Thursday, October 21, 2010

Grueling Gate

ORI: Misty, 1 hour, 10-21-10, afternoon
I stood in the South pasture, waiting for Blu. He stood in his stall, and I stood near the gate . . . looking at each other. It was a battle of who would move first. He finally came out . . . and turned to go into Hoosier's stall next door! So, I took Misty instead. Isn't that interesting?

She came into the halter nicely. I think she could have had more "want-to" improvement, but a good show nonetheless. When we got to the gate, I asked her to wait at the open out gate while I opened the dog gate nearby. I did this blocking her from zooming out. She promptly turned around and began to back out! It was so cool. It was her idea to try that out as an answer to the puzzle.

In the dog pen, Misty grazed for 30 minutes. When we were done, I put the neck string on, got permission to swing up, and cantered to the gate. A long the grueling, ugly gate-working ensued. She exhibited confusion by her opposition reflex, so I decided to do he sideways box for our session.

It took less time for her to relax at the cones where we did the sideways box. Here are the highlights from our Sideways Box pattern:
  • She was sensitive
  • She began moving her hind- and forequarters at the same time
  • She got better at not moving forward while going sideways
  • She was trying
  • She did the opposition reflex when she was confused
Overall, I was pleased with her pattern. Maybe working gates bridleless will get easier, now!

Natural Horsewoman Out.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010


I went out to Misty, caught her by the gate, took her out to graze, trimmed her feet, did a few tail leads and she was much better, yo yo over a ground pole, extreme friendly game, picked scab, backed through the middle gate perfectly, got stuck at barn, dressed her wound, let go, walked away immediately even though I tried to go to where she would be happy to be where she was.

10:30 to 11:30 am

This will be updated soon. . . hang in there!

Monday, October 18, 2010

Parelli Play Day

I went to a friend's play date!

This will be up soon--hold your horses :D

Cuerda de Dos Caballos

I had the afternoon with Misty and Blu. I got out of work early and was able to spend a long time at the farm before heading back to work. Maggie was out in the back pasture painting while all the horses grazed. On the way out, I made the plan to play with Misty's lead by the tail and then ride but demand very little of her. I actually, in a round about way, did that.

Maggie and I discussed in raised tones--and quite emotionally--the relevance of anger as a facet of humanity. We came to the conclusion that we were on the same page and understood each other and hugged. We felt much better and moved on with our day. She needed my help carrying her painting supplies out to the back pasture and I obviously obliged.

I will finish this one, too! Do you speak Spanish, by the way?

Catching- picking grass
Sitting while she grazed
Going up to the front
worked the gate with lead by the tail
she left. . . :D with my featherline tied to her :|
I went out to the back, she had stopped just inside middle earth where all the other horses were
She began to walk away, so I drove from zone 5 and all the horses came with, Connor leading. We were a horse choo choo train
Got on Misty and grazed--no fits
New Knot to catch Blu--first did approach and retreat to draw him to us
Took them to the front and out to graze
Blu pulling and me wiggling the rope caused knot to come out
Spent a long time to get the loop over his head from Misty's back
Blu respected the line more after some phase fours with the end of the line. I also demonstrated my reasonability by stopping and letting both horses graze
let Blu go
took off Misty's other shoe
ran with her on line to the back
let her go
she casually walked away

Friday, October 15, 2010

And Runnin' Runnin', And Runnin' Runnin'

Today was such a wild day. I really should go to bed and post this tomorrow, but I am already behind, so I don't want to start that habit again. I worked both shifts today, played with Blu in between, went to school to work in the lab on a homework assignment, came "home" to my Gramma's how to make waffles for everyone for dinner, watched my T.V. show (my one guilty pleasure!) with multiple distractions, shot the bull with my dad, shot the bull with my mom, and now I am here. Oh, and my Parelli order came today. I bought my mom a Christmas present when the website had the 20% off sale on all the educational DVDs. I am very excited. Unfortunately, I have to wait for Christmas.

So, I was moving all day. I am actually not emotionally tired--things went smoothly or I handled them well--just physically. Blu got over 2 hours with me during my break. I was planning on doing an hour with each horse, but as things go, I lost track of time. So, just Blu and Blu did lots of things: he came to me in the back pasture, worked on the sideways game, went into the round pen to play with small circles at liberty, then mounting, brought up the horses, bridling from his back, figure eights mania, and then laying down. Phew!

All the horses were out back to start with. I walked out there, spotted Blu, and when I got within 20' of him, he came to me. Going up to the front was a long process, from haltering to leaving Middle Earth, because I stopped for grass breaks all the time. I noticed that as we went along in that manner, Blu became quicker at picking up his head from the grass to follow me.That was the goal, so mission accomplished.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

New Eyes

No horse sessions to report of today. Just a thought I had (Uh oh!):

I was updating Monday's post just now and my cat, Mao--who is now laying on my arm as I try to type this--joined me. I was looking at him and I was involuntarily looking at him with new eyes. Like when you say a word so many times and suddenly, it sounds like just a group of meaningless phoenetics. Well, the same thing happens visually when you look at something with fresh perspective. I was seeing Mao in the light of my laptop. I thought "What makes Mao a cat? Has he always had a nose that long? And such shiny eyes?"

As useless as the new perspective may seem in this instance, seeing a problem with fresh eyes is important for satisfaction with and appreciation of your world and a key to inovative problem solving. Listen closely as I sneakily take this post towards natural horsemanship! Now, first off, I found a resurgence of my appreciation for Mao seeing him like that. It also made me think about how familiarity with domestic animals makes them seem mundane to us at times. You might think your horse is lovely, but do not try and tell me that you are stopped in your tracks every single time you see him or her. You do not see your horse as if she or he was blue whale, the biggest creature on Earth, swimming in your paddock. Next time you see your horse, study him or her with fresh eyes (try not to freak him out). Horses don't breathe through their mouths. Watch how the muscles of the nostrils move as he breathes. Watch her twitch her fly shaker when a fly lands. Look at the shape of the pupil. Isn't that weird? Pretty soon, you will be looking at your horse like she is a blue whale, the biggest creature on Earth, swimming in your paddock. For me, this exercise gives me a great deal of appreciation for my horses. It also makes me see how the batty events of life can't hold a candle to the good things I have going for me.

