Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Puzzles in Paradise

Things have been really wild this past week, and it is possible that I have been overworking myself because I believe that I crashed, today. My job gets busy during the holidays, and right now we are severely understaffed, so I am feeling exhausted after all the homework, work, family, and horse stuff from the past weekend. My Saturday and Sunday sessions are starting to fade from my memory and I have yet to finish recording them because I have not had time--really. I just come home and want to go to sleep. I am sorry to everyone who actually reads this.

Anyhow, I spent two hours trying to find answers with Blu. His introversion was back pretty strong and I tried something new for it, today. I yoyoed him back, but when he got to about 6' out, I asked him to come back. He would get stuck, I would stay at a combing feel on the rope, and after a few minutes, I would move to pressure toward zone 5 and he would snap out of it and come right in. I also would let him get out there, then turn away from him for a long time. As it went on, I began to get very frustrated. I started talking to myself--always a bad sign--and degrading myself.

Blu never got smacked, spanked, yelled at, or anything, but I am pretty much 100% sure that he did not enjoy the emotional environment I was creating. As I thought about that, I decided it was actually a possibility that Blu might be going introverted because of an emotional problem I had at some point during the yo yo. In any case, as soon as I felt myself getting upset, I looked for a way to end the session.

My whole treatment of this experience with Blu is to find the positive parts of it, or at least ways to learn from it. That is why this blog is titled puzzles. More and more I realize that so many aspects of communication are all about the semantics and language. You believe in synonyms, but I kind of don't. "Problems in Paradise" was my first idea for a title, but that made me feel bad. Puzzles are games that have an answer. Problems can be icky and it might turn out that there is not an answer to find. So, I am going to piece this together and learn from it. We will see what tomorrow brings; I would like to have a session in the morning. I will not do it if I see it is going to be like today, but I will at least do something good with him.

The best thing about today is that Misty was trying really hard to get me to choose her.

Natural Horsewoman Out.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Waiting for Humans

I wanted to play with yielding the hindquarters because it seems that Blu is not sensitive about that. In fact, he was quite dull. Indirect rein without reins
handing me the halter again
corners game
tiny bit frustrated at one point, so I relaxed on his back and waited for it to go away before moving on

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Dame, Por Favor

Official Records Information: Blu/2hours/11-27-10/afternoontoevening

After fixing up my homemade arena, I went to the back pasture to round up the horses. I did not have any equipment on me, but I felt like that would be okay. I could either have Blu follow me up, or I could catch him once everyone was up. I whistled and sent Connor off, which set everyone into motion. As the mares headed in behind Connor, I got in line. Connor began running and the girls followed suit. I wondered if Blu would go after them, but he was just following me with his head low and quiet, about 15' behind. I expected that, but it does not make the moment less-savored and it was not wasted on my soul.

When we got to the gate, we found an interesting puzzle. The gate was not locked open, so it was only agape about 4'. Connor had gone through, but Ginger and Misty were behind it wondering how to get through. In order to go through, the horse either had to cross a puddle or open the gate. "Let's show these ladies how this is done," I told Blu. I walked through and turned to watch. Blu stopped when Misty began pushing the gate shut. She almost had it shut when she changed tactics and began pulling it open with her nose. Once she had squeezed out, Blu came right through. Ginger ran past us, but Blu stayed right there with me.

Blu followed me to the other pasture. But when I went to yield his hind end, instead of yielding, he just walked off indefinitely. Interesting thing to note and I took it into consideration when I was thinking about what kind of horse he was going to be today. This was a very LBI thing he did.

When I began walking to the gate, Blu saw me coming in his direction and began walking straight to me, so I stopped and waited. We continued on to the gate together. Going through the gate, I pushed his frontend away and he immediately knew what coming next because he lined up his butt and backed out toward me as I backed him by the tail. After I haltered him, which he was super cooperative for, I grabbed a couple brushes and groomed him on the lawn while he ate. I let him graze for about 10 minutes.

In the pasture, I wanted to test his yoyo and observe what the introversion at the end of the line looked like today. I rubbed his belly and loved on him, first, a friendly thing so he didn't see me just come up and start pushing him around. He tentatively stepped back (unrhythmically) with my phase one energy. I played back and forth from phase one to phase three energy. Too much causes Blu to shut down, but too little was not enough to back him steadily. I only had 12' of rope to work it out, but he was going slow. I found that he was most comfortable if I turned my belly button away from him slightly. As I did a phase two of energy. (MILESTONE: phase 1-3 are only energy based, no wiggling of anything. There is a phase 4 for energy, but phase 4 is really whatever it needs to be to get him going).

I waited for Blu to go into his introversion, but he wasn't, so I asked him back. I softly combed the line. He was not coming in, but I did not increase the phases. He did not look worried per se, he just looked like he was processing. It seemed that the send was not enough to put him into an introverted state, but it was enough to get him a little tight. I just stayed steady and smiling as I combed the line lightly. When I saw him think about forward, I stopped and waited. After several seconds passed, Blu released the tension completely and walked to me. I noticed, though, that he went to the left of me and stopped with me at his withers.

After a few more yoyos, he was getting even better at coming back. Not one time of introversion! This was very encouraging, indeed. Then, the song on the radio sang to "set me free" or something. I can't remember how the song goes, but that is why at that moment I took the halter off and put it on a fence post. The God of the Radio was telling me it was time for me to try my yoyo at liberty; this was the ultimate test for my progress.

