Monday, February 28, 2011

Passive Gentle Leader

I stepped outside and Blu immediately came over to me. I groomed him with my hands, noting spots he did not want to be touched. I will relay these to my chiropractor, who is coming out tomorrow to work with Blu. He was iffy about the left side under his belly below the spot between his back and loins. That is right where his back pain comes from. He also did not like me putting my arm over his back. I noticed that yesterday, too. I retreated and reapproached.

When Blu would look back at me, I would gently catch and cradle his head and release him when he wanted me to. Reverse psychology.

When Blu wanted to pick on Hoosier, I gently shooed Hoosier away. I could tell that had an effect on Blu.

I walked away to the round pen and he followed me all the way. It was a very lovely feeling—one that made it VERY difficult to leave. When I went to the rp, Misty came around, too. She stood by the rp through every undemanding time I had with Blu this past week.

When I did leave, Blu followed me. Tonight felt so good and I really felt like a passive, gentle leader and like I was flowing with the go and going with the flow. I feel like it was a good place to move on to the next step

Natural Horsewoman Out.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Bored Out of His Gourd

I spent 30 minutes doing an undemanding time. Blu seemed bored out of his gourd, but he stayed with me the whole time. Then I played with him at liberty. I had a saddle pad and let him mouth it, throw it around, etc. for a while. I did very tentative stick to me after a zone 3 "passenger lesson" with my arm over his back. Then I played with him out in the pasture. He cantered with me, trotted exuberantly to me…it was a good time.

Natural Horsewoman Out.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Is it Lie or Lay? Oh, Who Cares!

Blu was magical, today. He was cleaning up hay leaves with Hoosier. I provocatively opened the door (by doing so slowly as the door made all the unlocking sounds). He looked up and came to me (after peeing in the muck pile). After our salutation, I led him to the round pen. He was not so hesitant about continuing past the gate for the other pasture, this time.

I lay down in the snow (lay is the past tense version of lie, which is the proper verb, here. The present tense lay means to lay something down. You might lay down a horse. But if something is doing so of its own accord, it is lie) and Blu stood right over me. He had his nose right over my face and stomach for a long time. He would smell me very gently now and then. He was even less mouthy, today. Yesterday he wasn't nibbling, just touching, but today he was hardly investigating. He just stood over me. He moved to standing with his head over my feet. After a while, he began to paw gently and I protected my space. He backed away a bit, pawed gently again . . . and then lay down next to me. I cried!

I gave him some cookies and pet him. I sat behind him and then Sarah the cat came along (she left us when Blu laid down) and slapped him. I shooed Sarah, but the damage was done. The magic was kind of gone and Blu stood up and chased her away. Later, when she came back, he chased her away again with much vehemence. She did not come back.

For the remaining 10 minutes or so, Blu picked up the towel and carrot stick. He never actually got one into my hand.

Blu followed me out and I said good bye then got everyone a snack. As I passed by on my way back in, Blu stopped eating and looked at me. It's not much to the naked eye, but that connection to me meant a momentary disconnection from his food, so it was special.

What a special day. Back to work for second shift!

Natural Horsewoman Out.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Warm and Pleasant for Eternity

Today, the sun is out and it is warm and pleasant out. Snow is melting, birds are singing. In between work shifts, I went out to have day two of my quiet time with Blu. He was sticky about going on past the gate that separates the pastures. At the round pen, he was patient while I worked the gate open and shut.

I had a vinyl table cloth to lay on so that my snow pants would not get wet from laying in the snow for so long. However, the table cloth smelled bad, so I flung it away. Blu was dilly-dallying by the gate when he noticed the table cloth. He did not worry about it when I was carrying it, laying it down, or even when I whipped it away from me, but now he was snorting at it from the other side of the pen. I watched, knowing that I was about to see him work through this confidence issue by himself and that it was notetaking time. The table cloth was behind me a bit. He had his head up and eyes and nose wide. He choppily paced left to right in an arc that cradled toward me. He would stop and dip his head. He pawed once. Slowly, the tension left his body. When he got to me, he still had some remaining concern, but it continued to melt away. He sighed. Later on, he confronted the table cloth as he casually walked around me. When the wind picked it up at another point in time, he looked up with surprise, but just as quickly returned his attention to me with relaxation.

Today, Blu did not move around so much. He did not try to move me, either. He also did not nibble me. He put his mouth on me, but no teeth. Sarah the black cat was with me, again. She randomly slapped him a few times. I think she is hormonal because the next moment she was rubbing on him again and he had just been sitting there quietly in the first place. I began to throw her out, but she kept coming back. I even tried tossing snow chunks at her, but she just chased them and came back to us. Funny.

When Blu lifted his head in reaction to being slapped by Sarah for the third time, I sat up and tried something. I pulled gently on the hairs under his neck and taught him to lower his head that way. He learned it really fast and I could just touch him under the neck and he'd lower his head to me.

It had been 30 minutes and it was time for me to move on to the next part of today's session, but I did not want to. Blu was chillin next to me and Sarah was sitting on my chest as I lay in the snow watching the extremely clear, extremely blue sky above and the sunlight play in Blu's long mane. I just wanted to stay there for the rest of eternity.

I finally mustered up the gumption to get up. Blu decided to investigate the tire and the spot I had been laying. I called him over, but he was completely engaged with the ground, so I smiled and left him locked in while I got ropes and halters. I had a feeling that he was finally going to roll in there. As I came back, he was rolling! He came right to the gate when he saw me. He was eager to have the halter on.

