Thursday, March 24, 2011

Hope She's Happy--Misty Saves the Day

Tonight I had some really interesting things happen with the horses. Blu is in transition to a new phase. We are giving his zone 5 driving a break so he does not get bored of it. We made lots of progress. I am thinking about returning back to the lead change ladder with him. For today, I watched the second installment of the Karen Rohlf Dressage Naturally series. I learned two new ways to do forequarter and hindquarter yields. That is going to be our ground play for a while.

When I opened the door, Blu was in Ginger's area eating stubbly grass. He looked up as soon as I opened the door. I smiled at him and cocked a leg. He turned around and began walking away--it was strange, though because he had his problem solving face on (yes, he has a problem-solving face). I realized that he was not walking straight to me because the muck not so bad if he walks away from me and around to the east. I thought that was cool.

I put his halter on and let him eat in Ginger's stall while I groomed him really well. I let him tell me if certain brushes bothered him. I remember learning when I was a kid that grooming is a special time for a horse when I read Black Beauty. Black Beauty mentions how much he loves the experienced groom who knows how and where to brush with the different brushes in a way that feels good and doesn't hurt him.

When we left, he had nice feel on the line. In the drive way, I drove him from zone 3 to get the newspaper. I wanted him to show me his thresholds on the way to the road. I talked myself through them so I could remember them for this post:
  • at the first one, his head came up, his ears started darting, his head was looking quickly from one spot to another, and his back was tense.
  • I waited
  • he dipped his head down and licked and chewed.
  • I asked him to walk on and he went right off, head low
  • I saw his head start to rise a bit and I knew the threshold was coming.
  • he stopped, raised his head more, ears darting, etc.
  • the time was less for me to wait
  • he put his head down, licked and chewed, brought his head level, and continued walking on his own
  • a repeat of the 2nd threshold episode was our 3rd threshold, only the wait was even shorter
  • At the road, he did some circles, but stayed pretty level. He is definitely making progress
Right when I got the newspaper, he stepped over his line. A van was coming and making a squealy sound. It was not safe for me to untangle him, so I stood in preparation to drift sideways with him. It worked out perfectly. He was grazing in the ditch. He shot sideways when the van passed and I calmly drifted with him. Once the van was passed, he went back to grazing (on edge, though) and I got the rope from behind his front leg.

I have to watch the Karen Rohlf DVD again, but what I did with Blu tonight was disengaging the hindquarters in motion. Instead of leaning down, you lift your posture up and the horse continues forward motion. The inside hind leg steps deep under and across the belly and all the legs are going toward the outside direction as the horse faces you a bit. Blu was confused, but he maintained his forward motion really well. I am just taking it slow, of course. Our preparatory circling game to make sure his normal hindquarter yields were good went well.

We had to hunt for my reins (I hung them on a post, but I could not find them for a while!). I mounted from the picnic table. He did a nice job. He went right to the grass when I got on. When we walked off, he was kind of keyed up. I could tell he had some jigs he had to get out, still. I flowed with his fast walk and gently directed him around to the gate to go into the pasture.

Working the gate, I was able to hold onto the gate the whole time.

I cantered around the pasture to let him get his "jigs" out. He had some bucks to throw and a few head tosses. I rode with him and he blew and got a drink of water from a puddle. When we were on his left lead, he had a tendency to fall to the left.

Now that we were at our pattern, I could tell he was feeling like himself. I wanted to play with having him move his shoulders right as we cantered on the left lead. I was placed with the question of how to get Blu motivated to go to the canter, though. I have been doing the question box for a while, now, he needed a purpose! I sat on him and thought about what we could do.

Then it came to me.

I turned Blu around and we cantered right off to Misty. My plan was to put her inside the question box. All I know is that if Blu and I play with cows, unless Blu is terrified of cows, I might have trouble keeping his attention on me--he might just prefer to chase the cow around and ignore me. As you might guess from that, Blu was very keen on this idea of herding Misty. Misty gave warning kicks at him. I kept Blu in her zone 5 and steered her to the box by simply putting his nose on the side she should turn away from. It was going great until we got to the box. She stopped before going in. She wanted to talk to me . . . :)

I tried to shoo her, but she really wanted to talk to me. I pet her face (itchy!). She looked at me with her deep brown eyes. They looked glowy and innocent and sweet. THEN SHE PINNED HER EARS AND SWUNG HER HEAD AT BLU'S HEAD AS HE BEGAN TO LOOK AT HER and then immediately turned her sweet innocent face back to me. It was very funny to see how fast and CLEAR she was about her sentiments toward the different zones of Blu (I like zone 3, I DON'T like zone 1).

I flailed my hand at her to try and get her to go away to the box. I finally was able to push her sideways with Blu (pushed her sideways as I pushed Blu sideways). She was pretty confused/ornary about this set up. As soon as she was in the box, I had Blu go sideways the other way. Blu and I waited for her to leave her box. She did after about 30 seconds and we sprung into action. She was just stepping toward us, so we sprung into the action of gently putting her back. This time, she waited patiently watching us. After a few minutes, I whistled her to us and she came immediately (they both got a cookie).

Misty started eating and Blu and I played our question box game. He did a nice job of shaping himself. I played a little with contact. He was making contact with the outside rein while putting slack in the inside rein really nicely. I surprised him once by asking him to go then immediately asking him to stop. He had a big sigh and lick and chew after that.

When I went to get down, he had a bout of back pain. GASP! I forgot his massages! Oh no!! I sat on him for a moment. He was swinging his head at me trying to bite my foot. I had him do a lateral flex the other way and he relaxed a bit, but I did not want to lean forward and pinch something . . .

I whistled and Misty immediately came to us. She greeted me and I greeted her. Then I held my hand up and cued her to present her back to me. At first she tried to touch my hand with her nose (I think she thought I had a cookie). Then she kind of went "Oh!" and set up right next to Blu. I slid to the side and onto her back. Blu did not throw his head up or pin his ears.

Misty stood stock still, totally naked. It was such a beautiful partnership display. I gave her a cookie and got down.

Blu wanted to roll, so we walked around and found a good spot. Misty was following me.

Misty followed us to the gate. I promised her I would come back and take her on an adventure walk, later. I put Blu away and went with my mom to the pet food store to buy dog and cat food.

When I got back, I got our Griswold the Barn Kitten/Cat and tucked him in my shirt. Misty was watching me, waiting on the edge of her seat. When I called, she immediately came to meet me at the gate. She ducked her head right into the halter when I held it up. We walked down the driveway, down the road, and only got 100' on the neighbor's drive and then Griswold's new people pulled in.

Griswold is going to live as an indoor kitten with a friend. I will really miss him.

While we chatted, Misty was a good girl. She tried to rub on my friend's boyfriend, but not too hard and she came back to stand with me. She was very confident about their van as it drove away.

Then I trotted with her down the drive, down the road and all the way to the neighbor's pasture. It was a very lovely adventure trot. I let her eat grass for a bit then we walked home. Misty was so calm on the way home. I walked with a hand on her withers. As we approached the road, even as we went on the road, her tempo and tension stayed level. That was cool.

In the driveway, we played rough for a moment--rearing, spinning, running, jumping. Then we came off adrenalin together and I put her in her stall. Later in the evening, she exhibited confidence and sensitivity as I put her back in her stall by backing her up.

Misty felt like such a part of me tonight. I love her. I hope she is happy.

Natural Horsewoman Out.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

It's Not Rain--It's the Trees' Voices

I did not have much time, but I hustled outside and got Misty from her stall. I was just going to take her on a walk, but I decided to ask Blu if he wanted to come. I opened the door and he came over for his halter.

With my two best buds, I head off down the drive. Misty was ahead of me and Blu was behind me. I decided to have both horses go ahead. I was in Blu's zone 3 and Misty's zone 5. I protected Misty from Blu's devious thoughts.

When we turned around, she totally relaxed and she and Blu walked at my shoulder on the way home. Both horses did great on the road. Blu was the best he's ever been.

I took them to graze under the trees. Blu was immediately ready to graze, but Misty could not yet. I pet her withers and let her walk around. She wanted to eat, but she kept bringing her head up. Finally, she blew out and began eating.

I gave her a good scratching when I put her away. Blu waited patiently on the fence while I did that. He got a good scratch when I let him go, too.

The trees are encased in ice. As the wind blows, there are a million cracking sounds, almost like the music of rain. It was lovely to hear the rain but not get all wet. I can't wait until the trees are singing summer songs.

Natural Horsewoman Out.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Green with Envy

Winter is trying to make a comeback, but I don't mind. We have had a 70 degree day, so spring is firmly rooted in my heart. I know that this snow will go away. In the meantime, I needed to put the horses in the barn. I decided to ride Misty bridleless while I did that.

Misty met me and I put her string around her neck. I led her into the corn crib and she offered me her back (left side) when I stood on the pedestal/platform thing in there. Then I asked her to go and found out that she was not actually planning on leaving the corn crib. Oh!

It started sleeting then it REALLY started sleeting. Suddenly, it dawned on me that this was the perfect simulation for what she does at the gate during speed shows. Only here, I had all the time in the world to show her that I would not push her over the cliff. I used approach and retreat and all the time she needed.

