Sunday, April 25, 2010

Second trail ride

Out again today. With Rebekah in what turns out to be her last trail ride as she is moving Patrick on Wednesday. I will certainly miss her. She is not moving all that far and said when I ready to trailer Cici she will pick us up. All I need to figure out is how to do the preparation. Used to just slap the saddle on and load her up. Now I'm thinking that I play on the ground, play with saddle, play under saddle. Untack and load and then tack up at the destination. And hope that it will not take too much time to get Cici's focus on me again. I think this is going to be an Oh Boy moment.

When I arrived at the barn I didn't see Cici standing about in her paddock. As I walked closer I saw that she was lying down! With the side of her face on the ground lying down. Moment of panic. What was wrong?!?!? I called to her and she lifted her head, but still stayed down, looked at me, then her eyes drooped and I swear she went back to sleep. As I got closer I could see that Casey was passed out a little ways away - asleep on the ground with his little legs out straight!

Seems Mary got up Early and feed everyone by 6 AM. Cici ate her fill, not a scrap left, and went to sleep. As did Casey.

I played with sideways, drive zone 3 -4, backing, circling and change of direction, and figure 8. She is really getting the figure 8. Willing to do the whole pattern without stopping. I am getting better, I hope, at assessing the quality of her trot on the circle. Canter is still a bit of a struggle for her. Yesterday I asked Linda to watch to help me. Turns out Cici was counter cantering very well to the left and a spider in a blender to the right.

Fun having all there different games, patterns, techinques to do. And develop and bring along and refine. A chance for both of us to grow.

Under saddle working on her stopping on my exhale. The other day better than today. But then it improved. Rebekah came up to the indoor with Patrick and we went out on the trails. Initially a bit more attitude from Cici as we walk by patches of grass. But she settles and just walks. With Georgie she was pushing him with Patrick she hangs back a bit. Writing this I think maybe I'll have to ask her to walk on. But then I remember that we will be out with Georgie more right now. No more Patrick for a little while.

I am feeling more and more confident. Think I am about where I used to be with Cici. Not as unconcerned as I was with Jeepers. But Cici is definitely listening to me. This is a big change.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Trail Rider Again

Today I went on a trail ride with Vivian and Georgie. It has been eight months. Guess it was time.

After ground play, saddle play and finally mounted play I went out. We only walk on these trails. They are basically deer paths, one horse wide and go up and down and around hills and rocks and water. Cici was quiet, soft, listening and only tried to reach for grass a couple of times.

I had thought about was I ready? Or more accurately when would I feel Cici and I were ready? Was it about her or was it about me? I've been saying I want the same relationship I have on the ground under saddle. I wanted a soft listening horse to ride out on the trails. And I've been asking myself what was the difference between going out now on her and when I rode her last year. That internal debate.

I know this was just one time. So I'll say for today this was a different horse than the one I rode last year. There was no snorting, no head tossing, no nose straight in the air, no constantly grabbing for grass or leaves off trees, no arguing with me if I picked up the reins. I am so pleased and so happy. And I hope Cici is also.

This is the horse I've been hoping would show up. Hope she keeps on coming out on the trails with me.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Assertiveness training

Had a lesson with Avery on Sunday. My thoughts were to work on sidesways and riding. Found we were working on an effective Phase 4. Boy is that hard for me. I do the rope wiggle, a little bit at a time. Yeah I know that is nagging. Not getting the job done. Avery fixed that!

Worked on backing. My wiggling and Cici debating whether or not to bother. Avery - long phase 1 - wiggle finger not rope and then the rope swing to activate the ring to bong her. Avery demonstrated and Cici resisted until she thought better of that. Then I tried. Boy its hard to get there. Assertiveness. Hmmm how interesting.

Then worked on change of direction at trot and canter. Avery said now that Cici will stay out on the circle and go round we want to work on quality of trot not quantity. Change direction everytime she passes in front of me. Two big steps back - two eyes on me - then walk forward to have Cici change directions. I tended to lean forward - oops not right. Leaning back is okay. Another struggle to get all the pieces correct. Dropped my carrot stick - too much happening too fast and just easier to use the rope.

Going to canter meant things are moving all that much faster. My mind is twirling! If she pulls on the rope - change of direction - if she breaks gait - change of direction.