I sent Blu out at a phase 2 of energy. He backed up steady. I waited, looking for signs of him going to sleep into introversion. Nothing was happening, though. However, he was very distracted and looking at everything but me. This could have been his next step away from introversion: instead going inside himself to escape me, he just doesn't look at me. So, I stepped my left foot back further and completely relaxed my body at the same time as I looked even more away from him. When he looked at me, I invited him in. After a minute, I leaned over to look at his hindquarters. That got him mobile and seemed to unstick him. He came right to me, all at once. I was very satisfied with this.

Next was mounting. I spent 15 minutes jumping around while he took swings at me. I tried all kinds of things: I kept my hand up by his head and just pet his face while he was trying to bite me; did the funky chicken when he came my way; stuffed a cookie in his face once; kept my hand on his mouth while it was in reach and played nibbly with it. Everything was not working, in fact, I could see it was getting worse and making him more upset. I thought this was either the dark before the dawn, or it was not working for him. I also wondered what sort of dawn it would be if that was the case. Would give up with a sour face? I did not want that.

I was standing there, now, thinking. Blu was just waiting for me to start jumping again, so I left him to sit on a tire-do the unexpected. He immediately and curiously followed me. I ignored him and he walked away to nibble on the scumbly greenery. I looked around and saw the halter. At this piont, it dawned on me. It was time to channel all biting thoughts that Blu had built up into something positive; it was time for some dame commands.

Dame is the command form of "give" with the direction of "me" at the end meaning "to me". So "give to me" in Spanish. I walked to the fence, climbed on next to the halter, and waited. He was not ignoring me, just eating, so I knew he would come over. He came right over and was all innocent looking, but I knew all those biting thoughts were in there. I proceded to piont to the halter and give the verbal command. One loop at a time, he lifted the line off the post, and dropped it on the ground. Then he got the halter and the whole item was on the ground. I tried dame, then. I had never done the command in this postion. He picked it up on the first try and lifted it to me. I missed the catch before he dropped it, but this was amazing. He has still not made the solid connection that the goal is for him to put it in my hands, so you can imagine my excitement. Unfortunately, he wouldn't do it again, so I had to climb down and get the halter. In fact, I got the halter 4 more times before he finally handed it to me from the post. Blu was in position for me to mount, so I asked permission and got on. No sour faces! Now, with the halter on the post and the line in my hand (so could just reel it in if it fell on the ground), I did the dame command from his back. This is a first attempt. The first time, he grabbed the leather popper and pulled it off the halter when he pulled down instead of lifting it up. I lamented for a moment. Now my Parelli halter is not proven authentic. Sigh. But the next try, Blu handed my unproven authentic Parelli halter to me!

I gave him a cookie and then we went to snag my carrotsticks off the fence. I got one, but for the second one, I cantered a lap around and tried to grab it as we passed by. I got it, but lost my grip on it. Regardless, it was a success in my book.

We rode off to my arena and proceeded to have a great ride of changing directions and sticking to the rail. I just remember it being a great feeling when I was done.

I would like to assert a thought upon you. I have been struggling through this mentally, at times. I wonder if I should ask for help solving the problem, but I imagine that I will be told to do what I am doing already. Then, before I get around to asking, my efforts are fruitful and the problem blows away.

Natural Horsewoman Out.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving

I worked this morning and it really stressed me out. I deplore work these days because it frustrates me so much. Luckily, before going up to meet with my family, I stopped by the farm and played with Blu for some equi-therapy.

Official Records Information Blu/45 minutes/11.25.10/afternoon

Blu was in Hoosier's run-in stall when I arrived. He gave me a nose kiss and came out into the aisle. I was already ticking away at my strategy for the session. He was in a good mood, but being a bit oblivious to steady pressure as I maneuvered him out of the aisle way, out of the barn and into the open lawn. Even as I gathered up my equipment, I was planning.

I wanted to add hindquarter yields to his legs-only repertoire, but I knew that we would need to play with that sensitivity, first. I also wanted to check on his yoyo and see if we could have a better start with the yoyo.

By making clear phases, I woke up his sensitivity to the feel on the line when he is grazing to a soft touch to lift his head from his beloved grass. That sensitivity would last throughout the session and this instance played the important role of a daily touch up for his porcupine game on the halter.

I fixed a downed section of my homemade arena by driving a disembodied wooden handle into the ground with a hammer. I don't know what I did, but I ended up with said hammer swinging through the air. I caught it by the head, but the way I pulled it too me, the handle bumped Blu's nose and surprised him. I think I would not be including this part of the story in the world publication of my life if it was not midnight, but it is midnight, so I am crazy-unintelligent. Needless to say, I yoyoed Blu to the end of my 12' line and continued my maintenance. He was fine but that could have been much worse.

Next, I went to a fence line of the homemade arena and I was going to do a yoyo on the rail, but I thought better of it. I should start out this thing that causes him to go introverted with something nice than sending him away. So, friendly game rubbing his face, massaging his lips, and scratching his neck to relax him before doing something very demanding. . .

With the yoyo game on the fence, we hit a milestone: no shut down when he got to the end of the line and he was able to come back to me straight, all on the first yoyo. I recalled the other day when his yoyos got progressively "worse." I tried the yoyo again. I thought he was going out, but he didn't. He came back to me with just a suggestion. Phew. I will tell you, it is a little nervewracking when something that has never been a problem and is as basic as the yoyo game come-back starts going strange. I am glad to be on the right track to sorting this out.

