Sunday, April 18, 2010

...Riding Nigel Bridless For The First Time.

Yahhooo! What fun!
I've been wanting to do this for ages with him! I was just trying to be savvy and be sure I was sure. Of course it wasn't that impressive. Firstly we just did yields, walked around, did a figure eight then stood around chatting with Kip. And secondly, we've ridden without using the bridle at walk and trot nearly every ride. I felt like we could have done much more but I figured I would stop while it was soooo good and not try to find the edge just yet.
Nonetheless, taking the bridle off completely is a matter of trust. And I found that I did trust him. We had had a lovely harmonious play then ride. He wanted to do lots of passage Online*. (we're working on that going to the left as well which is getting better) Canter both ways felt great...he regulated his speed perfectly and I just got to sit there.
So, I felt pretty sure.
He really is quite a safe little steed... the worst he's going to do is spook at a deer or something or kick up at the canter. His spooks are usually a quick sideways maneuver and then he's ok. Not much I can do (or need to do) for a one rein stop anyway. His little bucks are totally Left Brained and not very big so they don't scare he hasn't offered one in several weeks.
I was thinking how interesting it is that when I really started riding him he seemed to lose confidence to some degree Freestyle* (on a loose rein). In Finesse* (with contact) he must have felt more secure. Which is weird. I would have thought, considering his Horsenality*, he would have preferred Freestyle. I've noticed that lately, he has been a lot more confident just cruisin on his own. Another one for Pat .... this whole Four Savvys, Building a Foundation thing is important. The confidence and obedience was there yesterday for sure plus Nigel seemed to think it was cool. Which made it even cooler for me.
Now, the ticket is not to assume that we'll start at that point next time.....

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Openness to Harmony

(youtube link: kip, nigel and passage practice)

Beautiful ride and play with Nigel today. Not perfect...but I loved it because we felt in harmony.

Boy, we still have our on and off days. The session before this was not the best. My fault. I was high on the ride before that and stupidly had the unconscious idea that we'd be starting from there.

I wonder when I'll learn that that is a sure fire recipe for a let down. I need to remember to be open. Open to whatever, where ever our partnership is on any given day. Start at the beginning .... start with the 7 games...start with confidence...then curiosity...then teach/practice something...

Today, I did that. And it felt great. Plus I was riding a lot better. We had some really really good moments at canter and some yummy trot circles. (actually online too. straight on the circle and connected...rope soooo slack)

Nigel did some very good counter canter on the left lead. I was seriously impressed. Also a big marker was the impulsion. Our canter in general has been inconsistently balanced. We need more transitions. Yay for us that we have gotten to the place where that is possible. Got some much better canter walks...(into a very nice relaxed walk)..and a few way way better walk canters. He was even letting me tap him a little with the stick for the take off timing. Usually he swishes his tail or bucks. So this was a nice surprise. Helpful too!

I feel like this game of food dominance I've been playing has improved our relationship. Today was the first day he let me find an itchy spot near his sheath!!!!!! BIG HUGE DEAL!!!!! big. huge.

I love Nigel's soft eye...ears forward...relaxed, confident and nickering yet...but I've got my ears peeled.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Rapport, Respect. Respect, Rapport. Balance...

Ai yi yi! So much easier said than done! Love, Language and Leadership in EQUAL doses. A pretty dang tall order.

Nigel is forcing me to step it up. We want to be as gentle as possible but as firm as necessary right? Well, I have been faced with the fact that I really don't want to. I don't want to have to get firm with him. (unfortunately this is required in order to be order to be understood) I don't want to drive him away when he gives me the crappy ears and the driving face. Its one of those "everybody wants to go to heaven but nobody wants to die" deals. I want to have a beautiful relationship...I want to have the 51% in the partnership but apparently I don't want to do what it takes to earn that leadership.

In the last year I have worked hard to create rapport. To build Nigel's confidence with me. He is by nature a confident horse and so we've reached the tipping point. Over the last week or so it has become clear that I have two choices. Dominate or be dominated.

