FOCUS gives you FEEL. FOCUS and FEEL give you TIMING. FOCUS, FEEL, and TIMING give you BALANCE.

The Responsibilities

  • For the Human
  • 1. Don't act like a predator
  • 2. Have an independent seat
  • 3. Think like a horse
  • 4. Use the natural power of focus
  • For the Horse
  • 1. Don't act like a prey animal
  • 2. Maintain gait
  • 3. Maintain direction
  • 4. Look where you're going

The Principles

  • 1. Horsemanship is natural
  • 2. Don't make or teach assumptions
  • 3. Communication is two or more individuals sharing and understanding an idea
  • 4. Horses and humans have mutual responsibilities
  • 5. The attitude of justice is effective
  • 6. Body language is the universal language
  • 7. Humans teach horses, horses teach humans
  • 8. Principles, purpose, and time are the tools of teaching

Thursday, April 12, 2012

April 12,2012

The Ride with John & Kathy Baar was great ! Sonny was connected and willing all day. We trotted and trotted, and a few times, it felt in rhythm and smooth, easy to post to, and I could even sit his trot for a few strides. That darned trot has been such a mystery for me. I don't know if it's Sonny, or me, or 'us',,but the trot has been IMPOSSIBLE to sit, and difficult to post to. I even took a few 'traditional' lessons to see if it was me. I could trot fine on the lesson horse--sitting or posting trot. Hmmmmmmm, don't think it's just me. It must be Sonny and/or the saddle. Sonny is pretty dippy backed, and he does tend to travel somewhat hollow and heavy on the front quarters,,plus the saddle I have is made in a manner that makes it near ,,no -definitely , impossible to stay on my balance point. I plan on trial-ing a Parelli saddle at a lesson or at Supercamp to see what difference that makes. I do try to shim my saddle, but still can't get on my balance point and stay there, it causes my pelvis to tilt downward in the front, making my back hollow (like Sonny's ! :( ), so it's a constant fight to reposition myself. Sonny does willingly pick up the trot, but he doesnt maintain it untill I ask for a downward transition yet. Usually I'm tired and ready to walk again anyway, though, but I try to re-ask for the trot immediately to help him learn to maintain gait. Thinking of a year ago when he would only walk 3 steps and stop, he has improved so very much. He will walk untill asked to stop. He still doesnt turn on seat cues very often, and I try not to get frustrated because it seems like he should have gotten that by now.....but I need to think how he does do it some of the time to keep a positive attitude with him. I did have the 'opportunity' 2 days ago to find out that I CAN sit a spook at the trot. For a split second I thought I was coming off, but I think Sonny may have shifted to re-seat me because I didnt fall off. Wouldnt you know that the spook (a child ran up to the arena from behind a stack of wood) came just at the most vulnerable time when I was going from a sitting trot to a posting position-trying to get in rhythm with him when he suddenly sped up and shot a few feet sideways. He was good to stop immediately when I began a lateral flexion cue.
That same day, we played at liberty in the arena (180 x 60?) and Sonny gave me a figure 8 at the walk, and also trotted with me in a small circle, also gave me one lap of circle game at the walk. I was very pleased with him, esp. as there was another loose horse in the arena with his human playing with him.
Sonny has regressed on trailer loading. The last 2 times prior to 2 days ago, he has come off the trailer with injuries on all 4 legs just above the hooves. All anyone can figure is that he is jigging and stepping on himself, and he really ,REALLY doesnt want to load. Well, he will still lead in, but he wont stay in if sent in-he runs out backwards if I go in to secure him after being sent in. 2 days ago, he traveled in a 2 horse straight load and didnt step on himself in transit-no new scrapes. 4 days ago PPoMT had a playday and Sonny willingly trotted behind a tarp being carried by 2 other riders/horses. I was surprised that he was calm and willing to do that. He also wasnt' upset by a goat about 10 feet from the fence, but maybe it's because he has goat neighbors at home. He wouldnt let me pick a hat up from the ground with a stick, though,,,he snorted and snarked at it when it would wiggle as I tried to get it with the stick, and he wasnt too crazy about the stick itself.
At the small playday 2 days ago, though, he did let me hold a long pole on my shoulder-one end on the ground,,and walk around in a circle with it on my shoulder. When I turned to go the other direction ,causing the pole to cross over his head and neck , he got tense and I decided to drop the pole. It's a fun thing to play with though,,I think it's called 'garoche' and the things that can be done get elaborate--a Spanish horsemanship skill. Lots of playdays and lessons this season---we have lessons this Sat with Robin Harris, 2* PP,,maybe I'll ask for help with figuring out our problem in the trot. Supercamp is less than a month away. Our small group push for L3 has gone on the back burner with all the playdays in this Spring weather. There's just not enough time for all that we want to do.