After about 30 minutes, I had a BFO--I should be practicing using lighter cues! So, I tried to never touch the string around her neck. Instead, I used her mane or my fingers. She was backing with just a change in posture and if I asked her to step forward, it became automatic for her to show me her threshold by not walking forward but putting her head down. Her porcupine game is AWESOME! We finally got one foot outside the threshold and a retreat. After a bit longer, we got two and an immediate retreat.

Then Connor left the corncrib and Misty followed him right out when I asked her to. Gosh, that is what I want! I am so envious of Connor and the trust Misty has in him. I have a really good picture in my head of how I want Misty to be with me and I know exactly how she feels when she is trusting, so thank you Connor; you inspire me.

Natural Horsewoman Out.

Natural Horsemanship

Monday, March 21, 2011

Dreary Weather

My plan was to play with his zone 5 driving to keep it fresh. I wanted to advance it if we could, but it was pretty slippery out, so I wasn't sure if we would be able to do a lot cantering. Then I would get on and play with the question box some more with freestyle and finesse. If I had time, I was going to do some liberty circles in the round pen.

It was raining and the pasture was super sloppy again. The 45' line got terribly muddy and my gloves were gobby yucky messes. For the pattern of going cone to cone, Blu did pretty nice for the walk and trot, but he was making ugly faces when I asked for the canter. As soon as he dominantly tossed his head, I shut him down and he licked and chewed--no tolerance for dominant thoughts when I am playing in zone 5. I was looking for the uncertainty that can follow after correcting a dominant horse. He went right on with another butt lift, though and I shut him down again. This time he was a bit unsure and after standing with him for a moment until he licked and chewed, I asked him to just walk to the other cone. He had a really nice lead by the tail, too (needs work on the steering). To help him with cantering, I had him do circles. I got a phone call while I was doing that and he got to take a break. He did fine on the line cantering. He found his balance pretty quick and kept slack in the line.

When we returned to straight lines, I called it a perfect ending point when he cantered. I think this was an important lesson for me on understanding each session as separate from the last. Yes, I should progress, but just because I went 50 miles with Blu yesterday does not mean that he will make it further than that or even that far today. I also think I am going to consider moving on from this idea to give Blu a break from it. It's time for us to put zone 5 driving to a purpose for a while if I want to continue to progress it.

I got on from the fence after moving my question box to a spot with better footing. He was quite tail swishy. Also, at first, instead of stopping in the center, he wanted to stop at a cone. I stayed soft and put him back in the center to let him rest until he stopped there better. I turned him around by yielding his HQ or FQ and he did so with just my legs. He was getting really easy to canter--he would just offer it.

When I put on the reins I began to play with relaxation and the friendly game with contact. We flowed into the game of contact. His tail swishing stopped. He was shaping better to the right, so I went back to stretching and relaxation to the left. Right about then I realized that I completely forgot his massages (!). Sorry, buddy! When I returned to the game of contact, he shaped better.

I wrote Linda Parelli about my success with the Game of Contact on our first try with it and she responded that to continue having success, I had to remember to keep it a game. About half way through my ride, I remembered that, put a big smile on my face and played the game with FUN as my goal. It was fun! Blu offered the canter while staying in his upward, collected carriage. That is HUGE because the canter has always been his trouble gait--he easily falls out of balance and gets emotional. I kept the ride short--short and sweet and FUN.

I had time, so I took him to the round pen after he rolled while following me around at liberty. Well, actually, he took me to the round pen. I had stopped once we were in his pasture because I was just going to let him relax, but we were facing the round pen and he did this kind of "Let's go to the round pen!" I was not going to shut that enthusiasm down, so off we went!

Inside, he maintained a nice connection as I squeezed him through the gate, but when I walked to the center, he kind of got unconfident--only slightly. I leaned back and he swung his head to me. When I took a step back, he came to me confidently. I stood with him and let him relax.

I checked his yo-yo. It was straight and so we went ahead and played the circling game. I had to draw him in and start again one time. Usually, it takes two or three to get him confidently and connected-ly circling. He came in when I pointed down and he circled six laps at the trot (new record). He also did a change of direction close up. He left with me to the gate, but did not turn and face after the squeeze out the gate. He did stop and I got the feeling he was having an introverted moment. So, I pretended like he wasn't there and continued with my business of locking the gate and going to the barn. I peeped outside and could see him looking super-intently at the door. His head was up and he was looking from door to door with alert quickness. His feet were firmly planed, but he looked like he could serge forward at any moment. When I called his name, he immediately headed to the barn (where I was) and met me in a run-in stall. I stood with him for a bit.

This whole session represented a lot of personal growth from me. I was not offended or down on myself when Blu was not confident or when he didn't follow me. I really just read it as output from him and changed myself to fit the horse. Also, the weather, which was disgusting misty/sleet/snow/rain mix did not cause frustration or blueness. I just played and enjoyed my time with the horses. I abandoned my gloves when they were heavy with mud. I kept on going when I splashe a huge puddle of water on to my pants. Emotional and mental fitness. . . that's growth . . .

Natural Horsewoman Out.

Sunday, March 20, 2011


This morning was just a bit tumultuous with my gramma. I was very upset and felt totally degraded and unwanted. I went back home and hung out with my family. When I returned to the farm with Maggie, I hung back for a bit. I was just trying to level myself out before going to play.

Maggie was playing with Ginger and it looked really beautiful. She was running around and playing the cutting game. Ginger was full of it.

When Maggie came out with Ginger, I got off the fence and headed over to Blu. Blu came to the barn and put his halter on nicely. Then went to graze. That's about it. Maggie and I played a tiny bit with each other with the horses. It was fun. I miss having people around to play with. I don't really have anyone who encourages me or inspires me as a part of a mutual relationship--at least not right here with me :). Maggie has been swamped with being sick and having homework, but I get a lot of support from friends on Parelli Connect and the savvy forum. I don't know where I would be without contributions from them.

In Parelli, we teach that there are 7 keys to success. There used to be only six:
  1. Attitude
  2. Knowledge
  3. Tools
  4. Techniques
  5. Time
  6. Imagination
Now, a 7th key exists: Support. My support system right now is helping my horsemanship immensely, and I only hope that someone is deriving a bit of their support for their horsemanship journey from me.

Natural Horsewoman Out.

Becoming Part of Your Surroundings

I have been asked by a reader (thanks, Jessi!) to further explain what I meant in a past post about "becoming part of my surroundings." I have been reading Tao of Equus and at one point, Linda Kohanov is having undemanding time with her horse and she describes how she is mentally during that time. What she writes is out of this world and I highly recommend the book to anyone who wants to read about new perspectives on the horse.

What I really took from the reading was that undemanding time can grow to higher levels depending on the skill of the human. At first, it's just about doing nothing with your horse--not touching the horse, not catching the horse, not staring down the horse. That's a skillset in and of itself. You might need to take reading material out just to occupy your mind. However, I realized that there are higher highs! One thing I tend to do is just go crazy thinking. I may or may not be thinking about my horse. I also watch the clock like the white rabbit. At that point, it has become a job to me, and a difficult one at that.

My challenge to myself became to stop thinking about things and to only be receptive to my environment. This exercise causes you to flow into the environment, rather than forcing yourself onto the environment with your thoughts and business of the brain. Just listen. Match your breathing to that of your horse or to a rhythmic sound of rain dripping through the roof. Listen to the water move in the ground as your horse shifts his weight. Smell the dust blowing off your horse's coat. You attach yourself to your environment by assimilating yourself into it in the manner. Your breathing becomes your horse's breathing. Your coat becomes his coat. You are hearing the same sounds as your horse--your ears become his ears. This is how horses feel. They are receiving information, receiving information. They are natural! So, when you turn off your thinking and internal monologue and just use the receptive powers of your brain, you become part of your environment.

I don't know whether or not that was just saying a whole lot of the same thing over and over, but that's the story behind how to become part of your surroundings according to this horselady!

Natural Horsewoman Out.

Saturday, March 19, 2011


Tonight I was almost home from work when I saw a person on the road several hundred feet beyond our drive. It looked like Maggie! What do you know, it was Maggie! I rescued her and we drove to the farm. She took Ginger out to graze.

Yesterday, when Blu came to Misty and me so eagerly, the first thing across my mind was "I hope I can still get that next time." I decided that tonight, I would ride Misty with Blu on line and just take them grazing with Ginger and Maggie. They did work really hard last night. So, tonight's time was dedicated to maintaining a Blu who came eagerly to me when I was riding Misty.

To the beginning . . . I went to the gate with the halter and finesse reins. Misty met me there. When I lifted my arm for her, she put he head under my arm and into the halter right away. I noticed that once I squeezed her through the gate, she maintained connection with me instead of disconnecting with me and connecting with the grass.

