Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Further Development with Gemini

Had an amazing time with Gem today. He was so good! We played with sideways, circle with a lot of nice allowing. I asked him to squeeze over some jumps and we played with more rocksliding. Then, I took him in the arena and we did more sideways on the rail, asking for more energy. We then did some figure 8's on the ground and he was really understanding it.

I had tacked him up and brushed him before I got started on the ground work and Gemini just seemed so calm and willing. I checked his feet and picked them out. He's just doing so great. I played with moving forward and backward with my back towards him and asking him to maintain the distance between us. At first, his Z5 would swing out, but after a few times, he got my drift and went straight forward and backward with me. Nice!

Then, I worked with asking him to canter the circle and maintain the canter. That's an area where we really need to develop. He doesn't want to put that much effort in and I have to convince him that there's no rest until I give him rest. So, when he transitioned down, I asked him right back into the canter. Once he gave me a 1/2 lap or so at the canter, I brought him in. That worked nicely as he was cantering full circles after a few minutes of me working it that way.

Finally, I mounted and worked more on lateral flexion and getting him quiet in the mouth. He's very chompy on his bit and fiddling constantly. His brain is running when his feet are still - seems that when his mouth has to move the most. So, once my ankle is better, I work on getting his feet moving so his mouth can be still. :-)

I got off, did a little more sideways and some squeeze between me and fence. Surprisingly, he hurried through the squeeze. I did it a few more times until he could go calmly through the squeeze. Interesting. I also had him circle over the cavaletti's just a couple times before going to the barn. He was so graceful and never clunked a hoof on a cavaletti. Not once.

I tied him off, took of the tack, and let him stand for about 30 mins. He's doing really, quite well. So pleased!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Playing on the 45 with Z

November, nearly T-day, and we have 60 degrees! I love Colorado. Work is lighter than normal as the holiday mood sets in and I managed to steal away and get a couple hours with my levels mare. I messed with her hooves for a bit, then put her on the 45' and set out for some moving circle game.

I was paying very special attention to increase my body language, especially with backing her, sending her and transitioning her down. She was more willing than usual to put energy into things and jumped several times without a 2nd thought. Jumping is not her easiest thing to do and it was interesting to see her jump so willingly. We played with the allow on the 45 at the trot and the canter and I focused on not giving her a moment's rest when she decided to try something different. I noticed that she typically changed her direction when she was on the barn side of the circle. She was also pulling a little on that side of the circle. I held my ground and she learned to move through that desire to go to the barn. We did some down transitioning, which is a little clumsy with a cantering/galloping horse 45' away in an aircast. :-)

I felt really positive about the time on the 45' in my front pasture and I was ready to try some things in the round pen. I drove her from about 10' behind Z5 to the round pen and that worked better than usual as well. It was obvious that my clarity and specificity in my asks was having an impact on her frame of mind.

We practiced some rock slide, some sending, some down transitions and kept her online for all of it. I played with bringing her into me INSTEAD of disengaging her hind on the circle. This will help my change of direction - increasing the draw. She was a little sweaty and the sun was going down. I didn't want her wet for the cold night setting in, so I played with asking her to WALK a circle around me. She's not great at walking around me, she prefers to trot. After a few mins, she would walk the circle in both directions.

I also paid special attention to stop her from going beyond the point of "face up". I learned in my last lesson that I need to stop her as soon as it occurs to her to avoid facing me, vs correcting her after she's way out of position. I'm not fast or overly assertive, just consistent and specific.

A great play session and I'll give her several days (while I'm in the mountains with my family) to think about things. Tomorrow, I will play with Gemini and/or Rain.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Bringing Gemini Along...

He's been offering up some nice things and it's high-time I focus on bringing him along. He's gotten very little of my time over the past 6-9 mos as I've focused on Z and L3. Yesterday with Kime was great and so today, I picked him over Z (strange!). I started by brushing him down and making him look like a loved horse. Then I tacked him up and started playing on the 22'.