Monday, March 12, 2012

March 2012 --update

Boy, have I been busy. Long time, no blog, eh? My sincere apologies to anyone who has been checking back only to find no new entries. It boggles my mind that ANYONE does check for new entries, but apparently that does happen...a little bird told me so.
Since last summer, Sonny & I have had several nice breakthroughs and progression on our journey. Wooohoooooo! Let me see if I can think of them for the blog. I guess the easiest thing might be for me to start with current play sessions and work backwards from there, just hitting the highlights.
Last week I was playing with *sigh* getting canter online. Sonny gave me two nice laps of canter on the 45' line. Somehow I knew, KNEW, I tell ya, the exact moment when he decided that he would pick up the canter. The best way that I can describe it is in terms of energy. I had upped my energy to ask for the canter and he first just got a faster trot. Then I felt his energy go up, yes, I did, from ummmmm 35 or so feet away, and I somehow knew that he had committed to the canter. It seemed like our energies and intent were connected and flowing between us. It was magical to me, and I surely look forward to more moments like that ! I think this may be the 'feel of your horse, feel for your horse, feel together' that Pat talks about , and Ray Hunt and/or Tom Dorrance wrote about. It was a pretty nice, on the soft side (esp for Sonny) canter,too. Not his usual hard eyed-take off hard-with a twist-buck-kick-fa*t into the canter. Whew,,,I've been trying to get to this for so long. I think he's finally learning that he doesnt have to up his emotions to up his gait.
Then when I looked at his rump to ask him in,he turned in so briskly and nice from a full canter--looking right at me with ears pointed to me--"can I come all the way in now ? " Good boy!
The laps he gave me were to the right,,he's still more than a little bit sicky to the left. He'd give me a few strides, but thats all, so we need to build on that.
The same glorious session, he gave me sideways over a small pvc pipe with me in Z-1, at a bit of an angle--and he did it in both directions. Bazonka! cool....he has been unable to tolerate a pole under his belly except coming straight accross it, so this was a first.
The very same session , I tried the weave using the 45' rope , I fed out about 10 feet of it, then made a 3ft or so loop with what was in my hand and used that to communicate instead of the CS/SS and it went super. He , for the first time, seemed to be really listening to me, and following my focus on the weave. It was more communication rather than reactionary on his part. I was lovin it. What a great day that was.
Since Jan, 5 of us in our study group have been dedicating our time to one another to focus each of us on the goal of achieving our Level 3 online. Why, oh why didnt we do this a long time ago??? It's been so great, I just cant tell you. We've taken turns coaching one another , sometimes several of us coaching one person. I've very much enjoyed playing 'coach' and I've learned and improved from receiving coaching. We're concentrating on the mandatory tasks as listed on the audtion form for L3 Onine, but that process has caused improvemnts overall- relationships, focus, techniques, leadershp, language. Because of this effort, Sonny will now send into the trailer instead of me having to lead him in. He's even approached from a trot -stick to me style- and after only a pause at the door gone right on in from a send. Wooo-bloomin-Hoo ! ! !
Also, a fellow student from the study group played with V and me one afternoon in Jan, and helped so very much in getting the canter online from Sonny. I fully credit her help to the success I had with the 2 laps on the 45. If it hadnt been winter and so muddy-so no opportunities to put what I learned from her into practice--it wouldve happened sooner.
Another fellow student from the study group (can you say S U P P O R T) gave me some great tips in Dec. on getting a sideways away from a fence. Those tips got me the first ever decent sideways without a fence from Sonny. Can you see my grin from there? Dedicated fellow students are wonderful to have.
Riding? what about riding you ask?? That's coming along nicely--not as 'breakthrough-ish' as the online, but we're definitely improving and my confidence is a lot better. I got some new information from a Savvy Cub DVD with Linda, on how to deal with a somewhat fractious horse without resorting to dismounting-which was the only tool I had untill I saw that dvd. It was a breakthough in mindset for me, which I very much needed. Sonny & I had 'scratched' in 2 ACTHA rides and 1 other obstacle/ride because he wasnt listening to me AT ALL and I didnt feel safe continuing. But now I've developed a 'We're going this direction' attitude VS 'What is he doing now???" attitude, trying not to get into arguments with him, but persisisting and ready to create a lot of movement and commotion in my body if he gets uptight and antsy (what Linda taught in the dvd),,which should cause him to learn to seek the action he can take to cause his human to go back to neutral on his back. (an active neutral, not a sack of potatoes neutral) I havent had to actually try this technique yet, he's been so much better. Our study group had a playday a few weekd ago, and I was very proud of him. I was in the saddle nearly the entire time, sometimes just sitting as others took their turn at a 'canyou?' task, but also a few of us went outdoors and rode in a field. Sonny was calm and listening except for getting a bit 'up' for maybe 5 to 10 minutes of the time while we were outside. Altogether I was on his back for 2 or 3 hours. I was so proud of my boy. I have realized that the last few times he has been trailered somewhere that he has come off the trailer soft and calm and this is an amazing change for him. Not so long ago he always came off highheaded with loud whinnies and blowing,,,I thought of it as his 'freight train' mode. It would sometimes last the entire time till we loaded back up to go home. Things are much nicer these days.
Last October our study group had a 3 day playday at Cleariew Farms in Shelbyville. IT was a fabulous 3 days--we played the official Parelli games, played lots of 'canyous?', had a lesson day with an instructor, so much horsey good times and great companionship. Good food, also! our Parelli study group has grown tremendously.
But, I dare not digress,,,the study group topic could be a blog unto itself.
Oh my goodness, I almost forgot to tell you that until the spring grass started coming in a couple of weeks ago, since about November,,Sonny has been coming to the gate for me. Every time. Yes, you heard me correctly. S O N N Y was coming to the gate, and right on in thru the gate without me going into the pasture at all. Granted, it might take him up to 15 mins to think about it after hearing me whistle and call, but if I waited and let him decide, he'd come from whereever in the pasture he was all the way to me. I'd treat him with a very,very small amount of grain,,and shaking the grain in a plastic cup made a nice sound that probably helped him want to come. But , I'm very sure that he would not fall for a nibble of grain if he didnt want to be 'gotten' from the pasture. He's backslid into old habits since the spring grass has begun to grow, though... I'm trying to think of ways to re-motivate him to come to me again.
We have a couple of exciting events on the horizon. Later this month, Sonny & I are participating in a 'Ride with John & Kathy Baar' ,along with 12 other students. It will be great,,so great.
Then in May, we are participating in the 2nd Carol Coppinger Tennessee Supercamp. I am so darned excited, and I fully expect Sonny to be a 'different horse' than he was at last year's Supercamp. Really, we'll be a different 'team'. Our partnership has grown that much, I believe.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Interacting WITH each other Vs reacting TO each other,,the beginnings of a partnership

I never realized that I would feel the difference. Or maybe it would be more accurate to say I did'nt realize how much of a difference I would feel. I'm still getting it sorted out in my mind. Sonny and I are beginning to feel like partners.

