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

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Coming up for Air

The transition to home life has been interesting. The first week was spent catching up with the life I left behind while Dove & I immersed ourselves in learning last month. Heaps of laundry, weed pulling, mail to sort through, month end billing, family & friends to catch up with, and so on. Amidst the work, I found that my young gelding Cherokee was just were I left him at the end of May! It is true what they say- if you leave your horse in a good spot that is where you will pick up the next session.... even if it is 30 days later. Cool!

As we ease back into our daily horsemanship routine I am amused at the differences between my horses. Dove of course is my ever ready partner. After giving her the first week off she & I are experimenting with our Fast Track lessons here on home turf. Spice, my other mare, has been gimpy on her front right so I am leaving her at Liberty in the arena while Dove & I play. We have a chiropractor/acupuncturist vet coming next Tues. Until then I will use the red light (photonic therapy) and go easy on her. One funny moment was when Spice was running along with Dove & I while we practised our bowtie pattern on Monday. LOL. I'll be interested to see if she learned the pattern from that session. And on Saturday Cherokee did an awesome job of carrying me around bareback while we watched our friends horse get a vet check. At one point the chickens were jumping up on the vet's tailgate so Chero & I helped drive them off!

I did notice one area that I will address with both Spice & Cherokee. Both of them have decided that they are in charge of where we go when outside their pens! LOL I see that they enjoyed their grazing times with my friend while I was gone. What happened to "follow a feel" you two? They forgot that I can be quite passively persistent..... hee hee that was a fun mini session. Ah the joys of having confident left brained horses. I cannot complain.

Well time to sign off and get to the barn as I have more yard work lined up this afternoon and an equine acupressure class this weekend to prepare for. No rest for the ambitious I suppose. ;)