He did well and his allow on the circle was much better. We had a much nicer send, as well. We did some rock-slide and I'm still not getting a great sideways from him. I have to work on being as clear as possible. I'm not looking beyond him - I know that much. He's moving his fore very nicely, though.

I backed him using better body language and he knew just what I meant. I did transitions on line and they were pretty nice. We played a little with change of direction and got a decent one after several that weren't so great.

Then, I decided to take him the arena and ride him. My ankle is still sore and once I mounted I realized I still can't put it in a stirrup. So, I let my legs hang and we practiced lateral flexion and being quiet in the mouth, disengaging the hind, some slow walking and then some figure 8's. I decided I'd be more effective from the ground, so we did some figure 8's on the 22'. I felt better with my ankle situation on the ground and he was starting to understand that there was a pattern involved. He's obviously never done a figure 8! He kept stopping at the barrels and trying to put his hoof on it. He's sort of a one-trick pony that way. :-)

Actually, he did really well and I've very proud of him. He was calm, he was trying and he was easy to play with. He's my diamond in the rough. After he gains some muscle, gets a summer coat and develops more communication with me, he'll be fine horse to demo with.

A new coach for me!

I think I may have found my new coach and mentor. I've been working in my vacuum and really feeling a stunted growth. It's tough for students when they get to my level because there are fewer out there who can help me. This trainer actually told me that she has NO ONE she could pair me up with for learning. The only other students she has near me in skill (2 students) have no professional goals and so are less motivated and ambitious. This is a frustrating place to be, actually.

Anyway, I watched her play with Cowboy, my friends awesome grey gelding who is for sale. I was convinced that I wanted to get some feedback from her on what I'm doing. We spent 3 hours and I got some fantastic information. I know I'm accomplished, but there's a lot more I need to be advancing with - like my body language, my timing, my plan. I don't know what I don't know...

I started with Gemini. He's my next levels horse and it's time to bring him along. I played with him for about 90 mins and got some great things from him. I also made some important changes in my way of thinking and my way of going. First, I just showed her some things - how we play, what we do. She didn't think I sucked, but I had a lot of room for improvement. I guess I kind of knew that.

I'm not directing his energy enough. He has exuberance, I'm not giving him something to do with that playful energy. We talked a little about a time to play and a time to do what you're asked. I have to keep searching for that balance and knowing better when to say, enough silliness - let's get the job done.

Rockslide- backwards then sideways, alternating which way the fore moves. A great game for an LBI like Gemini or Cowboy or NINA! Gemini and I did that and I got some great sideways steps from him.

Moving the fore - my rope-holding hand has to be part of my body language. It goes quiet once the horse starts doing what I ask, essentially making my ask unclear. If I'm moving the fore in Z1, my hand should be helping to push the nose around. If I'm in Z2 or Z3, same thing, it's part of my body language and part of my focus.

Change of direction - G and I don't do that well together yet. We have to work on it.

Disengaging the hind - I should be walking toward Z5, not away from Z2!! I should be using a disengaging and steady handed rein. Attach my hand to my hip to steady it. The hind legs should cross over! Fix that before worrying about stopping the forward movement! Plus, allow myself and my horse enough room

Isolate, separate and recombine!

My send has to be good enough for the allow to work on the circle. I'm stepping into the horse's space on my send, which I should not be doing. We went back to lead it, lift it, swing it, touch it. I was not giving G the responsibility to stay on the circle and subsequently, I was getting less then a lap at the allow. We tweaked my send, and he stayed out there. Look where I want my horse to go. LEAD IT! Lead it with my whole body. Don't swing it, touch it if I don't need to.

Yo-yo - Z's is pretty straight. We've worked hard on that. When she tries to go past me and I move her hind to swing her back around, it doesn't have to be fast! It can be slow and right, until her head swings around and she changes eyes. I'm waiting to long to do something about her moving past me. I need to recognize it as soon as she has the thought.