This breakthrough occured on a miserably hot July day; the heat index was over 100 degrees. I only went to the barn to just see him and see if it was too hot to play. It was. There's precious little shade anywhere, and I'd previously tried playing in the few shady areas without much success. I had tried under one tree in the pasture, but the weeds were tall enough to keep causing drag on the line to the point that Sonny kept thinking that I was calling him in. I played one day under some trees along the driveway, but the area of shade was only 10 feet by 6 feet, so we couldn't do too much and remain in the shade. I did improve lead by the tail, got a start on lead by an ear and the chin that session. So, having ruled out a play in the shade, I turned him out at liberty in the paddock with Strawberry, and plopped myself down in front of a fan on the concrete pad outside the stalls, just 'behind' the paddock fence. Just sat there for a while contemplating turning him back into the pasture and going back home, but stubborn as I am, decided instead to take advantage of clouds passing through and see how long I'd have with each cloud coverage to play untill the sun popped back out. Lazy,,or rather, energy economically minded, esp on such a steamy day, I was all about NOT haltering and re-haltering, so that left Liberty. Liberty in the intermittent 'shade'. Well, it was worth a try. I can't tell you how very glad I am that I tried! Sonny gave me the best liberty session we've ever had. He only drifted away from me a few times, and it was relatively easy to reconnect with him each time by yielding his hindquarters to get 2 eyes and 2 ears. Then he would follow me all around the paddock, turns and counterturns, squeezed between me and the fence, squeezed over barrels in both directions with a 'stop, turn, and face' afterwards, walked with me to the pedestal, then gave me four feet on the pedestal (where's my cookie, mom?), trotted to me with exuberance from accross the paddock almost every time I asked him to, and gave a pretty good effort at sideways at the fence. He turned with me in a small circle, me making small steps-small circle, his a bit bigger ,but close to me. I could yield his hindquaters, then flow that into a yielding of his forequarters to get the beginnings of a 360 turn, and he even gave me one lap of a circle game. All this in a 100 x 150 paddock. I was amazed and thrilled. Once when he was drifting away I laid the savvy string accross his neck and he yielded toward me with the lightest of a touch from the string, then remained reconnected. Wow!

But, the feeling of partnership didn't really surface until the NEXT session. Finally I'm able to keep slack in the rope thru most of the games, and when we are going place to place, I'm not leading him, we're walking together. I sometimes had to pause and reconnect, but I never had to 'drive' as in tapping with CS, I'd just 'feel for him' then bring up my energy and try walking again and he would walk with me. Also, no hesitation from him if I stopped and backed up. I think that once I had to wiggle the CS/SS to ask for the back up, but several times, he backed WITH me without any SS or wiggle on the rope. As fresh and small as this new feeling of partnership is, it's already awesome. I am very excited to watch it grow. And I'm very, very much looking foward to the session some day when we have it under saddle as well as on the ground!

