena and I let her go to him. Then I did figure eights by him until she did not want to be with him.

I rode around (aimlessly, of course--I am rolling my eyes at myself), enjoying it and ended up doing a cloverleaf pattern at the walk trot and canter. Boy is she better at cantering than Blu is. The cones are not too far apart and she maneuvered the pattern at the canter with nice impulsion and no physical struggling around the bends. I mean, she is my barrelracing horse, but it made me appreciate her a lot.

Then it was time to go feed horses. She wanted to go out of the pasture with Hoosier and Ginger, so I played with sidepassing to the gate. It took a REALLY long time. She was antsy because the other horses were out. Now she was not dancing around or anything, she just would not hold still. In fact, the thing that took the longest was waiting for her to relax. And I don't think she ever really did. I could have opened the gate long before I did. The mistake I made was not to adjust my goal so that she did not get so frustrated. Well, I did end up adjusting a little. When we FINALLY made it out of the gate, I gave up trying to have her sidepass the gate shut. I finally just swung it shut and sidepassed her to it so I could latch it. So on my way to go put her back in the pasture after all the horses were fed, my conscience finally got ahold of me and said--and I quote--"You dingbat! You should not have stayed on! You should have shown her that she could relax. This should have been a pleasant ride without asking anything of her. Gah! That is one step forward and two steps back, for you, missy. . . *SIGH* Guess you will have to fix it tomorrow."

Natural Horsewoman Out.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Don't Rush Me!!!!!

Blu, 1 hour 30 minutes, afternoon, 9-26-10

I started out too relaxed and was crunched for time at the end of the session, so I suddenly felt very rebellious and did not want to go to work. I did go to work, though. I did not stick it to the man.

After getting all my gear out (23' line, halter, strung carrot stick, saddle, pad, girth), setting my precision figure eight, and increasing the length of the short side of my arena by about 10 feet, I walked out to the back pasture and put the on his halter with a savvy string on a carrot stick attached to it. I approached with lots of rests and sits so he would feel less pressure to go up front. Once he was on the carrot stick, I took my time moseying up to the front. On the way up, I tested some things with him being attached to the carrot stick. I lead the carrot out in front of us then passed the stick behind me to have him follow the feel. He was responsive and willing to learn (it is a different visual for him, having the stick lead him). By the time we were done, he was much lighter and more maneuverable.

Once Blu was on the 23' line, I wanted to take some time to do something nice for him (scratch his itchies) while he stood by the rail. Essentially, a friendly game on the rail. So, I led him to the rail of the arena I built and scratched him. This is one of the items that I probably got carried away with. He enjoyed it.

I used my 18' line to build my precision figure eight in the middle of my arena. I used tires as the two center points, a little less than 18' apart. Cones were set 18' east and west of each tire and then I used 10 gallon buckets to mark the point 18' south of the southern tire and 18' north of the northern tire. Do you have a mental picture? Does it look like this?
Good. I am facing west right now, so the diagram is orient with west on top, north on the right and so on. Back to the post!

When I was done scratching Blu, I sat on the yellow bucket to play with him. I yoyoed him back, testing how light it could be. Once he became more connected (that took very little movement in and of itself), he was going back with my energy phase one. When he got to the tire, I waited for him to stop pawing and investigating it--as in I was waiting for a question. When he asked, I directed him into a figure eight pattern that had the southern tire and its eastern cone as centers. I only got up once, and Blu made sure I stayed sitting after that. It probably took 15 eights and one or two rests with me before he completed 2 eights without me doing anything. That was our ending point. Another thing that I probably should have cut short for the sake of time. In order to "cut it short" successfully, I would have had to change my goal to something that would have been easier to reach. My goal was for him to complete those two laps without me touching the stick or directing him. Instead, an adjusted goal would have been for him to get around one bend without me touching the stick or otherwise directing. See? But no, I was in the zone and all sense of time gone . . .

I saddle Blu up and put my foot in the stirrup before having walked him at all. Blu threw up his head and pinned his ears. "Alright, then, let's walk over here." I walked then trotted him to our arena. He was moving fine. I tightened the girth and stepped up and waited in one stirrup, leaning on the saddle with my hip. Nothing from his end. So I got on and still nothing. Interesting. Something to pay attention to next time so I can compare.

We followed the rail (the arena was bigger!). The first lap was off from the change, but then he learned the new boundary and was good for walking and trotting. Canter lap was ALL over at first, then he did a perfect lap and a great stop. The first lap was him feeling out the new arena size and trying to collect his thoughts and body. I just guided very gently and the second lap I could feel him moving himself through space on the new path much more efficiently. I rewarded him with the stop because, for those two laps, not once had he broken gait out of a lack of impulsion. I definitely did not touch the reins for the stop.

I was pretty sure that I would need to go right into the figure eight. The first one was really nice. He latched right onto the idea of walking along a path on the outside of the markers. I did have to use my reins/legs a few times, but not bad. One more figure eight lap with precision markers, then I realized the time and knew I needed to get going. So, I rode to one bucket and picked it up. The bucket was only 24'' high, so I really had to reach to get it from the saddle. Blu was very patient and still. The second bucket was upside down, so I had to get down to get it. Putting the time into picking up the bucket from the saddle was another "time well wasted" deal.

I took off Blu's bridle and he followed me to the fence. When we got there, I put the buckets down and laid his bridle over the fence . . . and the stinker walked off before I had unsaddled him! He did not really walk. It was much slower than that. And as he went, he would stop here or there and think. He thought about going into hs stall, for example, but then he decided to go out. I just stood for a while, watching, waiting for him to make up his mind. The mares were right by the gate, so I knew he would only go just inside the Middle Earth Pasture. Once he settled, I walked out, took my saddle off him, itched his under-saddle itches, and took care all my stuff.

All the while that I was putting stuff away, I was quite disappointed that today's session had to be cut off, but I was very glad that we ended on a good note. Even though Blu left, I don't blame him. It would be nice if Blu could see the horses right there and the grass right there and decide to stay with me, but we are pretty darn close to that.

Natural Horsewoman Out.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Three Wise Horses

Warming up, I started to lead him to the invisible arena at liberty, from zone 2. I slowly moved myself to zone 5. When I stopped, he stopped. I played with that stop and go a few times, then Blu walked off. He came back to me and I put the savvy string on him and did a figure 8 between two cones that were only 3 or 4 feet apart. He got to where he would do it with only me leaning forward and backward.

Once he was warmed up, we cantered around the pasture and when I asked him to stop, it felt really good.