If getting emotional over your horse's breathing isn't practical to you, then know that this sort of thinking really does lead to breakthroughs. Looking at a problem from a new perspective gives you a chance to see a bigger part of the picture. It is why, as an artist, I leave a painting for a while, look at it from a great distance, or ask for the feedback of someone who has not been sitting before it for 5 hours straight. It causes you to realize variables and angles previously unconsidered. This is what gets you asking "How little can I do?" and "How do I not make my horse feel wrong?"

So, go see the world with new eyes.

Natural Horsewoman Out.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Laws of Attraction and Repulsion as Applied to Horses

ORI: Blu, 2 hours, 10-12-10

I went to the back pasture to get the horses up. Blu was quite focused on his meal. Ginger left. I played delicate game to catch Blu. Once he began to move, I began to head up. In this manner, Blu began to follow me. He became more stuck to me until I could stop and he stopped with me. That was learned through simple trial and error.

I have created a rough (very rough-NOT TO SCALE) diagram of the position of the horses. Connor was not moving, at first, but just his presence exerts force on all the horses. That is shown by the "energy" arrow coming from him. Pink dots represent repulsion energy. Red dots represent attractive forces. You can see that Connor was exuding repulsive forces in all directions. Ginger, as she leaves Blu, leaves an attractive force in her wake. However, when I turn to leave, I also leave an attractive force that has a greater draw on Blu. The black lines are the actual paths of motion. The purple is me. Oh, and that black box around Hoosier means that he is unaffected by all forces. Tee hee.

I put the halter and 12 foot line on him and rubbed him before getting on. Blu has been biting me when I go to get on sometimes. I keep forgetting to bring a cookie out to give him when his head swings around. Tonight, I just swung the rope around me. That worked fine, but I don't prefer this method for now.

Riding up wiht one rein was a little klutzy with the fast rope changes from one side to the other. Blu was a bit excited and therefore taking a while to be reached mentally. After working the gate, though, he finally licked and chewed and became attentive. However, he got exited again when we began to sort the horses into the correct pastures. This is where Misty surpasses Blu. He becomes focused on one horse and just chasing the horse. Misty is ready to do whatever I ask--chase, creep, sidepass away or to, stop, change horses, bite, etc. Interesting she is more and more seeming to be an RVI with a little LBI instead of the other way around.

I cantered Blu to a cone in the middle of the pasture and stopped at it. I let Blu snort and shake his head. He was still alert, and this is when I made the decision that I should play on the 23' line instead of with the 12' line around his neck as I did the last time. So, I walked with him to the fence and grabbed the stuff I needed. On the way back to the open area, I played the friendly game with him, gently throwing the savvy string over him.

Blu left before being sent. I let him complete a circle then brought him back in to rest. He licked and chewed and went away properly. I worked up to the trot then canter and played with backing up while I was in neutral. It is still a baby concept, but he did do one good, well, actually it was great, thing; he began to back up in a curve on the circle. We got six steps (very slow, mind you) at the longest one. I did stop him at the same spot each time to back him up.

I mounted by standing on a barrel. Blu did not get into place by himself, but he was not difficult or having reservations as I gently put him in place--no head tossing. Right after mounting, I did friendly game with the jump rope. He was fine with it.

Our jump roping session went great. We walked, trotted, cantered, and also did backward jump roping. The only difficulty with jump roping backward is that Blu drags his feet back, so it takes forever for him to actually get the string out from under him. I think I will leave that feat alone since it is designed to fail. Or maybe it will just be saved for if and when Blu steps back instead of sliding back.

I ended up going totally bridleless because Blu was so relaxed and the line was just getting in the way. It was quite the contrast to the horse I started with. We ended when he did an entire precise-figure-of-eight with simple lead changes.

Natural Horsewoman Out.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Jump Rope

Tonight was a race against time as the sun sank away. I had about 2 hours (I am not sure. I started at 6:30 and could have gone to anywhere from 7:30 to 8:30). I put a 12' line around Blu's neck and did a short warm up with it. I played the friendly game and oh my gosh I am tired. i will tell you tomorrow how he did the yo yo game and did not have good draw then worked with feel on the circle. Then we did liberty in the round pen with the circle game. Then I got on bridleless, played the extreme friendly game, then taught Blu to jump rope. Will tell tomorrow. Just too tired.

Picking up where I left off Monday:
Blu did not have the greatest feel on the rope as he circled around me, but he was not so bad that it was really pulling. He just did not have slack in the rope. I gave him a chance to feel for slack though. He did just that. It took several circles for him to adjust to the shorter length, but he did.

I took him to the round pen to see what we needed to focus on. Blu's draw was way not what I wanted it to be. He was not always leaving, he just would not come all the way to me. I taught Blu how to back up on the circle and we also did walk-tr0t-canter transitions. His draw was much better at the end. For backing up, I stopped him in the same place every time--just beyond the gate. He seemed to catch on to backing up toward the gate pretty quick. This is the kind of backing where I stand in neutral while he backs around me. It was slow going, but it was going. The longest I let him go was about 10'.

I stood on the gate to get on. The 12' line was around his neck . . . and that is just how it stayed all night. I got the second carrot stick and played the extreme friendly game to make sure Blu would be ok with me riding with two carrot sticks. I wanted to teach him to back up by wiggling the carrot sticks by his head, but he was doing so well with all the extreme friendly game stuff, it occurred to me to jump rope with him.