July 3,2011--update since Supercamp

It's hard to believe that I haven't posted since Supercamp! PPoMT has had at least one lesson since Supercamp. We planned a trail ride/lesson at Warner Park, but because of the 13 year Cicada cycle, we had to move it to the usual lesson barn. Six of us played online, then rode in the barn for an eight hour 'lesson day'! Sonny & I did pretty good, his online circles got a comment of 'that's looking like level 3 rhythm and relaxation with slack in the rope' from Carol Herring ,PP,,but then she also got to see a Sonny temper fit at one point-twist and kick out--. He laid down in the sand several times, so I got to put a cue to that, working toward lay down on cue. Carol had us all working on improving our porcupine to be able to transfer that to reining during Freestyle. We broke for lunch, then the afternoon was 4 hours of Freestyle. Honestly, it didnt' seem that long, but my bottom agreed with the clock when we called it quits after 4 hours! I thought that saddle was pretty comfy, but I'm not accustomed to 4 hours of riding. Sonny & I did fairly well, he wasn't bracing at the HQ disengagements, and he gave me permission to mount quickly. One cool thing was when another PPoMT student and I were doing indirect rein at the same time, in the same direction, then leading out with direct rein back to the follow the rail and I was directly behind her at the start of the maneuver, and then again when we resumed following the rail. Carol commented that we looked like we were doing a drill team maneuver. Felt cool! We played 'beep-beep' for part of the lesson, and the other student that I requested a 'beep-beep' from immediately backed up while swinging her CS/SS at Sonny. I'm thankful that he only got high headed as he scooted out of the way and didn't rear. For a split second I thought he might. Carol had mentioned backing up as part of the beep-beep, but I need to clarify before playing again that perhaps the front person should only swing the CS/SS as phase 1, then add backing up only if a phase 2 is needed. We were only a couple of feet behind her when she suddenly went into reverse swinging the string. Yikes! He was trying his best to get out of the way, and would have backed with only the string. For sure, he didn't 'tailgate' anymore that day!
Carol had one of those extendable fishing poles like Pat uses. She had a plastic shopping bag tied to the end of it and asked if we wanted to see if our horses would yield their front quarters with it as a driving tool. The first horse yielded nicely, a tad skeptical. The second horse got high headed, but yielded. Sonny jumped 6 feet sideways and made that 'rollers in the nose' sound. I guess I must've been on my balance point, because I sat the spook without a bit of feeling insecure in my seat. It was done before I had time to realize what was happening. Needless to say, the next time I asked for only a frienly game with the scary stick and bag! Sonny was still skeptical, but braver.
Toward the end of the lesson, we were practicing 'partial disengagement', and Sonny was getting more bracy with this technique. Carol instructed us in a slightly different way than I remembered Linda showing it on the dvd, so maybe next time I'll try it more like Linda shows it to see if Sonny is less bracy with it. His lateral flexions are getting much softer.
Middle Tennessee went from Winter to Summer without much of a Spring, and that has impacted my play times with Sonny. It's hard to find a shady spot to play. Also, I 'upped' the game of catch in a manner that someone on the forum mentioned. If Sonny leaves when I've made eye contact with him or have yielded his HQ, then I think 'good idea! but if you're going to go away from me, then please go away faster!", and I would ask for trot or canter with cluck or smootch and swinging the SS rhythmically. I felt no frustration or anger, so I know I wasnt projecting any. At first it seemed to alarm him, but after several sessions, he is cantering off without getting emotional about it. I'm hoping this will not only improve our catching game, but perhaps help us to break the 'canter block' that we seem to have in the circle game. Several sessions, he never did catch me, so I would finally walk up to him and either halter and bring him in to play, or just give scratches and leave him in the pasture.
I'm having fear issues again about riding. I hate it, and am trying to push myself thru it with approach and retreat. I'm letting the heat be an excuse not to ride. By the time we've played a little bit online, I'm hot and drenched with sweat, and convince myself that I'm too tired to attempt a ride,,not enough left in me to focus and do my best, so I tell myself. I'm going to have to bite the financial bullet and get some private lessons for myself to help me gain confidence. Support IS one of the keys to success.

Friday, May 13, 2011

SUPERCAMP 2011 ! ! !

