Sunday, March 28, 2010

Point to Point 2 pt 2 pt 2pt 2pt

Cici sure has this down. Off to the barrel and frantically search the top for a treat. I haven't seen her like this before. Once she is done with that barrel off to the next. When she didn't find a treat I had her head in my lap. Then off to the next point, search for treat and...

Seems the idea has gotten lost here. No time for Hurry up and wait. When I picked up the reins I got head toss, nose straight in the air, no yield just argument. A challenge for me to hold the bend until she yielded - not release on a brace. But she does this yield then attitude thing. She can not keep her feet still. Hmmm how interesting. I didn't make this connection until I just wrote that. So hopefully next time I can keep her feet busy until she reconsiders - make my idea her idea. Oh Boy!

Quite honestly I was not feeling very confident with this behavior. But I hang in there until I do get a nice yield, quiet eye, and she stands still and miracles of miracles she licks and chews! And I'm off and we are done for the day.

An interesting note. When I saddled her, I tossed the NP up on her back but it was a bit far back on the pad. At least this time I got it up on the pad. I tried to reposition it but with not all my strength in my left arm yet I was really struggling. Thought I just need to be up higher - ah - the mounting block. So I walked her over to the mounting block with the saddle just sitting up there. I got on the block and adjusted the saddle and pad.

So what is the big deal? She stood completely still. No slow step back. I am on the block and that is her usual sign to step back. Of course when I had the saddle cinched and had played on the ground and then went back to the mounting block to mount....she took a slow step back. Hmmm how interesting.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Point to Point

Cici has it! By golly she has it!

After the usual at the mounting block, she finally stood still and I mounted from the right. She stood quietly once I got on. Now this is new for her. She has always just walked off once I mounted. And she has always done that, no matter what I did. So huge change here.

A while of just waiting at the mounting block until she lowered her head and licked and chewed. I then lifted the reins and focused on the barrel at the end of the arena. She locked on it like a homing device and with big strides, swinging hips (mine) she headed for it. Went right for the treat and gobbled it up. No hesitation today. Playing with her "will work for food drive" certainly produces good results.

She is now so focused on the treats and barrels she decided on her own to head to the next one. Now I'm wondering if this is progress or regression. Back to her taking control and off she goes. I tried to bend her and got lots of attitude before she got soft. She still does not like me picking up the reins to direct or bend her. Hmmm how interesting.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Hurry up and wait

Cici did her slow step back at the mounting block so I walked her forward and then disengaged. She was soft through all of this. Took a few times, then I walked her to the mounting block on her right side and she stood and I mounted. And waited. and waited. Enjoyed the feel of the saddle. And waited. And waited. Finally she licked and chewed so off we went.

I had done a bit of point to point between two barrels online before saddling her up. I seeded the barrel tops with treats. I focused on one barrel and asked her to walk to it. Couple of steps and she stopped. We waited and waited. Then she decided on walking. When I lifted the rein to direct her to the barrel got a head toss. She ultimately stopped about 1 step before the barrel.

It was like she has never done point to point. Like she had not a clue why in the world she should even consider an interest in the barrels. Totally introverted. So we waited. And waited. And waited lots more. I'm enjoying sitting up here on her. I'm patient.

She finally takes a little step toward the barrel. And we wait. and wait. She puts her nose on the barrel. Yippee. And slowly sniffs it. Finds the treat! Takes it in her mouth but does not chew! So we wait. And wait. And wait. She chews!!! Feel like we have passed a huge threashold.

I ask her to walk to the other barrel. Slow going. I'm just along for the ride, I am not asking for anything more once she starts moving. She sniffs and finds the treat and now we are cooking. Point her to the mounting block. Now we have a walk. She goes right up to it and sniffs looking for treat. She licks and chews (there was no treat, I ran out). Back to the original barrel. When I get a lick and chew I hop off. Done for the day.