I let him go in the other pasture, but he was in a cuddling mood. The connection was maintained and it was so nice to stand with him for a bit. He felt so connected. As I stood with him, he noticed the salt lick bucket hanging on the fence and occupied himself with it. I felt his focus on me dissipate so I sneaked off to go get Misty.

Misty was on the other side of the corn crib. I surprised her when I came around the corner, but she came right over and was eager to get the halter on. I took her to a barrel and she automatically came up to the barrel for me to get on, but as soon as I settled on, she was movin'. I rode her around a bit to establish our feel and her impulsion improved. I used the pedestal and circling the cone to do this.

I yielded Blu's hindquarters and he very easily followed Misty and I. I don't remember how, but somehow Blu ended up unattached to us--I believe that Misty scared him away. I wanted to halter Blu (not put a line on him, just practice putting on a halter from Misty's back. Once he was following us again (which was very easy), I stopped and got the halter on him. I put Misty in front of him so his head was over her withers. It was the only way I could keep Misty from mauling poor Blu. Blu was very cooperative through the whole thing, though.

After walking a bit and gently asking him to keep up with us with the carrot stick, I moved into the trot. He went right into the trot with us and stayed with us. We went about 100 feet before Blu started to get excited and naughty thoughts (he wanted to bite and harrass Misty--he hadn't yet, but it was coming). I had wanted to make it to the pedestal together, but we needed to get his mind changed. I cut across in front of Blu straight to the pedestal. That surprised Blu and he stared at us, stopped in his tracks.

I took Misty back to him and pet him. I asked him to come with us and he got on the pedestal. I played the friendly game (extreme and then letting the string wrap gently around him) for a bit. Neither Misty nor Blu reacted. Then, I invited Misty onto the pedestal and she did not fight with him! They stood together peacefully and I knew this was our end point.

Blu followed us off the pedestal. I parked him at a cone while Misty and I got the line for him so I could manage him at the gate. Blu was doing great. He did not move one foot until, just as I leaned over to clip him, Misty bit him and he tripped sideways. He followed Misty and me to a barrel where I positioned Misty so she could not get him. He wanted to put the clip in his mouth, so I let him a little bit more than he wanted. No issue, no drama, we worked the gate.

Blu went to the water trough while I was letting Misty go. Misty had to be tackled as she tried to come back over to the wrong pasture, hehehe. When Blu finished with his water, he came back to me. I gave hay to everyone and went back to work.

It was such an amazingly awesome session. The connection, the success, the warm sun--so good.

Natural Horsewoman Out.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Black Cats and Pyramids

Maggie and Mom gave the horses hay before I got out there. That is not optimal, but when I took Blu by the jaw after greeting him, he did not argue a bit. He was actually very bright and light. He anticipated stopping at the gate, but I smiled and continued to the round pen.

I made a decision today that I want to give Blu and I a good long focus on our relationship. I want to do amazing things with him, so I am going to make sure that we have a super duper foundation underneath us to build on. I feel that I am continually returning to a feeling of being at war with Blu. It did not used to be that way, though. Looking back through my blog posts, I come across this post about Blu. It made me smile. At the end of our session, when I return Blu to the back pasture with all the other horses, he chooses to follow me back to the front instead of join his buddies. That is a powerfully humbling feeling.

I am going to go on an adventure in less than 18 weeks. I would love for us to have all these tricks up our sleeves, but what is much more important is that Blu and I have a rock solid relationship. No cracks allowed. I need him to trust me completely on this road trip.

All of this stewing has lead me to the decision to plan out each of my remaining weeks today. The first week is going to be down time. It is going to be learning about each other in the round pen.

Today was the official signing of the peace treaty. I was put on my Carhartt's and hoofed it to the round pen with Blu as described above. I was surprised that Blu immediately came to me and stood over me. I lay in the snow being rubbed all over by the cat and the horse. After a bit, I sat up and found an itchy spot under Blu's chin. He loved being itched there! When he would stretch out of reach, I would take my hand down and he would put his back down for more. Blu was progressing to nibbling, so any time he put his mouth on me, I stopped scratching. He licked and chewed after 5 times.

Once he put his butt to me and began backing up. He has done this on occasion during quiet time since I first started Parelli. He likes his butt itched, but this feels different. It is a way to get me to move out of the way, I think. He is not kicking or evening looking mean--he just looks sneaky and kind of like he is giggling. He will very slowly slide back. I used the carrot stick to protect my space. He got some more itching from me before he got into position to do it again. When I yielded his hindquarters, he plodded slowly off and looked like he was going to lay down. I sat up to watch and he immediately looked to me and came back.

I rolled around on the ground, but it was to no avail. He was done with rolly thoughts--or so I thought. He was getting a little mouthy with Sarah the black cat. All along she had been rubbing on his mouth and chin, but now he was starting to get a bit curious with his teeth. She slapped him and hissed. He pulled away and licked and chewed. "That cat has self respect," I thought. I felt justified and happy about protecting my space from then on. I did it gently, but I was adament. After some more time of being clear about my boundaries, he followed the cat to the gate (more like chased her slowly at the walk). When he decided that there was no way he could reach her through the gate, he began to wander as if to roll again. He was clearly restless. He would get his legs close together and swish his tail, but not go down. He pawed. He yawned.

I think he was having some major discoveries right then. He returned to me--still not having rolled--and I stood and we exited together. I positioned him so that he was between me and the fence so I could do a stick to me game on the way back to his hay. The first stop, I had to add stick, but the second time, he stopped without it. Then I ran to his hay and he trotted.