I tied the savvy strings together at the ends and did some more friendly game. Confident in his confidence, I swung the strings over his head, let him walk over it, then I waited for plenty of time to pass and pulled my shoulder blades together and repeated the whole process. Blu was very good at staying inside the invisible arena, which surprised me. The gate was open to the other pasture, which should have enticed him to go over there, but he was great. I couldn't believe it. He even did the figure eight pattern in his invisble arena. We walked, trotted, and even cantered a bit. I also stopped him into the fence to teach him to back up. It was not a performance worthy of a viewing audience, but my horse and I rode bareback and brideless for our first jump roping session!

When we were done, we had to go get the other horses from out back. He did a good job with that. Then Blu did something wonderful. You might recall the previous post about my original idea called "Something from Me." Well, when I got down from Blu, he reached down and rubbed his lips on his leg then did a big sigh and lick and chew. That was my idea. I have heard Linda Parelli say that itching the head on something is a sign of confidence and I know that the tension in the lips is physiologically related to the horse's overall tension. But my original thought is that when the horse is rubbing his or her head on something, usually the leg, it is to massage those lips. The result would be a release of adrenalin that was in the blood and a kick in the gears for the brain. The reason I believe this is that whenever Misty or Blu itch, they almost always follow it with licking and chewing, snorting, and/or sighing. So, there. I may not be the first to say it. Some reading this might be saying "Um, duh!" but I had never heard the theory before. Thank you Blu for reminding me of my brilliant hypothesis.

So, here's to a new skill for Blu.

Natural Horsewoman Out.

Something from Me

One of the battles that conquistadores of knowledge partake in is with their own egos. I struggled with Parelli in the beginning because it frustrated me that all these answers were just being given to me. I felt like I was cheating. I'd had plans to learn all of this by myself! I didn't want to be handed the solutions to my equations. The only way I could make myself comfortable with the home study program was to realize it was my ego talking (I wanted to be able to say "I did it by myself.") and to see that by taking this route, I would be able to go further faster. Going it alone, I might by 60 before I figured everything out that I could figure out by time I was 20 if I followed this path.

However, I still want to contribute. I want to come up with a new idea that I have never heard before. I don't care if someone else has already done it, I just want to know that I can come up with something that I have never seen. So while I was talking with Maggie the other day, I thought of something.

I did not write it down. I will have to ask Maggie if she remembers what it was. When (if) I remember, I will post about it. I just wanted to remind myself of it before I completely forget I had an idea.

On that note, another truth that has come to me is that without exception, every individual will make "the" journey their own journey. Even if they don't have many original ideas, no two journeys will be the same. I wrote my journey down and I have watched others who are in the same program as me, and theirs were different from mine. That makes me feel better.

In the end, I need to do this for my horses. Ego has to be set aside. I don't care how I get to where my horses need me to be. It is quite opposite of the "I don't care how I get my horses to where I want them to be" mentality I see in a handful of horse owners. I hope my horses know that I am thinking for them and not for me.

Natural Horsewoman Out.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Do What You Do With All You Are

Last night (10-09-10), I went out to have a session with Misty. As my session went along, I began to feel very sick to my stomach. I thought about just calling it a night several times. But I did not. I stuck it out. I had to go very slow, but I played with Misty with all that I had. It is hard to do that, sometimes. There are days when the world does not require you to do what you are doing with all that you are, but I encourage you to not let the world be the dictator of how hard you try. There is something to be said about someone who puts everything of themselves into what he or she does because he or she is working at his or her own standards, which are much higher than the world's bar. I think you would be surprised at what you are capable of on a bad day. As I assessed the session in a post-play grazing time (laying on my stomach to try and be a bit more comfortable), I imagined what the session would have been like if I had been feeling a bit better. I probably could have gone on to play with another horse or done more with Misty after the grazing break. We could have made more progress than we did. Now, read about my session with Misty. We did that on a "bad day." That is what I call making a good day out of a bad day.

Misty was up front with the other horses. She walked into the corn crib instead of coming to me, so I walked into the corn crib. I take care how I walk at any given moment. In this particular instance, I walked without grace and as though I was focusing very hard on walking. I didn't go in straight lines nor did I go in arcs; I went in a gentle zigzag. This gives Misty comfort because I do not look like an adept predator focused on my prey. I look like a klutz trying to get somewhere. Very non-threatening.

Just as I am aware of how I walk, I am aware of how and where I watch. I mainly looked at the ground (focusing on not falling, right?), but if I looked at her, it was gentle, smiling softly, and brief. I used a sort of retreating energy. The key is to be soft.

In this manner of being soft and non-threatening, I got to the stoop in the corn crib. I sat down and looked away from her, interested in the outside. Misty came right over, and for a while I ignored her. I waited for her to become confident in me sitting there and not doing anything before I did something. It's kind of like I waited for her confidence to root her to the spot. If you do something before the roots are down, she will probably be pushed away by the pressure. Also, if she leaves after she feels quite confident in you, she is more likely to come back once she regains her confidence by walking away. So, roots of confidence are important.

I began to hold up the halter and did approach and retreat with it. I held it in front of me by the nose hole, not in an arc. My goal was for her to touch the halter then put her nose in. That was it. It took a while, but she finally touched it. Then, things began to go on out in the pasture: Maggie was opening the gate and letting the horses go back out. I began to get upset at Maggie as Misty began to loose her concentration on me. She was not leaving, but she was going down the path of eventually leaving me. Now I would be competing with the herd. Sometimes this is a good thing, but not right now. I asked Maggie to shut the gate, then I said a prayer (I am a Christian) asking for peace and for me to let go of the anger that was building. I instantly felt even better than I had before I got upset and Misty became more focused on me again. I stood up and put the halter on in the arc method where she puts her head under my arm and into the halter.

Instead of having Misty follow me out into the pasture, I followed her. You might recall that Misty has had episodes of not wanting to follow me out of the corn crib. She will get very stuck on the threshold of the exit. I thought that by letting her lead, I could change her perception of the situation. Instead of me going ahead of her and "pulling" her out of her comfort zone, I was going with her. Granted, I did not get into a great tug-o-war with her before, but everything means something. She got out of the corn crib much faster. I might even say that it was not even a big threshold.

