Monday, December 6, 2010

Riding the Waves

I am going to do one GIANT blog about my last three sessions because they all go together for one overall learning experience for me. If you have ready more than one post, you may have picked up on the fact that I am working on my emotional fitness. My learning experiences are not isolated to these three sessions, of course, but I think there is something milestone-like and poetic about this one, guys.

Last week, I was in a really negative frame of mind and was not sure how to undo it. I emotionally emailed my Parelli Professional with the subject title of "don't drop everything to reply" because I felt like I just needed to reach out to someone but would feel better after sleeping. I did feel better after sleeping and I sent off to the P.P. this news. I wondered secretly if my life was going to be these drastic ups and downs forever, though. What would I do the next time a horse session left me feeling unsure of myself? Would it be the same story all over again?

ORI: Misty 1 hour 12-5-10 morning

Work got out early on Sunday because we were way overstaffed. It's too bad I didn't get great hours, but you couldn't have called me unhappy about it! When I went out to play with Misty, I was in a great mood. I decided that she would enjoy it if I brought out the ball. Connor took off when I kicked it into the pasture, but after her initial jump, Misty went after it.

Right off the bat, I got particular about where she rolled the ball--specifically, I wanted her to roll it to me. It was a lot of fun because she was so focused. I would drive her hindquarters away or to me to aim her, then I would hope that she pushed it forward. She was very engaged.

When I was done, I went to the center of my homemade arena, turned, and asked her to come to me. Just like that, she stopped engaging with the ball, hopped over the log, and ran to me.

I played the yoyo game after putting my head down (she puts her head down when I put mine down and it helps her to come off adrenaline, of course). For the most part, she was tight and defensive. I waited for rhythm and relaxation in her yield as I used my energy to push her back. I also kept a softer face and did a lot of waiting for a sigh or licking and chewing.

I was just thinking that even though she was having difficulty handling pressure, she had not left on a get-away-break. Soon after, she left. Instead of going to the front of the pasture, though, she went to the giant tire pedestal, stood on it with her front end, and looked at me. She was over 45' away. She has done this before, but what happened next is different from her "usual." This past summer, she struggled with disengaging from obstacles (she wanted to stay on the pedestal, by the cone, etc). From where she had left me, I signaled to her to step forward and come to me. She walked squarely over the pedestal and began coming back. She had no issues or tightness about leaving that pedestal. At first, she walked straight to me, but the curtain rod fence with bindertwine string was in her way, so she had to solve that puzzle to get back to me. At this point would be when she might just call it too much trouble to get back to me, but she thought it out and came around the fence.

When she came around the fence, I did a big smile and she got high up in her neck and bright in her eyes as she trotted to me. She was very happy and exuberant, which is normal for how she appears to feel when she comes back from one of these breaks.

I thought it would be a good time to try our close range circling game, but as soon as I put the pressure on, she got tight again. So, I waited for relaxation and then stood with her. I noticed some blood in her tail and checked her out the source; she had several small cuts on her hind leg. Those would be the results of Connor's abuse of her. Rolly eyes.

I decided to try the circling game closer to the front of the pasture to see if she felt safe enough there to handle pressure. As we passed the ball, she went to it and rolled it to me. I picked it up and ran to the front and she chased after me like a mad-mare. I gave her the ball and we played with it for a while. It ended up in the ditch (see map of the Greenhorse Farm). I told her that if she could get Timmy (the ball) out of the ditch, she could have a cookie. This was more a deal with myself that she would get said prize/bonus upon completing said mission. It took her a good 5 minutes (could have been longer), to get it out of the ditch and not roll back. She got her cookie.

"Shall we run a lap, Nan?" I ran to the back of the pasture and she came after me at a trot. I stopped to make sure that she would come all the way around to the East side my arena. When she made the corner, I ran as fast as I could back to the front. It is a little intimidating to have a wild-eyed Arab right behind you, so I was running for my life! She beat me, though. At the very end, she pulled out ahead of me. I put my head down and we walked around like that for a little, then just stood with our heads down. I have been told that she appreciates this.