There was a kitten in the pasture and it was terribly in the way. Blu was good with him, but I was getting frustrated trying to avoid splatting the kitten, so I asked Maggie to take him away. We did 180's for impulsion. It was a long session.

Star is the neighbor's horse. She was very lonely because some of the horses were gone on a Ride with the Elk trail ride for the weekend. I walked over and she immediately came to the fence. I picked grass and fed it to her, found some itchy spots, and then let her explore my boot. Star is an extremely mouthy horse. She is an EXTREMELY mouthy horse. She is given over to biting things and people. I let her nibble the heel of my boot (I took it off my foot, first) and pushed it further into her mouth than she really wanted. That was very surprising to her! She seemed to appreciate the company. I sometimes daydream about having her as my partner. She would be very challenging, but once she trusted a human, she would be the most amazing partner. She is super athletic and very socially outgoing. This time sitting with her was good for me to transition from playing with Blu to playing with Misty.

At liberty, I played with asking more of her, taking the leadership role a bit more. I think that I will play with her on line next time because she seems ready for that. This was a shorter session, but still valuable.

Natural Horsewoman Out.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Cause and Allow

Misty, 9-23-10, morning,

This morning, while my mom rode Connor, I was in the pasture with a strung carrot stick. Misty was in the pasture, too. I bet you have a good hypothesis about where this is going.

One of my favorite things about natural horsemanship, specifically PNH, is the language change. We replace negative words like "break," make," "force," and "get" with positive, provocative words like "start" or "gentle," "cause," and "allow." There is a difference between making a horse do something and causing or allowing a horse to do something. For example, you can make a horse get into a trailer, but if you do it right for that horse, getting in the trailer will become her idea. At that point, you have caused getting into the trailer to be the horse's idea, and now you need only allow her to do it. Another instance of allowing is when you have an obstacle that you want the horse to do something with. A good exercise is to allow the horse to show you what she can do with a barrel, then cause your idea to become her idea (your idea might be to jump over the barrel) if need be. This morning, with Misty, I kept those words at the front of my mind as I played with her.

I had thrown the green ball into the pasture already. Misty was watching me from her position standing by gate that divides the North and South Pastures. I began to roll the ball around slowly, strategically going to and away from her. She came 20' closer to me before I rolled the ball to zone 5. She turned around to follow it and then as I shoved it off, she completed her spin and walked after it. She pushed it a bit and I gave her a cookie. Then I just hung out in zone 5 while she rolled the ball all over the place, getting cookies here and there.

When I wanted to be done with the ball, I backed her up with her tail. I waited for a long time, giving her time to think about it and feel for me so we could feel together. I was able to back her away from the ball with just a pinch of hairs and with a very light feel. Then I relaxed with her.

Here, I would like talk about her leaving and coming back. She did this several times (I would say 5 or 6, maybe) throughout the session. She was never gone for more than a few minutes, and quite often, she would just go away for 15 seconds. She would walk away to her spot by the gate (this spot is a comfort spot because it is next to the entrance to the corncrib pen, and the corn crib is a big comfort spot), then look at me and come back. I did no beckoning to get her back, I just allowed her to come back. These departures are very important to me because it is when she needs to step aside and think because she feels too much pressure. I just let her go, it is why I am doing this at liberty--it is very important to her.

Next was the pedestal, which she went to. I just waited and allowed her to do what she wanted with it at her own pace. Once she was on it with her front end, I waited for her to look at me before I backed away. She followed, which is huge because she has been having problems leaving obstacles. Another time, when she was on her way back to me, I ran around the pedestal so she had to walk over it to get to me. She did so, coming straight over it with her ears forward. Then she left when I positioned myself on the other side of some ground poles. Anyways, another pedestal moment caused her to leave when I asked her to continue forward after she asked the question. She just continued forward right on to her spot by the gate, quietly walking off. She paused by a barrel on her way then moved on without a question.

Whenever she came back I went slowly. We started with just sitting or standing. Lots of good moments with me sitting while she kept her head down. It is one of the things that she knows to do--put her head down by me when I am sitting, that is. I would move on to rubbing her then when she started to move around, I would move, too, and eventually I would begin leading. This is kind of like mirroring turning into leading. It was all about her time line and when she was ready to move on. So, at one point, when she was seeming to want me to do more with her than just allow her to do things, as in she wanted more leadership, I began to move her around with our language. Mainly just moving her shoulders from side to side and then having her follow and back. I did everything on valium. I gave her time to be right and think.

When I was done, I walked to the gate where I let her go through and go out back.

Blu could not go out back because the neighbors broke our fence and we have not re-electrified it, yet. So, I put the savvy string and carrot stick around his neck and walked him back there while I followed my mom who was riding the fence line to make sure it was physically up. I tested Blu's sensitivity to stopping with the string and he was slowing or stopping with a light suggestion when we got it refined a bit. He was a very good boy. He got scratched on his itches when I left him in the pasture up front.

Natural Horsewoman Out

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Following the Rail for a Bit

Pattern: 180 and follow the rail
What I focused on: maintaining gait, building impulsion, support rein to keep shoulder up around corners, squeeze for the 180 against the rail,

Today I did my follow the rail pattern, but I put Blu in the Confidence Snaffle. I warmed him up with a figure of eight pattern on the 23' line. I had to play tag with him to cause him to maintain gait better. First, I tagged the middle, then he asked "what if I don't even go to the middle in the first place?" and he would deliberately and confidently stop after he got around the barrel, slack in the line, and look at me. So I changed the game to whapping that spot right after the barrel. Blu caught on super fast (probably 3 or 4 figure eights) and I could stand quietly and just take a step or lean forward or backward.

I took the line and halter off Blu and walked to the fence. He followed at his usual pace (no hurry, but attentive) and did not bat an eye when I picked up the bridle off the fence. He walked right to me and under the rein then stood in position while I put the bridle on and adjusted it. I tightened his girth and got on, no qualms about it. I went off and was thinking about the rail and we went straight to it and started our follow the rail. I put my hand on his withers and only corrected him with my leg if needed. The walk was looking really good, some shallow corners, but otherwise he stayed put with little leg correction. So, we moved on to the trot. I used 180 squeezes between his hind quarters and the fence as a change of direction whenever he broke gait. In the end stretch of our follow the rail exercise, I exited the arena and let him open up in the pasture at a canter. My plan was to let him see something different and go a bit straighter on a larger circle. My Invisible Arena is quite small and it is difficult to ask him to go faster or to increase the gait both because of impulsion and coordinating himself deep in the corners or even capping off the short ends. After two laps around the pasture, I changed my focus and went along the fence line to return to following the rail. Blu adjusted very quickly, which surprised me because sometimes he is not thinking so fast and can be caught off guard by sudden changes. It seems that he was very ready to do whatever I asked. The small arena immediately shut him down, so we did 180's into the fence as a change of direction. It is a great feeling when you are riding toward the end of your session on you Left-Brain Introvert and he is picking up the canter from the halt or right out of a 180 and you are just asking for him to go; because you remember that at the beginning of the session, you felt that brace in your horse's body that told you he would not be easy or enjoyable when asked to trot, let alone canter. It is a small nuance that I appreciate more and more.