Then on to sideways. Avery asked me to show her what we had. I said we didn't have anything. Okay realized I don't have or wont go to effective phase 4 and that is why. Avery started with the windshield wiper - Cici ignored her, so she moved on to holding the carrot stick facing down and swinging it at her belly with other hand holding the lead up. Energy up. One two three - no moverment? whack her belly. Amazingly Cici just stood - I am not moving, I don't want to move, I don't understand, okay I'm leaving! And then friendly game with savvy string over her back. Avery is effective. Hard to watch I have to admit. But effective. Okay back to assertiveness training for me.

I had played with Cici for about an hour before Avery came to be able to work on riding. Still not on yet. Sideways was done with saddle on. Oh Avery showed me how to place the pad not quite on centered so that when I toss the saddle up and it is not centered it IS centered on the uncentered pad. And then move both up into the correct centered position on Cici's back. Wow this is one of those incredibly simple and so effective tricks. Yes!

Riding - first lateral flexion - rein out to side, to up to me. Then worked on stopping riding and turning her nose to the wall for stop. This to build up my confidence for trotting. And it worked! We started trotting just a few steps then stopping. Then a few more. Boy her trot is soft and wonderful. I still am adjusting to this western saddle and how wide it feels and posting is not coming easily. But then again I haven't posted in probably 7 months now.

So many things to work and play with. Feeling empowered, excited, afraid, and willing to work on my assertiveness!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Dragon snorts

I have all these plans that go out the window as soon as I get to the barn. One thing or another seems to come up. Yesterday after a slow start - got talking with Mary and helping her with Blackjack - I finally got to Cici and Casey's paddock.

Cici had been watching me. And since I was taking so long she decided to wait on the back side of the paddock, where I usually come after getting everything set in the indoor. But since time was slipping by I just grabbed the 12' and carrot stick and headed directly to their paddock. When they realized I was coming in the front, both Cici and Casey trotted across the paddock to me. I almost cried!

I took Cici to the indoor and played a little, but since the day was so beautiful I decided to go play in the outside ring. I then decided to play a bit at liberty. We haven't done that for a while, so I unclipped her lead. She was faced with a choice, stay with me or eat grass at the edge of the ring. Guess what won out!?!?!?

I let her nibble a bit then approached her, planning on asking her to disengage and face me. But she would feel the pressure and trot down the fence line a little bit to keep eating. We did this just about all the way around the ring. Then Cici decided the pressure was too much and she took off down the long side, bucking, kicking up her heels. Last time I saw her to this was last year at Laura's! And she kept it up, flat out galloping down one side, slowing a bit in the corners and flat out the other. I was completely ignored.

I watched her gallop, high step trot and then gallop some more. Her tail was straight up in the air, both her nostrils were flared and she was snorting up a storm. When she trotted she had the most amazing suspension and high lifted hocks. Wow. This went on for what seemed like forever but was probably a couple of minutes. I was beginning to wonder if she would ever stop. Or how to ask her to stop, or what I should do. When Cici get to the ends of the ring she would momentarily stop and put her head over the top bar and lean into the fence and dragon snort and call.

I was standing in the middle of the ring. Had dropped the carrot stick. I rustled my pocket for treats and held my hand up in the air. Cici looked at me and turned off the rail and came floating trot right at me. Head high, tail up, nostrils (both) flared. She stopped and snorted and licked. Took the treats. I felt her say thank you thank you thank you.

A day later I can now say how cool was that?!?!?

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Oh boy!

I've been taking it nice and slow. Realized I need to build up my confidence, as well as Cici's. Eight months out of the saddle has been a long time. Especially considering how I came to be out!

Working in the indoor is getting better and better. Today I decided to venture out after a while inside. Walked out the door and Cici instantly became that dominant mare I had the first time I got on again LOL. The "I know what to do, you just sit up there and don't pick up the reins." Amazing or should I say hmmm how interesting, change the environment and she changes.

We walked down to the barn, stopped after a lot of resistance, and walked back up the hill. Into the indoor where she became soft and listening. Walked out the door and the other mare showed up.

Oh boy, new things to play with!

Monday, April 5, 2010


On Sunday we went for a hand walk out on the trails. Vivian and Georgie, me and Cici. Have not been out there for a while - rain, mud, more rain, ponds, rain and more rain. Also I've been having just too much fun with groundwork and mounted work. Relationship building. Sounds like a corporate retreat.

