Sunday, August 30, 2009

Key nearly jumped out of her paddock to get to me!

I was playing with Lil in the big playground (at Liberty!..I could hardly believe that) ...Key's paddock runs very close to the log we were playing with. She wanted to jump out so bad! There is a space where we only have two rails because a gait is supposed to be there. (damn spending freeze). I was laughing because she was tossing her head and backing up and really thinking about it. She didn't do it. . . but we nearly went to get the video camera.

So Liberty in the big playground with Lil. Amazing. We can do quite a few of the level 4 patterns and tasks in the arena, but it is time to test out in the field. Especially since we're rapidly running out of weather. boo hoo. (I guess we should have two more months but this year I don't know)

We got a really really nice yo yo back about 35 feet up a hill to squeeze through the oaktrees. Our draw from that was only at trot but man we could NOT have done that last year.

The close stuff was easy driving 360's...sideways along a log was pretty good too. Even the squeeze game over the log...but I have to admit I was a bit tentative with my driving game.

Attempting a circling game I lost her but it was so worth it because she came seriously cantering to me from FAR AWAY!!! like 75 feet. AWAY FROM THE BARN!!! I'm shaking my head right now. Hard to believe.

We played stick to me with transitions walk, trot, canter, halt etc. all the way up to the arena. I left all the gaits open and she did leave me and went all the way back to the barn. I wish at that point I had thought to use the round pen with the gait open because its way closer to the barn but oh well. Again we had a great draw and went over to watch Kip play with the trailer with Nigel.

Looked to me like they turned a corner. Kip was sitting in a chair near the mid bumper and loading him with just a suggestion. Super cool. He shut the back door for quite a while too and said that Nige was totally quiet eating in there. That was a first! Kip was grinning and feeling proud obviously. He commented that while it was all fresh in his mind he'd like to do some trailer play with Jackson.

Lil and I worked on our Freestyle with 2 carrot sticks again. Got sideways super concrete this time. I checked that one off this morning. Had 4 beautiful relaxed canter laps in the round pen each way and some very harmonious stretchy trot.

(oh and after I saddled her we got 15 laps at liberty at the canter with only one correction to the right. progress. more consistent. and she's even clearer on her responsibility it seems. and fitter!)

I have to say...even after 6 years of being amazed at the Parelli Program. . . I'm still blown away by what you can do when the horse (even in small stages) becomes a partner with you.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

and FINALLY.....

Nigel blew out while I was riding. This is the first time ever for the Big Big blowing out and letting loose through his ribcage!!!!

We were trotting and I was using the fluid rein to ask him to stretch longitudinally over his topline. and voila.


only took 3 months.. lol. must have been Kips great play sessions this weekend.... things finally feel different with Nigel. Like he's actually interested.

Kip and Nigel video update.

Lookin good to me!

Monday, August 24, 2009

The Northwood Four (Kip, Nigel, Lil and I ) visited Beth

Kip and I loaded up our two white horses and headed over to beths for a playday yesterday! It was super fun!

Kip had a great success with his horse. He took advantage of the bigger arena and did follow the rail including point to point with one barrel on the rail. Lil and I were the treat dispensers. He got one pretty big buck out of Nige and then some really nice canters. He was grinning pretty huge. Beth and I got some of it on video for him so that was cool for him to see.

I played with Lil a little at Liberty...we are getting a way cool draw at canter from like 45 feet away. In a straight line! And then I was able to back her around a single barrel and draw her towards me over it from like 30 feet. That was pretty dang cool.

Oh my gosh. I rode with 2 carrot sticks... and liked it!!! We totally did a "bridleless" weave at trot. Lil was an angel all through the making up of our routine for our audition. Our sideways with 2 carrot sticks is getting waaaay better.

We played the corners game at canter which was great to be able to do because on the long side she was really galloping so to just be able to keep her straight and stop in the corner...after just a few times she was regulating herself very nicely on a straight line. (we don't have those long straight lines at home.)

Beth rode Lou in Kip's cradle bridle. He looks so handsome in it.

Beth, Kip, Nige and Louie went outside to graze while Lil and I did follow the rail at the canter. Getting closer to check offable. . .