Body language for the back up - I need to start standing up straight and pushing the energy back from my core! I'm now doing it more like a level 2 student. I need to bring her in with the energy from my core as well, sucking in my energy. Up tall for back, pushing out, up tall for in, but sucking in. Up tall to get her attention before anything else.

I was happy to get Z as I feel I've built a lot more into her than Gemini. I wanted feedback on my advanced project. We worked on the send, although Z's allow is great - she stays out there forever. I fixed my send with her like with Gemini and then we worked on transitions up and down. Our up transition was ok, except my body language is dull and weak. I understand that better now. Our down transition was not so good. So, we worked on that mainly. She taught me to step out with the outside leg when she hits my shoulder, then lift my stick, then if my horse reaches my stick, start to wiggle the rope. It was absolutely amazing the way Z transitioned down with just a step out. I couldn't believe it. Our transitions down were fixed just like that. That's why I need a mentor. Perfect practice is really tough alone.

Simulations - At one point, Kime and I did simulations and I was the horse. She showed me how to back me up, send me, slow me down, speed me up. What was really cool was that Z stayed right with me while I circled. Kime was essentially circling both of us. If I backed up, Z backed up. When I took a step, Z took a step. It was cool and we both laughed.

In the end, I realized my latest submission for L3 Liberty was not good enough. I'm expecting a fail to come back. I know more now what I'm missing and where to get better. Kime and I will meet on a regular basis tbd. I won't finish L3 by the end of the year, but I will finish it.

Kime quizzed me on the Parelli rules and principles. I don't have them memorized. She also talked about the phases of development. I don't have those memorized either. She's not going to let that fly. I have to start reciting the chants like a good student. :-) I also need to memorize the 4 responsibilities of the horse and the 4 of the human. Oye.

An hour with Nina!

I'm tasked with playing with Nina two times/month for an hour each. I also trim her hooves, which really need to be soaked (they are thrushy). A couple of my horses have thrushy feet.

Anyway, I took her out and we played with the trailer, did some sideways, squeeze over obstacles, backing, and just general foundational building stuff. She is pretty comfortable with the trailer and there was lots of hay in there from my last adventure to help give her a good incentive. She does not like to "jump" things, she prefers to walk over them or not go over them at all. I have GOT to put something to jump on the track. ARRGGGH!!

I then took her into the round pen and played with the ball. She could probably have a lot of fun with that thing! She mouthed it and I asked her to push it around. All pretty easy. Then, I asked her to hold it on her back - a good prep to having a rider up there. She was fine with it. Absolutely fine. She's a neat filly. And she's HUGE! I bet she'll hit 17 hh.

Watching a skilled trainer with Cowboy

Today, I watched Kime Conkright, a new 2-star Parelli instructor, play with Jen's horse Cowboy. Jen wanted an evaluation of her horse as she's trying to sell him and she's seeking leads as well as insight into the horse. He's developed quite a defensive edge and it makes him a little dangerous.

Jen has tried to take a step back and rebuild him by playing with L1. That's helped him settle down and feel less attacked. Kime helped him realize that running away is not the answer. I loved watching her play with him. It was good for me to see that I'm not far off in how I've handled him and that I also have a long way to go to get more effective.

He broke away from her a couple times, but the other times he tried, she held fast and he stopped using that as a trick. He seemed to finally start to figure he could get along with her after about an hour. It was need to see him change and made me appreciate him even more than I already do.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Fun in the Round Pen!

Had a great session with Z in the round pen. I shouldn't have done it, but my sanity was at stake. Stupid ankle!!

I had a plan. We started cutting (never tried that with her before), getting more serious about the ball staying with her and starting to learn the 360 turn. She was engaged and exhuberant. I was smiling lots and glad I made it out to play with her.

We played a little with change of direction, bowing, and then Kendall got on her bareback so I could help her learn more fluidity and balance.