As far as the send half of his yoyo, that is looking better, too. Once I was ready the first time, Blu was looking to the east. I stepped forward and rubbed his ribs. I could sense he had some apprehensions about the pressure that would follow this position of me facing him. That massage straightened him out almost immediately and I waited a moment before sending him away so he relaxed. I used my energy-only phase one, but I had to experiment with energy levels to find the "just right" amount because at first he was saying "that’s too loud."

On the 4th yoyo send, once he was out, I sent him on a circle and did 1/2 circles on the fence because those hindquarter yields on the fence were going to be the focus during our freestyle. So, in a sense, were practicing what we were about to do.

After the 1/2 circles were getting fluid and relaxed, instead of changing his direction the next time he came to the rail, I sent him sideways. I did not have a carrotstick on me, so I just had my intent and body. I only asked for about 15 feet then stopped. Blu was not looking at me for severl moments. I just waited through that. Then he looked to me and came to me upon invitation. Little did he know, he was now in position for mounting up as he stood in front of a barrel (said barrel has water pooled on its end and Blu quickly drains that. This information is important for later).

Mounting took a long time and lots of friendly game. I started on the ground and once he tolerated me jumping by his side, I stood on one of the upended barrels that makes up a part of my arena rail. Blu seems to prefer I don't swing on from the ground. I don't know if this has to do with physical pain on his part or if it is a something that just upsets him, so I try to find something to stand on.

Blu was biting, pinnin his ears, and swinging his head when I was on the ground. When I was on the barrel, I played with come sideways to me. Honestly, sideways game is not so good for Blu, but he figured this out pretty quick with the 12' line. He was not as violent when I was on the barrel, but he was defensive. This makes me think that this is not about pain, but in a confidence thing. If it is confidence related, I think I should keep treats out of it. Anyhow, I did approach and retreat until he finally said I could get on. He waited quietly for instruction once I was on, too.

The first priority was to take him to the water trough if he was thirsty enough to slurp up the water in the end of the barrel . . . well. He had a big drink at the tank.

Back in the arena, I made up a pattern in my head and began riding with one rein. I would do a tear drop change of directions at one cone, and at the other, we would do hindquarter yield to change direction. I pretended like I did not have that rein, I just needed it as support for the hind quarter yields. Once we had several light yields, I took the line off by doing a lateral flexion with no reins. He was good waiting for me to do that.

Here, I would like to say how awesome Blu's trot to back up with nothing but the seat is, now. He took a wrong step toward the inside of the arena and I was able to correct by changing my focus to an 1/8 more to the left than center. It was very cool to feel him respond to that.

His corners could have been better, surely. I think some corners game would fix that, though.

The hindquarter yields puzzle went unresolved for the most part but it's on the way. I was close to a learning breakthrough for him when my dad pulled in the driveway to whisk me away--I had lost track of time!

I dismounted and Blu followed me at liberty to his stall where I gave him some hay. Good boy!

So, next time, hindquarter yields and no using treats to resolve any facial expression issues during mounting because it is most likely not a dominant thing!

Natural Horsewoman Out.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Wading in the Water

ORI Misty 30 minutes, Blu 45 minutes, afternoon, 11-23-10

There are times in our lives when it feels like we are hindered by things in life that are simply out of our control. You can't bring lost loved ones back, you cannot force the world to grant your dad a better job, and you can't make someone like you better. It's like trying to wade through set cement at times like those. I think that during periods in my life where I was wading through set cement, the reason that I was able to make it to the other side was the presence of God and particular people in my life who were so inclined to support me. They came out with their chisels and pick axes and gave me a hand. Yes, I am completely indebted to those people and I keep my eyes peeled for people who need me to give them a hand in the same manner.

There are other times when we are hindered by things that are within the field of our control, but we chose to bear the hindrance and wade through the water (at least I do). I would say that these items are things like work, school, chores, or being a member of a family. You might think you have no choice, but you do. All you HAVE to do in this life is be born and pay taxes, and you don't even HAVE to pay taxes!

I would chose to wade through the water, though, and so will you, because you are an excellent person, and so am I. By this I mean that I would chose to endure the less loverly side of family life and making money in order to achieve my dreams. If you take too many shortcuts, the quality of your life begins to suffer for it, as does the quality of the realization of your dream.

On my left wrist, I have been wearing an orange bracelet that says "Reveal your horse...Discover you potential...Live your dream." It means a lot to me, because, to me, it is not just a slogan. To me, it is a motto, a mission. I am on a mission, and come cement or high water, we will succeed.

So, today I dealt with some water, literally. It is stinking freezing! And, last night, the water was left on for 12 hours. Luckily, my arena is in the back of the pasture, which is slightly higher then the front end. Nevertheless, I wore muck boots!

I walked to the back, didn't see anyone, walked to the front, and there was Connor about to leave Middle Earth. I greeted him and started to the back. I had been unsure if the gate to the back was even open, but now I saw it was, and apparently, as Connor called the horses, it was an official water break. Misty and Ginger called back to them. I did a whistle neigh and Blu called to me. I called again, and Misty called back. I saw movement through the brush and headed up. Unexpectedly, the three took the other way around, thundering up to Connor.

I watched the social interactions. Ginger flirted and struck out at Connor. Misty hovered around Connor like a bee. Blu was in the wrong place and oblivious to that fact. He wanted to touch Connor, too. They smelled each other, and I could see it was secretly turning into a dominance thing. It stayed very quiet, though, as Blu stepped back reluctantly. Blu's position amongst those three horses did not improve--he was still in the middle of them all. Suddenly, Ginger took off and Connor brushed by Blu to do the same. I fell in behind Blu and Misty took the caboose behind me. In a single file line, we all marched to the North pasture and got drinks (I did not drink out of the trough).