It was so cute when we were all done...Lil gave this tiny little whinny. Like whispering.. "hey guys?...are you out there?" We went to graze for a bit ...

Lovely time!

Beth stood on Louie the other day and I'm so proud of her I have to put this up.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Oh many cool things went down this last weekend.

Lil did some flying changes Freestyle* for me! A little crunched around the corner...and not the best look on her face but she did them. And only because she knew I wanted her to. Not because she had to.

It was very very interesting to just sit up there and let the pattern work itself. I had started it at liberty and then just stuck with it Freestyle. And so I was able to just passenger her except to say...stay on this pattern.

She was all happy to do the trotting figure 8 and then the canter figure 8 with simple changes. When she because we had built the pattern at Liberty she realized what I wanted and got tight.....and emotional. But she did them anyway. Like "omg omg omg i don't know if i can do this......" . And yet she did do it. Awwwwww!

Kip had a few amazing play sessions with Jackson.

We've both been doing the same pattern with Nigel. Point to point getting him to canter. Kip and I both had some super fun canters!

Over all it was just waaaay great. waaaay great!

Shout out to Jim and Lisa. Brilliant job on your level 1 auditions.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

I never did like Lil. I thought she was pretty. But, nearly right off....I didn't like her at all.

I was Letting Lil weedwack while I read the new Savvy Times last night. It was the golden hour...and then the rose colored moments before twilight....I looked up....and Lil looked me. She was about 10 feet away. We looked at each other....and I realized..I love her. I love her very very much.

Its amazing really. How our journey together has unfolded. From buying her as a 3 year old because she was pretty.....our frustration with each other immediately....her getting into such a right brained frenzy when I turned her loose on our new farm and running straight into and through a huge 6 rail fence that I truly thought she was crazy....

to breeding her instead of sending her to the how much closer we became over the three years that she had babies for deciding to develop her and send her keeping her for myself because of how far she (and I) had come....

to becoming more and more fond of completely misunderstanding her horsenality.....her kicking me in the stomach.....her hating me..... because I was getting it so wrong.

to getting the email that Don and Rachel* were doing distance coaching....starting to slowly unravel her horsenality and understand her better.....having her let me in more and more....

to beginning to appreciate her deeply high spirited getting the Patterns* and having even more of a plan for having her actually want to be with having disharmonic days and yet more and more moments and minutes of harmony...

....and now. today. I love her. And that's that.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Practicing trailer loading with Nigel.

Now this was interesting. Nigel has not been super interested in getting into the trailer. He's actually made it quite clear that he would rather not.

Part of the reason Kip was so excited to get him was that he really wanted to go to playdays and generally out to events. Nigel's original mom I think taught him to love trailers so I'm not exactly sure what happened. He did travel up here from Cali about a year ago so who knows.. But we really want to get him back to being uber confident.

Again with Nigel it takes him all of about 2 seconds to figure out what we want. Then like yesterday. He just does it.

Kip actually was the one who played with him and sat with him for a while. Then I hung out with Nige while Kip did a few things around the arena.

What I found really interesting was the feeling I was getting from him. I mean he was standing there....he knew he was supposed to. .... and I don't think he was afraid....but he clearly did not want to be in there. . . one time Kip did try to shut the door and Nigel came flying out....we just hung out with him for ages...he'd periodically blow and blow and blow (he is so innately LB. like Pat described once. in that kind of horse their left brain is always trying to override their right brain. so true in this case)

I was thinking of the stages within the friendly game. Trying to assess where he was. I felt like he was tolerating it for sure.....acceptance? I think we did get there when finally he started eating. Then after a good 20minutes he cocked a leg. (let loose?)

Kind of exciting to think of where we can go with this horse when we finally win him over.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

and Lil decided to have a nap.

She layed down in the sand at my feet and started snoring. So I sat down next to her and put in some undemanding time. It was nice.

And as luck would have it I have another horse that it was time to ride again anyway!

Nigel and I had a few big changes last night. First he put his nose in the halter and marched down the aisle with me. He very positively headed over to the stump and stood up on it. I felt like he put waaaay more mental and physical effort than he has been into that. It cracks me up how he makes those lipizzan poses. What a goof. One foot in the air like a retriever.