We also had difficulty staying inside the invisible fence line at first, but I just kept putting him back on the "rail" and that problem went away. End of that story.

One of Blu's bad habits is to drop his shoulder as he makes turns, and the habit is worse at faster speeds and at the canter; not necessarily "faster" gaits, because, remember, you can go from a walk to a trot and maintain the same speed. The same is true for dropping his shoulder. He would not do it so drastically at a medium walk or an even jog, but it was quite obvious at a working trot. The canter is a whole different ball game for Blu because he gets very on-the-forehand on a straight line, so of course that pony is going down on his inside shoulder around corners. I was very exaggerating in my own body, lifting my inside shoulder and opening that side of my body. I used a supporting rein for as long as necessary to help him off his shoulder.

Another facet of my pattern exercise was the stopping. If I gave Blu the slightest hint that we would be stopping, BOOM! Stopped. I appreciate this talent of Blu's because if I ever since he is unconfident in the higher gaits or with what we are doing, or I want to reward him, or I become distracted or tangled or something, we can stop like that. However, it is not such a good thing when I only want a downward transition from the canter to the trot and he stops completely. So, the final item that we played with was to stop on the rail predictably after the canter in the same spot . . . and then change that spot. I know that this may sound like it would not help him stop stopping since we are doing more stopping, but the plan is for him to become more sensitive to what it feels like when we stop. He will feel complete stopped-ness in my body. The idea just came to me when we were playing with something else. It started when he was cantering and we had finally gotten him to maintain that around the arena without dropping his shoulder so much. He asked "When will we stop?" instead of "I am trotting." I told him "Right here." Then waited and off we went. It only took two laps for him to anticipate the stop. The next time, I decided it would be further ahead. He completely stopped at the original stop, so I only asked for the trot to our new spot. I had to finagle him into position, backing up to where I asked for the stop, moving his hindquarters, then sidepassing to the fence to wait. From then on, he was thinking stop at the original stop spot. I just kept on going along at the canter in my body and it took 4 laps for him to see the pattern and remember not to stop at the wrong spot and to stop in position at the new spot. That is when I ended the session, took off his bridle and let him follow me to the fence. He was very connected when we were all done, following me up and down the fence line.

I really liked today's progress. Next time I play with him, I would like to further his progress with his shoulder and changing gaits downward.

Natural Horsewoman Out.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Itchy Gelding

I had a really rough day, today. It seems that every day is a rough day. I keep thinking that something's gotta give. There was never a bad day when I was at the Performance Summit, so that was a nice break from the monotony of bad news barrage that I can't escape from at home. Today, I got more bad news. One can only take so much. I think that one very large bag of money would be really helpful right now (right!).

Suffice it to say I did not have time to have a session with Blu, tonight. I could have, but it would have shot the evening's homework. I drove straight past home and went to the farm. I got out of the Barnkat and went straight to the pasture. I met Blu's eyes and climbed through the fence. I ran out and then walked and stopped to let him finish closing the distance between us. The thought of "who moves his feet more crossed my mind as he ambled over to me. I may have run four times the distance that he walked. I did not beckon him, though.

I hugged him and smelled him. He is such a good friend to have. I like to say that everyone who has horses should get to know or have at least one horse as special as Blu. I began itching him, and it turned into a 15 or 20 minute itching time. At one point, he was getting a little too pushy as he put whatever part of his body near me that he wanted itched. So, I procupined him sideways. At first he was out of balance and not yielding his hindquarters as fast as his front end, but he evened out pretty quick. That little bit cured his pushiness. Other than that, it was very relaxing getting all the dirt under my fingernails. Blu loved it. He was in seventh heaven.

Natural Horsewoman Out.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Giving Her a Choice in the Matter

Misty, 9-19-10, morning, 45 minutes

I had a huge personal breakthrough with Misty, today. I did not ride her, because she was not ready, today. She told me each time I asked if I could get on, "No," and I respected that. I could have easily gotten on anyways. So, here is today's story about how I respected Misty's wishes:

Ginger and Connor were being ridden by Maggie and my mom, respectively. Misty was wanting to have attention--she was standing by the fence and talking to me. I had a pair of 22' feather lines, a halter, and a strung carrot stick. I held up a string and was just waiting to see if she would put her head under it while I stood outside the fence. I let her investigate it, which seemed to please her. I also gave her a peppermint treat. I ducked under the fence and put her halter on, which she was ok with.

Next, the 22' lines went on while I was talking to my Uncle, who was visiting. Misty followed closely as I mucked off through the mud, keeping my lines out of the yuck. She jogged to catch up. I sent her first to the pedestal because I knew that she would be very confident about that. I let her stay up there for a while before asking anything of her. Next, I made a connection with her mind, and asked her to step all the way on it, because I knew that it would be difficult for her to understand to step down. You might not recall that one of our stumbling blocks is asking her to leave an obstacle. So, when I put her back on the pedestal, I slowly asked for her to take steps back. When she was off it, I asked her to get right back on it. This approach and retreat was more like under the guise that her comfort zone is actually on the pedestal. After a few of those, I was able to ask her to come down with a few tail hairs, then I asked her to back away from it with two reins. Once we got several feet from it, I asked let her stop and rest. Next, I picked up her tail, felt for her, of her, and together, and backed up. I was able drop more and more of her tail til we were backing up together with just a few hairs.

I considered her warmed up and ready to move on. However, I wanted it to be 100% at her own pace, so I put a savvy string around her neck and took off the halter. My plan was to mount her at liberty, but only if she stood with no reserve. I was very clear with my intentions. She left. I just relaxed, and do you know what? I was not in one bit disappointed. I did not feel disheartened or get down on myself for not doing something right. It is just a simple fact: she was not ready to be ridden. It was her voice, and it is very important to her. She got to a threshold and turned to face me. I only at her and she cantered back to me. We had a repeat of the something like that several times. I would play at liberty with her, I would ask if I could get on, she would leave, then she would reach a distance from me and ask to come back. I had fun playing with her on the ground, no carrot stick, just me. She seemed to enjoy it, too.

