Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Simple. Basic. Crooked and Wonderful!

   Blaze has done very little in the way of Online play. I warm her up online purely for the physical benifits (being an 18 year old ex endurance horse it just makes sense!) and so she only knows enough to loosen her joints, stretch those muscel and encourage her to step out nice and long. In the past 8 years iv had her i cant recall a single time she has gone Right Brain and she is always so willing out on rides iv never felt the need to play with her prior to riding becuase she is already safe, ridable and responsive. We usualy just yield the hindquaters to help supple up her rib cage, trot on the circle untill she stretches down with her neck and out with her legs and then ask for a canter to help loosen her up and get the blood pumping. Perhaps the odd jump here and there but nothing compared to the amount of principles, responsibilities, games and pattern the others know. I know that i didnt need to play with her inorder to achieve a Left Brain, responsive horse, thats her by nature, but what i did want to do was to play with her so as hopefully we could achieve the rarity of actually getting her to engage with me. I wanted to begin teaching the building blocks that would enable her to share idea's and ask question and allow myself the chance to set up conversations and observe the response.

   Iv always described Blaze as a willing Left Brain Introvert that is quite happy to move her feet, infact she often favours the faster gear when out on a ride and i still think that is a fairly accurate description but today it was obvious that she was going to have to move her feet before i had any chance of gaining her attention and getting her to focus. She wasn't bouncing off the walls by no means and she wasn't fidgeting on the spot but at the moment every movement of my body and the stick meant move your feet and so i took her idea, backed her up a few steps by wiggling the rope which at the moment seemed to mean yield the front and send put i upped my phase to correct and retreated when she responded correctly and after a few crooked steps i sent her to the right and allowed her to circle. She trotted around quite happily and to ensure that mentally she remained somewhat present (trotting is her gait, she's most comfortable in trott and so tends to switch off) we moved over to a line of obstacles which presented the choice of squeezing above or between; 3 barrels, a tyre and 2 cones. It worked like a charm. I remained in neutral and everytime she was presented with the obstacles there were so many choices she could make and there was no suggestion from me it was  completely up to her to think her way past them, she even stopped a couple of times to access what to do. Soon enough she began licking her lips and i felt that becuase she was now actually thinking rather than assuming everything i did meant trot she might actualy stop and think about what it is i am asking her do so we begin going through the 7 games.
   Game one, Friendly Game. I swung the rope over her back and whilst she remained Left Brain she still moved around trying to find the correct answer. She tried trotting out on the circle but i knew she would switch off if i continued friendly game on the circle and becuase she never looks at me directly (this is one of the main things i want to work on, it isnt so much that she is confident and feels the need to aviod any pressure by looking away, its more she is just disinteretsed) if i walked backwards allowing her to move her feet i know she would again just switch off and end up walking to the left of me and we'd end up circling only this time with me walking backwards in her zone 1. Instead when ever she moved her feet i threw a loop down the line and asked for just a single step backwards, a kind of correction for the step she had taken. It wasn't a case that she needed to move her feet in order to think, instead she was just trying to find the right answer, trying to find out what it was i was asking and so was offering the first thing that came into her head- moving. Whilst continuing to throw the stick and string over her back she ended up moving her feet backwards forwards left and right, each time i threw a loop down the line and then allowed her to try something else and then she quite moving her feet and just stood there, bingo! I rewarded by returning to a neutral position (i know when playing friendly you should already be in neutral but i had to come out of it in order to correct) and continued to throw the stick and string over her then quit. We repeated on both sides.
