Wednesday, December 30, 2009

My little Rockstar Dove

Goofing around yesterday, experimenting really, with long lines, transitions and fluidity concepts. We've been isolating a few of the components and I wanted to see where we were at when we put them to a test. Since Dove was on high alert about noises in the creek below we started with weaving and figure eights. It took me about 20 minutes to realize that I was too loud for her. I really only needed to suggest that she move her nose over while weaving. Geez she was saying why are you yelling at me? Oops sorry girl, how about I back off. And yep there it is a nice weave. Fig 8's are still a challenge with her. It is more that changing which eye is on me that is hard for her. She loses confidence so we broke it down in halves and it was better. A couple jumps over a single barrel along the fence and we then played with trot/canter transitions on a circle. She was still too worried to walk so trot and canter it is. ;) She was cantering so much quieter, more even cadence, no cross firing and even had her head low. Wowie! And she looked relaxed, like it felt as good as it looked. Now that is the canter we can play with while riding one day. We've been taking a break from cantering this past year because she was so braced - stiff neck, head up, emotional, cross firing. Just all over uncomfortable. Instead we played with soft trot departures. That was hard enough. Something I heard Linda Parelli say to a student on a recent RFD episode -her horse wasn't ready to canter while riding yet because the horse could not canter sanely online. Bingo- I realized that is what Dove needed - to be able to canter sanely online.

Since we were still experimenting I tried walk, trot and canter transitions with long lines. Why not give it a try! Dove is still not 100% confident about the long lines while circling. She's quite ho hum about it when we are walking straight. She makes a darling cart pony when her tail swishs so pretty as she trots. :-) But when the lines draw around her hind legs she gets bracey. So we are still playing with that. She offered some nice low headed soft trotting in between canter transitions and she picked up her leads beautifully with no cross firing. So I know it is not bothering her too much. We'll keep playing with trot/canter and long lines and see how long she needs before she can offer a low headed canter. And just for fun I asked her to jump the barrel along the fence. She was avoiding it on her right so we tried approaching it on her left. She went over, a bit rushed and bracey but didn't bolt off and didn't get upset about the ropes tickling her hind legs. Nice. A few more circles rewarding her low headed trot and we took a break.

Our friend joined us in the arena while Dove & I practised some fluidity techniques while riding bareback. I dropped my inside and then outside arm to check if it was loose and relaxed or was it bouncing or bumping up. Interesting my left was loose, my right bounced. Hmmm... Was I sitting relaxed and elegant? Can I drop my rein and then pick it up with my elbows at my side? After reviewing the video last night I know what I'll be playing with this month! My friend's horse was rather rambunctious so Dove & I didn't try more than a trot. We played with sideways over a barrel. She was brilliant! Barely a hesitation. This is a first and we were bareback to boot. Cool. She wanted to push the barrel around so we did that for a bit, side passed over it again and then hung out, her head really low and watched our friend play. Dove felt so solid and calm. What a difference from the beginning of our session. She was still nervous now and then as noises came from the creek and neighboring house. But she quickly relaxed.

Dove is really my Rockstar! Thanks for a lovely session girl.

Monday, December 28, 2009

B+ right on!

My grade on my barefoot trims on my three horses. I am so happy. I was shooting for better than a C. I've been learning and practising for several years. My farrier is my mentor and she is a great one. She too believes in never ending self improvement and enjoys teaching and mentoring. Can't get much better than that. She is also rehab specialist with alot of patience, persistence and an open mind. Along the way I've realized it was all about knowledge and then ultimately my confidence. So yesterday I accomplished my goal- to trim my horses myself. All three of my horses have different trimming needs. Dove came to me with very long toes, under run heels and a very flat sole surface. Spice & Chero were both very tall heeled. I used to say Chero looked like he was wearing "ballerina toe shoes" poor boy. He is often called "clubby" hoofed by professionals. In addition all three had major confidence issues with farriers. So along the way I have not only learned how to trim but my horses became confident enough for my farrier to trim them at liberty. Pretty cool when I look back from where we started some 4 years ago this next April.

Yesterday while trimming: Dove was cute. At one point I said out loud to her if you need to move let me know. She'd been just taking her leg away from me mid trim. My sweet boss mare! I said to her "Why not touch me with your nose. I know you'll have to pull your head out of the hay bag but that would be more polite." And then about 2 min later she did just that! She needed to move so she touched me with her nose first. She hadn't done any touching before that. I just went with it and released her leg and didn't over analyze it. Interesting!