In the barn, she was great for saddling up. I gave her cookies when I was tightening the cinch. I played stick to me on the driveway and got the newspaper with her to tighten the cinch. Misty waited outside the door while I put the newspaper in the house and got my riding boots on. To mount, I climbed onto a pair of washtubs that serve the purpose of planters, now. She started to turn around and put me on her left side, but she easily came back to keep me on her right side. When I put my leg over her back, she steps even closer. What a partner thing to do!

She did great working the gate. When I got to the big gate to Blu's pasture, Blu began coming over to us. I was so happy to see that he was still keeping up with that positive attitude toward us!

We worked the gate and Misty jiggy-jogged to Ginger :). While we grazed, Misty was super maneuverable and Blu was obedient. I got really good at getting Blu to step over the line to untangle himself. I went off to find Maggie. She had left Ginger loose with Blu, Misty, and me. I called her and she came cantering with us.

On the way home, she did not come with all of us immediately and began galloping to catch up with us. Maggie put out her hand and grabbed the line off her back as she ran by in a really slick move. I was quite impressed with Maggie's super savvy. Ginger got her head back on her shoulders and was great.

I put the horses back and they all got a snack. It was a nice night and fun to talk with Maggie about horses and other things ;)

Natural Horsewoman Out.

Jars of Things to Save the World

I am trying to keep this thing updated. Tonight I am staying up late to blog about this past week. I would have you know that it takes as much as 2 or 3 hours to write one blog because I have to submerse myself in the past and do a lot of remembering and refeeling so I can record as much as possible. I definitely can't let this get backed up any further, though; this past week has been amazing!

Today, I worked all day and in between shifts I had to take 45 minutes to get my sister home from work. So, as soon as I got home, I played with Blu. For the record, Blu was out sunbathing though I waited, he made me walk halfway out there. As soon as I started walking out to him, though, he came to me, meeting me halfway. I brought a lawn chair out of the barn and sat with him under the south walnut tree to make my plan for us for the day. Back when I was writing my plan, I thought about creating some kind of archive for each horse that would help in describing him or her to someone else. One of the things that would be in Blu's definition/profile is that although he is stepping over or through his lines all the time, he is very confident about stepping on them and finding himself stuck to his hoof. He just calmly checks hooves until he is free. I am getting better at moving him around and managing the lines so he gets untangled faster and without me having to get up. It's simple thing, but it's one of those simple things that, when done at a high level or done well, makes life much more pleasant.

My plan was titled "Left Lead on a Straight Line," and it went as follows:
  • 20 minutes grazing ("one thing that does not bother Blu is stepping on the line!")
  • circling to get connection (on 2 feather lines)
  • --~Check if there are friendly or driving issues going on
  • --~Bullseye pattern
  • From Zone 5
  • --~Check sideways to right
  • --~Canter on a straight line between 2 cones (remember to fix any broken ingredients as soon as they come up
  • --~Walk through Water (image of a cone on either side of our drainage pond. at 2nd cone "cookie!" exclamation arrow)
  • If time permits, small/big circles at liberty
I stood with Blu for a bit out in the pasture. I was collecting my thoughts. I went through in my head how I was planning on having this session go. I thought of how I would break things down or back track if I ran into issues with him or me. Then I sent him out left with the two feather line reins. He was doing a nice job of maintaining gait and keeping slack in the line. When I got around to asking for the canter, he tugged a little. I used downward transitions and he quickly found his balance and put slack back in. I was supposed to play the bullseye game, but I forgot to. That was okay--he reached a really nice, soft place.

Next was doing point to point in zone 5. Yesterday, I tried point to point between the same two cones/points from zone 3. I started with a the walk and progressed to the trot and canter. At each cone, he found the cookie on the cone base. Sometimes, it took him a moment to find his cookie. After he had relaxed, I had him go around the cone in a loop and stop when he got around it. After a few times, I had him go sideways and get lined up before going off. It was my way of getting a bit more particular about where his body was.

At one point, he got into a worry-fuss about sideways. He was tending to go into the rhythmic pressure, at first. I did not let it go on long before I tried a retreat and reapproach. He had drifted away from me so I stopped what I was doing and brought him back to me to start fresh with sideways. There! Things were fixed. If you take anything from this particular episode, take this: it's never too late or too early to retreat and reapproach when the horse gets unconfident. No matter how messy it looks, don't feel like you have to stick to your guns and keep pushing until the horse relaxes. Sometimes, the right answer is to take a break and just a fresh start.

Finally, it came to cantering. It did not take much to get him cantering. I stood slightly to the right of his zone 5. This is my cue for the lead, or it will be. He did huge slide stops when we got to the cones. Once, he slid 6 feet past the cone and really quick backed up (!). It was a little slippery!

His ears went back a few times, but he was not getting very emotional. Then I tried going on the left lead to the north! Uh-oh! So far, I had always been on the east side of Blu, so when we went south, I had him take the left lead and when we went north, he was taking the right lead. Another important observation is that the line of dryer pasture I was playing on is one of the long sides of my ex-homemade-arena (the thing has deteriorated over the past month or so and only the corner markers remain on this long side). I imagine this change was too fast for him. So, I am going to introduce this idea again later (maybe tomorrow, maybe monday) with a circle. I plan on standing on his west side and cantering off onto a circle then into a straight line. For now, though, I retreated and reapproached. Sounds familiar! I found myself saying aloud "I did not know we had reached "a feel good" moment to quit at, already! Oops!" So, don't overestimate your quit point! Expect a lot, accept a little; I should have stopped back when I had successful canters in zone 5.

We flowed into the next step of my plan: walking through water. I Had Blu go to a cone in front of the little pond and stop to get the treat on it's base. Then I asked him to go to the next cone . . . which just happened to be across the 6 inch deep, 6 feet wide pond. The other day, Misty walked right through water, no problem. Blu has problem! He sidestepped and bunched up. I kept an eye on his zones and let him rest when he got into position to cross. After some time, he drank (GROSS!!) from the pond several times and finally put a foot in. I made it clear to him that was the end and he followed me across to the cone. I think that is very interesting. He would not follow me through it before, but after getting him comfortable with putting a single foot in it with him leading the way, following me through it came much easier.

After Blu had his cookie, I sat on the tire pedestal and daydreamed/napped for 10-15 minutes with Blu. The sun was so warm on us. He was very close with his head down by me. It was a very close time between us.

I still had time for a bit of liberty, so I took him to the round pen. He was polite working the gate. However, when I left the gate, he stayed facing it, though he followed me with his head. In stead of going to zone 5 or driving him away, I went to his neck and contorted myself so I was looking up at his underlip/chin. This time, when I walked away, he came with me.

I pet him, porcupined him out, and played the yo yo game. He was having pretty nice draw. He got stuck once, but when I moved my feet back, he fast walked to me (almost a jog, hehe). The first time I sent him, he went out, stopped, and totally disconnected in an unconfident way. I did S-bends with him until he was following me. We tried again and this time, he did not disconnect totally and I disengaged him (even though he was stopped, already). Third time's the charm!

Once he was going along with relaxation, I pointed down around behind me (my cue for a close circle). The first few times, he didn't notice me. I did a tiny partial disengagement and then cued him. Aha!

It was an amazing feeling. This is my dream, I realize. Well, my dream is to be out in the open with my horse cantering so close around me that I could put my hand on him at any time. It's even more than bridleless riding or riding collected. Those seem so attainable, even though they, too are magic. It's just that this is the truth. It's the most beautiful truth I know. It felt like magic and fireflies and blessings and flying. If I could find a way to put that feeling into a jar, I could give it away and thereby save the world. It could heal the whole world of every kind of hurt.

Blu made 4 circles to the right then I asked for a change of direction. I did a partial disengagement so he knew it was okay to stay close--sometimes changes of direction make him emotional. But he kept going along close. After two laps, I knelt down. He checked in with me with a look and I very gently told him he could continue circling. He said "Okay :)" and circled even closer to me. I was stunned by the feeling and I let it go on for 3 laps before my brain kicked in and said I better quit while we were having a good time with this, hehe. Still kneeling, I tilted my head as he passed in front of me and he swung his hindquarters around and stood with his head down by me. It was really soft and so beautiful.

I got finished just in time to post a quick note on the session before going to pick up Maggie. I felt so happy that Blu is doing these things with me. He is just so special and I am so grateful that he plays with me. When things go right, it's humbling. It's that feeling--it set you back on your heels and catches your breath.

Natural Horsewoman Out.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Maggie's Birthday is My Gift

I am so abundantly happy. Today was a world rocking day for me. The weather was lovely this morning. I helped Maggie strip Ginger's stall down to the cement before my class. It was her birthday. I was happy to help her so she could play with Ginger sometime today.

I got through my class in peace and quiet, pleased with my time with Maggie and the weather.

When I got home, my Karen Rohlf DVD had arrived. It is the first DVD in her Dressage Naturally series. I will post notes later. I based my session plan for Blu on what I learned from the sections I watched and what I have been doing with Blu.

When I opened the door, Blu looked up, but he was grazing in Ginger's little pasture. I went out to him and pet him. Then, I led Blu from Ginger’s little pasture to Misty’s stall by the mane. He was very light on his mane.

