Tuesday, 24 July 2012

People Teach Horses and Horses Teach People. Giving a lesson in the sun

   Well! What a fun and insightful horsey day it was. Spent the beginings of the afternoon teaching and the latter part of it trail riding out in the woods in the sun.
   A friend of mine who is an experienced rider and all round horse lover mentioned that she was very interested in learning more about Parelli after seeing the Master Classes and Celebrations on Horse&Country TV and asked if i could give her a lesson with one of my horses.

YES! Of course! 

   Not only did a relish the opportunity to talk all thing natural hormanship and psychology with someone (because i am a nerd like that!) But its always such good fun and very educational for me also, as i never get the opportunity to observe my horses being played with because i am the only Parelli Student (that i know of) in Hereford. Its very insightful to be able to take a step back from the situation and obseve my horses from another perspective and also, because everyone is different, its also very insightful to see how they react and respond to someone elses energy, body language etc.
   We worked our way through the first 3 of the 7 games, talked about horseinality in its very basic form by learning how to identify an unconfident Right Brained horse and how to identify a condifent Left Brain horse, we also learnt about the 5 zones of a horse and how to apply pressure in phases.
   Starting with Game 1; Friendly. We developed an understanding of what counts as the friendly game, we developed technique, learnt about the two purposes to the game; confidence and relationship building. We learnt how read the horse and recognise whether they were confident or unconfident and then  we learnt how to best respond to the situation. We also discussed how Left Brain confident horses find the friendly game pretty easy because they're already confident compared to Right Brained un confident horses.
   We observed Piggles gaining confidence by paying attention to when he; licked his lips, blinked, lowered his head, relaxed in his face and body, when he was able to look directly at Sammi, and when he tried to eat.
   We observed when he lost confidence by paying attention to when he; became tense in his face, he stopped blinking and went all 'starry eyed', he braced his neck and his head came up a little bit, when he could nt look directly at Sammi and tried to 'leave'.
   Once horse and student were confident and happy then we wokred our was through playing friendly came in all 5 zones. Cudos to Sammi, she did great considering how difficult it is to control the bloomin' 4ft stick and 4ft string as it is without throwing a pony into the mix and having to aim for the right zone!

   We moved on to Game 2; Procupine. We developed an understanding of what the purpose of the game was, technique and how to respond appropriately to the horses response. We talked about how horses communicate with one another using rhythmical and steady pressure in order to get each other to move their feet and that the porcupine game uses steady pressure to move the horse around. We incorporated horseinality and discussed how Left Brain horses find this harder, because they're are often dominante so dont want you moving their feet, we also experienced first hand how Left Brain horses find it easier to yield their zone 4 (hindquaters) because it means they're bringing their front end towards you which is the part of their body they push into your space to move you around with, compared to how easy it is to move their forequaters over. Being a Left Brain horse Piggles demonstared this perfectly for Sammi.      
   We also remembered to impliemt what we had learnt during the friendly game inregards to reading the horse so as we could identify if he was confident or unconfident, that way we knew what to do to get the message from the brain down to the feet, whether it be increase our phases, maintain the pressure or retreat.

    Being an enthusiastic bubbly Left Brain Extrovert and Piggles an Introvert we noticed that despite playing friendly gameand rubbing on him before Sammi tried to porcuppine his forquaters over Piggles looked quite tense and soon kept moving away before she was even able to touch him. I asked Sammi to quite and take a big exhale, bring her energy way way down and just relax, now walk backwards and draw him into her, keep walking backwards untill he comes in to her, when he does stop, stand in neutral and just relax with him, rub on his face quietly and then we'll start again.
   Sammi follwed my instruction perfectly and by bringing her energy down to the same level as Piggles and retreating Piggles was able to relax and Sammi was then able to porcupine Piggles zones easy peasy. Great Job!
   As Sammi continued to practice her porcupine techinique we observed Piggles lower his head and let out 3 BIG yawns after which he sneezed and licked his lips and chewed for about 30 seconds. I asked Sammi to stop, return to friendly and observe this behaviour, pointing out that these were all signs of Piggles relasing emotional tension and over coming a mental brace which he would have built up when her energy was too high, now that she had lowered it and retreated Piggles was able to release all of his tension and then pay attention to what it was she was asking which is why her porcupine game got so much better. I also asked her return to friendly because i didnt want to interfier with this release of tension by asking him to do something else. Wait, let him lick and chew, then continue. It was a brilliant example of how important it is when working with Introverts to just be paitent, wait and do nothing, because thats just what they need. Nothing means nothing to these horses.
   Soon enough Sammi was even able to porcupine Piggles zone 3 over and the forequater yields were looking much better. We decided to end this game here, even though it didnt look perfect. I explained that if you keep teaching and teaching the same thing in one go trying to perfect it then the horse ends up looseing confidence or begins to resent and hate the task that you are doing. Either way, it can have a negative effect on your relationship.

   Finaly we moved onto Game 3; Driving Game. We pretty much followed the same pattern as when learning the previous 2 games. Discussed purpose, technique, phases and horseinality. Sammi and Piggles did a really great job and after about 20 minuets we decided to have some fun with all the stuff we had learnt by incorporating some obstacles and jumbling up all the games.