He tried to head past the roundpen door again but I felt like I needed to be a bit more assertive on that one so instead of following him I gave him a big smack on the bum and then turned quickly and marched into the roundpen with him following. We'll see next time if that was a better strategy.

I still don't know quite the best transition from going into the play pen to actually doing something....should start right off? Should I hang out a bit? He seems so bored if I wait....and he'll follow me everywhere now....our catching game is great....but maybe I should be checking it each time...I really don't know.

Anyway, we fiddled with the barrels. He went through them again squeeze game style. They really just won't stay still for jumping. Our sideways was tons better. Change of direction Online* at the trot, very good.

I set the two barrels up on end about 3 feet apart and put a treat on the blue one. My idea was to do that back up to the end of the 22ft line and through the barrels pattern for the second time. Brilliant! Straight back. And at phase one. Very good effort I thought. He is a smart horsey for sure.

Our canter circle Online was much better but only to the left. To the right we got one decent lap. Then I pushed him to do it again...and we just had a bunch of disharmony about it.

I stuck with it because I wanted to follow through...but then I felt like he was putting in an effort.....he kept picking up the counter canter...I wasn't we stopped and tried again to the left. No problem. One lap perfectly. I decided that to the right was a balance issue and that we'll chip away at it a little at a time. Seems like practice and exercise and probably some turn on the forehand stepping under with his right hind should help.

The last time I used my thereaflex pad was on Lil so I had a different shim pattern going on than I had previously used with Nigel. I haven't really been satisfied with just the one thick shim in the front for him anyway. So I pulled out the thin shim in the back and left the thick and thin in the front.

Stand still for mounting......I almost felt like I could get on bridleless and bridle from the saddle. ...but didn't. . . nice lateral flexion without moving...nice forequarter and hindquarter yields...excellent yoyo! best so far really from the saddle.

Off to try for 4 laps each way at the walk and trot. Wow! I had so much more go. He was giving me this lofty little energetic trot. I really think the shims were way better for him. Gave him more room to lift his back. Clearly.

So I figured while my friend Nigel had so much go we would put the blue barrel on the rail and do point to point to get some canters. At first he was diving off the rail to get straight back to it. But a few corrections (had to be quick) later he had cantered each way to get the treat. Cool.

We rested on the rail again. He totally remembered that change. Amazing. And then we did 4 laps each way at the trot and then the walk with NO corrections. Super. Lifted the reins to stop on the rail. Perfect. Hopped down. Done.

I felt really good about that whole thing. It really did feel more connected overall and more partnered. Satisfying.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

and I'm still high on our ride

Well, it was about as good as it gets with Lil night before last.

Again we started at Liberty*. A few flying changes which were nice. Then I asked her to go out and circle. After a couple laps she came back in to me. She had a soft expression on her face but I thought about being a better leader and working on my driving game......

So I made a bigger effort sending her. Giving a little smack on the bum with the string as she moped out. That worked! She went off and did 15 laps each way!!!!! yahoooo! (now clearly I read her correctly at that time...but I'm not exactly sure that that strategy will work with her most of the time. I don't know...I guess I'll just have to use my best guess each time.)

Time to dress up. Took me 3 tries to put the saddle on. She stands still but when I reach under to get the girth sometimes she lifts a hind leg. Don* reminded me that that is NOT passing the stand still for saddling test. So I took it off and tried again and then again until she did not give me that resistance.

She turned her head away when I took the bridle off the I physically retreated until she turned back to me. Bridling went perfectly after that. Then....I walked over to the up on it and called her. She came over! This is a very good sign as she does not always do it. Nigel usually does. And he marches. Lil comes over very slowly.

Stand still for mounting? check. Walk out to the center....and I figured I'd do the forequarter, hindquarter yields and walk forward straight backup straight with just the Savvy String. Excellent.

Walked around just a bit...light was running out. So we did some trots Finesse* style. Not collected really. Just connected. Kip was out there with me. (love love love it) He suggested that I ask her to do a half a 20 meeter circle in a small trot and a half in a medium trot. This was actually brilliant because of course transitions are a beautiful thing and this accommodated Lil's horsenality really well as it didn't change too too fast.

