Friday, December 31, 2010

As this year ends and a new one begins....

Many thoughts ran through my head today while I played with my horses for the last time in 2010. We all had a great time while I checked out where we were with various things. After the final play session I found myself pondering over what lessons I have learned from each of my horses this past year.

With Dove I learned the power of relaxation.
This has been a topic we have been exploring for some time. Dove came to me a bracey, racey pony with picture perfect bad banana posture-
the perfect Parelli cartoon of a RBE- yep that was my Dove. This past year we have played with asking her to lower her head down as a first response when she gets tense or worried. We played with this as she stood still, at a walk, then trot, on a circle, on a straight line, while riding, while playing with transitions and even while changing direction. Then we added moving her HQ out and creating a soft bend in her ribs while she moved. What I believe Pat refers to as traveling straight on the circle. When Dove finds relaxation as her first response the possibilities are endless. As this year closes we played with the beginnings of flying lead changes online on a Fig 8. Whoot Whoot! This is HUGE my friends for my little blonde pony was doing this playfully tonight. I mean it, she was having fun versus all tense and bracey. She was flicking her pretty blonde head at me as we played our little game of tag. When I unhaltered her she hung around, lowered her head, exhaled and then offered her version of spanish walk to me! We played with a little left and then right leg pawing the ground as we walked together. Friends there is nothing you can't do when the horse becomes a part of you! Thank you Pat Parelli ....thank you!

With Spice, I learned the power of my belly button. LOL.... no kidding!
Leave it to Spice to point out the obvious! She is quite direct my little spanish filly. While we played tonight Spice didn't want to trot let alone canter. Over this past year she & I have been exploring ways to elicit a soft canter depart (minus the head flick) while we play with transitions. Spice came to me with a good dose of LBE in her. Although she can get unconfident and big when worried and use her big shoulders against you, when all is right in the world she hovers between a LBI and a LBE. One minute she's asking What's in it for ME? and then the next second she can be a bit playfully naughty. So of course tonight I learned another lesson from Miss Spice. We were ending our session with some Fig 8's. As I mentioned earlier she wasn't keen on cantering tonight so I thought why push it. So instead we played with trotting the Fig 8 and speeding up to a fast trot as we changed directions. As I ran through my phases she started buck jumping into a canter as she changed directions. With a 50/50 chance staring at me I decided to reward Spice's buck jump "try" because frankly she did speed up - from a trot to a canter. The results were hilarious. As soon as I said the word good she stopped immediately and then looked at me.... you know the "where's my cookie?" look. We repeated this a few times and what I soon learned was that she was responding off of my belly button. My stick never left the ground. As she'd round the cone and I ran backwards, the minute I began to move forward facing her she was buck jumping and changing directions. I played with trying to not bring my life up so much as we changed directions and the results were better but not great yet. I think she plans to play this with me for another 6 sessions until I get it. LOL.

With Cherokee I learned the power of patterns to improve confidence.
When it came time for us to play tonight the sun had gone down and fireworks could be heard in the background. Needless to say my little gelding was quite uptight and looked like the Parelli cartoon of the RBI complete with puckered lips poor guy. I knew he needed time to be quiet but also needed help moving his feet constructively or else he'd explode in a frenzy. So we played with the Fig 8 for almost our entire session. When we tried a little circling he was gone- no connection- lost in his worried mind. So back to our Fig 8 pattern we'd head and soon we could change to a nice falling leaf or backwards S pattern. I ended on a good note and we headed back to his herd. Once back at the hay bar he was relaxed. So we played with another pattern- were we ride point to point up and down the lane. Ah the power of patterns as a place to go mentally, emotionally and physically and relax. Chero has taught me to see the pattern and use it to help him move to a more confident state. And from there we can do amazing things!

Well my friends the New Year is fast approaching. Tonight as midnight rolls around I will be dreaming of all the adventures to come in the New Year and all the lessons my horses still have to teach me!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Ok I just HAD to share this

My younger mare Spice saw me set up my video camera the other day. I tape video of Dove & I for our monthly mentor sessions with Rachel Jessop, so Spice has come to know that this camera has my focus and has importance.

This day Spice was quite fixated on "touching" my camera. I had to shoo her way several times. When I sat down with Dove to play with bridling and had my backed turned..... well you'll see what Spice had on her mind. LOL. I do love this horse of mine's mind. She cracks me up EVERY day with her looks and antics and challenges me to be better.

I left the original audio so you can hear her too! Hilarious. I had to wonder if the "goods" I was giving Dove were in Spice's head rewarding HER for investigating my camera. The world does revolve around Spice afterall.

Monday, December 6, 2010

My amazing little gelding Cherokee!

These past few weeks we have had some good horsin' around weather and then some not so good. It has been a time to take advantage of both! What? Take advantage of not so good weather? Have you lost it? Well maybe.... but then again I am an avid student of Parelli and those 3 Laws keep ringing in my ears.....
1. Put the Relationship FIRST
2. Foundation before Specialization
3. Never ending self improvement (for me AND my horses)

Last week we had freezing weather all week- note to all I am in the San Francisco Bay Area in California so anything below 40 degrees is freezing... really...ask my plants they are all droopy and black spotted poor things. So when the thermometer hit 32 degrees we almost fainted. LOL. As for my ponies they are super fuzzy and enjoying the extra flake of hay. Then this week we were deluged by rain, the flooding kind... coz again we are in California where the summers are hot and dry and so when the rain hits the dirt swells..... oozes really.... all down the road, and the gutters fill.... ok you get the picture.

Now what's a Parelli student to do in this yucky weather besides reading books, watching videos and dreaming of warm sunny days filled with glorious trail riding? Pull out my rain slickers, muck boots, long johns, thinsulate gloves, and warm caps (all my friends who live in the snow country are laughing at me right now- I can hear you!!) and play with the list of items on the new site! There are several tasks that with a little imagination I can do under the dry cover of my horse's shelters.

So we have had fun and heaps of progress this week on the simple but not easy things such as lowering your head with only phase 1 while the rain and wind is pelting our shelters, or using a hand held massager to simulate clipping ears while I sit on a bucket, leading by the ___(fill in the blank) and the list goes on. Plus just think of all the undemanding time we can spend scratching.... ah my horses were jockeying for first position on that one! Staying warm and dry is such motivation to take all the time we need. In fact time whizzes by on days like these.

Then today the sun peeked out and I almost stumbled trying to get to the barn as fast as I could. I decided to check out how Cherokee was doing and so we moseyed on down to the arena. After some fun galloping on a circle- let me help you move your feet (RB moment) we had fun experimenting with our ParelliConnect task list. His progress floored me. Being particular without being critical I found that we still need more sessions to improve his confidence in some areas and straightness in others before we "tick" them off, but overall WOW! Here he was trotting back to me from a Yo-Yo on a 22' with his ears pricked on me! And there he was trying so hard to allow me to hold his tongue or scratch the inside of his precious ears. So why should I have been so surprised to find him to be excellent transport as we rode from the arena to his pen? Well because when we followed the hay cart up the road this time he trotted the whole way with his ears totally on me! And it was his idea!! The fact that we were bareback and in a halter made it super sweet. My little gelding was sooooo smooth. I was smiling ear to ear.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

A day to appreciate the little things

We had another bout of rain this morning that left the arenas and turnouts soggy and slippery. So I took each of my horses and my friend's horse for a 20 min hand walk up and down the lane in front of their pens. Because Spice and my friend's horse Bodie are both experiencing hind end soreness issues we made wide turns at each end which caused our walk to become like long figure 8's. A pattern was born! And to help motivate the horses who are at present mostly left brained we stopped at the hay bar each time we passed it. Pause to take a bite and then let's continue.

