Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Assessing Struggle

I started thinking about assessing and how some people seem to move through the levels and savvys and assessing, and others, like me, get stuck.

A long long time ago, in the dark ages, I did an in-person Level 1 assessment. Looking back I am not sure how I managed to even make the appointment. Remember my heart pounding and worrying about how my mare Jeepers would react to my nervousness. Fortunately, she was a LBI and just rolled her eyes and helped me out. Well that was until we got to passenger lesson at the trot. By then she had had enough and headed straight for the lone tree in the middle of the paddock/riding ring. The tree with low branches.

We passed and never looked back. That’s the problem.

I came to Parelli to develop my relationship with Jeepers, and to feel confident riding out on trails. After going to the barn, grooming, tacking up and riding in a ring, I realized I wanted more. More of a relationship, more of a connection, more confidence, more more more.

It has been quite a journey, my confidence has slowly built up and I ride the trails. Oh I still have thresholds but with Jeepers’ help and understanding we ventured out. I remember the first time we trailered with a friend to a new trail head and I thought, “Oh my gosh, I’m one of them!” (A trail rider). I now ride with Cici who is a RBI. Quite a different experience.

Before I saddle up I spend lots of time on the ground online checking to see who has shown up that day. Cici has taught me never to assume. She can go from seemingly “fine” to what I call her Blonde Bombshell Ballet (BBBs) – leaping, bucking, galloping, airs above the ground – in a nanosecond.

I’m following the Levels and the Patterns. I’ve moved from a 12’ line to a 22’ and have just begun playing with a 45” online. Freestyle I play with the patterns, have begun to use a carrot stick riding and even ride with a bareback pad. I just haven’t assessed.

Did I mention I am a Right Brain Introvert? And that testing or being judged is not my forte? My thoughts range from: Why go through the anguish of taping an assessment? What is holding me back? Do I need to? Why should I bother? I can do a self-assessment. What difference does it make? I’m developing my relationship and connection with Cici, my confidence has grown, and I’m trail riding – isn’t that enough of an assessment?

Lying in bed last night, out of the blue, my husband asks me what’s the issue with assessing? Huh? Where did that come from? How does he know? He’s been listening to me?!?! He said he thought not assessing was holding me back. That I was probably further along the path than I knew or took credit for.

He asks what I need to do for an assessment. I explain about the taping, the requirements and go on to describe some of the YouTube assessments I’ve watched. Where the cameraperson is running down the path in the woods and the image is bouncing up and down. Where the camera is set up at one end of the ring and the person and horse at the other are soooo tiny you can barely make out what they are doing. About the relationship each person has with their horse that shines through. About the little moments where they take the time to acknowledge and show their love.

He offers to be my cameraman in a few months when he is feeling better. How can I refuse? It’s not just about me any longer.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Moving to LB

Lesson with Avery. In preparation I spent an hour online seeing how Cici was feeling. Started out with the 45 and touch it, step on the cone, sideways over the barrel, sideways down the wall without my moving my feet. A bit of friendly and porcupine for backing. And on to circling. Cici loves the 45. She loves to drift out and circle.

I start to ask for changes of direction on the circle when she is moving slow. Noticing that she will now stop and just pull back when I ask for her to turn in to me. How interesting. After a number of changes of direction she agrees it is just easier to move at the gait I request.

When I ask Avery about this later she says Cici is being dominant. LB dominant. Oh no! LOL

Move over to the cones for figure 8 and change to the 22'. I've kept one clean - was washed - for the lesson. The others weight a ton with mud and dirt. Start asking for change in the center and Cici goes into bucking, leaping, galloping. I encourage her to keep moving and then ask her in with extreme friendly.

Almost an hour of a horse who really doesn't want to move and then bam! Moving for sure! And now Avery comes into the ring. I ask her about Cici cone-nection - where she goes to a cone and put her foot on it and stops - looking very pleased with herself. What is this about and how do I get her to move? More LB behavior apparently!

Avery had me ask for change of direction each time Cici went to a cone and stopped. And then to circle around both cones once before asking for change in the center for figure 8. Talked about keeping the bubble of my circle the same size. That for every step I take back I need to do the same number forward for the draw and drive to be equal. Hmmm how interesting.

Cici sure was moving now. Certainly RB. She goes RB when learning anything new. Today we play with figure 8s at a trot and canter. She was moving her feet. Took a while before she was able to slow her feet and mind.

Mounted up to see if we could continue to work on this. Riding her the issue was when she stops. Walking around the ring and she stops. Back up and then direct rein to change direction. But only want to see her eye (like in dressage) and the move her shoulders over. Avery got me a kidz carrot stick to tap on her shoulder - said to annoy more than anything.

So stop? Okay lets back and then change direction, oh and move those shoulders first. Lots to think about (me). Practiced at walk and trot. And wow what a difference in quality of gait. Had a free hip swinging walk and a forward moving trot. Awesome. Now all I need to do LOL is remember everything and practice!

Avery said Cici will test me a lot. That she will become dominant and LB and she might get worrying and RB. But test she will!

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Letting Go

A Conversation Between Connect Friends about Grief & Loss

By Jamie Greenebaum & Jolene McDowell

Linda Parelli suffered a tremendous loss recently with the death of Westy. In the messages of comfort and show of support, a lot of people talked about their losses of beloved companions, both two and four-legged. As Jamie and I read these, we realized that Parelli has indeed become a community and a loss for one is a loss for all.

Jo: It’s never easy letting go. We develop such an attachment with the beings we love. It’s hard to lose them. Unfortunately, we all know the experience of grief: shock, disbelief, crying, exhaustion, confusion, feeling lost, depression, preoccupation, guilt, anger, bitterness and oh, the missing, missing, missing as we struggle with new life patterns.

Jamie: Jo, your words go right to where it hurts the most - the missing. It’s a tough subject as it brings alive all the loss I’ve experienced and the emptiness that is left behind from all the lives that have touched mine and are now gone.

Jo: Yes, the emptiness can take over. It’s so hard to watch others go on with life as if nothing monumental has occurred, when our world is reeling. The depth and intensity can be overwhelming, as if an tsunami has wiped out the world as we knew it in one swipe.

Jamie: To the world at large, we are expected to continue as if nothing has happened. Oh, you can grieve, but not for too long. You need to move on. Get on with your life. Others express their sympathy and love, but they have their lives and we are left alone with our personal devastation.

Jo: It’s hard to open that hand quickly and let go graciously, with no brace. It’s hard to not hold on to what we love, resisting . . .resisting. . .resisting the devastation. The level of grief will vary, depending on the gravity of the loss and the individual. It is so personal. We all meet it according to our individual personalities and life experiences. Yet meet it we must, for grief comes to us all. It is the price of living and loving.

Jamie: Yes, in a bittersweet way, grieving can open us up to more love. But it sure is a hard way to get there. I think being able to let go is the true gift. A few short years ago, I had to make the decision of when to let my mare go to those green, green pastures. Like you Jo, I came late to having horses in my life. “Jeepers” was my first, and she taught me so much. She brought me to Parelli. We were together for 12 years. As her health declined, she waited patiently for me to be ready to let go. That was her final gift to me.

Jo: Just like you, and so many other Parelli members, I have had a lot of losses in my life. I like to say that grief and I are old friends. And it’s not so bad. It’s good to realize you can handle life and what it gives out. It’s good to develop resilency. It’s good to realize that, indeed, as one door closes, another door opens.

Jamie: I’ve never looked at it that way: “Old friends”. Yes, I suppose we are. But I’m not sure it is a friend I look forward to encountering again and again.

Jo: It took my son Nathan 12 years to talk me into a dog. And then this adorable Petite Shelty came into our lives. We called her “Shelley”. I never knew a dog could be like her. When my three sons and their friends would play basketball in the driveway, she would run circles around them until she left bloody paw prints on the cement. She wouldn’t stop running until they stopped playing. Not a week goes by that I don’t think of her, and it’s been 18 years.

Jamie: Don’t you find that out of the corner of your eye you sometimes catch a glimpse of one who is gone? If you run after the image it vanishes. But it was there for that split second. I do believe they are with us, always in our hearts, ready to remind us of those special moments.

Jo: When I was young I thought the one thing in life I would not be able to handle was the loss of a child. Well, I guess I am stronger than I thought. While I may not see the child I loved so much out of the corner of my eye, he certainly is always in my heart. I love to visualize my precious grandparents, my son, my dog, and by then, a few horses that I love greeting me as I enter the doors of heaven. That image alone keeps my feet on the straight and narrow!

Jamie: I believe our loved ones are patiently waiting for us in heaven. However, they don’t want us to hurry!