   I got out of their way and shouted out random games, random zones and a random obstacles and it was Sammi's job to use her savvy and imagination to incorporate all 3 things that i had said.
"Game 2. Zone 4. The Cone" I shouted. Sammi's face was a mixture of confusion and "your mad!" lol so i threw her a couple of suggections that i would do and things became a bit more clearer. There are no limits on creativity when it comes to our horsemanship! Sammi did a great job of yieling Piggles hindquaters over towards the cone. She lined him up (setting themselves up for sucess) with the objective of yielding so as he touched the cone. Piggles yielded and they just missed the cone but i pointed out to Sammi that it isnt about the cone! Its about your relationship and communication. Okay you missed the cone but he remained confident when he swung past it- thats friendly game! and it was a squeeze came too becuase he ended up squeezing past it, dont be disapointed, you did a good job! He listened, he tried, he gave you the right answer, and he remained confident, thats the true objective. We tried Game 2 in Zone 2 with the hoola hoop. Piggles and Sammi did the most beautiful forquater yield with the hoola hoop (looks like quiting game 2 when we did was the savvy thing to do!)
   Game over! We ended the session there and hung out with Piggles for 5, feeding him tasties out of the hedge then haltered Blaze and Shinobi for a trail ride.

   Whilst Sammi chilled out with Blaze me and Shinobi played in the field, preparing him for our trail ride. I spend just a few minuets on the ground, moving his feet round, gaining some respect (he was in LBI Let me eat! mode) Gee, i remember the day when id have to spend an hour playing with him before i could hop on and ride him. We spend a few minuets at the mounting block, getting him to fullfill his responsibilities, wait paitently and stand nicely whilst i mount instead of him throwing his head down to eat. I mounted and we did a few things. It took awhile for him to respond to my phases, but i maintained the light phase (instead of increasing it) and allowed him to think, then he moved his feet and we actaually got some really lovely canter transitions. Everything seemed to be going well so me and Sammi headed off for our ride.
   Both horses did a great job. It was a lovely ride in the blazing sun, there wasnt a single cloud in the sky. Shinobi showed both some unconfident intorverted behaviour and your typical LBI taking the mic behaviours so riding him is always interesting becuase its like riding two different horses at once! On a few occasions he plundged his head down to eat but we worked our way through it and as the ride progressed he improved and i could ride him on a very loose rein with no problems. We went for a canter and Shinobi was infront! He transitioned up beautifuly and we cantered off. After about a dozen strides he came back down to a trot and i could see he became concerened with what could lay in front of him, i asked again for the canter and he couldnt, not wouldnt! He had lost alittle bit of confidence in his environment and was going slightly introverted, soon enough the trot became a walk, but i allowed him to slow, knowing that if i said "NO!" and made him go faster it would send him really intorverted and he would stop. I matched his energy and walked in my body, once i felt him relax i asked for the canter again which he gave me, after a few strides he came back down to the trot but that was good enough for me! He tried and gave me a few strides, im not going to push him. The fact he was able to gain enough confidence to canter for a second time was a brillaint result, no matter how many strides it was for.

   Over all a very savvy, fun, insighful, enjoyable, sunny horsey day.

Friday, 20 July 2012

Sayonara Comfort Zone! Trying. Learning. Progressing.

   It dawned on my today that despite the improvement's Piggles has made in being ridden, in regards to his canter it will be a while, i think, before we have completely and totaly cracked this bucking issue he has. Simply because we have done so little Freestyle sessions and there is a great deal we need to cover in this particular Savvy. 2009 was probably the last time i was was riding Piggles regularly and by that i mean probably only once a week maximum. We managed to get some really lovely things going and eventualy worked our way up to a few bridleless rides but even then we played around very little with the canter. Its only been over the past 3 or 4 weeks that i have began riding Piggles regularly again, 1, 2 or 3 times a week. I know that when we go for a canter out on the trial rides there is a chance that he will buck because we haven't reached that level in our freestyle work where we can begin working on canter transitions, however im confident that now im riding more frequently that time will soon come.
   After thinking it over im happy to continue trying the canter out on hacks and am confident that it wont hinder our progress because he is still able to maintain relaxation. I am incredibley pleased to see that all the time, thought, effort and play that went into helping Piggles to stay relaxed and not get emotional in the canter online has payed off and that really did shine through in our play session today which i will talk more about in a moment.

   For some reason, probably because under it all Piggles is a prey animal, Piggles hit a threshold just outside the gate of his field. How interesting! Instead of taking this to heart and being offended "He thinks that little of me as a leader he is nervous just leaving the field!" I was intruiged and happy to go along with it so we played here for about 15 minuets, after which he became more confident and looking to me for leadership. Got to the field and i decided to pop him on the 45ft line. We haven't done a great deal of work with the 45ft line. We've used it to play all the 7 games and patterns like figure of 8's, weave, falling leaf and S patters, as well as sideways on the circle etc
   I guess you could say that we have "ticked the Level 3 boxs" with it but my comfort zone lies with the 22 ft line but i was determined to give something else a try because my horsemanship has become so.. just.. stale... and has been for a long long long time. I haven't watched a Parelli DVD for probably over a year, iv remained working in the same Savvies, doing the same stuff. Things have progressed with the horses but its kind of a natural progression, what could be expected when every session is based around natural horsemanship principles, its slight and often been down to the horses offering new things. Doing the same things, in the same savvies with the same tools is where my comfort zone is at, and comfort to me is everything going right and feeling compitent! If things dont go right, which is what usualy happens when you learn and teach new things, i feel so useless as a horsewoman. I feel like a failure and that i dont know anything. If things aren't going to plan, going right, going smoothly, if things start to go a little wrong then i beat my self up so much.
   By staying in the same place iv forgotten how much fun horsemanship is, how much fun learning is, how much fun working through problems is, and how great you feel about yourself when things start off wrong, and awkward, and unsightly and your able to pull yourself and your horse through that and turn it into something amazing. So that is why iv decided to give my horsemanship a huge kick start! Watching educational DVD's, Internet Video Clips, trying new things and commiting to it. Trying. Learning. Progressing. So thats why i decided to begin our session on the 45ft line!
   (Now i feel compelled to say, as a side not, to anyone with misconceptions about the Parelli Programme, it isn't the programs fault for my lack of progress. In fact, the Parelli Programme is the most progressive Natural Horsemanship Programme out there (in my opinion) you only have to look at my peers to see it! Its unreal the amount of support and educational material that is available. The lack of progress is down to me as an individual and me alone. Being a Right Brain Introvert myself it's difficult to leave your comfort zone, its safe in here! And due to circumstances in my personal life, my horsemanship has had to take a back seat (as explained in my first post for 2012)