On the way to the North pasture, Misty was right on my heels. I gave her a treat and she gave me an ugly face and walked ahead. I just smiled and kept going. She stopped suddenly. I offered the halter and she probably would have walked off if I had taken it off right after it was on. Other than that reservation, she put her head into position and everything very nicely. She was also light on the line as we worked the gate and went to the water.

Next, we went out to graze. I stood at the gate and asked her to give my her hindquarters by raising my hand and doing the "come here" signal. She immediately did it. I think it is really cool that after all this time, she still remembers that so well.

Shortly after, Blu came up and I let him come out to graze. Then I took Misty into the dog pen and let my gramma's dogs in. Misty was pretty good as I went about my business. She wanted to smell the dogs, which made them nervous, though.

We went back into the pasture the same way we came out. This way took a bit longer. I had her tail and worked through her opposition reflex until it clicked and then it went very smoothly. She got a cookie for that.

Now I wanted to do something interesting with her--not just the boring seven games check up. I spotted a tire and asked her to come to me. She drew to me no problem, then followed me as I backed up to the tire. I stood on the other side of the tire and did a few yoyos away and to it. They were nice yoyos. She was sensitive, but could have been more rhythmic in her away. Also, she was getting distracted in the beginning, so I would rub ribs that were poking out with my carrotstick handle. On the third return, I stepped back so that she had to maneuver the tire to get to me. I waited a long time as she thought about it. I held a light phase on the rope and released when she tried. Each try got better until she finally walked around it and came to me. I don't mind her walking around it at all; she was solving a puzzle the whole time.

After some rest, I went to her left side and asked her to please sidepass to me. She was already in position. I had to gently block her from stepping forward a few times and the savvy string had to lay over her hip, but she did it very nicely once all her tries came together and she knew what the goal was.

I felt like this was a good place to stop for today for Misty. Our next goal was to get Blu into the pasture again. I left the gate open and began to drive him in that direction. I made sure to let Misty eat and have good timing with our little breaks. As we got closer, I saw Ginger notice the gate was open. She began to head up to the gate from the back of pasture. It was like a game of billiards, now! I was not going to make it in time if I went slow and mosied--we were 30 feet from the gate and Ginger was picking up speed. I aimed my string and shot Blu toward the gate as I sent Misty into a position to block an out and he collided with Ginger just as she came out. He rushed in and Ginger, a bit beffuddled, spun around and trotted back in. I stopped Misty and smiled. I let her eat a few bites before going over to the gate. Blu and Ginger asked if they could come out while Misty had that grass and I told them no (politely, of course).

I took Misty over to Connor and let her go, hoping that would keep her from trotting off. I did not take the halter off until she kept her head in position. She turned away, but then seemed to think better of it and stopped. I gave her treats by having stretch her nose to each hip. Then I stood at her tail for a while before leaving. It was very pleasant.

On to Blu! I walked over to him with the halter and 12' line. He stepped over to me and put his head right in. I pet him a bit before walking off. He followed, but he had a sour face. Hmm, I thought. I wasn't sure if he was in the same mood as Sunday, but I most certainly was not going to get right on and ride bridleless on windy day like this on a sour-faced horse!

I walked through the flooded drain pond (6' around, 2' deep, 1' of water in it after 12 hours of water flowing out of the hose last night). He went around it. So, naturally, I played the squeeze game with it: I pushed him to the other side of it and squeezed him between me and it. At first, he tried to look at it, assuming he was to squeeze through it. It surprised him when I pushed his nose away and told him with our language to NOT go in the puddle/pond. I also did some circling with me standing in the pond. The final thing we did with the pond was for him to go through it. He stopped and went to sleep (introverted). It took him so long to wake up. I just stood and waited, facing away from him. Finally, he put his nose down by the water, did a big snort (good kind), and shook his body. We moved on.

He stood on the tire pedestal then I began the yoyo game with his butt to the tire. He backed up to it and came back without sleeping. I thought that maybe he was staying alert to the tire's position, so he did not go to sleep. The best part was he came back with the lightest phase. The next send, he did fall asleep. I waited, he woke, I asked him back, he came back. Then the final send was followed by a very long introversion. This was even longer than the last one. I squatted down because the wind was so cold. When he came around, he finally looked at me. Big snort and he started to eat. After a moment, I stood and asked him to come back to me. He came right back. It makes me wonder why each sleep got longer with the pedestal. He is quite used to this exercise. In fact, he backed right up to it everytime. I am going to think about it tonight.

I went to the fence, set him up, stood on the fence, got permission, and mounted. He was great. No pinned ears. Worried at first, but then fine. I had the halter, 12' line (one rein), and two carrot sticks. We rode off to the arena with a nice forequarter yield. I liked it, but I had to use my leg.

In the arena, Blu was full of it at first. He did not buck, but he wanted to canter. So, we cantered around on the rail. One of my curtain rods fell in, so one corner was always shallow, but with the canter, he did not really do ANY high corners. Naughty! He did go high in the corners for him, though, so props for that. We had done change of direction and I could feel him start to run out of gas. Next time we hit the cone, I stopped. BAM! He slid to a stop and started backing up, and all I had done was stop riding in my seat. It amazes me how ready he is for the halt. We did changes of direction in the tear drop away from the fence. They were large, so I would like to refine them down to smaller tear drops. We did canter some more. I was getting terribly cold, so I ended it a little sooner than I wanted (I would have liked to do some more changes of direction).