I have, in previous times, given Misty a choice in this matter, but I doubt if I have done so without any lines or bridles on. Last year I took a month off using lines of any kind on the ground so I could see clearly when I was pushing to hard, being a bore, or whatever it may be. Now, I was applying that idea to mounting. It's just a little bit of a deeper level than having a rein to bend the horse to you. Misty tends to not be as honest when she has a line on, because she "knows" she will lose (that's the feeling a got from her). The other important breakthrough for me is that I did not take it personally. I think that my attitude is key with Misty. I need to be a source of good feelings and comfort. I can't go to her when I am not in good emotional shape. I need to be a lighthouse for her. Blu can be my lighthouse, but right now, Misty needs me to be her lighthouse of happiness. Does that make sense?

Onward into giving her a choice in the matter.

Natural Horsewoman Out.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Good Bye, Baby

Yesterday morning, my mom woke me up with the news that one of our most beloved cats was hit by a car. I was in shock. Later in the morning, we went to the pine tree under which my dad had put her. There she was. My mom and I put our hands on pet her and pet her. And cried. I could not believe that she was no longer living.

My mom and I buried her under a beauty bush that Baby always loved to sit under and watch the world from. She was so amazing. I can't stand talking about her in past tense. She is just not a past tense sort of being.

Baby was so special, and I can't imagine my home without her. I regret that we don't have many photos of her.

So, this post is for Baby and I will visit it to record memories of her.

If Baby had been a horse, she would have been one of the best horses I had ever known. As it is, she was one of the most brilliant felines this planet has ever been walked upon by.

Natural Horsewoman Out.

Horse Who Follows Rail

Blu was really superb this afternoon on this day of September 17, 2010, for 1 hour and 30 minutes.

When I got to the farm, Conner was the only horse who was up front. As I walked past him, he followed me. When we got to the back, Misty, Ginger, and Blu ran to the front pasture. I had the 45' line and I made a loop and put it around Hoosier's neck to take him to the front (he was planning on just staying outback while the loopy youngons ran around) so I could put his fly mask on (it was sunny outside and he needs a mask in the sun). When we got to the front, I realized that the we were trapped by the mud. I was wearing my cowboy boots and really did not want to go in the mud with them. My solution was to ride Hoosier into the barn with the 45' line around his neck (bridleless!). I evaluated the situation, the environment, which horses were around, Hoosier's state, and decided it was safe. Hoosier is very slow and I knew that he would want to go to his stall anyway. So, up I went I asked him to go, and off we went, straight to the stall. As we approached, I laid down over his withers and hopped off inside the dry stall. I thanked Hoosier and put on his fly mask.

I ran around to the front of the barn because I had noticed Blu going to the water trough as I rode Hoosier into the stall. When I got to the trough, Blu was just finishing his drink. I greeted him and ducked under the fence to put a loop of 45' rope around his neck.

I stepped onto the sistern, but he walked by, so he did not want me to get on. I played with game #2 around his neck and taught him to yield from the rope around his neck and step toward me. Then I climbed over the fence separating the North and South Pastures to lead Blu to the gate and let him into the North Pasture.

Since Blu had not wanted me to get on him, I decided he would benefit from getting saddled out in the yard where he could eat grass. I also had to get my other equipment around--halter, bag on a stick, gloves, finesse reins, and, of course, the saddle and girth. I was messing around with the stick and at first he was fine with that, but later when I picked it up again, he just quietly left. It was not an unconfident departure. He was just going to the hill for better grass if there was going to be commotion and raucaus down here. I went through the barn with grain and around the back exit to meet Blu on the hill. I had the halter and 45' line with me, as well. The grain went on the ground by me and I just sat and waited. I talked to Blu about my day and the Performance Summit. After a few minutes, he had munched his way to me and was cleaning up the grain. I let him eat, put the halter on, let him eat some more, then moseyed back to where we came from to saddle him up.

I misplaced my girth and did not know if my mom had used it or what, so I was stuck with a girth that was several inches shorter than mine. I learned two lessons today. #1: don't try girthing up a horse in and English saddle and tight with gloves on. Why? Because you will punch yourself in the face and water up your eyes. I was embarassed because that was a very Three Stooges moment. I am glad no one was there to see me. This way, I can always write this confession off as a deceitful attempt to entertain an audience. I am very clever like that. #2: Just teach your horse to keep his head up when you are cinching up (especially with the tight girth situation). I took the time to teach Blu to keep his head up while I was tightening the girth. It just took a few seconds to teach and reinforce and, now that my gloves were off, buckling up the girth was much easier. What a riot, huh?

As I walked to the pasture gate, I noticed that Blu was stiff and skeptical about the bag-on-a-stick. I addressed this with simple approach and retreat when on the way and when we got to the gate. I tested him out by evaluating his confidence as a sent him through the gate with the stick. No problem, there. He was much more relaxed.

I snuggled with Blu for a bit because that's what he wanted to do. Then it was on to the yoyo with energy (that is looking good, he "studdered" at first, but then would go back with short pauses between his pair at a time drags). When I asked him to circle, I went through an elongated phase one in search of how little it took--he went right without me lifting my finger way up, let alone way out.

He got "stuck" at tire. I let him think through it, waiting for a question from him. When he asked, I smiled and turned my back to him. When I faced him again, I asked him to come in. He was hesitant at first, but then licked and chewed when he got to me and put his head in my arm. I waited until he could maneuver all that mess (ground poles and tires) without it being a big thinking effort. He just went through and/or over it. I noticed that he was very confident about the tire. Lots of times, the other horses will jump over them or stride over them, but if his foot was going to naturally fall into the center of the tire, he let that happen, rather than adjusting his stride to avoid that happening.

I took off the line, coiled it up (which took a while because there were kinks in it) and then walked off to the fence to get the finesse reins and my helmet. Blu waited patiently then followed me when I left. He stood nicely while I tightened his girth (no head nodding, swinging or anything of that nature).

I was going to do some lateral flexion right when I got on, but then I remembered Pat saying to try to do everything on the rail when you are practicing your follow the rail pattern. So, we did lateral flexion on the rail. We got a flex to the right at the end without touching the reins (head turned to right and slightly back, not all the way flexed, but it was a good start to lateral flexion without reins)!