Natural Horsewoman Out.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Just Laugh

This morning, I fed the horses their hay early so they could have it all eaten by the time I went out for my session. Blu was a bit contrary to coming to me when I came back to play, though. I think he was expecting some grain, first, maybe. I played the catching game with him and had fun getting him to focus on me. I went to his stall and waited for him to follow me in there at the end. I was tempted to pop out and call him, but I stayed disciplined and waited (that 2 minutes nearly killed me, don'tcha know?). He came and I gave him a sweet. I sat with him while he cleaned up some hay in his stall, then I took him off to the other pasture on a 12' line with one strung carrot stick.

After some extreme friendly game in zone 5, I led him through the weave pattern of 3 cones from zone 2--simple stick to me. That got our path tracked through the snow and established connection. I moved on to driving from zone 5 with one 12' line. This turned out to be a situation where there was not enough preparation for our goal and the tools we were using. Blu ended up confused and worried and I ended up frustrated.

Quite out of frustration, I yielded his hiney as he was wandering off with his head up and body stiff. It was very fast and he totally changed. Even though I should not have been so emotional, it was exactly what Blu needed--a big HQ yield that matched-and-then-somed his energy. It snapped me out of my stupor, too. I suddenly knew what I needed to do, and things were much easier.

I took a step back and did the weave pattern from zones 2/3. I moved it up to trotting with cantering on the ends. At first, Blu had difficulty cantering, but his ears and mouth relaxed after a few times and he did an end with relaxation and lots of hind end engagement. We were ready to ride.

Blu did well squeezing between the barrels. I sat down and we headed off. I got warm and took off my coat, placing it on a corner post. Blu was very confident with this whole thing, but when we got to the opposite corner, he was suddenly frantic, nervous and stiff. I was searching for the offender and doing changes of directions as well as considering dismounting if I needed to. But then I realized he was spooking at my coat! It looked different, so here we were. I thought it was very funny, but I made the rest of our session about building his confidence. Using change of direction every time he stopped at a threshold, I helped him find relaxation and build confidence as we went with his idea. Every time he stopped, I leaned down and marked in the snow where he made it to before doing a 180 and going off. I also asked for a canter or jog as we left and let him slow down as he needed to. We were making about a foot of progress each time, then all of a sudden, he got curious (still tentative, though) and covered over 50 feet of uncharted territory on the track since the coat. There was a huge lick and chew moment, a sigh of relief, and lots of laughing from me as I thought of him saying "Ooooooooooooooh."

Blu did not take issue with me reaching down and swinging my coat on. I got down and hugged him then he followed me at liberty to the gate. I was sure to follow the track out. Interestingly, Blu did not wait while I locked the gate on the other side--he did not turn face and wait. Instead, he went to the barn. I suspect he was thinking about his breakfast. Sigh/laugh.

Natural Horsewoman Out.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Easing Back In / Easing Back On

Today was my first play day since we began walking. I wanted to do something very easy so I could assess and decide what to do next as well as to sort of ease my left-brained introvert back into doing things that require effort.

I had an apple core in hand and when I stepped out, there were 10 equine eyes on me. I don't think they saw the apple, though--I was too far away. When I got to the door to Blu's pasture, I unlocked it then waited. Usually it flies open so fast, but today I let the suspense build. I was kind of proud of my way of making things provocative from the start.

When the door opened, Blu (and all the other horses) definitely had their eyes on me. I stepped out after waiting and Blu met me 1/2 way. He followed me as I backed into the barn. I gave him the apple and while he ate it, I put on his halter. When we left, he went off a nice soft feel. I focused on keeping him next to me instead of behind me.

First thing we did was check the time. He had to wait outside by the door while I did that. Then we went out to get the paper. He did have one threshold, but he went on after only a few seconds and by himself. In the road, I sensed some tension, but not much. He was much more relaxed and not frantic or tight about getting back to the driveway. He waited outside patiently again while I put the newspaper and mail in the house. He was not tied either time; the line was just laid over a planter on pedestal. How obedient! I suspect that a good foot of snow over all the grass played an important role, though :)

In the drive way, I played the friendly game and stood with him for a bit. Then I gently yielded his forequarters a bit. His hindquarters a bit. Forequarters, hindquarters, forequarters, hindquarters. When I asked for sideways, it was very soft and he went together. Next was to come sideways to me. I did the same separation and recombination and got the best sideways to me, yet. Blu stayed calm and relaxed. Usually, he gets tight and worried about sideways. Today, I finally managed to be clear about it.

He became absorbed in the goings of a plastic bag in far off yard. I did a falling leaf pattern that turned into a stationary figure eight pattern, then I put our heads down. He licked and chewed. Now I had his attention. I began yoyos. He was doing them with just energy on the way out, but coming in was hard for him--an "I can't," not an "I won't." I just waited with light steady pressure through his sleeping. Whenever he would wake up, I'd take the pressure away. As I applied again, he'd go to sleep. There was slack in the line, but I would just keep it steady. Then he would just wake up and come to me. That was a very nice thing.

I sent him out on a circle. He was doing a good job of keeping slack in the line. If he took it out, I did a partial disengagement. When his walk was rhythmic and he was leaving the slack in for several laps, I asked for the trot. He kept the slack and jogged on. He did ten laps without correction. My goal was 15. In those first ten, he was falling out of the jog and then picking it up again quickly without being told. I decided to aim for 10 the next time. This time, he did 10 nice laps without any breaking gait. I stood with him for a while.

Out in my arena, we walked the path of our follow the rail pattern. The fresh snow made it easy to set things up for success. I stood on a barrel and squeezed him through space between the two barrels. He had to go around the first time, which I let him. The next time, he stopped in front of me an invited me on. I got on, took off his halter and line, and put those on the barrel. He took them off the barrel a few times before finally walking on without swishing.

