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.