Then, I made her a promise. In the PNH program, there is an -ism that goes "Never break a promise to your horse." My promise was that if she could beat her standing record of 1/4 of a lap in the close range circling game, I would take her out to graze for the rest of the time that I had before I had to return work, again.

By the gate, we got 1/3 of a circle to the right. Woo! I had 15 minutes to go, so she got to have 15 minutes of grazing with me on the lawn. It was cold, and I had my eye on the time, but I kept up my end of the deal and we grazed for every one of those minutes.

This session continued my amazingly high mood. At work, I had another very short shift and I was going to have time for a Blu session! I was elated.

ORI: Blu 1 hour 30 minutes 12-5-10 evening
By the time I got to the farm, it was getting dark (it gets dark so fast!), but I did not worry about it. I ran hot water on Blu's bit and wrapped it in a warm cloth and got him bridled and haltered in the stall he was standing in. Right from the get go, I let him clean up the loose hay in the barn. I was in no hurry. I was in a great mood.

Out on te lawn, I took his halter off and put it on the fence so we could do the dame command. But he was more interested in getting hay on the ground (there are stalks littered all of the the lawn). He tried once, but half-heartedly. Then he went into the barn. I let him get a bite in there before driving him back outside. He then walked off into the lawn. I sighed and went to get a can of grain to shake. I could sense this could go from being an innocent escape to graze into an all out leaving the farm. I was not worried, but just making observations. After I got him, I took him by the cheek piece and played the porcupine game with it and grazing. I let him graze but wanted to have him bring his head up when I put the slightest pressure on the bridle.

I found it curious that Blu was agonizing over grazing so much. And that is when I started to get a little defensive. I was letting him eat at every turn. I do not chastise my horses for getting grass--I only ask that they ask and that they are ready to focus when I ask. I take grazing breaks for them. What was I doing wrong that he should feel he needs to eat like his life depends up on it--and he was doing that; his lips were frantically nabbing every morsel. I let him graze until he slowed down and relaxation seemed to come back into his body.

It made me feel like I was really missing something, but at the time I could not put the dots together. This is the point that I should have put him away and gone inside to think about what he needed (or some similar plan of action). After being removed from the situation, I know Blu was nervous about a session with me. He has been coming to me, but he gets more and more nervous about me but he wants to be with me, so it comes out in his need to graze frantically.

So, we did yoyos with the trailer open. I stood behind the trailer as he backed to the trailer. I kept him straight. He tried to graze a lot. I just "patiently" asked him to bring his head back up after a few bites (on the outside, I looked patient, but on the inside, my nerves were becoming more raw by the minute). I never asked him to go in, I just kept him straight and let him work through the thresholds. He has backed into a ramped trailer, before, but not our non-ramp trailer. There is a 5'' step up. We worked on the trailer for what seemed like forever. I did some "snap out of it" on the line to get him to stop diving for grass, and that got his attention. I did not do it out of frustration, but I had not tried it and hoped it might be the ticket. It did seem to help and I followed it with a long wait.

I realize that I was quite upset inside (not as bad as I have been at times), but I was doing a lot of things right. That does not mean I was going to end in a great place. I wish I would have gone in way back when and saw what I needed to do FOR him. But I stubbornly persisted. I knew that I was NOT going to ride tonight, but I was going to . . . well, I don't know what I thought I was going to get done. I think I just wanted to hold out until Blu could stand at the trailer relaxed and focused on me. It was not that he was nervous about the trailer, he was nervous about me. I wanted him to prove to me that I was not a bad person, I think. I wanted him to give me validation. It was probably the most selfish thing I could have done, though.

Next, I worked on mounting for another eternity. From the fence, first, but the fence was so awkward with my clunky muck boots. So I stood on the picnic table. It was a bit about him getting into position, but it was more about him staying relaxed when I took my weight off him. I wore myself out dismounting over and over until he did not bob his head. Chiropractor is coming out this month. I can't take the wondering if it is all because of back pain anymore. Of course grazing was a problem, still.