   I didnt have much of an idea of what we were going to do, i had wanted to do some freestyle with him today so i was concious of helping shape him mind and body into a ridable horse but other than that i guess i was just going to go with the flow. To begin with he was still slightly tense but i knew how to address this, lots of drift (45ft line is looking like a good choice now!) repetition, allowing him lots of time to think, but also allowing one or two obstacles to interupt his pattern so as he had to engage the left side of is brain and actually think rather than just mindlessly trotting and cantering around. Soon enough his body and his face softened and he was reaching down low with neck and long and relaxed with his strides, instead of diengaging him i waited to see, because he was now relaxed, would he think and make a desicion? Which he did and he came running over to me.
   We played around with backing up on the 45ft line, when he got so far out he'd slow down, switch off and try to eat, your typical LBI "Ha, you cant reach me anymore so im just gunna do as i please" it did improve and our send was SO snappy, it was great. Phase one and PING! Off shoots the section C whilst still maintaining confidence and relaxation.
   When working on our back up i could feel all my insecurities come flooding back and i wanted to retreat back to my comfort zone, back to doing something we can do so well so as i look like and feel compitent, but no, i was determined to push through. It was important that i kept going, things were'nt getting worse and im improving on a new area of our horsemanship. I owe this to my horses, only by sticking to it can we progress and that is exactly what happened. Now i can retreat and relax and allow us both the time to think about what we had just learnt.
   We played around on the 45ft line for a while. Piggles had misunderstood my energy with the stick in zone 5 for SPEED UP! Not disengage and he lost some confidence here, we played around with a few different games and patterns helping him get it back;
   -We did friendly on the circle, throwing the stick and string over him whilst he maintain gait, asking for nothing but just to relax. This was easy
   -We worked on putting energy infront and behind him to ask for a transition up or down. To transition upwards i rarely had to support with the stick, pointing was enough.
   -We worked on the Falling Leaf Pattern and S Pattern, bringing in a third, similar command, asking him to disenage the hind.
  We played for about 5, 10 minuets mixing them all up. It was never an excersise to teach him the difference, we do this alot and he knows and can recognise the subtle differences in my posture and energy and response accordingly, this was more about helping him to gain back his confidence so as he could think about what i was asking him to do.
   I lost count of all the times i got caught up in the line and so did my stick, but it will never improve if we dont practice! There were a few times when playing with the S Patters and Falling Leaf than i didnt real in  the slack in the line quick enough when Piggles changed direction which led to the rope being on the outside of his body, i was very impressed with Piggles feel though becuase his immediate reaction was to follow the feel of the rope and do a rather impressive spin, this happened a few times and i rewarded by allowing him to come in to me, A- because he was trying and responding to even the subtlest of commands that he thought i was asking and B- he was still mainting his confidence even though he thought i was asking for a resend- following the usual structure of the pattern when all of a sudden there was a command he didnt expect. Sometime variety can cause him to loose confidence especialy when he isnt expceting it! We ended play with the 45ft line here. Finishing on a good note

   I took piggles down to the tackroom, tacked him up and placed him on the 22ft line, firstly because i could later tie these up as my reins for when i ride and secondly because the next part of the session would be based on precision not on learning, so i needed the tools that would best help me support Piggles, i was going to have to be "holding his hand" a little more in this part of the session.

   Went out in the field and he was already in a Left Brain confident frame of mind, perfect for learning! I wanted to help work towards improving his cantering when undersaddle. We began testing our yoyo game, how well could he shift his weight from front to back in order to come to me after backing up- pretty well it seemed, so we knocked it up a gear and moved on to walk to canter transitions on the circle. We've dont this before plenty of times when his pay drive has come up and so he's naturaly already abit springy and hot on his tootsies but it isnt something we do regularly and he was actually finding it quite difficult. Aaa ha! He was on the forehand quite a bit instead of bringing his weight over his hind and being light on the front end, this most definately needs to be addressed before he can canter undersaddle.

   I was really really REALLY proud of Piggles. When working on more intense precise things he looses confidence very easily and becomes more and more introverted, sometimes going completely Right Brain Introvert but he didn't today! He was really intune to my energy, sometimes a little too intune and would transition up from walk to trot if i wasnt completely still. I had to keep bringing him back down to the walk so as i could then ask for the canter and he remained confident even when i had to bring my energy way up and use big phases. What was most interesting was on a few occasions when he transitioned up his weight actualy came forwards and his back end came up but it wasn't like a buck at all. When they buck their feet come out, well this was more like a hop, his whole back end just came up, by about a foot, no flicking out with the hind feet like you would expect with a buck. Hmm how interesting, however he did have a LBI look about his body, tail swished ever so slightly and distateful look on his face. He bent his ribs towards me slightly which i was told by one Natural Horsemanship Instructor is a dominace thing, it's their way of 'pocking their out at you' kind of deal but after watching some of my Parelli Liberty and Horse Behaviour DVD's Linda said it's actually more a Right Brain thing, they're bracing against you and tensing so im confused as to how to read into this.
   I think the most benificial thing would be to video it and send it to a Natural Horsemanship Instructor, and Parelli Professional.
   Anyway, we repeated and slowly his weight began to come back more over the hind. We quite here and enjoyed some time togther in the center of the circle, he had stopped diving for grass now and just stood with me, peacefully, untill i gave him the cue that allowed him to eat.