I drove her toward the front of the pasture. I began jogging and she began jogging. Then, I grabbed some of her tail hairs and asked her to slow down with that. She did, so that told me she was quite tuned in to what I was communicating. I took the time to test her tail's side to side steering and was impressed by how well she was doing.

Now, the pattern that we did was with two cones about 10' apart. Start with horse's head on right side of cone. Back up until the horse's head is on the right side of the other cone. Turn the horse's butt (using the tail) 180 degrees to the right. Now the horse should have her head on the same side of the cone, but since the orientation has changed, it would be referred to as the left side of the cone. Back up until the head is next to the other cone, do a 180 degree turn to the left. This is a simple pattern that allowed me to help her get lighter with steering back and left and right. The figure 8 is too complicated because the steps are on a circle. It is easier to simplify it by asking for a pivot on the forehand, to focus just on the hind end. But this way, there is a pattern that becomes predictable, rather than just practicing pivoting her in one direction then another. Well, it worked. It was during this pattern that I began feeling so ill. I would lay my head on her butt for a while, and these rests were important to her, too. Because I was moving so very slow, I was going at the perfect pace for her. When we were done, I did not need to use the stick or rope to support and she was doing everything much lighter. She was definitely starting to really follow me with her hind end, too. I was overjoyed--feeling sick, but overjoyed.

The last thing I did was walk to a barrel and stand on it. I went to toss the line to the other side of her so could wiggle it to have her come sideways to me, and it landed right on her butt. She immediately came sideways, which tells me that she was thinking about it. I rubbed and leaned on her, closed my eyes, hugged her. It actually felt good to lean on her because it relieved my stomach pain. She sighed and cocked a leg. Then we left. I think that next time I will get on.

I took her out to the back and, on foot, gathered the horses up and drove them up front. It was nice for her. After the gate was locked, I took her out the gate that goes from Middle Earth to the aisle of good grass between our pasture and the neighbor's pasture. Maggie was there with Ginger and I laid down to talk to her, letting Misty wander around on the 22' featherline. Ginger was at liberty. Ginger is very good at liberty. Maggie is her comfort zone. She is so obedient and almost completely undriven by food. When we left, Maggie whistled and Ginger came with her. When Maggie began running with me, Ginger, who likes to run, ran with her. Now, here is the really special part: Maggie was not running as fast as me, but Ginger stayed with Maggie rather than catch up with Misty and me. Then, when Maggie suddenly stopped, Ginger stopped immediately. That used to be hard for her, the stopping and the getting left behind. I am very happy to see what Maggie does with Ginger. They are brilliant. Ginger always does everything she does with all she is, and Maggie is a master of meeting her there.

Natural Horsewoman Out.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Ichabod Krane Days at Sleepy Hollow

Today was the kickoff to the Ichabod Krane days weekend at the Sleepy Hollow state park. Mom, Maggie, and I went with our horses (Connor, Ginger, and Blu respectively). It was perfect weather. The sun was warm and out, slightest breeze, perfect. The ride was really great after I did a short warm up with Blu.

No horses spooked, no one fell off, nothing eventful. Very relaxing. Blu was on his best behavior, too. Last time we were there, and every other time, Blu is very nasty to the other horses. He wants to bite them, chew them, run up their butts, and just generally annoy them. Blu did not even think about any of that stuff this afternoon. He was just fine. It was nice.

Blu is making progress with his comfort while leading. He usually freezes right up, but today, he was able to go for quite a while before he wanted someone else to lead. When that happened, I just let someone else lead.

Once, when Blu was leading, he got worried about an erosion blocker on the trail . . . so he walked into the 8' bushes next to the trail. He just kept going until he became firmly wedged in the bushes. Then, when the horses were all passed him, he backed out and followed them. It was . . . funny.

In the beginning of the ride, I wanted to just walk. So, when the other horses began jogging, I was playing with having Blu speed walk. If he broke into a jog, I would correct him. He was doing well at walking faster, but then the horses got quite far ahead. I decided to use this opportunity to help him find relaxation without the other horses by using half-halts. For a long time, he was stiff in the halter. When he finally began to relax, I asked Maggie and Mom to halt so we could catch up with them. By the end of the ride, Blu was so soft on the rein and would give his head to me with a light touch.

Whenever I saw a fallen tree, I would go off the trail and ask Blu to go over it. He never jumped one, but he never bulked, either. He just walked right over them. I thought that was a great thing for him to do.

When traversing hills, Blu has a tendency to look down as we go down the hill, as in become interested in something on the ground and put his head down. Then he looses his balance. So, I had to keep his head up--not on a tight rein or anything, I just kept him in position. He was getting better at putting his weight back as we went along.

The scenery was beautiful. The trees were all shade of colors, from greens and yellows to reds and oranges. From the largest hill top, we could see into the valley of rolling grass on one side and a wall of colorful foliage down the hill on the other side. We did not see any wildlife, just a couple riders. Blu could be more relaxed about other riders/strange horses, but the kid doesn't get out much.

Blu was not the best at staying on the trail. I was very specific in keeping him on the most worn trail. He was trippy and unfocused at times. Toward the end, he was much better and met my standards of specificity.

I had a great ride. It was a relaxing way to spend Saturday afternoon.

Natural Horsewoman Out.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Warm Bath

Today we had perfect weather, but I worked both shifts and only had a part of my break to give to the horses. It was really unfortunate that I did not get out of work earlier so I could ride Blu, but I made a new step in Misty's progress with driving by the tail: we did a figure eight!

Misty wanted to graze, so I thought it would be nice to play out in the yard. I was able to stay in position in the gate way while putting Misty into position to back out the gate toward me (by the tail). I could tell she was trying to remember what she was supposed to be doing, then it clicked and she went right into position and backed out.