From April 23rd thru 27th, Sonny and I were participants in SIX Star Parelli Professional Master Instructor Carol Coppinger's Supercamp. Awesome, amazing, some of the words I could use to describe the experience. There were a total of 30 students with horses. The camp was L2 thru 4, and going in I felt a little apprehensive that I 'wasnt good enough',,,then even more so---especially when I saw some of the advanced students playing and riding. But, I was there to experience and learn,,,,and learn I did...experience--I DID. Carol demonstrated over and over just what a 'master' instructor she is. I soon lost the feelings of inadequacy, and became an eager learner. She had several other Parelli Professionals helping her with the camp, and each of them was awesome. I knew from the Conficence Course in 2009 that you should only expect your horse to be able to give you 70 % , or less, of what he can do at home when you are in a new environment. I think Sonny started at 40%, or less, and never got over 60%. The first day was very frustrating. I learned how much I need to work on my emotional fitness!! In the early morning session, Sonny was only conficent with me in zones 1 & 2, he couldn't hold still for me to be standing in z3. Much to my dismay, Carol was running quickly thru a series of 'opportunities' (tasks, ie 'can you?s'), and almost all of them required the human to start out in Z3. Man!! I couldn't even get in z3 for over 2 seconds. We were in small groups, and the instructor for our group, seeing that I was having difficulties, was trying to help me, but then I couldn't hear what Carol was saying, and I was constantly 2,3,or 4 'opportunities' behind. I felt frustrated with Sonny and with myself! I still can't say what all the tasks were at that session that I mostly missed, but I'm no longer frustrated about it. It was the right thing to do to put the relationship first and keep working on Sonny's lack of confidence, no matter what 'opportunities were going on with the rest of the class. Plus I'll bet one of the other students will remember what they were.
In the afternoon of that first day, it was time for Freestyle. I knew that Sonny had been 'bracey' at our last lesson on lateral flexion and indirect rein. I'd only been able to ride him once since then, and got the same results. I was one of the last students ,,actually I belive I was THE last student to get mounted, and Caro had already started the freestyle excercises. Everyone was in the arena, doing what Carol was calling out....Sonny gave me a decent latera flexion to each side right after mounting, but as I asked him to move off, I felt him disconnecting mentally and getting tense. His head went up and he quit listening to me. I got pauses instead of halts on one rein lifting, got head bent and spinning in pace for lateral flexion. I felt like we were becoming a hazard to the other students and horses, so I finally got him paused enough in a lateral flexion to dismount. I know there were instructors all over the arena, but I coudnt locate a single one at that moment. I felt like he was very right brained, and he seemed very nervous about all the other horses---pinning his ears, moving both toward or away from the nearest horse as we drifted about without any brakes or steering. Either I was more unconfident than I realized and my nervousness affected him, or his unconfidence unnerved me, or both. I felt cmopletely deflated and discouraged at that moment. On the ground, I headed to the back of the arena to try to rebuild his confidence, and mine. Two other students were having their own difficulties, and that helped me to feel less like 'odd man out' in the class as the three of us played online with our horses to get them left brained. I managed to get Sonny rideable enough to to into the roundpen and feel confident riding in thered. He was minimally bracey in there, but more confident than out in the arena. Carol circulated down to our area to instruct and encourage (and listen to me vent my frustration), and some of the instructors spent a lot of time helping us in the roundpen.
Our freestyle did improve during the camp, but I've discovered that Sonny doesn't see me as much of a leader in the saddle. He evidently feels like he has to take the leadership for his own survival. No big coincidence that he was unconfident that first morning session with me in Z3 online. I'm making a point of doing lots of online Z3 driving (riding from the ground per Carol Herring, PP) to help with that. He did wuite a bit better with a smaller number of horses present, and better in an arena than in the open field. Carol had the more confident riders out in the open, and the less confident horses/riders in an outdoor arena for one session. The arena was divided in half with cones with about 6 riders in each half. Sonny's only unconfidence in that session were the threshholds outside of the arena. He was actually flipping from RB-Threshold!! to LB----I want to roll in this deep sand......for about 15 mins I was miserable trying to keep up with his having a threshold to preventing him from rolling without inadvertently pushing him thru the next threshold. He finally gave up thinking about rolling and the thresholds diminished to much fewer. He did pretty well in that session untill we tried the bowtie pattern and he braced strongly against the indirect rein to the point that I felt it was best to turn it into a lateral flexion and accept that. Carol Herring said that was the correct thing to do at that point. By the last day, I was able to ride him in the big indoor arena with al the other students,,untill,,,,,untill he saw the mini horse hitched to a cart in the roundpen. Oh Boy! I got to practice a controlled catastrophe, and I sure will be happy when our HQ disengage gets that good without a catastrophe!...softest HQ yeild he has given me yet--I didnt even have to use the CS for support. Then he riveted on the mini-cartpulling horse, and did NOT want to turn away again. That mini was so much more interesting than me or what I was asking for. I did, with passive persistence in the proper position, and the help of an instructor, finally get him to move off, but he was slightly RB'd and not really connected with me. Everytime we came back around to the area where the mini was, he froze in place and wouldn't/couldn't take his eyes off him. At least we did have some time, semi-successfully, ion the arena with everyone else. I felt like we had graduated from Pre-school at last (out of the roundpen). He was getting softer on lateral flexioin after Nancy reminde me (Duh! Fay) to use phases and not just close a 4 fingers and pull. Same issue with indirect rein-remember my phases to get a softer response, also supporting with CS. He was getting better at listening to leg cues. I could almost get a turn with only a leg cue. Also, with Nancy's help, he's beginning to understand moving his HQ over to the mounting block when I tap the opposite hip with the CS. He definitely got quicker at giving me permission to mount. I also learned how to mount by standing on another (brave) person's thigh. They called this the 'bareback mount'. Carol taught hindquarters in, shoulders in, sidepass, legyield and other advanced skills, but I didn't quite 'get' the concepts since I was still working with Sonny on the basic rein positions. I wasn't the least bit frustrated---Yay me!--because I truly was focused on what Sonny and I needed. By the end of camp, I felt completely confident in the arena for Freestyle, but Sonny still wasn't. At least that is progress for 'us'. One new technique that Sonny and I did get to try , and did fairly well is using a collected rein--back up a few steps, then look out to one side and push the other shoulder over for only a step or two in that direction. I don't know what she called it, and I think it also involved a supporting rein, but I know NOT a pulling rein. I may be wrong, but I can see it as the very beginning steps of building to a rollback. Carol also taught us to turn out toes out and DOWN when asking for HQ disengagement. It causes the horse to feel the cue better from not only the heel, but the calf muscles as well. Speaking of toes, she said that if you notice your toes are up while riding, it means that you are gripping with your legs--not good. I do that a lot and I fail to realize the moment when I've done it. She also instructed to push with CS and increase phases with your foot for HQ disengagement/indirect rein, DON'T pull harder with the rein, which is what I'd been doing,,,and getting bracing as a result. In more than one session, she had us playing the circle game with one horse and rider (or stander if not mounted) in the place of a barrel in the center while the other horse and rider making the circle.
