Friday, July 31, 2009

thinking about what pat said in reno

When he was playing with the little rescue horse. He said something I swear I had never heard before.

Communication. Understanding. Acceptance. Results.

So I'm wondering about this and Repore. Respect. Impulsion. Flexion.

I suppose what I'm thinking of is HOW do I improve my rapport. Love. Language. Leadership.

....ok. .... and undemanding time is key for sure. But in undemanding time is it really.... communication? ... kind of.. in a way.... depending on how I think about it....but when is it time to move on....when is it just love love and more love?.....and when does the leadership part come in?

hmmm hmm hmmm. . . . I suppose when it feels better.

nope.. round pen again.

And I think I made a bit of a mess of it last night. By the time I came in..I just didn't feel settled. (Usually it's like that when I'm going to be analyzing it all night.)

Nigel and I went through nearly the same routine as last night...but I didn't spend anytime hanging out with him in his stall. He came right up to me and put his nose in the halter...but he knows he'll get a treat for that so ...

The other thing I noticed was that again he was stopping and starting down the aisle. I've been monitoring that all along but it doesn't really seem to be getting better. Following or driving to our play space is such an interesting study in and of it self it seems to me.

With Lil I really had to experiment a lot to sort out what worked the best for her individual horsenality. Even after I figured out (reasonably sure) that she was innately RBI* I didn't get it right for her for what seemed like ages. Just walking up to the arena melted my brain!!! I started of course with the RBI strategy of waiting waiting waiting. Every time she would hit a threshold I'd wait. (and I'm a good wait-er). It took us a good 20-30minutes to get up to the arena (maybe 300feet) everyday and after a month or so it hadn't gotten better.

Finally last winter after scratching my chin for a while Linda's* words to me came back. "If its not working, try something else. You know enough now. Its time that you were free to experiment." and Pat's* words from the beginning of time. (lol) "There are no rules in horsemanship. Only principles, purpose and time lines."

Right. Lets try something else. What is the opposite? March like a leader. So that's what I did. I headed up there and each time she would slow down or stop I would let the line slide (22was so important here...trying to keep it out of the mud though) and just keep going. It was amazing! Clearly that was the trick. I really had the main goal once we got up there to get her left brained. After just a few days she was dragging me up there. Now THAT is magic!

With Louie it was always tricky because sometimes he was messing with me and I needed to prove my leadership with him. (although driving from zone 3* was the best way to do it with him.) And sometimes he did need to wait as he had gone a bit Right Brained. (again zone 3 driving. starting him off first and following was the most effective).

Back to Nigel. Like I said. It's not getting better I don't think... my gut says it is totally about me and him not having fun? I don't know though. Sometimes it seems like he's having fun and interested..but clearly not enough...or..something. Like I was saying yesterday though, I'm not sure whether to just continue playing and wait to see....? But getting down the aisle just dragging ass was bugging me more last night. At least with Louie and Lil they were engaged in doing SOMETHING. Either avoiding actively out of unconfidence or dominance. Obviously Nigel's passive resistance is LBI* dominance...but it just seems so apathetic!!!!!! (which it is of course. and that's what's melting my brain this time)

Anyway, I decided to not worry about it and we went out to stand on the stump. He went right over there whilst I was standing about 15 feet away. So that was progress. But nothing better about standing up there...not really. He kinda pawed at it like someone reaching behind the couch for something they can't see. Careless for sure. But why...?

Here's where I really started to go wrong. It was a much windier day..and colder so the environment had changed a bit from the night before. He was more looky. (first little clue) But I chalked his lack of motivation up to lack of incentive. He headed for the barn twice...just looked at the hindquarter the second time though and he came right back. (progress from the day before) So stand up there with two feet...give a treat and scratch his belly line. Both of which he seemed to like.

Then into the roundpen. On the way there he headed past it and off into the field. Now I started to really notice that this was repeating it self for too many days in a row. When we got to the roundpen he walked in just fine...I took off the line to move the barrels around...he went away from me but came straight back when I was done rearranging and had directed my attention back towards him.

I got the umbrella and snapped it and walked away with it at liberty. He followed me. Let me snap it open over his head and in zones 3 and 4. Rub him all over with it.....under the belly, legs etc. Move zone one 360 degrees both directions and the hindquarters too. I put a treat in the upside down umbrella to finish that off. For sure let loose. (second session. check it off on the assessment sheet.)

