Wednesday, December 29, 2010

New womanhandleable pedestal

I had ordered a shorter smaller one that looked like I would be able to womanhandle. It finally came yesterday via the postman's truck. A round pizza tray thing that had the other postal workers wagering what the hell it was. I rolled it down the driveway and into the house. Sat on the floor in the kitchen with tool bag and scissors. Cut off the plastic covering and saw circular wood pieces wired together. Was the wire for packing or was it an intragel part of the pedestal? Decided for packing so got out the wire cutters and snipped away.

Now I have four pieces of wood and 12 bolts and an allen wrench. No instructions. Can't be that difficult. Lets see top - check, bottom ring - check, two pieces that must be the base - check. As I turn the top over and around I notice a yellow dot. Ah ha!!!! Line that up with matching yellow dot on one of base pieces and away we go. Fully assembled! And I can indeed womanhandle it.

Can't wait to see Cici's thoughts of this new pedestal. So in the morning I load it into the trunk of my car and off to the barn. Even though its vacation week when I get there this morning it is quiet and peaceful. I load the pedestal and stuff into a wheelbarrel and roll it up to the indoor. I putter around, set up the ring with NEW pedestal, barrels, cones. And invite Cici to join me.

Of course first I have to remove the snow balls from her hooves. This is turning out to be a perfect reason for asking her to lift her feet. I've struggled with it and have had lots of excuses why not to bother. But now I have a reason to! And she is soft and understanding and willing. Amazing the effect attitude, my attitude, makes. Hmm how interesting!

Then "Look at what is in the middle of the ring!" and she walks to it. Looks at it, looks at me So? "Its a lower pedestal, that you can easily step up onto!" So? Hmm, of course I had been envisioning her seeing the new pedestal and putting all the pieces together and walking right up to it and stepping on it. She quickly paws at the top of the pedestal. She also steps right up to it and stands on the lower ring base. Since the footing is soft the pedestal shifts, rocks up. Guess if it was on hard ground this would not happen. But....She doesn't seem concerned and paws some more. I hold her leg still on the top and stroke it. She paws some more.

Right now she is not as fixated on this pedestal as she is on the big huge high step one in the corner. When play with circling she spies it and tries to make a beeline for it. Sigh. New exciting toy is new exciting toy for ME apparently. Not her. Well maybe not yet.

I take my time playing the games. We are working on 360 turns. Get 180s and building on those. More sideways. More backing with me being more particular. More particular at circling. Still thinking provocative. Or trying.

Today we are going to move onto freestyle. I saddle her up and two kids show up in the ring. Lesson kids. Oh No! Not again. Its been so quiet and I'm enjoying not feeling any pressure and doing what I do. So I tell them that the lesson is not on the board and I want the ring - alone - for another half hour. They say they won't be mounting for at least that time.

But when they get their horses they leave the one who hates to be left. He is left in a stall along the indoor's wall and now he is screaming, spinning and rearing. What happened to my quiet morning. Trainer finally shows up and puts him outside where he can run and rear and scream. She also tells the kids they are going to start their lesson in the outside ring. Thank the heavens.

I mount. Finally. I think its been 2 weeks since the last time in the saddle. And I just sit there, waiting for Cici to chew. And I sit there waiting for Cici to chew. And I sit there waiting for Cici to chew.She finally does. So we walk a couple of steps and she stops. Thanks can we walk on? Couple of steps and stops.

By now another rider is trotting around and cantering around on the track. So we are in the middle of the ring. Backing. Walk a couple of steps and stop. Sigh. Neither one of us is focused. I am just happy to feel comfortable on her. Then I notice snow sliding off the roof. Just little pieces. Just to be safe I dismount since the other day when I was playing on the ground and the snow slide off the roof Cici leapt in the air.

I land and then the entire roof full of snow showers down. And boom boom boom. Cici startles and runs forward but I'm holding onto the reins. Her nose is long and she is worried. I walk her around the ring for a bit. Show her the wall where the snow fell - high windows. And she lowers her head and licks and chews.

Remount and she is fine. I am fine. We walk in a large circle while other rider is still cantering around on the track. I notice more snow sliding past the windows and dismount again. Another large chunk of snow falls and this time Cici doesn't appear to be as concerned. I play a little stick to me and walk and trot the ring with Cici and know that more snow is coming down. So I call it a day for riding.

When I get her back in her paddock yet another chunk of snow dislodges and crashes to the ground. She just stands in her paddock and watches.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Snow snow and more snow

Had a blizzard Sunday night into Monday. Got 12 to 18" dumped with howling winds. I didn't make it to the barn on Monday, so today was the see how the girl and boy are doing day. Everything was plowed and cleared. Well except for out the back door of the indoor - the way to Cici and Casey's paddock. Drifts of snow are high so I get out my snow shovel and dig a path one shovel wide. Look back at it and realize this is not a place to be leading Cici with only an 8' line. So go and get a brand new 12' to have room if needed.

She is absolutely fine with all the deep snow. She greets me at the gate with a nicker. Oh how I love that sound. And after I dig out the gate she walks into the deep deep snow that is just about up to her belly! and waits for me.

She follows me quietly through the narrow path of snow, down into the indoor. She waits patiently while I take off her blankets, clean out the snow balls in her hoofs and then we play. Sideways, backing, circling. Rolling the ball. Paw pedestal. She trots both directions and I set up two small barrels. She trots the circle, see the barrels and canters, jumps the barrels and continues at a canter. Change of direction and she does the same thing.

This was wonderful as she has been so focused on put your foot on things that recently when I set up the barrels she paws them, noses them, nibbles on the covers. But no jumping them. Today it was different. Whoppee!

I am so happy at her attention. Seems a couple of days away does pay off.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Freestyle? ever?

I'll admit I've been struggling with my emotional fitness while riding in the ring freestyle. Oh I'm fine out on the trails, ride with a casual rein, and keep my hips flowing. Most of the time. But spending time "just" riding in the ring has me worrying, doubting myself, trusting Cici.

Winter has definitely arrived, with a few inches of wet snow now on the ground. This is the stuff that compacts in the horse's hooves and creates snowballs or high heels. Not a good thing while riding on uneven ground, up and down hills. So its time for face the indoor demons.

Yesterday I was all set to play with stick to the rail, question box, circles, figure eights. Watched a piece with Linda working with a LBE and cones along the track. Thought of doing point to point with Cici at the trot.

Got to the barn and there were two people cleaning the stalls along the walls of the indoor. Not just cleaning, but stripping them. So lots of trips with full muck buckets from the stalls to outside the ring to dump them. Okay we can deal with this, playing on the ground.

When Cici is listening and partnering with me I tack her up. Now one of them asks if she can drive her truck into the ring to unload the bedding. Asks if I am going out on the trails. I said no, going to do ring work. And sure drive in, thinking she will unload and then drive out. But oh no. Unloads, sweeps the truck bed out, starts to spread bedding and do other things with the truck still parked in the ring.

And now they start to bring in their horses to check out winter blankets. And their horses do not trust the blankets so there is lots of spinning and snorting now going on.

I only had so much time to play and ride. Time is running out. My patience is gone. Not a good place to be even considering getting on my horse. So I untack her and leave. I'm whining again.

Today with all the snow and gusty winds sheets of snow are falling off the indoor roof. Cici is fine about the wind. But the unexpected sliding snow is too much for her. She will be trotting nicely online and then boom goes the snow and she spooks. The snow falls at very irregular times, spaced apart quite a time. So never know when they are going to happen. Have three different events and Cici reacts to each of them in a manner that is fine online, but not under saddle.

Decide that today is not the day to get on and ride. And of course today there is no one else around and I have the ring to myself. Sigh.

I am trying to figure out if I am psyching myself out and making excuses or if I am adhering to safety first. As they say in Brooklyn, "it is what it is." But this is not a satisfying thought right now. I am feeling that I am not progressing. Worry if I'm being provocative enough for Cici. Wondering where I am on my journey. Feeling alone and adrift. Whine whine whine.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Normals

I never thought I'd use that description but is sure is apt. And much nicer than other words that come to mind.

Cici and Casey are at a "normal" barn. Most people there kind of look at me as a bit weird but harmless. Well maybe they think I'm an annoyance as I play with Cici and Casey as they are riding in the ring. But I keep telling them I can keep my horses off the track. Which is the only place they ride.

The pedestal is in the ring. Not quite on the center line at one end. I come in on day 5 to find the pedestal has been moved back to the corner. I ask one of the boarders who also teaches some kids if she moved it. Yes, there were 5 kids in the ring and there was no room to circle. And S, of the other "trainers", was concerned that her horses were spooking at the pedestal.

By all means remove the offending object. Don't train your horses. How can I tell them its Not about the PEDESTAL? I know breathe in breathe out. Calm down, lighten up. Stop grinding my teeth at the absurdity.

Today a nice kid who has been watching me play with Cici and been copying some things - brought in all sorts of play items for ground play - is riding and cantering around the ring. The horse is not happy, wringing her tail and bucking. The kid's Mom asks if this is the horse's easier way and kid says S (trainer) told her to start out with the harder side first. This I could not let go as I was talking with Mom. Told her this was nuts. And I could not keep quiet. Why start out harder? Why not set things up for success and build on that success?!?!?!