At the end, I had him laterally flex without reins, took off the halter, and and rode a lap with just the carrot sticks. We cantered around arena, went high in the two corners we passed . . . and when the cone came, I stopped, he stopped, and his feet slid into the stick fence and toppled it over! Another BAM! only with crashing, too. Then we did a bullseye into the center where I dismounted by sliding off his butt. Blu did not even lift up his head.

Blu followed me to the back. When I left, he deliberated over who to follow before walking off to follow the horses heading out to the back. I was really happy.

Natural Horsewoman Out

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Old Updates--an Oxymoron?

I have updated some old posts and thought I might notify you of their presence:

Laws of Attraction and Repulsion as Applied to Horses- October 12 with Blu -after catching Blu in the back pasture, we fly all over the place round up the equines. By the end of the session, we are riding perfect figure eights bridleless.

Grueling Gate- October 21 with Misty -we learn that Misty not a very good partner when we work gates bridleless, so our session is about remedying that.

More, later.


Friday, November 19, 2010

Snoozing on Stepping Stones

Today, one might say that we regressed from where we were yesterday, but I see it as a very important milestone. During this session, Blu began to do his right-brained introvert behavior of snoozing at the wheel. However, we overcame it and had success at the end of the session. Today was a stepping stone for tomorrow.

Blu, Misty, and Ginger were just inside the Middle Earth pasture when I arrived. I whistled and all three came up, Blu the caboose. I set out three small piles of hay. We began similarly to yesterday. Blu took longer today to mount because I kept not making it up there! I did a lot of clinging to his barrel trying desparately to climb up on his back--but Blu tends to fall over if I do that for to long because he doesn't know how to balance himself with 150 pounds of person hanging off one side of his body. Misty can, but not Blu. So, he was getting kind of tired of me pouncing on him. It was all my struggle to swing up with the two carrot sticks in my hand. Some day, I will be perfect at it. For now, it is all about entertaining my readers, right?

Finally I was on and he was fine. I asked him to go and just got to where I was going in loops to satisfy his desire to go back to one of the descimated hay piles. At the gate, he was very cooperative, but was not necessarily as good as he could be because he did not seem to know what was going on at first. I waited for the gears to start turning. Then I asked for a pivot on the haunches and away we went.

In the arena, following the rail, he basically destroyed the curtain rod part by failing at his job of following the rail. Since that is indded the pattern that we are working on, I think that next time, my goal is to make 5 laps (that is about 1500 feet) without correction. I will have two sessions with him tomorrow, so the first session I will aim for two laps with my arms crossed and the second I will aim for five. If I need to adjust those numbers, I will. I did put him back on the rail and he got better than when we started.

As for our backing up progress, we did make progress. I stopped, went through my phases and got to phase four (tapping his nose space/nose until he thought about going back). It happened the next time, but instead of going to phase four, I took a look at him. He was snoozing! Oh no! He was going introverted from the pressure! So, I released all the pressure and sat quietly. I waited for signs of presence to return. When he started to come out of it, I stroked his neck, did lateral flexion with face-pets and a treat. When I started to ask for a back up, I stayed at phase one until he took a shift back. Then we went off to do it all over again. Stop, hold phase one, oh, he is going introverted, wait. . . wait . . . there he is, phase one, hold, hold, hold, tiny phase two in the feet, shift, stop. We did that a few times. The shift turned into a step. Then, once, after a shift, I cut the engine, he licked and chewed, and then backed up a horselength. It's like when I am typing on the internet and my virus scanner kicks in for an update and I go on typing with nothing happening on the screen. Then all of a sudden. ajdfkladklfd;foiaesdfj. There is all of my typing in one instant. I have said in a previous post that horses are like computers, right?

Now, I decide Blu needs some cantering. I think it is my first time cantering him with no strings. I am a little nervous, but it is an excited nervous, not a brain trying to save your life nervous. So, off we go, Blu goes right into it. The first stop he misses by a stride or two, so we have to back up all that way. That goes fine. The next stop, he stops right on cue and goes right into the back up with phase one. If you are wondering if Heaven opened up and an angelic chorus began to resound, let me answer your question: Yes, in fact, it did. I hopped off. That was our ending point. I had been wondering back when Blu was snoozing what our ending would look like. I had been a little apprehensive about solving the problem. But then I realized that it was silly of me to be apprehensive. If I know anything, I know introverts. Right- or left-brained, I'm your girl.

Blu followed me to the back, again. The girls were right there and I stood with him until he started eating. He made no move to follow me up, but as I left, it was a different kind of contentment from yesterday. Yesterday I was giddy as I left. Today, I was very satisfied--and "wise" feeling. No, that sounds cocky. . . it's just that I felt quiet in a good way. Like you feel after viewing a serious movie. Hmm. I know: yesterday I could have jumped the moon, today I could solve world hunger. That is the difference between today and yesterday.

There is something beautiful in the realization of the simple answer to a perplexing problem. I would strongly encourage you to slow down at your next problem and try to stop getting in your own way. It is simple. Remember that. Anyhow, that is how we turned Blu's RBI "snoozing" into a stepping stone for tomorrow.

Natural Horsewoman Out.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Horse Who Chooses Me

O.R.I. Blu-30 minutes-morning

I will have to update tomorrow. I have it all written on my tiny notebook-got it recorded while I rode the CATA to class and home from class and finished it while I waited for my meeting at work to start. Long story short, Blu was following me all over and he was backing (no legs) with just my seat and I have figured out a way to cause him to enjoy having his face pet when in ask for lateral flexion (with no leg or rein, just my body).