She is asking What happened?!?!?!? I blew my horse's mind by....waiting!?!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Casey's face

On Sunday, it was sunny, quiet, Casey and Cici were eating their hay when I got to the barn. I gathered up all my STUFF and just brought Cici's halter and a couple of brushes for grooming. I like to let her eat while I groom.

I cleaned her up a bit, scraped off the mud LOL and sat on the rock. Casey came over. He likes to walk right up to me and then begin the nibbling routine. I reached out and started brushing his mane. But he has rules. Sides, butt, tail are okay. Mane along the sides, but under no circumstances am I allowed to brush out his forelock. As I started to brush his mane, he turned and gave me his side. So I worked around him for a while. But that forelock was just so tempting. His face is just so tempting. I keep telling him I just want to stroke his beautiful face, but he has not gone for that.

It felt so good just to be sitting on the rock in the sun with Cici eating at my side and Casey standing in front of me. She would stick her nose over to check things out with me every once in a while. Decided I didn't need to do anything. Ha. I decided that I didn't need to halter Cici and take her away from her hay to play and ride.

But did decide that it was about time that I payed attention to Casey. I know that if I put my hand over his head he gets very defensive and the teeth come out. So I quietly just raised my hand. If the teeth came out I backed him out of my space. When he lowered his head he would then walk in a step. And I'd raise my hand over his head. Before very long he was standing in front of me with his head lowered, licking and chewing.

Next it just gently touch his forelock. Then his face. When he raised up his face with teeth, I backed him. In about 20 minutes of sitting on the rock, in the sun, I was combing out his forelock and stroking his beautiful face! Just by taking the time it takes!

Monday, March 22, 2010

Great groundwork. ??? mounted.

Cici was fantastic on the ground. I was able to stay in Zone 4 and walk, trot and stop from there. It was the most incredible feeling. Oh both sides! Who is this horse?!? LOL. Circle game went well, she stepped right into her canter without scrambling.

Okay that is the good news ; -)

At the mounting block she stood still until I got up on it and then did her slow take a step back, out of position. I smiled and said oh good we get to work on backing porcupine game (hand lightly on face). And backed her softly 8 steps. Back to mounting block. Flapped stirrup strap, bounced up and down. She was fine. I stepped onto the block and slow step back. So I backed her 12 steps. She stopped and licked and chewed. Back to mounting block. Waited for lick and chew. But then the same thing. This went on for another 2 or 3 times.

I flapped the stirrup leathers, jumped up and down at mounting block waited for licking and chewing. She finally stood still. Mounted, still standing still. Hmm how interesting. Lateral flexion - she is soft but there is still attitude. I don't know how to explain it. She does release but then kind of flicks her nose in the air after I release. And I wait for her release, soft eyes, blinking and still get that little - up her nostril thing.

I do not get the feeling that when I lift the rein she is willingly, softly ready to stop. Just more attitude. Head up, head down, head flip. Oh she does bend and disengage but she is just waiting for my release. I am not really describing this properly because she is not bracing anywhere like what she did that first day. But even asking for a change or correction of direction gets attitude. Are you laughing and nodding your head? I am clearly getting stay out of my mouth. Do not pick up the reins. I can manage perfectly by myself.

At point to point - we would walk to a barrel. She would stop (I am not asking for lateral flexion here is that right?) and touch it with her nose and then not move when I asked her to. Pick up the rein and little flick of nose.

Guess after the great ground work was thinking great under saddle LOL. Okay am I in the "I've never seen this take more than two days?" Keep at it for 7 days and see a change? Am I doing anything wrong? My confidence is out the window.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Cantering on 22' line

Avery taught me something very important. I was circling Cici on the 22' and she said to ask her to walk, trot and canter, each direction before I get on. I said I've never asked her to canter on line. She does that when she goes RBI and starts to fly around.

