Monday, January 31, 2011

Hot and Cold

It was much colder today. I have Monday and Wednesday mornings off, so I got chores done early and went outside a few hours, later. I arranged the horses in such a manner that the North Pasture was void of all horses so Blu and I would not be harassed.

We played at liberty in the open pasture. I started in zone 5 with going and stopping with him. Once we were going at a steady, rhythmic walk, I began to take over with some steering--before, it was like a passenger session. Blu liked to go behind the corn crib by the round pen. From there, as we were going away, I asked for the trot. This was a position where the entire pasture was before him--calling him to hustle along. He went to the gate and stopped. We continued in this manner. I also used the barrels, which were booby trapped with cookies (:D), as resting stops. The first time I asked for the canter, he cantered off on adrenaline after a few strides, but he reestablished connection within moments of leaving. He came back to me. The rest of our time was like this--leaving and reestablishing connection. I did get several really nice, connected times at the canter in zone 5. On one of his flitting trips, he leapt into my 100X50 foot arena and caught the twine with his back hoof, which did not do much but tip three of the curtain rods over. I fixed the rods inside the arena only to have Blu start to come to me from the outside of the arena. Now he was very deliberately walking through the twine, pushing it over. I fixed it again.

During our liberty session, I noticed Blu choosing to go to the tire pedestal several times. That really grounds him and it's noteworthy for me to remember that it is an excellent place to go for a rest.

I put the neck string on him and led him to a barrel. Once I was on, he wanted to check out the next barrel and I had to use all my balance to stay on that ice covered barrel! I was able to redirect his attention to me and he stepped over to me.

Once we were on the rail, I used the cookied barrels as rest stops. Pretty soon, he offered the canter and did not swish his tail when he did. In general he was doing less tail swishing, today. Also, we used MUCH less stick, today.

I decided to try the cloverleaf pattern with him, again. We were in the canter on the right lead. We got through 10 laps of wild scattered everything before I finally took it back down to reorganize ourselves. I was not frustrated, I had just been sticking to it until he felt good, but it was obvious that he was struggling with the pattern. So, we completed three clover leaf patterns at the trot. Now, I felt him get it. We returned to the canter and, wouldn't you know it, things fell into place and he was much better. When everything was going so smooth, I drove him hard toward the southern border and slid him to a stop and back up. I was so tired, I forgot to measure the tracks. Those had been some wild turns and I nearly got flung in the opposite direction when he erratically swerved to make a very shallow corner. But it takes a lot to get me off a horse. At any rate, that was about the time I decided that he needed to trot first :)

So, Blu was hot, I was hot. I began shedding layers and tossing them about the pasture as we walked around to cool Blu off. My hat and gloves were hung on fence posts and my coat was flung on the ground, :D. The frigid air felt good!

When I got down, Blu followed me to his pasture and as I put all the horses back to the right pastures, Blu was a true and wonderful nuisance! Love him.

Natural Horsewoman Out.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Swishy Swishy

Since my session, I have been thinking about my next session. I have devised an elaborate booby trap plan of cookies to end Blu's sour regard toward me asking him to do things--which he displays be swishing his tail and occasionally pinning his ears. It gets me down when he does it. Today, I lost count of how many times he swished his tail. I just know it was a hefty two digit number.

In the session, I tried to ask with as small a phase as I could find. I started with just thinking and elaborately picturing in my mind what I wanted to happen. Then a rise in energy. Then a bit of motion in my arms as I squeezed. Tail swish, comply. I tried asking for less, I tried rest stops, I tried and tried. I ended with 15 minutes of sitting on him while he did absolutely whatever he wanted outside of the pasture bridleless. I am not melting down or anything, just puzzle solving. I need to find the secret thing that will cause this to be fun for Blu. Brainstorm ahead!

  • Ride with Misty in tow. Blu is always interested when Misty is involved.
  • Ride with someone else riding another horse next to me as we hold a ribbon or savvy string between us. The purpose is to match that horse and stay the proper distance from her. Figuring out the job would maybe be fun for Blu.
  • Make a cookie hunt. Cookies on everything. The only con is Connor and Misty. They would probably find them before Blu did and become a nuisance--or rather more of a nuisance.
  • Ask Blu to stand still for a really long time. His pick on a good rest time today was 3 minutes. So a long time might be 45 minutes of just standing there. Any time he decides to walk I say "Oh, no, we don't want to do that, we are standing." Or should I say "Oh good idea, let's" when he wants to go?
  • More patterns. . . or rather, longer patterns. I might do a two hour cloverleaf at the walk or trot and let him find relaxation in being left alone basically.
I stood behind Blu for a while with my head resting on his rump. He was so warm from the sun, it felt nice to stand there. When I did ask him to head off, he did not swish his tail. I pointed to the right, stepped to the right of zone 5, and tapped the left side of his neck--all in phases. I did not get to tapping his neck on that occasion, though I did on other parts of our drive to the round pen.

In the round pen, I put my arm over his back and leaned on him. He pinned his ears at first because he thought I was going to get on. Once he realized I was just chilling, he relaxed. We stood in the sun for another five minutes. My mind was thumbing through thoughts on how I would take him from this complete slumber into motion-related activities. I finally decided on doing a circling game sort of thing.

I stepped back about 10' and pointed to the left just the tiniest bit, slowly upping my phases. I already had his attention, but he was only keeping an ear on me. When he trudged into the walk, he did not swish his tail. I yielded him after a few steps, but he just yielded him hindquarters then sleepily stared at me. I smiled and just as lightly drove his front end back onto the track and just as gently began to send him to the right. Now he was going a bit fast (speed of a tortoise instead of a snail. . . !) and when I yielded him, he came all the way in.

I checked his hindquarter and forequarter yields. They were not bad at all, but he was pinning his ears in the beginning of his forequarter yields. I played with backing up in stick to me by bouncing my stalk from a dried weed up and down for the higher phase. He got more refined with that and did not pin his ears anymore. We got to where we get to a phase 2 of gently wiggling the stick up and down. I tried his forequarter yields, now, and they were much better.
Next, I did some stick to me and pet his neck to as we did transitions to soften his face. You might notice a trend today of lots of Blu communicating displeasure with being asked to do things.

After putting a neck string on him, I set Blu up at the gate and patiently set him up again and again when he would back up and check me out. He was not pinning his ears or looking ugly. . . I think he was thinking he was going to get a cookie from the hopeful look in his eyes. When he understood what was going on, though, he stood still and was good for mounting up.

I sat there for a bit before asking him to go anywhere. When I did ask him to go, he swished his tail. We rode a lap in the round pen and then worked the gate to go out. He was so good for that part.

We rode to a hay pile and he ate a bit before I asked him to go to the gate. He swished his tail as we left the hay. Another great job working the gate--not crisp and perfect, but not to shabby.

Blu settled onto the rail right away at a nice walk. With an abundance of tail swishing, we trotted and cantered around on the rail. We completed several laps without using the stick to correct. I put a treat on a barrel and made a tear drop change of direction with a stop at that barrel in hopes of remedying his difficulty getting back on the rail after making a tear drop or a circle.

Next, we did 5 or 6 complete cloverleaf patterns. At first, it was quite wiggly, but after several leaves were completed, he began to go straighter and follow his tracks much better.

Then I worked with him on the left lead. In this direction, he exits the arena on the southern end and make a bubbled cap instead of two corners and a straight line. He also takes shallow and broken gait corners. So, when he maintained gait through the corners and stayed inside the arena for that southern end, I called it good. I drove him into a fast canter and slid him to a stop and fast back up, all with just my seat. The tracks from his back feet were as long as the carrot stick (4 feet). That is a good start for him.

I dismounted and sat with him for several minutes before walking into the pasture. . .


Friday, January 28, 2011

Following the Rail in Session 2

Today was a good day. Some of the thoughts in my heart are living like it's your last day, realizing equality or even inferiority of myself to my horse as our existence as beings, understanding the "I" and the "myself."

For my session, I wanted to keep in mind what I learned/was reminded last night during my lesson with Meggie. Let's review:
  • Don't use the stick / don't make me use the stick
  • Tail swishing = not wanting to = need to get interesting
  • Don't "yell" (ie use a phase 2 when you could use a phase 1. . . or an even lighter phase 1!)
  • Count how many times you use the carrot stick per lap
  • Canter transition: look above the horizon line
  • Don't lean back to back--just the belly button
  • Only have two carrot sticks down by head to stop
  • As confidence grows in "spooky" spots, ask for more try
Blu/45 minutes/ 1-28-11/ evening
Misty/ 5 minutes/ 1-28-11/ evening

I had a pocket full of cookies, two unstrung carrot sticks, and a savvy string. Blu was eating from Ginger's afternoon hay snack. He immediately connected with me when I came over, went to eat some more, but when I stopped, he stepped over to me. I gave him a cookie and led him back to his sneaking-hay spot. "How was your day? Did you eat stuff? Did you get snowed on? Did the big horses pick on you? Did you deserve to be picked on?" questions. Then I took a handful of hay and set it next to the cistern 6' away. I gently lead Blu to it and gently yielded his hind quarters so I could mount from the cistern. He ate from his little pile, but when I stepped onto the cistern, he was concerned. I reassured him and when he relaxed gently sat on him. He did not stiffen, but stayed relaxed and ate his hay. We stood there for a good five minutes before I asked him to go to another hay pile.

It was about 10 minutes of me asking him to eat hay before I asked him to go to the gate. He tried to leave the gate initially, but I just circled him back around (gently) and we were back where we started. Now, he settled with me. I sat there for several seconds before asking him to back up. I had to use my feet wiggling on his shoulders gently at first. In position, I let him stand and relax again. Once I got to unlocking the gate, he was still and patient. As I got the gate open, he was cooperative again. Locking the chain back up, I repeated the relaxing stands and everything went so smoothly. Gates get SO much simpler when you give the horse plenty of quiet moments and really wait for the cooperation and soft feel before moving on.