I was going to go until I got one lap without using my stick. Just the walk. I wanted it to be easy so we would win. Well, he stayed on our track and I did not need to use my sticks at all. So, when we arrived at the barrels, I had him squeeze between them and stop. I put his halter on from his back then stepped onto the barrel. I tried to get him to hand me a carrot stick, but he was more interested in throwing it away from me. Finally, I was able to grab it before he threw it. It was funny--I was laughing.

Blu was great with the gate. I took off his halter and he waited patiently while I locked it back up. Then he followed me to the barn and we sat in the aisle for a while. He cleaned up loose hay and I cleaned his back hoof and sat there feeding Hoosier handfuls and feeding Blu.

It was such a nice, easy session.

Natural Horsewoman Out.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Walking with Maggie Again

Maggie, Ginger, Blu, and I went for a walk as the snow came down really heavy. We focused on him being polite and respectful about grazing. Snowing really hard :( Good walk :)

Natural Horsewoman Out.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Grazing by the Road

One of Blu's and my hazy areas is road confidence. Both of us get tight around the road. Today, in the lovely sun, I stood in the road while Blu grazed in the ditch. He really got into the relaxation and when I finally took him into the road, he was not tight and unpredictable. I was able to relax more. He did tighten his butt when a car went by, but it fizzled out pretty quick. On the way home, later, he also tightened up on the road. I will be feeling for him to be completely at ease with the road.

While we were, in the aisle by the neighbor's horse and donkey, we ran/cantered together and it was so fun. Blu was splashing me as he ran along in the puddles and he would buck exuberantly. It was such great feeling that brings a smile to my face.

Another Account of the Day: "I let Blu graze in the ditch for a long time. Then we were off to the neighbors. Lady and Moses the donkey were laying down in their pasture, today. Blu and I ran/cantered down the aisle by their fence. He liked that, and I did too :D On the way back home, Blu was a bit better feeling on the way home. In the road, he was the most confident that he has ever been, but I still felt tightness in him as a car went by from behind. He did not have any displaced behavior, though, and he felt fine once we hit the drive. Sometimes, he gets antsy or will toss his head and buck as he walks away from the road.

So, good walk, today :D"

Natural Horsewoman Out.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Walking because of the Weather

This week I have been taking Blu for walks because it is major meltdown time outside. Everything is turning to yucky, slippery, mucky mess. Blu would not have good footing in the pasture, I don't want to mosh up his path in the arena so it dries all choppy, and the lawn is OFF LIMITS. Also, Blu and I could use some walks. I am going to really just focus on our relationship building for a while until we have footing again.

I have been going to the neighbor's drive and walking through puddles and working on his road confidence. This morning, we were taking thresholds one at a time. When he froze up and started pawing, I got him going on a consistent circle so he could move his feet. Yesterday, he was walking with his butt in the road (like a haunches in) because he was looking in the ditch. So, I played with him in the ditch. On my walk with Maggie, Blu walked straight in the walking area outside the white line.

He was willing through all puddles except at the end of our walk. I used reverse psychology and pushed him around the puddle several times. When I did not push him around the puddle, he gladly went through it.

On our walk, we encountered and maneuvered a giant log. Blu did not hesitate to go over it. At first, he put a foot on it and began to walk over it. He shifted gears and jumped smoothly over it with no problem.

I never felt any particular connectedness on our walks so far. I have felt rather blah about them. I feel like this afternoon's was the best, but Blu and I have some building to do, that's for sure. More to come!

Natural Horsewoman Out

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Lovely Walk

I took Blu for a walk on the driveway and down the asphalt path at the neighbor’s. He helped me bring up the trash—no problem with that, by the way. He was nervous on the road, so I took some time with it. He was fine trudging through water and was a pretty good partner for our walk. It looks like we are confined to lovely walks for a bit as the temps are at or above 50 degrees F this week and everything is muck. I am ok with that :D

Natural Horsewoman Out.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Back from the Getaway

I attended a weekend getaway with my youth group this past weekend. It was so much fun. I played ice hockey on a frozen lake for two hours straight, went sledding for 3 or 4 hours on a wonderful sledding hill, and God made all kinds of changes in my heart. I was EXHAUSTED!

So, today, I played with Blu at liberty. I stood with him for a while chatting. Then I drove from zone 5 at liberty. I took him back to the hay room and trimmed his right front foot. . . but I was so sore from all the playing this weekend, I could not do any more feet! So Blu has one lovely manicured foot.

Blu opened the barn door and I drove him to a tree. There we worked on transitions in prep for cantering in zone 5. Blu was cantering, but with super tight lips. It was pretty bad and made me tight, too.

So, I changed it up. We cantered to a grassy spot in straighter lines with me in zone 3 and he never picked up the wrong lead. We ended with grazing and walking back to the pasture.

Natural Horsewoman Out.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Last Lesson With Meggie, Lead Change Ladder Session #5

When Blu saw me, he did his regular walk toward me, but Ginger got in the way. Ginger is mean to the boys, very insecure in herself, so she gets nasty and will unnecessarily push Hoosier and Blu around. Now that Blu had an obstacle between him and me, he could either give up or overcome. He fought Ginger to get to me! Well, he actually dodged her blows and sped by, but that's huge!

He was following with me as a partner, rather than dragging behind. I had him circling 15 laps at jog, cantering until relaxed, driving from zone 5 fig 8, cantering in zone 5 in fig 8, prep for mounting from two barrels. All of this before Meggie arrived.