So Avery explained to ask Cici at one place in the circle. Hit the ground one time with the string at her hind leg and if she does not pick up the canter, the next time hit the ground twice . And three times in fast repetition. And the moment she canters to disengage and ask her to come in.

Its all about timing. Its all about letting Cici know that I am there for her. It does not matter if her canter is off or if she is getting worried. She canters, I bring her in and let her rest and think about it. No pressure.


She's thinking!

Its Saturday and I play with Cici and after I'm sure I have her with me I get on. Having hmmmm how interesting moments. Today when I walked her to the mounting block she stood quietly until I got up on the block and then did that s l o w take a step back thing she used to do. So I said, hey what a great idea lets practice backing! For each step she took I doubled it. I was soft and quiet, she was soft and quiet and after two times she stood still while I mounted.

She is starting to think about all this under saddle partnership. And not sure she is really on board with it. After the first lateral flexion and disengagement, she ties herself in knots. She is still offering resistance initially, but nowhere like Tuesday.

So after the first bend to a stop, when I asked her to walk on she just stood still. "Why move when you are just going to make me stop again!" Took a bit of upping phases to get her walking LOL. She then decided to try walking with her nose just about dragging on the ground. "If you are going to ask for lateral flexion you are going to have to raise my head off the ground first!"

See I said she was thinking! Progress. In sales there are four stages: Awareness, comprehension, conviction, action. Same here. I am making progress in her awareness that things are not business as usual. Can't wait for the comprehension to sink in, and then her conviction and action - in this case partnership.

I'll stay with all this and am passively persistent in the proper (hopefully) position and we'll through it to a soft focused partner. One day at a time.

I'm on!

I can't believe I didn't post the day I finally got on. See it was so anticlimatic. Ha.

Had the lesson on Tuesday with Avery. Cici was much more relaxed. I also was playing with her before Avery got to the farm, wanted her listening. And she was. So did a bit more on the ground and then Avery said okay let get on. And of course Cici reverted to her "oh I know all about this" personality and when I got on she started to just walk. When I tried to bend her (lateral flexion) she said "no I don't need to do that I know what I'm doing now." Avery laughed. She said she thought I'd get the dominant LB horse once mounted.

So now the fun begins in trying to convince Cici about the partnership that we have on the ground extends to me in the saddle. Oh the saddle is fantastic! Okay stirrups too long and Avery had to jury rig them but it was fabulous! The horn is very nice to rest a hand on.

Anyway Cici was bracing and resisting. And after she finally gave at lateral flexion I then asked for hind end disengagement. Quite the time we had. But Cici did get soft, ultimately. And began to walk with a gorgeous big swinging walk. I don't think I ever had that from her before. I'm planning on "staying the course" for a while. Working on soft giving lateral flexion and disengagement at the walk and trot and Avery says canter, before I go out on the trails with her. Oh I'm sure I could go out now and she would just take over and go, as she always has. But now that I have begun to experience the partnership on the ground I want it in the saddle! Soft listening harmony.

I rode again Friday. And while it wasn't as much a battle of head flipping and leaning into the bit as it was on Tuesday, I got more attitude today. Gee kinda of like Christine's Angel! Quickly she softened though. I only rode for a little while, until I had her soft and listening. Thought that was a good place to shop. More tomorrow.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Circling Game

Avery had to cancel today, flooded basement and horses took down part of the fencing. Just as well. It been raining, hence her flooded basement, and windy, and more hard rain. The indoor was quite noisy. Understatement.

I played with Cici - driving from Zone 3, stopping when I stop. Getting more precise in my expectations. I can see what Avery was saying about extra steps. Also getting her to trot off with me. Cici gets so focused. She seems to forget she can breath I think.

There was another horse in the indoor while we were doing this. Then I started to play with circling and the other horse left. So at first Cici had a hard time focusing on me. Where was Bella? what was that noise? Who is on the other side of the door? All sorts of distractions that were not an issue when we were playing Driving game. Hmmm how interesting.

