Sunday, January 18, 2009

Playing with Patterns On Line

It has been a little while since my last update. Since I've had the Parelli Patterns, I've had time for only two practice sessions - yesterday and today!

I've been following the same routine the last several play sessions that we've had. First, I tie all three horses along the fence, then I groom them, and then I take them individually into the field to play.

I've been taking them in order of rank within the herd:
1. Smokey 2. Cody 3. Guinness

They seem quite content to stand there and watch as I play with each horse. This way, each horse gets attention and perhaps they learn from watching each other? (I've been reading Temple Grandin's book Animals in Translation, and this may not be as far fetched as it seems.)

Yesterday, each horse played a little with Figure 8 around two barrels (On line Patterns - Level 1). Then, I decided to practice "ponying" Guinness. I tied Guinness to a ring on a surcingle fastened around Smokey. Then I led Smokey while he led Guinness. It was clear to me that Smokey knew that he was helping to teach Piggy and he remained totally level headed as we walked around the perimeter of the field. Guinness followed along chewing on Smokey whenever the opportunity presented itself.. It was a good experience!

Here is a rare full-body photo of Guinness. The only way that he will stay far enough away from me is if he is tied. He is now about 20 months old.

Before heading out today, I reviewed the Patterns tasks for the day: Figure 8 around barrels and Touch It. I also watched the Liberty & Horse Behavior DVD: Problem Solving #4 Circling for some insight into how to keep Guinness moving during the Circling Game.

My husband was outside working so he volunteered to take a couple of videos of me playing with Smokey. Here is one of Smokey trying the Figure 8 pattern. (I tried to replicate the way that Pat holds his stick during the demo clip and it *really* helped me to be more coordinated.) Note how Smokey offers to put his foot on the barrel. :-)

I followed Smokey's suggestion to put his foot on something by walking over to the tires and encouraging him to put his foot on a tire. Here is what he did:

Here is a clip of us playing Driving Game/Touch It from Zone 4 (mostly). I forgot my stick and was attempting to guide him by touch as needed. We did surprisingly well, given that he is my hyper vigilant introvert!

Unfortunately, I didn't get any footage of Guinness. I tried some of the ideas presented in the L&HB Problems disk and they worked GREAT. He really showed me lots of exuberance. At first he questioned if I was still his friend after I came after him, then he realized it was a game and he was thrilled. (He even attempted to back up while rearing - silly boy.) He is the first horse that I've ever worked with that physically reacts when I give him the "stink eye" cue to back up - he rolls his eyes at me and then moves his feet backward. He really sees me as boss mare!

Then we played Figure 8 and then Touch It with me sending him to pieces of apple. He totally understood it when I gestured at a treat with my stick and would immediately put his nose where the stick was.

Some other firsts for Guinness:
- he got a new blanket just in time for the zero degree weather (no problems with it)
- he sniffed his tail as I bent him around and was very interested in it
- he has a new trick - I stroke his nose and he smiles (Flehmen response)

I'll try to get a video of him smiling for next time!

Just for fun, here is a silly video of Cody at Liberty hunting for treats:

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Water Toys & Patterns

Today, I received my Patterns DVDs! (Click here for more info.)
Despite having seen my friend Sara's kit, I couldn't help but be a bit disappointed in the packaging. (It really appears to come in 4 pizza boxes!) I have to remember that they are essentially step-by-step "instructions" with very little theory (covered elsewhere) and that the proof is going to be in playing with them with my horses! I'm eager to get out and get started, but the weather hasn't been too cooperative..

Yesterday, we had so much rain that our "pond" returned. For fun, I went out and plopped a couple of pool toys in the water to amuse the Rockies. (I knew that Smokey wouldn't go anywhere near it.) Somehow, Guinness enticed Cody into getting in the water with him.

Here is a little video of the two of them in the water. Notice the toys drifting by in the wind and their (non) reactions!

Here is another video of Cody & Guinness horsing around together:

And here was the scene that greeted me this morning!

Fortunately, the snow melted off pretty quickly. Too bad that I had to stay inside and work. :-(

Monday, January 5, 2009

The Ball and tooth

In which Guinness meets The Ball and loses a tooth..

This afternoon, my friend Michelle O. and her daughter came out to meet Guinea-pig for the first time. They were running a little late, so I went ahead and brought Guinness into the paddock and brought out a bunch of toys including his new surcingle, his halter & rope, a bridle with the "comfort snaffle" (and no reins), a brush box and my large white exercise ball.

He proceeded to investigate everything - throwing the brushes around, nibbling the surcingle, tasting the bit, etc. I started to walk through the "squeeze thru" in the fence with the ball on my head and Guinness came right over and kissed me on the lips (with the ball on my head). ;-) I decided then to wait to let him play with the ball until our visitors arrived.

Here is some video of Guinness meeting The Ball:

After filming this, I kissed him on the nose and remarked aloud, "Gee, you have bad breath today." This was weird since I nuzzle him all of the time and hadn't smelled anything gross before. Not two minutes later, Guinness was mouthing the snap on his lead rope when "plink" and out falls his TOOTH.

I stuck my fingers in his mouth and took a look. There was a two inch long grody-looking greenish/black area on his gum with tooth root bits in the midst of it. The tooth that broke off was the one just forward of where his left wolf-tooth would be (if he still had it). That certainly explained the stinky breath..

I immediately called the vet, Dr. Lamb, and she came right on over. Once here, she scooped some food out of the hole with her finger (the greenish black gook) and rinsed the gash with clorhexidine. She said that he had probably scraped his gum on something and knocked the tooth loose. Then when he chomped on the snap, the tooth broke right off. Fortunately, it was a baby tooth. Unfortunately, his permanent tooth won't replace it for about 2 more years! The root was below the gumline, so she decided to leave it in position so that his other teeth wouldn't shift around.