He was startled by the sight of Ginger’s completely bare stall. Haven't seen one of those before! Too funny. I let him retreat then reapproach and guided him to Misty's stall across the aisle from Ginger's. In Misty’s stall, I gave him some hay while I groomed him really well. He looked great and there was a huge pile of hair on the floor of the stall.

Then I gathered up the sticks, lines, bridle, and halter while he migrated to the hay room. I put his halter on and he squeezed out of the hay room to follow me out the front door. With my arms full of equipment, I squeezed him through the gate and he turned & faced while I shut it back up. Then we headed off to the tent I made out of the tarp the other day.

I put my bridle and other stuff I wasn’t using underneath the tent because it was starting to rain. Blu was really curious about the tarp. He pushed on the tarp with his nose and did not panic as I went under and came out etc. When I asked him, he would stick his nose under and dip his head down below it, but that’s all I asked of him, today.

I pet him for a bit before heading off. Misty was being mean to him, so I shooed her. That got Blu moving out a bit and I just morphed it into a circle. I played with stopping him at the tent. The first time, he pushed forward on a string that was holding the tarp down. It was a slow but unconfident leaning. I delicately got him turned around and was sure to not let that happen again lest the whole thing topple over. He got more and more confident about what I was asking, though. On the last one, he stopped a bit late. I waited to see what he would do. He went sideways to the tent, sniffed it, and looked at me! Then he trotted to me when I invited him back.

At liberty by the tent, I did all of the massages to warm up his muscles. He swung his head back when I was stretching left side of the girth and when I was grinding his scapula with the side of my fist on the right side. Otherwise, it’s looking great.

As I was getting up on the barrel, Blu was swinging his head at me. I waited until he relaxed then asked him to come sideways. He did right away, but he was a little tense as I sat down. However, he licked his lips once I was sitting and sighed. I think he is anticipating pain and then realizing it doesn’t hurt anymore.

My plan (after watching a Karen Rohlf DVD) was to start with the ride bridleless to check that I could back up, do left and right lateral flexion, and yields of the hindquarters and forequarters to the left and right without the reins before putting reins.
His back up improved through our warm up. At first, I had to use the sticks and then they got crooked. But each time we stopped and backed up, he got better. When I did his hindquarter yield, it BLEW ME AWAY. Usually, the first time I do those in a session, I need to support with something—stick, string, rein, etc. Today, he immediately did it perfectly (with a tail swish) :). His forequarter yields were good. He needed stick support for the ones to the left once. On the rail, he was doing great at going off my thighs for direction. We did not need much lower leg or heel support, let alone stick. We do have plenty of room for improvement.

On the way to the tent to put on his bridle, I did a spin to the right, walked forward then did a spin to the left. When we spun right, he did it perfectly, and when I stopped, I could feel that if I had gone for a second spin, he would have done it fast. But we flowed on and into a spin to the left. That is when he needed the stick support before we got one without stick.

I tossed the stick down and then asked him to go sideways to the tent. He went perfectly sideways without any rein, without hesitation, without tail swishing—right over to the tent. As I reached under the tent and got the bridle, he was patient and confident. He lifted his nose and put it on the tarp. I reached forward and set the bit in front of his nose and he reached forward and took it into his mouth! I put his ears on and latched the throat latch :). I cried as I reported that :)

First up was to achieve relaxation with the fluid rein. Then I was going to try out what I learned in the Karen Rohlf DVD I watched before me session. You alter the body position of the horse and let him show you what position causes him to stretch and relax. Interesting, right? For fluid rein, we went at the walk for several laps and he was putting his head down, but he did not start blowing until I cantered and trotted. For the other relaxation exercise, he stretched the most into shoulders in. His gaits were much improved to the left from the last time we worked in the arena to the left. They are still not as nice as the right, but there was much less frantic behavior. That goes for his bridleless ride, too. Also, I was super conscientious about shaping my body the way I wanted his. For the fluid rein, I grew my spine 2 inches stretching it and breathing deeply at the same time as well as stretching between my shoulder blades. It took a lot of focus for me to get that one! Of course for shoulders or haunches in or out, I was putting either my torso or hind end in or out while keeping the other straight.
Our relaxation exercises were in the arena. For the rest of the ride, we played with the question box. Next on the plan was to do the friendly game by taking up the reins, finding contact, then putting the slack back in, all without intention. It should mean nothing to the horse, so no pushing or head tossing or stopping or getting tight. Blu did great with it. I verbalized so I could keep a good rhythm. He was doing great at taking cues from my thighs, too.
Next was to change my focus and position to "up" and he should follow. If he doesn’t, I back him up to get him back on his HQ. I did this and started the game of contact at the same time. He kind of braced against the contact and was backing up instead of going forward. I stayed gentle but steady because I knew he was just confused, not being naughty. I returned to the fluid rein and reestablished relaxation. When I returned to the game of contact, he began blowing and snorting and searching for me to use my triceps instead of my biceps. We did at the walk and trot. It was SO cool to feel that hind end power up. As soon as he got it for a lap, I ended the session. He went both directions, and again, his tail swishing goes away while we play the game of contact. When I dismounted, he did not throw his head up, either.

I am welling up here! The waterworks are flowing as I recall this amazing session!

Blu followed me to the tent where I picked up all my ropes and equipment. But when I went to the gate, he stopped and rolled. There goes the clean, well groomed horse I started with :D. That was good to see.

Then he followed me into the barn. In Misty’s stall, I put his belly cover on and sat on a bucket while he ate some hay. We relaxed like that. Putting the belly cover on, I went under his belly a few times and he was very good. I used a horse blanket to wrap his belly (this is to avoid cramping in the abdomen from a cold breeze on his warmed up belly muscles).

Blu followed me to the round pen with his belly cover on. He was noticing the different feeling on his belly, but no negative reactions and he quickly started walking normally. He did a nice squeeze through the gate. I took off his belly cover and pet him for a while.

He did not immediately follow me to the center--he had to smell the earth. I did a little hindquarter yield and drew him to me. He came over with a bright face and I pet him. Then he drank water from the giant pond that is the round pen, right now. Luckily, it was all still clear because we had not played yet.

I played the circling game to see how his new concept of pointing down to circle close and up to circle far away. The good news is that he did not just hustle out to the circle. He was present and participating in the send. I did a change of direction and it was really nice (trot). I did partial disengagements to keep him on a curve around me. When I pointed to the ground, I supported with a partial disengagement. HE DID IT HE DID IT HE DID IT!!!!! I could point up to send him back out and then point down and he would circle close. It was so clear that he got it. MORE TEARS remembering this session. He is the most special horse. He is so smart. He is the BEST and I can only look on as his blinding light consumes all the dark feelings I have suffered through this winter.

He followed me to his stall and I gave him hay. Tomorrow, he is going to get a nice quiet day of reading or something. Blu is a true gift from God.

Natural Horsewoman Out.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Apple Tree

After a stick to me game in the north pasture, I played on the 45 foot line and getting Blu to think on his feet a bit and check his feel. I had him circling then I would stop him behind a log and ask him to go sideways. He wanted to step over it. When I had him straddle it, he also wanted to go forward. He circled at about 35-40 feet when we moved to another spot to circle. There was muck, but he managed fine. In this second part, there was a cone in his path. I had him stop at it. He had a ton of try going. I wanted to get his back feet to straddle it. He tried all sorts of things with that cone. I did not ask too much and I would just send him on the circle again. At one point, I had to charge at Connor and Blu just watched me, kind of sticking his tongue out at Connor (hehehe). When he got his back legs straddling it, we moved on.

I got on from a barrel and we played with the question box, waiting for willingness, and then some fluid rein. He was kind of sticky at first, but once we were going forward better, he relaxed right into the fluid rein. I hope to do some finesse in the next week or so.

Blu was tied to a tree while I warmed Misty up. I put an apple in the tree for him to find while he waited. He was much more patient while waiting. I had to leave him there alone and he watched us as we left, but he did not panic or get worried. He also did not go into an impatient pawing fit. When I came back with Misty saddled, Blu had found the apple and gotten a bite out of it, but the rest had fallen to the ground. I fed it to him when I found it. On our trail ride, he was not naughty (having evil thoughts or doing evil, dominant things to Misty) at all, though he was a bit keyed up for a while like Misty. It was a great evening.

Misty was great for saddling. As I tightened the cinch, I would give her a spearmint at her chest. Then we did stick to me to check the girth, walking, trotting, and cantering. I got on the right side from the trailer hitch. I had to work her through unconfidence about it, but within a minute, she was coming to me confidently and offering her back (she prefers to offer the left side, which she does automatically). I got her jitters out (she was FULL of it, but I felt confident riding whatever) cantering in the driveway, cantering and trotting sideways (perfectly, I might add: We did leg yields from one side of the drive way to the other as we traveled up and down it, then I did sideways down the drive way), then fluid rein (in a halter…takes longer, ended up putting her head down by touching her poll then she itched her face on her leg and did big shakes and blows). Kind of an accident, but very cool, nonetheless: I had the long longe whip/flag stick under my arm pit while I was holding the reins. I had my shoulders and ribs tilted to the side in a manner that kept the stick from hitting her butt so she was not getting conflicting aides. What do you know, she did shoulder in, mirroring my posture :D Good girl.
On the trail ride, she was going a fast walk and keyed up a bit. I made a point to wait until she and Blu were totally at peace when I ended our ride (by grazing close to the barn and walking around). It was a very nice ride—temperatures were perfect!