When Meggie arrived, I was almost mounted up. We were supposed to be working on the lead change ladder. However, for the day, we barely made it to the counting canter strides step because Blu had this HUGE problem on the left lead. We focused on eliminating the tail swish by suggesting as lightly as possible and then letting him build up his impulsion as I did quick releases. We went from a thought of going forward to finally a canter. But there was so much worry in his canter. He had trouble with making one of the short-side corners. I used my stick on his shoulder to get him to stay inside. Also, he left the arena once or twice on a sort of AAAAAAAAAAAAH!!!! canter. We were bridleless, but this was fine, because, as you might have read, I currently have a lot more confidence bridleless than I do with reins. I just calmly smiled at Meggie and said "Good bye!" as we raced off on a tangent. I guided him back to the arena and we re-entered. That happened three times, each time with me getting that shoulder over sooner so the leave was shorter. Finally, he got a little relaxed.

When we switched directions, I put on the reins so I could have Meggie help me through my unconfidence with them. I knew I would have less to deal with in this direction because he is more confident on the right lead. Sure enough, we he was fine. We even got to count strides, and it felt REALLY good. I also never had any problem with the reins.

Meggie is not going to be available to me for lessons until April 5th. Maybe by then I will have some lead changes to show her. Her homework for me is to get Blu very confident at the canter in zone 5 so we can work on asking for a lead on a straight line from zone 5. Also, continue working on the lead change ladder.

Natural Horsewoman Out.

Thursday, February 10, 2011


I sat on a straw bale out in the pasture with my art history text book, taking notes. I had two carrots that I gave Blu. He was eating his hay and getting attacked by Ginger. Oh, and it was FREEZING!

Natural Horsewoman Out

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Beware of Reins

I mounted from two barrels. He had a bridle on, but I had no reins. I had reins available in case I decided I was ready for them, but I am still weary of riding with a bridle—much prefer the sticks. Who would think that I would have to get used to riding WITH reins?? I used transitions to build up impulsion. Pretty soon, he was cantering very nicely. His downward transitions are so much better bridleless. How cool. I gave him a 4 minute break on the rail (standing) when he began to canter transition so nicely.
We started up again and made sure we still had the canter. Since resting, he lost his impulsion and I had to patiently build up from a weight shift when I squeezed to a canter. However, it only took 3 minutes to achieve light transitions and he was getting the right number of strides for counting strides. I transitioned into the figure eight with simple changes. Since the pattern is new, there is no track, so he had to work a little harder to do the pattern in the fresh snow. He was still quite maneuverable.

I got down and Blu followed me around at liberty while I moved cones and equipment. I attached the finesse rein to the leather buckle at the ring of the snaffle—not on the snaffle—for a safety net. Then we began to do the figure 8 pattern. It is safe to say that this has gone out the window a bit. He used to be so good at it. Toward the end, he was picking up on past sessions and I could see him connecting dots. We did get something new—the canter while I was in zone 5! It was so easy for him, I didn’t think about how impossible that would have been for him 4 weeks ago (before I started this cantering program) until just now! Today, to change direction, I had him stop in the middle, settle, I change sides and off we go. I made the rest shorter or longer and sometimes did not change direction because the feel on the circle was not good enough. Maybe we can try it at true liberty some time soon . . .

Blu followed me at liberty to his pasture and then to his stall. It felt like a good ending.

Natural Horsewoman Out.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

A Break for Blu--and Let's be Honest--and for Me

Today has been a good day. I woke up very early and did homework, ate a good breakfast, then took a short nap before heading off to school (I know, a nap after you just got up from sleeping? But it was a late night with my text book . . .). In art history, I wrote a response to the "essential feminism" of the female artist and it made me think about the spheres that men and women occupy in the horse industry and the stereotypes each of us is pushed into like dolls in a doll house. It was a busy one, though. I was literally running to get a project turned in for my typography class, but I learned a lot about typeface--even more about seeing the small details and responding to the "funny feelings" you get about the tiniest discrepancies from the established norm of a given typeface. The development of that detecting mechanism within myself is very relative to the detection of small nuances of my horsemanship.

That is why I decided this afternoon that Blu and I would go for a trail ride instead of working on the lead change ladder. We both needed a break from that stuff!

Blu was such a partner when I was putting on his halter. I stepped out side and he was halfway in Hoosier’s run-in stall. I called him and he backed around poked his head out and we met each other halfway. Like I said, he was perfect for the halter. Even though that is such a basic exercise, I appreciate that he does it so cooperatively and I will not be taking it for granted any time soon.

We went to the two barrels on the edge of my homemade arena. I directed him their from zone 5. I climbed on a barrel to play the squeeze game. I was patient and appropriate and he was getting quicker at keying in to the idea that I was sending him through the gap and not to the barrel. I gave him rest when he was lined up properly and with that patient, slowly chipping away manner, he understood it so much better and became less and less defensive. He also stopped and sidled closer to the barrel I was on—invitation? : )--several times. I rubbed him and rewarded him but sent him on again after.

When I stepped across to the other barrel, I gave him some time before I asked him to step under me. When I did ask, he was very soft and responsive to the line. However, once he had his neck under me, he took some higher phases to continue on. I just needed another step and I think he thought he was in place when he wasn’t. The main thing is that this is such a big squeeze game and he has been so easy from the start. Love it.

We went on a bridleless trail ride. For the gate, he was quite dull. It is strange that having a bit in his mouth so quickly dulled him down. . . hmm, I must do better! Blu seemed pleasantly surprised when we continued past the driveway, but he got tight and tense when we were approaching the northern neighbor’s property, so we turned around and went to the south.