On the circle she is ready to go. Either direction. I'm just asking for a back up and she is leaving - Right? Left? I'm off? Had to slow things down. Let her think. Get her to look at me with both eyes. Okay now we can send.

Out on the circle where she has her responsibilities she begins to get either unconfident or confident and dominant. And pulls and goes fast. I ask for change of direction. Get dolphining when she changes direction. Lots of attitude. Then she looks outside the circle and gets unconfident. Can't look at me. Starts to go fast. Change of direction becomes a struggle and challenge. I hear Avery in my mind saying shut that door. I shorten the rope and ask again for change of direction. And get it with attitude. Or is it unconfidence?

Working with me at her side she is developing her confidence. But out at the end of the 22 - that is a whole new place for her to be. By herself as she perceives it. Just need to keep at it and slowly build her confidence.

Do enough changes of direction, less than 1/2 a circle before changing. More and she is gone. At that level she starts to get unconfident and I change and she has to think. Slowly - well lots of changes of directions fast - she is staying with me longer and longer. Her confidence is building as she feels I'm there with her. Funny how this works. And then I get a 1/2 circle of calm beautiful trot and disengage and she walks confidently to me. Stops. Licks and chews.


Wednesday, March 10, 2010

I'm Gonna Ride Today!

Today was to be Big R day. Back in the saddle. On the horse. Ride Ride Ride. Got my new (used) saddle, got a choice of girths, got everything ready for the Big Day.

Lesson at 2:00 with Avery. It has taken a long time to get to this day. Feel ready. Okay feel worried. Have I made too big a deal to myself about this? Why do I have to do it with Avery? But I do. She is part of this journey for me. I feel she showed her caution and care when she brought her saddle but the girth was too large. Okay she tightened the girth so the saddle wasn't going anywhere but all she would let me do was sit in the saddle. No walking. No moving. Just sitting. Safety first.

I remind myself that I didn't "fall off". It was an unusual situation. And time to be back out on the trails. So today's the day.

I've been making lists. Decide to get everything all lined up in the indoor. And also decide to bring my dressage saddle up, just in case there is some reason the Natural Performer isn't going to work. I'm gonna ride today!

I also wonder at my decision to ride first time in the NP. Why not just get on with the Kieffer? Seems like I've decided to go all the way with the new saddle. I'm gonna ride today.

Get to the barn at 12:45. Have lots to do today. Organize everything from the tack room and now need to move my dressage saddle, girths, helmet, saddle pad, correction pad, extra shims, half chaps and this is just in case. Then there is my rope bag with hackamore, new (used) 22 foot line, old mud soaked 22 foot line, halter, 12 foot line, two carrot sticks, bridle, extra shims. The Natural Performer is already in the tack room in the indoor along with saddle pad. I'm ready!

We've had some wonderful weather and Cici has been naked. And of course she rolled. I look at her in the paddock and she has just been fed lunch. So I gather up brushes and go to groom her while she eats. I'm gonna ride today!

As I groom I laugh to myself. The last time Avery came I don't think I even combed out Cici's mane and tail. I've become one of those natural horsemen who show up at clinics with dirty mud encrusted horses. OMG!!!

Avery begins me with the next installment of the driving game. Driving from zone 3 again and asking Cici to stop when I do. If she keeps going I back her the same number of steps back that she took forward after my feet stopped. At first Cici would keep walking about 6 steps and turn and face me. Back her then circle her around me. We are walking along the wall. Have to work on being effective with my phases. Phase 4 still a challenge for me.

But slowly we make progress. She is stopping with 2 steps but not turning around to face me. I can back her up by rope wiggling up and down. And then the moment comes when I exhale and stop and she does also. This is soooo cool, great, fantastic, awesome. It is building on this, having her synced into me that will allow me to trot from Zone 3 with her. To canter, and change directions and change gates - transitions. Oh how amazing is this. I can see where we can go.