During the camp, Carol had us working on every Savvy, even some Finesse, esp. for the more advanced students, but all the students could try the techniques if they felt ready. I was totally blown away by the Libery sessions. Not only did sonny do well (as well as the other students at our level or whos horses were first timers at being 'naked' in an arena with 29 other horses....30 counting Legend. To me, this is where Carol's ability to manage a large class of mixed levels of proficiency,,,and keep order and calm thru it all shows just what a fantastic instrutor she is. If anyone had told me that Sonny would remain calmly walking at libery with me as another horse GALLOPED by, I wouldn't have been convinced. Sonny did leave me a few times, and did his share of galloping loose, but mostly he stayed with me. Carol taught us how to rreconnect with our horses if they lost focus on us by HQ disengagement the moment we see their attention straying, and then how to let them catch us and reconnect if we missed that moment and they did leave us. She and the other instructors coached us as to which hand to be holding the CS, when to turn and face, and when to up the game by changing direction and running to see if they'd turn and come with us. If they wouldn't play that game "will you come with me?", then go back to "can I get you to come to me?' game. What felt the coolest to me was being able to walk in a small circle and have him turn the circle with me---in that large arena. She showed us how to get a 361 degree turn at liberty---the start of a spin---and how to ask for only halfway for starters---yield the hq, then move the shoulder on around till his rump is facing you. You then progress to pushing the shoulder fully around with the SS for a full turn. She said that if you can move a horse's fq 361 degrees, then you have the horse's mind and he is convinced that you control his feet. If you can move the hq 181 degrees-the same. I have only had one opportunity to try the beginnings of a libery spin--not at camp-I wasnt brave enough there---but at 'home' and I got almost the halfway turn. I was pleased for a first try!
In online, Sonny gave me a squeeze over a barrel and it wasnt up against a fence. That was a first. He's always gone around the far end unless the barrel was against the fence. In my private lesson with Carol, she showed me how to improve the falling leaf pattern by pushing his shoulder out in a clearer manner, to help him to follow the feel of the rope better. Carol Hering helped me to get games 5,6,7 in a flow.
Playing with the obstacles onlinek, Sonny gave me all 4 feet on a wobbly pedastool (board accross a tire), walked accross a mattress, and 'touched it' with a very noisy toy. We learned a helpful technique for backwards S pattern which is to make a serpentine pattern with your feet , before refining to you moving straight backwards,,this is helpful in the beginning of learning the pattern. In one session we played with long line driving. Those of us who were still learning in Z3,4, and 5 with the 22' worked on that, and the more advanced students played with long line driving with 2 lines from Z5. By the end of that session, Sonny and I were doing fairly well in Z4, and occasionally a step or two when I drifted back to Z5. I got the hang of asking for a counter turn with the string (I'd never been able to drift further back than the carrot stick could reach prior to camp) He would go forward, turn or counter turn, and even halt and back up. It was very intersting and informative to hear Carol's instructions for the long line driving techniques. We played with human 'conga horses' for some of our sessions, and I learned that I give off a lot more energy than I realize or mean to. That certainly helps me understand how I offend Sonny sometimes, since he is very sensitive (although also very oppositional and dominant) My human 'horse' kept picking up a trot when I hadnt' asked for it, and when I asked why--they all said that my energy was big and they felt pushed up a gait. Hmmmmmmm, how interesting!
At camp, they also taught us some 'knots to know'. It's so much easier,still tricky, but easier to learn this from an instructor in person versus a picture or even a dvd. I learned the Bank Robber's knot, also known as the John Wayne knot. We learned the stockman's bowline knot, and how to tie knots in a high line to creat loops to tie up the horses. I was taught , again, (forgot how) to secure the reins of the hackamore when you are leading with the Mecate. Very cool stuff.
Skipping to change our leads --humans only--was demo'd and taught, and we had a session on popping baloons with our savvy strings. With the help of another student, I was very happy to be able to pop a balloon! Tip: slow out and fast back, plus the leather popper has to touch the balloon--the string won't pop it.
Oh yeah, I forgot to mention that in online, we learned how to get a snappy backup, snappy departure, and a snappy 'come to you'. Another point of clarification that Carol taught is that in the circle game when you put your foot at 4:oo or 8:oo respectively (sending right or sending left) you Keep your weight on the other leg/hip to 'keep the door open' and not unintentionally block the horse from being able to go the direction that you're asking for. I had never realized to do that, I had been shifting my weight to the 4:oo or 8:oo leg each time. Good to know!
Tina helped me with new information on change of direction in the circle game. If he can't give you both eyes, you keep going backwards (I already knew), BUT it doesnt have to be straight. (wow!) you can spiral in smaller circles untill he is able to give you 2 eyes, then STOP and go to neutral--reward.That helped a lot, I'd been trying my best to keep straight-as taught by Linda in the old L2-untill one or both os us was stopped by the fence. Also, Tina taught me that if you realize that the horse has trouble giving you 2 eyes, then he is unconfident coming toward you,,,do lots of friendly with 'come towards me',,lots of release and reward. Build on that confidence before resuming asking for change of direction when he gives you 2 eyes. It may be necessary to rinse and repeat with each gait.
When I told Tina that I'd been getting a change of direction without going backwards at all with the technique learned at the Baar clinic for falling leaf, she said that although that is 'ok' ,,I need to be able to do it getting 2 eyes , running back as well. Skipping it will cause a hole in our foundation, that may be problematic when we are learning lead changes. Okeeedokke, then!
Tina gave a saddle fitting demo where I learned that there are only 3 kinds of backs: uphill, downhill, and hollow. Also, there are only 3 reasons for shimming: scapula clearance, balance point, and hollow back/muscle wasting. She showed how to use two flex curve tools to get a wither tracing and and underside of saddle tracing. Then place the saddle tracing over the wither/most extended point of scapula tracing to see if the saddle will fit. For shimming, the Parelli saddle website hs the patterns needed for the 3 types of backs. She said to place the backmost shim first and layer the others over lapping from there. Also, check the inside of the saddle with a flexcurve to make sure it isnt too concave. She showed how to find the most extended position of the scapula, and to mark it with a 'mean streak' marker. The saddle bar (English) should be placed THERE when placing the saddle on the horse. Where the narrowest part of the fender attaches to the tree is the equilavent in a Western saddle.
Carol taught us to not allow manure sniffing or rubbing his head on you. Both of these are dominant behaviors (I thought he just wanted scratches!!)...manure sniffing is what happens before what happens happens.
On the final day she had a graduation for us, she had been observing us al week, and she awarded each student the level(s) that she saw demonstrated thru the week. A few students earned their string for L3 in 3 savvies!! It was a very inspiring time as we all shared the joy of each other's accomplishments. I was more than thrilled to be awarded L2+ online and freestyle.Wooohoooooo,,,Sonny and I did it! Needless to say, I was quick to sign up for next year's Supercamp.In a word, Supercamp was fab-u-lous!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