Mentioned that yesterday when Cici was leaping in the air one person was very surprise. Seems they think Cici is quiet, calm and perfect all the time. She is a horse! And a mare! She can change her mind. We play on the ground so that we can have safe rides.

End of rant. I promise. Or will try to promise.

My lessons

Today while playing with Cici I came to a couple of realizations. Those ah ha moments that really are so obvious but of course we miss them.

Cici at Liberty at the Pedestal showed me that I don't need to be right there with her. A while later when I had her on the 22' line I worked hard on ME staying out of the way by being at the other end of the 22 and letting her figure and play with things ON HER OWN. She would paw the pedestal and then look at me. Paw it and look at me.

The other lesson is to play the circling game and ask her for trot and canter every time we play. Not just play with her mind, and putting feet on things. She needs to move and listen to me. Oh Boy! An action plan.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Exuberance with Cici

Played online today. Plan was to do online check at walk trot canter for trail ride. Knew I've been doing lots of quiet things with Cici this past week or so. Mind active but feet never moving faster than a walk. Thought she might have some pent up energy to express so I plan on playing 1-1/2 hours before meeting up with V for the trails.

Still fascination with pedestal. Played sideways down the long side, played squeeze, played a bit of stick to me. Cici looks at the world, okay the ring, differently. What can I put my feet on??? At one end of the ring I had one cone and the square wooden cube mounting block. She footed the cone and stepped on the base. Then she went to the mounting block and I had to hurry her away because if she does put a foot on it I don't think it can withstand it LOL!

Circling - backing okay, send sort of okay. Hmmm be provocative and particular. So she will go out, but then she drags her feet as she walks. I ask for her to go sideways on the circle, and it just so happens that I ask at the place in the circle that is closest to the pedestal. She floats sideways to the pedestal. And paws the top and looks at me - treat!

Back to circling. I insisted. She resisted. I upped my Phase to maybe a 2 cause yes I was waiting for the explosion. And she did not disappoint!

She leapt in the air - all four feet off the ground, she was jet propelled, she flew. And then she wanted to come in. Since I was reading her as LBE I asked for her to stay on the circle and move her feet some more. And she responded with little licks, the baby kind - can I please come in? kind. I've not seen this before from her. I've seen the licking and chewing. Big, little, but done and over. Here I was seeing just a little tip of tongue, again and again and again and again as she stayed out on the circle.

A boarder was in the ring with her dog. Who now added to the excitement. I let Cici circle one more time and asked her in. Now the dog really got involved and is at Cici's heels and Cici does not like this. Off she goes again, maybe a better way to describe this is up she goes and when she comes in to me her head HIGH, and she is snorting and blowing. RBE.

So I ask for sideways, I ask for backing, I ask for figure 8. And she comes down off the adrenalin. This stuff is so amazing. When I get the pieces together that is.

We go back to circling game. She can walk trot canter calmly now. I admit that I was wondering if I would be going out on the trails today when she went big E. But watching her I am delighted to realize she let off steam went way outside her comfort zone and came back to me! Calm sane and safe.

Had a delightful quiet swinging trail ride.

Oh and the boarder, after apologizing, said she was so surprised. Never imagined Cici could or would leap in the air like that and gallop around. I said that is why I play on the ground with her before I get on. Duh! She is good because we work at it. And I never make assumptions.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Effective Phase 4

Casey, ah Casey. He has been quite the challenge recently. I've been playing with him but he won't play. I realize all he does is run in circles around me. Would not call it the circling game as it is all his idea. When he is tired he turns in and lick and chews and looks at me and then when he catches his breath off he goes again.

I've had that light bulb moment a while ago and if he comes in uninvited I send him back out. But his pinning of ears and nipping is not diminishing. Its escalating if anything. And asking him to back is quite honesty absolutely exhausting. Me. Exhausting to me. Something wrong with this picture?

I have a 12' lead on his halter and when we go to the ring I change it to a 22'. But during the switching leads he is biting nipping biting at my hands. So we battle it out. And it escalates. Not good.

Yesterday I set out to set things up for success. Switched leads before I haltered him! Duh!??!?! Another of those oh boy moments. And when I haltered him, which he stands quietly for, it was like he knew he would not be able to play the biting game. So he immediately went to bite me. I wiggled the rope to back him up. His head just went up in the air. I did full arm what I was thinking was phase 4 rope wiggling. Just stood there with nose up. My emotional fitness was out the window.

I took a step back. Organized myself. Organized my rope and did a flick the rope so the snap waps his nose. Hit him square on the side of his nose/mouth. Did I ever get his attention! Of course for a moment I was concerned that I had hurt him and wondering at vet and dentist bills. He licked and licked and licked and stayed the 4 paces back he had walked when it wapped him.

We walked quietly out of the paddock and into the ring. He was full of energy and was racing around on the 22'. When I asked him to come in he did quickly as usual. And when I asked him to not get so close and back up....Phase 1 didn't have any effect, but Phase 2 - a salute, yes ma’am and how far back to you want??? and he fast backed 4 steps.

Holy cow!!!! Who would have thought????? Never such respect!!!!! Can't wait to see him today!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Liberty

Been playing more with liberty with Cici. Since the doors to the indoor don't close I leave her halter on and loop the 12' around her neck. Gives me a safety. Sort of. Well it allows me to think I have a safety LOL. Setting things up for success. And she has not walked out the door. Hopefully don't need to amend that with a yet.

Cici really likes this. She is much more engaged with me and her environment. I'm trying to see how things are different. How I am acting, where I am standing, distances, what I do. What I really notice is how softly and quietly I ask. The "How little will it take." And I allow her time to think.

Today of course off to the pedestal. Someone apparently decided it should not be in the ring and dragged it over to side. Why they did this is beyond me. So it is now stuck in the corner with the poles and jump standards and all sorts of debris. Cici can access it by two sides only. One is parallel to the wall and the other is facing the wall. It is way too heavy for me to move. And Cici seems still interested in it and paws the top with her foot.

When we leave the pedestal Cici notices the new Golden Ball I got her. One of the big yoga balls. She walks straight to it and first paws at it, then noses it and pushes it down the long side - following and pushing. I just following along. This is sooooo cool. She stops at a broom that is leaning against the wall. Noses it, tastes the handle, knocks it down and then plays with it with her nose. Back to the ball. All of this she is doing. I am just standing watching with my jaw hanging open.

Pushes the ball into a chair at the end of the ring. Now she moves over to check the chair out. Finds a left over dressage whip on the chair and picks it up, puts it down, picks it up, looks over at me and then drops it again.

I ask her to come to me from about 10 feet away. She thinks. and thinks. I move to the side to disengage her hindend and she walks to me. We walk around a bit and she is walking with me. Not that slow hesitant walk but her forward walk! Sideways along the wall. She will go about 12 -14' from me before she stops. Progress.

To the cones for figure 8 but she decides it put your foot on the cone time. I love that she is offering so much. I take what she offers for now. Decided to end the session and head to the end of the ring where her blanket is, its going to be in the single digits tonight, and she offers sideways TO the pedestal. One more pawing at the top. What a rock star!


Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Lick and Chewing - mine

I've been thinking about Cici's fascination with the pedestal. Its a puzzle she just wants to solve. And I wonder at the difference in her attitude. She is more engaged. More there. Dare I say more present at the pedestal?

I am trying to tease the pieces out of this puzzle for myself (forgive the mixed metaphor). When we usually try something new she goes RBI. Ah a RBI learner. She gets hesitant, her nostrils crunch up, she moves slowly. She thinks so hard her head hurts.

At the pedestal she is definitely LB. The pedestal is like a door opening. for her? to her? She WANTS to go to it. She WANTS to explore it. With her nose, her lips, her teeth and even her feet.

She is carrying this exploration over to other objects. She bites the ground poles. She paws the mounting block when I play touch it. She noses, lips, teeth and feets the cones.

Am I right in making the leap to she is exploring her environment. That she is moving slowly to confidence toward exuberance?

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Pedestal at Liberty

Today is day 5 with Cici and the pedestal. We played at liberty and as soon as she walked into the arena she walked to the pedestal. Nosed it. Dusted the top completely, and then started pawing at the top. She has to lift her foot way up, you can see how tall the pedestal is in relation to her knee. She'd get her foot on it and I tried to rub her leg to still it. No luck yet. I give her a treat after she stands still again.


I think she views the pedestal as a treat dispenser now. I could not get her to leave it. When I suggested she move she would paw it again. Notice she is either leg, doesn't seem to have a favorite. So I let her dwell.

She stood with her head over the top and licked and chewed. I just gave her more dwell time. She cocked a hind leg. Head still hanging over pedestal. Licked and chewed. And when I finally suggest we go something else she pawed the top one more time!


Played stick to me and wandered over to the two cones for figure 8s. Now she is very interested in putting her feet on things and the cones fell into that category. Figure 8 at liberty turned into nose the cone, lip the cone, tooth the cone, paw the cone and finally she knocked it over and then righted the cone. Looked very pleased with herself. I just love her involvement. Oh she did step on the base of the cone!

I sent her with a finger point to the other cone. And this time I got a very nice walking figure 8. Whew. I thought I was going to have cone fixation from now on.