As we bumbled off at the speed of a tortoise, I thought about doing something that would not make him swish his tail. . . so I began to go the speed of a glacier in my body (glaciers are much slower than tortoises, you see). Or at least I tried. As we went along, I found myself releasing more and more energy that was getting pent up in my abdomen. Blu was slowing down until we were creeping along. All this with just energy! Then I began to build it back up and moved my arms a bit more at the walking clip I wanted. We walked right over the pedestal without loss of momentum. No tail swishing. I began using the pedestal as a resting spot. He was no tail-swishing when we began the jog/trot. I did the same thing in that gait-slow and slower and back to slow. I did not ask for much variation, I just wanted to be a little bit provocative.

This was an excellent warm up: it got us both thinking about tiny things and thinking together. When Maggie got out there (bless her heart, she recorded our entire follow the rail session), Blu was READY for that 100' by 50' arena session. We went in and he was on the rail doing his job--I could feel it.

After viewing the video, I see that Blu does a lot of tail swishing! I was trying to find the smallest voice. The stick seems to be used much less. Good focus. Really nice stop at the end of the session. . . video still not on youtube, though I do have the link below to a video of how Blu followed me afterward.

I also made a video of five minutes of liberty with Misty chasing me around. Chasey chasey. . .

Natural Horsewoman Out.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Meggie Allen Lesson with Blu #2 Goes Much Better

Lesson Day! I was starving and got home a bit late, so I met Meggie outside with my chicken nuggets a bit late. We talked for a while. I told her about the previous day's session at liberty and we talked about the previous lesson. I told her that I felt much better and explained how everything in the universe had aligned to make feel horrible (being ill, terrifying prospects of the new semester's workload, work workload, etc. etc.) She had emailed me, but I was feeling better even by then.

As we chatted, I was standing inside the pasture letting Misty lick the honey off my plate. When the plate was clean, we migrated out of the pasture and continued chatting in front of Blu. I was super wishy-washy about what exactly I wanted to do. The plan was to ride freestyle, but I didn't know whether to do it in the round pen or in my homemade 50' X 100' arena. The entire time I was standing there deliberating, Blu was standing at the fence intently watching me. When I went in, we continued to chat. We moved onto his back issues. I am going to someday (God knows when) have a chiropractor out to feel Blu. I am quite convinced that this "problem" mounting is pain-related. But once I am on, he doesn't care--he doesn't buck or fuss unless I sit on his butt or lean forward.

I finally decided to decide on the way to the fence. Depending on how things went on the way there, I would either pick the round pen or the North Pasture. I began to lead him (at liberty) and drifted to zone 5. He was so good, I knew that we would be fine in the North Pasture.

Once on the other side, Blu walked off to Meggie while I shut the gate. I ended up doing a little of this and that with Blu and Misty. Everyone had a bite of the stem that I had been using as a light stick . . . so it is no more. Blu was especially mouthy today, so I played with his mouth. I took a long while showing Meggie how he is for mounting. She said it was fine for us to continue and I could stop anytime. Misty was a big help when I was actually mounting from the pedestal: she was standing on the pedestal, and when Blu swung his head toward me, she would block him. Hehehe. Now, don't get me wrong, this response of his is very important to me. I try to mount from somewhere high and I always strive for soft settling. But at any rate, I am doing my best in the moment.

Once I was on, we went through the basic check off list of lateral flexion, forequarter yields, and hindquarter yields. His lateral flexion is amazing. I just have to bend my body and look at my knee and he bends. I told Meggie about how Blu is super for bridling from his back and how I taught him in increments. That led to a discussion about how I am a big starter :D . . . ahem.

Next was direct rein, or forequart yields. He was a bit "groggy," but after some fiddling around, we reached common ground and he realized what was being asked. Here, Meggie asked how fast he could go and I had her spin until she was illustrating how fast Blu could go so far in our progress. It's about medium speed. (LESSON: back up first so the weight is already on the haunches)

Finally, our indirect rein went really well--much better than I remember them being and what I thought he would deliver. (LESSON: when you have two carrot sticks, it's much easier to use the inside hand on the rump and the outside hand on the forequarter. LESSON: use effective blocks).

Now that Meggie had seen those guys, we headed to the arena, Connor and Misty in tow (rolling my eyes!!). Blu and I began to follow the rail. Here are our lessons from the session (note, a lot of these things I "know" but do not do well enough, was doing well and should keep doing, or just need to reinforce/refine. It shows how important it is to "do what you know" and to always be improving, of course):

  • Keep tabs on those shoulders! If the shoulders are somewhere they shouldn't be, I can give them a tap to put them in their place.
  • Good job acknowledging a "spooky" spot and giving allowance. Remember to keep tabs on his growing confidence and to ask for more once he can give more (this in regards to a corner he was spooking away from because of a shed in that direction. As that corner became less spooky, I asked him go deeper into it)
  • Count how many times I use the stick in one lap. (tonight, we got 3 or 4 as the record)
  • When I do use the carrot stick, it must be used effectively
  • Don't put two carrot sticks down by the face unless it is to stop. (I have a tendency to put two down automatically when guiding him, so I need to remember to do one side at a time and return to neutral)
  • BFO! To back up, vibrate the carrot sticks UP AND DOWN--that's how I back up with the lines when I am driving! Duh!
  • Yes, transitions for more hind quarter engagement
  • Relax the upper leg--find neutral
  • Swishing Tail is don't want to, so just know it and keep tabs on how much swishing is happening. Try and be quieter and ask for less or make things more interesting.
  • NICE STOPS! Thumbs up :D
  • Look above the horizon for a canter transition
  • Don't lean back to back up--just the belly button
I felt SO good after my lesson. Blu did so great tonight--so often better than I expected. It was fun for the two gray horses to be present. They were so naughty, frisking Meggie the whole time, hehe.

Hmm, good day. Savor the good day. I am going to dissect this good feeling and find out what is at the base of it--that way, I can duplicate it and use it when I feel not so good. . . for now, I bask in good feelings.

Natural Horsewoman Out.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The Plans I Make

Blu walked off as soon as I put him in the North Pasture. I was okay with that because Misty came right over. While Blu amused himself with amazing poop he has never smelled before (!), I played with Misty. She did the weave pattern on straight line of 3 cones with me 12-15 feet away. It was so soft!

It was not too long before Blu decided that he should see what I had going on over there. I parked Misty at cone and began to drive him from zone 5. At first, he had no idea what I was doing and was a bit concerned that I might be chasing him. I just mirrored him until he relaxed--I could see that this was not escalating but rather quickly deescalating. Once he had the plan down, I was able to play with him. I got several "almost" close circles at liberty. We ended by driving from zone 5 to the cones.

The WHOLE time I was bumbling around with Blu, Misty stood at the cone I parked her at! Wow. That was a pleasant surprise. Now, I parked Blu at a cone. I backed away from them about 50' then called Blu ("BlUUUuuuu!"). He immediately began ambling to me. Once he had a few strides, I whistled to Misty. Misty turned and trotted to me. Blu made his path to me a bit more arched now to avoid any fuss with Misty. When he arrived, they both got a cookie.

Next, I tried to get them both on the pedestal. HUGE rolling eyes! Misty would not let Blu up there with her, and if Blu was up there first, she would do a big chomp on him. Sigh. I made so much progress on this front last winter. Looks like I have to start from square one establishing myself as boss hoss, though.

I stood on the pedestal and Misty came sideways to me. I hopped on, no problem, and we rode away, Blu following us. He got pretty spunky when we started going faster. I did get nervous at one point when we were in the back of the pasture and Misty was getting adrenaline going. I blocked her way until she began to relax a bit (she was just excited). Phew!

Overall, it was a very lovely time. We did not really do anything towards any goals, which is funny since today I was going to ride Blu to get ready for tomorrow's lesson. I wanted to have questions ready and everything. . . oh the plans I make. . .

Natural Horsewoman Out.

Blu, (Liberty, 45 mins) More driving from zone 5, but this time we were out in the open pasture and we were playing with Misty. I played with Misty until Blu was interested in me. I tried calling them from their parked spots at a couple cones (misty comes when I whistle, Blu when I call his name). I called Blu first, and he headed to me, then after a few strides, I called Misty :D and she came over.

I got one circle. More on the blog eventually….

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

As Luck Would Have It

I was able to get home for a quick session before heading back into class for a special lecture. Luck seemed to be on kind of on my side, today, because Maggie had time to video tape a bit of my session, for me. I am trying to make this a regular thing--I just like being able to review what I did and maybe see things I missed the first time through. Thanks to my new Flip Share, my videos are in amazingly clear HD and I can actually see things I may have missed.

I kind of did a repeat of what I did with the zone 5 driving on Monday. Blu was getting quite sensitive to those cues, too. Then I began to add curves in. It took a while, but pretty soon, we ended up with several nice circles around me close. I don't know when, but at some point, the batteries died.

Blu is still pinning his ears a lot, I noticed.

After we reached a great point on the ground, I climbed onto the gate and called Blu. He walked over and was good about getting into position, at first. Then he took a big yield and ended up with his butt facing me. It was not an "I'm ignoring you" deal, though. Asked if I could get on this way, and he said I could. As I carefully slid on, he did not show any negative responses.

I played the counting canter strides game while staying on the rail. It took him FOREVER to get exactly 5 strides and not 5 1/2 to 8. Nonetheless, he did finally get that. Or maybe it was just that I finally found the way to have the most clarity of transition in my own body. . .

Natural Horsewoman Out.

Monday, January 24, 2011

It's Magic, You Know

As soon as you get into horses, I think that the dreams start forming. You see other horsemen and horsewoman on their journeys and you wonder "How!" Even though you can see in your mind's eye yourself and your horse partaking in such hopes, the image only has the tangibility of your breath in the winter's cold air. As you and your horse embark, it may seem that almost everything you hope for is just a world full of exhaling in the tundra. Then, one by one, your horse shows you ways to hold the magic in your hands.