I took the girls first, Spice and then Dove before handling my friend's gelding Bodie. Then I ended with my little gelding Cherokee. Wow as we made our way up and down, up and down, I had such great moments of appreciation for how easy my 3 horses are to walk with. How softly they follow and even when a juicy bit of discarded hay is in the lane they are easy to ask to continue. No rushing, or barging into my space; no pinned ears, stern corrections or ready to bite looks. Instead they checked in with me along the way and were curious about the objects we pass. In fairness to my friend's horse who was at first rushing, barging, pinning his ears, ready to bite my stick and needing a few phase 4 reminders, my 3 have had several more years exposure to Parelli. However it was also quite interesting to see how quickly Bodie responded to me. By the third trip he was softer, exhaling and chewing, was no longer rushing and then made the most lovely change of direction that I had to stop and reward him with a nibble on the new green grass shoots.

I ended "my workout" with Cherokee. He was a bit more cautious but soon relaxed and got into sniffing this and that. On our final lap he gave me the sweetest little ride to his pen. He was soft at the mounting block, walked off easy with hips swinging softly, and responded so lightly to my carrot stick as we rode up one rein style.

Wow we have ALL come a long way.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Anything is possible so long as the horse is in charge of the principles and the time line

Paraphrasing Pat: "The principles are the 8 listed to the left (on my blog), the purpose gives meaning to what you are teaching the horse, and taking the time it takes is essential for success and a confident, trusting horse."

This past week my horse & I have been reflecting on Principle #8: Principles, Purpose & Time are the tools of teaching. Our lesson with David last Friday was a great example of Dove being in charge of the principles and the timeline. She is a smart, brave, athletic horse who is calmer when we take the time she needs. Our lesson revolved around finding relaxation at the canter, our little sticky spot in our Freestyle routine. We started with relaxation online at the trot and canter and then tried it while riding. Quickly it was evident that Dove was still bracing when transitioning into the canter. Hmmm.... so David had us play with increasing speed within the trot gait vs changing gait. Help her find relaxation when trotting faster. BINGO Dove responded... that is just what I needed, head lower, blowing out, ... thanks.

Now what is most interesting is that we have been taking months of time, frankly the better part of a year, to find relaxation online and while riding and have seen heaps of improvement and progress. However, Dove is telling me she needs even more time to canter relaxed. So, big sigh, we put our freestyle audition back on hold. Although I am patient, this was not easy because I would really like to officially pass our Level 3 Freestyle by the end of the year.... this would be my short term goals talking of course.... so I will just "get over it." Afterall my long term goals are so much more fun and exciting! Bareback and bridless cantering about the fields. I can wait.

And then yesterday Dove & I were playing at my friend Laurie's ranch and here we were in a strange new environment trotting about, using only the carrot stick and occassionally the string. My horse gave me a taste of what it is like when she is in charge of the timeline. Mind you when we first arrived Dove was a bit prancy and tight. But keeping to our principles- relaxation first using friendly games exploring the ranch online; patterns such as ride the rail and cloverleaf; walk, trot, halt transitions; stopping in the corners and finding the sweet spots- we found our harmony.

In the end Dove was so relaxed and confident that she required me to be much more provacative in order to keep her attention on me and off the grass. The LBI side of her had arrived! Fascinating!

Monday, November 15, 2010

The Joy of trailering

Over these past 2 weeks I have once again had the J*O*Y of trailering my horses. Just saying that it was joyful brings a huge ear to ear grin on my face and tingles up my spine! My three horses were quite the typical story when I first met them, hard to catch, skeptical of the whole haltering idea, extremely nervous and fearful of giving me their hooves, anxious and right brained when taken from their herd, reactionary versus responsive to the strange orange stick and string growing from my arm, and of course extremely afraid to even think of entering the death mobile aka my pretty little trailer. They would stand outside the metal cave and snort and shake and put on the emergency brakes. Thank goodness for Pat Parelli. His lovely ditty "take the time it takes, so it takes less time" rang though my head for months as we played and played and played with my pretty little shiny metal cave. The other people at the barn where I boarded thought I had jumped off the deep end. Not only was I playing this strange game every day of stick your nose in the trailer and walk off for a reward, but I was also asking them to play with cow flavored barrels, brightly colored noodles, hoola hoops and other strange pool toys. What did THAT have to do with getting your horse to load? When they saw me saddle and unsaddle my horse 50 times they went silent, shaking their heads as they walked away mumbling that I never "ride" that horse. There were a few others who practised Parelli at the barn and soon we were called the "secret carrot stick society."

Flash forward to last week and my lovely horse Dove couldn't wait to hop in my friend's trailer to go exploring. And last Friday as I prepared to travel to David Lichman's for a lesson, I parked my trailer in front of my horse's pen to load up some things. I opened the girl's gate to let them out for a snack in the "hay bar." Spice walked out of her pen, paused, looked at the open doors of the trailer, made a sharp turn and walked in! I was so happy I could hardly stiffle the giggles. She looked back at me like this is a fun new liberty game. I stepped up, haltered her in the trailer and asked her to step forward a little more. She was so willing and relaxed. Dove on the other hand had stopped inside her pen when she saw Spice load herself up. She was relaxed as I walked over to reassure her. She practised perfect haltering as a partner and when I asked her to load she stepped right up and in without hesitation. This is the way I had dreamed of loading all those years ago. Willing, relaxed, confident and easy.

I am so thankful everyday for Pat & Linda Parelli and the "secret carrot stick society."

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

A fun "Hack About" in Anderson River Park

Last Friday found Dove & I trailering up to see our friends Margie & Sunny in Red Bluff, CA. What a fantastic time we had! We spent Friday evening riding around Margie's property. It was beautiful full of Oak trees and some of the most beautiful Manzanita trees I have seen. On Saturday we drove out to Anderson River Valley Park to find the horse trails. What an adventure that turned out to be. First we had to FIND the horse area. Ingenuity + persistence = success and soon we were saddling up our ponies for some trail fun. The trails at this park meander among the trees and along the river. Several times the trail would fork off into 3-4 other trails so of course we had fun picking different trails to see where they'd lead. Were we trying to get lost? LOL maybe just a little. At one point Dove started picking up the pace- her I am heading home pace. I thought aha girl I mixed you up we are still heading out. But just around the bend I saw that Dove was indeed correct, I recognized the trail -we were heading back toward the trailers! I declared her my homing pigeon and picked another trail in the other direction.

I could not resist taking video of our exploration of Anderson River Park.

When we arrived back on Saturday night Margie's husband had been working on her new arena! It is to-die-for my friends. I kick myself for not getting a picture of it at night. With the lights on the trees looked magnificent surrounding the rail. It is one beautiful arena! Dove & I had the privelege to ride in it. We were trying on Sunny's bosal so of course what better place to do so then under the lights of her new arena. That was fun. On Sunday we played in Margie's new round pen. The sand was still quite deep, perfect for a horse who wanted to go-go-go. The horse actually made the wrong thing difficult for himself! That was intersting to watch indeed.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Mastering our fancy side pass on the trail.... in a halter

After some good soaking rain last weekend, on Tuesday we trailered out to the southeast entrance to Briones Regional Park in search of reliably dry trails. And we found some.... along with a herd of grazing goats. Oh you should have seen our ponies ears. Pricked high to the sky and super attentive. Sweet!

But I must back track a moment to the trailering out part. I have to give my horse Dove a hugh compliment on her progress on trailering. She has come along way in 6 years.... from an "oh no not the trailer" pony to a "hurry up or I am jumping in with my saddle on" kind of horse. This is the best my friends, to know your horse is truly happy to get inside the trailer.... saddle and all! THE BEST!

