Friday, January 29, 2010

Guest Post! L3 Yo Yo Game by fellow "Aspiring Horsemen" savvy team member Lisa M. Overhuel.

Minnie and the barrels has been a sloooooooow process. i guess i could have pushed her more..... but why. we had soooooooo many things to learn and minnie seems to learn best in little spurts. so, we jump around alot from task to task, learning little pieces here and there while at the same time building and preserving confidence.

over the course of almost 2 yrs minnie has gone from touching the barrels to rolling the barrels to walking, trotting, loping through varied space between two barrels, to jumping them at a dead run, a hand gallop, a lope, extended trot, trot, jog and now a walk and most recently, walk, pause jump. WHEW!! the funny part is that she likes to rear and jump around like a fool so you'd think lifting her front end over the barrels would be no biggie, but it is!! go figure! lol.

so, now we're ready to perfect our Level 3 Online..... i decided to introduce "jump towards you, stop, back to obstacle". the first try was almost a first time success... almost! i placed her on one side, me on the other. backed her away from the barrels & lined her up for success. i went to the end of my 22fter & drew her towards me. she stopped at the barrels, asking questions. then an amazing thing happened, she put one foot over the barrels.....and got stuck, as usual. but then, she carefully brought her other front leg over the barrels!!! she had never, ever tried that before! she never thought it was possible (goofy mare).

now what? she was straddling the barrels & not sure how to get to me. so, she carefully sidepassed her way over the barrels and came right to me. lol. okay, not what i was hoping for BUT she thought her way through the problem and stayed calm and the result was the same.......get to mom! what more could i ask for!

we tried that one more time but she had lost her confidence and rolled them out of the way instead. so, i started breaking it down. got her jumping the barrels consistently then i walked along side her while she jumped. she even jumped them once while i was climbing over the barrels myself (totally unsolicited)!! obviously her confidence was increasing. i then started walking just in front of the barrels as she was approaching so when she jumped i was actually on the opposite side. she was hesitant at first but got the hang of it quickly. that was our first session with our new task!

next play session we did our usual warm up of friendly game & circling game. a couple passes over the barrels and we were ready. put her behind the barrels, backed her away, lined her up for success. i backed away on the other side but not to the end of my rope. this time i drew her towards me while i moved my feet backwards which encouraged more forward movement from her. she sailed right over the barrels!!!! we got off that task immediately. tried it again at our savvy group The Aspiring Horseman play day a couple days later with lots of people around........again, she sailed right over and straight to me!!! woohoo!!

after a couple more tries i felt this part was solid.
a few days ago i introduced the "back to the obstacle" portion. i knew this would take a few tries because she gets worried about bumping into things while backing up. she's fine with humans being in Z5. she's even fine with the stick and string in Z5. its just the unknown that she doesn't like (can you blame her? lol). so, it was tough at first. its like trying to push the wrong end of magnets together. lol. she knows the object is back there and she does NOT want to bump into it with her legs of her bum.

how can we break it down, hmmmmm? i took her halter and slowly backed her to the barrels as close as possible without touching them. then we stood. walked forward and backed again....still unconfident so this time we stood and stood some more, playing friendly game. rubbed her with the stick (rubs always build her confidence), gave kisses and hung there until she seemed more relaxed and no longer conscious of the object behind her. then i walked her forward, lined her up, gave her plenty of rope and asked her back up. she slowly backed, almost perfectly straight all the way to the barrels and rested a foot just short of touching the barrels!!! WOOHOO!!! AAAAAAY!!! AAAAAAAAAH!! this was all going on in my head but on the outside i just stayed neutral and smiled! got off that task for sure!!!

next play session, i tested the jump towards, tested the backup (took a couple tries but not bad at all) and then had my husband do a video of us RE-COMBINING the "jump towards you, stop, back to obstacle"!! YAAAAAAAAAY!!

its such a grand feeling when it all comes together and your relationship with your horse was preserved because you put the relationship first and took the time it took!! :)))

Saturday, January 16, 2010

....playing with the new plan Coach Rachel* helped me lay out for Nigel.

Wow it was a great call. We were talking about Nigel and developing Piaffe. Rachel really helped me break everything down into teeny tiny pieces. In the final analysis its all about the Principle Games (Friendly, Porcupine and Driving). Plus, developing a more excellent Life up, Neutral and Life down.