On the way out, well the pedestal was on the way out. She zoned into it and walked directly to it once again. Nosed the top and then pawed it again. I keep wondering if it is too tall. Will give her more time to build her confidence about what I am asking.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Pedestal day 3

Today Cici quickly had her front foot up on the pedestal pawing it. Momentary panic for me when as she drew her foot back the tip of her toe would seem to get caught - she'd have to raise her leg a bit more to get it clear. But since she knows that she will get a treat for putting her foot up there - well LBI will work for food.

She seems very interested in doing this. When I ask her to back so we can go on to something else she will offer another try. Very engaged. This is awesome. Amazing how quickly she figured it out and what is most interesting to me is that here she is not hesitant, no nostril flare now, she is definitely in control. And she has offered both legs, one at a time.

We play at the pedestal and then I do ask her to go do something else. Sideways, squeeze, back to the pole and put one foot over. When we leave the pedestal she gets quiet and hesitant again. I hope to build on the confidence and interest and what Linda referred to in her recent blog on being provocative as "yes Ma'am!"

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Pedestal

I've been watching some Level 2 and 3 online assessments, as well as watching Level 3 online with Pat and its slowing getting through to me that I am further along, online that is, than I thought. I am playing Level 3 online. That awareness is kind of mind bending. Or to put it more succinctly, Oh Boy!

Been working diligently at being more provocative with Cici and thought hmmm a pedestal would be great. M has this huge one she used with her Standardbred when she was trick training him. Its tucked in the corner of the arena. It weighs a ton and the step up is maybe 18 or 20". Its taller than Cici's knee, that is for sure. But I know we have walked over logs on the trail that are as high.

I've also been noticing that Cici has been offering to step on things. Like a cone and mounting block when we play touch it. The other day she had her front foot almost on the mounting block! And that is when the light bulb went off, pedestal.

M offered to move her pedestal into the ring. She "rolled" it ass over tea kettle. I had Cici online as M was moving it and she was fascinated with it. Had to move her out of the way so the pedestal would not land on her.

I didn't have to do anything to get Cici to the pedestal. Talk about curiosity! Cici had her nose all over the top. First the nose, then the neck, maybe the feet. She sure had her nose and neck reaching along the top. And she was standing with her toes right against the angled base.

I asked her to walk forward and she kicked the base a couple of times. So we walked away and did other things in the ring before going back. I played with leading her leg with a rope and then asked her to lift her foot to the top of the pedestal. Remember its 18-20" tall and she is a 14 hand girl.

She rested her tip toe on the pedestal. Treat. Treat. Rubbed her leg. Told her she was soooo smart. Quietly removed her foot and we went and did other things. Figured that was enough for day one.

I got Casey and dare I admit this? I stood on the pedestal while he ran around. It was a defensive position as he was trying to "get" me. Worked fantastically! Then I asked him to come to the pedestal and since he was still "trying to get me" I stood at the back corner and he leaned way over the top. First the nose, then the neck, maybe the feet.

Well it was not long before young master Casey (mini extraordinaire) was striking the top of the pedestal with his feet!

Day 2. The chiropractor was at the barn this morning and adjusted Cici. Okay he adjusted me as well. I had noticed yesterday when I asked Cici to trot on the circle she would do this my neck is stiff head toss in both directions. Since I knew the chiropractor was coming I just added her to the list.

Well she felt soooo good that when I asked for a trot I got a great rounding of her body as she launched off in a gallop. On the circle. Airs above ground. Both directions!

She will do this for two maybe three circles before she comes trotting in to me. Save me! She comes in and licks and chews fast and hard. I sent her out and she just could not hold a trot. More galloping, slowing to a nice canter around and around and then back to me. Save me. I could see she was winding herself up and even though when she came in she would lick and chew I needed to engage her mind.

Sideways along the wall was great. I could stand still and send her to the end of the 22. Lots of licking and chewing. Half circles, change of direction, more licking and chewing. She was just delighted to be focusing on something.

Pedestal? First touch it with a treat when she did. She then nosed all over the top checking the dirt to see if there were other treats. She checked the edges, taking the wood in her teeth - I've noticed this biting things recently. She's done that with the round ground poles. I asked her to put her foot on the top. She moved her leg forward and hit the side of the pedestal. Great.

We walked away and played stick to me for a bit then back to the pedestal. I again led her with the rope on her leg. After what felt like very little time she lifted her leg and pawed at the top. Striking it a couple of times and then leg back down to the ground. I didn't have the rope on her leg. This was her idea! Treat. Rubbed her leg and quietly told her I she was a super star!

Walked away again and came back. She now put her foot right on top of the pedestal! And left it there. Resting on the toe. Stood quietly. Treat treat. Rubbed leg. Wow girl friend you are awesome. End on a great note.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Stumpy and the deer

There is an old tree stump around the corner on the trail out. When V noticed it for the first time she thought it was a wild pig! And that he was going to charge! We've since named him Stumpy.

Today as we were heading to the Precipice Trail, I saw deep in the woods another larger stump. I hadn't noticed it before but now that the leaves are gone everything looks so very different. Constantly seeing things that are now exposed.

Cici was walking along quietly and I kept looking at this large roundish form. Just as I was about to mention it to V and ask her what we should name it, I glanced to the side and realized there were two large deer standing silhouetted among the bare trees!

It wasn't a stump! It was a full grown deer lying down deep in the woods! We continued walking down the trail and the deer continued resting.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Stick to me

I'm trying, really trying to break my old same old same old patterns when playing with Cici. Today's plan was to play stick to me, with a bit of liberty mixed in. I kept her halter on and looped the 12" around her neck and off we went to explore the indoor.

She started off with a bit of flared nostril which means she is not sure and thinking hard. I'd say this is her RBI mode. So I took it slow. We walked along with me in zones 1 & 2. She is comfortable keeping me there. Backing I'd wind up in Zone 3 and had to use the carrot stick gently up and down for her to stick to my backwards steps. If I didn't think to use the carrot stick I could walk backwards all the way to zone 5 and then gently lift her tail to ask for backing. Sometimes it was successful and sometimes not. Not yet consistent. Oh boy, something else to work on!

What is interesting is that I find when she is not sure what I am asking she will now offer sideways! The first time I lifted the carrot stick up she floated off sideways. I exhaled to stop her and then positioned myself carefully and tried again.

I did ask for sideways along the wall and she was amazing. I started to walk sideways with her and that was all I was doing as she continued along the wall.

With two cones set up for figure 8 we walked to the cones and then I stood still and pointed which way she needed to go and off she went! Draw at the end. Whoohoo!! This was the first figure 8 at liberty.

After we had been playing for a while I then asked her to slow down and speed up - matching my steps and when she was in sync we trotted off together. And she stayed with me trotting for an entire loop around the indoor. Another first! She felt very happy and relaxed, with lots of licking and chewing going on.

Slowly, oh so slowly I feel I am getting to her mind through her feet. What a wonderful concept. As I get more interesting she is getting more interested...in me.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Being more provocative

Went with a plan today to engage Cici's mind. Sunday morning is quiet - so quiet absolutely no one was at the barn. Set up the arena with cones for weave, barrels, low jump, mounting block and wheel barrel (hey gotta use what's on hand).

I'll admit last night I watched Rick Lamb's interview with Linda on horseanality, looked at the tasks on the self assessments for Levels 2 and 3, and reread Cici horseanality report. I'm determined to be the best partner I can be!

Her big red dot is in LBI but right at the x with extrovert and right brain. Meaning she can bounce all over the place at the slightest whim, but is generally LBI. The report was done almost 6 months ago and while reading through it I am thinking she has progressed and maybe I'll consider another report.

Back to The Plan. I haltered her carefully, noting that she dropped her head and turned her nose toward me. Walked quietly to the gate, with Casey nudging along with us. I asked her to walk out the gate and followed, letting her drop her head and eat the grass while I dealt with the electric wire and the gate's latch. Gave her time to nibble. Then trying for no resistance, twirled the rope at her hind quarters and she lifted her head and we walked to the arena.

Started off with touch it. Have not played this for quite some time. She walked to the first cone and stopped. Then she walked one more step forward and I asked her for two steps back. She looked at me asking huh? I asked her touch the cone with her cute nose. She dropped her head and touched the cone. Then sent her to the low jump's end. She touched that. Off to the mounting block. Touched that and I gave her a treat. So she touched it again and looked at me. When no treat was forth coming she rubbed her nose on the mounting block - gotta be a treat in here somewhere.

She was engaged in the game. And willing to touch things. Still walking quietly and a bit hesitantly toward each of the objects. Since she was about 8 feet away from me I asked her to walk on a circle. But I didn't want to tax her so I asked for one step on the circle and stop. Huh?!?!? Let her rest and think about this. Waited. Waited. The radio was playing and I wanted to dance about, but I tried to quiet my energy to match hers. Got a lick.

Asked her to walk 2 steps and stop. She wanted to go for 3 but I stopped her at 2. Waited. Waited. Waited. I turned a bit away from her and got a lick and chew chew chew. So I suggested 3 steps would be a good idea and she gave me 4 before I could ask her to stop. And immediate lick and chew.

And now she can't stand it any long so she walks off on the circle for 4 more steps and with lively energy walks in to me to stop in front of me and chew. I suggest she back and she goes out softly. Wow this is incredible stuff. Thanks Linda!

I mix things up and ask for a couple of steps on the circle than I ask her to go sideways. I don't have to move my feet. She is paying careful attention to me.