Jo: Agreed! In talking to others on Connect about this blog, many people mentioned their losses as well. Karen Daniels said she’d lost 2 brothers in terrible accidents and her father from cancer. Jennifer Snitko said “I think this is a very timely and important blog considering Westy’s death and the other human deaths in our Parelli family, not to mention all of our community who loose horses every year. Of course, it struck me particularly, as I lost a very special mare (my first horse as an adult!) this September“. I asked my Connect friends what helped them overcome their sorrow, and almost unanimously they said “Time, remembering and love” After the sorrow passes, there is joy in remembering what we loved so much. Everything we loved in the past, helps us love better in the future. We realize we are better people because of the beloved’s presence in our lives.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Avery - June - Round Pen

Liberty is all about "the truth" of your relationship with your horse. Nothing to fall back on. Free fall!

Start out online and checking the relationship. Asked for disengagement of hind end and then send front end around - just a couple of steps are fine to begin with. Building on 360 degree turn. Both sides. Wait for her to be soft and connected.

Then remove the halter and do same at liberty. If Cici is not trying then tag and send her off. Which in the beginning we do a lot of. She quickly comes back to me within 1/4 of the way around. So we try again. Slowly, ever so slowly she gets it. And I get it. But the process of learning is challenging especially for Cici. She is an unconfident learner. Nostrils crunched up, breathing short and rapid and she tries to guess what I want instead of taking the time to listen. But as I get better at my asking she gets better at understanding.

We still have fast laps around, stops for nibbling the grass, stops for visiting with Cruise on the other side of the fence, or Cheeta. And when she does stop I ask her to keep going. She can change direction very easily on her own - but need to keep her going in direction I ask. Get to see a few sliding stops when she thinks she is going to change of direction on her own and I suggest otherwise ; -)

After the disengagement is going fine - both sides then on to check out yo-yo game. Quickly see the importance of two eyes. Because without two eyes when I ask for back she takes it as a send. So off tag she goes. Now she is getting more confident out on the rail so further distance before she comes in. But when she does come in she has a soft expression - question - on her face with ears forward.

Work on first just one step back and then draw towards me. Then two step yo-yo. The three. What a delicate balance. What fun! Look Ma no hands!!! (okay no Ropes).

I learn to be very particular in my body placement to be sure that the turns are facing me rather than away from me - head vs butt. Which of course means I start out with a lot of turning away (butt) turns initially. But I learn. Also learn importance of getting back to center.

End when she is trotting around relaxed and keeping an ear on me. Wow!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Round Pen

Mary called me at noon today to ask when I was coming over to the barn today. Just to tempt me further she said she had a surprise for me. And just to further tempt me said it was round and in the shade.

Of course I dropped everything to go and see the ROUND PEN! I can't believe it, Mary did this really and truly just for me! She put it up in Cruise's paddock - large sand paddock, perfect place. He still has lots of room and can go in and out of pen. When I got there Mary was just so proud of what she had done. She was concerned that it wasn't really round, and thought that if she swapped the gate and one of the long panels that would help. Then decided to grab the two other panels that are in Cici's paddock and while I was waiting for Cici to finish her lunch, Mary finished up.

There is even a back gate so I can walk Cici out her back gate down the fence line to this gate and go into the paddock with round pen. Amazing. Needed to put a handle on the electric top wire, Mary shoveled to make a path and voila we are all set!

My first time in a round pen. Didn't want to overwhelm Cici, her girl friend is on one side and Crusie is on the other but she seemed fine. Started out with 22 foot line but since she didn't seem to be bothered, not like the outside ring, I unhooked the line.

Clearly she has been worked in round pens in her past life. She took to the rail and walked and trotted like a pro. She knew what was expected of her. Asked for transitions and then a few change of directions - how cool is that?!?!?!? Both directions and disengage hindquarters. She came to me, licked and chewed and I felt that was enough for first time.

Grinning ear to ear. Thank you thank you thank you Mary.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Unedited Casey

Just got a Flip camcorder. And Kim has requested a video of Casey, her namesake, and storytelling. Here is the unedited, unfiltered, rough cut of our first attempt to sit down with Casey and the camcorder LOL. I'll work on figuring out how to use editing software. Promise!

She's back!

My girl is back! No apologies, no explanations, no discussions, no regrets LOL.

So I spent undemanding time in the paddock with her and Casey. When she was finished with her hay she came over to hang out with me. We then went for a mosey and choice grass spots for some serious weedwacking.

Ahhhhh to have my little girl back is great!!!!!

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Riding to Open Space 2 day clinic with Avery

This is an experience on going way beyond my thresholds. Haven’t trailered Cici anywhere in over a year +. Which horse will I have at the clinic? How will I feel? Can I handle her? How will Cici react to playing with other horses in the arena? How will she be riding outside in wide open spaces? Our comfort zone is trail riding in heavy woods. What have I gotten us into?

Cici steps off the trailer at Avery’s new farm, with every foot firmly LB. Even Avery is surprised LOL. She (Cici) is focused on me and isn’t the least bit phased by the four geldings in the clinic. They, on the other hand, are all immediately taken with this blond girl! All four drop their tongues, as well as other anatomical parts when they see her.

Initially I am a bit shaky and tell Avery that I am at the edge. She asks, “What can I do to help?” Such a simple question from a mere slip of a girl, and oh so comforting. With that simple question I know all will be fine.

We play in this huge indoor arena. We play outside on a sandy arena and on grass. Tall, tall grass that has been mowed. Cici is so LB I am wondering where is my usual RB horse LOL. When we finally move over to circle on the grass and she stops to eat and I ask her to keep going she displays her BBB. I can laugh and ask her to keep moving those feet. She settles back to LB quickly.

In the afternoon we saddle up and again start out in the indoor. Avery mentions to the other people in the clinic about introverts, and Cici. How they look so calm cool and collected and then can explode without warning. No one had noticed Cici's BBB earlier.

Asking Cici to trot and maintain the trot is the challenge. She starts off okay but quickly starts to argue with me about stick to the rail. "Stop touching the reins" I politely ask her to go back to the rail but she has other ideas. So I go with her ideas and turn toward the center of the arena and do direct to indirect disengagement. Quicker and quicker. Takes a while before Cici begins to reconsider leaving the rail. Same with asking for trot. What I come away with is the importance of out persistenting her. This is another threshold for me. That I can indeed out persistent her.

Her trot is more relaxed. Not a jarring up and down trot but a smooth flowing trot. Even Avery commented on it - she had asked in the morning how long I had had her on the new supplements - only a couple of days. Clearly its her mind. Cici's mind - more relaxed - not worrying and thinking - and its being expressed in her movement. How cool is that?!?!

When we go to ride outside I am focused on stick to the imaginary rail in the "sand ring". Another threshold - riding out in the open. Realize this is much more about me than Cici. She is doing fine. I just need to get in harmony with her fine. Avery is there - supportive, encouraging, and slowly making her idea of trotting in this ring - mine. I have to smile. I am trotting around the ring in an open field with no fences.

Day two we again start out online in the indoor, then move quickly outside. I am more confident and have Cici circling half on the sand and half on the grass. The footing is a bit wet and uneven and again she displays her BBB for everyone's benefit - much bigger this time. Avery suggests falling leaf pattern - so off we go across the grass. So much space to play with. I can really ask for her attention, keep those feet moving, change of direction, maintain gait. What a blast!

In the afternoon we are ready for our trail ride. Avery gives us tools for impulsive horses (direct, indirect reins/hindend disengagement), for horses who are upset about other horses passing- Cici (turn their noses toward the offending horse and sideways them away), and what to do when we come to a huge open field - form a big circle everyone facing inward - and let the horses eat the grass.

It is an amazing two days. So much to think about. And things to play with. Excited that Cici handled everything so well.

Well....when we finally get home and open up the trailer....Cici is a raving RBE! Head up like a giraffe, soaking wet, screaming her head off and can't wait to GET OFF THE TRAILER. She just about plows right though me! Where did she come from? Maybe I loaded up the wrong horse?

The next morning, Saturday, I am at the barn at feeding time. I gather up her hay and walk into her paddock. Mary is on the other side of the fence feeding Cici's girl friend. Cici does not even acknowledge me! She nickers to Mary. I am standing right in her paddock, two flakes of hay in my arms and she is ignoring me! Mary leaves and Cici looks right at me and turns her butt to me and just stands there!?!?!?!?!

Totally blowing me off. She NEVER turns down hay. I am not going to put it down until she comes to me. (By the way, Casey has grabbed one mouthful and is totally torn about what to do - stand by his woman or eat.) We have a stand off for a couple of minutes. Finally she turns and walks to me and reaches out to take a small bite. Not a greedy bite, a teeny tiny bite. Who is the mare and what has she done with my beloved Cici!?!?!?!