I know backing up is a key for him. Partly because of his horsenality and partly because on the circling game he tends to assume and head out. As we know from Pat's Eight Principles "never make or teach assumptions" so I figured I'd better nip that one in the bud.

I had set up a barrel with a treat on it and backed him to the end of the 22ft line and then directed him to it (about 3ft to the side of his mid neck) from as far away as I could. I noticed that his head went up on this part and his eyes got a little starey. (second big clue) I waited for a second until he blinked then tried again and he put his nose on the barrel and got the treat. In the end we got it two more times and the last time his back up was way closer to the barrel and he was clearly more motivated. (imagine that) He still literally drug his feet but it was faster and I only needed to use phase* one. Yikes that is a slippery slop with a LBI* huh. Not nagging. Long phase 1 quick 2, 3, 4. This is another thing I don't feel I have down effectively with Nigel. Sometimes it seems to work superbly doing it that way. Other times he seems to do better with moving though the phases more slowly....just not sure which is best or which to use when.... I suppose it'll be one of those stupid "figure it out moment by moment" things. arg! lol.

After that we played a short circling game. This is one part that went really well. We're working on canter laps. He did one each way after just a few tries and mostly I didn't even need to lift the stick at all. Which was BIG progress. I was thinking about motivating the LBI to maintain gait. I have tried the change direction every time he breaks gait thing with him..but in the end he just breaks gait then changes direction on his own then takes a few canter strides and does it all again. Plus the point here that I was trying to get at was maintain gait and DIRECTION.

So I thought about just focusing on getting a snappy canter depart. Especially since that was coming along so well anyway. I thought maybe if he got those really sharply and kept having to do them that that would motivate him to just maintain gait. As soon as we got a few canter departs really nicely he was happy to canter a full circle. Which is of course when I brought him in for a rest and scratch. It was a bit suspicious that he was as motivated for forward but heading into the canter he was snorting and hopping up in the back obviously LBI.

Saddling was not the best either. He wasn't too hip to the standing still. Nibbling (ha beth. private joke. she raised him and used to call him Nibs aka Nibbler) on the grass at the edges of the round pen. So off for the circling game some more. I thought we'd work on change of direction at the trot. That went really really well. Definitely check offable.

Then we chipped away at our sideways. Again this was not the best. He kept leaking forward and has been ever since I've been teaching him. I don't use the fence because I don't like the curved rail for it. I had to stop and think for a minute. I didn't want to have him be "wrong" for too long. For that matter I didn't want to be wrong for too long. lol. So time to swich strategies. I held him by the snap. Then asked the front and then the back to move. Got it. So that's good. We'll stick with that a few more sessions for sure. Sideways is the only thing on the Level One Online assessment sheet we haven't checked off.

Stand still for saddling now? Yep. No problem. Another cool thing we have now is after I saddle in three stages I can take off his halter and he'll follow me over to the bridle and seek the bit. Then he'll follow me at liberty over to the fence so I can get on. Although, last night his sideways to the fence required a little asking on my part at phase 1. (mostly now he just scuttles over without asking. . . clue number three?)

Our checklist* went pretty well. ( I even found a new cool itchy spot up on his mane) ....except....forwards straight and then back up straight. The difference last night was that the forward seemed a tiny bit impulsive. (clue number four) I noticed that one but wasn't sure if it was an assumption thing or impulsion thing.

So off to work on our Freestyle pattern. Maintain gait, maintain direction and follow the rail. Better. But.....very "motivated " at the walk. (clue number five) A couple times he did veer off into the center. Hoping to be done. Especially after we had done one lap. My goal was one lap without a correction. I did go to phase 4 to turn him with the carrot stick once. It was very effective..but I didn't feel good about it. Writing it now makes me a tiny bit queasy. I know I made that decision mindfully and with the best intentions of being clear which I believe is in his best interest... but .... I'm not sure now if that was right.

He only thought about changing direction towards the rail once and I think that was a bit of a misunderstanding. My carrot stick came down a slightly while I was brushing the hair out of my eyes. I really tried to be careful about keeping my eyes on the track of the rail where I wanted him to go too. Even looking into the bullseye..turning my head will send him in there if he's listening to me.