Ok back to our trail riding story! So the first part of our ride was focused on the wild and wooley goats that were in the staging area (near the parking lot). In addition there was a human goat herder and boarder collie dog, both of which added more interest for our ponies. Thinking they went left and we were traveling right we relaxed and proceeded to the trail head. Surprise the goats seemed to be following us as they appeared on the hillside above. Oh Boy! Needless to say I had to postpone videoing our ride until we passed the wild goat herd. Dove needed my full attention and leadership and I was there for her. She would take a few steps and then tilt her head up toward the goats and then freeze still for a moment. We had about half a dozen more of these goat thresholds before they disappeared over the hill. However Dove was still ready for their return. That is until a man on a bicycle came zooming over the next hill. Our ponies being quite familiar with bikes were startled but not bothered. The biker on the other hand froze in the middle of the trail until we passed. I think we spooked him more! Oh dear. And just like that the goats were forgotten. Now that is truly living in the moment! I took note.

We continued on this lovely dry trail and enjoyed seeing hawks and other birds enjoying the break in the rain. As we rode to the crest we had a lovely view of the valley below.

Since the wind was quite chilly we postponed our "pony picnic" and proceeded down the trail.
Here's a little video of the Crest to Deer Trail part of our ride:

Once we were back on level ground and heading toward the trailers Dove picked up her pace. So instead of holding her back we practised our fancy side passing on the trail in a halter. What fun. I must add that it certainly helped that the trail had two distinct tracks to pass between. Thank you park maintenance! Soon our friend was joining us first right and then left. It did not take long at all before Dove was ready to relax into a more casual, head held lower and slower walk. As we approached the staging area where the trailer was parked we met a funny hiker who insisted on sitting down along the narrowest part of the trail. LOL I asked if he was ok if we passed him and he stood up to pet our ponies as we walked by. Our ponies were unfazed as they had survived goats, speedy bikers and a steep trail. This silly hiker was no match for our super equines!

Note to self: I need to pin a big "S" for Super Pony on Dove's chest next trip.

Next week we have more sunshine forecast so we will certainly have more trail adventures to share. In the meantime we are practising our freestyle routine in our covered arena. I dare say that we have both improved our confidence and trust in each other and have already seen improvements.

ttfn, ~kim

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

What a difference a little bushwacking makes....

Last week we had some challenging trail riding. Ok it was challenging because we had a string of 5, I kid you not, bikers, hikers and dogs (some carrying LOGS) in a row, zooming around a blind corner on a narrow barely 2 track trail. Miss Dovely wanted to turn tail and run when she saw the fast trotting dog with the LOG in his mouth. Never mind that he was on a mission and didn't even break gait or bat an eyelash at us, Miss Dove was on full alert. Then a biker came zipping around the corner only to skid to a mighty stop when he saw us.

LOL good thing I had backed her precious hindquarters up to the hill. All I had to do was ask her to turn the OTHER way and face the demon. You know Miss Dove like it is a COW. Yeah baby herd that cow, show him who's Boss Mare. By the 3rd rider/hiker combo Dove was mastering the art of Equine Intimidation on the narrow (to the bikers/hikers) trail. hee hee hee I think we made an impression that day.

OK I must admit I enjoyed that a wee tad. It worked out so well.

Big sigh and we were back on the trail ride and enjoying the lovely weather and beautiful scenery of our lovely Alhambra Valley.

Day 2 of last week's trail riding found us sojourning from the barn to my house! Yes my HOUSE! Because we are heading into our wet weather season and do not want to stop trail riding we thought it might be fun and dry to ride from my house into the park. So of course being the good girlscouts that we are (be prepared) we road the track in reverse first. Why not!
Here is the proof that we made it.

Along the way our ponies traversed uneven ground like no other. Instead of taking the designated paths we tried a little bushwacking - aka taking the deer trails or road less traveled. First we traveled a path near the backside of my neighbors house. Then we followed along the creek bed until we could cross and then high-tailed it up the little deer foot path to a small hill. Next we continued on second deer path and found ourselves with a decision- to double back or go straight up in true bushwacking style. You KNOW what decision we made. LOL like two young girls on our ponies we rode our steady steads straight up the soft but steep hill to the crest. Yeehaw our ponies were most excellent! They both had thoughts of cantering up the steep incline but at our slightest suggestion they dug their hindquarters in for a good slower climb instead.

So how did this make a difference you ask? Well prior to the bushwacking our ponies were plodding along in ho hum style. Like this was BORING them. Really now... boring? After a bit of bushwacking our ponies came back to life and were very interested in EVERYTHING TRAIL. Gotta love it.

The last little piece before we hit the road that leads to my house had this funky style mounting block that both our ponies were quite leary of. We played with it a bit and soon both of them wanted to step on it. Ok time to move on. Next we had a rickety gate with a tight squeeze and then a narrow path along a culvert. Lions and Tigers and Bears Oh My! Once we got to the road Miss Dove kicked in to Overdrive. Welcome my Rockstar!

She had a magnet attached to her nose because EVERY new thing HAD to be sniffed and investigated. Laughing all the way down the road I was. Guard rails- oh gotta sniff that..... big square gray utility covers - oh gotta sniff that.... drain covers- well kinda gotta sniff that.... logs oh SO have to go up and over those. OK 3 of of 4 types ain't bad my friends. My friend Laurie's horse being young wasn't so sure until she saw Dove sail over and around these things. I would have high fived you if you were there I was THAT proud of my pony.

So yes this was a great example that our horses need 80% consistency (same trail to start) and THEN the 20% variety (change it up in the middle or end) will be FUN for ALL!

Friday, October 15, 2010

Logging more trail miles

We were able to get in 2 more trail rides this week despite the rather warm temperatures. Today we started out much earlier and enjoyed a different energy in the woods. It is usually quiet in the afternoons as perhaps the little critters are resting. This morning they seemed to have an agenda. I took a little video as I was fascinated by how busy Dove's ears were. She is a great trail horse as she is quite aware and alert to everything - like an early warning system. She was slow to move out but did not hesitate to continue when I asked..... and then had to ask again in a few steps.... and again in a few steps. LOL. My friend asked me what I was giggling about so I explained I was playing with the 4 phases to "go." Miss Dove you are quite the persistent teacher!

We have certainly had a leisurely, fun time taking a break from our freestyle audition routine these past few weeks. However it does not mean my learning has been on hold. Quite the opposite really. Dove has been teaching me about the left brained introverted side of her. As I mentioned above, I am focusing on my phases and consistency. Oh Boy! While my friend's young horse is eager to move on our way out on the trail, Dove saves her energy for the trip home. :) She doesn't rush but she has a bigger walk and focus about her. So my lessons have been to NOT push her going out and NOT hold her back going home. Thank goodness for my friend Laurie and her horse Faith. They are super patient with us and have an ample sense of humor!

Next week we'll log some more trail miles in between audition routine practise. I am interested to see what I have learned and how it will improve my freestyle riding. Perhaps we'll trailer to the southwest park entrance for a new view?

Friday, October 8, 2010

Goofing off with great rewards!

So Thursday found me taking a break from trail riding with Dove. What should I do I asked myself? Cherokee my gelding gave me the answer. He had his head hanging over his gate with this "please pick me" look on his face. He really knows how to look pathetic. Smart little pony boy he is!

So I took him out for some fun! We saddled up and started with some passenger/guided riding in the round pen. It did not take long for him to start his displaced behavior of lowering his head and chewing the air with is mouth. He was a bit frustrated that our ranch hand & I were chatting about a broken fence. So I had Chero continue our trotting passenger lessons while I finished our chat. That gave Chero just enough change to enjoy moving about. But soon he was back to chewing again. Time for another change of scenery.

We played with opening the gate. Since we were in the round pen that is within a larger arena we had 2 gates to play with. We spent about 10 minutes getting our gate pattern worked out on the gate to the round pen and then about 20 minutes on the arena gate. He knew that the arena gate opened to the "world" so he was more anxious about just getting through it and OUT. Ahem Cherokee did you not view Pat's latest DVD on gates ... slow down and "take the time it takes...." LOL I was patiently persistent and soon he was in the proper position. Of course we backed out of the gate to avoid a hurry scurry exit. :) He offered a very nice low headed meandering back to his "hay bar." Th
e hay bar is a tack box filled with hay. My horses love to dive their noses into the hay and you can almost hear them sigh.

