Wednesday, July 29, 2009

It's not about

At the barn yesterday Mary had a new horse that was dropped off as a possible candidate for a school horse. When I got there she yelled to me, “You are better at talking than I am....” I’m thinking huh? Now I think I’ve mentioned that Mary is incredibly intuitive with the horses. She likes to check what she is getting with what I do. She goes on that the new horse hates his name. Is that right? Yup! This is a very pretty paint black and white who has been a school horse forever. Kids come and go, trainers come and go and I get the feeling he has moved around a lot. No one person to love him.

Its interesting isn’t it? They want that “one person”. Herd animals, need a single connection. I get that over and over and over. Horses who’s person isn’t around much get in trouble. Horses that don’t have a person either explode or go inside themselves.

Mary asks me to help evaluate him. He had just come. I put a rope halter on him and took him to the outside ring to play with. First of all he is totally confused – where's the saddle? Where’s the bridle? Aren’t you going to just jump on me? Boy you are strange! You do funny things. (I can’t tell you how often I hear this when I play with a horse for the first time).

Aside from what I learned about him, I learned a very interesting thing about me. That seems to be my theme since I got Cici. I think its about her and found out its about me! Its not about the horse! As I am driving home I realize, one of those duh hit yourself up the side of the head moments that Mary values my expertise. Horse expertise. And asks for my help.

I think back to when I started out as an adult rider. Notice the word rider. I’m skipping over the adult. I “didn’t know much” and I completely depended on Cindy (trainer who became friend). I remember thinking lots of times how would I ever be able to take care of Jeepers without her. Then I broke out from under her to find myself in another situation where Pam made it clear she knew I didn’t know anything. Sigh. More years there. But obviously I’ve watched, absorbed, read, grown, explored and found my own way.

Mary does not view me as inept or unknowing. She asks my opinion and melds it with hers. I’m not saying I know everything and am treated like a guru. Just like a valued part of a team. Blows my mind!

So back to this horse. He does not like his name. Of course he was never asked. Think this is his form of rebellion. I hate it I hate it and you are not doing anything about it! So we blew his mind by not using it, doing quiet ground work and I asked him what he would like to be called. He said Black Beauty. He is black from behind his shoulders forward – all black face. And white and some more black. But he was not sure. Interestingly thinks of himself as black. I said we would see if we could not come up with some other names to offer him.

He is very nice, quiet, very curious which is a good thing – likes to check things out with his nose. Had no issues with friendly all over, string flipping over and around him, big yoga ball, walked right across tarp before I had it completely flat, ground poles, ropes. Hmm how interesting.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Circling Game

Struggling, still struggling. Have a lesson coming up in a week and a half with Kelly and I want to show some progress. Maybe that's the problem. Think I need to have it perfect by then? No that's not it. I just would like a little better send.

Today I went back to putting the plastic bag on the carrot stick. Backing up still very sticky. But am getting a couple of steps. Then I ask and send with the plastic bag laden carrot stick savvy string. Surprise! Cici went out and out and I let the lead slide through my hand til she was almost at the end. She continued for maybe 1/3 of the way around then turned and faced and walked in to me. I thanked her for coming in and asking a question, backed her up a couple of steps and asked and sent her again. Again out almost all the way 1/3 around and turned and came back to me. This was all to the left.

This time when she came in she was giving me her right eye. Cici is very sensitive and lets me know when the pressure on one side or the other is too much. So I took the opportunity to ask her to go to the right. She took maybe 2 or 3 steps and immediately turned sharply back to me. I thanked her. Waited for her to thinking and chew and asked again. Still staying in close and only a couple of steps.

It was hot and humid today. I thought about how she was now standing facing me showing me her left eye. Hmmm how interesting. Too much right side pressure? I have to chew on this. I thought about the nice send on the left and decided I was going to stop for the day. Let her eat more grass.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Goddard State Park

I don't even know where to start. Today got up at 6:00AM to get to the barn to trailer with Rebekah to the Bay State Trail Riders Association's trail ride at Goddard State Park in Rhode Island. This is a ride I've heard about for two years. The trails are along the edge of Narraganset Bay. This is an annual ride, so its in the summer and hot. I never felt I could ask Jeeps to trailer that long a distance in the potential heat, then ride her for about 2 hours and then trailer back. So each year when Rebekah headed out I felt a pang of...well envy.

But I did it today with Cici! We had a wonderful amazing time. We had runners come up behind us. The first time she did a little spook. We passed a guy on a bike. Dogs. Cars. Crossed a road. Walked on the road. Saw a deer in the woods. Other horses, both coming up behind us, in front of us. Even heading the other way. Waves lapping the shore. Voices coming out of where? Had to walk through big puddles. Mud. Along trails in the woods, that then opened up on one side or the other to large expanses of ocean (okay bay) or grassy fields. Pass picnic tables. Did I mention dogs? Barking dogs. Hikers.

And through all this I was comfortable. Cici did her snorting most of the time. There were only short periods where she was truly relaxed and really lowered her head. I did not ride with a casual rein. I kept them bridged and worked on not having contact, but I did have them short enough so I could take contact easily.

I did a lot of yawning, like Kelly Sigler did in the clinic, to see if I could relax any tension I might have and to get Cici to relax. Apparently I was doing it loud enough that Rebekah asked me if I was going to be able to stay awake! LOL!