   He had done so well and we had probably been play for a little over an hour so i thought i would hop and on we'll just do some very basic, easy, freestlye stuff. We havnt done freestlye for so long, and we have NEVER done a freestyle session in a saddle, this would be our first so we stuck to stuff i knew he knew but it was going to be rusty. Keeping the idea of bringing the weight over his hind in mind we did some indirect reins follwed by directed reins and walking on from them, these improved loads and were going really nicely, he was really bringing the weight back when doing the indirect reins. Then we began working on the circle with an obstacle on both sides, each marking the point where i was going to ask for a transition. We only worked with walk and trot but got it where i didnt have to use my rein, just my energy. Bareback this is something we can do so easily, its like second nature, i just hop on him in the field and off we go but its different, i feel, when in a saddle, still he got it fairly quickly so we repeated a few times, including the halt and back up which was really lovely. Some very very basic things but done well so we stopped, gave him a cuddle and still he didnt lower his head to eat untill i said it was okay. He grazed for a while then i slid off and that was us done for the day.

   Lots to think about, lots to improve on, and lots more fun to be had. What made it such a lovely play session was we managed to pull through the confusion, awkwardness, big correcting phases and come out of it doing some really lovely stuff, really soft, subtle and flowing and establishing a really strong connection. Was really really wonderful.

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

The Herd Is Turned Loose And Its Tea Time!

This is a short video of Tea Time with the Davis Herd. It isn't perfect, usualy they stand back and only approach the bucket wheniv put it on the floor and walked away but there are some things to bare in mind whilst watching;
  • Half of them are EXTREMELY food orientated, the other 3 are food obsessed on a normal level!
  • This is only the seond time i have fed all 6 togther, whilst all 6 are turned loose.
  • Apart from the day before they haven't been fed hard feed for 3 weeks.... I was expecting to get mauled lol!
  • They all vary is levels of dominance. I have mixture of very dominant, dominant and only 2 are passive! They're dominance is intensified in the presence of food and sometimes they will bite and kick one another over food. 
Happy watching!

Buck! Relaxed And Intriguied At The Untold Extent Of My Horses Athleticism

   Well! It is not very often that i say this BUT... im actually, kinda, a little bit proud of myself! Proud that i managed to maintain emotional fitness when my horse could not. Proud that i was able to stay left brain when my horse got high on adrenaline, so much so that even when i was being repeatidly pinged in the air by a string of never ending bucks i was busy thinking hmm how interesting, i wonder why he's doing this? I wonder what i could do to cause him to stop? Proud that i was able to impliment a couple of different stratagise (for most of which i dont actually think i was in the saddle, lol!)  whilst maintaining my balance. Proud of the way that i responded to my ponies outburst knowing that it marks a huge milestone in my confidence and compitence as a rider. Proud that my ponies are the reason that, today, i can say, without and ounce of doubt or non belief, I am proud of myself! 

   So me and Piggles are accompanying a friend on a trail ride. We warm up on line. Once again he was so soft, willing, confident and relaxed straight from the off. Circling beautifuly, moving wonderfuly, listening, asking, sidepassing, jumping effortlessly, i got that gooey feeling inside. That feeling you get when your just seems to float across the ground and melt into different gaits. Loooooovely. I disengaged and we spend some quiet time together, he rested his head on my arm as usual, burying his face in my chest, his eyes half closed as i gently stroked his face. Aahh the best cuddles in the entire workd. By far! We mozied down to the tack room and i tack him up, he even tried to follow me when i left to go and unlock the gate and when he came to end of the line he looked so sad, "Dont leave me! Let me come too!" Incredibley adorable yet heart aching at the same time (i dont like the idea that he thinks im preventing him from following me, id love for him to do that and am incredibely humbled that he wants to!)  "Im not going anywhere" i promised and watched him watching me intentily to see where i was going. 

   The ride was lovely, he was doing really well. He remained calm when the horse infront got further away, he didn't panic and try to catch up. We may have been behind but i was concious to get across that he wasn't following the horse infront but following my direction, which i think he understood, he wasn't mimicing the horse infront for example he continued to walk when the horse infront began to trot, and he was fairly easy to direct when i asked him to weave between tree's and divate from the path that the horse infront was following. Piggles even led the ride at one point, down a narrow path and he was confident and curious, dispite the confined space and the fact he was now infront. He didn't dive for grass very often and when he did it didn't take all my strength to pull up that grass stuffed chops! Infact on a few occasions he lifted his head with my phase one- a smootchie noise.

   Im not going to assume because that goes against one of the principles of my horsemanship; Make and Teach NO assumptions. So instead im going to imagine that a few of you are wondering when is it i actually get to experpience the untold extend of my horses athleticism, infact is it even Piggles who gives me a 2 minuets crash course in Rodeo. Well in a word, Yes! It was Piggles that had himself a bucking fit and here are the befores, durings and afters.

   So me and Ann Marie reach a long winding hill which we always canter up so it felt rude to just walk on past it! I had never cantered Piggles up here before but his cantering has improved, bucking either only once or,most of the time not at all, so i thought yeah why not! Even if it didnt go smoothly i felt confident to tackle what ever situation he threw at me safely. Royal in front, Piggles behind. Problem number Uno. Piggles found it quite hard to transition upwards into the canter. My focus point was high so as to shift my weight back ever so slightly, giving all the power to the hindquaters and allowing his forequaters to become light. Doing in my body what i wanted him to do in his. Squeezed with my legs, brought my energy up and cantered in my body but instead he just did a really fast trot (he's 13hh, its hard enough to sit to his trot let alone when it a 30 mph one!) I stopped squeezing, brought my energy down and shortened my reins so as to help slow him down hoping that it would help make the transition easier, but he wouldn't slow down, by this point Royal was already cantering. So i thought, ill let him sort it and just make sure i dont get in his way. So i relaeased all contact with the reins and continued to squeeze a little untill he popped into the canter, which is when the bucking commenced. 