What was once beautiful poetry in motion, shrouded in a film of mysticism . . . well now that is your reality. It becomes so everyday, that some days, it feels just as ordinary as breathing. In and out.

But let's remember that breathing is no simple thing. Your diaphragm muscles go down, making the space in your chest cavity greater and changing the pressure. The air in the atmosphere is literally pushed into your lungs in order to balance the pressure of the atmosphere and your chest cavity. The air goes down your pharynx, larynx, trachea, bronchi tubes, and one of your lung's aveoli sacs. Here, via the diffusion of oxygen and carbon dioxide from lower concentration to higher concentration from aveoli to blood and blood to aveoli respectively, a switch of sorts is made. Now, as your diaphragm pushes up, working your lungs like great bellows, the carbon dioxide is ejected from your body in a windy rush. . .

Goodness. Some call it science, but to me, it is magic when I think about it like that. So, today, when I realized tangibility in one of my dreams, I stopped and cried. No dramatic catharsis. It was just that I recognized that I had let other realized dreams become mundane--and I was struck by the absolute shock of grasping something that had only moments before been a part of the lacey visage of my heart's future projections.

Riding bridleless without even a string or stick is wizardry. Playing tag with a horse is fantasy. A horse choosing to be with you instead of the grazing herd is impossible. Backing into a trailer without a ramp is unthinkable for this prey animal. But I have all of this and more with Blu. It's magic. Don't let anyone tell you other wise, lest you become proud and believe that you own something in this equation. It's all a magical gift that has been granted to some worthy-you.

I started by coming to my senses. Blu had been a bit frantic and unconfident at liberty in the round pen. Now, I took a place behind him and began to ask him to go forward. I rewarded the smallest tries until he understood the language--or rather, the dialect--I was speaking (zone 5 dialect). I coordinated my energy with his so that our stops were together and I could stop him with just my energy.

Once he understood this, I began to introduce what we had done on line by stepping out to the side of his haunch to cue him to curve around me. I supported with a twig on the outside zone 2. My goal was to get to the tire in the middle to rest. Once we established that point as the rest stop, I was able to refine the dialect further.

We were ready for the trot, now. Things were staying light and beautiful, short as it was before we were back at the tire. Then I shifted easily into a stick to me position in zone 2-3 by allowing him to continue the bend around me, like snake coiling up on itself. We cantered and trotted and walked. He was super curved around me as he went along. I went into a circle. At the canter, his lower lip was completely tight with concentration and discomfort, so I backed off to the trot, made the circle slightly larger, and stayed steady until he relaxed. Reapproaching the smaller circle, I stopped turning with him and just trotted in place. Oh, it was so wonderful.

I took Blu and Ginger into Middle Earth for a walk. There was quite a bit of wild horsiness, but the best part was when I was waiting at the gate. Blu was stuck, looking at me from 10' away. So, I finally got the hint and went to his side. I waited there and then Blu walked forward after a moment.

Misty stuck her foot through the wire and calmly stood with it resting in the fence while I made my way over to her. I was proud of her.

Blu and Misty bring magic into my life.

Natural Horsewoman Out.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

As Close As I Can Be

It seems that I am as close as I can get to breaking through the mess I have created in myself. Some of it will linger on inside me to remind me of where I have been--a piece of looking glass in which I can peer in order to feel more effectively and connect with myself. I took him to the round pen to try and find some common ground with him. I literally did, but it took time.

I had him circling and was getting him connected to me. When I had him come back and stick to me, he was most certainly very connected. I spiraled into a smaller circle as we cantered. His lower lip was tight, and so was his neck, so I backed off to the trot and waited for relaxation. Then I had him going along around me as I jogged in place around. When he found relaxation, I stopped.

I sat down on the tire and meditated for 15 minutes, half of the session. I was trying to clear my mind--create a void of sorts. Every time a thought came into my mind, I breathed it away with the next exhalation. Finally, I was empty and Blu was all that was left. It felt like he was so close--like we were intersecting. Then I opened my eyes and he was practically standing on me! His hooves were butted up to my crossed legs; his chest was inches from my face, and I realized its radiant heat was why I had started feeling warmth on my face; he neck and head were draped down from his withers down to my back.

Natural Horsewoman Out.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Mr. Blue Sky: This is a Snow Day

Today (February 2), I have a snow day and have 7 blog posts from the 13th to the 21st of January to update. I started out the song "Mr. Blue Sky." It's is Blu's theme song. As I sat in my chair re-immersing myself in the feelings and memories of this particular session, I remembered the pain I was in that day. Even when I had success, I felt unsure of myself--or rather, like somewhere in the corners of my heart I was still disappointed in myself. Then this song popped into my head and I found it on youtube. After dancing around the house with my laptop, I feel super human and am ready to reach back to the feelings of that day and share with you how it went:

It was the day after my lesson with Meggie. I 'd felt pretty crappy after that lesson, and by crappy, I mean disillusioned and lost. I got Blu out. I had him in the drive way. I yielded his hindquarters, which he lifted his head defensively. I stopped when he relaxed. Then I gave him a hug, took off his halter, and cried on his shoulder for a while. I was trying to reach him and tell him what was up with me. I was completely honest and told him all the things I was feeling.

He waited, and then walked off to the garden patio with purpose in his go. I sighed and wiped my tears away. I thought for a moment, then went to get him. He was fine putting the halter back on and I let him graze a bit longer. Then it was back to the driveway.

We had a horrible time of some circling game. I was beginning to panic and lose faith in myself. Then I got very calm and began to do the falling leaf pattern. As we went along, I began to get very confident--and I even smiled. Blu began to get very snappy yields, relaxation, and respect. When we were done with, we were both out of breath, but I felt like a curtain had been pulled back or the proverbial weight was lifted from my shoulders. As previously stated, I did not feel miracle-Jesus healed; there were still splotches of inky pain. But I remember feeling happy about that pain.

Hard times like this one are necessary. Without these tests, you don't grow. That is what makes these journeys real. Sometimes, I put my foot in a hold and it crumbles as I put my weight on it. Dealing with hanging off the cliff face by my pinky is just part of getting to the top.

Natural Horsewoman Out.

n Line, 45 mins) Ended Well. A falling leaf sort of deal until relaxation set in.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Back to the Drawing Board

I was so excited for this lesson. I thought I had everything figured out and I would learn some really new stuff. Oh, it was going to be good.

I got there just as Meggie was (it was after school and I knew that would happen). I went in and got Blu. I let him eat behind the barn as we chatted.

As we began, Blu was dull, but he got better. We were playing the circling game with plans to work on getting him cantering on smaller circles. Blu was very interested in going to Meggie, and when Maggie came with Ginger, he was very interested in getting to all three of them.

I found out I had been doing one thing very wrong: the send was not quite proper in the zone area. Here is what I learned:
  • Back up until the back feet are on the track you want the horse on
  • Specifically drive the frontend away and onto that track
  • When you pick the track, there should be slack in the line to start with, so that needs to be in your measurements as you back him onto the track
I also found out that my intuitive half-yields on the circle that I did for teaching Misty to circle close at liberty and when I was teaching Blu to circle with the feather line on his ear was just right for this situation, too:
  • Slack is in the line at the trot
  • I ask for the canter and if he takes out the slack, I do a half yield of his hindquarters that tells him to refocus on me but keep circling.
  • Repeat until he canters with slack
Over time, his hindquarter yields were getting duller and he was losing motivation. I had been doing lots of transitions, but it was not working. I asked Meggie if she noticed this and she said she was just thinking the same thing--that he should be improving, but was not. He was not maintaining gait well, at all.

Meggie had me do a figure eight pattern with him to focus him. It was pretty awful, though. Really. All these problems were things that I had not been having any trouble with after my warm up with him.

That is what led me to believe that this was a me-thing. Nothing I could physically do would help. Maybe if I handed him over to Meggie, something I've never done before nor has ever crossed my mind until just now (two weeks later as I am catching up blog posts) because she was not in the same emotional state as I was. He was mirroring the nervousness and tightness that I was feeling but hiding, or rather, trying to ignore and wish away.

Here is the email I sent to Meggie on the 22nd (two days later) about how I was feeling. I think it really illustrates how conflicted I felt, and that is why I am posting it:

Well, I have not tried what we did the other day. I was very upset by Thursday, I think. I don't understand why Blu was doing what he was doing. It made me feel like there was absolutely no foundation whatsoever and that I was playing with a horse who had no idea what I language I was speaking. I had a bad feeling about the whole thing and it made me feel very heavy and immobile.

On Friday, I did falling leaf pattern until relaxation set in. When we were done, it felt really good.

Today, I just got done in the round pen at liberty for 30 minutes. Half of it I spent getting a connection until he was doing stick to me. We went down to a small circle at the canter, but he was so tight, I backed it off to a trot and just did really tiny trot circles until he relaxed. The other half I spent sitting on a tire in the middle meditating while Blu stood over me. That session ended on a different, much more positive feeling.

I have been doing plenty of down time with Blu amongst all of our "progress sessions." He should not be burned out. That's why I don't think it is him. I am just trying to figure out why I felt that way. I am always a little bit nervous about you getting run over (I know I don't need to worry) and I was momentarily irritated by Maggie coming out with Ginger to video tape, but I did not feel suffocated by emotion or anything.

There are several things I would have liked to do during my session, but for some reason, when you are there, I feel like I should do nothing except what you are telling me. It's not a concious thing I am thinking, I just realize that I do. In any case, I would like to share with you how I would have handled Thursday's situation if I had not been in a lesson:
I would have liked to abandon the circle and sit for a minute to clear my mind. When I got back up, I would have set up either a weave or figure eight pattern and driven Blu through it from zone 5. I may have used treats appropriately during that. When he began to move his body properly and focus on me, I may have returned to the circling game. I don't know how the circling game would have proceeded but I would have had a better connection going, maybe.