Next I've been wanting to work on sideways to mounting block. Wasn't that in the last Savvy Club magazine? Position the square cube mounting block along the wall and position her facing me, perpendicular to the wall. I reach the carrot stick over her and ask her to move her hindquarters over. We are both a bit not sure what we are doing and she gives me sideways down the wall. I'm standing on the mounting block and she is just floating away along the wall for 10 to 15 feet! Licks and chews.

I can't believe this! So I ask her to come back to me and she now goes sideways down the wall in the other direction! I let her rest for a while down there. More chewing and then I gently ask her to sideways towards me. She crosses her front feet and then her back feet. An absolute first ever. I stop and let her think about this. And then yo-yo her to me by just stroking the rope.

I am focusing on doing the littlest I can. Will the least amount of foot movement (my feet that is). We are both quiet. And she is so connected!

Just experimenting with things now. Can I lead her by her forelock? Gentle pressure and support with halter and lead and in a few tries she is willingly coming with me. Back from tail? Yes!

I put the 12' lead on and loop it around her neck and play stick to me. Weave the cones, jump the jump, circle around the barrels. We are running - I'm running and she is trotting with me and licking away furiously and clearly having fun.

Last night I was reading Linda saying that grabbing for grass can be an expression of dominance, and when you are in partnership with your horse they will not do this. When we finally walk back out to the paddock Cici walks next to me without ONCE trying to grab for grass. I think I'm gonna cry.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

A different trail ride.

While yesterday Cici was flighty online she was great on the trails. Today the online pre ride check went quietly. She was responsive and listening. But on the trails...well this was the first time she's spooked with me in quite some time.

Went out with M and her Friesian bulldozer and her dog. Cici and this dog have an ongoing conversation. We've all been out together and everything went fine. Today the dog went running off and when M called him it took a while for him to come back. And when he did he crashed through the leaves behind us. Cici spooked but quickly stopped with one rein. But after that she didn't want the dog behind her. And the dog was leary of passing her! So we would stop and "pull over" for the dog to pass.

Okay that was one thing going on. Everything settled down as we continued along. Cici was swinging her hips as we walked and I had a casual rein. We walked through the leaves crunching under foot (or hoof). Then we turned up the trail where we planned on bushwhacking. M started off the trail but quickly stopped as the going didn't look so good. Cici walked off the trail and I asked her to wait. She did for a bit then decided this was taking too long and she started across a pile of branches.

I don't know what happened next except we were now canter up the slope on a very narrow trail, with a steep dropoff. I turned her up into the hill, one rein stop and turn. She was clearly on alert. So I dismounted - on the uphill side which meant a right side dismount.

By now M has come out of the woods and asks what set Cici off. I really don't know. There was background droning of a leaf blower, the wind was blowing, she got tired of waiting?

She just was not her normal calm collected self. Walked her to some stumps to remount and we headed back down the trail toward home. Walked through the puddles and mud again. Friesian decides to avoid the water and climbs up on the bank and then looses his footing and almost goes down. Cici decides that she too should avoid the water and tries the opposite bank.

M feels she needs to school her horse through the water. Cici is not standing quietly and then spooks again. Now we are talking maybe 3 strides before I lift one rein but she is not happy with contact. And I'm not happy with this. Emotional fitness is coming and going. Safety first. But I am thinking as I write this that I could have dismounted and played a while on the ground before getting back on.

We do some bushwhacking and Cici likes to choose her own way. I have shortened my reins. And she is listening when I ask her to go down a slope slowly, and up the opposite side also slowly. But she is not feeling relaxed. She is following the Friesian but her ears are saying she is leading. They are pointed to the front, with only an occasional flick back to me. I'm trying to keep my seat deep and swinging. I'm trying to maintain a feeling, and not hang on the reins. Emotional fitness. Hmmm.

Looking at the video I remember remarking how open the woods are now that the leaves are all gone. You can now see much farther into the woods, see the all the tree trunks. No leaves creating a tunnel and blocking the open view. Look at the sunlight and shadows! In the months with leaves the trail is completed in shade. Wonder if this change is what Cici is responding to. And listen to the sound of the leaves!

video

When we get back to the barn and I untack her she is wet. More than what I would expect from the ride. Wet from nervous energy. Wondering why I didn't see this in our pre flight check. What did I miss?

Very different from our usual trail rides. Hmmm how interesting. Wonder what I can do differently next time. I need to lick and chew on this for sure.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Circling Game at a canter

I recently realized that when I play with Cici before I go out on a trail ride I have only been asking for a few strides of canter. I let her walk the circle, I count the number of times she trots the circle, and when I ask for canter I check the quality of her depart - softly into canter or bucking? My preflight check.

If she goes quietly into canter I invite her in after a few strides. We change direction, check the gaits this way and again nice soft into canter and a few strides and disengage hind end. Time to add the saddle and check her out online again.

With Casey flying around and around and around me at the canter I guess I've had another of those duh?!?!!? moments. So I pledged to work with Cici to have her canter on the 22'completely around and even to be able to count the circles.

On Wednesday my plan was to have her canter a complete circle. When I asked for canter she softly went into it and after 3 strides came back to trot. She was doing exactly what we've been practicing! OMG! So I adjusted my plan to increase the number of strides to 5 and not even consider a complete circle. Took several tries but she did it. So I invited her in to me and we went on to other things.

Today, well I guess I could say the temperatures have been up in the 60s and down in the 30s. This morning it was brisk. I had not ridden Cici on the trails in about a week and only played with her a few times.

Or I could say she got up on the lively side of the paddock this morning. I didn't see any real indication when I brought her into the ring to play. We did sideways, we did figure 8s around cones, we played yo-yo. I sent her out on the circle and she was moving slow. I upped my phases and she woke up a bit and started to trot.

A nice moving trot that went into a quarter horse gallop without any provocation that I could see. Now when she "takes off" she will do all her antics ON THE CIRCLE. She used to take off in a straight line. But I don't think she likes to hit the end of the rope, so now she can go full out and stay on the circle!

Today I was thinking the 22' was short! Looks like the 45 is going to be coming out soon.

After one lap she turns in and comes directly to me. Kind of "I don't know what came over me." I thanked her for coming in but asked her to back and then go out on the circle. Well now when I asked for trot I got gallop. And where I had been thinking of how to build up her confidence to canter multiple circles, she was galloping! multiples times! around on the circle! Who's games are these?!?!

Changed direction to the left and she didn't want to trot. I insisted, upped my phases and in a blink of eye she is galloping around this way. Two three times around the circle, not breaking gait, looking where she is going. And then back to me.

I tell her that I do not mind in the least her exuberance while on line. That this is the place for it. Not under saddle.

This goes on for about 30 minutes. This is not usual in anyway for her. Usual is walk, trot and 3 strides of canter LOL. Finally I can ask for walk trot canter and she responds lightly and willingly.

Out on the trails she is soft and willing. And tired.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

How About.....?

Today I brought out the tarp. Haven't played with that for a while so I thought it would add variety. How about a crumpled pile of tarp? Cici looked at it and nosed it. Then she pawed it and then she walked over it. Okay that was easy.

How about playing the circling game where she had to step on the tarp along the circle. Walk no problem. When I asked for trot she would trot around the circle, come to the tarp and purposefully walk over it and trot once past it. No hesitation about the tarp, but clearly it was meant to be walked over. Hmm how interesting. I love when she makes up her own games.

Change of direction, same thing. So how about I ask her to trot over the tarp and it was like, of course, what's the big deal?!?!

I thought okay how about tarp flapping around her. With the radio playing Sugarland's Stuck Like Glue, I lifted the tarp up and down dancing around Cici. She just stood there, oh how boring, and licked and chewed.

How about tarp on your back? Or how about wearing a blue tarp bonnet?



Thursday, November 11, 2010

Casey 3 Jamie 1

Ah what a difference a day can make! Finally beginning to get through to the little character. Didn't let Casey rest when HE decided to. Thanked him for coming in but sent him right out again. You could see the little wheels furiously going round round in his head as he found himself back out on the circle. How did she do that? What about I'm tired and want to catch my breath? Who has she been talking to? What DVDs has she been watching?!?!?!?

Today everything seemed to come together while I played with Casey. The ropes behaved, he began to listen, and I felt like I knew what I was doing. LOL!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Casey Casey Casey

I feel I am competent with the rope. Can handle it with savvy. And then I bring Casey into the arena and in no time at all I am tied up, tripping over it and my savvy string and 22' line are knotted together! Oh and did I mention I look like I rolled in the ring, or maybe was dragged, from all the transfer of arena footing to me from the rope?!?!?

Ah Casey, he is such a challenge for me. LB big E. I am so comfortable with Cici, an introvert. I can bring my energy up when I need to with her, but I don't need to keep it up for very long. Casey is the total opposite. He is such an Extrovert (notice the big E for him and small i for Cici) that when I try and match his energy - well he just keeps it up there and totally wears me out! Must be his plan.

He flies out to the end of the 22' line, he gallops about, he bucks and kicks his back feet out, he turns in to me and charges with ears pinned back and as he passes he throws both back feet at me. Fortunately no contact. Oh and when he wants a chance to catch is breath he drops to the ground and rolls. And rolls and rolls. Totally covers himself in footing to the extent that he changes color.

