Monday, September 28, 2009

Educational and Inspirational Weekend. Sept 26th 2009

I was invited by my friend Donna (the beautiful red head on the right in the above picture. Beth is on the left and I'm in the middle) to attend a fundraiser for a local Farm Rescue. They do all kinds of animals. Chicken, Goats, Pigs, Doves etc. Of course, I shamelessly was focused on the horses. lol

For a long while I have wanted to give back to an organization like this. Its tricky though, because I haven't wanted to be around dangerous horsemanship or get involved with a less than legitimate group.

I'm excited about The Lighthouse Farm Sanctuary because the founder Wayne seems to have a good knowledge not just about animal care but about facility and charitable organization management. To me this is important for effectiveness and longevity. They are also endorsed by the Humane Society of The United States. In fact Scott Beckstead from the HSUS was the speaker there.

(Just as an aside: Pat Parelli was just given the HSUS horseman of the year award. How cool is that.
For more on the Parelli/HSUS partnership click here. )

They have about 10 horses on the farm at the moment. Each with its own story to tell of course. It seems though that they are all healing and my understanding is that these horses are home forever.

I did speak to the founder (another Wayne. Wayne Geiger.) about his vision for the future. They have about 55 acres and lots of good fencing...but not a lot of shelter. So they are keeping their numbers down. (Very emotionally fit I say especially when he's getting a gajillion phone calls a day with people trying to give away horses. ) He talked about building a barn and eventually having some volunteers that would be willing to help rehabilitate the horses and enable them to be rehomed.

The other thing that the President of the HSUS was talking about was a program where horses and owners in distress would be evaluated. If their situation is sustainable and they just need some help to get through this rough time, an option is to provide them with the resources they need (hay, grain, meds etc.). This allows the horses/animals to stay on their current property and with their owners. Cool idea I thought. Especially if the evaluation process is strict enough.

Anyway, its great to have a rescue to start to get involved with....go to work parties...maybe help with the fundraisers. They have a sponsorship system there where a person can donate a specific amount of money per month to take care of an individual. A goat is like $15 a month or something and a horse is $60. A great way for people to give if they don't have a lot of time to volunteer or the ability to adopt. Donna sponsors this cute little brown mule named Suzie. .

Just one other thing I'll share... They have a horse there named Sophia. She is a black and white paint. I could see right away that she was a Right Brained Introvert*. Immediately my little heart connected with her. She reminded me of Lil. Not in looks of course but in her body language.

Then I heard her story. She was a bucking horse. But since she is a RBI....when she got frightened she just froze. She was beaten in an attempt to blow her up. She must have just gone deeper and deeper and become catatonic. When they couldn't make her do what they wanted they threw her away. Like garbage.

On so many levels Sophia's story resonated with me. Its just so indicative (and of course an extreme case) of misunderstanding the horse. Not knowing about Horsenalities*. Not caring perhaps. I wanted to prove to her that people could be better than that. That she was safe to come out of her her blossom into a confident being in the world. Instead of locked away in her safe place. Man. I'm guessing that will take a long while.

I waited by the fence for a bit after the fund raising auction. Eventually she did come over...snorted when I reaching into my pocket for a treat...but hung in there. Obviously the folks at the Sanctuary have done a wonderful job in the few months she's been with them. I just wonder what the possibilities for her are....................

A few more picts...

As you can see these guys are healthy and happy.
This horse with a scar was hit by a car.

Friday, September 25, 2009 the driveway actually for some undemanding time.

lil undemanding time with mountains

We've done so much lately that I knew I needed to catch up on some undemanding time. I carved out an hour in the day today to just let her loose in the driveway to munch.

I sat out on a lawn chair enjoying one of the last days of sunshine.....I was watching Lil rip the grass out of the gravel and the dirt ..listening to her chew...

Usually she wanders all around. Down to the barn.... up to the house...down to the trailer... She has been checking in with me more and more. Just coming over to say hi before wandering off again. Horses are designed to eat and walk miles and miles after all.

Well, she stayed with me. Like really close. Within about a 20ft circle. And a lot of the time so close that I could touch her. THE WHOLE HOUR!!!!!