It was fun!! But, ouch... Wonder how much I set my healing back.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Showing a Horse (and Learning from it!)

Today, I showed a potential buyer Cowboy, my bff's horse. He's an incredible grey gelding with a ton of athleticism. He's turned out to be more horse than she wants.

Two people came and I showed them some simple things by quietly playing with him online. I wasn't asking for much as I was in my aircast and not willing to get myself in trouble. He stayed calm and quiet, but they could tell I wasn't asking him for much energy. One of them took him and asked for a little more and Cowboy demonstrated that he can be obstinate.

Then, we tacked him up and the woman rode him a bit. He worked the bit a LOT and he tried a few of his other tricks (rubbing her off on the fence post, being hard in the mouth). She finally shared that she wanted to use him as a lesson horse. I was thinking, ok - now you're just wasting our time. She'd never shared that before. Cowboy is no lesson horse.

She trotted him a little and had to acknowledge his amazing trot, but in the end, it's not the horse for her. They left w/o him and I was a little glad. :-)

I learned a little more about Cowboy that day and I also got the chance to talk to them some about the training they do. They are about to embark on a 30 day training clinic with Dennis Reis. I'd love to do that. They had done 30 days with Clinton Anderson the year before. I realized that for me, I want to focus on Parelli. Maybe later I'll use other clinicians to that extent but for now - I'm a Parelli student.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Those who can't, Teach

I had a couple coaching sessions scheduled today, but I canceled because my ankle really needed to rest after yesterday's adventure. The weather was amazing, high 60's, sunny, light breeze. I was so annoyed to be down and stuck taking it easy on a day like this.

I decided to coach Kendall. I put Rain on the 45 and practiced getting a good circle with her. Then, I put Kendall on her back and tried to coach her and help her ride better. Now, she rides with gripped legs and toes pointing down. She thinks riding like a jockey is very cool, but I wanted to get her thinking about riding in harmony with the horse, beyond the 2-point. I started to explain "rise and fall with the one on the wall" and then I started helping her learn to ride the canter. I asked her to try to keep her butt in the saddle at the canter.

After some laps thinking about keeping her butt in the saddle, she started to relax her legs and she looked so much better! It was a big change and I look forward to her making more changes and getting her riding really good.

Rain is great with her.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Greenland Trail Riding AKA Biting off more than I can chew...

So, I'm battling this stupid sprained/fractured ankle. I'm laying in bed A LOT, and my husband has taken my son to Seattle for the weekend. My oldest son is driving and has plans of his own, so really I've got Kendall to myself all weekend. Kendall and I together with no boys means horse Time! I wanted to trailer out somewhere and have a great adventure with her.

We picked Greenland. Tons of trail mileage, plenty of parking, not too far to drive, a good deal. My neighbor and good friend, Marcy, came with us. About 3 miles from the trailhead, we got a flat. Doh! The adventure begins.

I'd worn my air cast all morning while I got the trailer ready and horses loaded, thinking I'd keep my ankle happy as possible before riding. I was feeling good and ambitious (the best and the worst thing about me) and decided to bring Gemini and pony him off of Z. Kendall would ride Rain.

We decided to fix the tire after the ride. A good move - let's get the party started already. As soon as I get on, my ankle starts cussing. Then, I grab Gemini's lead and we're off. Ouch! Darn it - I'm not ready for this! So, being who I am, I forge ahead.

About 1/2 mile in, there's a huge herd of buffalo about 1/4 mile away. My trusty steed decides that's is NOT OK! They made her quite worried. For the first time I realized, I can't be the horseman she needs me to be with my ankle. Gemini was a little up and excited and Z was thinking we were facing sure death by buffalo. And my ankle was cussing. I'd officially bitten off more than I could chew.