Here is a photo of Dr. Lamb with Guinness.

Here is the hole up close.

And here is the tooth!

Dr. Lamb instructed me to rinse the hole with salt water twice a day for the next few days, and put Guinness on antibiotics for a week while it heals over. (I just put the whole pills and some Bute powder in with his grain this evening and he gobbled them down.)

This is the second vet visit that we've had in two months. (The first one was for a gooky eye.) I hope this is it for him for a while!

Friday, January 2, 2009

Keeping up with all three horses

I've had a couple of interesting sessions in the last few days, and I wanted to share them. I've been thinking a lot about how to keep all three horses progressing and connected with me even though I have limited time to play. (I'm the office manager for our small business and a homeschooling mom, plus I do most of the family errands/chores in addition to routine horse care. I feel as though I'm constantly juggling..)

Anyway, over the last week or so, whenever I've had time, I've been haltering and tying all three horses to posts along a wooden fence, and then moving back and forth along the row picking hooves, grooming, and playing some close-range games on the 12 ft rope.

This has been working really well and has several benefits:
- It allows Guinness to observe the older boys reactions to routing handling (including the observation that they accept me as leader)
- It helps them all to develop the patience to stand tied for a period of time
- It is convenient
- It prevents me from ignoring anyone
- It allows me to inspect them thoroughly for any injuries

Yesterday, after everyone had been groomed, I took Smokey to the opposite side of the wooden fence and played with him (circling, sideways, yo-yo). Then I asked him to "saddle up" while I stood on the fence. He politely came to get me and I swung my leg over his back and then gave him a bite of carrot. Unfortunately, Guinness was looking out into the woods, instead of at us, so I dismounted back onto the fence. Then I got Guinness' attention and tried again. You should have seen the astonished look in Guinness' face! ("She is SITTING on him!") It was very funny. I repeated this again and then walked Smokey in a circle, then dismounted and retied him. (The last thing that I wanted Guinea-pig to see was Smokey having his usually panic at being ridden away from the others..)

Next, I moved on to Cody (LBI/E). We played a few games in which I had to get strong and precise with him, but balanced this with bites of carrot. He responded really well. (He has been somewhat crabby lately.) I then asked him to sidle up to the fence for me to mount. He did this very willingly, but immediately swung around to look at my leg. This looked like a half-hearted attempt to nip - but I popped a carrot into his mouth and his attitude changed. (I haven't even sat on him since October due to his various injuries.) He kept wiggling around like "ooh yuck, I can feel her rear end on my back" - he has very rarely been ridden totally bareback. We walked a circle and when he relaxed I dismounted, with Guinness watching the whole thing. Then I released them all and fed them dinner.

Here is a photo of me the last time that I sat on Cody!

Today, I tried something new. A few days ago, I bought a surcingle with lots of rings on it (on sale at Southern States) thinking that I could use it in Guinness' training. I went to the pasture this afternoon with the idea that I would work toward teaching Smokey how to pony Guinness as we play "Follow the Rail" together. Eventually, I could tie Guinness' leadrope to Smokey's surcingle, and then walk along beside them. (Smokey has historically had a lot of trouble with Follow the Rail while mounted - my leadership on the ground doesn't translate well with him.)

After grooming all three horses while tied in a row, I release Cody & Guinness, but left their halters on them to cue them that the games weren't done. I fastened the surcingle around Smokey and then led him along the fence line all the way around my back field, down the chute, and into the big field, using the end of my rope to keep the others at bay. The Rockies went nuts galloping around, bucking and trying to distract Smokey. Eventually, Cody placed himself out in front of us, and Guinness brought up the rear. I forgot to mention that we played games and did obstacles along the way, with the horses at liberty joining in too!

Next, it was Cody's turn. When I turned Smokey loose, he and Guinness pretty much stayed up at the barn while Cody walked the perimeter. (I brought my carrot stick we me this time.) This was a very good opportunity for Cody to be alone with me in the big field. He got very animated (which I laughed at) and I put him to work sidepassing and doing other tasks. By the time that we left the big field, he was totally focused on me (and my Cheerios). The other horses joined us in the chute, where I released Cody and captured the baby.

Guinness was pleased with the attention, until the other two horses left him alone with me. He followed passively behind me at first (unlike the other two that walked with me in zone 2), and then he tried to balk and stop. Fortunately, I had the rope under my armpit in a power position. I got him moving again and then immediately released the pressure. We moved into the large field where he could hear Smokey calling for him, but he didn't call back and Smokey didn't come to get him. As we moved down a hill, I jogged and he responded to the pressure and began to gait. I gave him a Cheerio when he caught up with me. I released him in the chute, and then I whistled that it was feeding time and everyone came running in.

It was truly amazing how many skills/tasks that we touched on while simply leading one horse at a time around the fenceline! We played with transitions, obstacles, Follow the Rail, keep your attention on me, sideways, and lots of other games.

One last thought: Feeding time provides a wonderful opportunity for me to prove that I'm the herd leader. (Pat Parelli demonstrates this idea in a segment on the December '08 Savvy Club DVD.) I don't stand for any hoof banging or pawing as I dish out the chow, or I run the offender off. As I pass out the grain, I back each horse away from their bucket until they give me a sweet face (ask permission) and then I allow them in to eat. I also make a habit of handling them and moving them around as they eat - running them out if they make any threatening gestures at me. Tonight, I went back out and guarded Guinness' hiney when Cody came to take his remaining food. Cody was surprised and Guinness was pleased. Cody stood very close to me and mooned at the bucket, but didn't try to push past me. :-)

Fun, fun! I'm looking forward to playing with the three of them together more often.