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.