Sometimes Nigel gives me the bad face...ears backish. He used to do it a lot...instead of worrying about it, I've just tried to be progressive and fun. Sure enough, he is doing it less and less. I asked Rachel about it, wondering if she had any other ideas.

She said that there are a few reasons that could be contributing to "the bad face". Yelling at him by not having a quiet enough phase 1 and yelling at him by not having a good enough neutral. Ah ha. So with this in mind we returned to the subject of Piaffe.

I needed to be reminded that I can run through my phases (not necessarily getting the exact desired response) and then stop. Then, start again. As we know horses learn what happens before what happens happens. Phase Four can be pretty soft in this situation.

My aim now is to get a very very good driving from zone 2/3* with snappy departures and downward transitions. First halt-walk-halt. Next walk-trot-walks. Next halt-trot-halts. Next walk-backup-walk. And finally backup-trot-backup.

A big light bulb moment was Rachel explaining why backup to trot is the most perfect for developing Piaffe. Its two beats to two beats! I mean duh! Walk-trot is four beats to two so automatically we'd have to have a change in rhythm. With Nigel, very soon I think, the first steps of going forward from back-up to trot will be Piaffe/Passage-ish steps. So I'll just need to recognize them and reward the slightest try so he'll figure out that ultimately that's what I want.

BIG IMPORTANT THING THOUGH: I must cue the Piaffe. It has to be more than just asking back-up to trot. So if I think he's going to do it I need to back-up...then cue the Piaffe...then ask for a snappy forward departure...then reward the Piaffe or beginning suspended steps

In order to get these precise snappy departures I needed to be more clear myself in my phases. For an upward transition:

Phase One: Life up in my body with my stick resting behind his withers.
Phase Two: Slide the stick to zone 4.
Phase Three: Lift the stick.
Phase Four: Tap zone 4.

So the other day I started the halt-walk-halts with Nigel. Eeeeek! It was so much more of a mess than I thought it would be. I mean, we've done the Touch It Pattern* so I thought this would be easy. Nope. He figured out the walk forward with phase one pretty quickly but the halt with just my life down without an obstacle to stop at took quite a few tries. Also he tends to want to really come around me in a tiny circle so I had to keep asking him to stay straighter. Ai yi yi. We quit when we got one decent walk-halt. ONE!

I think this is actually pretty dang cool. We found a hole in our development. Which, as Karen Rohlf reminds us, is a gift. Getting him more in tune with me and my energy instead of just seeing the obstacle and stopping.

Another nifty thing, I think, is that this progression towards Piaffe will just be another level of excellence in our foundation. It doesn't even really seem that advanced because Piaffe is so natural for Nigel. Its just another gait in his daily life. For Lil it would be asking a lot more because although an elevated trot comes naturally to her when she's on adrenaline...not so much if we're just calmly practicing transitions Online* or if she's playing out in the field.

Phew! That's a lot to spit out. Fun times ahead......

Sunday, January 10, 2010

...Having a Video Day with Nigel.

Nigel and I were practicing our "airs". He is now understanding that I want him to stay up there. In the first one on this clip (the best most amazing one) kip didn't expect him to keep going up so he ended up going out of the frame. lol. To me that means he's getting stronger. Also, he's beginning to understand that there is another movement..more the Levade style. This according to my understanding is a 45 degree rear with knees together. I'm trying to get 2 different cues going. One for the bigger Mezair style rear ( much higher and pawing the air) and one for the Levade. I left the rolling at the end so my coach Rachel Jessop* can see more of his horsenality. ...btw, have I mentioned that I love him?

Friday, January 8, 2010

...a few days ago with Lil...and yesterday with Nigel

I noticed the other night when I was sitting in Nigel's stall spending undemanding time that my poor horsey Lil was climbing the walls. After we played over the weekend she had been pretty quiet Sunday and was Tuesday night that she started to have trouble again.

So, Wednesday we marched up to the arena to move around. It makes me so happy that now she can partner with me even in self medicating. After a quick roll she almost seemed to say "right, here I go"...she took off at a speedy tail in the air canter to the right. But, she maintained gait and direction and looked where she was going.

The last few times we played she only needed 10 or so laps to really calm down and feel better. Wednesday she got to 20 laps before her tail relaxed and she made a smaller circle to avoid the muddy patch that she had been slipping on for the previous 1/2 a mile.

