Saturday, December 4, 2010

From One Extreme to Another

I played with both Blu and Misty, tonight. The ORI is:
Blu, 1 hour, evening
Misty, 30 minutes, evening

My plan for Blu was to warm him up on line outside the pasture on the driveway and lawn, then ride him freestyle with one line in the pasture, but not in my arena, then ride finesse for a short period in a bridle with his Confidence Snaffle, also not in my arena, then take off everything and ride bridleless to my arena where I would dismount. This whole thing was about making a point that the arena does not equate to no fun. I created it so I could have a better format to play with follow the rail patterns, but somewhere along the way, it came to mean work to Blu. So, I will be having none of that!

I brought maply syrup out with me. Blu came right up to me when I came into the pasture. I got through our salutation then put the syrup on the bit. In the winter, I imagine it must be a shock to put a piece of cold metal into your mouth. That is why I usually run my bit under hot water, then wrap it in a hot towel to keep it as warm as possible for my horse. However, I will suffer the chills it gives me to taste the sweeness of ice cream. I figured it would be the same for Blu. He nabbed that bit and cleaned it right off. He was his usual cooperative self for haltering, which was good.

I walked him to the middle gate to go into the North Pasture and make our exit out into the lawn. You may or may not recall that yesterday, Blu was quite heavy on the line and disconnected from me for most of our time together. Not so today. He was following me closely right from the get-go. :D

I tied the syrup container high enough on the fence by the gate that I reach it so I could put more syrup on his bridle before my finesse session. You see? I was thinking ahead :D. As Blu squeezed through the gate, he did not yield his hind quarters very fluidly. But we headed off with me in zone 5. I wanted to drive him a spot near but not at the gate, then sidepass him to the gate. He was very confident with me in zone 5. However, when we got to the target point, he got confused and ended up facing me. So, I just put him back into position, drove off, to try again. This time, he got to the right spot and I was able to do everything just right so that I could get him to stand still there. I let him relax so he knew he was on the right track. Then we went sideways in both directions until he relaxed. When we worked the gate, he had arrived there sideways on the fence with complete confidence.

We did the squeeze game through the gate several times (until he was doing it fluidly with hindquarter yield, wait, and all). Once he was out, I gave him permission to graze. It was nice to mosey along. My dad arrived with a truck that he is fixing in my Gramma's garage. My dad loves Blu and we jokingly argue over who Blu belongs to--me or my dad. When we purchased Blu, my dad was hoping I would turn around and sell him for ten times the amount we paid for him after I'd trained him, but I don't think Blu is ever going anywhere if I have anything to do with it.

I let my dad give Blu a hug and then set off to a spot on the driveway to do the 7 games with. As my anniversary for starting PNH fast approaches, I was very nostalgic. Back then, we did all of our Parelli time in the drive way because it was nicely plowed and the lines didn't get so thick with snow and ice. So, even though the drive way is not covered in snow today, it still means a lot to me.
(That is Misty and me doing the yoyo. She is coming back to me at phase one. I was so tickled--and cold :D
Continuing on (I seem to be easily distracted this evening).

My idea behind bringing Blu out of the pasture was to see if that helped him not go into an introverted sleep. I was hoping it would be stimulating enough to keep him attentive. I was right. We played the friendly game, having him trot to me as I swung strung stick side to side. No problem. For a porcupine game, I placed my fingers on his chest to back him up. I just held them on the hair and waited. I kept his head in position or put it back if he moved it out of line. Just by doing that, he got it and back rhythmically and smoothly with just my fingers on his chest hairs. For the driving game, I drove his hindquarters with a wiggling hand/my eyes.

It was time for the yoyo. Blu's current hurdle game. I had no apprehension about it, I was just fully ready to be observant. I set it up so he was facing away from me. This way, when I asked him to come back, coming back would mean moving away from the road, which equates to becoming more comfortable. That, boys and girls, is called setting things up for success. Everything was phase one for three yoyos, and NO introverted naps. I moved on to the circling game.

I asked him to go slower than he wanted to go, which kind of blew his mind. Then, he wanted to go fast! I moved our circle to the lawn. We did changes of direction, downward transitions, and cantering. He was very twisty and up-going during the changes of direction, so I continued them until he did it more levelly. When he completed are really nice two laps at the canter--no twisting, no star-jumping, I brought him in and surprised him with a cookie.

For the sideways game, Blu was tense at first, so we just kept going until he relaxed. I was on his "on" side. For the squeeze game, I picked two big logs off the willow log pile and stacked them just so. At first, Blu side swiped them and made a "V" out of them. He got twisty again and when he traversed the obstacle willingly and as his own idea, he came in and got a bonus cookie (I think, either that or I let him graze for a while).

While we were out, I noticed that Blu often would not ask permission to graze, but dive in and speed grab. I would let him eat for a while until he slowed down to a less manic pace before politely asking him to come back up. Honestly, I make a point to offer my horses grass when we are out. In the winter, I command Blu to dig for grass and I dig for grass for Misty. So, I took this as a sign of his extrovertedness. When he is feeling introverted sleepy, he often puts his head down and bumps the ground like he wants to eat, but just can't get his lips going. As he relaxed, he became less jumpy about grazing.