Following the rail, I did the following: walk--walk without reins--trot without reins--good stops. When we were finished, I kept my focus straight at the corner and we trotted out of arena instead turning when I was done. He had no hesitation or second-guessing. We then cantered a lap, transitioned to a trot and spiraled down to the pedestal. We came at the pedestal straight on, so Blu could have gone out of his way and tried to avoid it. Instead, he maintained the trot all the way onto the pedestal and stopped with his front end on it. I dismounted by sliding off his rump, which he was fine with. After itching his itchy spots and running up my stirrups, I walked off. He got right down and came with me.

I really liked today's session. Yup.

Natural Horsewoman Out.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Pattern 180

9-14-10 afternoon Misty then Blu 1 hour 30 minutes

All of the horses were out back (the fence is fixed, so Blu has regained the privilege going out to eat with the other horses, and he can even go out naked!). Misty and Ginger were the ones a saw first. I whistled and Misty began to come to me. Now, to be honest, what would have happened if I had stood still is Misty would have run past me and gone up front. Usually, when they are out back, they see humans and quite often think we are there to round them up, so they will run to the front. I decided to do something I don't think I have done before. I walked backwards. Then I turned and walked away. Then I ran. Misty and Ginger followed me with really interested faces. I was making their idea my idea. It was pretty cool.

I ended up with Blu because Conner got Misty and Ginger's attention and stole them from me. I did not mind, today. I lead Blu on the 11' finesse reins that I bought at the Performance Summit. I wrapped them around the tying post while I got the 45' line and carrot stick. Blu was very attentive while I was in the barn--I kept peeking out at him.

Again, I started out slow. Friendly, then using my energy to back him up. I accepted that he would be groggy and less sensitive at first, so I did not get critical or particular right off the bat. I accepted his littlest try, even though I knew he could do better. You see, I knew he was not mentally engaged yet. Slowly, I built up his sensitivity with politeness. So, within about 3 minutes, he was backing up with a good clip with just my energy--and I had him go all the way out to the end of the rope like that. Over time, I got more particular--I wanted straightness, I wanted more speed. We made good progress in both of those. For straightness, he has a tendency to back up crooked with the intention of circling.

What followed was a big, long, circling game that reached a crescendo before I finally put my foot down and said "Okay, let's take a step back and get a simple victory for ourselves." He was having problems with his flying changes, specifically his change of direction when he was changing to going counterclockwise. I would do the "come here so I can smack you" look, which is supposed to mean, go in the other direction, and he would just freeze up. I was testing out different things, and everything seemed to be going to hell in a hand basket. Finally, I got my head on straight and decided to work on the change of direction in its most basic form--with a fence.

I took my energy way down and went into do as little as possible mode. We did a lot of changes. I did not worry about gait, I just waited for him to do a confident, relaxed change to the counterclockwise direction. When we finally graduated away from the fence (which was a slow progression of approach and retreat away from and back to the fence when needed), I quit when he completed a circle then a change of direction in both directions with relaxation. Oh, boy! It was a long time, but it definitely wasn't a waste.

I took off the 45' line and coiled it up right there. He followed me to the fence, but laid down and rolled on the way, so I laid down, too. When he got up, he continued following me. When we arrived at the fence where the finesse reins were tied, he stopped just out of reach of the clip. Instead of taking the halter and porcupining him forward, I tested his "Yes, Ma'am" by asking him to come forward with a beckoning finger. He looked at me very intensely, thinking, then he stepped forward. One of the attributes of a good partner that we talked about this weekend was "a horse that sees what you want and puts effort into helping you do it." I don't think that there is a better definition than that for what Blu did. He saw me stretching the rein's clip toward him and me asking him to come forward, and he helped me accomplish my goal of tying him up. That was really cool, even though it was very simple.

I put the finesse reins on and jumped on. He stood and waited. Off we went to the invisible round pen. My plan was to do follow the rail, with an emphasis on maintain gait. When he broke gait, I thought, why not do a change of direction? So, we did follow the rail with 180 squeezes every time he broke gait. It worked really well, and he was super at the squeezes. I was so pleased with it. I ended when he was able to complete a lap in balance at the canter. Things to work on are his short fence line lines, which he tends to make into oval caps. Once he is really good at the 180 game, I will focus on the corners game.

Dismounted by standing on my hands and knees then stretching down his back and off his rump. No problem. He followed me at liberty to the other pasture and even when the other horses left did not leave. I lead him to the water to see if he needed a drink. He did not. I told him to go out back and I really ad to encourage him to leave.

Natural Horsewoman Out.

Notes from the Performance Summit

DAY ONE "Purpose" September 10, 2010:
Journal Enrty: Next year, I will be here on campus for the fast track. I was in a daze, today. I was just trying to soak it all in and remember everything forever. I really never thought I would be able to come here. The turmoil I have struggled through in order to be here. . . well, it was well worth it. By the end of the day, I could picture Blu and I here in Colorado. I have a lot of packing to do.

Pat Working Cows:
-was teaching the dogs to push the cows toward him
-the dogs must be told to go to the water and get a drink/cool off because they will easily work themselves to death
-Pat would have Peppy retreat sideways from the herd as they were coming toward him

-Buster Welch is a master in cutting
-Linda's story: didn't want to compete anymore because she
--didn't want to be judged on the same line as the people she was competing with because they were not putting the horse first
--even though Parelli improved her scores by 10% (!), it changed how she looked at her horses
-her new goal is to become a master of horsemanship. She still has no interest in competing, but does not discourage others from competing
-Level 4 is NOT nirvana, people! There is more after that. You can, if you choose, make level 4 an art form, but there is more.
-Pat's definition of horsemanship: habits and skills that horses and humans neeed to become partners

-want my horse to
--be calm, trustful, consistent, friendly, confident
--see what I want and try to do it

Luis Ortega was a rawhide master (Pat has a set of reins made by him that are valued at $27K)

Jaquima a Frenos: Hackamore to Bit
-they (Spanish) rode first in a hackamore in order to stay out of the horse's mouth to preserve its sensitivity. Once the horse had a foundation in the jaquima, it graduated to freno, the bit.

Mark Fitch DVM on "Corral side manner"
-a vet who uses NH to be a safer veterinarian medicine practitioner
-it's about finding a balance between fear and respect
-gives demos and lectures

Cow Talk from Pat:
-rope the heels when they are extended backwards
-rope heels with an underhand swing
-hula hand is when you swing the rope overhand
-toreador game (try it!)
--have one rider with a carrot stick be the bull
--avoid the bull at the last minute by swinging either the hind end or forequarters at the very last possible instant
--start slow and increase speed of the bull
-sword fight while mounted (with carrot sticks)
--avoid a charge by going sideways
--see how fast you can go sideways with this purpose!

