Sunday, May 10, 2009

Playing with the Geldings

Had a great day with the geldings! I spend so much time with Z and Rain lately - Z as we finish L3 and Rain because she's Kendall's mount and just an all-around fantastic horse. I leased Gemini out for a month or two, but it didn't work out so now he's back in my development program. I have Cowboy and I'm working on helping him be more productive in the human world. He's a great horse, a nice mover, but he's pretty dominant and can easily get his own idea about things. For him, my main goal is to eliminate the brace.

Gemini now lives in a run/stall. I learned recently that when I put Gemini away for a week, all bite marks ceased. All this time, the only horse actually leaving marks on other horses was Gemini! I thought they were biting each other all this time. Wow! So, obviously he's not the benevolent leader I thought and he needs some time alone. It's fine, I'll play with him and develop him and he can live in the large run/stall until I can turn him out in one of the pastures (after the spring grass growth). He's fine and all the horses look better w/o bite marks. :-)

I put him in the arena so he could run and roll as hard as he wanted. He tore off bucking and farting, rolled wildly, then ran some more. He looked awesome. Then he hung out eating the grass growing around the arena's edge and I went for Cowboy. I haven't spent much time with Cowboy lately and he does well whenever we play. I want to help him overcome the brace and I want to help him feel comfortable with humans. He's doing quite well and his displacement behavior is more mild all the time. When he starts to get concerned and "swallows his tongue", I offer him a treat. He's so food motivated, that he snaps right out of his shell!! I groomed him for a while, tacked him up and then we played on the 22'. We now have a nice figure 8 pattern and he's not feeling threatened from the squeeze in the figure 8. He really wanted to eat grass, so we had to have some "discussion" about that. He's welcome to eat grass - but if I ask for something, he'd better pay attention because Phase 4 will come. He figured that out darn quick.

I hopped on and we went around at all gaits. He tried to eat grass and again, I tried to make it clear that it's his choice. What was funny to me was that he would go to eat grass, I would ask for forward and when he decided eating grass was better, I instituted phase 4 by reaching around and spanking his rump. The first time, he was startled and when back to work. The second time, less startled but he went back to to work. The third time, he actually lifted his rump in defiance before going back to work! I had to giggle. The fourth time, he showed defiance, but much more mild. The fifth time, he responded to phase 1 - he didn't move forward but he responded. That time, however, when I raised my arm to phase 4 his rump, he moved out and went back to work! So, I'd call that a phase 2/3. In short order, we had established some rules of engagement. It's his choice to eat grass while I'm asking him for something, but it will have a consequence. I learned some things about him and I believe he learned some things about me. I thought about going in to the arena so that grass wouldn't be such a challenge for our progress and I decided not to. This is one of Cowboy's challenges and it was appropriate to go through these motions so he could figure it out. I have expectations and I respect him enough to let him make the choice. I'm clear and precise in my ask and he has a job to do. By the end, we were doing beautiful trot/canter transitions, figure 8's in the green grass, sidepassing and absolutely no tongue swallowing. He had gotten with the program fairly quickly and I found the perfect place to quit. I'm so much better at making good use of time with the horses - I know he'll be better next time we play. He'll soak on that and so will I.

Then, I wanted to get back to Gemini for some groundwork. Gemini is a fantastic horse for groundwork - he wants to please but he can show some great exhuberance that makes it so much fun! We worked on sideways, lead from Zone 3 (first time for us), change of direction at the trot, maintain gait on the circle, figure 8 (beautifully done by Gem!), and some transitions on the circle. He was having fun and was so locked on to me. Whatever I asked him for, he gave it a hearty try. I was so pleased with him. I am thinking to stay off his back for a while and just get our relationship stronger and his groundwork excellent. Then, I really think he's a restart at this point. His bucking response is alive and well and the 4-6 weeks as a lease horse only reinforced it. I'm going to take him back to L1 riding and get everything solid once we get good strong L3 groundskills going. I think it's a good plan and I'll be spending good time with him this summer. I really love that horse.

I couldn't decide, after Gemini, if I wanted to play with anyone else. I've been reading a book about the Power of Now and starting to think about quieting my mind and finding time to sort of meditate. My mind is overly active and I rarely quiet it and simply enjoy the moment - the details of the moment, really living in the moment. I decided to try to do that with the horses.

The dogs are always with me. I enjoy the dogs, but they can be quite annoying with the horses. UDT can be tough with the dogs. So, I decided to take a chair and sit in a run with the gate closed. This way, the dogs could hang out, I'd be with the horses but not touching them, and I could try to explore the Power of Now. Nina, bless her cute soul, was just aching to be close to me. She was pawing the ground, reaching her feet through the panels, pushing the panels with her chest - she wanted to be closer to me. I scooted my chair closer to the rail and rubbed her face. Ahhh - she felt better and closed her eyes in total relaxation. Zarah did something super surprising. She stood at the gate to the run, looking at me through the gate, ears perked forward towards me. She wanted to come into the run and be with me. Wow! Z and I have really reached a new place.

All the horses had appeared from wherever they were when I setup camp in that run. Rain wanted to be close, but Nina had chased her away. She stood as close as she was comfortable and took a nap. Cowboy wasn't interested in my presence, nor was Abby. But Nina demanded closeness and Z asked politely, can't I come in?

I got up, opened the gate, Z walked in with ease, I closed the gate behind her and went back to my chair. This was upsetting for the dogs, but oh well. Z came over immediately and hung her head over me. She got as close as possible and just hung there. Wow - what a wonderful thing to have a horse feel that way about you, a predator, a human who's often asking for difficult maneuvers. She hung out with me for quite a while, until I had to go in and get back to life. I focused on living in the moment - hearing her breath, focusing on the areas I scratched that made her feel the best, managing Nina's demands for touch all the while, watching Z just feel comfortable and relaxed in my presence. It was maybe one of the most rewarding moments of my horse experiences. I've won Z over. I owe it to Parelli and to my tremendous desire to get to this point. Just an amazing moment. I've achieved something great and anything else I accomplish with Z is icing.

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