I put the hay down and she walks over and eats. I leave her alone for about 20 minutes and then come back to the paddock with her halter. We need to reestablish some respect, some relationship. She does not even pick up her head. I start swinging my rope. She eventually leaves her hay and goes to the water trough. Now this is something I always allow - it usually goes she looks at me as I enter the paddock, leaves her hay and gets a drink. Then she comes to be haltered.

Today she drinks, chews, looks at me, chews some more, takes another drink think about it and walks two steps towards me, then turns sharply to go to the hay! Catching game is on! She winds up running into the shed - hahahaha you can't be behind me now. And she just stands in the doorway looking at me. And I stand looking at her. A Mexican or maybe Massachusetts standoff. I keep looking at her and finally, finally she slowly, oh so slowly, walks out of her shed to me.

I remember thinking when I signed up for this clinic - Two full days with Cici. Take our relationship to a whole new level. That's for sure LOL!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Spring Rains

Its been raining on and off for the last few days. Of course the paddock is turning into mud. Of course because we are in mud season. Time for muck boots and rain coats. Umbrellas - ooooh umbrellas - I'll have to bring one to play with Cici!

Today when I got to the barn and looked over at Cici I wasn't sure what I was seeing - she is wearing black knee hi socks?

Well they didn't affect her willingness to put her feet in the hula hoop:

All I can think is that since her whole body is not covered in mud she was kneeling down to eat the grass on the other side of the fence. There is even mud on her right jaw as she turned her head to get under the wire. Quite agile and creative my little girl is when it comes to grass!

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Avery - April 20- Cones + Followup

(Posted on PC) Unexpected lesson with Avery (Wednesday). Schedule mix up. Played touch it from trot and canter. I love these seemingly simple tasks that take on so many issues. Its like Avery gives me a puzzle to work on each time we get together.

Asking Cici to maintain her trot around the circle, stop at the cone. Coordination for me on when to ask her to stop. Too soon? Too late? If Cici doesn’t stop at the cone or misses it then I need to keep her trotting. At first I don’t even think Cici is aware of the cone. Consistency and repetition. Slowly we get it together and Cici starts to ask questions. She stops at the cone. Yippee kiyah!!

It is really important that I give Cici all the time she needs to process this. We wait. And wait and wait for that licking and chewing and even get some nice blowing of nostrils. I can clearly see how she is doing, how hard she is thinking by her nostrils. As she processes new things they get a little pinched. When she blows out – and has thought about what she did, they relax.

Can we do it again? And then change direction and its like it is a whole new game. But it doesn’t take quite as long before she is asking me questions in this direction.

Avery commented that she (Cici) is now slowing herself down physically. How the first time I had a lesson with Avery Cici could not trot slow let alone canter. She only had FAST trot - head high - and gallop. Now she has three very nice gaits. And how she is also slowing down emotionally. At the end of this lesson Cici was not hyperventilating! A first!!!!! LOL.

We then tried it at the canter. Cici clearly tries to strike off on the correct lead going to the right. She now has the beginning of an understanding of the pattern and it only takes a few tries before she starts asking questions and stops when I ask at the cone! Yippee!!! My oh so clever little girl!

I learn about the importance of my intention. Cici reads me like a book, even if I am unaware. At the very end of the lesson Cici is standing quietly as I reach under her jaw to swap the 22 with the 12. My intention is to get this done and Cici just backs away…."I don’t think so"…until I exhale and bring my energy down.

On Friday (Thursday day of rest), walk into the arena with a plan. Focus on touch it – cones, barrels, saddle. Sideways. Backing. Then circling game with cone. Cici walks the circle, stops at the cone, licks and chews, looks at me "What now?" !!! Clearly she has spent her day off thinking about the lesson.

Even at the canter she is ready willing and able to stop. Well stop her front end at the cone and the hind end swings around. She is facing me, looking at me with her ears pinned on me. Wooohooo!!!!! Awesome pony.

I realize I watch her feet and Avery commented on how her ears were focusing on me. Her ears? She has ears? Feel like I’ve been on zoom focus on her feet and my new game is to see her WHOLE body – ears to hoofs! Because her ears sure are dancing now!

Now that I am "looking" I recognize her 1000 yard stare. She will stop and look at me with her eyes just closed a little, ears back and nostrils with a single wrinkle in them. She stares right through me. But NOW getting two soft eyes, relaxed nostrils - soft and open - and two ears. What a beautiful face.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Casey the impossible horse

I've been reading the book with that title to Casey. I sit on the rock and read to him. Cici continues to eat her hay. Its all about him after all. Casey just stands right in front of me. Quietly. No inching to nip. No biting. Just watching and listening. A perfect gentleman.

A few days later I notice that Casey seems a bit quiet. Not nudging me. And he is hanging out at the gate. I look him over, check his feet and go sit on another rock. The paddock has a variety of rock seating. He comes over and I start to tell him a story, I don't have the book with me, about a little boy named Casey and his adventures.

My little Casey just stands in front of me and listens. I reach out and stroke his face from forelock to nose. Gently time and again. I have NEVER, EVER been able to do this with him. He always tosses his head, tries to bite me, moves out of reach. But as I am telling him the story its like he has fallen under a spell.

And of course my thoughts are is there something medically wrong with him?

Today I once again take the time to sit and talk with Casey. He comes over and stands quietly. And allows me to stroke his face.

Is this the missing piece? He wants to hear me talk to him. Talk in that story telling voice. Oh I do talk to him, but it is usually Stop nipping! Back up out of my space! Back up! Put your ears forward. Ouch!!!!

Can the answer to our relationship be something so simple?

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Cones continued

Cici's fascination with cones continues. Four cones placed for a question box become four cones that have to be stepped on. One at a time. Quietly. Patiently. But definitively stepped on before we can proceed.

I place a cone in the middle of the ring to use as a focal point for freestyle circles. All is well as I keep the cone in my peripheral vision. Then I glance directly at the cone, Cici takes this "focus" and makes a beeline for the cone. Walking right up to it and stepping on it and stopping.

Friday, April 1, 2011


My friend/sister Kim Shannon mentioned, ha, challenged me to set up cones on a circle to inspire Cici to keep moving along. "Place cones at regular intervals on a circle. Start by playing Touch It with each cone swapping sides for fun and balance. When I then stood in the middle and asked for a circle Dove was drawn to each cone as she went around and voila a perfect circle (if I set the cone out right that is!) She would also put in great effort to stop at a cone vs our previous dribbly downward transitions on a circle game."

I have four cones and at first I don't want them too far and place all four in half the circle. Well they are kind of close but maybe that will be a good thing when Cici starts out. I quickly realize I need to spread them out more because Cici is just done with one before she on the next.

I send her to the first cone. Point and use the carrot stick to suggest she head on out to it. She stops and looks at me. Then lowers her head to the cone. I wait. She lowers her head down and just almost touches it. I suggest she move on. She touches it with her nose and then stands still. I wait. She loves just hanging out. I suggest she move on to the next cone. She now paws (hoofs) the cone and knocks it over. And paws it back up. Oh so proud of herself. Oh so proud of her!

Send her to the next cone. And she spies the pedestal that is just outside the circle. Off we go to pedestal. Hey touch it. Up she goes and stands up on the pedestal. I give her lots of dwelling time and then ask for her to go to the next cone.

Back to cone behavior. She touches it - nose or hoof - and then stands quietly. I put a little pressure on her and she checks it out some more. Rubs her nose up and down the cone and knocks it over. Now she is nibbling on the bottom edge. Takes the cone edge in her teeth and gently lifts it up and puts it down. I wait. Ask for on to next cone.

She starts to come in to me and I ask for sideways to the next cone. This is so exciting. Moving her feet with precision. She will nose, prod, lip, tooth, and lick (there is only one specific tasty cone that she licks each time) the various cones. Knocks them over and puts them back upright. The "puts them back upright" is with her nose, teeth, and feet! She likes to knock them over, but doesn't like to leave them that way. And if I ask her to move on to the next cone, well when she comes back to a downed cone she will right it!

Once she nosed over a cone - tried to get it back up first with nose again, then front hoof. Still unsuccessful. And all of this is done in a kind of underwater slowmo action ; -) I ask her to move on and as she steps over the offending cone she manages to step on it (or kick it) with her hind leg and upright it!!! Feel like I'm at a football game as I pump both arms straight up over my head - GOAL!!!!!

The longer Cici played with the cones the more curious she became. The progression went from just nosing the top or pawing at the cone to nosing up and down the length, lipping and toothing the top and edges, licking one delicious cone, and placing her foot on, over, around. She was exploring all the surfaces. And enjoying taking her time!