I was reading an article by Linda about "oh you want to go fast? Great idea!" So I tried that with him. Galloping on the circle? Great lets keep going! Casey learned early on that if he turns in and faces I give him time to think. But oh...one of those blinding flashes of comprehension, a totally duh!?!??! moment. I've been rewarding him for the wrong thing. I asked him to stay on the circle and keep going. He is out of breath and turns in. I need to thank him for coming in but then immediately get him back out. I do this with Cici, how come I didn't make the connection with Casey???

Well this moment reminds me why blogging or journaling is so very important. Yes to document the journey but more importantly to process the journey. Now I can't wait to go play with Casey tomorrow.

I've been saying I know he will get better, just when? Now I realize its I'll get better! And hopefully sooner than later.

An interesting aside, I watched the Level 3 online DVD with Pat last night. After my Casey session. And used a lot of things I saw and heard Pat talk about while playing with Cici. Now while Casey has been flying around, Cici as been moving like molasses! Another duh!!! moment when I realized my send was broken. Fixed it and had a really nice circling game with Cici. Felt more connected with her. Alternating between her and the Case will help me grow, that is if I can survive his antics.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Yawning

I rode Cici with her rope halter for the first time yesterday. What was interesting was how some issues, like resistance to left lateral flexion are the same as with the bridle. Right lateral flexion was about the same as with the bridle. Lifting one rein for a stop was so much better, and backing was light and right there. Hmmm how interesting.

We just walked around the ring. Stick to the rail, and then circles through the question box. Stick to the rail went better than usual. I'm not going to discuss the strange shapes we were making in the middle of the ring.

After a while she started to yawn when we were stopped in the question box. Once she started it didn't seem that she could stop. She yawned with her head down, she yawned with her head straight out in front, she lifted her head way way up to the rafters and yawned and yawned and yawned.

Normally I am pleased when I bore her into yawning when I ride ; -) But this was different, such a huge release from her jaw. I know she holds a lot of her tension in her mouth, can see her lips pursed, chin tight. Takes a lot for her to relax there. When I put her bridle on the next time I plan on pay specific attention to how she holds the bit. Oh boy!

Casey

Casey has been reverting back to some of his old undesirable behaviors. Clearly he believes I have not been spending enough time with him. All my time is with Cici, according to him. Remember he is a LB big E and everything is about him.

The tooth fairy was here recently and the vet, Kendyl, as he needs to be tranq'd for it to safely get his teeth done. Well he was full of himself before Kendyl came. And when he saw her he went into over the top bad behavior. Kendyl finds him amusing and always says they have a love hate relationship. She loves him (thank heavens!!!) and he hates her. She takes the time it takes to get him soft with her before she gives him a shot. She takes the time and does not do anything sneaky with him.

But he hates, absolutely hates being tranq'd. He takes a full horse sized dose, and continues to fight it the whole time. Oh and did I mention that he holds grudges?

The dentistry went well, but I could see him seething as he fought the drugs. And then his left stifle locked as he was coming out of the tranq. Well it kept locking and unlocking and Kendyl told me that we just had to wait until the drugs were completely out of his system - and that hopefully he would be fine then.

Of course I had to check on him at 9:00 PM to see how he was doing. Wandering around in the pitch black looking for a black mini who is staying away from me. Groan. It was still coming and going. When his stifle locks he looks like a peg legged pirate. He will walk with the leg straight and he swings it away from his body as he walks. Comical if I wasn't so worried about him.

In the morning, when I made an extra trip to the barn to check on him, he was fine. So I took him for a walk. Well I meant to take him out, but he would have nothing to do with the halter. Remember holds grudges?!?

That a couple of weeks ago. Yesterday when I went to play with Cici and ride I noticed Casey was doing his pirate imitation. What I need to do is back him up and hope that the stifle will pop back. At first it kept going in and then out. Groan. But finally in and I was able to get his halter on with no resistance and took him up to the indoor.

Once in the door he is off and running. I switched to the 22' line and he is bucking, kicking out with both bad feet aimed towards me and flying around. I thought he might be a little sore. But he is full of himself. Beginning to wonder if he is figuring out a way to lock his stifle so I will pay attention to him. Hmmmm, an awful thought.

He is so LBE that I just hold on to the lead as he races around me, changing direction and stopping to face me when he is out of breath. The moment he catches his breath he is off again. He learned the turn and face means time out very quickly, and uses it to his advantage.

As he starts to slow down I try figure 8s around the cones but then he is off again. Decide I will just let him wear himself out.

Today I halter him and take him again to the indoor. Need to exercise and strength that leg and am thinking I better do this more rather than less often. He is again racing around ignoring me. He does stay on the circle, no running out to the end of the rope at least. When he comes in to me, it is a struggle to get him to back up. Seems we are back at the beginning. Know this will get better, but right now I swear I am working harder than I ever do with Cici! And he is what? 1/5 of her size?

Going from a introvert (Cici) who goes between left and rigt brain sides, and a big (okay emotionally big) extravert is causing MY head to spin.

One day at a time.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Trail Super Star

Out on the trails today with M on one of her Friesians. Cici has never been out with him before, this was their first date. As we left the barn and went up the trail I noticed she was actively looking about. She was attentive and had her head up and ears were dancing. After about three or four minutes she relaxed and went into following mode. I realized she had been acting like she was out on the trail alone! Lead horse who has to stay alert! Guess it took a little while before she was willing to believe the Friesian knew what he was doing.

We decided to do one of the new trails in the opposite direction from the way we have, and when we came to the trail head saw it was posted with a No Trespassing sign. There wasn't one at the other end, hmmm how interesting. So off the trail we went. Bushwhacking! With the Bulldozer (the Friesian)!

No creature has been through these woods of downed trees and saplings growing up inches from each other. The Bulldozer leads the way and Cici closes her eyes and just walks through anything and everything. She even cuts her own trails when she thinks he is going the wrong way. She doesn't even bother to go around some of the saplings, just walks over them. Well she gets caught. Two saplings conspire to basically trap her left front leg in a V. She can't go forward, she can't back, "Time to get off Mom". She is calm. Not paniced, just stands and waits for me to fix it.

There are more trees right to her left and the saplings are bent that way, only clear side is on the right. Glad I've done all that practicing of mounting and unmounting from both sides as I don't give it a second thought but hop off the right side. I give it a second thought afterwards.

Well these two saplings where really tight up against her chest and armpit. I wrestle the smaller on to the ground and step on it to hold it down. Now I'm trying to figure out how to get the larger one which has a trunk of maybe 1-1/2". Have to bend it away from her and then step on it with my other foot to hold it down. They are both too green to break. And now I ask Cici to walk forward, over the trunks of the saplings. Feels like I'm caught a strange game of Twister LOL!!!!

She calmly walks out of the puzzle and now I am on the ground and we all continue our bushwhacking. The area is so dense there is no room for me to mount back up. We continue clambering over downed trees, thick underbrush and finally connect up with the trail. Mount back up.

I think back to how Cici just stood there. Calm with complete confidence that I would extract her. What a Super Star!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Time

Time time time. Taking the time it takes, put the relationship first. Ah, today I feel like a failure. I put my wants - I want to trail ride - ahead of my relationship. And the worst thing about it was that I was totally aware of what was happening.

Monday morning, should be working, but wanted to go out on the trails this morning with V. Got up late, delayed and then when I finally was organized and ready to play with Cici we only had half an hour before the "agreed upon" time to go out. I always get to the barn with about an hour to play before going out. So today felt I "had" to do my pre ride check quickly.

Cici was not in the mood to do anything really. Wanted to eat her hay and maybe take a walk. But I had her out on the circle and I was micromanaging and demanding. Trot, trot now, trot, now canter. Don't stop and come in, stay out on the circle and lets just get through this walk trot canter checklist. When I finally asked her to come in she walked in and stood at an angle AWAY from me with her head firmly looking away. No head to my chest. No looking at me. Looking away!!!!! This is neither an oh boy or a how interesting moment. This is a moment of my shame.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Playing in the big field

I took Cici across the street yesterday to play in a large grass field. A neighbor has this field fenced in and uses it as a jumping course for her daughter. Fortunately it was cleared of jumps. I gathered up my ropes and carrot stick and even dug out the 45' line. Finally I could use it!

Cici walked quietly next to me down the driveway, gently snorting. Hmmm, rereading that sentence I wish to clarify, she walked quietly, but she was certainly making noise! Nostrils get a little tight as she goes RBI. And the snorts - I use them as an indicator of how RB she is. When we are riding on a new trail she will snort. Turn onto one she has been before, snorts stop.

Walked down the driveway, across the street, down neighbor's driveway onto their lawn. Cici stops for a snack. Thinking about Linda's Zero brace whenever Cici drops her head to eat I wiggle the rope to ask her to raise her head and walk with me.

We enter the fenced field and I close the gate. Know there is a possibility of dropping the rope and want to set up this first experience for success. Not lose my horse.

Now we have ridden over here, but gone on the trails, not come into this field. Cici has her head up, well up when it is not down eating grass. She is thinking that this is a wonderful field to graze in. I switch the 12' lead to the 22' and walk her around. Since she has her life up I trot off and she is with me. As we walk and trot around it is head up aware to head down eat. Walk a couple of steps and drop head to eat. Trot together. Stop and head down to eat. I ask her for backing from zone 5 and she eats as she back up! Amazing!