After I unsaddled him I spent about 20 minutes just sitting on him bareback while he munched out of the hay bar. Sort of some undemanding time. I say sort of because I found myself thinking of a "Can You" and then having to try it.

So Can You spin 360 degrees while sitting on your horse?

Today Dove & I joined my friend Laurie & her horse Faith for another trail ride in beautiful Briones Regional Park. Dove was so funny today as she kept stopping on our way up the steep hills. She basically had no go. At one point my friend asked me why I was giggling so I had to tell her that Dove used to be such a go-go pony that this whoa-whoa pony was a delight to be riding.

My challenge today was to NOT push her to continue but wait for her to stop and then ask her to go again... even if it was for only ONE step. LOL. With that I knew she'd make for an excellent videographer horse today. A great trade off if you ask me. ;)

We had a lovely 3 hour ride on the Toyon Canyon to Pine Tree Trail loop, stopping midway to dismount and have a quick picnic of power bars, tangerines, grapes and of course Dove's favorite - a pear. How she loves pears!

Here is a short video of our ride:

Along the way we met some other riders traveling in the opposite direction. At one point one of the riders noticed Dove was wearing a halter. She said "How nice to be able to ride in just a halter. Your horse must be real broke." To which I just smiled. :) At the end of the ride as we parted from our friend to head home Dove was happy to walk quietly back to the barn. A nice change after only the 5th trail ride session. The amazing power of patterns!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Trail riding F*U*N!

This week my steady eddy Dove & I have been enjoying the nearby trails. We took a much needed break from practising our Freestyle audition routine. All work and no play makes for dull partners. So last Sunday a small group from our barn took a walk together down the little bridle trail while I took video from atop my horse...... for the FIRST time! That was so much fun that I was giggly and silly most of the way. My horse realized quickly that her job was to focus on the trail because I was focused on figuring out how to hold the camera, get a good shot and still be attentive to my horse. By the end of the ride my shoulder and arm muscles were a bit tired and mind you I have a very small camera. LOL.

Here's a small clip of the pretty trail just down the lane.

On Monday Dove & I tried the same trail by ourselves. This is another FIRST and one I have prepared us for over several years. At times I thought perhaps it would be too much to even think of riding alone. The trail is short, safe and beautiful, however the canopy of trees makes it feel more like a tunnel. So for Dove it was a big confidence threshold. As I felt her relax more each trip with our friends, I realized she was ready to "try" going it just us two. My plan was to see how far she wanted to go and then turn around. Well folks we made it to the end of this little 1 mile trail. AWESOME! I really enjoy riding with friends, but there is something very special when it is just me and my horse. Something intimate and peaceful. Along the way we'd stop, relax, look around and take the trail in small sections. You know- eat the elephant one bite at at time. When a jogger and her dog came along, Dove sighed and wanted to move forward and follow them. Ah so that is what she was worried about.... something coming up from behind her. Her Zone 5 is very important to her. :) Now that it was over she could relax. How interesting!

Yesterday we rode the same trail with some friends (creating a nice trail pattern) and again my horse was very alert and aware but responsive and felt like a partner. There was alot of activity along the trail this day. Tractors moving big mounds of dirt, helicopters flying overhead, deer running about, and even men using saws to cut boards behind a large green container smack dab in the middle of the trail end. Bring it on! After reading Linda Parelli's lastest blog about how she helps her new horse West Point when he spooks, I did the same with Dove. Thank you Linda for this timely post!! Staying very present in the moment, doing what my horse needed me to do, give her nothing to brace against and spook with her. It became an Oh Boy moment for me.... oh boy I can help you. Empowering really. We all felt so good that my friend & I continued across the street to the regional park and rode the Orchard Trail loop. Again more helicopters, birds, deer, oh and this big wind had come up causing the trees to come alive. Dove was nervous and kept looking toward home, but she was responding to me and able to stand still and nibble the grass now and then. My athletic rockstar was still with me.

As we parted with our friend to head home Dove wanted to jog so we circled the orchard trees, practised our backup and sideways and soon she could walk home. I was thinking "You want to move your feet- me too! Let me help you move your feet more creatively Miss Dove." Again thank you Linda Parelli for the great post and ideas. Dove's walk was still lively, but once we crossed the road she relaxed. Nice! As we approached the barn there were about 1 dozen deer in the neighbors yard behind the slatted fence. Really I am not exaggerating I could not count all the deer. I thought perhaps the neighbor was getting into the deer rescue business. LOL. With the fence obscuring the view Dove was a bit jumpy so together we practised our herding patterns to move those deer who were hiding behind the fence. A little arc toward their Zone 1 and they'd stop. A little more toward Zone 1 and they'd turn. This little game helped Dove relax and soon she lowered her head and was ready to pass them and go home. Sweet! As part of our trail ride pattern we do a few minutes of precision work in the arena before unsaddling. This time Dove pushed the gate open! WOW she usually balks and braces as she'd rather get to her pen and eat some hay. Inside we played with a bit of shoulder-in along the fence and upon leaving once again Dove was helping me by pushing the gate. The really cool part was that this time as we were closing it she side passed back to it herself! She even waited for me to "pet the gate" which is part of our gate pattern. WOW this response from my horse was incredible. I felt like I had a glimpse of understanding what her idea was in that moment. This was the highlight of my day.

This morning my friend & I will hit the trails again with our pretty ponies. Mother Nature held back the showers and is affording us one more play day in her back yard.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

I'm melting... I'm melting.....

Since my last post we've had 6 straight days of a sweltering heatwave. My horses and I were sweating standing still ... in the shade! Thus most of our play time was imaginery. I must say we all did fantastic! LOL

We did manage to have some splendid moments with the water hose, and my horses enjoyed buckets of water soaked hay for lunch this week. Each day I kept thinking, ok tomorrow it will cool off a little..... so today when I felt a little warm breeze this morning I almost fell off my chair and spilled my coffee as I scrambled to get to the barn. I turned the arena sprinklers on to give the arena a little spritz and then grabbed my girls for long overdue playtime.

All of that visual practise paid off! As Dove & I tested our "shoulders in" online I could barely keep up with her. She was zooming about, almost floating really. This must be what David meant when he said when we got it, Dove would feel so soft like I was pushing a cloud. Ok well Dove was a cloud today. She has got this shoulders in on 3 tracks down! I thought to myself (hmmm maybe I said it out loud), that I need to try this while riding next time as I was huffing and puffing trying to keep up. And of course our circles are better. She's maintaining contact and traveling on the circle with all zones much better. In fact it was so good that we tried playing with maintaining the canter. It didn't take too may tries before she got it. At this stage she is not yet bent while cantering the circle but I did notice some moments of it. :) BIG GRIN I quit on a great note and she licked and chewed.

Since Spice is still a bit off from her altercation with Dove a week and a half ago(aka she did not yield to alpha) we played the Yo-Yo game. At first she kept assuming it was move back two steps and then turn left or right. Ah ha..... I thought, I can help you with this. Don't teach or make assumptions. Spice has been yo-yo'ing straight for sometime, however we had been playing with our circling game before she got injured so she started to "assume." It was truly fun to make it a "game." It took her a few squiggly HQ moves before she took a step straight back and I said Yeah and released. She looked at me and you could see she was starting to "think" about this. A few more one step at a time isolations and she was answering with lovey Yo-Yo's WITH a beautiful alert expression on her face. Yeehaw Eureka we got it!

Sometimes it's the little things that make us the proudest.