This happened to me once before with my lease horse in Florida. I was amazed then and I am amazed now. It is just so telling. It says our bond really is getting stronger. Like really and truly.

yay :)

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

and I CANNOT believe Lil and I filmed an L4 Liberty audition.

Seriously can't believe it.

I hadn't done very much Liberty* with Lil at all in the first 2.5 years of our partnership. We could play the 7 games and passed our Level 2 but its not something we played with a lot as our relationship just wasn't ready. We did a lot of Online* preparation.

This last winter my coach Rachel* suggested that I let her move her feet basically as much as she wanted when she was acting like a Right Brained Extrovert*. Bad weather has been really really tricky for my right brained horse. All the leaves and trees are moving and she can't hear with all the wind. Clearly she didn't trust me enough to take care of us.

We had prepared enough Online* that I thought she would stay with me in the arena (i.e. not jump the fence in a frenzy) if I took her off line. So this is what I decided to do. The 22ft line wasn't really long enough for galloping and I wasn't skilled enough yet with the 45ft line in that kind of difficult situation. Plus the arena is only 70 wide so even if she was on the rail I'd really have to be managing it. Of course the 45 isn't yachting braid either so if something did go wrong we'd be in more trouble.

So letting her really move around....buck...spook...gallop etc. started to make a difference. We had enough of a language that I could ask her to come back to me and yet stand 5 feet away. This was very very important because she can be so unpredictable in that state. Freezing...looking calm and sleepy...exploding...whirling away..all fun times. As one would imagine...much better to have her far away and unattached.

This strategy progressed into getting her to maintain gait and maintain direction....which is what started to change everything. She started to see me as her leader and that made her feel better. Braver. Plus, she had to concentrate to do it. I'm sure I'll be talking a lot more about this in a few months. lol

What I'm getting at though, is that basically within a few months we were able to self assess Level 3 Liberty and then send in and pass our audition with an L3+. As if by magic it had all come together.

And just this last Sunday, we filmed our L4 Liberty audition. Really Really REALLY unbelievable.

I'll embed the video as soon as I get a better connection but for now, here is the link. (as you'll see our weave is back!)
L & M Level 4 Liberty Audition 9-20-09

*see glossary at the bottom of the page.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

and dang it! I lost our weave with flying changes.

But it looked so cool! I needed to see it again. darn darn darn.

She had already done it brilliantly twice. I had used single barrels laying down as our markers. The third time I asked her...she offered to jump the barrel after the first change .... what am I going to do? She came to me and gave me two beautiful eyes and ears...we tried again...then of course I had rewarded her for jumping. I tried to be more specific but she just got confused. So I had to move more out to the side and just fix my draw.

I think I'll probably just go back to the good old figure eight because I can be more effective (understood) when sending zone 1* around. Then just gradually move back to being able to draw all the way through the weave.

The coolest part of the day was that she was WITH me. After we played in the arena at Liberty* (our usual warm up) we went out into the big playground. I got a super cool yoyo down the steeper part of the hill and pretty straight too...about 25feet or so.,.. and an enthusiastic draw at canter.

We got the stick to me at trot kinda half circles with change of direction...squeeze over the log etc...all with no thought that I could see of leaving. Into the round pen to get dressed...up to the the mounting block. All at Liberty. This is definitely a new level for us.

We practiced our Freestyle* with the savvy string and one carrot stick. I need to figure out a way to deal with the reins. I just want to use the string but I end up with reins eventually sliding over to one side or down her neck if I don't at least hold "the buckle". Hmmm. I might try to tie at knot maybe? And use my mecate holder on my saddle. Perhaps I should call the golden hotline.

We did trotting cloverleaf, canter figure 8 with a stop in the question box, sideways over the cavaletti. Had trouble opening that gait up there. Ended up needing to use the bridle. Interesting. We usually can do the one to the roundpen just fine.

It took me a few canters to realize that I wasn't using my new found fluid position at the canter that I had discovered last time. (As per the latest Savvy Club* DVD...pulling my inside armpit back a little bit and stretching a little more into my inside stirrup) Geeze, put a carrot stick in my hand and a hand on the string and I'm all discombobulated. Lil was getting cranky because I was having to used my stick so much. Once I fixed my position I was able to much more effectively just use my body to turn. She was so rolling her eyes at me.