As I write all this, I am not frustrated. That is why I did not blog this on Sunday night. It literally spoiled my mood. I consciously tried to push back the negative feelings and focus on my excellent Misty-session from earlier, but I simply couldn't. I went to Ellie's birthday dinner at home and came back to the farm to stay the night.

I started to blog, but stopped. I got "I feel really. . ." typed, but couldn't say exactly how I felt other than "I feel like praying." So, I said a prayer for peace within myself and that Blu would forgive me for being selfish, then I went to bed.

When I went to bed, I was thinking about last week after that session with Blu when I emailed my Parelli professional. I was thinking about how the next day, I was able to pick back up on a new page. So, even though I still felt bad and still felt like I couldn't control how I felt, I knew that I would feel better in the morning.

ORI: Misty 1 hour 12-6-10 morning

The next morning, I was up at 5 a.m. I got bundled up and went outside. I set up the spot light and went out to have a liberty session with Misty. I felt very fresh, not only because it was FREEZING outside, but I felt better.

With Misty, I made the decision that in the poor light, I needed to do things on line with Misty because she was having trouble seeing me and reading me. She tried, though. I had made a point within myself to use cookies sparingly, because the other day, I had been a vending machine that charged no fee! I decided that she would only get a cookie if she was completely not expecting it.

It was funny because there were a half dozen kittens running around us for a while before they decided to go play on the fence. They thought I was outside to feed them! Misty was very tolerant of them playing around her feet. I shooed them off when I began an extreme friendly game. She was tight at first, so I just did approach and retreat until she relaxed. That took a while.

Misty could not go faster than a walk because the ground was rock hard and lumpy. That seemed to frustrate her. She did leave a few times and stand by her food bucket. She thought it was time to eat, too! I did S-bends with her to draw her back to me. Then, we did a close range circling game. I got a 1/4 of a circle before yielding her back in. I was not going to push it this morning because I was COLD and Misty was hungry. She got a cookie for her 1/4 circle because she looked at a kitten when she as she came in and forgot to think about cookies when she got to me.

I ended the session when I walked off and she followed me, then did not immediately frisk me when I stopped. Surprise cookie.

I had a relaxing morning feeding the horses and went on to have a long day at school. Next week is finals week, so I have to make sure all my t's are crossed and all my i's are dotted. Nevertheless, throughout the day, I was thinking about these three sessions. I was able to think about Sunday's good session with Misty and look back with a philosophical eye at Blu's session. I need to be particular without getting critical when it comes to Blu. He might need a heap of purpose poured into his program, too. He is worn out on following the rail. If I want him to have better HQ yields when I ride, I need a purpose. I thought of facing an open gate, yielding HQ, then backing out. Once out, he gets to graze. In my arena, I thought of putting a cookie or a food dish on a barrel, yielding the hindquarters, and backing up to the bonus. Also, simply working gates would improve his yields because the yields serve the purpose of opening the gate.

It is funny, because I read a few blog posts of Linda Parelli's last night and she was saying similar things to how I felt in one. She talked about how hard it is to do the things we know. Then, in another, she talked about controlling one's own emotions and the difference between not feeling sad and not letting sadness control you. She said that she likes to live like she is 10 years in the future looking back at today.

I want to be the human my horses dream of. I have to keep in mind that I am not trying to do something for myself, here. I am trying to do something for horses. My happiness is just a lucky side effect of my journey. I get lost and focus on myself, worry about deadlines, and forget that there are two horses who are free beings.

I will persist. This program is usually teaching you to persist with your horses, but I need to learn how to persist with myself and not become discouraged when a session does not yield miracles. I am learning to ride the waves; the crests that leave me smiling so big along with the troughs that should make me rock back on my heels and THINK and LEARN. Pat Parelli has never seen it take longer than two days, according to the -ism.

I leave you with one final thought: keep things in perspective. Try to remember not to sacrifice your horse to make progress, even if it is progress in this program. Kawabunga.

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