Buck. Buck. Buck. Buck. Buck. Buck. Buck. Buck. Buck. BUCK. Get the idea? He was bucking every stride and i was quite taken back by this little out burst! 

   Now it's difficult to tell whether when he was trotting quickly if he was going Right Brain or did he remain Left Brain. Speed normaly indicates Right Brain so perhaps it was. I didnt feel him tense up though, and although Royal was cantering he was still very close infront as he was mainting a nice collected canter so im unsure what could have triggered this Right Brain response. It wasn't fear of being left behind, i doubt very much it was the change in environment because we had been doing unfamiliar routes the whole ride and he had remained completely Left Brain and confident. Was it actually Left Brain Extroversion? His adreniline came up and he just wanted to go but i had asked him to slow in order to transition up. I would have thought that if they were Left Brain Extrovert bucks then the front end would have come up first followed by the back end, what Linda Parelli calls "Riding the Dolphin" but because we were on an incline maybe he was unable to bring the front end up. These bucks were unlike the ones Piggles usualy does. They have very little oomph, kinda more flicky or small hops but these bucks were really prepelling me forwards, i was being flung forwards with far more energy than his bucks usualy muster. Hmmm how interesting. 

   Whilst he was bucking i had gathered up some of the contact i had dropped when i asked for the transition, and pretty much all the above was running through my head whilst he bucked bucked bucked away. It was like i kinda tuned out "That very nice dear, you do that and ill just have a think about it" kind of situation. I can remember conciously thinking to myself, is your weight in the right place? And actively trying to shift it backwards. Would my posture and balance be helped if i took my feet out of the stirrups? (After riding barback for the past... iv lost count of the years, iv slowly tranfered to saddles but still 99% of the time dont use stirrups i find i have better balance in a bareback pad and with no stirrups!) So whilst he was still bucking i placing my feet in and out of the stirrups. After about a minuet of canter, buck, canter, buck. I brought him back to a walk and he wasnt jigging on the spot or anything. Considering the diplay he had just put on he seemed relatively calm and stood whilst i popped my feet back in the stirrups. 
   I released all contact with the reins again thinking if he wants to go then we will GO! Focus point high, sat deep on my balance point, squeezed and he went! We had a couple of bucks but i continued to squeeze asking for faster and we went zooming up the hill with not. one. single. tiny. buck! How interesting!? Perhaps it was a Left Brain Extrovert tantrum and he had so much adreneline and energy he just didnt know how to use it, but wanted to goooo!

   Once we reached the top he was blowing like iv never heard him before (he is rather portly bless him, he isnt called Mr Piggles for nothing! Plus that is fasted i have ever ridden him!) and so we stopped for a couple of minuets and i reflected on what had just happened.
   I remember, not too long ago, sitting on Piggles in the field and feeling incredibley anxious. Sitting on him and dismounting after a few minuets was the extent of my ridden work. Working towards the idea of sitting on him not sending over me a wave of worry, let alone actually sitting on him confidently. As we progressed i remember when he would do the typical Left Brain Introvert "No, i dont want do, humph" little flicky bucks at the walk, trot or canter and i would get off immediately, only mounting again after the anxiety had left and only to go for a short walk, and here i am today, mainting emotional fitness, confidence and a left brain state of mind through the BIGGEST bucking fit i have ever sat to! I came away from that experience intrigued and relaxed. It highlighted just how far my confidence has come in regards to riding my little, sharp, quick, can be spooky, can be difiant Welsh Section C as well as my ability to maintain my balance. Now im not saying that im now the next best rider to Chris Cox. Hell No. Infact i can garentee that you are a better rider than me but it made me see just how much i have progressed. How exciting! Just have to wait fot the rain to stop so me and Piggles can go for round two and hopefully, i ll have a better undertsanding of what is going on and how i can fix it.

Monday, 16 July 2012

Looking Past The Rain To See The Rainbow

   Learnt a huge lesson today. Never loose faith in your horsemanship! When things look bleak and everything seems to be going wrong, all your progress seems like a dream and in reality your still standing back on square one. Stop! And remember that these dark clouds never bring rain, they bring a rainbow!

...I shall explain...

   I was taking Shinobi out for a trail ride. For the past few days Piggles and Blaze are the two that have been out and about, even Kocoum had been out, ponied along with Blaze leaving Shinobi behind, sulking in the field. Everytime i went to the gate with the halter in hand he looked so enthusiastic "Ooh! My turn?" and would follow me whilst i went and got the other pony. When i left the field with someone else he hung round the gate look very sorry for himself so he was priority for this particular afternoon. 
   I went over with the halter and he stuck his nose in it. Walking from the field to the tack room i did the usual; allowed him to eat but when i put a feel on the rope it was his job to yield, in this case, stop eating, lift your head and follow the feeling of the rope. It looks like this;
-Shinobi stands eating and i continue to walk
-I slowly close my hands on the rope 
-When he feels this he stops eating, lifts his head and trots past me
-Putting all the slack back in the rope he can then stop and eat untill i pass him and again put a feel on the rope.
If he doesn't yield to the feel i put on the rope then i swing round and 'tag' his tail with the stick and string. Turning it into a game. 
"Dont make me pick up the stick!"

