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.


  1. it sounds like you are having fun. Yes, you should totally try the treats on objects. I did it once several months ago on barrels and my LBI still will go straight to the barrels and check every time I am even close to one (or not close to one!)

  2. hehe. yep. that's exactly whats happening to nigel now lisa. it's just that i want him to look on other things as well!

    health is wealth. most surely.