I don't know what's wrong with me, and this has nothing to do with accepting where I am, though it does have a lot to do with understanding what I am feeling and finding a way to express appropriately to those around me, including Blu. Or something like that.

I have had lots of what some might call "bad" sessions, and I don't know if any of them have not felt like this. So maybe it is more of an inappropriate perception for the situation. I find myself with these bad emotions and it makes me a bad problem solver. Instead of finding the proper way to relieve whatever pressure is causing the emotion, I exacerbate it by holding it in and keeping it at bay as best I can.

What should I do when I get nervous or worried? Embarrassed? How do you breathe it out of yourself in into the world without it poisoning someone?

I don't know. We are playing with it. Let me know what you think.


So, today, we did:
  • Partial Hindquarter Yields
  • Bulls Eye with Approach and Retreat
  • Approach and Retreat to and away from the Canter
  • Transitions (get on the HQ, motivate)
  • Send the FQ with Slack
Today, I tried to hold back a wall of water with a smile and my breathing. Part of growing.

Natural Horsewoman Out.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Martin Luther King Jr. Day Inside

Today is a day off school, thanks to Martin Luther King Jr. But Maggie and I spent the day inside doing homework. I decided it was going to kill us if we didn't get out to see some equine action. So, Maggie and I rode our horses around our property as a much-needed break from homework :p. Blu was totally full of it, as was Ginger, but we had fun. I did have Blu canter a circle and stay on the original track. Then we had a spook-tastic moment when Blu did a squeeze between the trailer and pine tree and over the tarp. It scared the heck outta Ginger and that scared Blu. He immediately came back down to being relaxed, but Ginger was keyed up for the rest of the time. Luckily, Maggie and I had already dismounted before coming back to the front of the yard ;). Back to homework!

Natural Horsewoman Out.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Purposeful Toboggan Pulling

Blu was super! We picked up a load of straw at 8 a.m. this morning and Mom suggested we hook Blu up and have him give us a "hoof." I went out and he told me he was ready to be haltered, even though he was eating. I saddled him up at liberty and he pinned his ears the second time I tightened the cinch, but that was it. I backed off and did approach and retreat, but he no longer pinned his ears.

I had the toboggan outside, all ready for him. I took him out wide to set him facing away from the barn. Even with the tarp right next to him in a new form and uncovered from the snow, Blu was a pro. He never showed concern for the straw being plopped on, either. He also did not mind the noise of the toboggan clunking into the barn. He did not worry about all the squeezing he had to do inside the barn, and he willingly backed out.

We pulled three loads. The first was 7 bales and most of them got lodged in the door (that did not bother him, either). We loaded them correctly the next times for a 5 bale load and a 2 bale load.

I was so impressed with how helpful Blu was, even though he’d been taken from his breakfast. It was fun.

Click here to see Purposeful Toboggan Pulling!

Natural Horsewoman Out.

Sunday, January 16, 2011


When I play with the horses between workshifts, it is such a good break. I don't have long and have to keep an eye on the time so I can hustle back. Today was especially nice because I went on a trial ride with Misty.

I rode Misty around the property and over to the neighbors’ properties. We ran to the South, speed trotted back to the North, cantered down the lane to the field, stopped for a bite, checked out the wheel barrow, walked in the field. Then we stopped for a bit to eat. She spooked suddenly and I went in the opposite direction and onto the poof of snow. It was very slow and soft :D. Behind us, the neighbor horses were winging around their pasture--the commotion must have startled Misty. She did not go anywhere, but she was on adrenaline. I hopped back on after appraising her and we went sideways for 50’ to get her thinking again. It was an excellent quality maneuver. Then we walked, jogged, cantered on the way home down the paved way (Yikes! :D), ran back to the North, again where I dismounted and walked her home. She did something new, today, too: she pawed to get some grass. I was using my foot to clear grass for her. Then, when she cleared an area, she gently pawed a few times :D. Good job!

Off to work!!

Natural Horsewoman Out.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

I Heart My Momma

My momma told me she was coming over to play with her horse Connor while I played! I don't know what got into my mom, but I was very happy. She insisted she was coming out to play in the morning and then in the afternoon, she was going to get the flip share out and record me play with the toboggan with Blu.

Since Mom was using the warmblood halter on Connor (that size fits Blu better than the regular), I decided to play with Misty. I had the 45’ line out, but I just played at liberty. She took a while to hook on to me—or at least longer than her usual instantaneous deal. I did very little and just kind of waited for her.

I practiced zone 5 driving at liberty at the trot. I aimed her at the gate because I knew she would cooperate very well and get the idea a lot faster. Then I turned her around and aimed her for the middle of two cones that were about 10’ apart. She got it! I was really impressed with how good she was at it. She was a bit confused at times about whether she should back up, go forward, or turn and face, but she did not really put a lot of effort into the "wrong" choices because she was paying attention to my gentle corrections.

I was going to do more, but with so much harmony achieved, I decided to hop on.

I started by violently swinging the strung carrot sticks like pinwheels on both sides of her. At first, she was responding like it was a directive pressure, but she was not worried. She quickly understood it was a friendly game :D

I had the 10’ figure eight set up. We did some looser 8’s to get her warmed up. I was not particular about shape or size, just gait. She did some simple and some flying lead changes. I will note that she was very tight and carrying herself in a bad banana shape. I am used to Blu, who has lately become very good at carrying himself up.

I should have done transitions, but instead I spent a really long time working on my neutral while she responsibly followed a circle path (half of the figure eight) at all three gaits. She got much better at not needing any correction.

Then I had some fun and asked her to canter around. All I had was a savvy string in my hand for in case of an emergency (I can lean down and sling it around her neck if I feel the need to). She was backing up with just my seat, so I felt very safe. She did some galloping and it felt so good to not have to be afraid of being run away with by a completely bridleless Arabian. I don’t have too much to worry about because this Arab doesn’t have a desire to keep running and will get sucked to a gate if I even look at it. She seemed to like it too once she realized that I was just being a passenger and asking her to keep cantering. Misty is very surefooted and with all the flying around she did, she only slipped once.

When I was ready to move on, I simply stopped and backed up in my body and she slowed down to a halt. I was still holding the back up in my core. She licked and chewed, blew, then backed up. It was really great.

My mom and I went on a ride around the property. She had done the first 4 games with Connor at liberty then rode him around the pasture. We had fun on the ride outside and Misty was very good.

As for the evening:
WOOO! Session #2 of toboggan pulling went fab! I showed Momma how to man (or woman, as it were) the flip video. We took it to the next step by adding more stop spots, as opposed to just one, and we also TROTTED!! Session 2!

I also revamped equipment: I have two flat driving lines that I attached to the halter and I used a feather line to attach the saddle to the toboggan. Working out the kinks on how to lace the driving lines through the saddle.

Once, I left him at a stop to get the mail. He cleaned the stop up (there are pellets) and left it. For a moment, an image of Blu careening down through the country side with wood chunking off and flying away behind him as the beautiful toboggan was crashed to pieces. . . Blu ambled off to the next stop, cleaned it up, and ambled off the next step. He showed not the least bit of concern that something was trailing him without me there. Phew! It’s a good thing he is an excellent point to point horse!

I let my mom go in long before I finished. We drove around from point to point and I was finally able to get him to stop at a particular bucket he kept passing by. On the video, you can see where he had problems going in a straight line when we were establishing his new stop points. Once he knows where the stop points were, I just had to point and shoot. That also became a problem, though. That is where that secret bucket came in. I stayed very soft and asked him to slow down before we got too close to it. Now he suspected something and was much more willing. Another kink out of our toboggan skills.

Now that we have trotted and all around the front yard, I really can see us making our way around the entire property on lovely toboggan adventures.

I am going to put all of my video clips together once I have them and make one big movie out of it, so Toboggan video abound! For now, my blog will be updated by tomorrow with a link to the video if you are interested.

I sat in Ginger’s stall with Blu and his new kitten Pico while Blu cleaned up Ginger’s left over hay. It was relaxing and nice to not be sitting in snow anymore—my bum is still freezing!

Natural Horsewoman Out.

Friday, January 14, 2011

15 minutes: Backing into the trailer- tried to lift second foot on with the yoyo. We are warbling between success and regression on this task.
30 minutes: Circling. We did both leads, but I specifically wanted to get his left lead with a smaller circle.
15 minutes: Backing into the trailer-tried to lift second foot on with the yoyo, went introverted once, so I backed off and put him to bed.

I can’t be too elaborate because I am going back to work!

Unfortunately, I can't be any more elaborate because the specifics of this session are foggy.

Natural Horsewoman Out.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Geometry with Parelli--I Speak Math

We played with our small circles, again. I did lots of transitions to get his weight back on his booty and slowly shortened the line. We got to 12’ before I called it a night, and he was not struggling like a fish out of water, either. That is about 3 feet less than we were able to achieve the other night—that’s a six foot change in diameter, which is great progress in my book. In the beginning, Blu showed some nice slack in the rope. Did some changes of direction in the beginning, too. Also, tonight we did the right lead.

(Liberty, 15 mins) I took the halter off and gave Blu permission to eat. I did TTouches across his back and down his legs. The back will help to relax him and release any tension as well as aid in cellular memory. I did "rainbows" down his legs and "dots" on his hooves for coordination and awareness. Should probably do that before, huh? I gave Blu two chances to choose to come with me. The first time, I needed to yield his HQ with a look when he looked up and went back to the grass. The second time, he looked at me, looked at the grass, then followed me :D all the way to the barn. I sat with him in the barn aisle for a while before going into the house.

Natural Horsewoman Out.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Getting the Newspaper

I took Misty and Blu right out of the barn and into their halters for a ride around the yard and to the neighbors. It was very exciting, but it seems like it was such a long time ago. It was such a long day! I am glad that after I survive tomorrow, I will be onto the weekend--nothing drains me like three days in a concrete jungle.