Getting undressed and giving scratches I felt satisfied. I learned a bunch and have stuff to think about and trouble horse didn't get actually angry with me for bumbling about.....and I feel like our relationship is getting stronger all the time.

When the weather changes we will have big Right Brained* Challenges. The stronger our relationship is going into that the better off we'll be. I'll take all the prior and proper preparation I can get.

*see glossary at the bottom of the page

(bummer no picts in this post. i'll work on it)

Thursday, September 17, 2009

A reader asked me to talk a little bit more about my experiences with teaching Nigel to maintain gait. It got me thinking about Clarity....

Soooooooo one of the MOST IMPORTANT things that Linda has given me is the permission to experiment. Of course I'm always trying to balance it. I don't want to let the horse be wrong for too long. But I also want to give the strategy a fighting chance.

With Nigel I really just started with small bits. And I have to say I use treats.....for a few is to give incentive...but the other reason is to clearly say "BINGO. you got it. that is what i wanted". I used to end up with certain horses frisking for treats all the time..but I figured out that so long as you get them to do something for it that goes away. (the LBE's especially. even in their stalls a lot of times I ask them to back up with a finger wiggle before I give it up)

In one of the Mastery Manuals* recently Linda was talking about how the level of our savvy is directly related to the level of clarity in our body language. And I've been thinking of that a lot lately...clarity. A clear plan. Making what I want clear to my horse and then being clear about letting them know when they got it right.

I've noticed that two big things happen when I give a treat to this end. My body language automatically changes and just logistically we have to stop for a second at least. My goal of course is to one day be so good in my body that I'll be super quick to soften and smile and go to neutral in just the right moment. But for now in the interest of clarity I am using it to say "that's it!"

I'm not talking always of course. But especially when teaching something new...or when I'm asking my horse to put in more effort like doing 3 laps instead of 2 or weaving at liberty at the trot instead of online. When asking Nigel to get on a stump...its pretty obvious to him when he's done it. So just a scratch and a rest is good. I suppose this is why they all love touch it so much. They know exactly what we want them to do!

Also, doing a walk lap is in my experience one of the hardest tasks at first! What I did with Nigel is just send him off at the trot. He went a few steps and stopped. I gave him a treat. Next, I sent him at the trot. He went a few steps. This time no treat. I just brought him in and re sent him. This time he did a few more steps. I brought him in and gave him a treat. So all I've done is just say...give me a little more (do a whole circle) treat....quit that game for that day. Next time start with something...(half a lap even) give a treat....a little more (whole circle) treat... a little more (2 circles or even 1.5 circles) treat. Try the other way. (2 circles? ) Treat. And quite that game for the day. Etc. That's it.

Another strategy that works well if I have a good change of direction is just that. Change direction. He breaks gait or stops..change direction. Until he puts in more effort. BUT. . . . the real key is to notice when they put in more effort. AND SAY BINGO. (Alot of times I even say it out loud to myself not for the horse but because that too automatically changes my body language.)

This strategy is basically using comfort and discomfort. The idea being that it is less comfortable for the horse to change direction than just to keep going. So they put in more effort to going. Again. I must notice the effort and reward it. If I get too greedy and want to much too soon, it doesn't work. To sum up...CLARITY and MOTIVATION is what has worked wonders with Nigel. He had to learn that there was a point to what I was asking. And of course some reason in the world for him to do it. lol

Doesn't hurt that he's blindingly smart either.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

and lots of things kind of came together...

. . . like the stump. As per older posts it has been interesting to see Nigel start to take responsibility for stuff.

When I first asked him to stand up on the stump he did it. (of course) but I really had to micromanage him onto it. 1* here, zone 2* there etc.

Last time we played I just sent him towards it from about 13 feet away. He looked at it and passed it. So I just let him circle and come back to it. It took about three times and he looked at me and stepped up.

Yesterday I must have been about 17 feet away...he marched right over and got up there. Excellent. Now we're getting somewhere.

Heading up to the arena he was blowing and relaxing. Going away from the barn!!!!