I climbed onto the fence and got Blu into position. He did not come to me immediately like it was his idea, but he was easy to move into position, and once I got him started, he came over of his own accord. I looked in his eye and checked his ear as I placed a hand on his back. No apprehension, so I set on. He did a great job of working the gate, but kept going sideways after it was shut, so I practiced swinging it shut and stopping and relaxing. Much better!

Now, the plan was this:

Do a few figure 8s with the one rein
Ride over to the middle gate
Take off his halter/line
Take off his bridle
Syrup-up the bit and put the bridle back on
Ride to the front fence with the 3 carrot sticks, syrup container, and halter/line (technically, this distance was traversed with nothing but my legs, seat, energy, and focus because my hands were full)
Drop my cargo and put on the finesse reins that were laying on the fence
Do some figure eights with finesse
Go to the fence trade the bridle for a few carrotsticks
Ride with 2 carrotsticks to my arena
Dismount in my homemade arena

So, that is actually just what we did. For our freestyle figure 8s, Blu had nice focus. He was absolutely perfect for the bridling/unbridling while I was mounted, especially considering Misty had followed us from our figure 8 and was nagging us for attention. Hehe. He was excellent for the nothing-on ride to the fence. We trotted halfway and broke to a walk right when I asked. I felt him hone in on the gate, but when I asked him to stop with just my energy, it was like I'd thrown a brake switch. Phew! I love it when things work.

For our finesse 8s, I played the friendly game with contact. I would take a few steps with it, then go back to a casual rein. Pretty soon, we were doing one half of the figure-8 with contact, the other without. At the end, we did an 8 with contact. He likes the confidence snaffle quite well and was nicely rounded. However, I noticed once that he was not as good about pushing his ribs to the right. On our last figure, he got the whole thing very nicely, but I will continue to keep an eye on those ribs.

We also made a point to stay on the same track. We picked up the trot once, and on that transition, he floated out a bit, but otherwise, he was quite steady on the same path.

For our finale, we got to the middle, stopped with just my seat, and backed with just my seat, while we maintained contact. Super great ending to five minutes of concentrated stuff.

You know the rest of the story. Blu was not sour as we headed to my arena bridleless, but I noticed building apprehension about the plan (in him, not me). Once we were in, I kind of stopped steering him. He went to his favorite cone and got onto the fence and I stopped riding, and he stopped with me. I think it really surprised him when I got down and bid him adu. I wish I could have let him follow me back to his pasture, or something, but Misty was hankering for a smackdown of learning. (She'd been following Blu and me all night and she wanted her turn!).

I snuggled Misty and Blu for five minutes. I love to look at my "Big Spots" and "Little Spots" together. It is a rare spectacle for them to be within such close range of one another and not have one biting the other. Hehe. But I had a cookie for them, so they behaved to one another (last winter, I taught them that no one gets the cookie until everyone is being nice).

With Misty, I wanted to play with the close range circling game at liberty. Screw starting online or in a round pen. Misty has been super drawn to me, so I am trying out going without lines and we did it out in the open pasture. :D. When you start this, though, a smaller space and a line are nice things to have to set yourself up for success (remember the condescending "boys and girls" statement from before about setting things up for success?).

Misty was defensive about the yoyo, so I just got really playful until she was able to read me better. Then she got really rhythmic and much less tight or defensive. I had her back up about 20' then canter to me. She came barreling at me with her ears back the first time, so I immediately asked for the back up. Then forward, then back, then forth, then ba-and forth! Now she was looking at me with serious interest and came to me all "proud" in the way Arabs do. Usually it is when they are scared and on adrenaline, but I like to see it when it is positive like this.

Now that I had reinforced our draw with yoyo-rebar, I sent her. She turned around and gave me her butt. Hehe. She thought my hand was up to ask her butt to come over to me. I drove her around by her tail--that was really great as she sensitive to steering and she was backing smoothly. Then I did a sort of yoyo with her hindquarters--I yielded them, then drew them, then yielded, then drew, etc. She did not loose confidence and discerned between the two cues very well.

NOW, next time I sent her, she took a step and stopped. I yielded her and she came in. Resend. Stop after a step. At some point, I took off my coat and put it around her neck so I could have a connection to her head in hopes that she would imagine the line and draw similarities between what I was doing here and our circling game. That actually kind of worked, but it was ridiculously cold. I decided to do it the easy way. Everytime she stopped, I yielded her, and resent her. It became a fluid dance where she was taking more and more steps on the circle. When she made it to one third of a circle, I called it a night.

I loved on her for a few minutes then ran up to the front. I left her blinking in my dust. I whistled to her and she snapped out of it and came galloping after me. I beat her by. . . a lot. The commotion caused Blu to come check us out--at the speed of 5 o'clock traffic. I said good bye to my Nan (one of Misty's MANY pet names) and took Blu out. Misty was disappointed that she did not get to come out. I was cold, though and hustled Blu inside (stopping here and there for grass). I gave Blu hay in his run-in stall and brought out a handful of pelleted feed for Misty.

So, I was thinking, Blu and Misty go from one extreme to the other, as do I. We are all searching for that balance where the highs are not so high and the lows are not so low. Neverending self improvement. Today was a high, if you couldn't tell :D.

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