Saddling time. Avery puts the saddle on Cici. She shows me how to do the cinches and girths and latigos and buckles. The 26" girth works fine. And she wants the 22" girth I had as backup. Wow Cici looks very chic in her dark colored western saddle with all the latigos hanging down and double cinch. I'm gonna ride today.

Now to do a preflight check. Circling game. Well Cici starts out just okay, a bit rushy, has a few nice steps and Avery tells me to disengage and reward the good quality trot. Then send her out again. When she stops and faces to thank her and then send and use the savvy string to hit the ground where her hind foot is/was. Not a punishment, just if you don't move there are consequences.

And now things get interesting. She starts to react to the carrot stick. She goes right brain. She moves. She flies. She is looking outside the circle. No quality here LOL.

Change of direction. Lots of changes of direction to engage her brain. Okay to try and engage her brain. Back her, wiggle rope real hard to shut her down when I ask for change of direction and she keeps going the same direction.

This is all fast and hard for me. She is out at the end of the 22 and pulling. Avery is more concerned about my left arm and tells me to change hands if I need to. I think I'm doing okay. Rope wiggling is hard. Do have to swap hands. Carrot stick accuracy is at first not too good on left but since I now have lots of practice gets better.

Watching her and assessing what is going on and making decisions on what to do. Fast fast fast. I feel like I'm flying! A challenge but I'm up to it!!!!! How cool is that.

Several times while all this is going on Avery would say, I wouldn't get on that horse. I tell her that I am not in a rush. I'll get on when she is listening and focused and if it doesn't happen today that is fine.

I am learning so much on the ground. Makes me wonder why I want to get on and ride!

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Liberty like on line

Beautiful day finally. Blue sky, sun, footing not bad! I walked Cici to the outdoor ring. Mary had just dragged it and cleared away the snow piles and most of the ice. The ground was damp, with some wet spots but not the sinking into kind of spring ground. Underneath is still frozen so it was actually pretty good.

I closed the gate and took off the lead. Stood and looked and Cici - what do you want to do? She just hung with me, didn't take off to gallop about. So I walked away and she came with me, putting me in Zone 1. When I tried to slowly move back to Zone 3 she would stop. Then she decided looking for grass at the edge of the ring might be a good thing to do. Hmmm how interesting.

I left her nibbling at frozen morsels and got the 22 foot line. I originally hadn't wanted to keep it on her and have it dragging through the wet. Ha! So I walked back to her and she lifted her head up and with me in Zone 3 walked on. So here I was holding the clip end in one hand and pointing like I do when the line is attached to her halter. And holding the leather popper in my other hand. And dragging the 22 through the wet.

With me in this position she walked everywhere I asked with me in Zone 3 and then 4 and a bit of Zone 5. What a feeling!!! How interesting! LOL. With a huge smile on my face we walked around the ring. Oh both sides.

Then I dropped the line - it was wet and h e a v y by now, picked a couple of hollow stalks and used them to tap her on her side instead of the popper. Then I tried trotting off and SHE FOLLOWED! She let me get out in front but then she would catch me and put me right at the drive line. Oh what a perfect day. More huge smiles.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Saddle Up

My new/used saddle arrived!!!!! Natural Performer think its medium color. Doesn't have the horseheads around the edges which makes it look cleaner I think. Of course haven't gotten to sit in it yet as I don't have a cinch small enough LOL. I've ordered a 24 and a 26 and will see what fits the little girl. Avery had to cancel due to the snow yesterday. Well she had snow we didn't! But she is coming next wednesday. I told her I'd need a saddling lesson! Can't believe I've done this and the saddle is here. It is really beautiful.

Steve Katz was at the barn this morning. He adjusted Cici and since I had just brought over the saddle to the barn he checked it out on her. He commented how well made they were for horses, really loved how the front leaves room for the shoulders to move, as does the back. He said most western saddles are not made for horses, they are just made! Nice to hear good things from him about the saddle.