I hopped on Dove and ponied Miss Spice back to their pen. It was Cherokee's turn. He was eager as ever to get out of jail. Down to the arena we moseyed and I let him offline for a roll. He took two steps and then stood by my shoulder. Hmm... ok let's play! I wanted to check out where his circling game was. The walk was nice, but he was getting distracted and wanting to leave (veer off straight). Ah ha I recognize this! Then it dawned on me.... although Cherokee isn't as far along as Dove, I feel that I have progressed my savvy enough that I can help him travel straight on the circle now vs later having to fix it like I am doing now with Dove. WOW maybe this is what Pat means that once we get to Level 3 we start to have something to offer the horse. This is so COOL! So I tried playing the "don't leave me and keep looking at me" circling game. Have you ever played this? I'll try to explain, however I may need to refer you to David Lichman for a proper explanation. At first you ask the horse to circle you at a walk. If the head starts to look away, give them a pop with the savvy string on their HQ and say "look at me, don't leave." When they look back at you smile and ask them to continue walking. They will almost be walking around you sideways- with a deep bend in their body and both eyes on you. Exaggerate to teach. As you progress they will move farther away as they circle and have a nice bend in their body on the line of the circle. Although both eyes are no longer on you, one ear and one eye will be. Then of course you will try the trot and then eventually the canter. Today Cherokee & I played with the walk AND trot this way. He is THAT smart my little pony boy. Gosh he picked this up so quick that I was floored. I also had a BFO that this was a great extreme friendly game... sort of. Popping him on the HQ and then smiling when he looked at me may help him be less likely to bolt off when I use it in the future. It's become a game!!

Ok going of to bed to do some more thinking at night, coz we are going to play some more tomorrow!!

Friday, September 24, 2010

I'm Back.... on Track!

Yesterday marked a grand return to our Fast Track @ Home with a lovely horseback ride in Briones, the regional park that sits just across the road from the barn I board my horses at. We took the Orchard Trail and Dove was brave, curious, athletic and fun. We rode with a good friend who brought her young horse. While Dove wasn't 100% confident the entire ride, she was calm, trusting, motivated and willing. Awesome my little rockstar is! She proved to be a great partner for my friend's young horse too. We even opened and closed gates. A major progressive note for us. Yes all that gate petting and patience paid off! I had Dove loaded down with saddle bags carrying yummy treats for our ponies and us- little bags of hay, grapes, pears (Dove's favorite), water and power bars. We stopped mid ride for our snacks. The horses were delighted to discover what Dove was carrying. Their little pierced lips stretching out for one more bite of juicy pear said it all.

That was an awesome kick off to getting Back on Fast Track @ Home. Although my horses and I have been doing little mini sessions here and there over the past 3 weeks, I haven't felt well enough to start back on a steady program. Frankly I was frustrated at how quickly and easily I got winded and tired. Thank goodness for Parelli and working on my emotional fitness or I may not have survived. Plus in the midst of all this, Dove kicked Spice good on her left stifle last Sunday. That left her with a wound and nixed our lesson with Rachel next Monday. Big bummer, REALLY big bummer.

Instead this week we all played when we could and had loads of undemanding time. At one point while giving Spice a quick bath in front of their pens, I noticed that Dove was standing in the line of the water spray. Hmmm, how interesting. She usual moves off rather abruptly. Did she want some relief from the heat or did she notice Spice getting some grazing time during bath time? Probably the latter, however while Spice as drying I took Dove out for a bath and she stood perfectly still. Even when the hose wrapped around her legs, which used to send her into orbit, she did not move. This was amazing progress. Where did this come from? What helped her be more confident? I am reminded of the saying "it is often the little things that make the biggest difference." This gives me much to think about and observe.

So today we will start by playing the same games we have dabbled in these past few weeks: The "perfect sideways everytime" game and the traveling "straight on a circle" game. Sort of a pick up where we left off kind of day. I will check our progress online and see if we can expand these games back into our freestyle riding sessions. I pledge to appreciate the "try" and reward our progress "today" vs. getting stuck in how far behind it may feel I have fallen during this time off. Principles before goals. No matter how fun and rewarding the goals would be to attain, positive and progressive principles will carry us through a lifetime of ups and downs. And help us open many more gates in regional parks!

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Adjust To Fit The Situation

What a week I have had. The ups and downs made me think of "Adjust to fit the situation." OK so I finally adjusted by Wednesday... but only because I had to. I am THAT stubborn and my sinuses were THAT irritated. I am not one to go down for the count that easily. ;)

My week started out great I was so pumped up to begin my second Fast Track @ Home month that my family could hardly stand to listen to me. ;) I had all these fantastic plans and "Can You's" that living with me was like living with a honey bee buzzing around the house. I plan to visit my friends in Reno in early October so I calculated 30+ days until then. Perfect amount of time for a second Fast Track @ Home!

On Sunday my Mom & I took a trip to the De Young Museum in SF to see the Musee d'Orsay Impressionist exhibit from France. I LOVE Monet but at lunch all I could talk about was my horses. Gotta love Mom coz she listened with interest. XOXOXO Mom

Monday found me playing with "Can You send your horse in a perfect circle of cones" I set the cones at about 3 feet from the round pen fence and asked my horse to walk, trot and canter in the "cone lane." Because of where Dove & I are at in our relationship I tried it at Liberty. In the beginning Dove wanted to "touch" every cone. Well that was very cool! This horse has some amazing thoughts going on in her head I tell ya. As we played more with circling we had some eggs and goofy circles. So I asked her to figure 8 around the cones in the "eggy" or "scary" spots and soon she was circling in the cone lane at Liberty. AWESOME!

NOTE TO SELF: Fig 8's or squeezing really helped. :-)

Then I remembered what we had as a Liberty task during Fast Track tests in CO - have your horse stick to you in the cone lane as you are outside the cone lane. So we tried that but added transitions. Oh Boy!

-->So friends here is your "Can You" for next week: Can you ask for stick to me with walk, trot, & canter transitions while your horse stays in the cone lane? Have fun!!

On Tuesday our integrative veterinarian came for a follow-up visit. Dove & Cherokee were perfect (no excuse for them now LOL) but Spice had done something to her left hind hock the day before (she has great timing). Dr Robson gave her some adjustments and prescribed some acupressure points for me to follow-up with as well as 2-3 days rest. :(

Then Tuesday night my sinus crud came back with a vengeance I have not had in years. So I finally realized on Tuesday that I needed to rest. UGH! The ONE thing I have to admit to being really really ANNOYED to is being knocked down or sick. I am a lousy patient. ;)

So Wed and Thurs I tried to slow down and get well because David Lichman was coming for lessons on Friday and I was NOT going to miss that! My son Chris took over lunch and fly mask duties on Wed and Thurs and I used the time to work on my Fast Track @ Home plan for the month.

By Friday I was good enough for lessons. Basically I pulled myself up by the boot straps. Thank goodness my horse Dove is such a ROCKSTAR! Spice was not only injured but was starting to colic due to the drastic hot/cold weather we had this week so I fortunately I had enough time to treat her before David arrived. Then I had to decide if I would take 2 hours of lessons with Dove or split the time with Cherokee. Eeeeks I was not really prepared to take a lesson with Cherokee on this day. I was willing to give it "go" but thankfully as usual David had the answer - the other student & I would split my 2 hours up. In our first hour, Dove & I worked on flexing or bending on the circle on the ground. Then, after a break while the other student had her lesson, Dove & I did the same while riding. It was amazing to have the feedback on how bracey and stiff Dove was and what to do about it. (More on this later as I am still processing) I was STOKED! Needless to say I have updated my "Can You's" and Fast Track @ Home plans.

