Monday, 24 September 2012

Darla . Things Were How They Should Be

   Last week i played with Darla for the first time since her illness.
Softer Expression
   Prior to her illness it had been a long while since i had played with her. The only chances i got to interact with her was when she was having her feet trimmed by the podiatrist or when id lead her by her chin at tea time into the mini's pen, which she is brilliant at (at first she was uncatchable, now she'll allow me to lead her at liberty. Super mini!) When i did play with her it was less like play and more "taking the time it takes to get the fly gel on!". Once or twice a week i would oil them up with fly repellent and it would usually take me half and hour/ 40 minuets of approach and retreat retreat RETREAT till Darla could stand still, accepting and relaxed, until finally 30 minuets became 20 minuets, and 20 minuets became 10 minuets, despite the improvement it was still a tolerable affair and  so for a long time being haltered didn't follow anything particularly enjoyable or fun. I think because of this I had began to notice that Darla was once again becoming slightly introverted about the halter. She'd wrinkle her nose and had that Right Brain Introvert starry eyes expression, an expression that, overall, i was seeing her do less and less of, thankfully!
   We began the play session in the usual way. She caught me! Ahhhhhhhhhhhh. I will never again take that for granted! Up until this point i had never had a pony with catching issues. The boys once they saw me standing at the gate would come over and stick their noses in the halter, or if not then WAHOO time for a game!...
 ...Id only have to sneakily walk round to their zone 5 and their heads would shoot up and their bums would swing round and they'd face me. Now standing in neutral, I'm all "Duh duh duh, I'm not doing annnnything, duh, duh" They give me that intrigued, puzzled look like "Whaaat are you up to?". When they lowered their heads to resume eating id only have to tilt my head to look at their hind quarters and they'd pop their heads back up and come striding over to me "Now i know you are up to something!" Blaze if ever she did run away, would always run back to me again, it was always just a game!
   When we got Darla home i turned her loose in the 2.5 acre field and could nt catch her again! We worked on it for a week and after that week i could play the same catching game until she too would come over and catch me! Haltering was an issue all by itself and it too took me a week and again lots of approach and retreat until she could remain relaxed and be excepting of it. Prior to that when ever she saw the halter she would run off again!
   We got the whole process really nice, she'd catch me really quickly and she too would bring her head to me and lower her nose into the halter. Unfortunately circumstance were beginning to make this an experienced to be tolerated rather than enjoyed. And i think having 24 hours of being haltered purely to have a vet stick his hand up her bottom or to have an injection (7 in total) really changed her idea about the halter.

Happy Darla in her purple halter
   Haltering was therefor the first focus point of the session. Did lots of approach and retreat. First holding it still and allowing her to approach it and investigate. Drawing the halter away from her until her confidence became curiosity and she actually began to follow it. Friendly game round the neck with it, placing it on and then immediately dropping off again on to the floor. She became tense when i put it on but confident and curious when it fell to the floor and every time she lowered her head to sniff it. We repeated until once again i could halter her up and she remained relaxed, accepting and willing.
   Then we started friendly game and it was really good. Throwing the stick and string in the air used to make her go all bracey, she would throw her head in the air with wide eyes but she remained relaxed and almost disinterested in it even when i threw it over her back. Fabulous!
   We progressed this friendly game in to a driving game and whilst walking backwards and drawing her towards me instead of swinging the stick and string from side to side, whilst in neutral, asking for relaxation i came out of neutral, shook the stick very gently on the left then the right (phase 1) driving  her nose so as to make a "Weave Pattern." She did this really well and was responding rather than reacting, even when i had to go to phase 3 to stop her from walking through the stick! I asked her to do the same thing only walking over the tail of the 22ft line, a driving and friendly game. She started off by stopping and biting the rope, a Right Brain Introvert response, so i just stood in neutral and waited and observed, when she was done we started again and she did this exercise beautifully.

   We progressed on to game 4, and again she did this beautifully, backing up and drawing towards me in a straight line, responding not reacting so pretty quickly we moved on to game 5, the circling game.
   The send was find but she had some trouble with the allow, she couldn't maintain gate and kept coming back to me after only half a circle, i accepted this the frist couple of times and from then on resent her back out on the circle. Half a circle was obviously her comfort zone so every time she continued for a little more i disengaged and rewarded. I rewarded for 3/4 or a circle then a whole one ect until she could remain walking and trotting on the circle until i disengaged her.

"Make and teach no assumptions" Parelli Principle number... 2, i believe.

Curious about the camera
   I went from circling game back to friendly game and Darla assumed that that i using the stick to ask her to move her feet again, in which direction she wasn't so sure, she threw her head up, braced. Hmm how interesting so we played with games 1, 4 and 5 until she quite assuming.
   She was really having to engage the left side of her brain and think about what it was i was asking. She was having to pay attention to my body language, was i in neutral or not? She was having to pay attention to energy, was i using the stick with energy and asking her to move, or was it friendly?
   Aware that variety might blow her mind we took it nice and slow, firstly just playing game 5 then game 1 when i drew her in. Then built it up to yoyoing her out and instead of sending her left or right on the circle we played friendly game, then yoyed her some more, the friendly etc the better we got the more variety i used. I observed not the only the confidence build but also some question and curiosity "What was i going to ask for next?"and as time went on she even began to ask me questions. Being asked a question by your horse is always such a brilliant and heart warming thing, the fact that they are actually engaging with you mentally really turns the session into conversations rather than an hour of "I say, you do". When it becomes a conversation your horse then starts to share idea's, he feels free to express himself knowing that what he has to say wont be marked as right or wrong and in turn the relationship really begins to grow. This is especially great coming from a Right Brain Introvert, as normally they re mind is frozen and when they do look at you its normally because they need more guidance, not because they want to know what we're gunna do next!
   She picked it up really fast and quite assuming and starting thinking.

Things were how they should be. My little girl was here. Learning, asking, living, just how it should be.
It was here my thoughts began to turn to what could have happned and what is now. I looked at Darla and thought about all that would have been lost had she have not made it through the night like the vets  predicted....
 Darla. She isn't a name. A mini. A mare. A Right Brain Introvert. Darla isn't just the sum of her parts. She is a heart and thoughts, feelings and perspectives, fears and dreams, a friend and a teacher. It dawned on me what truely would have been lost. Not one horse is the same, not one horse has the same lessons to teach, the same perspectives on things. Not only would i have lost everythign that Darla has to give but I would have lost the one and only of her kind. Darla.

   Things had gone so great that we ended the session there we spent about 15 minuets undemanding time together. Undemanding time- it does exactly was it says on the tin! Spending time with your horse not demanding anything from them. A great relationship builder. Just you and your horse, hanging out together like pasture mates. I picked her some grass and just sat with her. I unhaltered her and she remained with me. Some great feedback on how she felt the session went i guess!
   I love spending undemanding time with my horses, and i confess i don't do a great deal of it now. I love just being with them. Observing them. Watching their mane flutter in the wind, the sun bouncing off their coat, the world reflected in their eyes.
Undemanding Time Together

To do; Spend more undemanding time with the horses 
It was something i did a great deal of when i first began studying natural horsemanship and i think it played a huge part in why my mine a Piggles liberty developed so much and so quickly. We never did any exercised on line to prepare for Liberty. When we had undemanding time together liberty play just started happening!

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