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


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


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.

Saturday, June 12, 2010


Cici is offering things I'm not asking for. Hmmm how interesting. We've been playing with the ball and her putting her nose on it and kicking it. Today I had the tarp crumpled and in a pile on the ground. I walked her over to it and she put her nose on the tarp, okay she has done this before, but now she is rubbing her nose on the tarp and then she took a piece of tarp in her mouth and lifted it up!

We have been playing with figure 8s on the ground around two cones. Today around one cone then she walked over to the other one and lifted her leg - she wasn't sure what she was supposed to do - guess she was thinking kick the ball - so she finally put her foot on the base of the cone. If only I had thought to ask her to do this LOL!

I am getting lots of licking and chewing.

And after all this nice quiet focused work I played with the circle game on the ground and then saddled her and played again. When I asked for canter I got NO! and then a buck. When she did canter and I asked for her to maintain it I got NO! and buck. I was planning on going out for a trail ride with Vivian. I'm now reconsidering.

So I played with lots of change of direction on the circle. Finally got her listening to me and thinking. But I noticed something she was doing that is different - when I asked her to back up she would and then put her head all the say down to the ground and look at me only with her left eye. Wondering what that is about. I waited for blinking and took this as okay to send. This is were I was getting those NO!s

After the changes of direction she was certainly listening, but noticed that now she was being reactive to things - like flicking the lead, moving the carrot stick. Decided to hand walk her, with saddle on, while Vivian rode.

Of course after being out on the trails for a few minutes I was thinking darn should have brought my helmet and put her bridle on. She was quiet and listening and focused on me and not giving me any problems re eating grass.

When our walk was over and I flicked the lead at her she barely raised her head. But I'm feeling good about honoring my feelings that she was not ready to be ridden. She wasn't at that time.

But I think she is really ready to go back out to the trails. The LBI is tired of being inside. Ahhhh, yesterday we played in the outside ring. And today was back to the indoor. And she was thinking she was going to be stuck in the indoor. And probably hence the tantrum. Okay if its not raining tomorrow we'll go out on the trails.

I love writing. I sure helps me process what is going on.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010


Thought I was going to go out with Vivian for a short trail ride. But she had something come up. So we played kick/nose ball, sideways, as well as backing along the wall from zone 5. I put the 22" line on and WoW! She just keeps taking one slow careful step after another going backwards when I'm behind her. Realized there is the pull from the line, so I even put it on the ground and get a couple more steps.

I think she is using the backing along the wall as an evasion. Because it happens when I ask her for sideways to the left. She will just position herself along the wall. Butt and nose same distance from wall. So I step back and then she floats back with me. I am taking what she offers.

Struggling a bit with my send. Yes I am not effective there. So she will go out but come in quickly. Again taking what she offers. And we get to practice a lot more backing!

When I put her saddle on and play with circling game, she is like okay I know the routine. Walk, trot, canter and I'm done - she turns into me. I thank her and then back her up and send her again. She is ready when she comes in to back and go out the in other direction! Walk trot canter and back in to me. I send her out again, try and get 3 to 5 laps. She will now canter with the belly of the rope on the ground! Especially under saddle.

Riding - asked for lateral flexion both sides. Bit of initial resistance but then she yielded and stayed when I released. All these little pieces are coming together.

Oh yawns - get a major yawning event each time 5 to 10 minutes into the ride. Hmmm how interesting!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010


I recently read a suggestion to put honey or molasses on the bit to make bridling a pleasurable experience for the horse. Something they look forward to and will reach for the bit. So I bought one of those small squeeze honey bears. Put just a couple of dots on Cici's bit.

Then when I saddled her I thought, hmmm I hope she likes honey. So I touched my finger to the dots and offered it to her. She sniffed my finger and went into that frantic sugar mode! That gimme gimme gimme. That demanding, head butting more more more. She didn't even lick the honey off my finger,just one little sniff and got very insistent. Oops! Then I remembered Margaret saying sugar was not a good thing for her! I wiped the honey off the bit.

Interesting yes?

I am going back to offering her one of the hay stretcher treats I use when I bridle her. She likes them. They don't have sugar in them so I do not get the frantic reaction. Just the oh that was nice can I have another.

Looking back it is amazing how just the smell seemed to trigger such a strong reaction. Holy Cow!