Luckily, Rain was being everything Kendall needed and Marcy was happy as a clam on her horse. Then, the trains started coming. Loud, long trains about 1/8 mile from the trail we were on. Z thought less of the buffalo because now our lives were threatened by the train. And again, I was reminded that I was vulnerable and not being everything my horses needed me to be. Finally, I asked Marcy and Kendall to let me stop and rest.

I tried to play some with Z on the ground and then I mounted and tried to get her calm. She was calming down and doing better, but my ankle was not. She was not happy about having Gemini at her side while were going down the trail, so losing him and just riding in some circles was a good thing. Being who I am, I forged ahead. Marcy passed Gemini's lead to me and we kept going.

Another mile or so, and I realized I had to admit defeat. I finally dismounted and asked them to take off without me. I wanted Kendall and Marcy to have fun. I felt bad for thinking I could do more guilty that I was already such a pain of a trail partner. Luckily, I convinced them to go. Gemini thought that was the worst idea of the day.

I was on the ground with Gemini, Z, my very sore ankle and my carrot stick. Marcy and Kendall disappeared over a hill and Gemini lost it. He reared and demanded to go with them. I tried to maintain, but he got the rope between his legs and was able to start moving forward. That was it. I had to just let go. He ran after the others and luckily they hadn't gotten far yet. Marcy grabbed him and I hobbled my way up to take him and try again. Ugh... I was in a bad place.

Z had gotten a little upset when he broke away, but luckily she settled fairly quickly. I took Gemini back and he tried to reenact the previous episode. This time I was ready. He soon realized he was stuck with me and I worked on giving him a reason to think that didn't suck so bad. I had Z, so it was tough to really do any serious ground work with Gemini.

Luckily, he began to settle and resorted to simply calling in his high-pitched winnie directly into my ear. I can handle a whinny. I was worried that he might rear and get me in the head with a hoof, so I kept him positioned so that I could be ready. As we walked, he got more and more settled. We came up to a bench and I had him do some things with it. That seemed to really settle him some more. He wasn't really calling anymore.

After about another 1/2 mile to mile, he was calm enough and I had walked far enough that I decided to mount back up and pony him home. I still had a tire to change and my trailer was a little dot in the distance. I felt a moment of hopelessness, but fought it and moved on. We had an uneventful ride to the trailer from that point.

We got back, I started to get the tire changed and after a bit longer, Marcy and Kendall were back. They had a great time and I was so pleased. I learned a ton about feeling like you've got more horse than you can handle, about how seriously scared Gemini gets when the herd is split, how Z doesn't trust a herd of buffalo or trains and about being sure I'm fully capable before I venture out with a pony horse. I can't be at all vulnerable and try to manage scared horses. I've got to be 100%.

Gemini demonstrated that he will eat grass very dominantly when he's nervous. He has a ton of brace that I need to correct, he has confidence issues that need to be handled, he has a lot of dominance that will really get out of hand when he's afraid. I look forward to getting him through L3 eventually. I know I'll look back on this someday, this day when he told me he didn't think staying with me was the right idea, and I'll think about how much he's changed and how I don't think he'd act that way again. We have some serious time to put in before that.

A last note, Rain is in heat. Could it be that he was especially upset with Rain leaving with another gelding? Could it also be that it was a bigger deal to him because she's in heat?

I'd like to take Z back there again... alone. We have some things to work through as well.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Finesse with Z

Had a fantastic ride on my mare today. I bugged out of work (which is killing my horse development plans!) in the afternoon and took a couple hours to practice some L3 Finesse things. I even prepared a list and carried it in my pocket.

My ankle was angry. I can't really put my foot in the stirrup and that makes cantering a little tough. However, we were able to practice moving the hind in the opposite direction of her head. We practiced transitions, figure 8's at the canter, simple lead changes, sideways from the ground from barrel to barrel, and after all of that in the arena, we took a short trail ride.

I needed it. I still have more healing to do, but it was worth it.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Better Hooves

My "hoof care coach" came by to check out my work today. She gave me some good feedback and said if she hadn't come to check out my work, my horses would be fine with what I'm doing. HOWEVER, I need to get into more advanced bar trimming and understanding how to influence growth to get beautiful hooves growing.