Reining Cow Horse Demo

Laws of Natural Horsemanship:
#1 Relationship First
#2 Foundation before Specialization
#3 Neverending self improvement

Some other things to think about:
Purpose can be something as simple as going to the fencepost to get your jacket. But having that purpose gives you something to focus on.
How can we give the various patterns and maneuvers a purpose with the skills we have today?

Linda's Handout:
What purpose does for you:
1. Gives you something specific to do, puts principle to purpose.
2. Improves your leaderhip.
3. Gets you to focus on an outcome and stop thinking about your horse.
"Focus gives you feel. Focus and feel give you timing. Focus, feel, and timing give you balance."
4. Accelerates your skill development
5. Helps you appreciate just how much of a partner you can teach your horse to become.
6. You'll see how the Parelli foundation has prepared you for anything you want to go on and do with purpose.

What purpose does for your horse:
1. Increases your horse's focus and motivation.
2. Relieves boredom.
3. Gives your horse responsibility
4. Your horse really becomes your partner

What simulations do for you:
1. Improves your skills without sacrificing your horse
2. Can be scaled up or down according to your needs
3. Builds confidence.
4. Allows you to break things down, repeat movements to perfect them
5. More fun!

What simulations do for your horse:
1. Builds confidence
2. Allows you to slow things down and vary them according to your horse's needs
3. More interesting!

DAY TWO "Competition" September 11, 2010:
Journal Entry: Today started out with a moment of silence for the those who have lost and sacrificed on the 9/11 terrorist attack, followed by the singing of the national anthem by Rick, a savvy club member, while Pat rode Peppy carrying a flag.
I really liked today. I loved seeing the savvy competition team. They are doing quite well. Walter Zettl was amazing. He is such a loving man. I did not go to the dance because Pat and I were quite tired and we both had a long day ahead of us on Sunday. I had Sonic for dinner. It was really delicious!

Instructors and Scholarships:
-most of the instructors WILL travel out-of-state, so don't assume that they won't
-on the website, the instructors are ranked by grades
-as an instructor works his or her way to higher instructor ranking, he or she will get more marketing aid
-Tim Sullivan is the steward of scholarship fund
-Instructors will each be teaching in a fundraiser event to build up the scholarship fund
-Pat and Linda are each hosting fundraiser events
--Linda has a contact game course coming up in November at the Florida Parelli Center
--Pat will have "ride with Pat in the morning, golf with Pat in the afternoon" events as his fundraiser
-a long term goal of Tim Sullivan is to have a dorm on campus for students to stay in (with electricity and water, etc.)
-more money going into the scholarship fund and back to the students, less to administration