We've been working on our cantering circling game online. This was not all that pretty or harmonious when we began in May. Mostly I think it was a respect thing (not at all appropriate response to pressure. pulling on the line...not going...or going to much etc.) and also a big lack of rapport. He wanted away from me!

Yesterday again he took responsibility, he gave me slack in the line and did 4 laps each way with only one or two tiny corrections. This was up in the arena ...where the last time we played he was really right brained and kept trying to take off heading towards the barn. So this is great progress!

Another thing that came together. Maintain gait, maintain direction, and look where you're going. Playing the circling game over stuff has needed some confidence building. I've been just using a cavaletti about 12 inches high.

Several sessions ago he would slow down and needed a little help to even walk over. I could see there he was a bit worried about the whole thing. Of course with Nigel its usually like "eek! can i do that? oh. well, ok. " So as long as I don't force him in that moment of unconfidence he gets braver right away. A tiny bit tricky for me to know when to wait for a second...and when he needs a little encouragement. But if I get it right it works like a charm.

So it's been getting better clearly every time. First, walking over without stopping...then trotting to it and walking over picking up the trot after (obviously getting the concept of maintain gait)... then trotting over it but knocking it down....then yesterday.....voila! Jumping! Right off the ground like a good little motivated confident boy. Super.

Then I got to hop on. His response to the direct rein was nearly perfect. We practiced longitudinal flexion with the fluid rein at the walk and trot. He seems to understand that a lot more but he has trouble staying stretchy at the trot. Better though. Heaps better. .... I was hoping to get more blowing out...but no dice. I even waited several minutes before getting off...just in case.. dang. Oh well, I'll be looking for it again.

He felt happy with me when we undressed...and relaxed...and I just love riding him so I was happy too...he gently dropped the bit with his nose on the ground then he rubbed his head on me in a nice way....

I'm noticing more and more of a connection. Sigh. That's the best part.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

. . .and Yay! Yay! Yay!

Lil gave me THE BEST cantering weave with flying changes from zone 1*! Just switched my carrot stick from one hand to the other and ran backwards!!!!!

The few tips Linda was giving Amy in this last savvy club DVD helped me a ton. Really put my weight more in the inside stirrup and pulled my inside armpit back. Lil seemed to really like it.

Also revisiting the suspension rein. I found that I usually end up doing more of an indirect rein by not paying attention. Today I really focused on lifting it straight up. That helped a bunch too.

I've been doing this pattern of a 20m circle at trot and then a 10m circle and then a 20m circle and so on. . (like big bulls eye little bulls eye with a barrel for the small one) Well, I kept in mind Pat's demo this month of the minute indirect rein and then direct rein. Seemed to make a huge difference for the 10m circle.

I had to laugh at myself, it seemed Lil was like..."finally! geeze! I've been waiting for you to get this."

Saturday, September 12, 2009

well...the woodshed actually.

Haha. So the story is that I was spending some undemanding time with Lil in the driveway. She was munching the gorgeous green fall grass and I was studying the new Mastery Manual*. ........

Clop, clop, clop. . . I hear her shoes on the pavement. Well, our driveway is gravel and the only pavement is in the shop! I had left the door open and she was snooping around in there!
Although our shop is bigish, 60x40..there is A LOT of stuff in there. And not super safe for my horsey. So of course I went to fetch her. Pretty neat that she was confident and curious to head in there amongst all kinds of scary stuff and many squeezes. I stopped to take this picture as she was sniffing the cedar woodpile.

Here's the cool thing: She turned and looked at me. . . softly with her tail swishing gently. . I said "hey lady, you'd better come out. sorry". and she backed up to me around all kinds of obstacles (about 20feet) and out the door!!!! She did have room to turn around but she chose to back up. So cool to see her using the skills she and I have been practicing together.

I like it! . . . Can I mark off the level 4 task back from the tail and make turns? lol. ( just kidding)

Thursday, September 10, 2009 was great.

Had to stop and think about what the deal was with our backing from the tail. She has misunderstood me lately...turning...and not drawing straight back. So a Blinding Flash of the Obvious came my way. ..Can she back while I back standing in zone* 2? yep. zone 3? yep. zone 4? yep. zone 5??? tada!