When we reached the end of trails and began heading back Cici really started to toss her head. I think she was just tired of the bit. The half way point was about what the longest of our home rides is. So I got lots of arguments from her about any sort of contact.

I learned I need to work more on her zone 5. Things, people, animals coming up behind her. More in zone 3. Saddling her in the field where she was more interested in the grass than me. Mounting, well I mounted from the right. Although out on the trails at one point we heard loud voices but could not see the people. Patrick would not go forward and Cici this time would not go forward. I hopped off and hand walked her past and then mounted from a tree root from the left. And zone 1 - the bit issue.

And I passed another threshold!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

A Doe

Out trail riding today with Rebekah and her horse Patrick. We passed a young doe standing in the woods about 5 feet off the trail. She stood still and watched with interest as we walked by. I don't think either Cici or Patrick noticed her as she didn't move.

The bugs were out in force, the little ones, and Cici was getting annoyed at them. I noticed that she will walk faster when she is annoyed. I swished her a lot and she seemed to forget about them.

Then on the way back Patrick walked right by our doe again. She had moved up the trail and was now standing in the middle of the blueberry bushes. We walked by her and seems she decided at that point to bound up the hill. The sound of her, maybe her movement, caught Cici by surprise and she, yup she took off. Boy was I caught off guard. But stayed on and got her to stop. Fortunately Patrick was ahead of us and since he had totally missed the deer he was just quietly waiting. Once we caught up with him, Cici relaxed and I went back to casual rein. Hmmm how interesting! My emotional fitness is growing.

Thursday, July 9, 2009


When I went out on the trail on Monday the bugs were pretty bad and going for Cici face and neck. She was doing a lot of head flipping, trying to get them off. Rebekah commented that I had forgotten my swish. I said I left it behind because I hadn't checked Cici out with it.

Well I did today. She was in the barn and I just took it out of my cubby and she startled in place. Hmmm how interesting. So I added it to the pile of stuff I was taking to the outdoor ring. Who needs a carrot stick when there is a swish?! She was quite leery of it. So lots of approach and retreat - walking away and letting her catch up. Waving it about. Gently letting it touch her side. Just taking my time. No hurry. No big deal. And after about 20 minutes I could swish her face from either side, up over her ears, under her jaw, up and down her neck. I friendlied the swish all over her body.

By the time I had tacked her up and mounted—from the left—I was able to swish her from the saddle. And this was a good thing because Kara showed up and we went out for a late afternoon/early evening ride in the woods. The bugs were out biting and I was able to swish Cici free of them.

Oh another first. First time we lead the whole way. She wasn't sure at the beginning going past Patrick's paddock. But I just asked and she went on. She quickly took the responsibility of leading seriously and didn't make many attempts to eat. So I was able to ride on a relatively casual rein. Those firsts sure seem to be piling up.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

The horse that shows up

Between the rain and trail riding I have been playing on the ground with Cici. She is getting more and more comfortable with me and with this comfort is coming more dominance. And more LBI behavior. The Why should I do that? What's in it for me?

So I'm having to rethink what I doing. Backing is stuck, circling is stuck, she likes stick to me - well after a little convincing. Disengaging hindend and forehand are softening, playing with the ball - got it on her back on the right side! Some days she is more willing for me to play on the right side as opposed to the left. We have not reached a balance yet. Seems to be one side or the other. And I know better than to assume which side on which day!

Saddling is the same. Some days I do everything from the right! Some days I can mix it up. Some days its only from left. Mounting has been mostly from the right. I'm the one learning here it seems. Have you ever tried to mount smoothly from the right? After how many years of mounting from left?!?! And then out at Noon Hill's trail ride she was fine about my mounting from the left at the trailer and again out in the woods. Okay I get it, work with the horse that shows up!

Monday, July 6, 2009

Trail Ride

Its been the Fourth of July looong weekend and I've enjoyed the trails with Cici and friends, Friday, Saturday, Sunday Rebekah and I trailer over to Noon Hill for an "off property" ride. Cici was a delight in just walking on the trailer and immediately chowing down on the hay. The drive is maybe 12 minutes, unloaded like the pro she is and stood quietly while I tightened her girth, put her bridle on and mounted.

She was ready to go! Patrick decided he didn't like the look of what looked like a plaster cast of a dinasour bone, don't ask me what it was doing at the trail head, so Cici lead off. Ears forward and a swinging walk. Now this is the first time I've taken her to a new trail. Okay I've gotten over the first time to a clinic, and the first time out on a trail ride. Guess I am making a bigger thing about it. More about my thresholds LOL, not hers. Hmmm how interesting. I write thinking I'm writing about Cici and I find I'm writing about me.

She was walking out! And we were leaving Patrick behind. We swapped off leading. Deep woods, tall trees with vibrant canopy of greens. The beginning trails are wide - some rocky most smooth ground. The only sounds are the birds and horseshoes on rocks, creak of the leather and our voices. Didn't see anyone. Squirrels, chipmunks, birds, a toad yes.

Cici walked through mud, water, over rocks, downed trees, up a rock wall, over a wooded bridge. Nothing seemed to faze her. And I didn't do too bad either LOL.