-Atrition rate in the competition world is atrocious
-in order to compete, you need high ambition
-horses learn 7-10 times faster than us (that is why it is hard on them when we are not progressive)
-most competition horses get worse as they progress in their career. Pat's cutting horses are only getting better and better.
-the Parelli level 4 is the BEGINNING of classical dressage
-level 5 graduate should do well regionally; level 6 graduate should do well nationally; level 7 graduate should do well internationally; 8-10 is purely and art form
-What you need to compete:
--good foundation
--never-ending self improvement
-The Talent Quotient
--Linda told Remmer's and then Allure's story while they stood with her on line. Remmer is not as talented as Allure.
--Lauren Barwick told Westpoint's story while he walked around on line and she kept rolling along with him, knowing it was important to him that he move his feet. Westpoint has gobs of talent.
-Dr. Jans (spelling is questionable) rode in on his Mustang named Thistle and announced that his goal was to ride in the Tevis Cup Race with Thistle. Thistle is a three strike mustang, which means that she did not sell and did not sell again, so she was on her third strike after that, it does not matter where they go, and they frequently go to slaughter.
-Walter Zettl gives a speech/lecture and then gives Linda a lesson
--it is easy to teach PNH students
--building the horse's relationship on the ground is so important for the horse to feel for you
--when you cheat the foundation, you have to cheat through your entire career
--one mistake opens the door for more (so if you make a transition before the horse is ready, it will mess up that gait and might throw the whole test off)
--Your aids need to change, not the horse
--While Walter was giving Linda the lesson, Pat would pop in and point out how what Walter was having Linda do was a part of the seven games
---Friendly Game
----Let the horse freely walk around the new place that is away from the herd
----As you begin to make contact, approach and retreat
----"Remember you go to the most sensitive part of the horse" Walter said in regards to taking up the reins
----Allow the horse to find his balance
----When the horse goes faster or slower when you make contact, it is a sign of distrust
---Yo-yo Game
----lengthen and shorten the horse, lengthen and shorten
---Lateral flexion
----Flex the horse first to tell him the turn is coming
---Sideways Game
----Flying lead changes (AN IMPORTANT NOTE: Something that struck me as a BFO sort of moment was to not ask for the lead change until the horse was in balance. Also, Walter did not want Linda to make transition blank until Remmer was in balance. This way, when she asked for whatever transition, it was graceful and the horse remained your partner)
---Squeeze Game
-Next, Pat and his team presented new equipment!
--9' get down string- this is a savvy string that can be attached the cavesson and then to you while you ride. When you "get down," you can lead or tie the horse safely by the get down string. All of Pat's horses were using this string this weekend.
--22' feather lines- these are sold in pairs. They are like 22' savvy strings. Their lightness is better suited for driving than the heavy 22' lines. I purchased a pair of these. Thanks, Pat (Patricia).
--9' lead rope- this rope is meant for utility, like leading your horse or tying him up or holding him for the farrier/vet. Pat also demonstrated with the eye-end how you can remove the clip and use it to lead by the foot without the danger of the metal loop. He also, for fun, stopped Magic by pulling on the rope while he was riding.
--22' 7 Games Line- Parelli has modifiend the 22' line. They no longer sell the professional's line. Instead, the line features an eye on one end for you to attach the clip of your choice and the other end has a handle. His reasoning for the handle is because in many of the auditions evaluated and just seeing students in general, a big problem is never using the entire 22' line. The plan is that having the handle will make you remember to keep your hand on the handle. Beware that you will need to make sure the your hand does not go all the way through the loop and that it does not catch on something.
--12' 7 Games line- same deal as the 22' line, only they kept the popper.
--45' line- the Hondo has been taken off and replaced with an eye. You can throw the end toward your horse without worrying about metal hitting her in the face or something. You can attach the clip of your choice to the eye. Pat showed as that you can do rope tricks with it, too.
-Tracks-when you follow the rail, make sure you are on track 1--not track 1 1/2 or 2 and not drifting amongst various tracks. Pat placed his horse deliberately close to the fence while his proteges rode on the rail to demonstrate where track one was.
-Linda came in to talk about body position for finesse
--Amy Book-Bowers rode Sapphire freestyle then took up the reins without changing her body position from the freestyle position so Linda could show us the importance of riding with finesse in our body if we wanted finesse in the horse. When she asked Amy to change to the finesse position, Sapphire instantly changed her posture and moved with more elegance. It was very interesting to see it so blatantly illustrated.
--Sequence of Finesse Body Positioning: engage Glutes > wrap Thighs > michael jackson your Pelvis > pull your Belly Button back to you spine > close your Ribs > pull your Arm Pits down > push with your Triceps
---Glutes- just as you want your horse's hindquarters to engage, so must you engage you hindquarters. This is unlike when you ride with fluidity in freestyle where you want your body to be totally relaxed.
---Thighs- Linda illustrated what your muscles should do by putting her hands on top of her legs then wrapping them around the outside of her legs.
---Pelvis- Linda has been having trouble explaining to students what she means by "lift your pelvis to your belly button," but had a breakthrough with a student when she said "like Michael Jackson." Problem solved.
---Arm Pits- we here "put your shoulders back," and the instructor or trainer is trying to achieve the same look that Linda is speaking of. However, when we put our shoulders back, we find that our ribs come open, our chest goes out, and our back hollows. So, instead, if you pull your arm pits down, it keeps your back and chest where they should be and puts your shoulders into proper position.
---Triceps- when we hold the reins with our biceps, we are pulling. What Linda explains is to push the reins with our triceps while we hold our arms in position. This keeps us from bracing and has a better feel to the horse than when we hold with our biceps.
-The Game of Contact- Linda is using the game of contact to restore Westpoint's confidence (which was severely damaged by to much specialization as a young horse) in contact with the bit. We got to see her ride through a session with him on the game.
--if the horse pulls with his nose, she lets the reins slide through her hands. She creates no resistance.
--if he doesn't take the contact, she takes it. this is a form of reverse psychology, and eventually, he wants to take it, so she gives it. I don't know that I can picture in my mind how this works.
--if he gets crooked, even a little, she takes the rein that is getting slack from the crookedness and shortens it even more so that he is more crooked than he intended. This is a form of reverse psychology or the "do that and then some" game and causes him to want to be straight.
--a principle of the game of contact is to allow zero brace
--Linda said that she has tried the game of contact on all kinds of horses with various horsenalities. On that note, she said that she and Pat are always testing their own theories and trying to find holes or ways that they don't work so they can present the best material to their students.
--After Linda's ride, Lauren came out and announced that she was giving Westpoint to Linda and continuing her search for her dream horse because Westpoint would not be ready for competition for a long time due to his rough past. It was the most selfless demonstration I have ever seen in my time in the horse industry, other than when Frank Hopkins released Hidalgo at the end of his career. There were tears from both ladies. Linda is very excited to have a horse like Westpoint--another warmblood, so now she has a trio.
-NERVOUSNESS- Lauren--directly after her tearful announcement, made a presentation on dealing with nerves when you compete
--you can't control what happens during the day- you need to accept that
--stick everything in a jar and leave it at the gate while you are competing. everything will be there when you come out, but you need to be there with and for your horse while you are competing
--when you or your horse are having a bad time of things, just smile and have a sense of humor. note that this could actually help you place better because the judge will appreciate your positive attitude and patience. "Boy you had a rough ride, but you handled it extremely well!"
--be in the moment, always prepping for the next maneuver or movement
--focus on mastering just two things at a time- instead of trying to get all of everything mastered in one go, master two things at a time--like straightness and downward transitions--until those two things are done with unconscious competence. Then, you can pick two more things. Eventually, you will build up to being unconsciously competent at many things and it is not so overwhelming.
--Concentration and relaxation are key
---know yourself and know what you need and what you need to do
----write it all down
----tell those around you and those who will be helping you
---listen to your voice on CD talking about a good ride. Put it to music. The music matters. Lauren once put it to war like music and it go her a little too pumped and her mare was like "what are you on and where's Lauren!!?"
--once you have done something, first talk about all the good things in great detail. only after you have done that should you mention some of the things you would like to improve. This helps your mind remember the good things, like positive reinforcement. If you focus to hard on the bad things, you begin to lose the good you had.
--beating yourself up is NOT productive! (this is something I need to work on, for sure)
--I really like Lauren. She is so witty and wonderful. I hope that I get to speak with her someday. Anyway, she left and Linda came in to talk about nervousness
--think about everything that could go wrong . . . way ahead of time. This surprises many people, but the idea is to be prepared for it yourself and to prepare your horse for it. If you come up with an instance that you are not sure what you would do about, call a Parelli Professional or the Parelli office for help
--have unshakeable focus so the horse feels that focus (this is especially important for a horse that is either RBE or going RBE.
---you need to be absolutely focused and not let your horse flap your focus. That is what patterns do for you. This is what the "what purpose does for you #3" is talking about
-Jim Crew, the Parelli's farrier, came in and talked a bit about his theory on hoof care
--almost all horses' legs are different lengths (this is also true in humans)
--the idea behind how he shoes is to level the shoulders and hips by using orthodics to make the distance from each shoulder to the ground the same and to do the same for the distance from each hip to the ground
--Length of the frog (x) divided by two, multiplied by the apex of the frog(y) equals the length of the frog (f). So: (x/2)y=f
--watch the movie Prefontaine with these concepts in mind
-Pat did a small demo about how patterns can help barrel racers
--use infinity to keep your horse from rushing patterns (emotionally and mentally leading to poor physical form of rushing)
--Peppy had never done this pattern of 6 barrels (two 3-leaf clovers) before and he picked up on the pattern pretty quick.

Linda's Notes:
What specialization does for you:
1. Causes you to pursue a higher level of quality--both training and riding
2. Tests your emotional fitness . . . those nerves!
3. Helps you prepare for the best . . . and the worst!
4. Tests your principles. What/who are you competing against?
5. Impresses on you how important it is to stay focused. It's not about the . . . it's all about what you focus on. Don't get distracted!
6. Reminds you not to be so direct-line and over focused that other things get out of balance--like the relationship, confidence, the ability to put your horse's needs first.
7. Develop excellence in your horse without stressing him.
8. Causes you to explore your horse's potential . . . or at least think about it!
9. Learn that it's not about the competition.