Before going to bed, I am going to write this down so that I might get something resembling a peaceful night's rest:

I have been studying the Parelli Natural Horsemanship program for 3 years, now. It has been a monumental part of my life ever since. I harbored a dream since I was little to become a horselady that people could look up to. Somehow, I still have that dream. I am pretty young and lots of things are flying at me at the speed of light and it gets overwhelming, but the dream is still going strong at the core of what drives me when the tough decisions come along. My horses need to come first, always--a horselady is no horselady if her horses don't come first.

So, no matter what happens, it is important that I am a horselady that is in her own way, an entity separate from Parelli. I bring my own innovations to whatever table I eat at. My dad has always believed that about me, and it's time I recognized that he is right. I will be an apprentice of the horse, always, but I will not be branded to the point of becoming an un-identity. If you are looking for a good horselady to help you out, come look me up in two or three years--I should be semi-capable of teaching humans what the horse taught me, by then.

In July (this July), Blu and I are going on an adventure to the Parelli Center in Pagosa Springs. Neither of us really know what will happen there, but I don't plan on leaving that place the way I found it--Blu and I may be soft spoken, but no one who meets us is ever really the same. Parelli Empire, I am going to knock your socks off. I am not the S***, nor do I think very highly of myself, I am simply myself, and Blu and I tend to do that to folks.

So, we ran around together. Lots of excitement, but everyone stayed safe. Misty was ready to go to the road and get the newspaper out on our way home--she really just wanted to see if there was a cookie in that box!

Before dismounting back at the barn, I asked Misty and Blu to collaborate a sideways together. A bit of a struggle ensued, but we got it figured out in the end and we all got one step.

I felt like I wanted to give Blu a session all to himself, but I needed to go get ready for school. Well, next time, then.

Natural Horsewoman Out.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Kachow--Pushing Your Boundaries

I can say one thing: some of you may or may not be in for a kick in the head pretty soon. I got my kachow today and it had me reeling all afternoon. I even called Meggie up and chatted with her about it. I also wrote a post about it on my blog.

[b][i]My Blog says:[/i][/b]
[quote]Today I am experiencing emotions that don't feel good. I am afraid, unsure, angry, dissatisfied, with a side of self-contempt. This was all brought on by the book I am reading. The reason I decided to blog about it is because I caught myself searching out the thoughts of others--not by directly contacting them, but by reading various passages and anecdotes they had written--and I realized this is some heavy stuff that I need to own.

These emotions that don't feel good are not necessarily negative ones that need to be chased away like an unwelcome coyote. They serve a purpose, even in today's fast-paced, logic-driven life. My emotions are trying to reconcile something and I need to disallow my mind--my logic--from trying to justify, create false projections or realities, or ignore the flaws that my emotions have honed in on and want me to respond to.

So, I am doing a writing exercise. The first question I need to ask myself is "Why do I feel this way?" or "What is the offender?" I will not publicly share that one, but I have identified it. Now, what do I need to do to satisfy the emotions so I feel back in balance? What boundaries do I need to set?

Okay, here is where I have arrived at:
#1 I do not need to be a Parelli Professional. I can be myself, just like I originally wanted. I do not need to carry the Parelli brand on a license in order to have validation as a horsewoman or a teacher of the way of the horse. No such laws of the universe are written.

#2 I have had success with my horses, and no one in the history of creation can take from me that truth.

Now that I have said all this, I feel better, though still some lingering feelings that don't feel good. But, progress toward feeling better is underway. I will not try to hide these feelings when I go play with my horse(s). Rather, I will continue to own them and keep them out in the open; I will stay congruent.

Natural Horsewoman Out.[/quote]

I did feel much better after writing it.

Toboggan Ride

CLICK ON THE IMAGE! This morning, when I heard that we would be getting a lot of snow, I decided that after my long day in class, I would come home and teach Blu how to pull me in the toboggan. My family owns an old wooden toboggan with a nice red, vinyl cushion. There are four holes in the front that used to have the pull rope attached to it, but the rope has since broken due to drying out and becoming weak at those points.

I hemmed and hawed about whether to use a saddle or a surcingle, but I decided the surcingle might slide back. I chose Ellie's western saddle because it was light, I could find the cinch to it (blush) and I knew Maggie would not appreciate her nice saddle being experimented with.

I had a halter on with one feather line attached to the halter and one attached to the saddle horn. I will do a numbered sequence to explain how we arrived at the product seen in the video:

  1. On the way out, I dragged the toboggan on a featherline. I let him follow it, walk beside it, walk in front of it, and trot with it behind him. He never remotely shied. He smelled it curiously and was fine with it. Not even a skeptical ear twitch. His entire demeanor told me he was completely accepting of the toboggan.
  2. I taught Blu to keep walking as I pulled on the saddle horn. If Blu stopped from that pressure, then we would not be able to go anywhere. Blu learned that very quickly.
  3. I put the toboggan on the feather line attached to his saddle in such a way that if I let it go, the line would slip off the toboggan. This was in case Blu became worried. Instead of escalating into crashing, splintering toboggan, the toboggan would be released from Blu. It was never an issue, though. So, this step was me leading him as he took the weight of the toboggan.
  4. I moved to zone 5 as he took the toboggan at the walk and trot.
  5. Added a 50 pound bucket of concrete mix (mix that got damp and turned into a rock-in-a-bag). I made it a point-to-point exercise, now, with food at the end point so he would have a focus to go toward. Otherwise, he would probably go wiggly-kaniggly all over the place trying to find a release from the pressure. This way, he accepted the pressure. We did this step in two parts: first from a distance of about 12', then from a distance of about 35'.
  6. I added my kid sister to the toboggan at a distance of 30'. (He acted like it was nothing).
  7. I would step on the toboggan as he pulled it.
  8. He pulled me for a distance of 5'. It was trial and error episode to find out how close I needed us to be to the food for him to accept my weight.
  9. I fed the feather line through the toboggan and back to the saddle horn so it was pulling equally on the saddle. All this time, I had been holding it so I could set him free if he panicked. Well, Blu had been trotting, making turns, getting tangled and still had yet to panic. I realized it was safe for him to have the feather line fed through and back to the saddle again.
  10. Now Blu could pull me from 30' away. Once we got it twice, I asked Ellie to video us. Here, I will also say that Blu understood the process and began to help me get him set up with the toboggan. His concerned faces also went away while I was positioning--all because he now understood the purpose to all the fussing. I had done everything patiently, but he still was unsure of all the hindquarter yielding.
  11. Mom pulled in with grain. I showed her our new skill and then Blu dragged the grain in on the toboggan. To get to the car, he had to squeeze between the car and the trailer--no problem. Then Mom dropped the grain on from however high she was carrying it. His head bobbed up, but he did not panic. The second plop did not bother him at all. Blu hauled it all the way into the barn.
Tonight's success was due to our previous relationship, lots of zone 5 confidence history, my reading his body language, and, finally, breaking things down and adding the little parts one at a time until we arrived where we did.

I would like to use my flip video camcorder to document each stop, however, it should be known that this is a "how-I," not necessarily "how-to." Blu and I have been studying together for a long time and he is very developed on line. So many "prerequisites" would not be shown in such a video. I guess that is my little "disclaimer."

Right after I put Blu away and was cleaning up, Meggie Allen (my instructor) called. I had wanted to talk to her about what was bothering me, but I found myself arranging lessons with her after our chat. I have only 3 or 4 lessons from her back in summer '10. I stopped taking them because I went on a beautiful adventure to the Colorado Parelli Center for the Performance Summit and could not afford anymore lessons. I have decided that I would really like to invest in them, again, though. I enjoy having someone to share with and an outside-of-self perspective. My first lesson is next Thursday.

So, that's all for today. Now I am off to go feed the horses!

Natural Horsewoman Out.

Questioning the System

Today I am experiencing emotions that don't feel good. I am afraid, unsure, angry, dissatisfied, with a side of self-contempt. This was all brought on by the book I am reading. The reason I decided to blog about it is because I caught myself searching out the thoughts of others--not by directly contacting them, but by reading various passages and anecdotes they had written--and I realized this is some heavy stuff that I need to own.

These emotions that don't feel good are not necessarily negative ones that need to be chased away like an unwelcome coyote. They serve a purpose, even in today's fast-paced, logic-driven life. My emotions are trying to reconcile something and I need to disallow my mind--my logic--from trying to justify, create false projections or realities, or ignore the flaws that my emotions have honed in on and want me to respond to.

So, I am doing a writing exercise. The first question I need to ask myself is "Why do I feel this way?" or "What is the offender?" I will not publicly share that one, but I have identified it. Now, what do I need to do to satisfy the emotions so I feel back in balance? What boundaries do I need to set?

Okay, here is where I have arrived at:
#1 I do not need to be a Parelli Professional. I can be myself, just like I originally wanted. I do not need to carry the Parelli brand on a license in order to have validation as a horsewoman or a teacher of the way of the horse. No such laws of the universe are written.

#2 I have had success with my horses, and no one in the history of creation can take from me that truth.

Now that I have said all this, I feel better, though still some lingering feelings that don't feel good. But, progress toward feeling better is underway. I will not try to hide these feelings when I go play with my horse(s). Rather, I will continue to own them and keep them out in the open; I will stay congruent.

Natural Horsewoman Out.

Natural Horsewoman Out.

Monday, January 10, 2011

High Traffic

ORI: Misty, 45 minutes, evening, 1/10/11

Misty and I went down the road about an 1/4 of a mile and then came back to the farm. I would like to try and do this every day for a week and see how much better she gets with the road. Hopefully, over the weekend we can go all the way to my house (1/2 mile from farm). Misty we not bad on the roads. She was keyed up a bit, but she was not flying off the handle. She was trying to match my relaxed demeanor. I would walk a bit fast and then she would mirror me as I slowed down. It was really nice to watch her try so hard to do what I was doing. I let her stop and eat a lot, which definitely helped her. I also gave her plenty of line and just blocked her from walking in the road if I needed to. On the way home, we crossed out of a corn field and down into a shallow ditch. There was fallen tree trunk about three feet in diameter. As I stepped onto it, she went over it. She stood up and her body was doing exactly what I was doing. It almost felt like I was riding her because she went over as slowly as I did. No qualms, very athletic. She had another shining moment when she responded to pressure properly as a giant, noisy, flapping red rig went by. Then we grazed between the neighbor’s and our pasture. After I let her go, I did about 5 minutes of liberty with her because she wanted to.