I stuck with that until I didn't have to use anything but a change in energy in my body to make the transitions. Man how making a pattern out of it works. Then to the bullseye of the circle for a moment of rest and a treat.

Canter has been a big thing for us because it's taken her so long to get physically and mentally relaxed in it. Doing so much canter Online* and at Liberty* has changed everything. So my goal was 4 laps each direction. Started with a few transitions within the trot then asked her out of that. Really nice forward no issues going into the canter. Not perfect. But willing.

I started to the right and at first I was getting one to one and a half laps before breaking gait. I try to not ever make her feel wrong when we're working on canter. I totally err on the side of caution on that one. Its been so emotional for her for soooooooo long. So when she did break gait I chalked it up to my fault not doing enough sooner and just started again. Buuuut, I also wanted to be a good leader and stick to my plan.

What ended up working was just making sure I paid very close attention to a drop in energy on her part (downward transition within the gait) and fixed it then by re asking her to go. (upward transition within the gait). Yahooo! Got it to the right.

Going left she had figured out what I wanted and so was putting in quite an effort. The thing was it was more of a hand gallop. Not really getting faster and faster but not really a soft canter either. I didn't want to be picky about the speed...its just that I frankly am worried about her getting off balance, tripping and falling on her head.

My decision was to stay really relaxed and fluid in my body but to do a one second half halt on the shoulder that felt like it needed it. In this case it was the outside shoulder. She was falling into the circle with the left so my instinct said to slowdown the right. Tada! Super. I felt like I wasn't really disturbing her but just got in and out when she needed me.

I felt REALLY REALLY good about those canters. Walking along the rail (using Karen Rohlf's idea about neutral within the walk) she was blowing and blowing and licking her lips. La la la. Faaaabulous.

I usually want to do a few trots to fix any impulsion issues that might have cropped up. And I did need to do some 10 meeter circles using one rein to get back to a self regulated working trot. I wondered if I could just use my Savvy String to stop and back up. YAY! I hopped down, undressed, gave some big long scratches (I remember when I couldn't find any itchy spots) even under her udder...savvy string around the neck, marched back into her room and that was that. Super.

I love it when I have to take a day or two break and I can live off a great last session. That is the best.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

And nearly got sucked in...

So I stuck with my plan yesterday to spend undemanding time with Nigel to work on our rapport as per my gut the other night.

We headed to the round pen and interestingly enough we had no trouble going down the aisle and out the door. He was following quite happily and not dragging at all. He did head off past the roundpen and into the big playground. This time though I was able to just let the 22 drag on the ground and follow him in zone 5. He got to the end of F's paddock turned to look at me I whipped around and headed to the roundpen.....he marched straight in with the belly of the rope on the ground.

My idea was to not do anything in there, not wanting to just make it a work pen. We have plenty of weeds and bits of grass to nibble on so I sat down on the lawn chair and opened my reading material.

Nigel promptly layed down at my feet and rolled. (my chair was just barely far enough away to be safe) At that point I started to think..."Oh man. This is no problem. He'd be just fine if I rode him and played with some Freestyle* stuff." But....I stuck with my plan (which was a miracle but must mean I'm getting a tiny bit savvier) and just hung out for another 15min. He came over to me. .. leaned against me....nibbled on me. Good that he was paying attention to me at least a little bit....not so much with the respect....then again I was going for rapport.

I was wondering about sitting in Nigel's paddock and if it'd be different. So we moved back in there. His stall and paddock are right next to Lil's and it was very cool that she came right over to the fence to say hi and get a little snuggle. Stuck around even with no treats.

Here's the more interesting part: At first he just stood in his stall looking at me. Then about 5 minutes later he licked his lips. Big Left Brained licking. About 5 minutes after that he came out to say hello and do all the same things as in the roundpen except the rolling.

Goal achieved. To remind me that I still have a long ways to go as a leader for both Lil and Nige though, whist I was sitting there they attacked each other over me. Dang it.

Time to play with Lil.....

With Lil

I finally got my 45ft line out again. That thing is so not my favorite. It really tears up my hands. But now that we've officially past our Online Level3+ it is time to move on.