   I decided to skip game 2, her Porcupine Game is normally pretty good and i find it is easier for the horse to drop there head and eat when playing game 2 compared to game 3 so we straight to the Driving Game. Whilst yielding her hind is something we do when warming up normally it's only a step or two, never enough to make her change eyes. Being a Left Brain horse and this being something we have the beginings of i began driving the hind quaters. As you'd expect there was a good few pacy circles before she yielded and changed eyes, now looking at me with her left eye, no longer her right. Whilst getting her to yeild to the point where she swopped eyes took a fairly long time it didnt take long for her to learn the phases and become resposive to phase one, soon enough she was yielding a step or two with just me bending at the hips! Again we repeated both sides, they weren't magical but instead of running in tight circle she was now starting swing her butt round and my phase one was being effective. Pretty good start. We moved on to the forequaters and supprisingly she found his very easy, yielding at just a phase one, however, there were a couple of things that needed extra attention. I noticed she was anticipating the command and so we spend lots of time rubbing her face with the stick before and after driving the forequarters so she didnt assume that the stick meant move you feet! And secondly when she moved her forequaters over i had to ask for a step backwards so as she accosiated yielding the front end with a backwards motion as she was begining to yield less and step forwards. After these few tweeks her driving the forequaters over looked great. I drove her bakwards, no real problems there and so we moved onto Game four; Yoyo Game.
   We do this a fair bit and so i wasnt supprised when she responded appropriatly with a back up. We spend the next few minuets jumbling up the 3 games, switching from driving to friendly with some yoyo thrown in and some porcupine on the nose (which she did great with, as usual) to back her up so i could yoyo her out futher. She licked her lips a few times and i could see her taking more notice of my energy and body language so as to work out if i was asking her to move or relax.
   Game 5, the Circling Game. I wanted to focus on defining the 3 parts of this game.  The send. I  backed her up and asked her to stay there before i sent her which as i suspected, she wasn't expecting and she tried to begin circling, i corrected with a loop down the line and she backed up a step and waited. The allow. I then sent her to the right, took up a neutral position, and allowed her to circle. Now the part i new would be needing the most work because it would involve her having to engage with me head on. The bring back. I asked her to disengage her hind and helped her by wiggling the rope a little, she stopped and began to yield but as i was expecting in order for her to yield to the point she'd swop eyes and face me i ended up a long way down the line, practically next to her, holding her zone one still whilst i asked the hind to yield. We repeated this and she did improve, she even walked the most direct line to me she has ever when i disengaged her and drew her back to the centre, again it wasnt magical but it sure was progress! Slowly but surly she was begining to think about seperating her body into the five zones and moving each one independantly rather than respoding in usual wooded fashion where it looks like her body is one solid block.
   We ran threw the 5 Games, jumpled them up, went back to things she was good at etc. Whilst we had gone threw things she has done before, for the first time we had gone through them in student/ teacher mode, actually teaching her the games step by step rather than just myself using them as tools to move her feet- a very one sided conversation!  She did well and seemed to have picked enough up that maybe we could turn it into a conversation.  
   Bearing in mind that she seemed to be in a "want to move my feet" mood i decided to use the circling game as the primary tool to help evoke some mental engagment. Sent her and allowed her to circle at a walk. I decided to ask for a transition at the barrels, so when she got there i came out of neutral and asked for the trot which she did, when she past the barrel again i used the yoyo game to ask for a walk. We repeated and the transitions down became just as smooth as the transitions up. Then i added in 2 more gates, halt and canter and she did really well. She was licking and chewing and becoming more and more responsive so when she past the barrels i came out of neutral as to gain attention but i didnt asked anything, i just observed, wondering what she might do. She transitioned down! Eeek i was so happy, she was actually thinking about what we were doing and made the choice to change gait. It may not sound like much to you but online Blaze can be so robotic unless she gets to go whizzing around at the canter so for her to actually be thinking about what we're doing, put forward her own idea's and share something she had thought off is brilliant! I went back to neurtral whilst she circled and did the same thing when she passed the barrels and she transitioned up into a trot! Game Over!!!!! I disengaged and we stayed at the centre of the circle, lots of face rubs, she lowered her head like always and let me scratch her ears and we enjoyed each others company reflecting on the great session we just had. Simple, basic, crooked, and wonderful!