We played with all our normal stuff...she still is choosing to go sideways and around the barrels at Liberty* instead of hopping halfway over. . Online*, she does it every time. Ah...Liberty is such a good test. I'm pretty sure its a confidence issue that will be fixed with repetition.

Our close circle at Liberty is coming back. yay! And we're getting it at walk now which I feel shows more understanding. We are getting a few halt canters Online although the it ends up being walk to canters every 2nd or 3rd ask. Lead by a tail making turns is better...our close spin left to right is ok (I hate that she moves her HQ though) we need a little polishing right to left... The next time Kip is with me I'll ask if he can see anything different in my body language going that way.

It was one of those days when she doesn't quite feel fully present. Our draw was maybe 60% of what we have on a good day. She still did a lot of licking and chewing..still much improved from what it was even a few months ago...but I couldn't see very much tongue. However, she didn't suck on her tongue so that was good. I felt like I was going maybe one click too fast..

A great sign that Wednesday was ok, was that yesterday when our Farrier did her feet she was in one of those super mentally engaged moods. She was snuggling with him and lifting up her back feet for him and even offering to put her front feet on the jack stand! What a good girl. She had lost both her back shoes and the accompanying shims so both she and I'll be glad to have that fixed.

With Nigel yesterday I'll just say he was amazing as usual. He seemed to realize that I wanted a big rear with more airtime. He put A LOT of effort into staying up there. 5 seconds he gave me! 5 seconds!!!!!!!!! That's the record for sure. I wooped it up for that one. The whole valley probably was wondering what in the heck was going on. LOL

Our ride was good. I have 2 thick shims in the front and it was too much. This next ride I'll switch to a thick and a thin and see if that's just right or if I just need a single thick one. Maybe that means he's traveling more uphill?...

Following the rail even doing a big stretchy trot and cantering is much better. Our weave at trot Level 2 style was almost perfect...Doing the cantering Bow-tie Pattern* was better..ish. Still needs work. His canter depart even from the walk Online is doing great...I can't wait for them to improve undersaddle. I hate that feeling of disharmony when they aren't.

Ok. I have to confess that I had some ruffled hairs on the left hand side just behind the withers. Poo. I think it was some of our canter halts. I was bracing too much in my stirrups.

I quit while he seemed to be eager to do even more things (yay me) and we walked with a swagger down to the barn. I haven't put him in the trailer for a few weeks so I thought we'd better practice. He jumped right in. I shut the door..he was just fine with it. For the whole rest of the day he was tracking me wherever I went with two interested ears forward. Excellent.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

On New Years Day Weekend...

...with my parents who came out to the farm to visit.

On Friday we decided to film my Dad's official level one audition. He's been playing with the horses a little bit at a time and over the years. Both he and Mom have been to two Parelli Tour stops and watched many hours of Parelli Dvds. ("ok guys you gotta just see this one video") I knew he could do it....I wondered how Lil would feel about being his partner in it.

They both did really well! Lil was very patient and when Dad asked correctly she did it. Dad did wonderfully with accepting what she was offering (even if it ended up being a Level 4 task instead! lol. like halfway over the barrels...or her thinking he wanted sideways towards instead of away) and then sorting out what he needed to change to get what he actually had intended. I am very proud of both of them.

Mom and I had the best time watching Kip play with Jack. I brought Lil up to the arena the day after dad did his audition...she rolled...and then (clearly before any grooming) stayed down and took a nap. A loooong nap. Mom came up to hang out with me. She and I stood by Lil protecting our little herd and watching Kip play with Jack. Lil was cantering and nickering in her sleep. It was really funny.

Today I got to play with Nigel. We just fiddled around. Checked off a bunch of 2 carrot stick riding tasks from the L3 Freestyle* list. Kip came up to take a break from football to say hello and brought the video camera.

We just had 8 min of battery life left so here is just a few little Online* clips. We were playing with rearing online which as you can see is a pain because he gets tangled up in it...I move backwards to try to avoid it...he thinks that means come we don't end up with a real Levade. . on the other hand that seems to be getting more of a Mezair effect. . . the flying change was nice...the cones were in my way so I had to hold the rope up...I'm glad to have the beginnings of a few elevated trot steps on vid because I know those will really improve...