Natural Horsewoman Out

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Hesitation in My Heart

Today I did a good job of going on line when I needed to. Blu was showing nice draw, but he was also exhibiting some disinterest. He came under a wire to get to me, which was cool to watch him problem solve. But later, he put more effort and confidence into squeezing under the wire to leave me. That's when I decided to go on line. I had been working on zone 5 driving a bit.

I put on the 45 foot line, grabbed our "Jolly Ball" and tossed it to our play area. I played with his yo yo after some friendly game. Once he was going back and forth with straightness and confidence, I played the circling game with him.

I wanted to stop him at the Jolly Ball. I stopped him in the general vicinity, then he began to stop and ask a question around there. He was really connecting and conversing with me on the circle, too. I decided to end it there.

He came in and I just stood with him for a while.

After I was done playing with Blu, I jumped on Misty bareback and bridleless. I played with the weave pattern, then I decided to make a question box because her weave was nice, but her impulsion was wonky. She was kind of too ready to go forward, and it showed in her impatience as I transported cones around. I didn't get frustrated or anything, I just observed.

With the question box, she got better control of herself and more connected with me.

Today, I was kind of hesitant and fussy inside my heart. My spring break is slipping away. I just hope that I did things today that will help us tomorrow.

Natural Horsewoman Out.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Stallion Exposition

~Part One
I worked this morning and the weather was beautiful. I was working as fast as I could because after work, I had to go to the Stallion Expo to work a booth and would not have much time to play outside. When I got home, I changed shoes and went out to play with Blu.

In the round pen, I played with a barrel a bit, seeing what he would do with it. He had nice draw.

When I went to get on the barrel, he was giving a lot of negative feedback (biting and pinning ears). I just sat or stood on the upright barrel until he relaxed. Then I got down and followed me out and back to the barn.

~Part Two
I sold two items for the MSU Horse Program out of the tens of people that I stopped and tried to convince to buy merchandise to support our wonderful program. However, in the process of helping at the booth, I met a few people to add to my network of friends. I sold a polo to the woman who created her own business entity called Southern Girl Racing. She was fun to talk to.

The stallions there were lovely. I never got to see any of them in action, though. I did watch parts of the colt start challenge. I was sitting in with Maggie, and at first I was so overwhelmed by the terror in the space, the nervous energy pouring out of these coming 2 year old colts, who 2 days before, had never seen a halter before. Cowboys immediately began to flood them with stimulus and yank and knock with the halter. At one point, my right leg began kicking back against the cement behind my feet uncontrollably. I felt the horrible sense of claustrophobia and noticed in one of the five round pens, a colt's right hind leg had been tied up.

Tearing up terribly, I was about to leave and we were only 3 minutes in. Then I noticed the front and center round pen. The horseman was being so quiet and soft. I totally shut out what was happening in the arena. I took a few videos of him with colt #4. It was beautiful. It was sad, though when a horse started bucking in another pen and a man behind me said that's what I should be taping. I moved to another spot after that.

The man in the center pen did a lot of mirroring of his horse. There was no dust rising and his colt did not even break a sweat (while the other colts were drenched). He had a great sense of humor. When a horse in another pen began bucking under saddle, he covered up #4's eyes and shook his head at him. He was suddenly the first one on, and the horse was taking everything in stride. He ended early and just hung out with his horse. He did not use a bit. I wish I could have seen more of it during the weekend, but I only went on Friday.

It was a big learning experience for me. I could not believe that folks could stand the atmosphere. It was not like a wild horse race or anything, but there was so much force and violence. It was all about the guy in the pen dominating through force. Except in this one pen.

When I changed seats, I met a pair of lovely horsewomen. One was a very experienced dressage rider. She was leading the way in philosophical conversation with her friend. Her friend was a pleasant woman who just plays with her quarter horse. It was so nice to chat with them. I asked if either had ever heard of Parelli. When they said yes, I got the feeling it had not been positive experience, so I asked if the Parelli student at their barns were nice. Unfortunately, they are not, really. It sounded like these students at these ladies' barn were a bit snooty about Parelli--a sort of "if it's not Parelli, it's no good" attitude. How very unfortunate. I did not tell them that I was a Parelli student. I continued to enjoy conversation through to the next round of horses.

In the next round, I saw a very confident horse who was very deliberately telling his handler what he thought of him. I wonder if he ever landed one of those slow, calculated kicks. In this next round there was no sign of hope, and when a man laid a horse down, I had to leave. I believe that when a horse is "laid" down with ropes and such, it causes them to leave their body, to spiritually change. In the wild, animals facing sure death will leave their body and they won't feel anything--a sort of grace and mercy of the Creator so the animal does not need to be present as they are being eaten alive. Reading the book Tao of Equus by Linda Kohanov reinforced how I feel about "laying horses" down. This should not be something that we condone, and it should NOT be a part of a colt's first experience with a rider. These horses have no baggage or dangerous opinions of humans. They are clean slates--all they bring are their innate horsenalities. So I excused myself and hustled out before the tears came.

I wandered through the horse trailers. They are beautiful. I decided that what I want to do is to become a nomadic horsewoman. I will buy one of these amazing horse trailers, a nice truck, and I will travel from ranch to barn to school to yard. I will help start horses, give lessons, clean stalls, etc. until I am ready to move on or it gets to hot or cold. It will be me, Blu, and Misty traveling the country on an adventure. I want to have stories, to meet people.

Natural Horsewoman Out.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Just Enough and Quitting When We're Ahead

I really wanted to go out and play with the horses again, but I knew I had to keep it light and short after such an involved session earlier.

I started with a great expression from Blu. He was in a run-in stall and wanted to chat with me. When I stepped outside, he came right out and followed me totally freely to the round pen.

He was really connected right off. He was by the gate, but I could draw him to me by backing up. I had a barrel and wanted to just let him do what he would with it. He wanted to be with me, so I was careful not to kill that as I redirected his attention to the barrel. What he offered was almost sideways over it, licking and biting and nudging it, pawing it and putting a foot on it. His expression was beautiful and he had this HUGE draw to me, so that was our end!

Blu followed me to the gate, waited while I tied it shut again, and followed me out of the barn and off into the outside. We went on a walk at liberty out in the open! That's how much his draw has improved lately! He decided some grass was better than the baby patch I stopped at, but when I went with him and suggested we leave, we were off.

He had some life as we came down the hill and I put my hand on him to slow him down again. While he grazed, I massaged him a bit. Before we left, I worked a bit on his "pay attention" by flicking his peepee for a phase 4 if he didn't stop grazing when I asked him to come with me. Once he wasn't grazing, draw was fine. It was really interesting and cool to have no line on during our walk. Wouldn't it be cool to be in the summer time to see if he is drawn enough to me to do a liberty walk despite all the grass?

Natural Horsewoman Out.

Misty is My Soul

ORI: Misty and Blu, 2 hours, 3-10-11, afternoon

I had another session of riding Misty while playing with Blu, or maybe that would be playing with Blu while riding Misty . . . or maybe it's both of those . . . It is snowing again, but the ground was quite mushy, so we had to be careful not to punch too many holes in Gramma's yard (yikes). Today, my plan was to do this with these two and work on the things that needed work after my observations from Tuesday.

Misty came right to me, but started to walk away when I lifted the halter. I played an approach and retreat draw building game with her with it. I was able to get the reins over her head without any reservations from her, so I settled on that. Blu followed us into the barn. Once everyone had their halters on, I lead them outside.

I tied Blu to a tree while I played with Misty on the 23' line with the flag on a stick. First we did some yo yos. She was a little defensive at first, but then got more confident with them and did them with more fluidity. Then she trotted circles around me. She was much calmer today and even broke gait to a walk a few times, though all it took was a look or a thought and she was trotting again. I worked on downward transitions with the goal of having her stop lined up with a tree so I could have her go sideways to it. Once she stopped in line, I began the sideways, and she was great. She was a little unsure about it, but she was relieved to stop at the tree and did a lick and chew. I picked another tree and repeated, then I had her come sideways toward me to stop at another tree. Sideways toward me was very nice, though she got close to me. Maybe I should have backed up faster (?). When we hit this third tree, she did a BIG sigh.

During this, Blu was beside himself beside the tree. He would paw impatiently on occasion and was being bored. I made him wait outside at the tree while I put Misty's saddle on in the barn. Blu was great! He did start taking my 23' line, which I hung up on a limb of his tree, off the tree, but he was otherwise fine.

I did a quick checking between tightening the cinch, then went to the trailer and Misty came to me, presenting her left side, to mount up. I untied Blu and the games began. I started without the flag with Blu on the 12' line. I just pushed his zone 1 around with Misty. It was very difficult for him at first because he wanted to dominate. When that was better, I played some stick to me and Blu was flying through the air. Misty was just trotting, but Blu would get behind then speed up rearing and swinging his head. I got very big and matched him and then some. Misty was very defensive, herself. When we moved on, Blu was being MUCH more respectful and Misty was not being so reactively defensive of her space because I was doing it for her.