What specialization does for your horse:
1. Gives him a feeling of purpose: Specializaiton is an artificial form of "purpose." Take the lessons you learned yesterday and draw them here.
2. Optimizes your horse's potential; he gets to do what he's bred for.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Blu and the Parelli Feather Lines

ORI: Blu 9-13-10 30 minutes evening
My mom brought the horses up from the back. Blu saw me and walked to me to get his rubs and hugs. Then I tossed the brand new 22' featherlines on the ground and pointed to them. He appreciated that and enjoyed investigating them with his mouth. He did not eat them, just nibbled and rubbed with his nose. Of course I haltered him, next, using the barn knot set up, level one style, looking for quality. He was in position and in the frame to be haltered.

I started slowly with leading and following the feel of the lines. For some reason, at first, he was really heavy on the lines, but he became lighter and more attentive. Next, had him yoyo out then circle and his energy slowly came up as we did flying lead changes and moved around the pasture. Pretty soon, we progressed to Blu and I running around the pasture in a stick to me like exercise with changes of direction that had a lot of elevation in the forehand and real hindquarter engagement--plus flying lead changes, of course.

After I brought him down from his high with some slower stuff and friendly game, I made the 22' strings in reins like a horseman's reins set with a tail that went to my belt loop. When I got to the fence Blu came sideways to me upon my request, but I needed to ask. It seemed that he was just not paying attention, not that he did not want me to mount. When I did mount, he was very quiet and stood patiently waiting for instruction.

In the invisible arena, I did a very bad thing, though it was out of excitement mixed with exhaustion, both of which hindered my judgment, I guess. For whatever reason, I covered too many rail games. I started with follow the rail, but then we were all over the map--180's, circles, corner game--it was really nuts. Blu was not bothered by it, but he probably did not learn much. Toward the end I realized that I was being a nutter and I retreated to doing just a very simple follow the rail game. Phew.

We did follow the rail in all three gaits. The canter was the most difficult because it was hard for him to stay in balance. I recognized when he broke out of imbalance and would wait until he found balance again before I asked him to go up to the canter again. This is something Walter Zettl stressed this past weekend. You should not make a transition until your horse is in balance and can do the transition with elegance--whether it is a walk to a halt or flying lead change. Balance is a required ingredient for a good transition and a good conversation. This was Blu's big learn for the night. It was actually pretty quick that he stopped breaking gait due to lack of impulsion. The corner that was particularly imbalancing for him was the northeast corner where there were many hickory nuts on the ground. I ended when he stayed in balance and maneuvered the corner at the canter. Good thing I got focused on a single pattern!

When I let Blu go, tonight, he followed me unconditionally to the other pasture. Once there, I pet him and scratched him, then I pointed to his stall and he went right in.

I think that the important lesson I learned tonight was to stay on task. Sometimes we have to divert from the plan, but if you do not have to, it is really important to be consistent until the horse really knows and performs the pattern.

Natural Horsewoman Out.

Friday, September 3, 2010


We went to visit a horse that we might be taking home eventually. He belongs to a relative of my dad's. She just doesn't have enough time for him and heard that my youngest sister really needs a different horse because hers is old with bad allergies that cause him difficulty breathing, even on his treatment. So, free horse.

My analysis of him results in the conclusions that he needs 6 weeks of hill therapy to start to build up his top line. Then he will be a great, sound horse for Ellie to start in Parelli. He was very people friendly and just generally good-natured, lots of qualities of a good kids horse. He has moderate ground manners and learns very quickly. My parents were thrown by his conformation, but there is really nothing about his conformation that cannot be fixed. It does appear that he was hit in the head by a 2 by 4 as a foal. . . or something. It's weird. He is not head shy and is pretty level-headed.

Blu was really pleasant. I played with him on the ground a bit first and then he was very well mannered. He was putting his head down in exuberance-like spunk at first, but no bucking. Also, he jumped over a log and then stopped right after it when I stopped with my body. Another time we jumped and kept going. The log was about 12''-18'' high. He was great and I am proud of him.

The decision we made is that Ellie can have him now if she promises to start Parelli with him over the winter. Otherwise, she has to wait until spring. I don't know what will go on, but we will see.

Tomorrow I go on a trail ride at Sleepy Hollow, so I need to go to sleep, I guess.

Natural Horsewoman Out.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Fork in the Road

When you come to a fork in the road, take it.

~Mark Twain

My family is not wealthy. Horses are the only nice things we have. I grew up this way, and it is ingrained into the fibers of my being that this will always be the road of my life. I am trying to change that in a way that does not involve becoming narcissistic or driven by material things; I believe in the power of growing up poor; it builds character and integrity--at least for some people.

In the past, opportunities that came with a big bill were usually just automatically written off. I have had many great experiences through friends and scholarships of various natures, but I never saved up money for some expensive experience because I never had a job to do that with. Then, last spring, I made the decision that I was going to go a Fast Track course in Pagosa Springs in the summer of 2011. I guess I know how to break a habit: dive in head first into that cold pond, no wading in slowly!

When May 31st rolled around and I had scraped and dug and gathered enough money to go, I was euphoric. It has opened up a new world for me, a world of doing things for me. I have been focused on saving to get myself to the Fast Track next year, taking these lessons with Meggie, and now, I am going to the Performance Summit next weekend (not labor day weekend). It was only through a friend offering a cheap ticket, but this fork has been in the road of my life ever since Meggie mentioned the thing and made me envision myself there. Prior to that, I had, again, written it off as impossible. Well, I thought about this, and I fretted about it. I lost sleep over it. Today, I made up my mind, bought my airline ticket and took the ticket offer from my friend.

One of my favorite sayings (I say it to myself and I came up with it by myself) is "I don't know where I am going, but I am headed there at full speed." Sometimes, folks have a plan, and plans are good. But when life is actually happening, things rarely go as planned, and plans change. All the while, life is moving and going by. . . whether or not you're actually living it. Life is like a train station--either you're watching the cars pass by on the bench or you're in the cars speeding through the country side. I want to be on the train. I want to go on adventures and push myself to greater limits. I will not regret this venture. I am going to enjoy every bit of it and I plan to record as much of my experience as possible onto this blog. I am an excellent note-taker, so it should be good.

When we come to forks in the road, the train doesn't stop, and if you don't pick, the train is going to pick on its own. That may be a good thing sometimes. If I had stayed in indecision much longer, I would have run out of time and forever lived with the results of my inaction. I don't think we always need to pick the adventurous route, per se, but it most certainly is important for your heart to be heard and, sometimes, to take the fork in the road.

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