Friday, March 25, 2011

Fire breathing dragon

We've been playing in the outside ring the last couple of times. How interesting it is! I don't know whom I'm more surprised or Cici. She is running true to form - leaping and galloping. Now wait a moment...this is what blogging is about....thinking about what happens....processing what happens....and having ah ha moments.

I realize I have been putting special emphasis on her antics in the outside ring. Thinking that they are different than what happens in the indoor. But WAIT ONE MOMENT....they are not different. They are the same. She will let herself get distracted by something and then use that to start moving her feet and then go RB and unconfident. Or like yesterday LB and exuberant. So what I planned on writing about is not what I'm writing about. Oh Boy!

Today she does indeed turn into a fire breathing dragon complete with sound effects. Her head is soooo high, I swear her neck grows. And her face becomes longer. And her legs finer. And her tail turns into a vertical flag. She is prancing and dancing. Galloping. No leaping. She is breathing hard and fast. Her nostrils are long and narrow and billowing with each quick breath. I have a RBE on the end of my 22' line - FLYING.

And what is totally amazing is that I am calm. I can think. I can appreciate how beautifully she is moving. I just watch her move. Wow. Love seeing this while I'm standing on the ground. Don't want to experience this from her back. Ever. And recognize that this is very different than yesterday's explosion which was LBE. I think we will see where this goes as I am planning on a trail ride with V. Know that I have a choice of getting on her or not. But what is most incredible to me is that I can deal with this. Don't feel that just because she is a fire breathing dragon one moment that I don't have the savvy to bring her back from the edge.

I use extreme friendly to interrupt her. I have to bring my energy way up to even get her to notice me and then drop it quickly as she comes in. She is bug eyed, nostril flairing and high headed. Her breathing is quick and rapid. She stands staring first over my head than lowers her head a smidge and stares at me. I wait. And wait. And wait. And wait. Outside I don't have music today LOL. No counting songs. I can see she is beginning to come into herself and a blink.

Wiggle my finger at her to back. She shakes her head. This is a great thing because it does indeed mean she is thinking, that she is back to being herself. So I wiggle it again and she shakes again and takes a step forward and puts her head on my chest. Ahhhh. Lowered head. Ask for back again and we go through the snorting on me, shaking of head, licking, chewing, more snorting and blowing as she comes off the adrenalin and back to earth.

All of this is before I even put a saddle on her. And when I tack her up and continue to play she is right there for me. A partner. Walk trot canter both directions soft and willing and correct leads in each direction.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Right Lead Canter continued

We've been working on Cici's right lead canter. I can see she really thinks about it. The left lead is right there, but when she starts to canter right lead there is a momentary hesitation - she even skips sometimes if she starts to strike off with the left front. Clearly it has become a mental issue more than physical. I've been posting daily on PC but want to collect my thoughts here.

And each day we've been playing with it it has become better. She still seems to exaggerate - over reaching with her right leg - but she is putting the pieces together. And I am getting better at setting her up for success by paying careful attention to my send and making sure she crosses over in front when going to the right and not falling forward. Proper preparation in the correct position - guess that goes for both of us.

Today we play in the outdoor ring. It is finally clear of snow, ice and trailers (parking lot for most of the winter). And the weather is in the 40s. I take it nice and easy as the outdoor ring is where Cici likes to blow off steam. She can quickly turn into a RBE and race around leaping in the air, snorting like a dragon.

Yo-yo for a while. Want to improve her backing. Her draw is fine. Its those feet of hers. Although when Avery was on the end of the line I noticed that Cici backed up very nicely. Hmmm. Well then send her out on the circle. She is a bit dragging so changes of direction to get her thinking about me. Then changes of direction as her head starts to get high and she starts to trot faster.

When I think she is ready I ask for right lead canter. I watch her collect, round her back, and go into a right lead gallop. A beautiful right lead it is indeed. Find myself just admiring her as she is galloping around, okay with a few leaps in the air thrown in for good measure. But her movement is fabulous. And she is keeping that right leg out front beautifully as she settles in. Also she is not pulling on the rope. Right lead gallop on the circle with slack in the line. Go figure.

I'm just admiring her as she goes around - no thoughts of RB or LB or if I should ask for change direction or bring her in or ask her to keep going. Just admiring my golden girl. She looks so different outside (as opposed to in the indoor under artificial light) in the soft defuse light (its going to start snowing soon).

When I reengage my thinking mind I ask for change of direction and as she listens to me finally bring her in. Her head is up but her nostrils are only slightly contracted. Hmmm means she is more LB than RB that this was more exuberance than unconfidence. Also she is not hyperventilating. As she does whenever Avery is around LOL.

I wait for a lick and chew. She lowers her head a bit but its not happening. I ask her to back. I just wiggle my finger and she shakes her head at me. I wiggle my finger and she blows her nose at me, shakes her head again, licks chews lowers her head and snorts several times.

Falling leaf and Ss patterns for a while. Sideways. More backing. Then back to the circle. Few changes of direction to keep her head down and when she is going to the right and trotting around softly I ask for the upward transition into a beautiful relaxed flowing right lead canter. No hesitation. No thought. It is right there.

I love this program. Thank you Pat and Linda. I love it when I can see what is going on, know what to do about it, do what needs to be done and Cici turns into my Princess.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Fisher Cat Trail

Went out again with V for our second trail ride of the season and she said lets do the Fisher Cat Trail. So named for the two Fisher Cats we saw climbing big pine trees off the trail. Have the Sleeping Deer Trail, Red Tailed Hawk Trail, Precipice Trail, oh and the Cart Path.

The Fisher Cat Trail has this one steep hill that Georgie likes to tack across - zig zagging his way down, and Cici likes to skip down it. Today Georgie took it straight and Cici took her time. Its steep enough that while leaning back I grab hold of the cantle.

Lots of downed limbs and a few downed trees littering the trails. Some we just stomp through - that is Georgie's MO, and Cici is if he can do it so can I! - some we walked over and a couple we had to make adjustments to the trail.

Just before we get back there is a pool of water off the trail. I call it Violette's Pond for one of the other riders I first saw there hand walking her horse. When it gets dry during the summer this is a place of lush grass. Today the pool is still and V asks me "How's Cici with water?" as she starts to walk Georgie through it.

Cici stops at the edge and takes a sip. Then a longer drink, takes a couple of steps into the pool and then she starts to splash. V said, "Oh no, you know what that means?!?!?! She's going to roll!" I don't think she is but just to be safe, I don't want to go wading myself, I ask her to turn back to land and then circle her back into the water.

Georgie is standing quietly in the water near the other side. Cici needs a bit of encouragement as she really wants to do more splashing. And then we get to the deepest part and the water is over her knees. She plows through to the other side and keeps on quietly walking on.

Its strange to acknowledge that I am now much more comfortable riding on the trails than I am in the ring. I remember years ago my fears about trail riding and comfort with the ring. A balance would be nice. Comfort no matter where I'm riding.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

First Trail Ride 2011

Finally. Not snowing. Not raining. No ice. A delightful day, temps in upper 40s. Blue sky. NO bugs LOL. Went out with V and Georgie. First outing on the trails and Georgie hasn't been ridden all winter so taking it slow and easy.

Once out of the indoor and climbing the "stairs" up to the the upper paddocks and trails I found my seat! Found my balance point, alignment, confidence. Go figure! More comfortable and confident out on the trails than in the indoor. Cici was calm and happy to be out. Did manage a couple of scoots when she got a gust of wind up her butt. But then immediately back to pleasure horse head set.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Right Lead Canter

You know how sometimes the stars align. Your thoughts and actions become one. And your horse is right there for you.

For one moment this morning while playing with Cici we both got all the pieces to come together and online under saddle she lifted her shoulders and struck off for a beautiful right lead canter!!!!!

Thinking about what Avery had said and what she showed me about Cici falling to the right. I got very particular on the send. Paid more attention to her and did lots of change of directions as soon as she went high headed until she softened and was willing to trot with slack in the line and then asked and WOW!!!!!

It was really awesome to be able to see the difference, to see how she willingly rocked back to strike out with her inside front right.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Avery - March

I played with Cici for an hour before Avery was to arrive. Wanted her to be ready! Cici that is. Avery always is.

I started out again with the featherweight, but noticed Cici seemed to need more of a connection. I got out my 22' and realized what a difference it made. Like a firm hand instead of a gossamer wing. She seemed much happier. Very interesting.

Tacked the girl up and the fun began. I mentioned to Avery how Cici had gone from really wonderful before I tacked her up yesterday to leaping in the air. Well today was a repeat. As soon as I asked for trot she started to wind herself up. Trotting faster and faster around, head up, and when I asked for canter - right lead - she would struggle, counter canter, cross canter or just flat out gallop. Going to the left she was still getting high headed and going faster, but she would canter left lead.