Tah tah for now, will update asap!


Blu was just heading out to the back again from getting a drink. When I called out to him from the barn, he stopped and looked for me. When he spotted me, he shifted his weight toward me, but that was all. He glanced back at Ginger, who was just inside the Middle Earth pasture. I smiled to him and began to walk out there. When he would look at me, I would stop. The way I walked was open, meandering, and friendly. Blu finally chose to walk to Ginger. When I got to to gate of Middle Earth, he came right up to me.

I pet Blu and gave him a cookie. Misty got a cookie as she passed us. Then I lead Blu away by his mane, but after a few steps, I decided to see if he would follow at liberty, which he did. All the way to the gate separating the North and South pastures, he did not even pause to look back at the girls. He just came right behind me. At the gate, he waited patiently by me as I closed it. That is the kind of thing that the liberty savvy is about; it's the truth revealed. Blu was choosing me over being with other horses and eating in the back pasture. That is very humbling, because Blu is a wonderful horse and I don't know that a mere me deserves to have such loyalty from a horse like him.

My dad and I were going to put up the light on the corner of the barn so I could play with the horses after the sun was down. While we did that, I gave Blu a small pile of hay, which he was content with. Unfortunately, my dad and I just spent 30 or 40 minutes looking in the barn for the electrical cable. In the end, we couldn't find it, so he went home to determine how much we had at home and then to the store to price out the cost of what we would need for the project. So, I got started with Blu!

Blu had finished his snack and was wandering into the arena I'd made the other day. When he saw me (with two unstrung carrotsticks) coming toward him, he followed the rail and met me at the corner. I stood with him, scratched his chest, and relaxed for a while. Then I drove his forequarters around 270 degrees by just walking at him and walked away. It was a nice pivot, but it surprised him, I think because he could have had a nicer facial expression (just a head raise, lips tense, and ears slightly back). Anyway, he followed me as soon as I started to walk off then stopped with me.

He was standing on the fenceline and I was ready to commence my mounting ritual. First I wait for him to be relaxed while I go through the motions of getting on. If and when he tries to bite me or swing his head at me, I give him a treat. Second, I go from a standstill, ask permission to get on, and swing on. Today, he was much better about the whole thing. The bouncing and swinging around took a lot less time. In fact, it took me several minutes to find a way of pretending to swing on that agitated him. He did not try to bite me, just swung his head a few times. Once we were through that, I asked permission, swung on . . . but only made it to his side. I am working at getting better at mounting while carry the carrotstick(s), and this was a failure. Blu was great, though. He didn't walk off or swing around to tell me what he thought of my clumsiness (as I clung to his barrel), he just raised his head and tensed, then relaxed. Finally, when I asked permission again, he was still game!

Once I was on, I rubbed him and gave him a treat. Tomorrow (or next time) he will not get a treat. Just to keep things switching up. I asked for lateral flexion in each direction, got him straight again, then asked him to go forward. That first start was slow and not very responsive, but it was just the beginning of our session, so I did not fuss over it.

Follow the rail, as a pattern, has a lot to do with focus. It tells the horse when to turn the corner, how straight to back up, etc. In general, today, I was very aware of my focus, whether we were backing, taking a corner, or walking down the fence line, I was using a ton of focus. Sometimes it can be hard to think about where you are looking because it is easy to become distracted. But it's an important riding aid because strong focus translates to lightness. It's especially important in jumping and gymkhana events (barrel racing, for example), but your horse's sensitivity to focus is harbored in patterns like follow the rail.

Instead of always putting him back on the rail, if he was drifting too far from the rail or not going back to it with a light phase, I would just circle in a loop back to the fence. It's a way of taking his idea and going with it. For left-brained introverts, it is also a great thing because it has the added bonus of making it too much of an expenditure of energy to not stay on the rail. One lap is 300 feet, but one lap with lots of circles along the way could be upwards of 1000 feet. This also kept us using light phases and away from opposing forces.

Speaking of opposing forces, one of the puzzles I had to solve was Blu's distaste for having his face pet when I asked for lateral flexion. Now, the plan is for me to someday be able to bridle Blu from his back with as little effort as possible. I decided that the path to that goal is to have him accpet me petting his face while he holds the flexion. But how do you cause him to stay that way? Simple. I put my hand on his forelock and slowly ran it all the way down his face until we get to his nose. Tah dah, he gets a cookie when I pet him. This will continue to develop, but it was a very important door to have opened.

This was obviously a very successful approach for Blu. However, I noticed a few times that his lateral flexion to the left was of lower quality than to the right. I played with that a bit to raise the quality of the bend to the left and got him to accept my hand on that side. I will keep an eye on that over the next several sessions to be sure that they develop evenly.

Blu was also having difficulty with this one corner (the Northwest one), as in, he kept cutting it short. So, one time I went straight out it, followed the rail on the outside, then reentered at the next corner. The next time we hit that corner, he went high into it. Sweet!

Moving right along, literally, after Blu decided to halt of his own accord, he chose to continue at a nice lively jog when I did ask him to go again. This from the snail-pony at the beginning of the session. Good stuff. When we got to the midway point of one of the long sides, he halted perfectly on cue and then backed up with the wiggling feet (phase two). Earlier, we'd been doing the stop at those two midway points and I had refined the back up to just the seat. He was going so straight, too. Only once did he step his hindquarters inward, and he was able to correct it with just my torso moving and he kept backing as he did it. So, I wanted the back up from the trot to be better still--to match his walk-to-back-up quality.