I played the sideways game on the fence with him. His sideways is not very nice looking. He goes forward and does not understand to move sideways with front and hind quarters. It started out with lots of blocking and what I was feeling like was noise. We did two lengths in this manner that antitheisized elegance and peace, then I decided I needed to do better at returning to neutral and staying quiet. Finally, we had breakthroughs. I gave him lots of rests—always when he was in the correct position or had moved together. At the end, he really understood to move the FQ and HQ simultaneously and he was relaxed. Phew!
We trotted home and I got down in the yard. He followed me at liberty to the barn and I let him clean up the hay room.

Natural Horsewoman Out.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Lead Change Ladder Day 4

Freestyle, 60 mins) I played with the lead change ladder inside my arena.

Today, I switched to my arena for the lead change ladder. The setting was definitely much more suited to it. We got through swinging the shoulders a bit.

Natural Horsewoman Out.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Sorry about the brevity!

(On Line, 15 mins) I did some sideways and then the squeeze game for mounting.

(Freestyle, 45 mins) Lead change ladder session 3. I got a little bit better at staying focused, still fighting the setting. Maybe I will try out the arena tomorrow. Sorry for the brevity!

This was a session in between work shifts, so when I finished, I was hustling back to work. I rode bareback, but the driveway had really inappropriate footing for walk-canter transitions.

It is over a month later, and I don't recall the details :(

Natural Horsewoman Out.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Lead Change Ladder Day Two

I feel like I have finally had a real breakthrough in my feel so I can get the rapport and respect I need with Blu--the stuff we lack when Blu is swishing his tail. Today, he did it even less as a result of my new feel.

I started in a new way: I opened the door from several feet away and maintained my position there. I couldn't see any horses. I let the drama of the void in the door way build before I called out to Blu. I heard feet shuffling. Blu appeared into my view and I played peek-a-boo with him. After a few minutes, Ginger popped into view. I backed her up by wiggling my carrot stick in my hand. As Ginger backed away, Blu came to the doorway.

I sat and stretched while Blu ate in the aisle. He was very cooperative when I put on his bridle. He sought out the bit and kept his head in position throughout. I put the halter on over the bridle and hooked him up to a feather line.

As we went off to the drive way, I had in mind to keep Blu next to or ahead of me, rather than trailing behind me. I feel like he's often way back there and when it is such a constant thing, it feels like a lack of partnership. So, Blu walked next to me.

Our first deal was sideways. I had three buckets set up 22' apart, each with a cookie on it. I got him sideways to the first one without moving my feet, then the other two. Each time got better, but he was still dragging something and not moving both together (as in his FQ or HQ). Next, I switched to him coming to me. I saw him thinking about coming to me with just the stick floating over his head a few times, but it did not go any further than that and I had to use the string over his back gently wiggling. He tried to go forward a few times and I just stopped moving (I was about 7' from him) and wiggled him back into place. When arrived to the other side, I switched sides and he came towards me in the other direction. I did not notice a difference between the two sides.

I turned the feather line into two long reins and drove him from zone 5. It was a bit wiggly and unsure and when we got to the trailer to go sideways, he was very unconfident and confused about what I was asking when I wanted him to go sideways. I stayed patient through his experimentation. When we arrived at the other end of the trailer, I opened the tack compartment and put on the English saddle that was in there. Blu was looking at me as I saddled him up, but he was not pinning his ears and he had a soft face.

For mounting, my dear friend Anna had the most creative idea for me to try. I set up two barrels on end, stand on them with a foot on each, then ask Blu to squeeze under me and between the barrels and I sit gently on his back. I was standing on the barrels and just about to ask Blu to try it when my brain kicked in and I realized I needed to be a bit more lateral about this. So I stood on one barrel and played the squeeze game through the 2 1/2 foot gap between the barrels until he was doing them fluidly. At first, he was aiming toward a barrel. I played the ambassador of yes and simply backed him up and sent him forward again--no bracing. Next I had him squeeze through while I held an arm over his head. When he graduated going between my legs, it was easy as pie!

We were working in the driveway today. I don't know if that was a better place than the snowy yard from yesterday, but I do know that I was very uncomfortable with the saddle between me and my horse. He was kind of making progress with the transitions, but that saddle was frustrating me.

I used a snow drift to stop him, once. However, he stopped out of balance, leaning to far forward and so he kind of stumbled up the drift a bit--kind of like falling up the stairs. The lurch sent my saddle rolling down his side. He was in the drift up to his belly in snow, but I was plopped next to the drift a bit.

One of my greatest fears is having my foot stuck in the stirrup and being dragged. With my boot stuck in the stirrup and Blu hanging his head waiting for instruction, I freed my boot in a panic. I pushed the saddle back on, unbuckled the girth, and pitched the whole thing into the drift. I shakily remounted him. Blu was just ho-hummy and happy as a clam. I knew it was a silly thing to panic the way I did.

We arrived to a nice canter-walk transition and I called it a day.

Natural Horsewoman Out.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Lead Change Ladder Day One

On the 45’ line:
I had a goal of getting as little tail swishing as possible. I was first very particular about where and how he stepped through the gate. That got him very interested. Then we worked on going sideways to the end of the line while I stood still. I had it set up so that he would go sideways on the fence and end up at the gate at the end of the line. He was worried, at first, but he found relaxation and got himself straightened. Still need a more consistent sideways-together motion of HQ and FQ. I had a hand-in-the-mouth moment during that. He was feeling nibbly so I played with his tongue and rubbed his gums.

Then we went out and played the circling game. My goal was to get 10 laps 6 feet away at the trot without breaking gait. It took a while, but we did it. Also, SO much less tail swishing today.