I had "planned" to play with passenger lessons @ walk, trot & canter in our new round pen BUT now I will switch to what David showed us which is what I think Pat means by being "straight on the circle." Meaning your horse has ALL zones on the circle. If you have seen or heard Pat's recent videos and audios you will recognize it. You horse will have ALL ZONES from the nose to tail on the circle. There will be a natural bend to their bodies as ALL ZONES from the nose to tail are on the circle. Ok enough repeating. :)

So my plan for this next month of Fast Track @ Home is to play with ALL ZONES on the circle AND relaxed both online and riding. And depending on how we progress with this THEN we will try adding transitions and maintaining gait.

Why not get your better best NOW instead of LATER having to FIX something? Hmmm, I'm lickin' and chewin' and ADJUSTING!

Friday, September 3, 2010

A week of Successes for many!

This week turned out to be full of surprises! It started out with me nursing a sinus cold due to this crazy weather and resulting allergies. Great, I thought there goes my horse time. Then the weather hit a blistering 97 degrees on Wed and was still quite hot at about 94 degrees yesterday. So I decided it was meant to be an easy restful week for all.

So what were all these surprises you ask? Well let me tell you. ;)

First on Tuesday, I had a great session with my mentor Rachel as we discussed all the fun and exciting things that took place at the Reno clinic with Trevor & Tara. We also reviewed a practise session of my Freestyle Audition routine. I asked for help on jumping as my horse is cool with it but I am a tad nervous. Egads those barrels look so high! LOL. Rachel is a former eventer so she knows jumping. She gave me some super tips on jumping and in addition how to reorganize my routine such that we don't go over the 10 min limit. No easy task with all the patterns we are to show. Those of you playing with your auditions know what I mean. ;)

Then just after our session ended on Tuesday I received an email from Parelli Auditions..... they passed our Liberty Audition with a 3++. Needless to say I was STOKED!! I wanted to run out to the barn that minute and tell Dove. Oops I had an anthropomorphic moment there. LOL.

The next day I heard that Jeane (new friend I met in Reno) received a pass on her Freestyle Level 2 making her a new Level 2 graduate. Wahoo Jeane!!

Then yesterday my good friend Marie sent me an email that she just passed her Level 3 Freestyle, making her a new Level 3 graduate. Awesome Marie!

In addition my two Fast Track friends from Sweden got some good news- Josefin passed her Level 3 Online Audition and Sophie passed her Level 3 Liberty Audition. Yeehaw to you both!!

And I just found out that Ramona (another new friend from Reno) just passed her Level 2 Freestyle, making her a new Level 2 graduate. Way to go Ramona!

That makes 6 of us with successes this week!!! Ladies we are ALL on a ROLL! What fun for us all to get this news this week. The Parelli Audition department is really working hard to get our results to us. They know we are all waiting anxiously.

Anyone else receive a pass on their Auditions this week? Let me know if you have. It is such fun to share successes.

Since it will be another warm day today I will take it easy and play with our new round pen. My barn owner has been trying to find a spot to reassemble it for the past year. We decided to put it in the upper arena for now. It is good to have a round pen again as my two mares Dove & Spice were running under or jumping over my makeshift round pen made of barrels and tape! LOL. Those two never cease to amaze me.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Trevor & Tara came to Reno!

Last week I took my mares Dove & Spice to Reno to participate in a clinic with Trevor & Tara Carter. This was only the second clinic for my mare Spice and the first long haul trip I have taken her on. Needless to say she did beautifully despite my being a tad nervous. Of course it was Dove, my secret weapon, who ensured our successful trip. She is my rockstar! We had a great clinic turnout- 9 participants in the L1/2 class and 15 (or was it 16?) participants in the L3/4 class. My good friend Marie coordinated the week long clinic and I must say she outdid herself this time! Marie as always you are THE BEST my friend!! XOXO The facility we played at is called "The Farm" and it is the most beautiful & serene place I have had the privilege to play at. Candy opened her home and heart to us all for the week while we played in her lovely arenas and cavorted about her awesome playground, and enjoyed evening dinners on her back patio, complete with a bonfire. I only wish I had taken some pics to show y'all, your jaws would drop! Thank you Candy for ALL that you did, my horses & I felt so at home. I also got to meet Ramona & Bree who were so gracious and inviting along with Jeane who took ranch logistics to a whole new level. Thank you ladies for your warm welcome and friendship I just love you all!! And to my friends whom I haven't seen in over a year yet we picked right up where we left off- my BFF's you are cherished!! So I must confess that I am still processing all that I learned. I think I'll be soaking on it for some time, but I will try to give you some highlights.

Spice ...... what can I say but she was true to form. She can grow to 20 hands high and really move when she gets her life up. Gotta love her athleticism, oh and the way she can flick her forelock and look like Paris Hilton! And it did not help that Dove was hollering at her all day. What was up with that Dove? LOL Here are some shots of Trevor showing me some new carrot stick moves for when she wants to run over me....

first back up against a fence!

and then swing your stick!

AWESOME- worked like a charm but I had to out persist her. Trust me she is even more persistent than Dove so I was tired at the end of the day but oh so happy with the results. Trevor had a great sense of humor and quoted Pat "You've got to have more moves than a pound of ex-lax!" Yep with Miss Spice that is true. She is one smart, athletic horse who is sweeter on Dove than she is on me AND confident in her own abilities to get what she wants. So look out here comes Spice! In the end we had this pretty picture of quiet feet and attention if only for moments at a time.

**Thank you Jeane for these great pics of Spice & I.

After our first day of class I had the privilege of signing up for a lesson with Trevor so I asked him to ride Spice. What a beautiful sight to see. He started out with a walk/trot passenger lesson as she was rushing into the canter. When she wanted to hang out in the corner closest to Dove he made it uncomfortable there. In the end they were cantering about softly and even to the opposite side of the arena from the Dove magnet. I was riveted and even if I had my camera I don't think I would have taken my eyes away for a second. Trevor is such an accomplished and talented horseman that he made it look simple and elegant. This made for great preparation for our second day where maybe I could ride .... if Miss Spice would be my partner.

Day 2 with Spice was more of the same online- getting her attention, keeping her out of my space, finding the comfortable and quiet spot for her feet, and then catching my breath! She was much less bothered by Dove's hollering and in the afternoon..... drum roll please.... we rode! Another student had a young horse and so Trevor took the two of us to the round pen in the playground and we both ended up riding together! Miss Spice sure has a big lovely springy trot and what fun to end our two day clinic with some walk, trot and squeezing from the top of Zone 3. Wahoo! Thank you Trevor for another dream come true. Although we ride at home this was a first for us- to ride away from home with new horses & humans. As I tucked my big pony back in her paddock, I was very proud of her try over these two days. As my friends said repeatedly, she is a lot of horse, but I know she also has alot of heart and desire. She is my dream horse and with time she will become my dream partner like Dove has become. PNH ROCKS THE PLANET!

OK tucking the kleenex away now..... on to the L3/4 clinic with my Dovelet! What can I say about Dove other than I feel so honored that she decides to be my partner. Yes she too can get busy feet but with Parelli we can now direct those feet and her little hemi engine. ;) One of many highlights from our 3 day class was seeing how Dove is now more accepting of long line driving. She has a mixed history with ropes and her hind legs, some of which I will never really know the details of but she gave me her all when we played with turning like a cart pony. Although I may not actually put a cart behind her (I'll save that for my gelding Cherokee as he NEEDS a job, but I digress) this exercise certainly helps her "hunt the middle" as Tara said. Dove looked so cute as her tail swooshed softly while she concentrated on moving more sideways in a turn and even though circling was more stressful as the rope hugged her precious HQ she had a few moments of lowering her head and jogging softly. Hallelujah progress is SWEET!