So by now its really getting dark again. Annoying. And windy and even chillier. He put a ton of effort into staying on the rail for a lap and a half so I decided that was enough. Except I figured I'd better start stopping on the rail. We have the go much better now and he seems to be really starting to assume about the bullseye. Well, yikes! Not really listening for a change after all. (again he must have just figured out follow the rail and knew that that was the easiest way to get done. comfort, discomfort and rewards still weren't engaging him) It took us like four tries to be able to stop and stand still (clue number six!). He did lick his lips and lower his head though. So I hopped off.

Now............................................. here it is. I took the saddle off and low and behold. Sweat. Nigel hardly has ever sweat except on the super duper hot days we've had and even then only under the girth. Last night it was very wet under the girth and under the cantle. It was like 58 degrees outside. Dammit! Now I knew the truth. Rachel's (fabulous 3Star Parelli Instructor and my coach. words went thundering through my head. "Left Brained horses don't hardly sweat." Certainly not when they don't normally and when it's not hot. I felt like crap. Arrrrrr! Will I ever be able to raise my hand when Pat says "raise your hand if you know how to read....a horse"? Or does he mean after like forty thousand missteps. Bloody hell.

He followed me around after we got undressed but now I could see he was a little more starey than I had really noticed before. On the other hand, he was totally frisking me for treats..even bitey (which I am keeping an eye on as we go along) and pushing on me with his nose. In one last ditch effort to help him engage, I backed him from the roundpen into his stall. (about 50ft). Blech. He did it but it still didn't feel good. Blech Blech Blech.

Poor Nigel. I really did make a decent mess of it. As horses do live in the moment, he softly turned, gave me lateral flexion when I took off the halter.. and didn't really seem angry with me. (although that at least in a way, that would be something)

Thusly I went inside unsettled to obsess all night. This morning my gut says...four days of undemanding time and see where we are then. Don Jessop (Rachel's husband and equally fabulous 3 Star Parelli Instructor) says "you've got to first stop the washing machine before you can rearrange the towels so it'll be more balanced." humph!

At least I'm better now at listening to my gut.....and at least in the Parelli program I have a plan to start with. This journey is such a love hate thing sometimes. I couldn't live without it.....oh how I love love love it.... but analysing my mistakes, not having pat answers, change and self improvement are such a pain in the butt.......

Thursday, July 30, 2009

well, the round pen actually..

It cooled down last night just in time for a quick play session with Nigel. I gave everyone grain in their stalls when they came in and the rest of them hay. Nigel is still not to hip to being with me sometimes...especially when it comes to leaving food! So I decided to put the halter on (he does put his nose into it very nicely now) and just hang out for a little bit. This worked out really well actually. Its so funny how he is just so well prepared and well experienced in some areas and then in others...not so just knowing I'm gonna stand there and relax with him and he doesn't have to do anything...that took a while to click in.

Our next pattern is to head out the barn and stand on the 2ft stump that Kip and I left out there just for that purpose. (man that's my only peeve about my blackberry. the camera sucks!) So I'm just working on establishing patterns as I go through the Parelli Self Assessment Sheets with him. Even if he gets it in like one try. Somethings I just check off and go "next!" Other things I want to repeat over and over...purposefully establishing sweet spots. Standing up on the stump is one of them. My plan is that as we really get some patterns together he'll get it more established that we are DOING something. Its been funny to watch him realize that we are doing X then there is an End to it. "look little friend! you won the game! now here's a treat or scratch or rest" ... well mostly we do all three. lol

Nigel tends to figure out what I want really quickly..and then he just does it. Like figure 8 Online*. We were doing it from the end of the 22 within 2 sessions...but somehow it doesn't feel the same. Like he is just now starting to really put effort into things. And only somethings. Otherwise it feels as if he's just figured out what I want and that the path of least resistance (and almost what he's bred to do.. be "trainable") is just to do it.

It feels so different than when Lil figures out what I want and makes a BIG effort...then comes to me to say "mom I did good right?". (I can still screw that up big time by getting to greedy with her and pushing her over the edge.) With Nigel it feels like "OK I did it. yeah yeah yeah. i got it i got it i got it. are we done yet?"

Last night with the stump he was pretty cute. Staying up there for a longwhile (ha! sweet spot.) and striking a few very Lipizzan poses. As you can see I even got to snap a few shots with the crap camera.

Whilst I was asking him to stand up there though there was one time when he turned and headed back into the barn. Man. Not ready for Liberty. I let the rope slide to the end of the 22 and then had to give a little flick on his bum to get him to come back. . . at least he knows what I mean when I do that though....but its pretty clear that he'd rather be somewhere else.