When she is eating I try wiggling the rope to get her head up. Trying not to just pull on the rope. Ask for some back up - and then circling. I've played a couple of time recently in the indoor with transitions online and she decides to practice. So walk, transition to eat, trot, then downward transition to eat. Each time she is staying on the circle. Maintaining gait is not going well.

I am laughing and enjoying playing in the field and the sun and the wonderful Fall day. Appreciate her creativeness. How she takes a concept and makes it her own. LBI. I also know that the line between her LB and RB behavior is very fine. So when I ask for her to go forward on the circle I try and be soft. Work on my phases carefully. Perhaps I am too careful? too cautious?

She is trotting nicely, and stops to grab a bite of grass when she is behind me, then back to trot. I don't do anything but she spooks and does her quarter horse gather and push off and I just let the line go. Not going to hold her! She runs off a ways, the line behind her, she turns and the line now bounces and wraps around her front foot. I am standing still watching what is happening.

By the time the rope is wrapped around her front foot, she has turned and is facing me and stops and eats the grass. I walk toward her, taking off my jacket as the sun is getting warmer. Think about the fact that I am now flapping my jacket while walking towards her but she has the grass and just eats and stands still. I drop my jacket on my pile of ropes and finally walk up to her. She has lifted her head to touch my hand.

I loosen the loop around her leg and ask her to back and step out of the loop. Then we walk back to area where we were playing. Do some walking circles. Wow, great to have the space to do this as she is at the end of the 22'. Thinking it will be a while before I am comfortable enough to pull out the 45 and play with that. But that is a new goal.

As Cici goes around and stops to eat and I wiggle the rope through the phases to ask her to stay at gait she takes off again. This time she is staying on the circle! but slips on the grass. She skids and her back end slids out from under her and she sits down on her left hind. Then jumps back up and continues the circle.

It is clear to me that she is fine, but I am worried about the divots in the grass. This is the first time we are playing in the field and I don't know if the owner will be upset. And I want to come back! So I stomp the divots back and walk Cici around to make sure she is fine and gather up my bag and jacket. Walk back up the hill to home.

I can't wait to come back and play again here.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Bushwacking

Yesterday I only had a little time to be at the barn. Felt I needed to spend the time cleaning the paddock, so with fork and wheel barrel I entered. Cici and Casey came right over to me. Nuzzles and treat begging. I scratched favorite places and then went off to pick up poop. Well they followed me. Stopped and waited for me to finish one place before the three of us walked over to the next pile! Very calm and quiet. A bit difficult sometimes to handle the muck rake LOL. Both took turns at chewing on the handles of the wheelbarrel. And Cici stood right next to it and then lifted her front foot up and over the handle! And back. Felt like the wheelbarrel and I were amusement for the day.

Today played with transitions on the circle. She kept offering canter, even though I was not asking, so had a great reason to ask for trot. And then to ask for walk. Then back up to trot and walk and trot and canter. I had worried that I would not be able to keep her on the circle. But that wasn't a problem. And all the transitions caused her to focus more and more on me. Whoohooo!!!

After our play session went out for a trail ride with M. Wanted to check out some old trails we have not been able to access for a couple of years. Bushwacking! Amazing how quickly the woods fill in. We walked through dense underbrush, over downed trees (okay that is old hat), squeezed between trees, ducked under branches, clambered over rocks.

Cici was a champ (or to borrow from Kim - a rock star!!) through all of this. At one point we were waiting for M to clear some branches and Cici's left front foot slowly sank into the ground. She stood quietly as her foot sunk - it felt like a flat tire - and then quietly walked forward.

For me to be doing all this on a loose rein shows me how far we have come. Amazing. Awesome.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Columbus Day

Went for a trail ride today with V and G. And pulled my phone out of my pocket to take a little video clip of the woods. Okay of G's butt! Be sure to turn off the volume, didn't realize it was recording my inanities. Clearly I need to work on my filming techniques. I've been watching other posts and they have these beautiful thru their horse's ears clips of mile after mile.

Cici took advantage of my inattention to grab a bite to eat as we were walking along. And since she has such a delightful Western pleasure head set when I held up the phone I was focusing way over her head and ears. Once I got the hang of it realized I needed to focus down a bit to include her in the picture. But hey this is a first. Holding on to loose rein with one hand and looking through the phone/camera with the other!

video

We are walking along "The Cart Path" in Pine and Beech woods that are now green and golden. We are on the bottom of the ridge, along a small brook off to the left. Lots of ferns along the side that are dying off for the coming winter, but have turned golden and russet. It is a steep decent to this trail, but its a lovely long relatively flat trail as opposed to most of the other trails we ride in these woods. The way back offers lots of different ways to clamber back up to the top of the ridge, including stepping over downed trees, crossing a stream, bushwacking and navigating rock outcrops. Cici is a trooper, she willingly walks through and over it all.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Adapting

Sunday went to the barn with a plan. Groundwork and riding. Those were the plans, but I had to adapt. When I got there the horses had just been fed their morning hay. Cici and Casey were busy chowing down. Casey did lift his head out of the hay to come to the gate and greet me. Treats are better than hay to him.

Cici studiously ignored me. Didn't flick an ear, roll an eye or wrinkle her nose. Just kept her face buried deeper and deeper into the hay. I stood at the gate and waited and waited. Finally I said to her that I was going to clean the paddock while she ate and not ask anything of her. She lifted her head up and looked over her shoulder at me. Okay.

So clean up the paddock I did and then I sat on the rock and listened to her munch her morning hay. There was no one else around, but me and all the horses. Sun, some clouds and a bit cooler. But with no one around I will not ride, safety first. And since Cici had so much hay to eat I decided undemanding time was the best thing all around.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Avery

Just got home from a fantastic lesson with Avery. Major tune up. Just what we needed. I am so charged I can't even focus on my day job LOL. Just had to post something. I mean who else can I share my joy?!?!?

Of course what we worked on seems minor - we trotted the entire ring! But it has been such a struggle for me, and Cici. And Avery's help was quiet and so focused. Of course I "know" this stuff but applying it while in the saddle is a whole different story. Sometimes I think my mind leaves my body and hangs around over me twiddling its thumbs while I struggle to think! And reason.

Today I could relax while trotting and look where I was going - keep my focus out in front of us, around the corners and down the long side. And a part of me was amazed at my being able to focus so far out.

We eventually progressed to trotting big circles with the question box set up in the middle of the ring. First walked the circle then trotted. First one direction then the other. Each time rewarding Cici with a rest in the box when the circle was smoother and the trot consistent.

Avery explained about the 1% improvement each day. That goes for everything. That requires me to keep my wits about me and know what we did the previous time LOL. This should be a challenge and lots of fun. And I'm sure Cici will keep me on my toes! The other challenge is keeping things interesting for Cici. Not fall into patterns so that she starts to make assumptions and go right brain. We are definitely in left brain mode now!

Avery commented on our progress, both of us. That we have come a far distance from the last time she was here. That feels soooo good. I know we have come a long way. I couldn't trot a couple of months ago. Now to go around the arena! And wanting more more more. Slow down Jamie - 1% improvement each time is the way to partnership and success.

Just remembered that while I was in the paddock grooming Cici before the lesson a Sharp Shinned Hawk flew over the indoor, swooped the paddock and then circled the outside ring. A moment later a second Sharpy did the same. And during my lesson I heard a hawk calling. Hmmm how interesting

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Road trip

M showed V and me how to get over to Noon Hill by just walking through the neighborhood. Said it was 15-20 minutes to the woods. We were excited as that meant an easy way to get over to new trails without trailering.

Well it turned out to be 30 minutes of sidewalks and roads. Each way. The entire ride was 2 hours but that means half of it was roads.

The people we ran into on our journey were amazingly nice. If they had a dog they either brought them back into the house or put a leash on them. The cars generally slowed down for us. One father stopped and parked the mini van so his daughter could watch us go by. He said she was horse crazy. I told him that's how it begins!

There were a couple of guys doing some major yard work with heavy equipment. They saw us coming and took a break.

Cici handled all of this with great dignity and calmness. Cars, barking dogs, tractors, guy on ladder (which when V saw, she said, "Oh no, G does not do ladders!!!" fortunately the guy got off). I found it not too much fun. Okay glad we did it, but don't think V and I will be doing the road trip again soon. Want to trailer over to the woods and ride in the woods!

I had to work hard on staying relaxed. Okay my emotional fitness was put to the test. I worked hard at riding with a loose rein and loose seat. Constantly watching for cars, listening for dogs. G has shoes all the way around and watched him slide a bit on the down hills. Thankfully Cici is barefoot, but worried about her feet on the payment. Different things to be aware of in the woods. Maybe its just that this is new. But it didn't seem like enough fun to do again.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Figure 8 at trot

A first! Okay what seems like months ago when Avery was last here I had Cici trot the cones in a figure 8. But I haven't been able to manage to figure out how I did that. Finally on Sunday while playing it all came together!

Really asking Cici to trot the figure was all about me, not about her LOL. One of those totally duh!!! moments. How many of them do I need to have before I believe?