Today's objective was a nice right lead canter. Oh and Avery wanted me to get very particular about how I send her - first zone 1, then zone 2, then zone 3. Get her nose turned first, then her forehand and then sideways to her hind end. Also that if when I was walking towards Cici and if she didn't move and I had to stop - she was being dominant. Oh and if she didn't move her nose, and popped out her shoulder to me - she was blocking me. Being dominant. So much to think about in the space of a nano second.....Oh Boy!

I sure got to practice a lot! And the next issue was to get her attention as she was flying around on the circle. Avery says, "Shut her down" and change direction. And each change of direction was a being very particular about the send. Well I was struggling with the shut her down, before I could struggle with change of direction. And all of this was with that RB extravert she has now turned into. So all the pieces were supposed to be happening fast fast fast.

We are now in the "I've never seen this take more than 2 days" LOL. Well Day 1 ended with a soaking wet horse - heavy winter coat, cold day. Spent about an hour hand walking and changing sheets to cool her out and dry her off.

Avery's observation - with Cici its all about moving her feet. Said she is most comfortable at the walk. Gee so am I LOL!

Monday, March 7, 2011

Windy Day

Temps start in the 50s this morning and drop into the 30s by afternoon with a strong cold, maybe that should read cold strong wind. Front moves in.

Cici and I go play in the indoor. Strange noises from the building. Creaking I understanding. Its the crashes that are a bit unnerving. Must be, hopefully is, the last of the snow. I hope I hope I hope.

Cici is concerned but now she is looking to me for leadership. OMG is this possible? Don't want to make too big a deal of it but this is huge. Okay not so huge. Just back to OMG.

I have the featherweight on and realize it is not giving her a feel of me. Hmmm how interesting. She is hesitant about leaving me and going out on the circle. Do some change of directions but she really just wants to come in. And when she does she comes right up to me and puts her head in my chest. Loves her ears rubbed.

Take her to the wall for sideways. She is much more confident here and will go out about 10 - 12 feet from me. Stop with my sigh. And then friendly over her back. And wait for lick and chew. That is hard. Well maybe not so hard. I lean my back against the wall. She leans her face against the wall. I relax and turn away. She relaxes and half closes her eyes.

I wait. Listen to a song on the radio. Think should I keep waiting? But she has not cocked a hind leg. So I wait. And think. And think about her thinking. And when I think I need to do something she licks and licks and licks.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

One more day

Again used the featherweight line. Cici sure likes it. Almost liberty and yet we are connected. Like gently holding hands.

Online she trotted the circle calmly for 5 laps. Didn't wind herself up into a faster and faster and faster trot where she would ultimately break into canter. Today it was a nice forward moving non frantic trot. This I can see riding. Both directions. Yippee.

Once on her we played with stick to the rail. I've probably already posted this, but here is again. I realized if she can't play stick to the rail at the walk how could I even consider trying it at the trot. Same with cloverleaf. She has stopped arguing with me. Well for now she has. She seems to be listening. Well until she doesn't LOL. Don't want to give the impression my little girl is perfect.

Right need more corrections than going to the left today. Hey progress. So after a nice around the ring going to the left I asked for trot. She was right there willing, and gave me a nice small trot. Working on both of our confidences. So I kept asking for more and more connected trot steps. We are slowly getting there.

There was even another snow slide off the roof. Cici just did an in spot spook. And I didn't even have a chance to lock up tight. More progress.

Oh did I mention she has begun The Shed? Time to end wearing fleece or I'll leave the barn looking like her, including the dapples!

Friday, March 4, 2011

A bit more trot

When I get to the paddock today Casey lifts his head out of the breakfast hay and trots over to greet me. Cici looks at me, looks at her hay - she got the good soft and green stuff today - and goes back to eating. I walk toward her, twirl the rope and she reconsiders and walks directly past me to the gate. Stands and waits.

She is not looking at me however. Never made contact again. And as I walk toward the her and the gate, she clearly decides she has waited long enough and walks back to her hay. Leaving me at the gate!

We finally get it all sorted out and off to the indoor we go. She is quiet today. Waiting for me to figure out what we are going to do. Some very nice sideways along the wall. And after friendly we wait a bit - not quite a song - for the lick and chew. I've been wondering whether or not she is getting more LB and that is why the lick and chew seems to take a while. Contemplating what other things she can do? or is she thinking about confidence - or her lack of it and getting over that? Have to talk with Avery about this.

I play a little more with sideways without a wall, just the littlest ask on my part. At first try she goes forward, again, but then she begins to really listen to me and crosses over front and rear. One step at a time.

Decide to get the featherweight line today. And it is a good decision. Cici clearly likes it better than the heavy old 22'. She is very responsive and I realize quickly that we are going to ride today! Check out both directions. Wait for lick and chew. Tack her up and check her out some more. Realize the importance of my calmly waiting for her to lick and chew. Find it hard today since she seems so willing to wait, but know I need to. I need that acknowledgement from her that she has processed what we just did. Ah - taking the time it takes!!!!!

I've been working on my confidence trotting. Decide to see how we are feeling first. Cici is really very soft today. She sticks to the rail going to the right with almost no corrections all the way around. Cloverleaf she is listening and not tell me what we are going to do. Switch direction and to the left stick to the rail has more corrections necessary. Cloverleaf again nice, listening and doing what I ask. When I stop in question box get very nice licking and chewing.

Back out to stick to rail and then trot. I am feeling like, oh yeah, I remember this. Feels great. Back to working on Cici maintaining gait. But I think, well a couple of weeks ago she couldn't stick to the rail, so we will just be passively persistent in the proper position for this task.

A patch of snow slides off the roof while we are trotting and all Cici does is throw her head up and stop. Yippee!!! Me? I'm tight and gripping. But quickly unclench LOL. Its her reaction that has me cheering. Because after a few moments she licks!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011


Talking about my emotional fitness. I know I have grown and strengthened it when I am on the ground playing with Cici. Things that used to completely unsettle me I now laugh at. And ask Cici to keep going. But under saddle. I am much more conservative.

Today it was super windy and apparently still snow on the indoor roof. I say apparently because there were strange sounds, sliding, crashing going on while I was playing with Cici on line. Now her emotional fitness is strengthening. At first she spooked at the noise, ran a few strides then turned and faced me and licked and chewed. The next time she just turned and faced and licked an chewed.

This is wonderful. However I kept having thoughts that she was not in the right frame of mind to ride. But it was I who was not in the right frame of mind to ride. I keep visualizing riding and trotting and cantering around the ring with a broad smile on my face. Feeling her move under me. And feeling confident and comfortable.

The visualizations feels wonderful. But then the wind picks up and the roof makes strange sounds and I say, no not today. Sigh.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Got stuck

Woke this morning to a couple of inches of new snow. Thought we were done with this stuff. Put on my jack and zipped up. Oh didn't get it right and got the zipper stuck. Really stuck. Stuck so bad I have to step out of the coat and put on another!

Roads are clear thankfully. But when I get to the barn the driveway has not yet been plowed. Car handles the snow fine. Meet M in parking area and she chides me about not waiting til 2 hours after the snow ends for her to plow. Suggests I pull car into outside ring. I do. I get stuck! Spinning wheels, going nowhere stuck!

Leave the car muttering I'll deal with it later. Go get Cici and play in indoor. But I can't stop thinking about stuck. I can't quiet my mind. When I am supposed to be quiet and waiting for Cici to lick and chew I realize I am not quiet of mind. That place I always go - quiet calm serene - is not there today. And Cici is picking up on this. When I ask her to trot on the circle she turns towards me, lifts her front end and manages to put a foot over the rope.

We are not in a good place. I let her back up and step over the rope. I thank her for bearing with me this morning, but I think it would be best if I bring her back to her paddock so she can finish her breakfast. And I go home.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Second day Freestyle

Wow two days in a row! But then Julie came from across the street to work her hunter pony.

The working consistently is making a huge difference with Cici. Online took a lot less time. And her licking and chewing is coming faster. Also the extreme friendly is beginning to take hold of her mind. I actually got a lick and chew with head up immediately after a lively sideways.

And she is settling into the stick to the rail. A decided if she argued I'd back her. Had to do that a couple of times at different places and she licked and chewed immediately. We were riding for about 15 minutes when Julie came in. Just walking along the rail with cloverleaf for variety. Cici was settling into the walking. And listening.

With Julie in ring I stopped Cici in question box and let her just think. And I waited and waited and waited for the licking and chewing. Cici was aware of the pony cantering around the ring - in front of her, around the side and behind. Her ears where keeping tabs on pony. But she was standing calmly head pointing straight. Cocked first one hind leg then the other. I wanted her to really really relax, so I used the environmental distraction to my advantage. Oh Boy!!!!