I was in a real good place, tonight, within, that is. The entire time I was with Misty, I was in a state of easy-going euphoria. My favorite part of tonight was the fallen log. We had so much synchronicity in that feat and it felt beautiful.

Natural Horsewoman Out.

Natural Horsewoman Out.

Sunday, January 9, 2011


I am reading The Tao of Equus by Linda Kohanov. I am in a chapter about a young woman named Joy. It's been an especially eye-opening chapter that has raised a lot of questions about myself because I super-relate to Joy. She is a person of the people-pleasing variety, as am I. Many of her personal bad habits resonated with me. . . because they are also mine. I have recognized this facet of myself and have worked hard to reform it, but this chapter spoke about levels of this bad habit that I had not considered. The most relevant item I can share is the tendency to suppress my feelings, to put on a happy face and shrug off negativity; to not express the feelings that society says are negative; to supress them inside myself. This creates an incongruency. I think that subconciously, I knew this was happening and why. In fact, I got very close to expressing it as a verbal theory when trying to communicate to someone why my horses were misbehaving at horse shows. Now I see fully what was going on.

One of the exercises to help solve this debilitation of feeling is to allow yourself to be ( insert "negative" feeling here ), find out why you are feeling that, and do what you need to do to satisfy your subconcious needs by setting boundaries for yourself that make your subconcious feel safe. I know that sounds ambiguous, but I am not a certified teacher of the field, so feel free to not try this at home if I have been unsuccessful in achieving clarity. At any rate, I think this is why I feel better when I talk through my sessions.

Blu, 3 hours (spread out over two sessions), afternoon, evening, 1/9/11
Misty, 30 minutes, evening, 1/9/11

On the 45’ line, we played the circling game behind the barn. Today's focus was on preparing for cantering around those buckets with me beside his zone 5, so I wanted a lot of cantering, and I ended up having to be provocative to keep him from grazing, intially. He was easy to get going, but I began to ask for a transitions right at the two spots he was tending to stop in order to keep him going. Pretty soon, he was so connected, he wasn’t thinking about stopping anymore.

I did several changes of direction. He was doing all flying lead changes when he maintained gait, but sometimes, he dropped to a trot. He began to get tight with the changes of direction. I did two blocks so he would do the change of direction, but not have to feel any more pressure from me. One was the barn. The other was to let him race up the hill and he had to change direction or go kareening down a steep hill with all kinds of vines blocking the way. That caused him to stop and really thing. His changes of directions fixed, we moved on.

I began a bulls eye. He got to about 15’ and could not maintain the canter any closer. I kept him there for several, laps though (before letting him drift out to a larger circle, again), as I tried to feel what I needed to do to help him move better. He had a lot of tension in his neck—like he didn’t know he could canter with it bent. To fix it instantly, I remember wanting to be able to brush his ribs because his breathing was getting stiff, too. It would seem that Blu needs some serpentines to become more flexible. Other isolation exercises would help him get that tighter circle. I settled for a really nice trotting bulls eye pattern into a tight circle. He was curved around me and kept going all the way to me.

I took off the line and let Blu graze for a bit. Then I read for a while (lots about Joy). Blu had a line on, but I wasn’t holding it. He was going all over the place, but was ready to go when I was done reading.

I tried to work on his canter with two lines, but I couldn’t use gloves because the gloves are not athletic enough for me to work with them. My hands became like rocks and I couldn’t grip the lines softly anymore. I kept at it for as long as I could. I held onto them but, it was just too much. I was quite upset that the cold was keeping us apart.

What I learned in that half hour was that Blu can canter with the feather lines with me in the middle as long as I am cantering. Otherwise it is difficult for him to maintain a canter that close. So, I was just cantering with him. I got to feel some really nice feelings of synchronization before I threw in the towel; we went from a really rough and wild canter, which looked like may have been hard to come down from, and slipped down into the trot then walk with just breathing and gait changes in me.

Blu was really keyed up because in a lawn several houses down, a man was driving a lawn mower through the snow with a kid in a sled behind him. Ginger and Blu were staring and very concerned. I was very goofy. I did not look at the spectacle, but instead, rolled my body across his like a rolling pin until he responded (walked off to find somewhere else to stare from) I pitter pattered around and Blu finally went into the barn on his own. I had a plan to ride him over behind the barn with food in the middle of our bulls eye pattern so I could feel him better, but with him this stoked, I knew I would want some of it out of him before I got on. So, 23’ line and a lot of running around until he relaxed was the pre-flight plan.

He was just as flitty as I figured he would be. I encouraged him to get it all out, and when I put the reins on, he was much calmer.

So, Blu gave me his back easily twice (I forgot the food the first time). That brought me such a blooming of warmth in my chest. I started some sideways/halfpassing that turned into small circles with a sideways element. The bend was uneven, at first, with his circles counter clockwise being less bendy than the other direction.After some flexing and blowing, they were both nice circles. As we went back to get the bucket of food, I noticed that my core had been very engaged during that episode. Little did I know that the next part of our session was going to involve much more of that.

When we went to the bulls eye pattern, it became obvious to my body that the reason he could not get into tighter circles at the canter was because he was so heavy on the forehand. Blu’s current back conformation is very down hill and it makes it quite difficult to do finesse. I am able to get into a good body position and we’ve had success with our finesse journey, but this is where his body draws the line because he simply does not know how to move his body into something tighter, on purpose, and at the canter. I could feel everything falling onto his inside shoulder. So I showed him how he could do really tight circles at the trot. Then, for the canter, I tried to lift everything up as much as I could. I felt like all my organs and guts were going to come up into my lungs, so I found a new way to breathe while willing Blu to lift up. Blu was searching and experimenting. Then, finally, on our circle about 12’ from the food bucket, he got two or three elevated canter strides. I immediately let him go to the middle and grab the food because that was very difficult for him (and me!!!). I got down and took the bridle off. When he had cleaned the dish, I picked it up and he followed me all the way to the barn at liberty. I think next time, I will put the dish on a barrel so his focus is a bit more up, too.

Now it was Misty's turn--or at least that's what she was saying as I walked by her pasture. I got two treats, a carrot stick & savvy string, and played with Misty. Meeting up, as we walked toward each other, she mirrored every step; when I took a step to the south a bit, she took one to the south, as well, and the same for the north. We ran around and I found out that she can do spins with just a suggestion of direction. Cool! We did it 3 times. I would slap the ground one time and it would send her around and she'd finish it up by bring her front end back around to me.

As we stood together coming off adrenaline after playing, I suddenly wanted to ride her in a run around the pasture. I put the string around her neck and swung on. No problem! We went off and I asked for a canter. We flew around the pasture and did two flying changes. She was so in tune with my will. It was such a good time, short as it was.

I took Misty out to graze for a while. I told her about Blu’s session. She taught me a lot tonight. I learn so easily from her. She showed me how much could be retained on a schedule of lots of down time, no deadlines, and fun.

Natural Horsewoman Out.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

No Thanks

ORI: 1/8/11 afternoon

(Misty On Line, 45 mins) I went to the back door of the barn and called Blu, but he looked at me then continued to sunbathe. So, I took the 45’ line over to the north pasture where Misty stays. She was not put off by me unraveling the 45 to make a loop for her neck. In that fashion, we kind of pandered about doing this and that. My goal was to feel her out. She reverted to an old lack of confidence that causes her to latch onto obstacles, become stoic, and stop asking questions. However, it was mild and she was still coming to me with confidence. In any case, she was excellent with the neck line. I did some sideways to me stuff. I want to get her sideways cues more subtle and expand her sideways moves. She is better with the left side. I found a really great ending point when she followed an introversion with a question and a very positive return to me. Taking off the line, she stayed by. When I walked off she followed.

(Blu, Liberty, 45 mins) I was hoping that Blu would be ready after I finished with Misty, but he still only acknowledged me. Instead of going out and catching him, I brought out the lounge chair and read the book. Ginger was the first horse to come to me. She stood over me. She has such a soothing presence. I read aloud to her for a while. Hoosier tried to join us, but Ginger, in her misguided attempts to assimilate a confident horse-leader and is thereby very aggressive toward her pasture mates, chased him off and returned to standing over me. Eventually, she left, too. I was reading about how a horse would act up when the human’s behavior did not reflect the true emotions. I related to that with my show career because Misty dealt with that human in me.

Then, after 40 minutes of reading intently, Blu came up and began his investigative, testing behavior. I made a point to set the boundary clearly and let him do whatever he wanted on the other side of that boundary (no nosing the hands or face allowed). After five minutes, I folded up my chair and left. The "no thanks" was over. I smiled.

I hope that tomorrow reflects what I invested in today, but I do not regret the quiet time spent, as I learned a lot from my book. Perhaps Blu knew I needed to learn from Linda for 45 minutes more than I needed to teach him for 45 minutes.

Natural Horsewoman Out.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Adventure Walks

Misty, 1 hour (two 30 minute sessions), 1/7/11, afternoon
Blu, 1 hour, 1/7/11, afternoon

Today I wanted to take Blu on a walk to switch things up a bit. Misty was calling to me, though, so I grabbed a carrot stick and we did our little playing bit. I did try to get a circle from her, but it was quite choppy as she would take a step, stop, I would ask her to go again, one step, stop, etc. We ran around together and she backed up by her tail, doing nice turns with her tail, and also backing up with my hand in the air over 22’ away. Lots of sitting around, too, coming off adrenaline with our heads down. At the end, I asked her to stand on something. I asked once and waited while she thought about it and finally got two feet up.