After one more lap, he went from the trot to the back up with just my seat! As I continued from the midway point on the east side and turned had already decided to end up in the middle ("X") by way of the dressage style "at A, continue down centerline. At X, halt . . ." At the middle of the south side, we turned right and went trotting right down the centerline and between the midpoint cones on the long sides, we halted and backed with only the seat!

I dismounted by laying on my stomach then sliding down his butt. He has really improved with that from when I first started and he would do little buck-hops! Today, all he did was raise his head. I stood and pet him for a bit. I also did some TTouches. He was bothered by the Lick of the Cow's Tongue back by his flank. I changed to the exploration TTouch and played the friendly game until he could accept touch there.

Blu followed me to the back. He stopped along the way to, ahem, eliminate, but I kept going. when he began walking again, I turned to him and tried to encourage him to trot to me, but all I go was a faster walk. I tried turning and running. That worked. He came cantering. Once I was in the Middle Earth pasture, I turned to watch him. I wondered if he would get high on adrenaline and run right past me to join the herd, but he slid to a halt right in front of me on the slick ground.

I laughed happily and pet him. Then I began the walk and jogged to the Back pasture. Again, I wondered if Blu would decide to rush ahead and join his compatriots. But he jogged or walked right behind me. Once we were out there, I stopped and, AGAIN, he did not go meet the others. Now they were right there. But he was not even eating. I walked to the other horses and he followed, but when I left . . . SO DID HE.

Blu followed me all the way to the edge of the brush in Middle Earth. From there, he stopped and watched me. It felt so good. Blu was choosing me over things that are really important to horses. That was sweet of him.

These are the days I live for.

Natural Horsewoman Out.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Moving On and Boy are We Moving Along

What a turn around from yesterday. Today, I did some things to get myself on the road again. It is the road of the journey. I have been on a ridiculous self-caused detour, but I am back on track. I had a major God-intervention last week and I am done brushing myself off. Goggles are on and don't blink because you'll miss me. Woohoo!

This morning, I watched part of the Parelli Freestyle Patterns DVD while I created a program for me to start with Blu and also made an organizational binder. It has 8 sections:
Finances- spending history, receipts, budget, projected expenditures. I am like a business!
Fast Track- applications, important documents, forms, things I need to take, things I need to do. I am going to be ready!
Four horse sections are obvious: Blu Program, Misty Program, Short Term Goals, Long Term Goals.
Network- all the horse people I know
Blog- my written rough drafts that need to be blogged, and all of my 2009-2010 journaling notes that need to be journaled.

This tool should help me stay on top of things and stay FOCUSED. Yes. This week, I am meeting with my advisor to schedule a light spring semester. This spring will be completely focused on "capitalizing" on daylight in horse terms.

When I was done with my organization fest, I went to the farm. All the horses were out back. I grabbed my jump roping carrotsticks and hustled out. You might not know because I have to update my blog (sorry), but jump roping is Blu's new thing. Tie the savvy strings of two carrotsticks together and jump rope as you ride. So, I am running to the back pasture with these sticks. I get back there and whistle so everyone knows I am there.

Blu came up to me and I stood with him and scratched him for five minutes or so before taking him away. Then I shooed the girls up and put the savvy string in front of Blu's chest while I stood behind him. Then I proceeded to drive him up to the front in this totally new way. He was relaxed and learned how to move properly in it really fast. He backed up lightly, even. Cool? Then I let him walk over the savvy string and I drove in zone 5 from a distance because I saw the opportunity to. He understood. I would turn him to the right by stepping to left then raising then waving the stick. You can guess how I turned him left, then. I was 15 feet or more behind him for most of it. I had to go closer to figuratively "shut the door" to guide him through the gate between the North and South pastures, but he did not panic. He waited very patiently while I shut the gate.

For the next 2 hours, I built a 100' x 50' arena on the flattest part of our pasture. It was a big effort. I have pictures to document the monument to my new program. We will be going through the patterns and cleaning up anything that comes up dirty. I needed a bigger arena so when we move into the cantering, Blu can stay in balance. He has difficulty staying balanced in the other arena I made.
I am particularily proud of the fence made of sticks. Only one part is lashed right now; the rest is balancing![URL=http://s757.photobucket.com/albums/xx211/YouthfulAdage/?action=view&current=Farm-my100x50homemadearenanov162010012.jpg][IMG]http://i757.photobucket.com/albums/xx211/YouthfulAdage/th_Farm-my100x50homemadearenanov162010012.jpg[/IMG][/URL]
You can click on the images to enlarge them.

So, when I finished this project, I had only 15 minutes left to ride! I decided to ride with two unstrung carrot sticks only. Blu had been wandering around the pen and pasture and had visited with me several times, so I decided he was ready to ride. Right away. Or at least ready to ask if I could mount.

I don't know if you as the reader know this, but Blu has been really hating me swinging on. He does not really care if I do it from the stirrup or the fence. But he does not like it at all when I swing on from the ground. I do it gracefully, but Blu pins his ears and threatens me when I jump at his side as if to get on. I have tried various things with menial success. Today, I was going to have better timing, treats, and patience. It was funny that I was so patient even though I only had 15 minutes. I was in a good mood today and had a good perspective for the day, I guess. So, with perfect timing with the treats, the stops, and jumping, he finally relaxed while I swung on. Phew! It only took 3 or 4 minutes.