At least I don't take it personally. Watching Nigel out in the field I see him behave the exact same way with the other horses. He is passively...subtley...surruptitiously dominant. He doesn't seem to go out of his way to make a big fuss about moving up the pecking order. He just is where he is. (somewhere in the middle of the herd of 7)

Its actually pretty humorous. The other day Jack was trying to get him to move his feet. He got so frustrated trying to get firm enough with Nige that he actually jumped on him. Nigel is like 14.2 ... Jack is about 16.2 . Jack was standing beside him with one leg on either side of Nigel's withers...Nigel sloooowwwwly moved sideways so that Jack slid off. I was vindicated! If all 1400 pounds of Jackson is having trouble getting Nigel to move...I don't feel so bad about not having figured it out yet.

Reverse psychology does work brilliantly because if I set it up to make it seem like his idea he thinks he's dominating me. And of course he naturally wants to do that. However, I think there is a time to make sure that I get a response. For instance, in the yoyo game..he can really suck me into nagging him. Finding an effective phase four is requiring me to stretch and grow my leadership skills.

When playing with Nige, I've been trying to visualize Travis who is the alpha in the herd. He's 27 and still in charge. He is the king of getting in and getting out. And he doesn't give a tiny little rat's ass (emotionally speaking) if the others are trying to move up or not. He just lays down the law very frankly. He's like an electric fence. If somebody steps out of line...he puts them back. Simple as that.

They either cause him to just lay his ears back as a reminder... or like the other day with Jackson...Jack caused Trav to run him around until he would stand still respectfully and not move... until finally Trav gave him permission. That was a big eye opener. Travis ran Jack into the fence repeatedly....making him do rollbacks...playing the squeeze game...playing the circling game making him go around and around. The mud was flying! If it had been dry there would have been a cloud of dust for sure. I watched him give Jack opportunities to stop ... but Jack would try to sneak he'd send him off again.

I would have felt horrible! Like a total predator if I would have been doing that to Jack. I'm consciously trying to emulate the way Travis does not seem to get mad. I know that is a big part of me being successful. The detachment of it. The attitude of justice. Cause and effect. Its when predators get emotional that horses get scared. I noticed that Jack was not sweating one bit when he finally decided comply. Very interesting.

Playing with Nigel yesterday I decided to try the flag instead of a savvy string. Friendly game was interesting....he wasn't too worried but especially on his right side he was lookier at it. Interestingly enough this caused him to want to bite it ... not really aggressively...but almost...dominantly. He didn't strike at it which I thought was noteworthy.

The flag did elicit more of a response. And I loved it because I could just change my expression from friendly to driving and wave the flag instead of having to smack him with the stick or tag him with the string. (which as I said has been marginally effective ... both for me and his herdmates) I was able to use the flag to drive him back when he gave me the bad ears with great success. I've also been using the flag to cause him to stand respectfully away from his grain and hay in his stall until I invite him to it. We'll see how long the flag remains effective.....
It does seem like this is creating MORE rapport instead damaging it. He also had seemed spookier since he took leadership....over the last few days...with me taking it back...he has been less so....very noticeably. Oh phew! Man I love this horse. Preserving and developing our relationship is my number one priority. I guess Pat was right. "Horses are natural followers and they are looking for natural leaders." Nigel just expects a lot out of his.

The super duper cool side effect is that Nigel is causing me to be a better leader...being a better leader causes Lil to be more confident with me. Nigel is providing me the opportunity to become an even more confident, balanced rider...which is causing Lil to be more confident with me as her rider. So as I improve (kicking and screaming sometimes) I am killing two birds with one stone so to speak. Efficientcy... I love it.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

NAPPING! Guest Post by Lisa Overhuel

my husbands horse, jake, is the poster child for a Left Brained Introvert*!!! lol. his favorite pass time is NAPPING, full out, laying on his side, face in the dirt, NAPPING. his favorite days are sunny days, why..........because they make NAPPING even better!! :)

my husband, jim, has been able to approach jake during a nap and lay down with him for a couple months now. he's even had jake lay down in his presence. a couple weeks ago i saw jake was napping and decided to see if he would allow ME to approach him in this vulnerable position. so, using my pat parelli "stroll" i walked out to him. he didn't even look up. i dropped to the ground right next to him and he didn't move a muscle.

i layed down with him and he just kept on lounging. by now jim had come out and took some photos. also by now, my mare, minnie had approached us along with our dog, duke. it was quite the three ring circus (as usual), jim and i, now laying on the ground with jake, minnie standing over us and duke running around us. jake could care less!

we all hung out for probably 10 or 15 minutes before jake decided nap time was over. WHAT AN AMAZING FEELING! a feeling that will never grow old!!