   It means that he gets to graze but i dont get pulled around. You have to pick your battles with Shinobi and leading him down the field without allowing him to graze is possible but it doesn't place you very high in his good books and if your not carful it can turn into a fight. This way he gets what he wants- food, but i am still very much in control and aren't being dominated by being pulled around. He can eat but he has to stop and move out the way pretty quick when I put a feel on the rope.
   We got to the tack room and i began tacking him up, he did well in the respect that he didnt go Right Brain Introvert. I popped the saddle on and cinched him up and he was blinking, looking around, ears flicking and just generaly relaxed. He was your typical *blows a raspberry* Left Brain Intorvert that insisted on wondering off instead of acting like a partner and standing still for me to tack him up. So every which way he tried to wonder i moved him in the opposite direction twice the number of step using the porcupine game. He was actually really easy to move around, yielding not bracing and he soon worked out that he might as well stand still because if he doesn't he only has to move twice as much. (This is why i love working with Left Brain Introverts! Everything is a game)
   I was going to hack out with a yard friend and her horse who were nearly ready so i didnt have much time to play online with him first. Spent literally only about 2 minuets moving him round, driving the forquarters over and backing him up and asking his to squeeze between narrow gaps. With little time to play i had to choose the games wisely so i picked the ones that affirm my dominants considering the mood he was in. We had to spend some time on the squueze game because in true Left Brain Introvert style he would instead come into my space and bend his ribs towards me so we repeated and everytime i kept driving his ribs over. It wasn't as good as id have liked to have gotten it but i was conscious that id keep my friend waiting if i played any longer, after all i still had to mount!
   Took him the mounting block and as usual he tried to stick his head down to eat so bumped the rein and to my surprise he lifted it and waited for me to mount. Usualy we have to spend about 5 minuets mounting getting him to wait patiently whilst i mount rather than just eating, but today was the quickest it took to mount. Lovely.

...The the dark clouds came...

   Squeezed with my legs and brought my energy up asking for a walk. Nothing. I intensified by phases and got all the way to phase four flicking the reins over each side flicking his sides. Nothing. So i persisited and made my phase four even bigger. BUCK! and backed up. I persisted and he then took a step forward so i quite but didnt allow him to eat. Asked again starting at phase one and again got all the way to phase 4. BUCK! and backed up, again i persisted and he took a step forwards. Rewarded by quiting then asked again only his time i got  BUCK! The biggest buck has ever done! 
   At this point is just wanted to cry. I thought things were going so well, we were improving so much, the days where i could nt ride him were long gone, or so i thought! Everything i'v done was wrong, it hasn't worked. What an idiot i am, i thought. 
   But instead of crying i matched his energy and persisted still till he then walked on through the gate into the woods, i quite and just 'walked in my body' with him and the little bugger actually started trotting! It truely is all a game to these guys! 
   We ended up playing games pretty much all the way round in the form of a million transisions. He was in the same dominant frame of mind out on the ride so i began asking for a trot then a walk and then halt then walk then halt and then trot etc and soon enough he became softer, more responisive and less difiant. The ride went pretty well after that.

   We got back and instead of untacking him i decided to ride him out into the field and continue to play around. Whilst he had improved greatly over the ride i still wasn't convinced we were 100% on the same page and i didn't want to turn him out on that note. 

   Imagine a long line, and along that line are 3 sets of obstacles, one set at either end and a third in the middle. A series of cones and barrels where at one end, a jump in the middle and the trampoline and the  other end. Trampoline was the rest spot. Here i asked him to stand and allowed him to eat grass. Following the line i asked him to walk on over the jump which he hesitated at, as i expected. When he took notice and tried i rewarded him and soon enough he walked over it with his front legs and hopped over with his back legs.  Continuing in a straight line we got to the series of barrels, i squeezed him between them and brought the forequaters round to turn him around and squeeze back through and headed back down the imaginary line, walked over the jump with less hesitation than before, and over to the trampoline where we stopped and he got to eat for a couple of minuets. We repeated this again only this time i asked for some transions too. Walked over the jump with no hesitiation this time and trotted through the gap between the barrels. 
It was at this point, unknown to me, that i was about to see the rainbow!

   I turned him around and asked him to walk on which he did. Then, with no interference from me, no leg aids and without using the reins Shinobi did something he has never done before, so eager to return to his rest spot he...
   ... He burst into a trot straight down the imaginary line and jumped over the jump!!!!...

   Having huge confidence issues with his feet, in the 5 years i have owned him, we have only ever jumped twice (and that was only in recent weeks) these jumps were infact an absence of something, a ditch! Which would make sense, he's happy to jump over something that isnt there. This is the first time he has ever jumped an actualy jump with me on him! It doesn't sound like much at all but you have to understand that when i first had Shinobi i couldn't ride him. He went so Right Brain Introvert that he could nt move, in fact it got to the point where i could nt even lead him! I studied Parelli for about 18 months before i started playing with him because i just was not compitent both from a knowledgeable  and emotional point of view to work with him and even then i didnt start truely dedicating my time and energy to him untill 2010 and i was ill for the majority of last year so did very little with any of the horses. 

This is a dream come true!

Back in those dark days walking was impossible let alone a jump! Jumping was just a dream and now its a reality! And to make it even more perfect he offered it, it was his idea, not mine i just sat along for the ride!

Saturday, 14 July 2012

A Clash of the Introverts: Blaze the Enigma

   I took Blaze to the playground with the intention of building on the sucuess of our last online session. Last time we played i began taking her through the 7 games in a learner/ teacher situation, rather than simply using them as a tool to move her feet in preperation for trail rides. This learning frame of mind lead to her actually engaging in what we were doing! And we were able to establish a conversation using what we had learnt. 2 individulas sharing idea's.

   It became pretty obvious that this session was not going to go as i had hoped and establishing any kind of mental engagement or connection, even on the teaniet level, was going to be challenge. We were both SO introverted. Blaze left brain and myself more right brain. She was focused on eating grass and when i asked her to raise her head she would nt even look at me, completely disinterested in the human at the end of the line. Usualy i thrive on working with horses like this. It presents with the opportunity to really delve into horse psychology because you can't MAKE these kind of horses motivated you have to cause them to want to do things and in doing so you get to indulge in the most subltlest, cheekiest, interesting conversations. Asking the very least from them with the slightest of body language. Sneaky, like it is game. Doing the unexpected and watching it blow their little horsey minds, its as if you actually watch the curiosity and play build in their face...