We did a million transitions Freestyle*. And no impulsive trot. Lil got her feet done day before and her canter was like super slow, relaxed and rocking horsey. Plus when I asked she just lengthened her stride with lift off from the hind end. I love that!

We even got to do a tiny bit of Finesse*...and then back to freestyle. I have to admit that the Freestyle is improving our relationship so much I am finding that I care less and less about flying changes. I know that they'll come (they're really good at Liberty*)...but for now...I love that fact that she's getting happier all the time and less emotional. The improved relationship is really becoming the reward. And then the rest of it is just coming as if by magic.

She was even asking questions at the canter. Which of course means she was thinking...which of course is totally awesome.

We ended after undressing with some ENTHUSIASTIC draws at canter and some long scratches. I LOVE MY HORSEY!

Monday, September 7, 2009

and I just had a really nice time with Lil

The coolest thing I think is that now, when we have a misunderstanding two things happen. One: she doesn't get as offended and afraid..she checks in with me. And two: I notice more quickly if I've been unclear or she doesn't understand and that she's checking in with me.

Its been a deeper study for me of late to really try to balance the respect with the rapport. Like being willing to use my drive...and really say...move that! And yet be super quick to notice if she's asking a legitimate question.

As a result I am really feeling a stronger connection with her!!! It makes me so happy!

We played with maintain gait, maintain direction on the circling game at liberty for 10 laps or so. It is hilarious how horses count. geeze. She's got the 10 laps now. And "done?". lol

Her flying changes look so easy for her now. They look really rideable.

We got some beautiful sideways with 2 sticks. Got like forty thousand trot canter trot finesse transitions. Those were really easy for her!!!! But...going back to a self regulated trot afterwards took about 10 min. But, "oh boy" we got to do more transitions. And she didn't get too worried.

I am noticing the tongue now. She sticks it out the side and sucks on it. Its a stress thing. And it usually shows up this time of year. The weather changes...and she becomes a lot more of a RBI. Freezing and Spooking.

Last year I didn't pay as close attention to the little signs that started to build up. This year..I am going to try to be more vigilant. So I don't end up just going along...doing what we've done all summer.....and then end up pushing her mindlessly. I don't want to miss the tiny subtle resistances.

So it'll be interesting to see how far our much more developed and stronger relationship will take us this season.

I remember when I couldn't find an itchy spot on Lil at all. Now, our scratch sessions last for like 15 minutes! And I love that she shows me the spots. I even trust her to raise a hind leg right in front of me and say: "there please".

Perhaps this really is the beginning of a beautiful relationship. . . . .

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Had to post this pict .....

Again, this is Lisa. Member of our Savvy Team "The Aspiring Horsemen". Her horse Minnie on the left and hubby Jim (also a member of the A.H.)'s horse Jake.

That. Is cool.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Guest Post! by Lisa, member of our savvy team "The Aspiring Horsemen"

..........on to the progress report. minnie is doing really good with the carwash. i can send her through and drive her through, that was last tues.

friday we had an awesome session. worked on L2 online stuff. our figure 8 is pretty darn good at the walk and trot. most of the time i just looked and pointed, moving my feet minimally. we started really working on the weave. that was rough at first but it got pretty good when i'm on the near side but was still a bit rocky when i was on the off side (confidence issue). but we were gettin it! and most of the time i was just looking and pointing.

i'm getting 4 canter laps consistently now with just an occasional correction. woohoo!! i rode bridleless again. in the round pen of course but we did more stuff. we trotted quite a bit and did a couple figure 8's and change of direction (i told my mom it would be way cool if some day i can take minnie to a play day and do the events bridleless. not at a competitive speed of course. hehe).

the funny part is that jake is better at the weave than figure 8's & minnie is the opposite. i didnt everything that jim and jake did but i know that he's getting better canter laps!! a big deal for jake!!

oh ya, here's a jake funny..........jim & jake were just standing, jim suddenly realized that jake was standing there holding a foot up............probably waiting for a treat!!! and yes, he DID GET A TREAT!! he's such a goof!