A Family Fun Ride

   Blaze, Shinobi and Piggles got to go for a trail ride all together today when the younger sister supprised me and asked if she and her other half could come over for a ride. The boys have been making so much progress under saddle recently i thought it would be great fun for all 3 humans and ponies. Charlie used to ride years ago but her other half Matt had never been on a horses before so this could be interesting i thought!
   We brought the horses in and i tacked them up. Shinobi was seeming slightly more introverted that usual so i spend a fairly long time tacking him up. Plenty of approach and retreat. He allowed me to place the saddle on him without any issues but we played around with cinching untill he relaxed and i spend about 5/ 10 minuets putting the rope hackamore halter thingy on. His eyes were glazed over and he was nt really 'here', i asked him to yield to the halter and bring his nose to me so as i could slip it on but he just remained braced. I waited patiently and then waited some more to see if he'd snap out of it but he was nt so i thought id give him a helping hand and asked to back up by tapping his chest knowing that he would nt be able to brace against the rythmical pressure and that by getting him to move his feet he'd begin to use the left side of his brain and begin to think. He stepped backwards and began to lick his lips, i waited and he began blinking. Cudos to my sister and her boyfriend for waiting so patiently! Shinobi was then able to yield to the halter and bring his nose to me so i could put it on. I took him out into the field to get him moving his feet freely and confidently which he did pretty immediately. A few circles, figure of 8's, falling leaf and S patterns later and he was moving around nicely.
   I tacked up Blaze and Piggles with no problems. Took Piggles out in the field to play with for a few minuets, just to make sure he was relaxed and thinking. He moved around nicely and looked ridable straight off the bat so we called it quites. We're ready! Charlie jumped on Blaze and Matt got on Shinobi, i mounted Piggles and asked him to walk on could feel a few difiant bucks building in the little monster. I said to Matt and Charlie "Take a walk around the field for a few minuets to get a feel for the horses i just need to play with Piggles as i think he might start bucking" I did the usual (iv explained the whys to this method in a previous post) backed him up, bent the ribcage and did some transitions, asked him again to walk on and he responded appropriately and happily walked through the gate, Charlie followed but no Matt.. Shinobi has got his fat head down and he's happy stuffing his face whilst Mat is pulling and flapping like a chicken but it was making no difference. Dont you just love those LBI's! So i asked Mat and Charlie to swop ponies, seeing as Charlie used to ride i thought she would be able to correct his behaviour because she did nt need to concentrate on the riding bit. Well Shinobi would nt even let her get on! He kept wondering off from the mountain block to go get grass!!! "Great!" I thought. He was making so much progress dont tell me it was all a coincidence and actually he has made little improvement. Me and Charlie swopped ponies! Matt is now on Blaze, Charlie on Piggles and me on Shinobi. I took him to the mounting block and yes, he began trying to eat, throwing big loops down the reins to lift his head i spent the next few minuets working on getting him to yield to halter and soften instead of bracing all the time. Getting him to lift his head and getting him to keep his head lifted. Eventaully we began to build some respect and he began to respond. He stood quietly and allowed me to mount.
   Right NOW we're ready! Dispite all the bother when setting off the ride went really well and i was very proud off all 3 ponies. Me and Shinobi led the ride the entire time, he was great and it was rewarding to see that the habbit he has of snatching grass was very slight today! Piggy and Blaze followed quietly and confidently behind and both Charlie and Matt were having fun trotting along! A very safe and fun ride for all.
   It seems that Matt caught the horsey bug as he could not stop smiling and turned to my sister and said "I could get used to doing this at the weekends!" When we got home and went to put the horses back as usual me and Piggles had a little play on the way, just some sideways towards and some stick to me transitons and Matt thought it was awesome "Charlie Charlie! Your misshing this, look! Em do that again" The next thing i knew he and Blaze are trotting up the field together so i explained to him that if he cantered Blaze would do too. He and Blaze went trotting off again, he did what i had said and he began to canter and the look on his face when Blaze copied and he and her were cantering side by side. Priceless!