(Freestyle, 30 mins) First time riding in a bridle in a LONG time. I bridled him from my knees and he was SO good. I went through the first 2 steps of the lead change ladder to see what I need to be focusing on with him (relaxation, canter/walk transitions). The depth of the snow varied from 8 inches to 3 feet, so it was a work out. Our step one (relaxation) was going sideways on a circle with his head pointing toward the center of the circle. It was easier for him to go sideways to the left. Then I did the fluid rein until he blew. We did canter/walk transitions until he was staying "up" when we went to the walk and getting light on the canter transition. When it felt good, I pushed him into a faster canter and he did a 10 foot slide stop—that is an improvement from the 4’ stops he has been doing. We were both pretty tired and I walked him out on the ground for 5 minutes.

(Liberty, 15 mins) While Blu cleaned up Ginger’s stall, I groomed him. I also cleaned out his peepee. Yuck. I climbed on the wall and looked at his back from head to tail. It looks like his left ribs were out further than the right ones. That would explain why he was better at going sideways to the left than the right.

In reflection, I feel like today I had a good start, but that the field of varying depths of snow is not a good place to work on cantering. He needs somewhere with structure. I found that we were just flitting about in the open without much direction. This would be good in an arena, but Blu seemed more distracted by how many places he could go than concentrated on the transitions.

Natural Horsewoman Out.

Thursday, February 3, 2011


Today, my family hosted one of our relatives who was over to see how pregnant Ginger is looking these days. I rode Blu and showed her what we are working on. We were going along great with our cloverleaf until Blu went through the fence. It seemed that he was drawn to the new lady up at the front and hoped to go hang out with everybody. He wanted to so much that he did it 2 or 3 more times, completely destroying my delicate fence of binder twine and curtain rods that has been up since NOVEMBER! Sigh. I laughed a lot.

My mom recorded quite a bit of it. I noticed today, rather, I felt, that Blu was much more maneuverable at the canter. He was able to do much sharper turns and maintain gait. He broke gait often, but I still felt a real change in him and his understanding of the pattern. Tomorrow, we begin flying lead change ladder.

Today, Blu's slide stop tracks were still about the length of the carrot stick.

I will complete this update, later. In parting:

Activity 2: Explain in each of the 10 qualities of a natural horseman in your own words.
Quality #1: Heart and Desire
Heart and desire is the fire of the horseman—the being that results from a gallon of horse being poured into the human and an ounce of human being poured into the horse. It is what causes the human to make the time to do what she wants to with her horses and it is what causes the horses to want to spend that time be partners with her. It causes those left-brained introverts of mine to run fast and jump high when, left to their own devices, they would stand out in the pasture and graze all day. Heart and desire of horse and human results in the synchronization of the agendas of the two species. The "fire" is fragile in some, but it is strong in me and my horses. To cultivate it, the human must continue on her journey with the horse and survive the crests and troughs therein.

Natural Horsewoman Out.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Snow Day with the Fam

We went out to set the horses free from the barn; they ate inside this morning because of the wind that would have blown all their hay away. I got in Misty's zone 5 and began literally pushing her around. I was just pushing whatever direction she was going. I thought I would get her moving and playing with me--usually after being inside, she wants to run a bit. She was not pinning her ears at all, but as she slowly moseyed to the water trough with me jumping up and down and saying "Yeah, Misty, let's go to the water trough, then! Let's go!" she clearly had a look on her face of embarrassment.

I pushed her to the gate and pushed her into her pasture. Then we played. She came to me and stood on the pedestal with all four feet. Then I pushed her off the pedestal and got on her from there. My family arrive and I asked if someone could get me a savvy string. I waited around for a bit, but no one heard me, so I put my coat around her neck and Misty raced around the pasture. I knew where all the obstacles that were buried in the snow drifts. Misty did not need much steering, but she was very responsive to my coat. It was fun. Now her blood was up. I let her get relaxed. I took her to the pedestal and got down. She chooses the pedestal all the time as a place to relax.

Then I got news that I had to go to work in a few hours. I was quite devastated. Today, was a snow day. My university hasn't had a snow day in 32 years. Today, thus far had been magical. It was going to be a magical day of horses. If I had to go to work for 3 or 4 hours, I was going to need to go inside and do homework. That's what I did after standing somberly with Misty on the pedestal. She was a good shoulder to lean on.

After an hour of homework, I found out that I only needed to work for an hour or so. So, a session with Maggie and my mom was back on!

On the ground, I had Blu on the feather line. I was working on our circling game. He sent very nicely, putting his forequarters onto the track I had chosen for him. We had to do lots of half-yields of the HQ, at first. We were having trouble staying in the canter. At one point, he got very worried and was going sideways. I just drifted with him. We ended up on the other side of the pasture. He relaxed. His circles were much better. When I started talking to my mom and Maggie, he was circling 1 foot from me (just the walk). I suddenly realized he was doing this and thought "what are you doing?" He did not stop, just kept walking around me. I think he was trying to tie me up :D. He had maintained the canter, now and I felt that we were ready to ride.

I got on from the tire pedestal. He was looking at me funny. I held the carrot stick up and waited until he relaxed.

In the 100X50 arena, we warmed up by recreating our follow the rail tracks at all gaits. When I started the cloverleaf pattern, it was there. I felt him KNOW what we were doing! It got better! We did some spins in both directions at a slow-medium speed without any forward correction. Then, I ended by jumping out of the arena :D.

We went on a ride around the property, me and Blu bridleless. It was relaxing.