I've been realizing I'm on a plateau. I've reach one goal, and it is a big one - feeling comfortable back in the saddle out on the trails and as I said in my last post - What's next??!?! Of course I realize I have been thoroughly been boring Cici. To the point that after I saddle her and play circling game asking for walk trot and canter in one direction when I change direction she will walk trot canter and then turn into me, stop and say, Okay we are done. Can we go out on the trails now?

I'm struggling on how to be more creative. Keep her thinking and paying attention to me. Got so focused on the end result, my expectations, that straight line thinking was all I was capable of. Now the box is opening a bit. I know where I am and want to move. So slowly things are changing.

We've been working on backing and last week for the first time she backed just from my gentle pull of some tail hairs. Of course days went by without that happening again. But if nothing else I am patient. And persistent. Yesterday I again received her willingness to back by lifting a few tail hairs. What a feeling!

We are trotting out on the trails. We are going out for longer and longer times. We cross a road, walk over huge downed trees, walk under the power lines, cross a small brook - Cici likes to stick her nose in the water - encounter a barking dog. We lead on the trails, no longer just following. Cici and I are developing our partnership. God I love this girl.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

What's next?

I realize I have achieved my goal of feeling confident with Cici on the trails. She is listening and soft, much softer on the trail than in the ring LOL. She is not perfect - still grabbing for grass, leaves, anything green. But we are feeling together more and more out on the trails. We have even begun to trot on the trails.

I realize this is where Jeepers and I were. And I was very happy there. I'd do my pre-ride check with Jeeps in a couple of minutes and then off we'd go. With Cici I am much more thorough with my pre-ride check. And it takes longer.

With Jeeps I'd bring her to barn and visit with Rebekah and Vivian as we all groomed. Now I groom Cici in her paddock or the indoor and spend my time with groundwork while my friends are in the barn grooming and tacking their horses. I get to the barn at least an hour before them to make sure that Cici and I are ready to go out. I am clearly seen the benefits of this in my relationship with her. And we are having fun on the trails.

But what's next? What do I want? How do I continue to focus on my PNH journey? I'm confused about what it is I want and how to get there. Aarggghhh!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Trail Riding

We are back out on the trails again. My confidence is back and I am feeling like I felt a year ago. Long time, but guess it takes the time it takes. When I do our groundwork Cici is sighing that LBI sigh of 'Oh no not again'. I tell her I need a walk trot canter check before we go out. So she walks trots canters and then stops and looks at me. I say both directions - LBI sigh and she goes in the other direction.

She is confident, but she is listening to me. We have been going on parts of trails we haven't been before - and its intriguing when she begins to lose her confidence a little and I hear her snorts. Then she feels things are okay and the little snorts go away.

First time I heard the snorts we were on a flat trail with a hill on one side and woods on the other. Now we have been riding in these woods all along. But this was a new piece of trail. Clearly she knew that. While my friend's horse welcomes the newness Cici is a bit more cautious. The second time we did the trail she was fine.

There is a tree down across the trail. Its a BIG tree and now way to bushwack around. I tell her to be sure to pick up her feet. She gets her front legs over - notices a delicious green morsel on the ground and stops for a snack before walking her hind end over.

We have also gone across to the street to another person's property where the trails are in deep woods that have not been walked on so much. We wind our way through a field of ferns. It is so quiet and still. Get a bit of snorting. My friend's horse is enjoying the variety and Cici quiets down. When we come to an open field the snorts appear again. I work on remaining relaxed and keep those hips swinging when she is snorting.

Finally we are heading back and have to walk by a paddock with two horses. One gallops up behind us and I am worried. Cici was fine, she disengaged when I asked, but I realized I was tight and worried. So I dismounted. And both of us sighed and relaxed. What an amazing idea - to be able to dismount and break the cycle of tension!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Love love love

It has been so Hot Hot Hot and HUMID that I've just cleaned the paddock and hand grazed Cici and sometimes Casey. No play no riding no games. For weeks! Guess its been lots and lots of love.

This past weekend July 24-25 Amelia's here for a workshop. And I decided for Sunday instead of bringing the horses to the workshop I'd just bring the workshop to the horses! So piled 20 people into a bunch of cars and caravaned from Solstice Healing Center to Mary's Castle of Friesians. Amelia started with a pairs exercise where one person closes their eyes while their partner guides them through the world experiencing smells, sounds, touch. I brought Cici into the outside ring and we stood and waited. The guide would bring their person gently to Cici and the "blind" person would have their hands out in front of them.

Amelia had asked Cici if she would mind. I told Cici the people where coming to love her. She stood perfectly still. Strange hands reached out to touch her neck, mane, her cheeks, her nose. She blew gently on them. She turned and blew gently on me. She nuzzled me while they touched her. I nuzzled her and kissed her soft nose. I closed MY eyes and breathed her into me. And Margaret thought we had Woodstock before. This was a time of love - flowing love, healing love.

My magical energy horse turned to some of the people and put her nose in their hands. Others she gently turned her face away but did not move away. She was a willing participant.

Then everyone sat in a semi circle as Amelia guided them in a medical gestalt. I walked Cici around in a circle, while they were meditating. We played quietly, change of direction, a bit of turns and then I looped her lead around her neck and we walked as one.

This day Cici was the most demonstrative she has ever been in her love to me. She constantly nuzzled me, blew in my hair, put her nose to my mouth so we could exchange breaths, gave me her nose for kisses.

Amelia payed us the highest compliment - that we look so alike. Two blond girls. She said Cici absolutely adored me. I know I absolutely adore her. Tears. Sigh.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Day after

Cici was focused on me today! Still tuned up from Avery on Wednesday. Backing I still had to go to Phase 4 but after the first set of 3s she would anticipate the rope swing and get moving backwards. I will have to be really attentive to maintaining this lightness. Can see how I fell into nagging last time around.

She didn't do as much anticipating. And was much faster to stop when she did. Still came in a lot more than I thought, but got to practice our backing again. Overall she was a lot softer and quieter and listening. Not zoning out in her own world. So everything took less time. Now this was interesting as I hadn't done anything with her yesterday, took the day off and Rob and I went to Ogunquit for a beach day. And today I was going out with Vivian for a trail ride, so got to the barn earlier to have lots of time to get everything done before our agreed time. That adage have an hour it will take 15 minutes, have 15 minutes it will take an hour certainly held true today. Allowed extra time and didn't need it.

We also worked on sideways, and especially sideways as part of change of direction. Both of us were working on this!

Saddle her up and played some more. She cantered on the 22 foot line with slack in the rope! Soft trot with slack in the rope. We were ready almost a half hour early! So I got on to see our pattern. Only two loops and she stopped on just a lift of rein and my exhale. Ready for the trails!

Oh how nice to have her right there for me. We walked down to the barn and waited outside for Vivian to finish tacking up. Cici just stood quietly. On the trails she was still occassionally grabbing for leaves either in the trees or on the ground. Avery had shortened my stirrups and today for the first time in a long time I felt my hips swinging!!!!!! Had this when riding in the ring also. But on the trails awesome!!!

One more thing. Last night was watching Rick Lamb on RFDTV and he was interviewing Pat and Linda. A viewer asked a question about head shaking. And they both said, well if a horse does not want to move its feet they will move their head! Light bulb moment!!!!! Also it is or can be a dominance thing. Ya think! Cici - backing. Yup does not want to move her feet. Well that changed today. I didn't pay any attention when she did try the shake, and it didn't come back. Now hmmm how interesting! Oh Boy!

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Certainly no longer Boring!

Lesson today with Avery. And boy did she shake things up. Yup I was boring Cici. Doing that pleading begging nagging thing that I keep reading about. The forever Phase 1 maybe 2. So Avery went to effective Phase 4 with Cici in backing and sideways. WoW! Maybe I should be saying Oh boy!

Cici looked at me like what have you unleased?!?!?! I said, You've been complaining that I'm boring you??!?!?!

And we are talking sideways without the wall here. Going the entire length of the ring first one side then the other. And in circling game, change of direction/sidways. So bring her in for change of direction, pause, move Zone 1 over then Zone 4, after a few nice sideways - send her back out to the circle. Talk about mixing things up!

Cici was like what happened and I was like you want me to do what?!?!? How?!?!?

Yup its about me getting to that effective Phase 4. Harder on me that on Cici. Well today I not sure it wasn't hard on both of us. She can stand there and take the one wap. Avery said then ask again at phase 1 and then do wap wap wap. Its the threes that seem to get her attention. Or maybe its that my 1 wap Phase 4 is livable with. So first once than threes. And then ask again at Phase 1 immediately and when she finally willingly moves IMMEDIATELY release.

Then its saddle up time. Avery took the time to check out how things are fitting. Looked and Cici and commented on her improved muscling and how she is no longer downhill!!!! So she adjusted the shims. When I told her about Margaret's comment that Cici had energy blocks along where the back cinch was...and that I had taken it off, Avery asked about sweat marks and where they were. She wasn't happy with the back cinch off but was willing to let me go ahead and warm Cici up online. As soon as she was on the circle Avery said see how the saddle is bouncing up and down in the back? So I got the cinch and when putting it on Avery got looking at Cici and where the cinch fell and said - hmmm I'm learning something here. Because Cici is short backed Avery realized that the cinch hobble needed to be shortened and then she wound up clipping it to the front ring on the girth. Said she had never thought about it before but short back would mean short underneath as well. And that the cinch needed to be on her sternum, which was also short, and before it was on her belly. That made sense for it to bother or block her energy before. So now we are back with a back cinch.