I must say that Spice was perfect. She was really quiet especially when I trimmed her hinds. She is usually irritated with her hinds because her hip used to hurt. She had a moment when I could feel her thinking it would be uncomfortable and then she'd relax. Each time I'd finish with a hoof and let her leg down she'd turn her head and look at me softly. Maybe the chiro and acupuncture are still doing their magic! yeah. And she was out of hay. So for her to stand still with no hay WOW!

Chero was cute too. He usually gets nervous so he holds still. His big moment came when I only had his right front cupped in my hand. This is his "very special" leg. It is the one he is most protective of and the one he'll yank out of your hand. So he'd start to pull it away and I would only say wait, wait and still only have my hand cupped under - a soft hold- no grabbing. He'd relax and not pull it away. We did this dance a few more times but he never pulled it away. Amazing!

We were all at Liberty while trimming too. Major milestones for all of us.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Today was yet another day of BFO's for me.

Ok so it's chilly and their lunch time so why not just focus on the one thing we've been playing with... transitions on a circle with me using my body vs swinging the stick and string. Old rational me again as I thought keep it simple even if deep down I felt my horses were bored with this already. Hmmm.... wrong again. They had interesting answers ... no make that revelations to share with me. OMG. I am still not sure I can explain.

So I decided to take my girls together first. We make our way to the new uncovered and sunny arena. No one else but an instructor is here and he likes the covered arena (which is quite chilly in this weather BTW). I figured one can hang out while I play with the other and it won't be so intense in a new spot. Ok so maybe only half of it is new as it used to be where our round pen was. My girls quickly made use of the fresh sand and rolled. Spice was reluctant for at least 10 mins. But that is her MO. Make sure no wolves are around first. Make totally sure coz they might have brought their friends the bears too. Gotta love her instincts. Dove just about hit the dirt upon entering. She is my rock I tell ya.

So I started with Dove while Spice relaxed a bit more. Dove is amazing. After all that she lets me know she has been through before we became partners she tries sooooo hard. We are alike in many ways...both ambitious strawberry blondes who don't necessarily forget but we try really hard to forgive. Pat's note about Magic needing alot of time to forgive Pat for the mistakes of other predators rings in my ears with my dear Dove. Thanks Pat for the insights. And today was no exception. We played with our short transitions intervals with me following her and occasionally mixing it up with passing the rope behind me as she circled. At one point she really engaged her HQ in her canter when she was in the deeper sand and I brought her in. Well done my dear pony! I could see in her eyes she was thinking about that one. My big "ah ha" moment came when I was on her left side and she was freaking out with my energy to ask for a canter. OMG I suddenly saw it as she did... the old ghost of lunging horror past. Someone must have flogged her to lunge to the left poor dear. She doesn't have the same reaction going right. When I first met her she didn't even understand how to circle to the right. This new game must feel so predatory to her like I am constantly driving her. She probably misses the relief of pressure she gets when she passes behind my back in our old circling game. I also realized how much more extroverted I am than her. Some of you who know her may say really more extro than Miss Dove? But today I saw it loud and clear. She must have thought I was screaming CANTER NOW. So I really toned it down and just thought trot or canter and tried to subdue my body as much as I could and voila she read my mind. Together we worked it out and she had nice canters each side. When I unhaltered her she didn't move a muscle, standing in her spot while I played with Spice.

Next up Miss Spice. She was ready as a couple times she came in when I asked Dove to. LOL she is so funny how she chooses to communicate with me. Spice was so willing and quite particular today about my requests. She has caught on quick and when I say "yes" or "ah that's it" she stops. Literally in her tracks stops and looks at me or comes in. Smarty pants that she is! So now she is asking me to be even more clear as she is ready to be 150% connected. Whoa Nelly stop the train... Spice has arrived!!!! Ok I know it is me who has finally arrived but it was a THRILL to see her ear on me the whole time. Then next big moment came when she was offering canter departs. Ok that is just way too cool. OMG my dream horse is here. I have been waiting for the moment I was good enough for her to emerge. Is that today? Wow I may not sleep tonight. Either that or the draft in her has joined the party (she's a mustang and I fondly refer to them as mutts- a lovely mix of the best of many breeds). What a session!