I think its so funny that on occasion it takes me a while to listen to Linda's * advice. (she told me about feeding sunflower seeds and it took me like 2.5 years to try it. ... works like a magic pill) And she was completely convinced that tracking progress on an assessment sheet was key. Turns out she was right. Usually I'm pretty good about taking someone else's experience and learning from it...interesting.

Before I put Lil online I checked out connection by sending her off on the circling game at liberty. At the very start she tried to head off in the opposite direction than I had asked...its just amazing how getting her to maintain gait and maintain direction works like a charm to get her connected. And it's very quick when she's left brained right away. And if she's right brained .. much better to have her far far away.

It was kinda nifty that she is doing flying changes on her own so much now that we've been working on those for a few months. Cantering around the arena and maneuvering around obstacles she uses them a ton instead of dropping to trot.

After just a few canter laps without needing to correct her, ( I wonder if I should have gotten her to do more...not sure if I'm not asking enough there) I asked for a flying change right to left. . then left to right. Yahoo! Two in a row and maintain gait. First time that was really solid. Had to give her a hug for that.

Then I clipped on the 45. I was actually surprised at how out of practice we were. duh. Haven't played with longlines for like a year and a half. (see sometimes I can follow directions) Anyway...I thought point to point might be a good idea. Wow! We couldn't even walk straight! Eeeek. Poor Lil got a little starey at the lack of clarity on my part. But she did stay present and gave me a little leeway.

After a few minutes I finally got the clue to use follow the rail to fix the straightness issue. I had to slap my forehead on that one. Geeze. Worked perfectly. Helpful that she already knew the pattern. So I swiftly made it my goal to do two laps each way with a change of direction across the diagonal and then stop by getting on the pedestal. (happened to be very conveniently located at the end of the last diagonal)

I unclipped her on the pedestal because at first she was assuming that because I was in zone 5 I wanted her to back up.

What a good girl. It makes me feel so good when she tries for me even though I am messing it up in the beginning. I was just reading in the Mastery Manual* this month that your level of savvy is directly related to how good your body language is. Makes sense. Gotta keep that in mind always.

Ok so one of the big critiques that I got on my most recent audition is the same one that I got on the last one and the same on Pat gave me in Reno. "Your driving game needs improvement."
"You need to balance respect with rapport." (Rachel's* been on me for that since the beginning too) So on the way down to the round pen I was thinking of this and worked on stick to me a little bit. Stop back up..lets go forward! It was not the best. So I got a little firmer with my stick in front and behind. And tried to make it a game.."don't make me pick up the stick". Of course it worked very nicely and in a minute we were backing responsively up the hill. (decent hill too)

Into the round pen and hopped on bareback. (really just too lazy to get her dressed and also I thought it would keep me from getting too greedy and doing too much after she had already given me a lot) Worked on Don's checklist just with the carrot stick. (I'm so proud of myself for working on that. So resistant for many years. Just interested in other things. But again I am now following the list more) Our backup straight and go forward straight without having a shorter rein was not at all very good. Intersting because from a standstill we can back up just using my legs pretty well. It was really the stopping part that was an issue.

Kip was sitting just outside the roundpen to hang out with me. (which I love) He had the Leadership Mastery Manual out and was reading aloud. Brilliant. What a special hubby. And as he said: "These are bloody fabulous."

After a few tries we got it though. So I thought perhaps I would work on the checklist using the Porcupine Game* with the savvy string around her neck. It took a few tries and a little bit of working on my driving get it. But we got a beautiful yield the forequarters 360 degrees each way. Excellent.

Just did follow the rail a tiny bit. (thank god because I had forgotten to take my Bodybugg off again. It totally thinks the horses steps are my steps so it screws up my tally for the day). Worked on walk- trot- walk transitions, bending with the carrot stick to the outside for the downward transitions.

I wonder about using the carrot stick bending to the outside with Lil because we have worked so much and been recently so successful on our straightness on the circle.... don't want to have her getting bent to the outside thinking that's what I want.....Pat was mentioning in Reno (and has many times before) that we don't want to teach our horses unintentionally to be a bad banana.

Anyway I thought it was a great session, the greed prevention strategy was very effective because she has such a bony Thoroughbred back. Ouch! It hurts my bum!

My heart felt good when I went into the house and I was smiling as I fell asleep.....grateful.