While teaching Blu to respect Misty's space, I worked on keeping him from running up her butt by backing her up and swinging the rope at him when he was behind her.

Next, we did sideways. Misty was pretty good, but Blu was much improved from yesterday. He really clicked with it. He went with his HQ and FQ together instead of dragging one end, and he was a bit less unsure. We ended by grazing for 10 minutes.

I was done, but I decided to take Misty and Blu toward the neighbors to see where Misty got nervous. I was hoping to go on a trail ride sometime before my spring break ends. So, we would find that threshhold and mark it so I knew where to start next time. Misty got a bit of a heart rate increase, but was not out of control as we headed over there. I let her stop and graze. Through the squeeze between pine tree and fence, she tossed her head at Blu and made him wait behind her. We went onto the asphalt and lapped the 30' back around. That felt nice and on the reapproach to the path, Misty was calmer. So, we went on a trail ride.

Misty was walking a fast clip. I used the end of Blu's line to keep him up with us. When we turned around to come back home, Misty relaxed and walked much slower with much more freeness in her body. I saw a limb on the path and thought it would be cool to drag it home, so I went back home grabbed a featherline.

Everything went so great! Misty stood while I dismounted and tied on the stick and while I got back on. Both horses were attentive to the stick, but they weren't jumpy. Unfortunately, my line got scuffed because the stick rolled so the line was on the asphalt :(

When the limb came around a pine tree and made it shake, Blu shot forward and turned and faced, but Misty kept her head on. She was not totally confident, she did more of a freeze, but usually, if another horse bolts, she does. She quickly relaxed under me. The rest of the way home, she understood the dragging behind her thing and was cool.

I thought today was so fun and interesting! As a post script message, I will explain the title to this post on a later post (that makes sense).

Natural Horsewoman Out.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Grass for Three

Ginger, Misty, and Blu were locked in the barn to keep Ginger and Misty out of the rain. Ginger was having a fit even with Blu and Misty, though. Blu was just there to be good company. I wanted to take Blu and Misty out for a grazing walk since we had such an intense day yesterday. But I could not leave Ginger behind . . . I had to take all three horses . . . fresh out of the barn.

Ginger was the real problem horse. Blu was a bit naughty. Misty was very sensitive, but trying to be the good one. Ginger was out front doing fantastic things like kicking back and rearing. Blu was a bit behind me, occasionally picking on Misty. Misty was next to me, tossing her head in defense when I would wiggle Ginger's line (Ginger and Blu were in one hand, Misty was in the other).

From my observations, I wanted to have Ginger stay in line with us better, Blu keep up with me so he was not doing naughty things behind my back, and for Misty to be less reactive. All three horses enjoyed a quiet graze. When I picked them all up again, I put them in line and made a point to keep Ginger and Blu in place. Ginger was much better, Blu was more attentive to me and kept up, and Misty was more confident. I put Misty in the pasture while holding Ginger and Blu. She turned, faced, and waited when I put her out in the pasture, then she got some cookies and followed us down the fence until we got to Connor (there he shooed her away).

I put Blu out and he was nice and soft. For Ginger, I played the squeeze game in and out the door until she went through calmly. Then I took the halter off and yielded her hindquarters as I drew her head toward me.

It was a relaxing and yet learning afternoon.

Natural Horsewoman Out.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

That's My Story and I'm Stickin' To It

While helping my Gramma run errands, I wrote out a plan for the horse session I would have later. I have been reviewing my liberty and horse behavior DVDs and booklet and I based my plan off that course.

I took my time preparing myself for the session. I transformed our old lounge whip (which hasn't been used in eons!) into a long stick with a flag on the end. I taped the whip to the stick with masking tape. When I finally got outside, Blu was in Maggie's pasture--he'd walked through the wire. As I went about catching Misty and tying her to the outside of the pasture, he was pacing the fence. He was not anxious, but he wanted to come over and be with us. It was funny. I guess it was a very left-brained anxiousness.

Blu was very trusting as I squeezed him out of the little pasture. In the round pen, I did his massages. It is a ten minute deal. He was not nearly as defensive as he has been sometimes. He still raised his head when I was curling his crest close to his axis. I also had to protect my space by kicking my butt when he bent his head around as I opened his knee. When I did the other side, he did not try to bite my butt. That's always a nice thing. I am trying to be careful about discouraging "negative" responses such as biting and nudging and head raising when I am massaging, though. Those are his only way of telling me if something still hurts and it dictates the speed at which I work and tells me his physical progress.

Now we moved on to my plan. First up is stick to me. To remedy any dominant biting or head tossing, I had it planned to do an IMMEDIATE 360 degree yield of the forequarters or back up fast. I had to play a quick catching game to get him focused on me and he cantered 3 laps during that. Then it was stick to me on the fence. He never tried to bite or threatened to bite, but he did do a couple head tosses with a nasty face. I did an IMMEDIATE 360 degree turn and kept going. We did walk trot canter transitions in both directions. I also did a fast back up. That got his attention! He was really doing a nice job of keeping in touch with me. I ended when I had him circling me with the carrot stick and string over his back. That was cool!

For the yoyo, I noted in my plan that if he went catatonic at the end of the back up or when I asked him to come in, then I would close my eyes, be very soft, go to my own happy place, very softly walk to him and crouch quietly next to him. I was really looking forward to trying this mirroring exercise, but he did not go catatonic. Bugger, right? He did some very nice yo yos. I still move my feet back to help draw him in because he still needs it. Maybe that is keeping him from "going there" to his catatonia.

I put Blu on line and brought Misty in and set her loose. Blu patiently followed me around while I played a little with Misty to get her a bit focused. She was just winging around. She was trying to connect, but she had too much life up in her. Once I had her with us, I went to yo yo her out, and she was off again. So I sent Blu in the opposite direction. Blu was doing nicely while Misty zoomed around the outside. She was not looking outside the round pen, though and was still trying to get herself under control; I think I can tell when she is shamelessly flying off the panhandle and when she is making attempts to ground herself as she is flying off the panhandle.

In my plan, I was going to send them in the opposite direction, then change Misty's direction so they were going the same way. She started to make the change, but I stepped back in too soon and she turned back to her counter clockwise direction. Blu however, saw me do the step back and forward and changed direction with flare. I accepted that, of course.

Now that I had two horses running in the same direction, I was onto the final goal of the day, which was to get them cantering in harmony for 1/2 lap. I had to speed Blu up. He did so with this really strong connection. It is like he and are having a conversation while a 3 year old is in the room throwing a tantrum--and the conversation is about a strategy to take care of the three year old. He was calmly running faster. Once they had gotten 1/2 a lap in wild harmony--but harmony nonetheless--I brought them in. Misty missed it and came in 1/4 of a circle late.

Now I wanted to work on Misty's send. I had changed my plan to include Misty standing at the end of a yo yo and having the two do something CALMLY in harmony. I got Misty's yo yo fixed by putting the carrot stick and string around her neck and keeping her from taking off. Once she got that, I just used my hand to block her early. Then she did it at liberty. It can still improve, but we got it straightened out a bit.

I had them out together again, trotting fast (Misty picked the gait and I just kept Blu up). Once some relaxation started to set in, I told Blu he could relax some more and Misty kind of took cue from him. Then I yielded them and they came in together at the trot, calmly (relative to earlier). Mission accomplished.

I put Misty's halter on, which was a relief to her. Both horses were great on the way back to the barn. Well, Misty was going a bit too fast and Blu a bit too slow, so I would swish Blu then wiggle Misty, rinse, and repeat. I also played a bit with the flag and lounge whip. If they were going to fall to pieces when I used it, the plan was to just use a carrot stick. But they were not too bad--unconfident, yes, but they were not shaking to pieces before me. In the barn, Blu waited patiently while I saddled a much calmer (but still high) Misty. She was exceptional for saddling. It was our first ride in a saddle since the fall.

I took the two horses and my flag stick outside to the yard behind the barn. My youngest sister Ellie held Blu (with the instructions to wiggle him if he came anywhere within three feet of her). On the 12' line, I went through a preflight check with Misty with the flag on a longe whip. She was disunited in her canter and really running for it. I did lots of changes of direction. She began to relax, so I brought her in. I walked around with our heads down until she had snorted 3-4 times and did a full body shake. Now when I wiggled the flag, she was fine.

Getting on, Misty was still, but as soon as I sat, she walked off. At first the three of us must of have looked pathetically hopeless. I was fumbling with ropes and sticks, wiggling the wrong rope, stopping Misty, untangling Blu. If I hadn't checked Misty before our ride it would have been a train wreck. I had my helmet on :D.

But as we went along, I got better at managing the lines. I also changed to a 12' line at some point because Blu was staying closer than I thought he would. I stopped having to use the reins but for an occasional pick up here and there. It was much easier when Misty could just be my legs so I could use both hands on Blu.