March 22 -condensed update

Since last posting, I spent 7 sessions of UDT with Sonny in the pasture. The 8th time I went out, guess who was waiting on me at the gate ? !! Then came in when I opened it for him? !!
However, since then he started moseying away from the gate when I got into the feeding paddock, and the last 2 sessions I had to walk into the pasture and play the catching game to get him to come to me. But at least we're not back to the point of him winning the catching game and escaping into the pasture without coming to me at all. It's probably time for another session of pasture UDT. Since the weather started to clear, really even when it was still cold, wet and miserable,,,I have had several sessions. Things s l o w l y progressing, occasionally backsliding, but one really good area of progress is squeezing over the barrels. One day about 3 weeks ago, Sonny seemed to be thinking "she's not going to quit asking me, so I think it'd end up less work overall to just jump the darned thing", and so he did. Yay!!!! Double Yay! I've been working on that for sooooooooo long. Since then he has consistently gone over them on (usually) the first send. I also have been working on freestyle, using the bareback pad. (don't even ask me about the saddle situation----ugh!) Played mostly with follow the rail, lateral flexions, direct & indirect reins. I even remembered to play with lateral flexion and indirect rein from the ground with online play, and I'm sure that has helped him to understand it a lot. Also, he's gotten much better about giving me permission to get on. He rarely tries to evade it at all, and is very patient as I clamber aboard (usually from the top of a barrel)
Our Parelli group -PPoMT (Parelli Partners of Middle Tn) had a lesson in Jan, and I was an auditor. Carol Herring , 2* PP is our regular instructor, and it was a great day. I enjoyed watching the lessons, and learned several things--all of which evade me right now, though.
V and I found a nearby stable that has a large outdoor arena, roundpen, playground, and fairly large indoor arena. We've only been able to go there once for a couple of hours, but the roundpen playing helped with our circles. The most exciting thing that has happened is that Sonny & I were participants in a L2-3 clinic this past weekend with 4 * instructor Kathy Baar. Wow! I learned so much, and so did Sonny. Sonny was extreme LBE on adrenalin the first day, very oppositional at times, and our circle game looked cruddy, he even bucked and tossed a snitty kick at me to let me know what he thought about things---something he hasn't done in a long time. But on Sunday he was respectful and listening, in part because Kathy had me up my leadership and demand for respect of my bubble on Saturday, and in part because he was LB, but not extreme on so much adrenalin. Some of the new things we learned are : Falling leaf, backwards S, and Rockslide. I'm still a little unsure of rockslide, but I 'got' the concept of the other two, just need lots more practice on them. I learned several great ways to use point to point in the yo-yo game, and traveling circle game, even with adding the 3 new patterns into the mix. My head was spinning! I also learned how to combine a squeeze game and flow it into a sideways. Very cool stuff!! Sideways was one of the games Kathy had us working on several times, and finally,FINALLY I think I have the tools/skills to get our sideways up to L2. It is very much improved already.
V was one of the other participants , along with D, and 3 other very nice ladies. New Parelli friends! Very, very fun for me & V to take our boys to a clinic.
Kathy had all 6 of us riding in a small arena, and Sonny did so well, I was very pleased with him. We did lots of follow the rail, direct & indirect reins, lateral flexion, and some transition up to trot. We both got quite frustrated trying to get the sideways under saddle, but I think once it gets consistent on the ground, the freestyle version will come along. One very cool thing that she taught us is how to get the beginning of hindquarter yield WITHOUT any reins. If,,,,,,,,,,no- when Sonny & I get that going good, then sideways freestyle will be a lot easier. I also want to try it the way Linda taught it in the Red L 1 dvd, ,using the CS.
I'm very excited to try the figure 8 at the trot soon, It dawned on me after the clinic that the falling leaf (and backwards S) amounts to the horse doing figure 8's in front of you as you walk along (forwards or backwards) The technique to get these 2 patterns was so awkward for me to learn!!My brain twisted part of itself into knots trying to get the CS into the right position(s) , and change so quickly as Sonny passed in front of me. I hate being such a klutz. Carol Herring , 2* instructor who was there helping Kathy with the clinic actually had to *show* me by leaning over me from behind and moving my hands and arms with us both holdling the CS. Then it did finally 'click' with me,,,still awkward, but at least the brain knots were gone, and after more practice opportunities with much help and encouragement from the instructors, Sonny & I looked downright awesome (if I do say so myself) doing falling leaf going uphill on Sunday afternoon !!
Kathy explained in a way that I'd never understood until the clinic about how you can yield the HQ and communicate differently as to whether it's "game over" or "yield HQ & change direction". That is the BEST! I never quite figured that out before, and it is SO helpful for several uses. I feel confident that it is going to fix our figure 8, change of direction on circle, and I would have never gotten falling leaf or backwars S without it. I even used it getting Sonny to circle back to the back of the trailer as part of trailer loading on Sunday evening. I hope Kathy saw us, she would be so proud.
Spring is officially here, PPoMT has another lesson on April 2nd, and I am attending the Carol Coppinger , 6* instructor, Supercamp April 22!!!!