I let Misty graze while I took small wooden chairs into the yard for centers of the 8, about 4 feet apart. We then moseyed our way to the chairs. I let her graze then we began. At first, she relied heavily upon the stick or the rope. I also had to do a lot of breaks and waiting. I decided to call it a day when she made it around one loop of the eight without stick or rope. Woo hoo! This is progress in the area of her stuck-ness to obstacles, too, because she did not once get stuck on one of the chairs. Also, she was not always trying to eat grass, which means she was really engaged in solving the puzzle.

I gave Misty a warm bath and hosed off her leg. She was great for her bath. She was worried as usual about the water, but I did approach and retreat with the jugs of warm water and she relaxed. So, now she is clean, my vet gave me some antibiotics for infection in the leg.

Sorry if this post is light. It was really great, but I could not post until late because work went late and I have been helping my Gramma for the evening. Long day.

Tomorrow, I am looking forward to going to Sleepy Hollow for a trail ride.

Natural Horsewoman Out.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Where, Oh Where has My Painted Pony Gone?

The Blu was gone. I walked all over outback before I finally found Misty, Ginger, and Connor, but Blu was missing. Hoosier had been up front when I got there, but when the three got to the front, he was gone, too. What if Blu had gotten out? The neighbors didn't have him (they were out and about in their yard). What if he was half way to Colorado, now? Well, I wasn't panicking, but I did jump up a tree and call out to him. It was a younger tree, so it was only 20' or so (old trees are 50 years old and 50' tall). I called and called, watching the bushes and trees for shaking, but nothing. I decided that I had no choice but get on Misty and go search for him in the pasture and, if he wasn't there, on the surrounding properties. The only flaw in the plan was that I had not started riding Misty, yet. You might recall that this morning, I did not even catch her.

I got Misty and lead her to the corn crib stoop. I told her this was an emergency and I really needed her. She came to the stoop and was totally relaxed as I got on--no head coming up, no widening eyes. I waited at thresholds, but she was very good.

Blu was at the back gate nibbling when I got out there (go figure), but we still were missing Hoosier. She was worried about going to the back alone, but she never paused, she just asked if it was ok and stayed alert. We rode around outback, loping, jogging, and walking around. No Hoosier. When we got back to the gate, Hoosier, Blu, and Connor were all nibbling by the gate.

I had made a promise to Misty that as soon as the job was done, I would get down and let her go, so that is what I did. I itched her head from the halter, and she did not leave off immediately. I was very greatful to her. As a side note, it is very important to keep your promises to your horse. I believe they know.

As all the horses were headed to the North Pasture, Blu was the caboose. He continued to slow down until he finally just stopped, turned around, and came to me. That was reallyu nice because he stopped following the herd to come meet me.

I put the halter on and let him follow me while I fixed the invisible round pen; a lot of the pieces had been kicked out of place over the past few days. He followed like a good little boy. I took him out to graze just outside the gate for a moment. Then I got on with the 12' line and halter and two carrot sticks. Working the gate, Blu figured out that he needed to stay in position at the gate. As I opened it, I had him stay within arm's reach and back into the pasture.

I tied the reins to my pajama bottom's tie and used just the two carrot sticks. I warmed up on the rail at the walk and jog. He was really good. He needed several leg corrections in the beginning, but very few stick corrections. Great at maintaining gait, too. In each direction, I stopped from the jog with just an exhale and bringing down the life in me. Those were precise, on his part.

I directed him on the figure eight, next. I was surprised because he needed very little direction and he actually shaped his body very well. I did have to put him into shape when we changed direction the first time, but then he was doing it by himself.

That was our warm up. I need to remember to start teaching him to stop with two carrot sticks next time. With the confidence snaffle and saddle, I started with the fluid rein on the rail. It took him a while to put his head down, not that it was up, he just wasn't stretching down.

I wanted to start swinging the shoulders tonight, so I started with the walk on the rail. I learned when I started doing it at the trot that I needed one long fence line. So that's what I did. I had to clear some stuff away, and Maggie and Mom helped out with that front. So, we were cantering up and down the rail, stopping at the ends and backing up until he went lightly, then turning to the fence on the haunches. He needs to grow in the swinging shoulders department, but the idea was introduced today. His stops got more and more on the hindend as we went along, and his backs got better. At first, he was stiff and sticky and slow. The opposite was true at the end.

We worked the big gate, staying withing arms reach of it and backing into the South Pasture. He was really good, but could definitely improve in . . . well, he actually wasn't really good, because he forgot how to back up, all of a sudden. I think he was just having problems making brain connections with managing his body the way I wanted to in respect to the gate. But we did it and it will get better.

I rode him into Maggie's little pasture for Ginger where Ginger and Hoosier were nibbling. I took the bridle off from his back. He wanted me to itch his mouth and face, so was doing that for him. I had to sit up because he was about to fall over from me leaning forward and his head leaning down. He would, too, I am not joking. He has terrible balance, or rather, is really bad at realizing that he needs to change his foot placement in order to not fall over.

Now, I itched his belly and sat with him for a moment after taking the saddle off, but then I left. As I was getting the saddle and bridle situated, I thought to myself that Blu probably wouldn't come with me because of the food and the other horses. Why would he follow me? As I walked away, I called him: "Blu-uuu, come on, buddy." And he followed me.

Natural Horsewoman Out

Down Time--Literally

I did S bends for the longest time, but Misty was not taking more than a few steps. Now, I could have continued doing S bends, and eventually she would have followed me, but I decided to just lay down for a while (I think it was 45 minutes).

While I laid there with Misty standing over me, I was thinking. I thought about next summer. I am going to the Fast Track on July 4-29, 2011. I have a long way to go before I am ready for it. I would really prefer to have my black string before a go. It would just make things easier on my mind. I am going to get out a giant piece of paper and write down EVERYTHING I need to do with Blu so I can make a program for the next year. I will give each item one week of focus and then just brush up on it as we go along.

I also thought about how much Misty means to me. She is covered in cuts, abrasions, and one particularly bad cut on her right front cannon. I might need to have the vet out, actually. But she is very important to me. She keeps me a good person, now. Obviously, a vehicle of Jesus, right?