What was very interesting is that Cici kept putting me in Zone 3. That was her comfort zone. She didn't want to be too far behind on the narrow parts and had no apparent desire to be all the way out front either. Just walking quietly side by side. 51/49.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Steady progress

Yesterday and today I am just taking the time it takes. Ground work, saddle her up, more ground work. I am staying with a bit of driving from Zone 3 with saddle and bridle. And then hurry up and wait once mounted. I find all this is allowing me to stay confident and focused. Mounted it is nice to have the horn right there to push on for passenger lessons.

My friends come to the barn, groom their horses, go out for a short trail ride, come back and I'm still playing on the ground.

Cici is standing quietly at the mounting block. Even when I get on it. And she stands quietly once I am in the saddle. I wait how ever long it takes for a chew before I ask her to walk. Boy is she thinking! I am feeling confident she will stop so I am asking for longer walks in the indoor before I'll lift the reins. She is now stopping on the lift. Want to figure out how to differentiate between lifting to correct course and lifting for a stop.

Lateral flexion is getting better and better. Still will get the nostril after a release. And today she took to walking forward with her nose on the ground. But since this was Jeepers' favorite evasion of the bit I am very comfortable with riding a horse whose nose is plowing a furrow in the ground as they walk LOL. Glad that Cici is still trying different things. Shows she is thinking about what we are doing.

I took the rope cinch off before I saddled her. Found tossing the saddle up on Cici to be much easier without the cinch. Guess I keep saddling that way until I become completely comfortable with the saddle. Yippee!

Thursday, April 1, 2010

I think she's got it!

Have to admit my confidence was shaken the last time I rode Cici. She seemed so determined to do things her way and I was only along for the ride.

On Wednesday I played with her and she was RB. Got completely unconfident out on the circle and would take off in straight lines. I had her do a lot of stopping, backing and change of directions. At one point I tried to stop her on the circle and waved the carrot stick in front her and she exploded. Hmmm how interesting.

Stayed online that day, no saddling, no mounting. I now have tools I can use and I can feel confident!

Today, Thursday we played outside in the ring. She was snorting but still listened. Her nostrils where crinkled and uneven. She had a nice trot but kept looking in asking Can I come in now? I don't feel very confident out here. I kept her out for 4 circles and then brought her in. Her questioning was very interesting to me. I sent her back out and she cantered easily in both direction. Comfortable controlled canter.

Even with her snorting she walked the circle with the belly of the rope on the ground and stayed walking until I asked for trot. She even at one point decided to roll! So how could she be feeling unconfident - snorting, nostrils - and feel confident enough to roll?!?! This bouncing back and forth across that fine line makes my head spin.

Went back to the indoor to saddle up. Took three tries LOL. First time saddle knocked the pad off. Second time kind of alright but needed to be adjusted so I walked her over to the mounting block with the saddle kinda of precariously balanced on her back. She dropped her shoulder and dumped saddle and pad on the ground. Third try was the charm. Okay I held onto the saddle while I walked her to the mounting block. Now I understand the true importance of driving from Zone 3!

Mary came into the indoor with the tractor to do some work. I thought that's fine I need to do more ground work with Cici before I mount. So we work with the tractor going. Cici was again concerned, unconfident, head up, nostrils flared. Its interesting what I notice now. Nostrils crinkled. Holding her breathe or snorting. I just took my time. Drove from Zone 3 and 4, circled both directions.

I finally put her bridle on and since Mary was still tractoring did more driving from Zone 3 - holding onto the stirrup. So this was something new - bridle, saddle and still ground work. We walk. I ask for lateral flexion. Hmm, bit of brace then she gives. Waiting for her to breath. I am still debating about getting on.

Mary finally leaves and while standing at the mounting block Cici finally takes a deep breath, blows all over me and finally licks and chews. I decided to mount. So we do our little dance and I mount from the right. Who is training whom?

Cici just stands while I mount and after I am mounted. Just stand there at the mounting block. Enjoying the feel of the saddle. Waiting for a lick and chew. I'm looking around, thinking it is nice to be on her back again. We wait. She lowers her head and chews. Yes!

I lift the reins and she walks off, confident, but not too forceful a walk. She picks out a cone next to the wall at the end of the arena and walks to it. Touches it and waits. I wait. She waits. We wait. Another chew and I lift the reins and ask her to walk on. She does. No argument. I lift the rein again and bend to a stop. Okay not perfect, bit of argument, bit of brace, but compared to where we have been this is heaven. By god I think she's got it!

I tell her when she is bracing that all she has to do is give me a soft release and I'll get off. She does, I do.