This is where I learned how to do the change of direction, pause, sideways, back out on circle. Cici was anticipating the changes. And I'm getting good at "shutting her down" and struggling at getting the sideways. But think I understand the how. And why. Cici went from running around ignoring me, to thinking and getting softer and her gait went from frantic to calm.

By this time we are both soaking wet with sweat. And exhausted. And I finally mount up. Avery immediately commented that Cici was not backing at the mounting block! I had forgotten that, well almost. But yes Cici stands very nice at the mounting block now.

I asked about her stopping when I lift one rein. No bending just stopping. Avery said that was fine. She checked out Cici's lateral flexion and said she is a lot softer than before so not to worry about it. And explained the importance of purpose and patterns for RBI Cici. The patterns give us purpose. And purpose is what she needs. Aimless ring riding will make her nuts. Gee now wonder she is fed up with me.

Bow ties with stop along the wall. If she does not stop immediately on a soft rein, then back her up. Count of 4 as close fingers, if no movement back, lift inside rein and bump straight up 3 times. Back to contact and asking for back. If still no movement, 3 more stronger. Straight up. One rein. Then back to contact and release from straight contact only when she moves. Ride the pattern until turns are nice and soft and the stop is light. I'll repeat that for me, ride the pattern until the turns are nice and soft and the stop is light and immediate.

We are now ready for a trail ride.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Boring!

Be careful what you wish for. I always say I love to bore my horse to the point where she yawns. Well I know I am boring my horse to the point where she is fed up! OMG. Oh Boy!

Thankfully Avery is coming tomorrow. But today I tried to mix things up and be more there and ask for more from Cici. So we did a lively sideways along the wall, in both directions. Had her feet and mind moving so that when I released and she stopped she chewed almost immediately. Struggled with sideways without a wall. Hmmm how interesting.

It was hot and humid again today so just played for a little while. Then out to graze. She is getting very responsive to "head up" after she has been eating a while to move on to the next snacking place.

And today I hosed her off. Left side she couldn't care less. Right side she walked away. Actually circled me on the 12 foot line. But eventually stood for right side spraying and then licked.

Then back to lots of grazing.

Oh interesting note, in her paddock while I was cleaning up, I look up to see her kicking her back feet way up in the air. Guess a bug was bothering her something awful. She kicked and kicked and then ran over to me. Didn't crowd me or anything, just wanted to be near. I told her to stand still and I'd look her over. No bug left. And she just stood quietly while I ran my hands down her back legs and around her utter.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

A clear, concise, focused plan with purpose

I've been reading Shannon Ranch's blog on her Fast Track journey. She said, "Another big take away for me from the Fast Track is how clear my horse wants me to be. At times she outright demands it. If I can setup my requests with great purpose she is much more apt to offer compliance. If I don't help her understand the purpose well..... she hesitates, or balks, or gets emotional. This will be my challenge- a clear, concise, focused plan with purpose."

This speaks so directly to me. Today when I was playing with Cici and struggling with backing her and sending her on the circle, I kept thinking that I was not clear. And Shannon says it so concisely. This too is my challenge - a clear, concise, focused plan with purpose. Hmm how interesting.

Cici had another little hissy fit online. But looking back it was about my not being clear. I think one thing, if she gives me something else I will usually accept that. So who is the leader here? And then I expect her to know what I meant originally. I'm confused so its no surprise she is also. A clear, concise, focused plan with purpose will become my mantra! I hope.

We did go out today again for a short trail ride with Vivian and Georgie. Deer flies out in cloud packs. Fortunately Vivian and Georgie were leading so they got the brunt of the clouds of flies. But there were enough out to descend on us. I was swishing away like crazy. Noticed that when one landed on even her mane she would feel it and shake her head. But when she was grabbing a mouthful of leaves and one is now attached to her neck it doesn't even register. Focus its all about focus. LOL.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Quiet Trail Ride

Wow today was the first time in a long time that I relaxed and felt comfortable back in the saddle on the trails. Think I was feeling better and more confident on the trails than in the ring.

The deer files are out in force. So Vivian and I just did the Precipice Trail and looped back on Red Tail Hawk Trail. I had one hand on reins (bridged) and the other swatting flies with the swish. Oh and did I mention it was hot and humid? Maybe I had so much else to do that I didn't have any mind share left for worrying.

Since this past week has been hot hot hot and humid humid humid, I haven't done much beyond taking Cici for grazing strolls. Been a week of this and then Friday I played with her. Ball, cones, barrels, sideways. She did not want to go out on the circle. No way. Backing got the head shaking and blowing and licking. All this activity with her head and nothing with her feet. So I flicked the Savvy String at her chest and boy did I ever step over her threshold!

She was indignant. And took off in a huff. She cantered, threw a little hissy fit, stamped her feet - go figure out how to express yourself without really bucking. I let the line slide through my hands til the end and then had to brace. I told her I was upset at what she was displaying. How could I trust that I could saddle her and get on and that she would be a partner? What was I doing here? Was she too much horse for me? What did I want? Did I expect to just throw on a saddle and go out for a trail ride? Was all this too much? Was she too much?

She was standing out on the circle looking at me while I was thinking all this. She walked in to me and put her head flat into my chest. Melted my heart.

And today she still did the head shake thing and yes we struggled with the send and maintaining circle. But she was soft and listening and walk trot canter and jumped the barrels in both directions. The best thing about the barrels is they were lined up on the circle and she just went for them. Out on the trails felt like maybe just maybe we are partners.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Time

I just read if you have 15 minutes it will take hours, if you have hours it will take 15 minutes. On Friday I was meeting Vivian at the barn to go out for a trail ride. Thought if I planned on 1-1/2 hours it would work out fine for me to do my preflight check with Cici.

So of course I was watching the clock and struggling. Would I have done all I wanted by the deadline? God a deadline. This is getting way more stressful than it is supposed to be. Groan. How interesting. Oh boy. I think I like groan the best.

Cici has develop this new thing - when I ask for her to back away from me - like to send out in the circle she will take a few steps back and then lower her head all the way down. When I ask again she will slowly turn her head from side to side - kind of like when you try and crack your own neck. I've already put a call in to Steve Katz. Chiropractor to come and check her out. Can't figure out is this is an avoidance thing or is a problem. Avery has also checking her teeth. But she does not do this is I am in Zone 5 and asking for a back. So go figure. Oh Boy! Hmmm how interesting LOL.

Anyway Cici was not quick to go out on the circle. Been having this problem recently, guess my send just isn't where it needs to be. And tagging her is hard. For me, no for her.

She is now also checking out the second cone in the figure 8. Noses it, rubs her nose on it. And then when I ask her to go she will lift her leg and paw or put it on the cone. As I've said before wish I had thought to ask for that. She will paw the cone and knock it down. And then move to the other cone and knock it down.

I need Avery to come out and help me sort thing out for sure! In the meantime on Friday we did go out and do the entire Fisher Cat Trail. Out about 1/2 hour. At one point Cici was shaking her head and I asked Vivian to stop and take a look. Was there a bug on her face or was she annoyed that I would not let her eat the grass? Definitely the latter!

I am slowly getting more comfortable and confident out on the trails. Cici seems to be willing to listen to me. Maybe we are on our way with our mounted partnership.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

#14 Finally

I had pulled the tarp and ball out for playing. Cici rolled and kicked the ball along until we got to the tarp. She then nosed the tarp and started really playing with it. She nosed it some more and then lipped it. Finally she grabbed a fold in her mouth and lifted the tarp up! She'd let go and then look at me and then do it again. She lifted her head all the way up and even shook the tarp!

Is this her LBE coming out? This mouthiness? I have never seen her do anything like this before. I love her exploring and offering new things. Yippee!!!!

She next pawed the tarp into a small bundle underneath herself and then stepped over the bunched up tarp. I was holding my breath as when she scrunched it up it was getting wrapped around her hoof. But she didn't seem to care. She is very into using her hoofs right now to moving things - ball, or step on things - tarp, cones.

Mary has this enormous pedestal. I wish it was smaller, but maybe if she can help me haul it out into the ring I can see what Cici thinks of it. It is probably over her knees in height.

And after the tarp fun, it seems almost anti climatic that today we finally did our 14th ride and went out on the trails with Vivian and Georgie. I used lots of change of directions early on and got her focused and listening. When saddled she was quiet and easily walk trot and cantered, both directions on line. What a difference a day makes!

I rode with shortened reins as I didn't want to get into a grass eating battle with her. So of course she went for the branches and leaves up in the air. She was really very very good. At one point she grabbed a downed branch with leaves. The branch stem was long and I was worried it was caught in her bit as she was shaking her head. So I jumped off, helped it out of her mouth and then remounted from an old Jeepers mounting block (read rock) out on the trail! Cici stood absolutely still the entire time. And it was an ungraceful dismount (forgot I was in Western saddle) and an ungraceful mount (just me, rushing and worrying).

She was fine on the trails. I felt my tension come and go. When I was relaxed I could get on my balance point and really feel the saddle. When I was tense I could feel how I rock forward on my seat bones. Not a good thing. But Cici seemed to deal with me calmly. Thank you sweet girl.