Today was a nice surprise, but now it is back to reality. I love my family and my horses.

Natural Horsewoman Out.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Monster Storm--Not Monster Horse

Today, when we got home from school and work, us horseladies watched me appear (in the audience) of my latest savvy club DVD and then we hustled to the farm to button up the barn and perform other preparations for the coming snow storm. I nailed a tarp up in front of Hoosier's doorway to the outside and got Blu's outside door locked shut. We unloaded some more of Maggie's hay from the horse trailer and covered what was left with a tarp inside the horse trailer. We braced the giant barn doors shut with tires. We cleaned up the yard of all my "horsemanship buckets" so that when the neighbor plows, he doesn't need to worrk about where the snow drifts go. Once everything was all set, I was free to go play with my Paint :)

I had two carrot sticks and a savvy string. Blu was by the gate eating drifting hay (The snow was coming down, now, and the wind had been present all day). I gave him a cookie after a horseman's handshake then tied on his neck string. I let him eat a bit before leading him to the cistern. He was not immediately cooperative, but he stepped into place after I cued him to. He raised head and I rubbed his lips until he relaxed, then I sat gently on. We stood for a moment. When I asked him to yield his front end, he did so in a perfect isolation. I only asked for about 3/16's of a turn so he would stop in position over a piece of drift hay. Surprise!

As we headed to the gate, swishy swishy tail. At the gate, I let him eat hay when he was in position. He had pretty nice isolations and was very patient.

When we left his hay, he followed Maggie's path (Maggie was recording our session). When we got onto the track of the 100X50 foot arena, I could feel him knowing he was on the track. But when we got to the first corner, he was thinking about going over to Maggie. I gently corrected him and he settled back on his track.

Here is where Maggie began to record us. Here are my notes from the recording:
  • Blu was relaxed checking out the barrels as we went by. When he stopped at one, I was going to correct him, but as he moved his HQ around to face it, I thought better of it and asked him to continue his HQ yield so that we were facing the other direction. NO TAIL SWISHING!
  • I asked for the trot and got a big swish, pinned ears, and then he cantered . . . I was surprised. It was a very energetic canter. He completed a lap on the rail w/out stick, but broke in the first corner after completing the lap. No tail swishing as I asked him to get it back, but it took the entire short side and corner before he got it back . . . then he broke after a few strides . . . but got it back again at the next corner.
  • He maintained through the next corner and I ran him down the next long side into a slide stop that looked like his usual 4-6 foot and then a nice no swish back up. I tossed a cookie onto the barrel and he sidepassed the one step to the barrel without going forward.
  • We stayed at the barrel for about 1 minute. When we started off again NO TAIL SWISH :D
  • I headed onto the clover leaf pattern and Blu did not swish his tail, though I did need to go up to the stick phase.
  • Everything looked quiet until I got to our next leaf and he began to protest when I asked him to trot. He put his nose in different directions. I just kept him on the pattern and held steady. He gave one big swish before settling into a trot.
  • He broke to the walk briefly after our next turn and when he went back to the trot, he bobbed his head at me, but did not swish.
  • He broke at the next corner, but did not do any negative reaction when I asked for the trot.
  • Now, I ask for the canter. He does not swish, though he does physically have difficulty going into the canter. I stay patient and let him get his bearings.
  • It looks really nice for the first corner, but the second corner breaks. I go out of the picture, but I think he swished before picking up again.
  • He has success in the next corners, though, so I drove him down the center line and plowed to a stop--it was really on the forehand.
  • I backed him up with my seat then asked for a FQ yield. It took him several turns to get it right, but I stayed light and released when he had a 1/4 turn--it was just the "beginning" of the session. I gave him a cookie after a lateral flex.
  • Now I asked him to step sideways. He took several steps forward. I played with it for a moment and got some nice sideways steps.
  • Then, as we headed forward, tail swishing returned, but not such an upset face. Okay, it got to be an upset face several paces later.
  • Now, we have changed directions to a left going cloverleaf at the canter. The first whole pattern was not as bad as yesterdays, but it was a lot of confusion, not cantering, countercanter, not following focus, and tail swishing.
  • He kind of mentally petered out and I let him relax into a nice jog for about two clover leaf patterns before asking for a canter. Those patterns looked very nice and relaxed on his part.
  • When I asked for the canter, he swished his tail.
  • Made two really nice corners.
  • Broke in the 3rd corner, but no tail swish to pick up, again--but did start counter cantering and going erratically.
  • After one particularly "bad" center line, I redid that section for a better feel. Got it.
  • On a corner Blu tried to cut too shallow then came suddenly to his turn for the clover leaf, he slipped and caught us.
  • He swished when I asked him to walk then jog. He was going fine, so we continued.
  • I did a lap of follow the rail at the canter so Blu had a chance to do that corner regular style. He was fine with it--no worry or avoidance.
  • Returned to the erratic clover leaf pattern--still erratic.
Maggie went in. I had to stop to say good bye to her, and I decided I better just stop and let Blu settle for moment--I better just stop and let myself settle I did 3 or 4 cloverleaf patterns at the trot. I felt the feeling I had not felt in this direction. Blu was going into a zone that allowed me to be neutral, truly. When I went into the canter, we quickly found the same feeling of relaxation and unification.

I stopped him on the bindertwine fence then spun him a few times at slow speed. Then I did a pattern to the right and when we got to that same spot again, we jumped out of the arena instead of turning. I decided that would be cool when I stopped in front of it, but I knew he need to be going a bit in order to jump.

Blu jumped without hesitation and we zoomed through the pasture to stop and back up. It was just our way of welcoming this monster storm/blizzard.

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