Then we were on to the arena. The corners are open so that no matter what direction we go on the rail, if we don't turn at the corner, we squeeze right out of the arena. I did this so that he would be encouraged to go high in the corners. We might just ride right out and follow the outside of the rail (we did that once or twice)--or we might turn at the last moment!

In the ten minutes I had with him, Blu proved himself to be an amazing partner. I stopped at the cones I have at the halfway point on the long sides. Then I would ask for lateral flexion without using the sticks (just twist my torso, add a light leg to cue the ribs over (light as in push the hair) if needed) in each direction. I also asked for the backup. I was not particular about straightness, just understanding of lightness and cues. He usually did it with just the seat and energy in my stomach--a chakra movement is the best way to describe it. Phase two is leg flapping, phase three is the sticks coming down, and phase four, which we never did during that session, is tapping the nose with the sticks. I was really pleased with him. He was so light and responsive, I was perfectly happy to call it a day. Couldn't have asked for a better stopping point.

He followed me to the back. As the other horses raced by, he stood by me. He thought for a while about whether to follow me back up to the front or go to the back where the other horses had gone. I began running up to the front (I was late!) and he decided to go out back.

I felt so good about that session. I was so geeked when I realized it was Tuesday and I didn't have class til 4, so after an appointment with my boss, I was able to return to the farm for another session.

Blu and the girls were in Middle Earth. I put a few piles of hay out and called them up. They were already watching me and Misty was already on her way when I called. Pretty soon, they were all there. Blu picked the pile I was standing by. I rubbed, scratched, and did TTouches on him. I also stood back and practiced throwing carrotsticks up and catching them without looking.

When I was ready to get on, it took much less to get Blu's permission. I stabilized him and he only tossed his head one time, got a cookie, and then was ready. Once on, I practiced tossing the sticks. When I switched to not looking, one bounced off my palm before I closed my hand. So, I spent 5 minutes (or more, it felt like it took three days) using the leather loop on the end of one carrot stick to pick up the other from Blu's back. It was very difficult. Blu just ate away. I will have to teach him to "dame" the stick for me ("dame" means "give to me" in Spanish. It is Blu's cue to pick something up with his mouth. So far, he only knows to pick up ropes, halters, and cowboy hats.)

In this session, I wanted to focus on testing out my direct and indirect "reins," but after a very crooked back up, I decided to forego that plan and straighten out his back up. For record's sake, his direct rein (moving forequarters) was about expiramentation. He would laterally flex, but I just held my focus, steady pressure in the same position until he tested out the right thing. Pretty soon, he could differentiate just fine. The indirect rein was another issue, though. I think it would be better to have reins on as a phase four option so I can stay light overall; then we will go back to bridleless.

This time, I stopped in the corners. This tested how well he was listening to me. He was thinking about going right through the gap, not suddenly stopping. We had struggles--not big deals--that I gave a break for after each one so Blu could think. The longest struggle was when he did not stop until he was just outside the arena. This was tough, backing through the opening exactly straight so we didn't plow over the fence. Very tricky! Finally, though he got it just right. I decided that I should wait until he did something more than the immediate lick and chew. After five minutes or so, he sighed, yawned, shook his head and neck, and licked and chewed. "Wow!" he said. We went at that corner again, and this time he stopped with just his head out. I backed him up and went to it once more. This time, he stopped right on time. The next corner, which was following a long side (so he had distance to forget his lesson), he stopped right on again. I backed him up straight and did it again. Same great results, even better, a great place to stop.

I tried to give Blu a treat in the carrotstick, but he kept knocking it out of the leather loop. I would use the other carrot stick to load the cookie back into the loop. Mad skill, man, mad skill. Anyway, I gave up and gave it to him with my hand. The reason I wanted to give him a treat with the carrotstick was to counter all of phase 4 tonight. I wanted him to know the carrotsticks weren't bad.

I got down and walked to the back gate. He followed me out and stood with me again as the girls ran out. This time, he followed me up to the front pasture. He even stopped and nickered to the long-gone-girls then continued to follow me. I gave him hay in Hoosier's stall. . . and a hug.

Natural Horsewoman Out.

The next step with the lateral flexion is to have him keep his head back by me while I pet his face and after that, it will be while I bridle him.

Monday, November 15, 2010


Sarah Palin has been recognized by the Oxford American Dictionary for her creation of the word "refudiate." At the time, she it was just an "oops, that was not actually a word. . . oops, you don't know what word you want to use, do you?" sort of deal. Well, apparently the OAD was so impressed with her creative linguistic skills that this word must be deemed non-fiction!

Sarah Palin may be embarassing herself before the entire world, but I am embarassing myself in front of myself. I have lost control of my time and my daylight. I have prided myself on making time for the horses, but it has been very challenging to juggle the few hours of daylight I have, all the school work, and all the work-work. I have had 3 sessions with Blu and have forgone the recording of them. And I won't do any more than this post for them. It marks my failure, which is over. Failures are not something to be feared. They are benchmarks to look back on and learn from. They are not a ball and chain to keep you from reaching your dreams. Period.

Blu and Misty both need a lot of attention. I need to fill in holes that have come into the relationship over time the way that jeans wear out at the knees. That is over. Tomorrow, I am going to have a session with Blu and Misty. Period.

Become better than you were yesterday. Yesterday, I couldn't handle work, school, church, horses, home. I will get better. Tomorrow, I will be able to handle it all. Period. My dream is to begin filming my black string videos in March of 2011. It is going to happen because everyday I get better.

On my wrist in permanent marker is the word "promise." It is my promise to myself to get better. When it has washed away, my promise will still be there. I am going to handle this.


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