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
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.