After Misty took steps forward and smelled me and left, I got up and got Blu. Blu followed Hoosier to the back gate, at first. I just walked to the gate and he came to me there. Then I walked to the front area. Blu turned away when I was about to yo yo him out, so I just went with it, rather than fight him or make him feel wrong. It surprised him. I stayed in position and drove him to and into the round pen from zone 5.

He was going out really nicely, and is going back with lower energy phases from me. However, he was not coming back to me as well. I did long waits with a soft feel to get Blu to come in with less stiffness. By rewarding several small shifts, he would suddenly (or so it seems), walk all the way to me. I repeated it 2-4 times. On the last, I moved in a backward spiral and he came right in.

When I first sent Blu on the circle, he was worried and confused. I just stayed very clear and slow, and he relaxed. He was breaking gate at the gate, so when I began down ward transitions, I did them right after the gate. He was cantering with good impulsion, sometimes too much because he at one point, he was having trouble with the trot--he wanted to canter.

I had properly evolved and progressed through transitions, so we ended up with canter to halts to canter. Then, I asked for the back up from the walk-halt. This is new to him. It is one of new items on the list of things to do. The goal is for him to treat backing up the way he would walking--it is a gait he should maintain until told otherwise. I would just leave him alone when he was backing. He was doing canter to back up transitions at the end. I only let him go back about 10 feet today. The consistency in position of the downward transitions was paramount to his success.

Next, I began the beginnings of small circles around me at liberty. I just had him walk at my shoulder while I walked the smallest circle. Then, I stopped walking, but worked him through getting around me. He walked off to the fence when he was almost around me. He began nibbling, so I went over and picked the scrubby grass and sat with him. He appreciated that I was taking a break with him. I decided it was a good place to end for the day because he was very happy.

I put the halter on and let him go in Hoosier's stall. All the horses were eating their hay in the South Pasture, ready to go out back when it was gone, when I left.

Natural Horsewoman Out.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010


I got to do chores by myself this morning and then get started with Misty. Following the pattern I have kind of been doing with her, I walked to the gate. I mirrored her on the way to the gate. When she paused, I paused; when she looked east, I looked east; when she looked at me, I looked at her. After licking and chewing, she walked to the gate (and so did I). And thus began our session of awesomeness.

It only took 3 or 4 reverse psychology style pull-aways of the halter to cause her to put her head under my arm and right into the halter. It was nice enough to videotape (which I didn't of course--no camera).

This next part should really blow up your skirt--or kilt. I sent her away a bit and she immediately was thinking about backing out the gate. Getting her into position was a breeze because she was thinking on the same frequency. Hindquarters came to me and I was able to stay in my position to back her out. Then we waited for a moment for her to snort, exhale, or lick and chew before she ate (just a moment).

I let her graze for a while, but she was shivering, so I wanted to get her moving in the pasture. While grazing, she was very attentive to me and responsive to the line.

Since she was already offering it, I played with driving and backing her by the tail. We will be ready for a pattern, next time. She has so great. she was keeping me in zone 5 pretty well (sometimes she would move out of position and need correction) and stopping and going really well. For backing by the tail, she was steering great and coming back at a rhythmic pace. I stopped at a barrel when we were done to reward her.

Next was our circling game and yo yo time. I will do highlights to save time:
#1 I did a pattern of hindquarter yielding to get her really focused on me because she was kind of distracted by something. What I did was stand in front of her and look at a hindquarter until she yielded it (stick if needed), then turn away to the other hindquarter to yield that one. It ended up being quite fast because she was yielding very quickly, so it would look like me standing in front of her oscillating from left to right away from her face.
#2 I had to experiment with energy phases. It is so cool to play with that and see right before your eyes how the horse changes. Specifically, when I take it down a notch or two, Misty can back up without tossing her head up in the air defensively. It's like she is saying "Too loud!" She was going a bit slow at first so I would walk at her fast until she was going as fast as I thought she should and then take it down to my phase one. I repeated this until she could back up with relaxation at either phases (phase 4 then phase 1) and would maintain the speed of her phase four back up when I went back to phase 1.
#3 Simple transitions. I picked a spot for stopping and warmed her up with walk, trot, and stop transitions before adding the canter in. I always stopped in the same place, a place she picked because it is where she peters out. She got to being much better at stopping, but I will continue to see improvement as she gets them sooner and at lower phases.
#4 On the partnership side of things, Misty was great at putting the slack in the line. And no tangents today, almost, but she stayed on the circle after she met the line. So, she is getting less sucked in by obstacles.
#5 More of a low light is when she got very confused and tight when I was asking her to go left one time. She had been left before, but this time she was not sure what she should do. I stayed very quiet and soft, and she finally began to breathe then see what I was asking.
#6 I played with small circles. I started by just walking in the tightest circle with her on the outside. Then, with the line only between 3 and 6 feet long (if she got off balance, I let her drift to 6 feet), I had her walk then jog circles around me. I just asked her to go again if she stopped, and pretty soon, she gave me 2 circles with no stopping. Good start.

To finish the session I went and stood on a barrel, then gently asked her to come sideways to me. She came right over and I did my usual order, of petting her, scratching her, leaning on her, etc. When I got down, I thought it would be a good marker of recuperation of skills (we have lost so much) to have her go sideways over a barrel towards me. We got her over the barrel several times, but only to the first end. She never came any more over it. So I settled for sending her sideways away from me over the barrel. That was no problem.

Then I stood on the barrel, just to see what would happen. I asked nothing of her. She came sideways to me, then put herself into position for me to get on. This was a huge thing for us because she has not done this in such a long time.

I took off her halter, and she did not leave me right away. She did, but not right away--a much softer disconnection. As I walked to the water trough and washed off the savvy string, she waited outside the muck for me then followed me to the fence. Super! I went into the barn and got her a cookie. Then I picked grass for her. Then I went into the barn, got a couple cookie, split them into thirds (six pieces total) and played with Misty at liberty.