After Julie left we went back out to stick to rail and cloverleaf. And when I stopped again got more licking and head shaking and finally yawning! Yippee!!! I love boring my horse!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011


Finally have the time and no one is around. Start with online. While yesterday she had to kick up her heels a bit today she was much with me. We have been working on the wait. How long after she does something that I have asked for and then friendly over her back for her to lick and chew. I've taken to counting songs on the radio! Oh she cocks a hind foot, she lowers her head, she blinks, half closes her eyes and I watch her lips and chin quiver.

I turn away, move away, lean on my carrot stick, cross a leg, even crouch down to remove any pressure she might be perceiving from me. And wait. And wait. And wait.

Today she licked quickly the first couple of times. Then we got into 1 and 2 song waits. But she seems to be softer today than yesterday. So run through sideways, figure 8s, circling and playing with laps, maintaining gait over a pole and softness. Did an extreme friendly and she came right in and licked immediately.

Tacked up and played some more. Noticing she is starting to avoid sideways along the wall. She will line herself up and then just walk parallel to the wall. This is now becoming a pattern. Hmm better do something about it.

Freestyle - yippee. Riding - staying at walk played with stick to rail and clover leaf. Stick to rail is slowly getting there. She consistently has a couple of places, different in each direction, where there are issues - issues like not staying on the track. When I try and mix things up she argues with me – "No, we are doing right hand turns!"

Working towards that place where she asks a question instead of tells me what we are doing. This is really very very provocative. And staying at the walk is also turning out to be very provocative. Hmm how interesting!

After riding for maybe 20 minutes I ask her to stop in the question box. Stand and wait. And wait. And wait. And then she starts licking and chewing. Then head shake. Then yawning. And yawing and yawing. She just can't seem to stop.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Taking the time

Today in our play time I start Cici off with a bit of hands on her, sweeping her bladder meridians. Then grooming. We are in the corner and there is stuff, other people's trash around and she is wandering over to check it out. Ever hopeful that there is a treat buried somewhere. I quickly get upset at her not standing. Hmmm how interesting.

Move over to sideways along the wall. Nice steps and then friendly and wait for lick and chew. I find it hard to wait. But the first sideways is well worth the wait as she licks and licks and licks and licks. This is going to her right. Change direction and get resistance on the line. Attitude. She does not want to go sideways to her left. Change direction and nice feel. Change direction and she doesn't want to change direction. She backs, she lines herself up along the wall and walks forward. Am I that far out of position?

Focus, reorganize and she goes sideways. Hindend lagging. We are both struggling. Finally get a couple of nice steps, stop, friendly and wait. She has her head against the wall. It is slowly lowering. Her eyes are closing. I think she is going to sleep!

Move on to sideways around the barrels. We have been playing with this and then I ask her to walk just her front legs over the barrels and do a couple of steps sideways. Remember to end with friendly and wait. And wait and wait and wait. She blinks her eyes. No licking.

I'm aware that I keep thinking about time. What time it is, how much time I have, what time I need to leave. Try to put the time issue aside. But find myself glancing at the clock.

M comes into the ring and wants to talk. I am playing with circling and transitions and thinking about laps and ask Cici in. As I stand and listen to M talk and talk and talk, Cici finally licks and licks and licks and licks. It has taken quite some time for her to release. I am thankful that M has come to talk with me. This has given Cici the time she needed, that I was not giving her. Hmmm how interesting.

M leaves and we continue with circling and figure 8s and tack up and even manage to mount up and play stick to the rail at the walk and clover leaf patterns. Just quiet, calm, walking. Relaxed. Trying to find my rhythm again.

End with Cici yawning. Stretching her neck and head out and really really yawning. Shaking her head and more yawning.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Finding time

Just seems to be no time. Since my lesson a week ago there just doesn't seem to be enough time in the day. Of course planning a birthday party for myself and going to my Aunt Norma's 90th party in the same weekend probably had a something to do with that.

Managed a little time to play but only online. More emotional fitness. I wanna wanna wanna be playing and riding, everyday!!!!!!!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Lesson Day

Avery's coming today at 11:00 so I get to the barn at 9. Some energy work is needed for Cici and then grooming, cleaning and playing. She was very RBE yesterday and I want to take the time it takes to get her ready willing and able to ride.

But while today does not start off like yesterday, I play with Cici for over an hour and still don't feel she is ready to ride. She is slipping back and forth between RB and LB - leaning more and more toward the RB side. But I do feel she is beginning to pay attention and decided to take out the feather weight line and play with that.

Avery says that the feather weight is best used when Cici is in a learning from of mind. Ah ha! How does Avery always know that hole in my thinking?

Ask about increasing laps with Cici and how not to bore her with them. Learning state of mind. When Cici is in the learning state of mind that is when to work on increasing laps. When she is not, well that is what we worked on today.

When she will maintain the gait I ask and keep tension off the rope - great. As soon as I feel her pulling on the rope, change of direction until tension is kept off. Same goes for gait I ask. I ask for trot, she goes to canter and is pulling - change of direction. So we did lots and lots of changes of direction at trot and canter today.

Played with sideways along the wall. I learned to be able to tell the difference, lets see if I can get this down - important for me to remember. Zone 1 is leading, zone 4 is lagging. If I put a feel on the rope and she braces against me - we are in dominant behavior and change direction/sides. If I put feel on the rope and she yields I can ask zone 4 to move.

When I get her moving in a relaxed manner, stop, exhale, relax and then play friendly game with carrot stick savvy string over her saddle. Two times - up and back and then relax, take a step back to remove the pressure and wait for her to lick and chew.

At one point, I have Cici sideways down the wall toward the end/corner. I am not coordinated and when I get it together to swing the carrot stick she reacts (I took too much time), backs up, turns, she is now past the corner, looking out the back door. Avery had been sitting on one of the barrels that is parallel to the door, she gets out of the way as Cici jumps the barrel and books out the door up the path into the deep snow! Somehow I let the feather weight slide through my hands, but hold on to the end during all this. Amazing what 22' can do.

I need to play friendly this way with more things that I do with her. Need her to get to the oh that means relax.

Oh boy! Things to think about. Lick and chew on them.

Then Avery says Cici is ready to get on. I am not sure I would have assessed her in the same way - ready to get on - but I trust Avery. We play stick to the rail at the walk. Cici is has more impulsion than I am feeling comfortable with. Avery suggests adding a circle when she is impulsive. Circles in corners, or adding circles along the long side. Whenever I feel she is walking faster than I am comfortable with. And Cici slows down. A few steps in a relaxed walk and we stop and let her lick and chew and relax.

Change of direction and same things. Avery suggests I do this at the trot. Cici starts off impulsive immediately and I think this is not for me today. After all the time playing with Cici on line, I am just not together with her in confidence. Emotional fitness. But what is important is being able to say, "not today." So we continue at the walk.

Ask about clover leaf pattern. Can I introduce it as a way to keep Cici from getting bored? Learning frame of mind. If Cici is focused and doing stick to the rail well, then sure add clover leaf pattern. But if she becomes dominant go back to stick to the rail.

Told Avery I am thinking about taping my level 2 online assessment. "Sure go for it." She mentioned looking at level 3 circling games - spiraling. Offer Cici more or less rope for her to circle with. And for Cici to keep tension off the rope at whatever length I give her.

As always Avery is right on with the missing pieces. They are the small pieces that make everything go together. I use change of direction, but feel I've been using it in a gross manner. Avery is fine tuning my use. Same with what we worked on with sideways. Refinements, details, finesse.

Of course now I can't wait til the next time I get to play with Cici.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Falling snow

Notice when I get to the barn this morning that Cici is standing at the fence line with Cheeta. The girls are chatting. I check to see if she has been fed yet and M says that she was fed in her shed a while ago. But if she was fed why is she standing outside in the drizzling rain?

I gather all my stuff in the indoor, saddle, bridles, ropes, barrels and cones. And then I head to the paddock. Cici is still at fence but comes over to me, very interested in food. I walk into the shed and find three flakes of hay untouched!

The warmer weather and rain is causing today's earlier snow of more than an inch of wet snow slide. And there is snow falling off the roofs everywhere. Cici is not happy. Head up and big eyed. And I was thinking about riding today.

I show Cici the hay and then walk back into the shed and she follows. She grabs a bite and I go back outside to see if I can't shovel the path into the shed. Just the sound of striking the snow shovel into the snow causes Cici to book out of the shed. Thankfully she doesn't run me over, she avoids me and runs through the deep snow, almost falling in the process.

I bring the hay out of the shed and let her and Casey eat. This is breakfast! She needs her strength. After a while eating I halter her and she leads the way up the path to the indoor. Great chance to work on driving from Zone 5.