Monday, 25 June 2012

Setting Up Questions and Observing Answers

   Following on from the last play session with Piggles i decided to involved the tractor tyre that he volenterialy flew over. I wanted to see if i could get him really thinking, which would hopefully lead to him sharing some idea's. I sent him out on the cicrle and just as before they were beautiful, he was engaged menatly, emotionaly and physicaly then 'boom!' who put that tractor tyre in the way!? Setting it up so as it would interupt his circle i stood back and observed what he thought about it, what he was going to offer.... head down, mouth open, face stuffed with grass.... hmm not really what i had in mind Piggley Wiggley! I backed him up and resent him, he cricled and stopped at the tyre, paused then "Hiiiyah!" kararte chopped it with his foot in the usual over eager /demolish the obstacle/ look im putting my foot on it can i eat now, way. Good job! I new exactly where this was going, everytime he'd stop at the barrel he'd just offer more karate chops, each bigger than the last.
   New game. I re-sent him again only this time instead of setting it up so as the tyre interupted his pattern it was slightly out of line of his cirlce, aim? Lets build some thought and curiosity and see if i can get him to want to go over there and do something, another voluentry jump perhaps ;) With a slight wiggle and then point of the finger he backed up and trotted to the left and i returned to neutral, allowing him to circle. Coming out of neutral to gain attention, when he trotted parallel to the tyre i lifted the stick and asked for a transition down to walk, which he did, and i resumed my neutral stance. We repeated this several times. When he passed the tyre i asked for a transition either up into walk, trot or canter or a transition down to halt, walk or trot, always at the tyre. He licked and chewed and i could see that it was all begining to make sense and he began to focus more and more on the tyre "There is something about this tyre, hmm".
   I returned to neutral and allowed him to circle and i noticed that he was now begining to gravitated towards the tyre when ever he passed it. I remained in neutral and allowed him the extra drift with the rope as he drew towards it and what a suprise! He jumped it! He went out of his way to jump this mahoosive tyre! Well who would have thought! I think there is somthing in this whole natural horsemanship lark y'know! He then came trotting over all pleased with himself and i rewarded BIG with some cuddles, stroked his face and allowed him to eat. We repeated. I asked him to lift his head, backed him up, resent him and once again he drifted over to it and jumped it. Disengage. Game over. BIG rewards. What an amazing feeling and what a beautiful thing to watch, whilst stood in neutral you glance up to see your pony volentarily seek something out to jump!

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Achieve Mental, Emotional and Pyhsical Collection

  Decided to play with Piggles today, had no real plan other than to get his feet moving, heart going, and mind thinking. It was one of those 'lets see' sessions, lets see how little i can do, lets see how subtle i can be, lets see if i can get him asking questions, lets see if we can have a conversation.
   We started off with some very simple tasks like backing up through the gate, sideways away and towards. Bringing my energy way way down i tried to be as subtle in my suggestions as i possibly could, Piggles found this rather interesting and i could see the curiosity and try build in his face as he focused intently on my body language trying to work out what i was asking. It got to the point where he was backing up with just me holding tension in my upper body and leaning slightly forward with 'that look'! Like a porcupine game with focus.
   We've managed to improve our sideways towards to a similar standard, he'll sidepass towards me from about 12tf away just by me raising my hand in the air in his zone 3.... cool! However being a Left Brain horse its no supprise he enjoys bending his ribcage towards me, and iv noticed that when i ask him to do this in order for me to mount he then bucks when ever i squeeze and ask him to go forwards... hmmm how interesting. I pulled 3 arrows from my savvy quiver; 1. Its a great deal harder for him to brace against rhythmical pressure so i shall ask him to back up by rasinging and dropping my feet on his shoulder... sure enough he began responding appropriately and backed up nicely. 2. Bend his ridcage. He scored some dominance points on the ground my bending his ribs towards me and sidepassing over so now i will gain some dominance points of my own by pushing oh his ribcage with my leg and asking for sidepasses both ways, again he responded appropriately and i could dictate the amount of steps sidepassed to each side, stepping left then right in fairly quick succession. 3. The million transition technique. Gaining further dominance points by taking control of the feet and asking for several different transitions. Back up, halt, forwards, back up, forwards, halt etc just for a couple of steps untill they were soft yet snappy. Okay, now lets try, asked him to walk on using the same squeeze as before only now my phases were a lot more effective and he happily yeilded to the pressure and walked on nicely..... i love this whole horse psychology stuff... it works!
   Back to the session at hand. We went on to play with some circling and he blew me away. He offered a canter and they were probably the best circles he has ever done. We achieved Pat Parelli's meaning of impulsion; mental, emotional and physical collection. Piggles was so relaxed, his strides where long and rythmical, his body was soft, his inside eye and ear fixed on me and all that slack in the rope. It made me go all goey inside. I could barely believe he was the same horse, i remember the times where finding relaxation in the canter was incredibley difficult for him, his nose was always tipped to the outside, short, rushed and unbalanced strides and he would hold tension in his body the whole time. To see it now such a peacful, relaxed and enjoyable thing to do, so much so he wants to and offers to do it is truely heart warming.
   Allowing him to have a breather i came out of nuetral and asked for a transiotion down and his trot was just as gorgeous. He carried himself beautifuly, rounded back, neck arched but still relaxed, strides were high, he just floated across the ground. His flying lead changed were effortless. He has a tendency to rush when changing direction so he looses his rythem and the lead changes can be a little squiffy but today he maintain rhythem and relaxation the entire time.
   Seeing as he was so incredibly relaxed and was enjoying stretching his legs i thought 'lets go somewhere' and so we did some traveling circles up and down the field. He continued to canter round with heaps of slack in the rope and then he did something that was completely unexpected yet mind blowing at the same time, he launched himself into the air and jumped the huge tractor tyre he have in the field!!! He cleared it by miles. Game over! I disengaged him and rewarded BIG with lots of scratches and gentle head rubs. I think one of the hardest things about haveing a horse thats so low key is when they do something amazing you want to jump around in celebration, throw your arms around them smother them in big rubs, unknown to you that for your horse, one that likes relaxed calm energy, thats far from a reward. He bured his muzzel in my arms like usual and closed his eyes, cradling his head i stroked his cheeks, his forhead and over his eyes and time stopped. That kind of reward beats a pat on the neck anyday!