   ...This didnt happen...

   For some reason i found myself in a Right Brain Introvert daze. My mind was frozen, i just could nt think. I found it incredibly difficult to bring my energy both UP and way way down. My timing was completely off, i could nt seem to use my phases effectively or appropriately. It was like the lights were on but nobody was home. Usualy Left Brain Introverts suck me in and i get absorbed in their games, their energy and i can just feel what to do and when do it but it just felt like there was a wall between us. I was waiting to get absorded into conversation but instead i just stood there, static and kind of isolated. It was a very odd feeling, unfortuantely, being a Right Brain Introvery by nature it is not an unfamiliar feeling to me. Everything i tried to get Blaze's attention felt awkward. Nothing really seemed to work. I felt like i was just doing stuff without any rhym or reason. I just could nt think. 
   Normaly when i am feeling like this when working with horses they kind of pull me out of it and we can get some nice things going near the end. I think it is becuase they have some kind of energy you can feed off, or bounce off, even an introvert has energy about them and engage occasionaly even if it is just to poke you for treats or rub on you, try to bite you even! Atleast there is some kind of interaction  going on from pony to human but this dynamic is always absent when working with Blaze. She is just no interested in the human what so ever. She completely ignores you but not in that dominant im going to trample you kind of way becuase even that is some kind of two way dialog, even if the horse is deliberatly trying to ignore you they are still actively interacting with you by pushing you around and this is something that you can work off. Blaze kinda just stands there, 

"Im bored, im just going to stand here, your boring, im not going to ask you anything. If you want me to do something then ill do it hoping you ll then return me to the field or we can then go riding." 

   Becuase i was in such a isolated frame of mind and Blaze is herself so reserved it was pretty much impossible to establish any kind of two way interaction becuase non of us was in a position where we could intigate it. 

   Nevertheless i perceviered and after about 40 minuets of awkward silence she asked me a question!!!!  I had a series of obstacle set up in a line, a few barrels and some cones, there were gaps in varying sizes between some of the obstacles and some were stuck together. I sent her on the circle and set it up so as these would interurpt her pattern. When presented with the need to engage the brain and actually think she chose to eat  (surprise surpirse) i asked her to raise her head and resent her. She squeezed through some of the bigger gaps easy so i directed her to the smaller ones which seemed to give her brain a bit of a kick start as she began to hesitate slightly and really had to think about whether to squeeze, kick it, jump it ect. After a few goes she stopped at the barrel, lifted her head and looked at me with a kind of question mark face.

"What do you want me to do?"

   Game over! That will do. End on a positive note. We aren't going to get anymore engagement than that so i ended it there and we stood together having some undemanding time. After 10 minuets, for some reason, the idea of hopping on entered my head so i did. I dont know why i felt the urge to start doing some ridden work, still in this frozen state of mind there was no prior thought process that concluded such and such would be achieved if we worked on some Freestyle, infact i hopped on not knowing what i really wanted to do. I just had this feeling that i wanted to go somewhere. Hmm, how interesting.

   I asked her to walk on and we played around with squeezing between the barrels, repeating untill she no longer hesitated which seemed to get walking with more enthusiasm... 
(i realise that as im writing this Blaze sounds almost Right Brain Introvert herself, but she wasn't, she isnt, she cant be! I cant imagine Blaze being Right Brained, EVER! which i know is impossible to believe but its what makes Blaze so equally wonderous and confusing. She is NOT like ANY other horse you will ever meet. She is special. An Enigma if you will!)
Anyway... after playing around with squeeze game we worked on direct and indirect reins which were nice, we trotted around from abit and then i decided what the hell, popped her into a canter and we went over a couple of jumps. It was beautiful. The longer we rode the more i could feel my mind coming out of this frozen state. My timing seemed to be improving, i felt more.. here, if that makes sense and less cut off from what was going on here, between me and Blaze. Blaze seemed to be moving around with purpose and "yeah lets do it!" or "hmm, what are you asking for". How interesting! 

   I have absolutely no idea what to make of this session. All i know is that we ended on a positive note. I can understand why it was so dfficult to establish any kind of engagement online because of the way i was but i do wonder why i all of a sudden got this feeling of wanting to ride, why riding seemed to unlock both mine and Blaze's intorversion and as always im sat here trying to figure out Blaze, how and why she acts and thinks the way she does. Its hard when she gives you absolutely nothing to feed off. She truley is my Enigma.


Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Wanting to choose rather than choosing to want