We did a lot in the few minutes. Sideways to and away from me were there. She offered spins. I played with differentiating between a hindquarter yield to and from me. She is so confident with putting her zone 5 in front of me. She backed right up with her tail then when I began backing up from a greater distance, she did it with just my hand in the air--or nothing but me backing up. I used a stop hand signal, but she did not stop the first time, so maybe that needs work. But the coolest part of the liberty session was when I asked her to trot to me and she started to, but then got sucked in by the tire pedestal. She got to it and lifted her foot up in the air, suspended it there, then suddenly put it back on the ground and looked at me. I invited her back to me and she trotted to me! This is the biggest breakthrough yet on her stuck-to-obstacle-ness. I was so proud of her.

I sat on the fence to see what she would do. I was hopeful that maybe she would get into position to be mounted. She walked by me several times before stopping sideways to me with her butt--not her back--in front of me. I itched her butt and scrubbed away her summer coat and the caked dirt. Sometimes, I would stop and start again. She finally began to wander around. Shortly after, I hopped down. It really made her jump and she nickered at me. It was weird. I told her I was sorry for spooking her and I would get her some cookie. So I went through the barn with a cookie, haltered Blu up with reins attached, went through his pasture and the gate, then gave her said cookie.

I stood on the barrel and Blu got right into position. I just wanted to ride him around while my mom rode Connor. I did various things, and all of it was good. We started just jogging around the pasture, then he sucked onto his rail that he knows and I followed it for several laps. Then I asked for the canter and we cantered right out of the arena and around the pasture. It was a very fluid session. One thing flowed into the next and then would repeat itself later. I just took what he was giving and had a pleasant time. We tested his spins--not too, too shabby. He cantered into the fence and stopped right at the last moment with me, trusting me all the way (that used to be very difficult for him to trust me with). We did a couple precise figure eights without touching the reins. Some tit for tat at the trot.

When we finished, we worked the gates, which he was marvelous with. Then we had to stop Ginger to take her coat off. When I took off his halter, I rubbed his face and he followed me to the back pasture. I rubbed him some more before leaving. As I was walking away, I looked back--and had to go rub him some more because he was so cute.

Blu gave me a great ride this morning. Everything was easy. Not demanding, really, but it is nice when he says "Yup." He is a good horse. So, I was not put out that Misty did not get into riding position. Rather, today's session with her gave me great hope. I know the light is at the end of the tunnel. For a long time, it has not been there, for me. It has been a long road of chasing dreams and getting lost; of condemnation of self and redemption thereof; of analyzing and reaccessing; of decay and growth. Now I see it is going somewhere and that Misty and I are going there together.

Natural Horsewoman Out.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Equine Therapy

Sometimes, we are therapy for our horses, but usually, horses are therapy for us. When rough days put us through the ringer, the professional help that horses give us is not something you can get from a therapist (I say this only as an assumption, because I have never been to a professional therapist of the two-legged kind. But I think I am right.). I can't come up with something that beats the warmth of the body, smell, feel, look in the eye, and breath of a horse. So, when I came down to the farm, I was looking for a therapist with a degree in bad-day-blues-cancellation.

Blu is usually my best pick for a therapy horse because he is always ready to snuggle and play. It is a big self-confidence boost and very heartwarming. I walked out to the back with the intentions of getting Misty, though. I whistled and she spotted me. When she began to come toward me, most of the herd did, and I began running for it. I was not all the way to the front when everyone zoomed past me (but Hoosier and Connor.). When we got to the front, Misty herded Blu to the corn crib. It was about then I decided to play with Blu because I decided that it was a relax-with-Blu time.

I began thinking about tonight's post as I was rubbing Blu and petting him. It felt so good to bury my nose in his mane snuggle him.

Blu goes out for a graze then he goes out for a purpose-driven drive to get Hoosier. The gate work was also very impressive on his part. Then, an awesome dismount, reflective of how I mounted from the sistern.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Short and Sweet

I had to work both shifts, today, and I did not have long with Misty. Probably only 30 minutes or so. So, I had "short goals." Also, we could not really do too much athletic stuff because it was misting very lightly (it made for a generally miserable atmosphere) and had rained a lot last night, so the grounds were slick as Elvis Presley's do at show time.

Misty met me at the fence and I gave her a peppermint treat. Peppermints are her favorite. I went back to the barn to get her halter (which still had the 22' featherline tied to it) and a carrot stick. She followed me down the fence and to the gate. At the gate, I waited for her to halter herself. At first, she was not aiming her nose properly, but then she just stuck it right in. I recalled her issue with going through the gate (being that she gets through then disconnects and shoots for the grass), so I wanted this gate thing to be very provocative. I stood in the gateway and the goal was for me to move her butt to in front of me so I could back her up by her tail. We went through all kinds of tightness in her while she tried to figure out what was going on. I did not increase pressure, I stayed really slow with whatever I was asking. I measured progress by the rare lick and chew or sigh. Several times, we got almost there and then she got confused and moved out of postion. Finally, when it really clicked, she chugged backwards--and shot over to the grass. I lifted very slowly, using the lightest phase until she responded to the pull and then I could ask her to bring her head up. I set her back into the pasture and went through the whole process again, but this time it only took about a third of the original time. Then I got her in the gateway and had her go forward and backward in it, never going all the way in or out. Now when I backed her out, she had a big sigh and lots of licking and chewing and she waited for me to tell her it was ok to eat. I was standing there watching her eat and I thought of how I could have just taken the initial success as THE success. But I persisted. I sought out what was most important: changing her mental state. Also, it was quite clear that she really didn't grasp what the language was communicating after the first time. So, all of this lead me to spontaneously think, "Linda Parelli would be proud of me." The thought came from deep down inside me, so maybe it is a valid supposition. I am glad that I could think something so nice about myself.

Out and about in the yard, Misty began to get nervous. She was eating "frantically," as in snatching quickly. I decided that the grazing was not relaxing her, and as she began to shiver (it was cold and wet and miserable), I decided it would be better if we got started. Off to the round pen for liberty!