In the indoor she is really head up and whites of eyes showing. She is listening and watching for falling snow. I really bring up my energy to match hers and to have her listen to me. Lots of backing, sidesways with and without the wall, figure 8s and change of direction. Have the barrels out and she flies over them.

Circling game is a challenge and she wants to leave. And then she scares herself and runs into me and puts her head in my chest. Do lots of change of direction every few steps and she starts to see this as a pattern and change before I ask. Hmm how interesting.

Notice that backing matching her energy is effective. Lots of licking and chewing. On the circle when she spooks and takes off I ask her to keep moving her feet and she is circling and her tongue goes in and out. Finally ask her in and get a huge sigh from her, more licking and final lowering of her head.

I had planned on saddling her and riding, but realize there is more snow yet to fall. Call it a day.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Snacking lying down.

When I get to the paddock today I see Cici lying in the snow. And Casey also. I quietly open the gate and Casey gets up, shakes himself off and comes to greet me. Cici is still lying down. That large green mound in the photo is her. I don't know whether or not to be worried so I continue to quietly approach her. Then notice her jaws are moving. And then I see that she is eating the hay that is scattered around her! Just finishing up breakfast, in a very leisurely relaxed manner.

She allows me to approach before she gets up to say good morning. Halter her and using the tracks she has made in the paddock, that yesterday I tramped down with my snow shoes we walk to the gate. Now the gate opens a little bit less than the last storm, and the path wall are higher. I send Cici out and she walks up the channel and stops. I tell her just to wait for me to latch the gate, not to turn, and she obliges. And then its driving from zone 5 up and down the path to the indoor.

Lets see, its been two snow storms (2 days) and a shoveling day since the last time we made it into the indoor to play. And what a great session that was! She immediately makes for the pedestal once I get her blanket off, and up she goes. She likes just standing there. The step is so high that I am once again concerned about asking her to put her hind feet on it. Wait until Avery comes and see what she thinks.

I back Cici off the pedestal and I turn away, she goes back up. Laugh and let her stay there a while. I then walk behind her and pull gently on her tail and she moves sideways with her hind feet while keeping her front feet firmly planted on the pedestal. Hmmm how interesting.

A normal is in the ring with us today. She is going to be lunging her horse. This adds a level of distraction that I think will be interesting to see how Cici reacts. Before she gets started I do sideways with Cici, some backing, stick to me and then go play with circling.

By now the other person is lunging or trying to lunge. He is distracted by Cici, as she usually works him alone. And she uses voice commands. Trot, trot, trot, trot, terrr rot, and when he does something she likes there are all the good boys repeated over and over and over.

I've always wondered why Pat doesn't advocate voice commands. Today I could kiss him for that. So while she is walk, walk, walk, walk, walk, good boy, good boy, good boying I am slowly going crazy. Cici is also a bit distracted by all the terrrr rot as I am sure she was taught to terrr rot with voice commands. But she is listening to my asking for terr rot with a point of the finger and support with carrot stick if needed.

I try and block out the noise and wonder how much longer this will go on. Cici is not as focused and with me as she was on Monday. But then again I am not as focused and with her as I was on Monday. Hmmm, how interesting - another emotional fitness challenge! LOL.

I get out two cones to practice figure 8s and change of direction so change things up for both of us. Reestablish our connection and the other person leaves. Yippee. Sorry to be sooooooooooo well quiet I guess.

Now we get to play with circling and laps and quietness and responsiveness. Cici has a bit of attitude and I have her trot sideways along the wall. That changes her mind quickly.

Saddle her up, preflight check and get on. Again work on stick to rail and Cici has this idea down. No stops for grazing on the hay scraps on the ground by the stalls, just sticking to rail. At the walk. Trot is another matter. Here she has the tendency to want to cut corners, go on track two, and come quickly back to walk. But we are slowly making progress. A good thing as Avery is coming next Wednesday, provided no more snow storms. And I don't know if I will get to ride again before that.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Circling Game more laps

Oh I love my little girl Cici. She is right there for me today. Day 6 with more laps more laps and today she is just so willing. Right off offers 5 laps at walk. And a lovely walk if I do say so. Then trot, again nicely moving, 5 laps, and 5 laps at canter. What is so awesome at the canter, I just raise my hand and point one finger up and up into canter she goes. It is all so calm and effortless.

Change direction and at walk, lap one she stops to grab the mouthful of hay that is lying right in her path on the circle. Wonder why she missed it the other way? Lap two she stops at almost exactly the same spot and poops. Lap three she stops and smells the poop. Well she is maintaining direction and certainly looking where she is going. Two out of three is pretty good. I am laughing at her LBI behaviors.

We focus again and nice walk trot canter laps. Again calm and effortless. Wonder what tomorrow will bring - oh I know - more snow.

Four on the floor err pedestal

Casey is a super star! On Saturday I brought out the pedestal and asked him to put his front feet on it. Sunday day of rest. Monday ask for all four and here he is.

Do you think he is anxious to run off the the circus?

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Riding once again!

Today the stars were completely in alignment. No one was in the indoor. No riders, lessons, trainers, stall cleaners. Just me. And Cici. Oh yeah and Casey.

M told me he was going to "fix" the back gate to their paddock. Seems Cici popped open the gate this morning. Fortunately she waited for an audience and did it just to show she could. But if the gate is to be fixed - well I am taking Cici out but leaving Casey behind - just not fair to M.

A procession walk up the shoveled path - Casey leading, me in the middle, and Cici following. Oh how I love Parelli. Orderly, quietly, calmly. Once in the indoor - what to do with Casey. Can we close the doors to the indoor? Front doors close, but last door in back is stuck in a solid block of ice. Okay guess its stall time.

I have never put Casey in stall. And I find out why - he starts kicking the walls, stamping his feet, screaming, oh and there is an empty water bucket that he can practice his drumming skills on.

Now my thoughts of having a quiet time to play and ride Cici are fast disappearing. Every time Cici and I get close to the stall the racket inside escalates. She is concerned about his distress. Her head is up. She is listening to him and not to me. Emotional fitness? I scream at the top of my lungs. Then I take a deep breath and begin to play with Cici.

Again I start out with liberty - lead over her neck. Pedestal - up she goes. Figure 8 around the cones. Sideways. Even a bit of backing. Online to sideways down the long side without me moving my feet. Then to Circling Game. She goes out on the circle and walks. Really walks. I remember when I could not get more than two steps without a stop or turn and face. It is amazing to realize how far we have come.

Get 4 circles at the walk, trot for 4 circles and canter for 3. The pieces are coming together. She is beginning to understand. If she does turn to check with me I can correct her by just pointing. Both directions walk trot canter. Ask her to trot and then walking circles over to barrels. She trots, jumps over and trots away. Woohoo!

Tack her up, a bit of sideways, backing, circling. She is listening. Its time to get on. I remember what Pat said about stick to rail - having his mastery students spend a day on it. So today that is all we do. Stick to the rail. All the way around the whole arena. There is hay on the ground outside a couple of the stalls and Cici stops for a bite to eat. I back her. Only takes 2 times of her stopping to eat and my backing her for her to just keep walking. Its been so long since the last time I rode and it feels like yesterday.

Pedestal Casey

A first! First time both feet up on the pedestal! Isn't he just the cutest, fuzziest, most adorable creature you have ever seen??!?!!?!?!?

Our play session begins with Casey taking me for a walk. Up the path from paddock to indoor, through the indoor, out to say hello to the Friesians. Bites Beau's face. Is that nice? Neither seem to mind.

The he decides to walk down the hill to the lower barn, through the parking area and into the outdoor ring. Everything has been plowed so he is moving. This is one of his favorite things - going to a dog walk. He leads I hang on to the end of the lead and away we go.

Through the ring, out the back gate and down the tractor tracks to the "far side" paddocks, Casey in one tire track, me in the other. We get to the paddocks where M is moving snow with the tractor and Casey reconsiders and turns around heading back all the way to the indoor.

Time now for a bit of focused play. I get out the big yoga ball, taller than he is. Casey flicks it away and leaps in the air, bucks, kicks out with both back legs and charges the ball. He now runs into it and keeps going, putting both knees into the ball while rubbing his face on it. He soccers the ball from down the length of the indoor.

And then he aims back kicks at me, and I know its time for really focused circling game. Full steam ahead! I send him out and ask for all he has and he willingly obliges - going as fast as his little legs will carry him - low to the ground. Hilarious to watch. After 4 or 5 laps change of direction and off he goes again. I ask him in and he quickly turns and faces. Not even breathing hard!

I get the pedestal out and ask him over to it. Takes only a few times using the savvy string and carrot stick to convince him that stand still on the opposite side of the pedestal is a comfort place. And then I porcupine the lead and ask him to take a step forward. Opposition reflex. I ask again politely. He pulls back. Ask again and puts his foot on the pedestal. But no weight on that foot. It is outstretched and I place it back a bit so that he is in a better position to be able to step out. And he does!!!!