The three of us did stick to me with Blu on the outside, then changing direction to Blu on the inside of the circuits (not circles, just circuits of the yards general area). He prefers the outside because he does not like to have his zone 1-3 yielded when he is on the inside. Both horses did great for canter to back up transitions with the flag coming down in front of us.

We also had Blu go sideways to the trees and rest at the trees. I had him go there while Misty pushed him with her body next to his, while Misty stood in position next to him while I used the flag to push him sideways, and with Misty facing his zone three while I used the flag to push him sideways. He was doing much better with this sideways than he does with me on the ground. He was not nearly so unconfident and he was getting it faster. Maybe it's the trees, too (?). In any case, Blu blew me away with his sideways improvement. We only did 4 of them. Also, during our session, he was super at coming sideways toward us to get back into position next to Misty. Can you say PURPOSE-driven learning?

We ended with grazing together. It was a great session because I had that plan, and even though I made changes here and there, I stuck to my plan with flexibility.

Natural Horsewoman Out.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Falling on My Face in Prayer

Some days, an aura settles down around me like a blanket of fog that is frightening and debilitating. The fogginess makes me stay away from the world indefinitely out of fear. All the while, I really want to be out in the world doing what I need to do and living my life--progressing. I don't know what it is that makes a person feel that way. But when I finally got outside at 5 pm, things did not get better.

Blu saw me and began to walk toward me when I came out of the house. As I walked through the barn, I was trying to think of what to do with him. When I came to the aisle that leads out to the door, I felt frozen--a severe form of hesitation, in this case. I walked slowly down the aisle with a multitude of pauses. At the door, I could not get myself to open the door. It was the most irrational fear. I wasn't afraid of Blu or for my life, I was just afraid of doing the wrong thing. Even as I felt the fear, I knew that you can't do the wrong thing--that if you don't know whether it's wrong or right, then you are just experimenting. Maybe I should have told myself that a bit more firmly.

At any rate, Blu came right to me when I finally got out the door. He was exceptional for haltering. He was attentive, cooperative, and helpful. He followed me to the round pen. He did not walk straight off with me into the round pen, so I waited until he was walking with me then turned back around with him and shut the gate.

First I played the yoyo game with him. You might recall that the comeback is broken. We were on the 23' line. I focused first on keeping him straight. He wanted to turn and circle. I just did as little as I could as early as I could to keep him straight. I would back him up until he relaxed. I did not worry about keeping my feet still--his confidence was in trouble, so dominance was not important. Finally he began to get relaxed faster and was not getting tight. I was able to keep my feet still. His comebacks were excellent compared to what they have been. I also did not hesitate to move my feet, though. I ended when he backed all the way to the end of the line and came back with lightness and softness. Then I took off his halter and did a yo-yo at liberty. I had to move my feet back a bit to draw him back in, but before, he could not come back at all, so I was very happy with that.

I stood with Blu for a bit, focusing on shutting down the output and just absorbing the environment. He reached around and nosed my knee once--a forceful precursor to biting for him. I had my arm over his shoulder, but was otherwise still. He began to walk around, and I did a sort of passenger lesson from the ground.

Then it hit again. I did not know what to do. I walked around a moment. Blu watched me every now and then, but was preoccupied with an exposed patch of scrub. The feeling was that of loss. I sat on a barrel. Memories began to flood into my mind like a roll of film. Blu was so eager and cooperative in the beginning of our Parelli journey. We had rough patches, but I remember how he used to wait at the end of the line during the yo-yo, completely fixated on me, waiting intensely for me to lightly signal him to come back to me. When I did, he would come back immediately. I remembered when he was at liberty out in the open running to me, playing with me. I remembered when he jumped the barrels for me. When we won our jumping class at fair. I saw him fall down on me when he was cantering in the morning and felt the feeling of realizing we needed to scratch the first class so I could help him through his mental/emotional collection problems so he could find physical collection. I remembered riding with nothing--no sticks, no strings, no reins, no bridle, no saddle--in perfect circles, transitioning between fast canters and slow canters then speeding into a slide stop. I saw flashes of him following me eagerly away from his buddies to come with me to play.

I don't know if I was wondering how we got away from that or if I was worried we would never get back to those things. At any rate, I whistled to Misty in the other pasture and she began to search for me. When she saw me, she began to come to me. I got up and met her. I apologized for leaving her behind. Then I stood in a puddle with her and talked to her and to myself for a while--almost 20 minutes. The instant I left the round pen, Blu looked up and followed me. When I came back with Misty in tow, Blu was waiting with this head over the fence. I cut a panel string so I could squeeze Misty in. She was really good at squeezing under the wire and through the open panel.

After tying the panel back on, I began to play with Misty and Blu. I watched as Misty protected her space from Blu's snooping nose. Then I moved them in a circle around me. Misty was trying to connect with me and when I invited her in, she came right in. Blu seemed to be affected by her draw to me and his draw felt better. I played with sending them in opposite directions and changing their directions. Misty continued to be very drawn to me.

When the two of them were moving together nicely, I drew them both back and they came in together. Now I moved on to stick to me. Blu was on the outside and I was in the middle. At first, I lost them both because Misty reached across me to bite at Blu and they both sped ahead. I just kept going along. Blu got back with me. We lapped around Misty. Each time we passed her, I was inviting her to join us. She was not getting it, though, so I put a string around her throat latch and tried it again. Blu was doing awesome on the outside; he was doing a lot of blowing. First thing I did was give a good solid message to Misty that she was not to poke at Blu by swinging the stick up in front of us when she tried to reach across me again. Blu was cantering on the outside track and I was focusing on both him and Misty. Misty was having difficulty with the inside and not getting ahead or falling behind. When I would cut in close to make her track smaller, Blu was right on my right shoulder, still cantering, not trying to bite me, just keeping up. When Misty got light on the string, I let go of it. We three went a lap like that and then I stopped and everyone stopped with me. We stood together for a while.

I put on Blu's halter and put the string on Misty again. She was facing me and was cooperative as I slid the loop back on her. We maneuvered the gate carefully. I was concious of their position to one another and how that would affect them. It all went very smoothly. Leading them through the barn, Misty now with a halter hackamore on, went off without a hitch as well.

I mounted Misty from the picnic table. She immediately sidled up next to it when I stood on it. She was excited as we walked to the grazable grass behind the barn. We found a great deal of relaxing to be had, back there.

On the way back, both horses were much calmer. I dismounted and let Misty back into the pasture. She left nicely--a soft leave after a proper good-bye. I let Blu stay in the aisle. I put hay down and began chores. Griswald the kitten got stepped on and I prayed for him. His limp went away and he stopped going into shock. The incident shook me out of my happy stupor and made me really reflect on the time with the horses. What had I been doing? What was wrong with me, today? I prayed on my face and felt much more clear afterward. Blu came to me while I was getting grain around. I took him around to his stall and gave him his dinner.

Yes, things felt much better. I went to bed directly after chores. I was planning on just lying down and recuperating a bit. But as I lay there, I decided to just stay and sleep. It was only 8 pm, but what a trying day. My gramma woke me up at 1 am to make her bed, but it was a good sleep.

Now, I had this post to March 7th, but today is March 8th. That means I have had a day to reflect on it. Also, today is here, as in yesterday's tomorrow is here. What will I do today in respose to yesterday? Well, I got up at 7 am and did chores, so the horses should be ready to play any time now. But before I go, I am going to have a plan. I am going up stairs to clean up a bit then it's off to the horses.

Natural Horsewoman Out.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Intuitive Thinking and Internal Monologue

I tried something new today for catching Blu. I had a "WHOA" sign to install in the round pen. I had all my gear and my sign, and as I walked by Blu, I offered my hand. He smelled it, but I never stopped walking and he did not follow with his feet, just his nose. While I was hanging up the sign, Blu came in! Kind of like that old "when you are fixing the fence, the horses are all over you like a cheap suit" scenario. The funny thing is, when I was leaving the gate open, I thought, "If he doesn't want to be in here, then I need to try something new to make this a place he would want to be." It made me really happy that he came in--I am on to something! Okay, fine. Actually it was just a very humbling experience. Anytime that things go right, it is humbling.

After I was done tying up the red WHOA sign on the eastern point of the round pen, I shut the gate and Blu followed me back and forth. I stood with him for a grooming him with my hands and massaging. We do so much standing still. I don't know what he is thinking when we are standing there. It used to be difficult for me to do nothing with the horses. I didn't have any trouble doing it, but I was not enjoying it. I was itching to do something. I was fighting with myself not to reach out. I was belittling myself when they were not doing things one might perceive as positive. One thing I have learned over the years is that this internal dialogue is far too self-centered. These quiet times need to be about absorbing what is around me. There must be an end to the constant output of the mind.

It is still in the works, this quieting the noise. I am a Christian, and it is much the same as trying to have quiet time with God--a time during which I struggle with shutting down my inner monologue and finding peace. I think it is a sign of a natural selfcentricity or solipsistic perspective. Maybe it is a sign of being alive. Perhaps we all have it a bit, but I could not know what goes on in the minds of others. At any rate, my personal journey towards becoming part of what is around me instead of forcing what is around me to assimilate into something that fits to me.