I bring my lovely girls back and since the sun is still out I have time to play with Chero. Since it's just me and him he is a bit on edge poor boy. A nod that my leadership (and/or his trust in my leadership) is still not enough for him to feel safe. We play with some falling leaf and start our walk/trot transitions. At one point he has his head in what I call his anteater position (what others refer to as the peanut roller). Here it comes... his desire to roll, to get off adrenaline, so let's do it together. I just know that he'll be the first to lay down for me one day. :) Boink down he goes. Once he's gotten both sides scratched we continue with our transitions on a circle. Like I have said before he is Mr Sensitive with a capital S. So I try my best to take what Dove & Spice told me and apply it. Still not enough and Chero is sometimes blasting away, kicking as we speed up and rearing as we slow down. Oh boy.... I really need a Valium... sorry buddy. So I really crank down my body energy and ask ever so politely to trot... trying only to think it really and he is happier about it. Sometimes it feels like his old habit and sometimes like he's hypersensitive - that old 50/50 chance deal. Next up asking for a canter. I find it harder for him from a trot than a walk. Hmmmm interesting. Must be something I am doing differently. So we end our session with a step or two of a canter depart and he seems as pleased as I am. OK I am BEAMING.... much more than pleased really.

WOW what a day this has been for me. I really hope that it was as good for them as it was for me. I saw each one of them calm way down (still, leg cocked, quiet almost contemplative) after our short sessions so I hope that is a nod.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Expect Alot, Accept a Little, Reward Often

We've been playing online with transitions on a circle where I do not swing the stick and string, but rather focus my energy (eyes, belly button and stick held straight) behind the drive line to ask for a change in gait. This has been an interesting concept to play with. David Lichman introduced it to me in a lesson at the beginning of this month and since then my horses and I have played with it about 6- 7 times each. I am seeing such improvement in such a short time. At first I got quite dizzy as we circled together, me focused on the drive line, trying to stay behind the drive line, don't trip, don't tangle up in my 22', energy up, life up, energy down, life down but keep walking, thank you......where is the drive line again? Phew what a puzzle at first..... for me!

Fast forward a couple of weeks and Dove is picking up her leads better. Previously she'd cross fire when cantering to the right. Is it the shorter intervals? Is it that by focusing on using my body I have slowed down enough to give her plenty of time to think about it first? Is it finally enough transitions vs circles at that gait? Spice has less head flipping and overall irritation. I think she likes this game much better thank you! And she too has more time to think about getting her body right for the proper lead. And Cherokee is finding more confidence and therefore kicks out less. He is truly a sensitive boy and hates to be pushed. Even with this game I have to be careful to give him more time to respond to my request. When I do he'll then offer the sweetest flying lead changes. It is amazing what my little gelding offers me when I get it right.

So the mantra ringing loud and clear in my head tonight is expect alot, accept a little and reward often. This is not new to me however after my session with Chero tonight it is a reminder of how important this is to my horses, especially accept a little & reward the slightest of trys. That gives them the encouragement to continue to offer me more, to be a partner, to trust me. It sounds so simple when we hear it, when we say it. This is a seemingly small but very significant piece to our partnership puzzle.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Never Ending Self Improvement

Today was spent watching and learning as our integrative veterinarian evaluated my two mares Dove & Spice. Dr. Joanna Robson is amazing to watch as she combines the best methods of both Eastern and Western veterinary medicine. While she treated them with Acupuncture and Chiropractic Adjustments she also explained how I could provide massage, acupressure and homeopathic remedies between visits. Wonderful! Recently I have been studying McLaren's Photonic Torch information and was eager to understand how it can augment our treatments with Dr. Robson.

Both Dove & Spice not only enjoyed their treatments (yes even needle sensitive Dove) but they became more engaged with Dr Robson during their respective appointments. Interesting to watch as Dove had her ears pricked forward watching Dr. Robson's every move with anticipation. Spice was her usual wiggly unattentive self, until an adjustment or acupuncture needle proved it's worth to her and then she was suddenly quiet, still and almost contemplative.

When I arrived home I realized how tired I felt. Must have been brain drain from all that intense learning! I'll spend time these next few days soaking in what I learned. Now for a little feet up on the couch time!

If you'd like to learn more about Dr. Joanna Robson and her work in Integrated Soundness Solutions her website is:

Monday, December 14, 2009

Just getting started

So I am new to this world of blogging. Watched Julia & Julie- or was is Julie & Julia? Either way it got me to thinking that it was time to jump in with two feet. So here I am, just created my account under my dog's email account because I am not sure how all of this will turn out. Yes he has email. Where else would I send all of our family owned business junk mail? He needs to earn his keep somehow. That's him to the right, Eddie Spaghetti Sauce. But he is not the reason to start a blog. One of my passions is horses. What better way to log my journey toward my dreams with my horses than a blog. Right? Hmmm... I have several hard bound journals started..... again the reason to set this up under Eddie. If nothing else he is entertaining and if necessary will provide some fun distraction in the form of pictures or video. So tonight we begin.
ttfn, ~kim