Now, Blu was interested and wanted to be picked. Once on the feather lines, we did our circling around the buckets, circling with an ear-string, and then we grazed for five minutes. We got to a really good place with all the circling stuff a lot faster than last time, which was cool.

Blu was not very cooperative for putting the bridle on, at first because he would not keep his head down to get started (I was kneeling). Finally, he kept it down after patiently stayed persistent and calm. It really didn't get under my skin, at all. In any case, when I got on the picnic table, all I had to do was flick my glove over his back and he sidepassed to let me get on! YAY!

We just went on an adventure ride down the neighbor’s property. There is a paved path to his horse barn. An unpaved path shoots off and borders his pasture. The path runs between his fence and wooded area. Then there are several fields beyond that. It was his first time off the property in a while, so I was staying in touch with Blu and we handled his concerns with lots of savvy so there were no big events. For example, we worked through his concern about an overturned wheel barrow (ending with him grazing next to it) by going sideways back and forth while facing it. Eventually, we arrived at it and Blu was fine.

My plan was to go for a run in the field, but the ground was frozen in furrows. So, I compromised; we cantered up and down the straight, unpaved lane until he stopped his crowhopping/bucking (nothing I can’t sit :D) and was stopping without using the reins. At first, he was not stopping with just my seat and would kind of bounce to a halt on his forehand. Once everything was getting easy for him and the same, he began to relax and stop with just my seat, on his hind end, no less. That went nicely. I dismounted and walked with him on the way home.

Now, Misty was quite upset that she was left behind. She was not running around frantically, but she wanted to go out and about, too. I decided not to pony her, though because I knew Blu might not be on his best behavior nor in his best mindset for ponying (especially bareback). So, I compromised (sound familiar?) and took her on a walk. Unfortunately, as we came to the property, the dog came at us. That dog makes me a bit nervous because he acts very erratic. He is a "silver lab" and the weimereiner in that mixed breed only brings good color to the table. I miss their old yellow lab. So, because the dog was nervous about me coming onto the property, I decided to ditch that plan. I . . . COMPROMISED again! Misty and I walked around our property. Okay, we ran a lot, too. She loves to run with me, and I enjoy running with her. Lots of grazing, too.

Today was nice because work got out early enough for me to do all of this before going back in for second shift! It was fun to be out on the farm with the equines for so long.

Natural Horsewoman Out.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Spirit of the Horse

Today was a day of great spiritual and emotional depths. Every day I am striving to become more of a puzzle solver and less of an emotionally imbalanced, wild, tense lady. It is not that anyone watching would think that, but it is inside, which means my horses see it plain as day. I know it is at the root of their behavior issues. I could do everything else right and provocatively, but it would not begin to scratch the surface of solving any real "problems" if I can be right inside.

I spent about 2 hours reading The Tao of Equus to Blu and Misty (in two separate session), today. In between those two bits, I was inside trying to recuperate my body heat as I read. I have gotten through chapter 3, and each chapter is uncovering new things. It finally ended with one of the most spiritual moments I have ever had with my horses. The most spiritual thing was when I first joined up with Misty when I was 10. I had been working so hard and not getting her connection when a thunderstorm rolled in and the onslaught of driving water did not frustrate me in the least. Nor was I afraid of the flashing lightning or ominous thunder. I just felt like I was channeling something powerful. It was not some demystified equation yielding the obvious solution, that day. Misty and I had something happen between us as she followed me around the round pen. What I would give to have that childlike spirit back inside me.

Tonight, was a bit less magical sounding as far as relaying a story goes. I had just reached the crescendo of the chapter. I don't want to spoil the book for you, but I made a promise to Blu that we would be partners in this thing and that he would be the teacher a lot more than I was letting myself allow him to be. I reconciled the fact that he would still learn a lot more than I would during our time together because of his connection to nature that I would have to work hard to reestablish within myself. And I told Blu that we were kin, no matter what, and I needed to remember that. I called him "Brother," and meant it, not just as an endearment or pet name, but as fact.

I said these things amongst others and released tension, frustration, violence, anger, self-hatred, narcissism, ego, self-centered, disappointment, and helplessness that I had been trying to put in a box inside myself and kick aside. I felt like I at last had articulated things I had been lying to myself about, and the entire episode made me grow wings of relief and freedom.

It seems--in a constantly increasing degree--that I am rocketing toward something very unconventional with horses. I do not fully understand the ramifications of this path, but I am taking it--as Maggie and I say, "I don't know where I am going, but I am going there full speed."

Well, onto the hours of horse play! Official Records Information goes as follows:
1/5/11, Blu, 30 minutes, afternoon
1/6/11, Blu, 2 hours and 30 minutes, afternoon and evening
1/6/11, Misty, 45 minutes, afternoon

It was a really snowy couple of days! I have been so weird, inside, lately. It has been quite strange because I am living in semi-isolation and do a lot of thinking by myself and soaking in the swirling vortex of my mind. What I really need is a good soaking in my horse's mind. I am trying to manually and forcibly change my mind's gears away from my current mindset, a mindset concerned with timelines, progress, goals, and a black string. It used to not matter to me, but with the fast track fast approaching, I sure would love to achieve level four before going. I think that it is really great that I am getting this out of my system, this concern with progress, black strings, and timelines. A part of my journey toward level four is really embracing wherever I am in the present time. Rather, wherever WE are--my horse and I. Perhaps, I need to stop focusing on the problem that I realize is there and accept that I am currently being self-centered and crazy egotistical. What a concept. My Parelli Professional once told me I needed to know that I was "right where I needed to be" with my horse, but I did not think about me being right where I needed to be with myself. Well, I acknowledge those things, now.

Between work shifts, yesterday, I played my figure eight from one side of zone 5, again. I started from the beginning I established the previous session, but what took us almost an hour, yesterday, only took half an hour. He seems to carry himself better at the trot. At any rate, when we were done, I took off his gear and returned him to his pasture at liberty. I had to guide him with my hand under his jaw a few times, but it was not a bad quality end, by any means.

After lunch, we did more driving from the side of the haunches on the feather lines. But the little things mattered, today. I waited for him on the way out of the barn. When he was diving for the grass, I stood and really thought hard about what I should do that would not just cause him to give me his attention, but his respect. I ended up with flicking his peepee, but I did so without getting frustrated and I tried to barely touch anything. Just enough for him to go "gasp!" and cross his legs. Pretty soon, he was standing at attention whenever I was and he didn't look offended. I still want to think of a new way to deal with this, so I am keeping it in the front of my mind-twiddling.

We got to our side of the haunches driving in zone 5, but it was a rickety start. He looked sour and was not bending around the focus. I tapped his rib cage with the carrot stick to encourage that to move away and I focused hard on the focus of our circling. Then I asked for a bulls eye spiraling to the bucket-focus. When we got to the bucket, we stopped and rested. His focus was much better, now. We achieved the trot and without stopping in the middle in even less time than yesterday. This was a sure indicator that Blu was ready for variety! I just so happened that I had set up 3 or 4 more buckets. They were not all in a line, but they were equidistant from one to the next in order of bucket 1, 2, 3, 4, etc. (about 12').

When I switched from the second bucket to the first new one, he didn't miss a beat (trotting) and switched the curve of his body. I was almost disappointed that he wasn't surprised or something, but not really; I needed something to go insanely well--Blu must have picked up on that little detail. He is really understanding that when I switch sides, he switches his curve. But most importantly, he was getting softer. Not just lighter, which does not accurately convey emotional state as a word in this case, but softer. I am trying hard to find ways to make this interesting for him because he has been showing a lot of sourness, lately (I think I need to do nothing with him, again and try to get back in touch with him). Next for this zone 5 driving (from the side of the haunch), really, is the canter. But before I can be confident cantering next to his haunches, I need him to learn how to carry himself with more athleticism and relaxation at the canter. So, a million circles around hills at the canter it is!

Since my attempt at spicing up our session had turned out to be an easy hitter for Blu, I wanted to do something unexpected. I am really trying to delve into my creative thinking to play games with him and be provocative and interesting while staying light. In light of that, I tried something new today: I put a loop of my feather line around Blu’s ear. As a safety net, I had the other end of the line attached to the halter--so Blu was about 10' from me at his greatest distance. Since I have two feather lines, I will eventually be able to use the entire line with an entire second line as a safety net. It took a while for Blu to light and even longer for him to get soft. I just kept doing bulls eye patterns focused on me. I ended that episode when he did a bullseye pattern with almost no resorting to a feel on his halter.

I let Blu graze for a while and then went in to get my book for a Misty reading session. With the lounge chair set up for me to read in, I went into the pasture began reading to Misty (and Connor, who stood nearby). I was not frustrated in the least (very giggly, though), but Misty was being very pushy. She was rubbing me, pushing me with her nose (hard), and once she got my glove in her teeth, lifted my hand by it, and dropped it. As she continued to fit define the word nuisance, I suddenly realized I was reading in my head. As soon as I started to read aloud, Misty quieted down and she stood silently over me for the rest of the read. In fact, she was as close as she could get with her front legs right up against the chair. I thought of her as the author spoke of her own mare.

I had to give up the reading thing after 45 minutes because my toes were freezing. I went inside and warmed up while reading the book. When I went back out, I knew exactly what I would do with Blu for the next hour: I was going to read to him while he ate on the lawn. It was a really great experience, and most of the important details were relayed at the beginning of this post.

Lots happened today. Tomorrow I work all day, so it will be horses between two work shifts, again. . . Bring it!

Natural Horsewoman Out.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Talking to Myself

Wow, what a change from yesterday! I spent 30 minutes with Blu in the barn aisle, first. I brushed him and used a towel to dry him off and scrub his manure stains. Once he was all dry, I pet him for a while and talked to him. I saddled him with Maggie’s western saddle. I got no negative reactions with the saddle, until I went to mount. On the left side, he swung his head back, but on the right side, he did not. I only saddled him to see how he did. So, mounting is our challenge--not saddling.

