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 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!

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 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


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 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.