Day 2's afternoon was playing with a million transitions which lead to canter departs! This is where her little hemi engine comes in handy as Dove offered 4 simple lead changes across the short end of the arena. Yehaw! I have to admit my friends that it wasn't my "plan" to ask for lead changes, I was simply trying to help her get unstuck on one side by changing up sides each time I asked for the canter depart. She answered by changing leads softly and easily. OK I snacked on a bit of humble pie for assuming she wouldn't actually change leads and then reflected on her offerings. Wow my pony has some interesting answers in her little blonde head. I need to pay more attention and catch up!

The morning of Day 3 found us all playing with 7 games on a 45' and then transitioning that to 7 games at Liberty in the big playground. What fun! Dove scampered off a couple times but came trotting back to me... eventually ;) She was in a very LB "what's in it for me" frame of mind. Not a bad place to be! Before lunch we played with what I felt was a great game of freestyle riding with 2 carrot sticks. We split into two groups and each group rode in opposite directions. One group on the rail and the other 4 horse lengths away (track 4) in the middle. Look out Barnum & Bailey here we come! LOL Tara would instruct us to change tracks but keep our direction, or have us change directions but keep on our track. It that wasn't challenging enough she then had us find a partner from the other group and then switch tracks once we passed. Phew what a mental puzzle that turned out to be! Tara was so very brilliant and patient as she had us slow down and try it one pair at a time, adding a pair of riders after each switch. Awesome! We eventually got it enough to at least not run into each other. I wish we had video of this as you would enjoy our silliness, waving at our partners and laughing. We had great attitudes!

We rounded up our afternoon and final day of the clinic with Parelli Games! We first had an online tournament where you could opt for one 45' line or tie your 45' into two lines. We had at least 3 takers on the two line challenge. Right on ladies! For me the highlight was when we played with our 45's from on top of our horses. A worthy challenge that we all succeeded at. If it were not for Key # 7 -Support = Trevor & Tara and all my savvy sisters support, Dove & I would have had to sit this out. Instead I got to see how brave and trusting my horse has become. My hat is off to you Lovely Dovely for truly giving me your all as we threw the 45' out, coiled it up and then did the same with a partner! Oh yea! Trevor helped Miss Dove & I prepare and then handed us off to Robbie and Miss Bella who were our awesome patient partners. This was no easy task as Miss Dove can get quite jiggy with it having ropes around her HQ. A BIG thanks to Robbie & Bella whose focus and patience enabled Dove & I to participate in the partners game segment. Our team accomplished 5 games in just a little over 3 minutes with a 45' line between us- yes my friends we had to yo-yo, circle each other, sideways together, squeeze and then coil up the rope! Miss Dove you have truly come far and Miss Robbie you are one accomplished horsewoman! Folks Robbie did all this bareback!

This week in Reno was like a "Mini Pagosa course." Trevor & Tara are brilliant, amazing horsemen. They are so patient, creative, endlessly knowledgeable, talented and F*U*N as instructors that we hated to see our clinic end. Can't wait for next year. They also left us with many cool quotes and reminders which I have listed on the left navbar.

...... now where did I tuck that kleenex box....

Monday, August 16, 2010

Yeowza my horses learn fast!

Expect alot, Accept a little, Reward often ....

When I can see and then reward the slightest try they get it almost instantly! I've been reading Richard Bandler's book "Using your Brain for a Change," and he talks about how fast our brains learn. Holy smokes Batman my horses showed me their super learner brains this past week.

We focused on transitions and change of direction on the circle in 3 savvies- on-line, freestyle and liberty. Each horse has a side that is easier for them to change direction on and a side that they are tighter in their ribs and thus transitions are harder. This was very fascinating to sort out and play with.

Somewhere in the middle of the week a light bulb went on in my head and I realized that every good dance partner finds a way to announce a change whether it is tempo, direction, foot fall such that they can dance as one. Otherwise you end up with an echo or a hiccup or a misstep from your partner as they try to catch up. Anyone who has ever danced ballroom knows how that feels. Ugh.

OK so I put that together with what my mentor & I talked about in our last session and tried adding a sound queue just before I ask for change of direction online. WOW.... all 3 of my horses got it on the second try. Although I was being as careful as I could to be consistent with my body when asking for a change, this little extra auditory signal gave them a head ups that a change was coming. And of course prior and proper preparation laid the foundation for this extra queue to make sense to them. I got 2 beautiful eyes easily on both sides from Dove & Cherokee. Spice still spaced out when changing R to L so we'll go back to the basics first before adding in the queue again.

I also tried playing the game of 1 cluck for trot and 2 clucks for canter while practising our transitions online. It became a game of don't make me pick up my stick but this time with an audible queue added in. We will still need to play with our go buttons a bit more before this game will be as easy for them as the change of direction. Still it was a fascinating experiment.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Week 3 of Fast Track @ Home

Fun sums up my week pretty well!

On Tuesday I had a teleconference session with my mentor
Rachel Jessop. For this session I had videoed our Liberty Audition in our makeshift round pen. Dove & I received a "Wowee" from Rachel when Dove offered to circle me closely at the walk! Rachel gave me great feedback and instruction on some areas to improve on as we progress our Liberty to Level 4. Although this audition video is good enough to submit, it was our first in the new round pen and so I want to practise a bit more and see if we can improve on a few areas. Either way I told Rachel that I would submit a video, either this one or a new one in two weeks before our Reno clinic. Yippee that is exciting.

And a note to my friend
Sophie, I think you may be interested to try this make shift round pen as I think you mentioned that you too only have large arenas at your stable? I had a difficult time asking for circles at Liberty in a large arena - Dove would simply leave. :) My version is 6 barrels set across one end of the arena and then I tied a strip of orange plastic fencing around the barrels. Because Dove would occasionally either duck under or jump over (that was a big surprise) I also put a cone on top of each barrel and then some object like another barrel, cone or block between the barrels to make it look more solid. I had tried using a bigger strip of fencing however the wind would pick up and then the fencing acted like a sail and would take all 6 barrels down. It was a funny sight to see me trying to tie the fencing that day. Then we spent a week playing online in what looks like a "circus" ring before attempting a Liberty session. So far she hasn't jumped or ducked under. Spice has helped as she often blocks the gate while waiting for a turn. lol Here is a short video clip of our "circus" ring. You may get ideas of how you could make one for you and Panter?

And if the Wowee from Rachel was not exciting enough, Dove started offering to paw the ground, much like Spice when she tried to teach me her version of Spanish walk. And two nights ago Dove offered to do this while I was riding her. So we have been playing with both of us pawing with one leg and then the other together online and while riding. That was super fun! I have been playing with both my mares together in the arena not only to save time but also to help them feel more confident and able to focus on play vs. the bogeymen in the bushes surrounding the arena. It is often a challenge as the free roaming horse will frequently stand in the way of our play or mug for a cookie. LOL they really do learn while watching. This is why I believe that Dove suddenly offered to paw the ground. She saw Spice get rewarded plus it was probably easier in her mind than circling 6 laps at the trot please. Oh boy I have my hands full with two smart, athletic and playful horses. Sure keeps me on my toes I tell ya.

We ended our week with a "Can You" challenge from my friend
Josefin. "Can You" trot or canter for 4 laps with only 1 send? Dove offered 5 laps at a relaxed jog and Spice gave me 4 laps which is a first for her! Plus Spice had 2 of the 4 laps with her head low and a relaxed trot while going left. Cool! I'll see what Cherokee offers tonight. Then we'll play with the canter next week. Although we've been playing with canter circles we haven't played the "Can You" game of 4 laps yet. This ought to be interesting.

Well friends that is all for now. How has your week been? Did you have any surprises or BFO's (blinding flash of the obvious)?

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Can You?

In the last 2 weeks I have been playing with a "Can You" I saw John Baar give Jason Zulli on a recent episode of The Horseman's Apprentice. "Can You" do all that while just holding the popper at the end of your 22' line?