I unsaddled him and put Maggie’s saddle away. I bridled Blu on my knees (I decided I would ride before on line because he was dry and would not be after playing on line). I made a point of waiting for him to be in between bites of hay before kneeling by his head. The bit was cold and did not have any syrup on it, but he still sought it out when I presented it to him and he was patient for me to put it in. On the way out, he had a threshold at the aisle gate. Instead of putting pressure, I waited--no pressure. Then he came to me. I took him to the picnic table outside and he was cooperative for getting in position and he did not have any negative response when I did get on. I stepped up to the top and clucked him forward--that simple. I pet his back and made my intentions clear--no sneakiness. I gave him a treat before I got on, which surprised him. Once I was on, I waited for everything to settle. That's when I began to talk to myself.

It probably sounded like I was on one of those craft shows where the ladies talk through every step. But it was more than that. It’s kind of like when a pilot is saying everything they do as they do it. It helps to keep you from getting emotional in a bad way and to have reason.

Anyway, I put a tarp in the trailer to keep snow from building up in it and on the ground in front of it. Blu went straight to it and sniffed it. I did not push him to do any more, nor did I ask him to go on to something else. He stepped on it once and then decided that he'd had enough and asked me a question! I got him in position to turn to the driveway and off we went.

Our freestyle session was testing out his hindquarter yields and backing and general mood to prepare for some finesse. I also made a point to stay on the same path throughout the whole session since there was snow on the ground. Talking through the session was really helpful. Blu was a bit nervous about the tarp when we went by in the other direction past it. I just let him halfpass and I halfpassed with him as we went. His wariness of that diminished more each time we passed by it.

Then my dad showed up in the truck. Blu was concerned about that, too. I let him approach at his own pace. He relaxed quickly and became curious. My dad rolled down the window and Blu bothered him while he was on the phone. Blu loves to talk to people in automobiles. Dad also happened to have peppermint sweet in his glove box. The truck was there for the rest of our session and Blu was never worried about it again.

His hindquarter yields got better each time. I started by being very conscious of my phases. I noticed right off the bat that he was lighter when he yielded from my right leg than the left. The right got response with just my heel pushing the skin. The left went through hair-skin-and light taps with my fingers on his side. I just did them each time I got to an end of the drive (or to the truck on one side) and followed our hoof prints.

I picked up the contact and used the suspension rein. Soon, his hindquarter yields were equal in quality—just a push on the hair, too! Blu was backing crooked sometimes, but lightly. We did walk, trot, and canter (cantering only at the end) and maintained our path through the whole thing. On our last lap, we cantered. He was rounded all the way through. Cantering has always been really difficult for him to collect in, so this was very nice for him. I ended when he backed up really straight and softly.

It was snowing REALLY hard, so I actually had to take a break (my pants were soaked and my glasses kept getting covered in snow. When it stopped, I headed back out.

I'd left Blu in the aisle and now I got him haltered there with the feather lines. We started a new idea with the featherlines. I wanted to teach him that when I am at his right haunch, he should be turning toward me, and the same with the left haunch. I had to reassess our starting point so he could have a smaller success and I could stay handy with the lines. Throughout the session, I had bouts of frustration with the lines, though.

My reassessment of the starting point was to stop every time we got to the middle before changing directions (fig 8). Then I pitched my clunky gloves. Then I put the outside line over his back everytime we switched directions. I had to work really hard to stay relaxed and I did get bracy/tight about those lines a few times. I would just stop and unwind myself, and start again. I also began to talk myself through it like I had done with my ride. My goal was for Blu to be soft and on the circle and to change to the other circle when I switch haunches. I did not change to the other focus on the 8 until he was soft with the one we were on. Then we would arrive in the middle (and stop), where I switched to the other side, waited for him to bend in the new direction (sometimes I would give a cookie to him), and off we went around the other focus.

For a long time, I was looking at him to watch for his bend, but then it suddenly hit me (BFO) that I should focus on the focus of our circle (two buckets, in this case) and feel him being on the circle or not. DUH! Then I stopped stopping in the middle. Then trotted it, got a beautiful figure eight with perfect changes of direction, and went off to graze. It felt so good to have gotten that sorted out. I know the savvy with the feather lines will come with time and practice.

After a five minute break, we went to the trailer. We did the yoyo for a while before I tried the porcupine game because he was not getting more than one foot up there. I was very delicate with this because it would be so easy to force him onto the trailer this way. I stayed soft and respected thresholds and tries. He got two feet up and tried hard to get the front. I rewarded his tries, brought him out, put him in again, and called us awesome for the day.

I let Blu graze a bit before putting him away. Good session!

Later, I came out and read The Tao of Equus to him for 45 minutes while I sat in the aisle and he ate hay. It was really cold, and somehow (I don't know what is wrong with me...) I forgot my coat. But I toughed it out and read that book to him aloud. When I would pause, he would stop chewing and look at me. I like to think he was trying to be quiet to hear what happened next. The book is really good! As I read, the book spoke to EXACTLY what I have been thinking about a lot lately. I want my horses to have a friend in me. I want to keep that as my highest priority—I don’t want a silly black string more than that. I started Parelli not because I had a problem horse, but because I saw Blu in the tour stop demo horse and knew Blu would love to be raised this way. I saw that Misty and I could understand one another more than ever with this approach. Sometimes, I get caught up in something else, though, and I have to boot myself back down to being a horse crazy kid. So, it was good to sit with Blu and read a book about the spirituality of horsemanship.

I looked at the time and realized that I needed to hustle out for Misty's undemanding time. I took a bag of cookies because I had a feeling I would not be able to suffer through the cold much longer and it was too dark to read outside. I sat with Misty and fed her cookies—I just held onto my book and froze. It was time well spent, though. She came up to the fence and nickered when I whistled her to me this afternoon. I have decided to get up early tomorrow morning and ride her or something. Poor, poor Misty. I don’t know how I am going to leave her behind in six months.

ORI Blu, morning/afternoon/evening, 3 hours 30 minutes, 1/4/11 ~*~ Misty, evening, 15 minutes, 1/4/11

Well, six months to go (to the day) before my fast track course in Colorado. In six months, I will be waking up and driving Blu to the ranch to check in. I am going to say that it's really been bothering me that I have to leave Misty behind. I am trying to see it in some other light besides me choosing Blu over her. It's not because she is not as good as him, or that I like him better--it's not even because he is further along than she (in fact, I would say that she is more advanced than him). It's just that he is younger, has better feet, gets on better with new horses, and is better at handling change. It still hurts and I have to cut back her playtime because Blu needs it. I am only recording this to get it out of me. Don't want to carry that around inside forever.

Natural Horsewoman Out.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Shake, Rattle, and Roll

ORI: Blu, 1/2/11, Afternoon, 1 hour, 30 minutes

Sometimes when learning something new, Blu gets very concerned and worried. I have to wait it out and find the little tries as efficiently as possible so he can get a release. It used to make me nervous for his well-being when he would start to get so confused. Sometimes, I even got frustrated. Yesterday, I just knew that he would find the answer, though. Invariably, he does, as long as I set him up to. Today we were doing things that he is not "solid" on. I wanted to move these skills into more sensitive phases. The key was to keep going until he got a right answer, not increase the pressure when he was trying, and to stay calm, no matter how high the phase was. I called this post "Shake, Rattle, and Roll" because after we got over the shaky and rattley stuff, we rolled right along!

Blu was eating hay outside a stall, but he obediently came with me. I let him eat loose hay in the aisles on the way out of the barn. Then we fought with the water trough. The water heater shorted out on him, so once that thing was trashed, I had to show Blu the water was safe. It was comical. . . except when Blu pitched my gloves into the water trough--something I only find funny looking back!

I had buckets set up, but forgot to put treats on them. So, as we would pass a bucket, I would quick put a cookie on it so it would be there next time. We worked up to the canter. Blu got a little bit on adrenaline, so the buckets were really important because he knew we would stop there, so he was already slowing down when I asked him. A couple times, I asked for him to just walk, which surprised him, as he was ready to take off again. Today, I will play more with transitions in shorter spans--more buckets!

As a personal progress note, I am getting better at handling the featherlines in zone 5. I am still draggin 10 foot tails behind me, but he is not getting feet tangled in them as often. I would say we got feet where they shouldn't be in relation to the lines about 10 times during the session. I will be watching for that number to go down and to continue to increase the amount of the lines that I am using.

We also did a focus on sideways with the trailer. At the neck area of the trailer, I had a chair with a cookie on it. I did not let him arrive at that cookie until we could with relaxation. We must have gone back and forth 15 times. Needless to say, it took a while. He would get very confused, have opposition reflex, and want to go forward or backward. I used my phases very clearly and rewarded him immediately for anything right--from a thought to stopping doing the wrong direction to actually sidepassing in the correct direction. It all depended on what he need each moment. It was a good exercise for knowing what he required. When he finally got relaxed and could go sideways without worrying, I had him go sideways on our phase one to the cookie-chair. Phew!

I took off his gear and dropped in the super dry-frozen driveway. He followed me to the barn. I told him he could eat the loose hay in the yard, but he only took a few bites and followed me to the barn. I deliberated for a moment about whether to do finesse or freestyle. I still was not comfortable riding with absolutely nothing, so I put on a neckstring and took two carrot sticks. I mounted up using the water trough. He was very cooperative. Still, he did not automatically sidepass to me, but he did not pin his ears or get worried.

We started fast to get him calm--still really windy today, plus freezing cold. I could definitely tell he was a bit worried because he could not focus on me enough to have sensitive back ups. Once he had some semblence of mental collection (and more sensitive back ups!), we focused on sensitizing his hindquarter yields; they are still pretty clunky without a bridle. He gave me several really nice hindquarter yields with just a light heel. Sometimes, it was another case of the shake-rattle-and-roll illustration, and I will definitely be wanting to check on this today.

In any case, yesterday was a good session between my two work shifts. Very cold and windy, but we made first steps that will be important to our progress.

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