Monday, June 7, 2010


Kick the ball is really progressing. Cici is very nose focused on it. Will stand still in front of ball and rest her nose deep into the ball. Then she likes to flick it off to the side. If I can get her moving in the direction of the ball I have now gotten 3 kick steps fairly consistently.

Sideways along the wall to her left is a struggle. She is lining up with the wall, giving me her butt. So I'm backing her from the very end of the 12' line. Hmmm may try the 22 tomorrow! She is also harder to send out on the circle to the left. Thinking its Steve Katz time.

I gave her mouth, noseband area and browband area energy treatments before putting on the bridle. She was soft and listening. Had one time of bracing, but she yielded quickly and licked and chewed. I'm feeling better and better about riding again. Getting the feel of the western saddle too. Three more rides and then I think I will be ready for a trail ride.

Vivian is after me for this weekend. I think I can just make it. She is being very patient and sweet. Said we would go out for the short loop. That I can get off at anytime. But that I needed to get back out on the trails with Cici....and her and Georgie.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Kick the ball

It is so humid its raining today LOL. Cici is soaked so I decide to just play on the ground. Hard to let go of the day counting. But I feel we both need a rest.

I played a little yesterday with kick the ball. First placed it in front of her and asked her to walk forward and move the ball. Amazing how supple she can be when she wants to avoid the ball in front of her!

Building on yesterday's work as soon as we walked into the indoor I walked her over to the ball. She touched it with her nose and then looked at me - treat? I asked her to kick it with her knee as she walked forward. She did! Walked her back to where it rolled to and asked again. She was soft and focused and I could just slightly wiggle the rope for her to back up and reposition herself.

She is not yet getting the follow the ball concept yet. She did kick it twice in a row when the ball rolled in a straight line in front of her. The third step? She reached down with her nose and pushed it OUT OF THE WAY. LOL.

Last night I had checked the Savvy Vault for backing and sideways. Saw Linda's piece on making an L of your arms and walking along the fence. Tried it with Cici today. Going to her right (I'm at her left) she is moving very nicely. Going to her left (I'm at her right side) she immediately positioned herself parallel to the wall with her butt facing me. Oops. I gently wiggled the rope and she did a nice soft back up with me way beyond Zone 5, at the very end of the 12" rope.

She is offering things that she has never before done. Yippee. So I took it. Had 5, 6, 7 steps back from Zone 5 with rope on right side of her body. How amazing is that!

Saturday, June 5, 2010


Today I had the indoor to myself. Yahoo. Played with figure 8 - still haven't figured out how to do it at the trot. Chewing on that. Played with weave and then figure 8s. Backing as always and circling at walk, trot and canter.

Cici is reluctant to go out and stay on the circle. I don't have my energy up? I get it up to back her, then relax, maybe I am not getting it back up for circle. So I use this as a great opportunity to practice her backing, since she will go out for maybe 1/4 of a the circle then come back in. 3/5ths and come back in.

Saddle her and played stick to me through the weave, figure 8 and then circling. I had watched level 2 freestyle with Pat the other night and he made the point that a buck is like a canter - three beats. So finally the importance of asking her to canter online click. Cici did another part buck - oops - and then cantered and quickly turned in to me.

I sent her out the opposite direction and asked for canter. I am amazed that she can canter the circle with slack in the rope! Have to admit that there are lots of time when I can't figure out which direction she was going LOL. Especially if I'm doing change of direction. Makes my head spin.

After saddling and circling with saddle when I went to put her bridle on I thought about what Margaret had said - noseband and browband being too tight. There is no noseband and the browband is loose. So I put my hands on her face where the noseband would be and waited for her to release. Did the same for the browband. Lick and chewing. And then put the bridle on. I was especially careful to make a clean split of her mane for the crown piece.

And she was wonderful with the bit! Started yawning just a bit after I mounted. And was light and listening and not brace. Yippee.

One more interesting note, after riding and circling and half circles back and lifting rein for stop and stopping by my just exhaling she stopped. And would not walk on. She felt tense. She stabbed her right foot forward. I thought - get off! So I dismounted and she bent around to snap at a fly that was under her belly.

The amazing thing is it felt she was taking care of me. That she could not do that with me on her back without upsetting me. So she wanted me to get off. And I heard that and got off.