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

That will be the echo of Shinobi's feathery tootsies!

Arrived at the horses this morning ahead of the rain. Turning Ebony out and soaking her hay net was all the challenge I had set myself for that visit but as I was putting Ebony and the other mini's in their paddock paradise the sound of hoof steps from the road opposite struck a cord in me that i had nt felt so strongly for a while. "I'm going to ride out on Shinobi. Now!" That will be the echo of Shinobi's feathered tootsies very shortly.
I haltered him and I found myself indulging in his Left Brain Introvert frame of mind. I could nt stop myself. Whilst my movements and gestures were only subtle and projected with the lowest of energy I could tell the conversation was of interest as I watched the question and enthusiasm build in Shinobi's face.
"Bareback"... "No, western saddle"... "Hmm, riding in new environments by himself AND saddled? No. Too much"... "Fuck it. Let's do it. If it is too much it ll present with the opportunity to add more savvy arrows to my quiver" after this internal debate I dusted off his western saddle and threw it on the banister. To my delight Shinobi investigated his tack voluntarily before concluding it was nt as interesting as he first thought and so continued to eat from his hay net. I saddled him up and he remained relaxed, moving freely around his stable as if there was nothing strapped to him.
Overall the ride went just as well. As usual the first half hour was spend taking things incredibly slow allowing him to stop and think about what felt like everything in his surroundings.

"Introverts need to think before they can move their feet"

Once Shinobi had thunk untill his thinker was sore his curiosity blossomed. The farm we passed became a treasure chest of trinkets and wonder that most definitely had to be explored!
Leaving the farm behind we continued with our exploration of new worlds (we did a few new routes in the woods... same thing!) Shinobi seemed to be enjoying himself greatly and on several occasions burst into a trot, impatient to see what lay beyond the next corner.
The only problem we had today was food! Whilst his horseinality explains it, it does nt excuse it. This is now the only remainder to be addressed.

A place to illuminate my potential uncovered, my horse revealed and our dreams lived.

I'm making an attempt to start blogging again in the hope that it ll cause me to do things worth blogging about!
Due to unfortunate circumstances, since my last post, my horsemanship has taken a back seat, regrettably so has any form of ambition, determination, inspiration and enthusiasm to get it going again.
So this entry will hopefully be the first of many to help encourage me to once again walk sure footed, with a spring in my step and dreams in my heart down the path of natural horsemanship and help me rediscover my Parelli journey.
I will use this space for what ever I feel at the time. An opportunity to write constructively about play sessions, whether it be an action plan, a list of goals or area's that need improvement. Somewhere to explore lessons learnt and ponder unusual behaviour. A collage of inspirational words and images to remind me of what can happen before that happening happens. A place to illuminate my potential uncovered, my horse revealed and our dreams lived.