First, I let Misty go just to watch her for a moment so I could decide what I was going to do. When I let her go, she immediately walked off. I waited by the gate (strategic). She came back shortly after walking off. I gave her a moment of reconnecting me and then began walking away. She walked away from the gate in the opposite direction. Now that I had some observations, I decided I would cause her to follow me, and then test the drive and draw with the yo yo game. So, I did S bends until she followed me, then I stopped and backed up gently. Then I used treats to teach her to pick up her hoof when I snap my finger (finally, she picked it up with just a snap. I have been trying to get this for a long time). Then I got us into yo yo position and did several yo yos. There was very little wiggling, if any. It was mostly with my energy. She was very responsive. Then her draws were excellent. As soon as I hinted, she came back. I had her draw to me then trot and she pinned her ears so I drove her back again and forward, she eventually pricked her interest, a bit.

Misty followed me to the gate where I offered the halter in the arced arm position. After an initial reverse psychology with it, she put her head all the way in all by herself. Then we went through the gate again, same story, less time, of course!

When I did let her go, I let her go by the gate on purpose to record what she did, which was too be very cooperative in positioning herself to be untied and the immediate disconnect when I got it off her head. I will look for that to get better.

I really liked today because I met every "short goal" I set.

Natural Horsewoman Out.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Mexican Horsewoman

I have a friend from Mexico. I cannot give her a pseudonym because her name is important to the image you will have of her personality. Her name is Lizzy, but I usually call her "Lizzy," as in turning the short "i" into a Spanish-sounding "i," which is pronounced in an English long "e," you see.

So, Lizzy came over for the afternoon. She is a friend from high school, though we really became fast friends on a senior trip to Stratford to see a Shakespeare play in the beginning of the school year. In AP art, our friendship grew. Lizzy is very quirky and funny. She is prone to making really random noises at equally random intervals (i.e. "whaaaaaaT? Ahoo hoo hee."), which make being in her presence a wonderfully light and laughingly enjoyable.

In regards to horses, Lizzy is very nervous. Each time she rides, she gets bit braver. However, she has this instinctual belief that the horses might eat her. So, she is very tentative as she pets or makes contact with them. The horses love her because she is always making very slow approaches with fast retreats. Blu was following her around and wanted to touch her, and it was exactly like when he was following the scared dogs. When Lizzy stopped and cringed, I had to pull him away because she was very uncomfortable with him rubbing his nose all over her arm and back.

The plan was to have her ride Misty because that is who she rode last time. I gave her the halter with the 22' featherline attached to it and had her follow me out to catch Misty. I was going to show her how to approach and retreat Misty so she would follow us, but as I was explaining to her how to follow me, she said, "Wait, so Misty doesn't really want to?" I told her that compared to Hoosier and Blu, she was not inclined to follow us around right from the get go. Her reply? "Oh, okay. Well why don't I just ride Hoosier then." I like her. She thinks like a horse naturally. It was actually very wise: pick your partner, not your poison.

So, we went into the open pasture and Hoosier came to her. I showed her how to put the halter on and tie the knot. She was very adept and figured it out with little intervention--at least for how many times I have shown non-horse people how to do this. She learned a quick release knot to tie Hoosier to the fence and then I showed her how to saddle him. I asked her to" try it like this" with the saddle pad after analyzing her initial carry-it-in-front- of-face-like-a-bear technique. Hoosier doesn't care how the pad goes (he was asleep), but she mentioned it was much easier and nicer to do it the way I showed her.

The saddle was to heavy for her, so I tossed it on and showed her how to cinch up. She was great at that. I told her that since she was a weakling, I would need to tighten it for her the rest of the way after she took Hoosier for a walk to let him let the air out of his belly. I stayed by the fence and let this be her first experience without me. She would look back worriedly and had the darndest time trying to decide how to get him turned around. The outcome was that she just kept walking away until she could figure out how to turn around. She did figure it out and brought him back to me. She laughed and said "Oh, my gosh. I was just going 'wee-pee, tk tk tk'!" as she made slow gestures with her hands, mirroring the way that she had been very slowly taking slack out and tightening the not.

Now Hoosier was ready to mount. I had her untie him then I made reins and a leadline from the 22 feet. I stood back and let her mount by herself. She problemsolved and figured it out. Last time, she had to have help!

I got on and helped her get Hoosier off the fence by walking Blu into Hoosier's head (after she had tried by herself). The ride became her learning coordination, feel, and timing with Hoosier to get him away from the fence and then to actually prevent it from happening in the first place. She trotted once when Hoosier was trying to get around Blu, who was blocking him from the fence. She stayed on and made funny noises and said "What was that?!" Then we walked off and continued on.

Once she got the hang of it, she would light up and say, "This is so nice," or "This is amazing!" Those were the best parts of my afternoon with her. We talked about her plans and her familia experiences in Mexico from her last visit.

When we were all done, I took pictures of her dismounting, which started because she looked around and said "Oh. . . um, how do I get down? Like thees?"

Later on, I came back to have a session with Misty. She put her head right into the halter.

Our main focus was the circling game. She was getting better at responding to the carrot stick. It was not getting any better with the stick--she still was not getting more sensitive. So, I went into neutral for 10 circles of trot. After several circles of stop-go-stop-go, she was very glad to be left alone. When I felt her petering out, I lifted the stick in front of her and viola, sensitivity.

Then the horses went out back, so Misty became very distracted. This means that her number one responsibility--act like a partner--by taking the slack out of the line. So I did the bullseye pattern. I would wait for slack and take it out until she began to search for the slack. This equated to her spiraling into the center (me). By the time she got to me, she was very focused on me. I decided that this was a good way to end our circling game.

Before letting her go, I went to barrel and got on it. After working through causing her to come sideways to me, waiting for a nice feel, I played the friendly game. That is all. I laid over her and rubbed the other side, itched her belly, itched her forehead, etc. When I was satisfied that she was 100% ok, I got down and walked away. This baffld her and she licked and chewed and followed me.

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