I began to move Blu around. Right now, our liberty has taken steps back. We are not at the same level we once were in some things. That's because somewhere along the way, we lost bits and pieces of our relationship. Like a house built on sand, things have begun to slide into the ocean. So, as we build back the foundation of friendship, things of the past--maneuvers and skills--are resurfacing like great relics from the depths of the sea.

I did stick to me on the rail the way that I saw Pat Parelli do in DVD I watched the other day. Of course I have done it before with Blu on countless occasions, but for the sake of creating a visual picture: I am on the inside of the circle and the horse is on the rail next to me. As I walk, the stick drags behind me and when I stop and back up, I let it stop and drag in front of me. At first, I went very slowly. If Blu did not keep up or if he did not back up, I would use the stick to do more than a suggestion. We were doing longer periods of a consistent walk. Blu was not stopping or backing with lightness. I tried stopping more frequently, as in taking fewer strides before stopping. Suddenly, it clicked with us both and he was getting lighter--more importantly, his face was staying soft. I took it up to the trot and back up and it was amazing. Then the canter. When he stopped and backed up out of the canter with complete sync with myself, I knew this was the place to stop with that game. One canter. It was a bit of a leap forward in my self control to stop with just one canter-back up transition.

Then we played the circling game. Blu was shooting off at the yo yo out. I let him be and waited for questions. When he would ask, I would invite him in. If he chose not to come, I would just as gently send him on again. He began to come into my back. I thought of how good that was, that it was a sign of trust for him to want to come in. I also noted that he did not feel safe coming to the front of me. I let him stand by me, not touching him, then I would send him off again. Then he began to circle close to me. He would make an orbit around me that swung in close to my back and slung away from me to cross the front. He even began to canter around and came flying past my shoulder--so close I felt the hair on his upper arm brush the back of my hand. I had an idea to turn with him so he could stay close in a full circle. It worked. I did a sort of approach and retreat by turning a circle then stopping and letting him cross in front of me. Little by little, he began to make a circle uniformly close to me.

I don't really know how those ideas come to me. It is intuition driven by knowledge and experience, I guess. It comes without much beckoning. But that makes it hard for me to plan and to feel like I know what I'm doing. Knowing what I'm doing gives me confidence. I am wondering if the next part of the journey is getting my intuition out into my control so I know what I am doing . . . or if it is becoming confident not knowing what will happen next.

Natural Horsewoman Out

Saturday, March 5, 2011


I took Blu to the round pen and played with him on draw for a bit. He is still really great with the porcupine off the nose from our work on that. I yoyoed him back and forth with a cookie when he came in DUH! This was a BFO I had when I read another Parelli Connect update. Our yoyo got fixed :D. I will continue to play with that with him. I ended the yoyo repair when he came back to me from the other side of the rp after yoyoing out there on a straight line. I played some with tiny stick to me circles and he never left. Then he handed me the halter and we went out to graze.

It was so cool to find inspiration from Parelli Connect. It has been a great community to be a part of. I love getting to read what everyone is doing.

Natural Horsewoman Out.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Filling Holes

Blu had some things to say with his teeth during his massage, today. It was when I was on the left side of his neck and when I was loosening his fetlock on the left side. I did the same passive catch the head and hold it until he wanted to straighten up again. I drove his forequarters around because afterward, he was getting dominant nibbly.
He followed me to with slack in the line to the round pen, but he was not yielding his HQ all the way. When I go to correct him, he gets nervous as he does so.
The footing is HORRIBLE in the round pen. It’s that 4’’ snow that is frozen hard so your feet punch holes into it. It is super unstable and quite a work out to play in! I can’t wait for spring :D
I brought a barrel in and played the friendly game with it. Then we stood together for a while. I played stick to me on the fence. He was not very responsive at first. I backed him up with the porcupine on his nose and he did not evade in any manner!
I took the halter off by backing him up with the halter untied until it fell off. He was connected for a moment, but not coming back (I knew this would occur because on line his yoyo was hesitant on the way in).
I played the catching game and he went around for two laps before he really connected back to me and stuck with me. I stood with him for a bit then played the porcupine game. His lead by the ears was perfect. His lead by the legs on the back and front took a moment and were not very soft, today.
I sent him out on a circle to the left. I let him go at his own pace. He stopped at poop and went off when I turned to look at him. He did the same at a tarp on the ground. At the barrel, he kept going, instead of stopping at it. When he came by me, I tilted my head to yield him and he came right in and trotted to me when I backed up. I decided that this was a great place to end the day . . . it doesn’t sound like much, but I am busy filling holes with him, so tomorrow will be better :D

Natural Horsewoman Out.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Diagnosis and Prognosis

I watched the March DVD last night and decided to use the 7 games to diagnose and then fix broken things. I did the massages and TTouches that Blu’s chiropractor showed me yesterday. He obviously really enjoyed it ;). I took him to the round pen and ran through the games really quick the way Linda does with her "new" horse, Jazz. I spent the time I had left fixing the porcupine on the nose, which went exactly the way that it does in the Savvy Club DVD for March. Blu was putting his head down or to the side instead of backing up. I stayed with him no matter what and increased the pressure when he put his nose in the wrong position. With many steps, I lead him to the answer--back up straight, don't dodge.

Natural Horsewoman Out.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Back Issue

Today I had an appointment for Blu with the chiropractor. She is a woman I know through 4H, and she is one of the most wonderful people I know. She and her daughter are positive, kind, thoughtful, helpful, and gentle to the highest degree, and I consider them as two of the best people I have had the opportunity to meet in my life.

I explained what I had been observing in Blu for the past 6 months and lately. His difficulty with the left lead, his heaviness on the left front leg, pain with mounting and dismounting, pain with leaning forward, bothered with belly being touched lately. She went on to checking him out. He was very clear about what hurt. He is a good patient. He bit my sweatshirt once when she was doing something . . . I don't remember what.

Before you read these, I am NOT a chiropractor. Nor am I suggesting that you do all of these with your horse. My chiropractor said not to do these with a pregnant mare. These are the exercises I am going to be doing before I ride or play hard. He is flexible enough to do them--I don't know if they are exercises that can be done with every horse indiscriminately. If you are interested in adding massage to your daily horse time, I would definitely suggest back lifts and carrot stretches (stretch to the hip, between the legs, and to the ground between the front and back leg with a treat). Linda Tellington-Jones has wonderful books out about massage and flexing. My top recommendation is to have a chiropractor out to see your horse--even if you don't think he or she needs it. You are bound to learn so much and you will see very positive changes in your horse's performance and disposition if you follow your chiropractor's advice

Here is the regimen for Blu:
  • Roll the crest
  • Swipe the rhomboids back and forth
  • Light, medium, and hard down the spine with thumb and fingers on either side of spine
  • Downward swipe in front of scapula with the fingers curling around front edge of scapula
  • Pressing fingers between ribs in downward motion (a finger between each rib with four fingers goes faster)
  • Cup the brachiocephalicus (muscle on the neck that continues the jugular groove's shape) and rub down with pressure
  • NOTE FOR THE NECK: be sure not to put pressure on the cervical vertebra as you massage the neck
  • Open the knee cap: gently bend at the knee until the hoof touches the elbow
  • Release the fetlock: with hoof in the position to pick it out, place your thumbs on the bulbs and gently roll the fetlock around
  • Cup the pectorial and massage down and back under the belly
  • Place hands on the girth and massage up--comparable to Linda Tellington-Jones' "Lick of the Cow's Tongue"
  • With a fist, doing a quick rolling massage on top of scapula/deltoid and on the haunch on the gluteus superficialis and tensor fascia latae
Everyday with Blu, I did the following:
  • Back lifts (asking the horse to contract his abdomen, thereby lifting his back)
  • Belly lifts after riding (wide support under the belly lifting it up so as to literally take the weight of the belly into your arms and off the horse's back)
  • Lateral flexion of head and neck (in the saddle or on the ground) to the middle and to the hips
  • Carrot stretch to between the knees
On occasion, my chiropractor said it is good to release the neck. That's something I learned from Linda Tellington-Jones, as well. You place your hands under the jaw and lift the head so that it stretches from the neck. It is a very nice exercise in trust, as well. Eventually, you reach a point where the horse lowers his head and allows you to manipulate his head and neck.

If you don't follow Parelli, then talk to your chiropractor about thoughts on saddle fitting. Parelli has an excellent program on understanding how the back, shoulders, hips, ribs and girth are affected by the saddle fit and position.

A new tool for my tool box will be a belly cover to protect from drafts that will cause cramping after he stops after a warm ride. I will make one this weekend.

During our session, Blu was actually much better than I expected him to be since he came fresh from the pasture and a day of boredom. He was very investigative, but he stayed within the realm of "cute" and did not get "naughty." I wish I could have played with him before hand, so he would stand quietly, but we could not get home early enough. At any rate, I was glad that he was so good (relativity is an important concept, here :D).

So, I love my chiropractor.

Natural Horsemanship 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