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.

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About Me

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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