So I tried playing with Figure 8's with Dove while just holding the popper. Talk about a fun challenge! I think Dove enjoyed it even more than I did. Spice liked it too but Cherokee had a hard time with the extra distance. So we'll gradually increase it until he too can do a Figure 8 while I only hold the popper.

Here's a short example of this "Can You" with my mare Spice.

This of course caused me to think of more "Can You's" for my horses & I to try next week. Pat Parelli is famous for some really creative ones. I'll be reviewing the Savvy Vault for sure!

So my friends I put the challenge to you too. "Can You" hold only the popper and do a Figure 8 around a cone or barrel or other obstacle?

And then how about you come up with another "Can You" challenge for us to try? I can't wait to hear from you!

Sunday, July 25, 2010

The end of Week 1 of Fast Track @ Home

The biggest take away from this week was how many times my horses "offered" interesting and sometimes unexpected answers to my requests. I believe the reason was not that they were suddenly offering more to me.... they are all quite playful and creative, but rather that having really slowed down I noticed more details. I must add that I can be quite patient and detail oriented already, so what I realized about myself is that slowing everything down even more, isolating & separating even more, allowed me to "think" more and thus "process" what I was "seeing." Sound like a RBI? Hmmm.... interesting.

Another area I noticed as I experimented with our FTH (Fast Track @ Home) plan was that I found myself playing with circles and figure 8's with all 3 horses. Each horse is different but the sticky pattern is the same. Yep I am the common denominator! In figure 8's for example, Dove had trouble changing eyes (coming around the barrel), Spice wasn't sure she wanted me to influence her Zone 1 in this manner, and Cherokee lost confidence at the walk and trot and would instead demonstrate beautiful flying lead changes. So to reduce pressure (and my desire to micro manage- ugh) I sat on a barrel and played Circle Me.

I kept hearing John Baar in my head.... "Get them sweet on the ______".... fill in the blank with barrel, or rail, or whatever your focus is. So I thought, let's see if I can help my horses get sweet on the barrel and then play various games with the "sweet" barrel. They already love to push it or side pass over it so how about circling it. Yea I know this seems quite obvious doesn't it? We've heard this throughout the PNH program. "It's not about the ____" or "Isolate, Separate & Recombine." But what does that really mean, right now, in this moment with this horse & I? Sometimes the answer from your horse will surprise you.

So as I sip my coffee on this lovely Sunday morning, I am grinning ear to ear about these 3 "offerings":

Cherokee offered to be brave enough to take me bareback up to the top arena at night. He was willing to walk in, circle a barrel and mosey on back to his pen. This is huge for my little herdbound gelding.

Last night Dove took me on a 20 min bareback passenger lesson in the covered arena. She was "sweet" on the rail AND we haven't been in that arena for 3 weeks! She would change direction softly and kept walking about, along the rail, down the middle, even stopping to sniff in the spooky corners. She was relaxed & this was her idea! I only touched the reins as we opened the gate to leave.

Spice, my Spanish mustang, offered to teach me the Spanish Walk! During a play session as I was asking her to go forward she instead offered to hold her leg up. When she first did this I realized that she has been putting her front hooves on rails lately. Interesting! Instead of making her feel wrong I took what she offered and we played with it. How fun to have my horse teach me! And how fun to know what is going on in "her" head. LOL. She is one smart horse.

One of the results of the PNH program is that we will help our horses become, braver, smarter and more athletic. So for this week I'd have to give this goal a check, check & check!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

"Don't Leave Me"

Although this is an area my horse Dove & I have been exploring and playing with for some time -can you say months and months :)- I think I may have found a pattern that will be most helpful in her understanding how to circle me without "leaving."

The barn we are boarding at took down the round pen August of last year to put up a larger arena and since the round pen is still not reassembled I have tried to practise our Liberty audition routine in a larger area. I must say it has been a challenge. While Dove & I have great rapport and a good routine for many things, circling me and the figure 8 (two little half circles) are still not where I'd like them to be for our audition. Hmmm isn't THAT fascinating!!! It has also been a very interesting quest (and quite fun I must add) because eventually I would like to play at Liberty in a larger space than a 50' round pen. So in the end my dream will come true and why should I not try a little harder for that now?

So this week as I have been implementing a Fast Track @ home I experimented with circling and Fig 8's and found that I had a clearer "neutral," and thus less pressure on Dove, if I sat on a barrel and asked her to circle me. Hmmm..... "How interesting!" She had a few moments of trying to "leave" but soon was circling quite close with slack in the rope. Excellent! I was going to stop our session there but she was groping for more "cookies" which I translated into human speak as "how do I get another cookie?" So I unhooked her lead rope and asked for a circle me at Liberty. Ah it was soooooo much easier for both of us. Ok we are BOTH now licking and chewing on this one.

I was so excited by this revelation that I tried it with my other 2 horses and BOTH of them liked it too. OK note to self- I am much better at my "neutral on the circle" when I am sitting. I must be buzzing with energy when I am standing. BFO!!! (Blinding Flash of the Obvious-- from my horses!)

What does Pat say? "The proof is in the pudding" So here is my "week 1 pudding @ Liberty."


Monday, July 19, 2010

Fast Track plan for @ home

Since our return from Colorado in June I have been experimenting with various schedules and routines in an attempt to create a home version of Fast Track. While in the CO Fast Track we spent 3 hours in the mornings playing with online, tools, liberty or freestyle concepts, followed by 2 hours of demo time (watching & learning) and then from 2- 4 hours in the afternoons freestyle, finesse or trail riding. So my challenge will be how to put in 5- 6 hours and play with all 3 horses everyday plus spend 1-2 hours on my own learning. OK! bring it on.

Yesterday was another hot day and the only arena available for the next few months will be the uncovered one. So I decided to split my barn time between morning and evening. Turned out to be a good plan as it was much cooler in the evening which made for really pleasant riding time! I arrive between 9 and 10 am and can play until about 1 pm before the sun gets too intense. I then play with other areas such as bathing, hoof care or acupressure between 2- 3 pm and then take a break back at home and return to the barn by 7 pm at which time both arenas are available. It has been getting dark at about 9 pm so that gives me 2 more hours to play for a total of about 6 - 7 hours per day! But can I maintain momentum?

This week I plan to play with all 3 horses - online and liberty in the mornings and then riding in the evenings with my two mares. I can usually squeeze in a quick bareback trip to or from the arena with my gelding so he won't miss out totally on carrying me in Zone 3. ;) I have a clinic coming up next month in Reno, NV and will bring both my mares! The first 2 days will be a L1/2 class and I will play with Miss Spice. This will be her second clinic away from home but maybe the first one we may ride in. Wahoo! The next 3 days will be a L3/4 class and Miss Dove will be my partner. I am looking forward to putting our progress to the test. :)

So .... I have 30 days to focus on getting us ready. Oh Boy! It has been most interesting to play with my younger mare Spice after having been away all of June. We are revisiting the 7 games but with as much excellence & creativity as we can think of. I am really pleased with her genuine interest in playing and am trying my best to do my part to be provocative and keep it interesting. Dove & I are still reaping the rewards of our progress from Fast Track so I am focusing on the areas we are weaker at such as circling and figure 8's. My funny girl Dove would rather just leave than to circle me or circle a barrel! So I will experiment with circles until I find one that helps her make sense of what I am asking as well as gives her opportunity to find rhythm and relaxation. My aim is to be consistent with this focus throughout all 4 savvies- rhythm & relaxation before anything else.

Wish me some luck my friends!

Friday, July 9, 2010

While playing with our Liberty audition routine today.....

Dove showed me that I will need to come up with a better idea for a make shift round pen! My silly mare decided it was more fun to jump then it was to stick to me. LOL.

I have set up barrels with caution tape wrapped around them before. The last time I taped off an area approx 50 feet but she kept ducking under at a canter. This time I think she expected a reward for her enthusiasm. ha ha ha