One of the cool things that I've learned over the years is that the relationship is a process. There were times in the beginning that I would just not do anything with my horse when he didn't seem to want to be with me. Now it seems to be much more effective (one of my core values) to just gently insist and then make sure I'm keeping in mind the incentive. (depending on the horsenality) So I don't take it as personally anymore and just realize that a relationship doesn't happen by magic. At least not for me yet.

I've been looking at the "put your nose on something. medium range level 2". . . but I just don't feel like that is really check-offable. The ball he did really well with... I don't know...again...he just doesn't put mental effort into it. I have to micro manage too much. One of these days I'll hide treats all over the hill, the arena and the roundpen. That should do the trick.

So we just went into the roundpen because we're working on our responsibilities (maintain gait, maintain direction) Freestyle* with the follow the rail and the bullseye patterns. (not the best rail up in the arena yet) I brought out the umbrella that my favorite home inspector Ken with EagleEye Inspections gave me years ago. It has a nice SNAP to it when you press the release button.
I just walked away with it..snapping it and waving it around while he followed me online. He was pretty good with that. I did check it off on the Level2 Online....but I'll keep at it for the next few sessions so I can do it moving towards him and from all zones. He would have tolerated that last night but not at all let loose unless I had spent a lot more time. With Nigel I am taking the tack of doing a little of something...making progress...then moving on.

Worked on change of direction at the trot....for Level2 Online...really good left to right...not so much right to left. We can get it but need to stick with it for a few more sessions ... he does fine with the cones for figure 8 but not as well without them. Makes sense really and perhaps that would be enough to check it off...but we'll just get this first. After all I'm using this as a ladder to the higher levels and not just for Level 2 as an ending point. (totally brilliant system btw)

Put the saddle on. He is soooo great with standing still for saddling. (This is wonderful because when we first got him he was a little out of practice with that) Boy was it getting dark by then. Lol. Kip came down for a few minutes. It was much cooler outside. But he ditched in short order. A bit tired I think and not in the mood. (this is my point. perfectly fine for me to "borrow" Nige. Kip loves him and Nigel is great for Kip but he certainly will not be over worked)
So follow the rail Freestyle with one carrot stick. My thought was to do four laps each direction at the walk and trot. No dice. It took us way past dusk (about 15min) to get one lap to the right at the walk without any corrections. He wanted to change directions to the outside (heading back towards the gate) or turn into the middle of the round pen, falling in with his shoulder (also towards the gate).
Riding Nigel has given me a whole new appreciation of carrot stick riding. Very handy just to make a quick correction with the stick in zone one or on the shoulder instead of using the rein.
The good news is that I felt a lot more fluid riding him. Its taken me a bit to really feel in harmony with him. He is quite different feeling than Lil's bigger thoroughbred gaits. Pedaling clearly feels good to him and he obviously relaxed (hard to tell that he's not until he does except for the higher neck. which sometimes I think is just a Lipizzan thing. ... its not).

When we finally got it (just one lap) and went to the center/bullseye... he sighed and licked his lips. I still haven't gotten a big sigh or any blowing out yet. Not in nearly 2 months of playing with him. .... hmmmmm.
Used the carrot stick to bend laterally and give a treat. By now it was truly dark. Undressed and used stick to me to leave the roundpen (instead of him taking off ahead of me). Lots of stopping and starting.
Fed him his hay. Filled waters. Then went through to give the last cookie to everyone. Asked Nige to hop up in the front for his. He did it. Which was cool because he clearly put some mental energy into that one.
Ha! I send minutia. So there you have it.
Won't probably have time tonight. Showing property till late.... sigh.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Actually all the ponies are up there right now.

The temperature seems to be dropping quite quickly up here. Thank god. 88 and falling. P. Town was like 106. So they're in the arena trying to chillax . Maybe it'll be cool enough in a bit. ... get the list out... just sitting and or walking around on a quadruped sounds great to me!
Well...this should be interesting. I've had a blast reading Dawn's blog and she's always bugging me to write one..but I must admit that it was Erin that did the trick. I just for some reason love hers. Kip (hubby) Beth and all those guys can only hear so much of the minutia of my blow by blow description of my horsemanship journey.

Perhaps having this outlet will give them at least a little relief. ..... now if those of you reading could just make listening noises....