   Prior to the terrible wet weather we have had recently here the horses were making lovely progress both online and under saddle.
   Piggles seems to have found a whole new level of relaxation and calmness which has transpired to a whole new attitude which inturn has improved our ridden work. One of the primary focus' of our play sessions used to be releasing tension both in the mind and body but now he seems to be able to achieve it pretty instantly, because of this he seems to have a more "why not" kind of attitude. Rather than worrying about things or having a "No!" or "Mmm Id rather not" kind of attutide it feels like now he's approaching new things with a "why not" perspective. Usualy we'd have to play around quite a bit with a new task, game or obstacle inorder to establish 'want', inorder to get him enjoying interacting with the new object and playing new games. The structure he used to follow as a learner was
1.Find Relaxation
2.Engage him
3.Teach new command/game/concept etc
4.Have fun with it in order to cause him to want to do it again and therefor able to build on it.
   Usually these steps would be spread over more than one session, however, now these 4 stages seem less prefound and isolated. He is aleady so much more relaxed and therefor already able to engage mentaly, so that once having learnt something the need to adopt stratagise to cause him to want to repeat it seems unecessary because he has such a "sure, why not" attitude. How interesting.
   He has always been an incredibley eager learner, always tried really hard to find the right answer and you can see just how pleased he is with himself once he has found it but if i wanted him to do something i would always have to consiously have to ask, yes he would offer things i wasn't expecting which is wonderful but i would always be the instagator. Now for the first time i can stand in neutral and he seems to be approaching obstacles with an open mind full of posibilities and this new "why not" attitude" i dont have to physicaly ask for something. He's cantering round "Ooh a barrel, why not" and jumps it rather than moving round it, send him out on the circle "why not" and canters instead of trotting. Its like his relaxation has lead to a more positive and confident attitude which has lead him to want to make decisions. Where as i used to have to physically do something for him to choose to want to jump now i can remain in neutral and he wants to choose to jump it. Makes sense? I think we have stumbled upon the very first steps of a whole new chapter in our relationship and my journey as a horsewoman.
   The implications this has had on our ridden work is hugely noticeable. For the first time i can sit on him and immediately he is relaxed and willing! We seemed have got the relaxation bit undersaddle a while ago which, in true LBI form, then uncovered the challenge of cause him to be willing instead of just difiantly bucking or leaning into pressure when i asked for something. Ridden sessions would consist of him bucking in retalition to me asking him to walk on or transition into canter and he'd lean into the halter when asking for a direct rein and would sometimes again buck. Only little flicks of the back legs to let me know "No, i dont want to!" I always have to play around with bending the rib cage, rythmica pressure so as he had nothing to brace against, lots of transitions to build respect and earn me some dominant points and asking for less so as to cause him to want to do more but now he is a completey different horse! I mount him and immediately he yeilds to my legs and walks on happily, ears forward eager to know where we are going. He is responsive to the halter and nolonger leans into it if i ask to chage direction its the same "why not attitude". "You want to go over there? Why not" instead of "You want to go over there? Why should I?" His strides are no much more fluid and loose and it feels like he is walking with purpose opposed to the shuffle he used to do with ubrupt stops "Iv walked enough, can i stop now?".
   He's a great deal more confident out on trail rides especialy when he hacks out alone, so much so we have had our first canter out in the wood by ourselfs! He is a great deal more relaxed if the distance increases between himself and the horse infront, if they trot he does nt panic and race to catch up. We have had our first ever canter where he has nt bucked too! (usualy he bucks when he goes into a cater and then after about 4 strides he lets out another buck or two.) This new relaxed "why not" attitude online really is mirrored when riding.

   Kocoum and Darla have been for they're first paddle in the stream only with all the rain we have had it was quite a bit deeper than a stream and came up half way up their shoulder in some places. Darla was superb, she stood on one of the new tree stumps left behind from the tree felling that was done. Standing on predastals seems to be somethign she enjoys greatly as it was around this time that when i returned to the field after a ride on Shinobi she had left the herd to go and stand all four feet on their pedastal, leg cocked, snoozing!
   When we got the stream we slightly hesistant at first but innatley being a Left Brain Introvert it didnt taken long till she felt curious enought o stcik her nose and then her two front feet in, once she did she was wondering up and down quite happily and on several occasions was so enthrawled on exploring she nearly pulled the 12ft line out of my hands (need to take a longer line next time!) She went and investigated the little waterfall of her own accord and for the next 20 minuets of so we just hung out in the water, she ate and sniffed and i gave her some affection.
   Kocoum felt completely different about the whole situation so a different approach was adopted. When stood on the bank he most definately was not going to go in, he was terrified! He stood there shaking only moving his feet upwards, in true Right Brain Intorvert style. Frozen still then exploded and repeated. I politely persisted in the proper position applying rythmical pressure to his zone 3 at a phase one, untill he lowered his head and looked at the stream. Just as quick as he put his head down to look at it it shot back up again but i retreated into a neutral stance and allowed him to think about it. It may have rushed but it was a step in the right direction. I then resumed my proper position and polietly persisted and again he lowered his head to pay attention and whiped it back again, i quite applying the pressure as he did but immediately began applying it again. I didnt want him to go as far as touching the water i just wanted him to pay attention to it and direct his energy to wards that rather than up in the tree tops. We did this for about 10 minuets and as time went on his energy came down, he was licking and chewing, his motions were more fluid, the freezing then exploding had stopped and then splash! He jumped in and ran out the other side. I dont mind that he came straight back out, the worst possible thing i could have made him do was make him stand in it becuase that makes him feel traped, being a prey animal and naturaly claustrophobic the possibility of being trapped is enough to prevent him from enetering the water. Once he was out of the water i disengaged him and redirected him back to the water, he walked in with very little hesitation this time and instead of feeling the need to run out he began walking up and down the stream in the water! It was like he new if he needed to get out he could which made him a great deal less anxious. Fear disapeared and confidence blossomed, so much so that he actually got curious, wondering around, up and down and round again, just looking.
   I had him saddled for the whole thing. Its been months since i have saddled and cinched him up and to my delight the process didnt bothe rhim at all. Infact he seems quite happy to carry his saddle around and have be tighten and loosen the cinch. Its as if he forgets he is even wearing one which is fab.
Me and Darla in the water
   To round off the Mini sucess Myself and Ebony had a lovely online session also. We played online in the field just testing the boundries another "lets see" session because it has been so long she has done anything and anything that had gotten a off we could work on. In true Ebony style she needed to go wizzing around the field as fast as her little legs could take her for the initial part. Once she became a little more focus she really supprised me. Games through 1-7 were really lovely. Figure of 8's, switching between transitions and friendly on the cirlce were lovely and her sideways on the circle also. Turns on the falling leafe patterns and S patterns were really snappy, leaning back on her haunches and shooting of in the opposite direction with a like mini explosion of energy, and intrue Ebony style shaking her her little defiant head.