Wednesday, December 29, 2010

New womanhandleable pedestal

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Snow snow and more snow

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Freestyle? ever?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, December 12, 2010


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My lessons

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

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

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

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Exuberance with Cici

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Had a delightful quiet swinging trail ride.

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

Friday, December 10, 2010

Effective Phase 4

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, December 9, 2010


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Lick and Chewing - mine

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Pedestal at Liberty

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Pedestal day 3

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

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

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

Saturday, December 4, 2010


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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