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.

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About Me

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I am a young horsewoman with a million things on my mind. I have been a student of the horse all my life. As a little girl, I had a desire to understand horses on deeper levels. I believed that there was no such thing as a bad horse, and I believed that all horses were beautiful. One might say that I was a naive child, but I guess I don't have an excuse anymore, because I still believe all of that, and Parelli Natural Horsemanship is helping expand on this perspective.

What We Are Currently Playing With

  • Moving Close Circles at Liberty
  • Soft, Balanced Canter on 45' Line
  • Zone 5 Driving