He'll be ready for the circus in no time!

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Day 4 more circles

Today is day 4 for more laps from Cici in circling game. We start out with a bit of liberty. There is a lesson going on in the ring with a little kid who is supposed to be staying on the track. Two cones had been placed as markers in the opposite corners, just off the track for the kid to steer around. I use them for point to point with Cic. Drape her lead over her neck and off we go. I have noticed that she will walk out with more energy if we start out with liberty.

Play with point to point for a while, then off to pedestal. Even do a bit of sideways. Then get her 22 and first play with backing and the circling. Get very nice 3 laps at walk. don't want to tax her LOL, building slowly. Trot very nice, change of direction and when I ask for trot she gives me canter. So I say thank you and ask her to maintain the canter, each time she comes down to trot. Three complete canter circles. To the right- and this from a horse who a year ago could not canter for more than 3 strides going to the right .... well as long as it wasn't her idea.

Today Cic is listening and soft and no hi jinx. Of course today would been the perfect time to saddle her, but there are now three lessons going on in the ring. But so happy with where we are in circling. A yippee most definitely!!!!

Friday, January 28, 2011

Groan, more snow

Excited to get to the barn today. Have time blocked out - ring to myself. Get there early to pre things. Chat with M for a bit and then set up indoor with pedestal, cones, barrel. Get all my equipment and saddle out and ready. Head out the back of the indoor.

Into more snow. Snow, snow, snow. Another 14-16" fell yesterday. My past hard work shoveling the path to the paddock was not evident anywhere. There was no path. The snow was smooth. And deep. So I began digging. And digging and digging to create a new pathway.

Sides are getting taller and taller. Casey sees me working my way down to the gate and comes and watches. As I get closer he sticks his head through the bars....where are my treats?!?!?! you were not here yesterday!!!

Dig my way down to the gate, and start shoveling out the gate. Casey can easily keep in touch (that means nipping me through the gate) as I work my way down the gate. When I finish on the outside of the gate and open it to work on the other side, he is now very interested in nosing the gate open and enjoying a bit of liberty. Without me! Keeping one eye on him I continue to shovel out the gate area. Worry about things freezing and then I won't stand a chance of opening the gate until a spring thaw.

Where is Cici? Eating her hay. With the temperatures low she is getting lots of hay. And she is eating it all. Every last morsel. She lifts her head up, while still chewing, and gives me a hello look. And drops her head back to the hay. She has fluffed it quite a bit so that keeps her busy - walking around eating up all the scattered hay.

I finish up around the gate and glance over to their shed. Boy am I in for a shock. From the other side it looked like there was a way in. From this perspective it is clear that there isn't! Snow from the indoor roof combined with snow from the shed roof have completely closed in the doorway. There are tracks on the flanks of this avalanche pile that show me Cici tried to get in. She must have sunk into the snow up to her chest. No way can I do this by myself. So I enlist the help of M to join me in shoveling out the door way.

I get to the barn around 10:00 and I leave around 1:30. And I never even get to put a halter on either of my horses. I'm exhausted and thinking about how sore I'll be later. I'm just plain worn out and don't even take another picture of the lovely path into the shed. And I still need to put away all the play things, my tack and equipment! I know someday I'll ride again.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Value of the 7 Games

With all the snow we have I have come to value the 7 Games.

I dug out the back gate after the first storm. Thought I had moved enough snow at the time, but now with each additional storm the swing of the gate is getting smaller and smaller. It is one of those 8 foot wide metal gates.

I stand inside the paddock, swing the gate out and SEND Cici out. She quietly walks past me and SQUEEZES through the opening. She TURNS and FACES and WAITS. I practice a bit of YO-YO asking her to BACK into the deep snow and come back onto the path.

She is facing me as I fasten the gate and I DRIVE her forehand to turn 180 into the path I've dug in the snow that leads from the paddock to the indoor.

Driving her from Zone 5, she leads the way up the narrow shoveled path. How cool is that?!?!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Laps at Circling Game

Well I'm staying focused. Next 7 times we play thinking about more laps on the circle. This is day 2 LOL. More laps, kind of like "more meat, more meat" from Steeleye Span.

Cici starts out with a very nice walk. And she does two complete circles at this forward moving walk. As opposed to her not being able to walk more than 2 steps without stopping. I am very impressed and optimistic. I have the ring to myself, and have her saddle on the saddle rack, planning on freestyle stick to rail after staying on the circle online. I then ask for trot and she maintains gait, maintains direction and looks where she is going for six laps! Wooohooo!

Change directions and everything changes. Hmmm how interesting. She changes walk into trot and trot into canter with galloping and airs above the ground thrown in. She gallops around and over the barrels. Sure maintains gait and direction and looks where she is going as she leaps up up up over the barrels.

I am thinking about how I could not get her to move her feet not that long ago. Canter more than 3 or 4 strides? Now she is cantering around and around. I know I need to make sure the gait is my idea and have her maintain it. This is our challenge. Along with others LOL.

I practice asking for downward transitions and have some success. Sort of. Her energy is way up. So I bring my energy up, matching hers, and give one strong pull on the lead. She throws her head up, stops and looks at me, what did you do that for?

Now she is focused on me. I drop my energy but keep things moving and she is right there. Send is yes ma'am. We go to the wall for some trotting sideways and she floats down the wall. To the cones for figure 8 and she walks the pattern with only one finger point from me in the middle. And I'm almost at the end of the 22" line.

I go back to circling and ask for walk. She keeps breaking into a trot or canter. And I keep asking for downward transitions and staying on the circle. Finally she gives me one complete circuit and I call it a day.

Notice that her antics do not upset me as they used to. Emotional fitness. I even use the slapping the savvy string back and forth over my head and put a feel on the lead, when she is galloping and she turns in to me and stops. When she used to take off I'd drop my carrot stick. Now I keep it and use it as an effective tool. I notice that matching her energy causes her to notice me. Our partnership is developing more and more. I think I am being more provocative. Sure hope so.

Plan for today included riding. Amended that as I feel while I am getting through to her mind and feet, her feet need to move a lot more. There is always tomorrow. This winter is sure proving challenging. What is the saying - "It is what it is". Yup and I sure am having a great time exploring what it is.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Way too cold

It is 12 degrees when I leave home to drive to barn at 9:00 this morning. And watch the car temperature sensor drop to 5 in some cold areas, go up to 9 and then settle at 7 as I drove up the driveway. How could I do anything with Cici? It is just too cold! Look at Casey - his forelock is frosted - its all white not the usual henna touch ups he has done (and yes that is a piece of hay in the middle).

Watched the latest Savvy Club DVD with Pat a couple of nights ago. He had three of his students riding patterns. And he talked about the important of riding the pattern until the horse gets it. The importance of the circling game - maintain gait, maintain direction, look where you are going. And the importance of stick to the rail. Again maintain gait, maintain direction, look where you are going. That the horse should say, Oh I know this pattern, as long I as stay on it she will leave me alone. And it clicked. Finally clicked with me.

Dilemma, do I play with Cici or not. Decide to as yesterday she made it very clear she really wants to move her feet. Start slow with backing. Being inspired by Kim's postings recently, and other blogs - doing the littlest, and practicing what not good at - I play with backing. Cici is classic introvert and backing is oh so slow. I want to get it better. Play with my energy as well as intent. And slowly achieve 5 to 6 nice steps backwards. Steps with energy. Steps with intent. Wow.

Then over to the wall to play with sideways. Cici does a nice sideways, but her hindend lags. Today is about being particular, not critical. And lo and behold she can move front and back together.

Then circling game. And I decide to see how many laps she can do. At trot I get 1-1/2 and she turns in behind me. I send her and get another 1-1/2 and she turns in behind me. I send her again and canters behind me. Hmmm, how interesting. She is not maintaining gait or direction.

Now she comes in and licks and chews, and when I back her she shakes her head at me while I shake my finger at her LOL! She is feeling more comfortable, more dominant, more LBI.

When she is on the circle and decides to come in and I send her back she is bunching up for a gallop. And off she goes for a few strides before she turns in to me again. I send her back out - this is very provocative for both of us. Then I think of Avery having me slap the savvy string back and forth over my head while I ask her in using porcupine on the lead rope. She is cantering, having ignored my request for trot when I start swinging the carrot stick and porcupine the rope. She has a momentary hissy fit and I swear she is stamping her feet as she turns in and stops facing me with both eyes.

I can see we need to play with circling more than 2 to 4 times. Its that balancing act of boring her and getting through to her. Realize I've been afraid of boring her and clearly have not gotten through yet.