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Dec. 30 & Jan. 1

Dec.30 pasture time

Went to play with Sonny on a cold windy day. After 20 to 30 mins of unsuccessfully trying to get him interested in coming close enough to play the catching game, I quit and left the pasture and visited with V for a long while. Then I went back into the pasture and after a while, I gues about 15 to 20 mins,, he finally did come up to me for a cookie, but it was after I got within 20 ft of him. I chose not to toss the rope over his neck, instead just gave him scratches. He walked away, and then came back again for another cookie, and I made a point of being the one to walk away before he did. By that time, I was tired of the cold wind (I've decided that V's hill is the coldest spot in Middle Tennessee!!) and it was getting a bit late anyhow. I decided the best course was to do the opposite of what he expected and give him something interesting to think about.

I thought about writing to Parelli to see if they have any ideas to fit my situation, and I tried to think of possible answers they may send, and I thought that maybe if I fed all the horses 6 days in a row,,,the next time that I have 6 days off that might be interesting. The thing they at PNH seem to focus on in getting your horse to want to greet you at the gate is to control the food and esp. the water. I can't do anything about the water, but I could be there to be the one to feed. I don't know if 6 days in a row would be enough to implant a new habit in him, but it's worth a try. At PNH they say when the hrose comes to associate good things with you at the gate, then it transfers to the times that you're there to play rather than to feed or offer water.

Interestingly , he used to come to me at Craig's place,,,not every time, but fairly often, when I'd blow the whistle,,he'd come all the way to the gate from out in the pasture. I had worked on that in Craig's arena even preParelli---had him on a longe line and blow the whistle, then draw him to me for a cookie. ,,worked up to him lose in the arena and he got a cookie each time he came to the whistle. Maybe I need to do that again. Or , at least start using the whistle again,,,maybe he associates cookies with the whistle sound, but doesnt associate them with just me. Interesting critters, horses.

Best that I remember, he started not coming to me at V's old place shortly after we got home from our course, and I was very focused and way more direct line in my 'plan' for the play. And, now, maybe he's just still suspicious after the move.
Anyhow, I am counting yesterday as 2 times of undemanding time (of 7 ) on the task list on Parelliconnect!!
I usually get frustrated or feel a lot of dissapointment when he doesnt want to play, but for some reason, I didn't yesterday. I found it interesting, and did feel like a tiny bit of progress was made in that he came back into the pasture where I was when I didnt' follow him into the pasture he escaped into like I usually do. Also, I did have fun interacting with the other horses , esp. Joe (what a SWEETIE), and Tiago. Oh yeah, that reminds me that at one point Sonny was heading toward me , and I had forgotten to keep aware of Amigo's (Alpha Horse) position, and Amigo suddenly was between us with ears back and drove Sonny into a veer which kept him from coming to me at that time.

Hmmmmm, I just thought of something else. Whenever we got throught playing at Craig's place, I would give Sonny some grain as his reward for working/playing. That was the only time he ever got any grain back then. Now he knows he gets grain every day, and I'm not the one giving it. How interesting........!Maybe that's one reason he came to me there, he knew he would get a grain treat. And now #1 that's ho-hum cause he gets it anyway, and #2. I havent given him grain treat after playing since we left Craig's because I don't have my own grain supply, and I don't want to dip into V's even though she's told me I could treat him with her grain if I want to. I think I'll pick up a bag, or pay herfor a bag now and then and start treating him again with a little grain after play, and see if that makes a difference.

Jan 1 playing with the herd

Big progress today, maybe even a breakthrough. My sister & I went to play with Sonny, but it was so sloppy wet and muddy that I decided I didn't want to get my 22' line all heavy with water & mud, so we went into the pasture to just give scratches and cookies to the horses. Of course Sonny had headed out into the pasture to get away (from me!) but all the other horses (8) were very social with us. Well, lo and behold in only about 15 minutes who's heading up the hill at a nice clip of a walk but Mr. Sonny !! Either he decided that I wasnt there to bring him out of the pasture because I didnt have a lead rope and halter in my hand, or the session on Thurs. had gone a long way to help him decide that I don't always take him to play.(work in his opinion). He didn't take a cookie and leave. He stayed right there with the other horses accepting his scratches and occasional cookie from me. Two times he took several steps backwards, which was funny to me. It was almost like he was saying "look what my human has taught me is fun to do". Then I decided to see if he would play stick to me, and quite to my surprise and gratification, he did! Walk, trot, turns, halts, backup, pretty as you please. IN A 30 ACRE PASTURE. AT LIBERTY. I tell ya , it felt huge. But , it gets better. We played stick to me, then one of us would mosey off a bit, then I decided to see if I had any draw at liberty in that open space. He came over to me when I asked him by yo-yo technique. (the 2nd yo)! yay! But, it gets even better. At one point, I was talking to my sister, I was about 30 feet from Sonny and he laid down and rolled. yep, in the mud. As he was standing up, he seemed focused and 'connected' to me. I really didnt put much thought into it, but just up and started jogging backwards asking him to come to me. He TROTTED up the hill to me. A strong, collected, powerful, beautiful trot. It was awesome. I could hardly believe it was happening. I was thrilled...and a tiny bit uneasy. I mean it was a first for me to have a 1000 lb animal coming at me so fast, in the mud,,,hoping he can time his stopping acurately and allow for possible sliding. He stopped on a dime at just an arm's length from me. Breathtaking. What a fabulous feeling. I'm still on cloud 9 several hours later. But, it gets better. He trotted with exuberance. I'm talking about a little hop up with his forequarters,and a toss of the head as the began the trot. I've seen horses do that with Pat online when he sends them off at a trot. Not a dominance thing, it's a fun, exuberant thing. I'd never seen Sonny do that. Wow, what a great outcome for what I thought was going to be a dissapointing session when I left my halter and lead rope behind.