sunday we took the horses to the show but i did not compete first off, minnie marched right into the trailer & took her position! i was soooooooo excited!! i threw the rope over her back & in she went!!

i played with minnie online during morning break, down at the scary end of the arena. she did finally relax and offered to WALK between me & the fence instead of shooting through. i only got to ride her in there for a few min but was able to walk calmly at that end of the arena.

after that i rode her in the warm up area. her & jake did really well with being separated. minnie only called a couple times & jim said the same about jake. minnie was a bit highheaded and impulsive at the trot though so we circled and circled and circled some more & did trot/stop/back transitions until she finally relaxed, stretched her neck down & blew out a couple times. it was like someone flipped a switch! one second i was doing circles with a supporting rein & the next we were following the rail on a casual rein.

everyone got to rest for bit after that, including me. it was nice to just sit & watch a few classes. it was jakes turn during lunch break. we had 45 min & i rode jake in the show ring the whole time!! he did really, really good! of course, he had the opposite problem with the arena. he wanted to be at the "scary" end because thats where we were parked. so, i created a sweet spot at the opposite end using cookies. follow the rail to the far end, stop, get cookie, move off at jakes choosing, REPEAT, REPEAT, REPEAT. took about 3 times & he caught on. after that he offered to trot, canter, whatever. i took whichever gate he chose as long as he went where i wanted to go.

he did spook 3 times at the office, bleachers, people, papers?????? who knows for sure. of course his flight distance is like 5 ft BUT he's alot of horse to have jumping sideways!! i finally got off & had him observe things & squeeze through a few times. after that he was fine. so, i got my passenger lesson for the day. LOL.

when lunch time ended i let everyone else leave first & he just stood there quietly. he was much more relaxed this time. no high head, never even thought of bucking. and there were quite a few horses out there all doing different things. it was a good day for jakey!!

when we loaded up, minnie marched right in again! its amazing! she's even unloading better. it just took that one day and 10 min of her standing in there checking things out. makes me chuckle!!!

monday..........another awesome play session! minnie & i did figure 8's & weave online again. i even asked her to do 8's while standing on top of a barrel. hehe. work on the weave.....much better than friday, especially when i was on the off side (alot more confident). work on sideways without a fence. decided it was mark offable!!! which means...........everything is marked off for L2 online!!!

THEN we started working on Freestyle!! we did freestyle figure 8's & weave for the first time!! aaaaaaaaaah! figure 8's went awesomely!! at the walk of course. not ready to trot them yet. the weave wasn't quite as good but it wasn't bad either!!

worked on follow the rail. she had several good moments & several moments of impulsiveness. so, whenever she broke gait we circled, circled, circled until she slowed herself down. i tried really hard to circle with just the carrot stick but that wasn't always possible, especially if she cantered. the good part was that the canter wasn't scary fast so i felt like i could ride it out & try to use the carrot stick.

she did run into the rail once & tried switching directions on me once (just another passenger lesson. lol). she finally started to relax & we did have a few good laps at the walk with a stretched neck & some blowing. i felt totally successful for our first real time doing freestyle.

jim didnt really do much with jake........gave him a day off. BUT he did have jake haltered for a bit & duke (our dog) was out there (of course) & jim tied jakes rope to duke and duke was leading jake all over the arena. jim got them to do figure 8's & tried a weave. duke weaved but jake cheated!!

i suggested that it would safer if duke learned how to hold the rope in his mouth took maybe 5 MINUTES to teach this to duke!! that dang dog picked up the rope on command & led jake around the arena. jim tried to get jake to trot for duke but of course jake thought that was the silliest thing ever!!! we will certainly need a video!!! duke has also learned how to pick apples from the tree. yep......all of our pets are THINKERS!!

One more funny about minnie. we put them in the small pasture yesterday for lunch. jake came in first so jim got him out. minnie was on her way from the big pasture. when she realized jake was already out, she made a mad dash across the arena straight for her stall! i put my hand up FROM THE AISLEWAY and she slid to a stop right outside her stall & hesitated. i quickly invited her in. i thought that was pretty amazing! she could have easily blasted right in..........she's done it before.........right through the chain no less!!

WHEW! so there it is! :)