All the horses had too much bar. We covered knife usage and getting the bar correct. Rain has a very steep inner wall and we talked about what I can do to influence more correct growth. For her, I'll work on helping the inner wall expand. How? Crap, I forget. I'll email Gail.

Gemini has the most amount of overgrown bar, really wrapping around the apex. He also has some concavity developing and I have to promote that with great bar maintenance.

Rain's toes were long in the hinds. I learned how to use my nippers to nip the toe and how to create the mustang roll with nippers.

Z has pancake hinds and we talked about the coffin bone placement and how important it is for Z's hind toes to never get long. There's a confirmation problem with her that has not been diagnosed, but her hind feet are saying something is wrong.

A good visit and I'm learning and getting better at natural hoof trimming.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

L3 Liberty - Not so much!

OK - today, my great friend Jen came over to help me get Liberty on tape. She gave me some good feedback. Z hates the L3 Liberty Assessment. I'm too intense and Z doesn't want to play with me anymore at Liberty. I knew this, but hearing it makes it more real. I realize that the Parelli program is changing it's assessment methods for a reason. I'm a perfect example of a flawed assessment methodology. I've worked hard and I've tried to play well, but at the end of the day, I can't figure out how to not make it about the tasks once the video camera turns on. It's a tough thing.

We looked at some older attempts I made at Liberty and decided I should just send those in. If they don't pass, I'll go for the new assessment and audition. I'll have to get creative, but maybe it'll be the best thing that could happen to my partnership with my horse.

Z's a tough gal. She's got lots of opinions and is very quick to tell me I suck. For a moment, I considered starting over with Gemini. I realized I can't run from this. Z is making me better and it's a challenge I need. I'll be fine. It takes the time it takes.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Back on my horse!!

Finally. I could barely mount with my ankle, but it felt so great to be back on her after a week laid up with an ankle sprain. Kendall rode Rain, also. I couldn't put my foot in the stirrup, but I was able to ride around and do a few things. Made my day.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Remembering Dome Rock with Kendall

Today, I touched base with a friend from my trail riding group and got some pics from our camping trip and trail riding in September. Grateful for these great pics!! Thanks, Kathy!!

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Zarah for transportation

I'm helping a neighbor start her horse and I've been riding Z over for the sessions. It's great to ride her over, let her rest in a new place, then get back on and go home. She does so well and she comes up to me willingly and even enthusiastically when it's time to leave. Today, because I've been riding much less than normal, I had to start out with 15 mins of "let's get some harmony". We did lots of transitions, figure 8's and snakey bends by the barn until it seemed that she was thinking about me and "us" and not the herd or the barn. Then we cantered off w/o emotion.

This session with my neighbors horse didn't work out so great for me. I landed on my ankle wrong while playing with mounting energy and getting the horse used to it. I sprained it badly and even had a moment of nausea and dizziness. It was stupid and clumsy and I could just kick myself. The horse was doing amazingly well with the 7 games and then with saddling and mounting prior to my ankle sprain.

I finished up with the horse and hobbled over to mount Z and get my injured self home. She's so well prepared to be what I need her to be. I managed to get my butt on the fence rail, asked her to sidle over close to me, then clumsily mounted with one leg completely useless.

We slowly made our way home. A few times she thought trotting was a better idea and although I always prefer to move faster, the bouncing made my ankle angry. She came right back to a walk for me and then stopped trying. We have a spot where I normally let her eat grass. We stopped for a moment and she grabbed a few bites, but I had to get home. Another person was coming to my house for some coaching and the ankle incident had us running late.

I gave coaching for 2 hours from Z's back once we got home. My horse was so great! She was patient and calm and listening. I was able to demo some things with her to show what things look like when they're working well, like sideways or 7 games with an obstacle. My horse rocks.