Friday, June 4, 2010


Margaret has checked in with Cici re the bit. Apparently Cici has a -40% opinion of the bit. I laughed when I read that. Sure sounds like my little girl. I don't know what the guy rode her in but when I got her they had her in a snaffle bit that was poking the roof of her mouth every time the reins were lifted.

When I rode her today she was much calmer about the bit. Even before I tacked her up I put the bridle on and from the ground asked for lateral flexion - asked her to bend her head to her side by picking up the rein on one side or the other. She was soft and quiet. Even held the flexion after I released. I was wondering if Margaret had worked a bit of her magic.

She was fine for the first few minutes then got a little don't touch my mouth but nothing like before. I think we just need to quietly keep playing with this. And with Margaret's continued help on her opinions....hopefully it will go away.

After about 10 minutes she started yawning and yawning and chewing and licking and chewing up a storm. I took that as a release and dismounted.

Before getting on I played with her on the ground. There was a lot of stuff going on in the indoor people coming and going, stalls being cleaned hay and grain being put in the stalls, water buckets filled. On the ground when she went on the the circle she would start off with a fast trot, get into soft footing canter, get unconfident and come back to me, licking and chewing. I figured she was not ready to be ridden so I did a lot of different things with her. And kept coming back to circling. I kept waffling about was she safe to get on so I kept playing with her. At one point she was cantering, and started to do a buck which she caught mid buck and I swear I saw a thought ballon over her head "Oops, not supposed to do that" - and immediately came down to trot and and came in to me!

I put her saddle on and I played some more and had her out on the circle. I had her walk trot and canter on the circle with saddle to make sure everything was fine. She did go faster than she was comfortable with and then would turn in to me and lick and chew. So I figured okay. She is with me.

This was a difficult decision. I mean I am doing the assessing of her connection. And of course I worry if I am making the wrong decision. Does she want me to get on? Do I want to get on? Yes I do want to get on. I remember Avery said it will come to my wanting get back on. So still concerns, worries, reservations. But I decided to get on. Clear my mind. Take a deep breath. And I could get off. Which I did. Got on waited for chew and head lowering. Walked a few steps. Got off. Walked her back to mounting block and put my foot in the stirrup and up and down a few more times before I got on. Sigh. Licking and chewing on my part.

The horses had been put in their stalls. I do not like to ride by them. So we stay at one end of the ring. Did small circles, turns. Lift rein for stop. And when she started yawning figured I had bored her enough so I'd get off. Reward that kind of release. Only riding for maybe 10 minutes. But her difference re bit was huge today.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010


Cici was a bit full of herself today. Haven't done anything for a couple of days and yesterday it was thunder and pouring rain. She ran around online for a while before she turned in to me. I just sent her out on the circle and she starts trotting and then cantering and scares herself - does a bit of galloping - canters the circle very nicely (hmmm how interesting) and turns in to me licking and chewing. Except for the initial gallop the line is slack as she canters around. Another hmmm how interesting.

I had my doubts about saddling her and riding but thought lets see what happens. After she came in I sent her back out the other direction. Got another initial straight line gallop then on the circle cantering. Hmm thought she could not canter full circles!

I continued to play with her until I felt I had a connection and saddled her and asked for trot on circle. She was going fast and I exhaled loudly and she calmed down. She would get going again and I exhaled again and again and she would immediately come to a more focused trot. Oh boy.

Norma had written a piece about focusing your energy and thoughts before you ask your horse for anything. And how little can you do and have them respond. I played with this re backing. Got my energy up, had to puff myself up a bit and then looked at Cici and she walked back! Connected 3 steps back. This is a holy wow moment. So cool.

I did get on. Cici is having her own issues with the bit - still bracing, throwing in some head tossing, raises her head to avoid the bit and lowers her head to avoid the bit. And I am asking softly. And while all this is going on she is chewing. So I can't figure it out.

After about 10 minutes she started yawning and blowing and yawning. Yippee! I quietly picked up the reins to ask for her to turn and she immediately braced and resisted and chewed and tossed her head. Talk about mixed signals LOL.

This is ride 8 of 14. I am working on feeling more comfortable in the western saddle. Slowly getting there. And comfortable riding period. The head tossing, throwing her head up, bracing and stuff is not particularly good for my confidence however. I am dealing, but would really like it to be gone. Think I need to be more passively persistent in the proper position. Really hold a bend until she gives. Well there is tomorrow.