Monday, October 26, 2009

End of Summer

While downloading photos for the previous post, I discovered these photos of my "horse girls" on my camera and wanted to post them.

How quickly the trees have turned from green to fall colors!

Back Into the Woods

This afternoon, my son and his dog, Zippy, & Guinness and I went for a walk in the woods at the local National Forest recreation area. In the short time since we were there last, all of the leaves have turned and many have fallen. It looked and smelled like a totally different place.

Guinness hopped right on to the trailer - literally since he seems to think that his back feet have to jump up to get on board. Thank goodness for his cheap leg wraps with velcro closures as they have protected his legs innumerable times. They are also wonderful for acclimating horses to having stiff, noisy things around their legs and feet. He hardly notices them any more and has stopped his "moon walking" when they are on.

The park was pretty empty when we arrived, but Guinness seemed to recognize where he was and didn't call at all. We all headed down the same newly-discovered trail that we explored last time. Guinness took the opportunity to sample everything that he could with his mouth: rotting stumps, bark, dead leaves, mossy soil, my pony-tail, etc.

Guinness was a champ. I sent him over lots of obstacles, and drove him often from Zone 5. I seem to be getting better with the 22' line and have discovered that it it is easier to manage it from Zone 1 if I can throw a loop of it up over Guinness' back. That way, the weight of it doesn't confuse him and it doesn't drag the ground. Whenever he stepped off of the trail, wrapping his rope around a tree, I sent him back and then directed his nose around the tree to free him. Eventually, he seemed to get the hint to stay on the trail.

Once, he was ahead of me heading down a slope through a hairpin turn, when he turned his head around toward me and slid not-so-gracefully down the hill. I was startled to hear a mountain biker just behind us! We all pulled over to let him pass, and then Guinness started whinnying for the biker (about 5 times) as he rode away. It was pretty funny. I guess that Guinness thought that the biker had joined our group? I'm lucky that he didn't take off after the biker, dragging me along behind him..

When we returned to the parking lot, we walked right past two ladies enthusiastically hula-hooping! (Why??) It was a very strange sight and my son and I stared (grinning), but Guinness didn't bat an eye.

We have decided that the next time we return, Guinness will be wearing his bareback pad along with the dressage pad with the big saddle-bag pockets in it. That way, he can tote our water & snacks.

We loaded up without any issues and heading home. Guinness was sweaty under his fuzzy winter coat, but none the worse for wear.

Next Monday, Guinness & I will be attending an arena-based playdate along with several other horses, and the Monday after that, we may try a trail walk/ride at another location with our friend, Sierra. I'm hoping to ride him a little bit during both events. I'll keep you all posted!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Discovering My "Horsenality"

In Parelli Natural Horsemanship, we are encouraged to get to know ourselves and to increase our "emotional fitness," so that we can become the best leaders for our horses.

In PNH lingo, I was born a Left-brain Introvert, and I have been rated as an INTJ on the Meyers-Briggs personality inventory. Through a series of life crisis starting as a teen, I started to act more like an Right-brain Extrovert, due to constant excessive adrenaline.

My state-of-being affects my relationships - both horse & human. I tend to get along best with human LBEs because they match my energy, but are calm, and have a plan. Even if they are sometimes a bit blunt or direct-line, it doesn't rub me the wrong way, like it does some other people. (The photo above is of LBE Michelle a.k.a. "arabhorselover1", "Parlay" a RBE mare that I used to own, and me. Notice that the LBE is holding the RBE's rope!)

I also get along well, but am less productive/progressive, with LBIs. They can bring out my "let's skip math and eat brownies instead" frame of mind, which although very relaxing, often gets me in trouble..

My sometimes frenetic energy tends to overwhelm and/or annoy RBI people. However, other RBEs tend to get on my nerves!

With horses, I prefer LB to RB, but do pretty well with both LBI & RBI. LBE's think very quickly and I sometimes have a difficult time leading them. I do the worst with RBE horses - they bring up my fear. Lots of "I'm not OK - you're not OK either" self talk by both parties.

I've learned that I do best with lots of feedback, structure, and opportunity to be part of a team. I don't enjoy being a leader, but relish being "first indian." I enjoy the safety of the herd, and want to fit in and be accepted.

I recently started new job providing technical support via phone. My training class is full of LBEs, with a couple of LBIs. I may be the only RBE in a group of 18. I'm having issues with confidence and performance anxiety (huge adrenaline rush causing me to go blank, freeze, stop breathing, and to want to RUN). Last week, a doctor proscribed beta blockers for me, which help a great deal with moderating the effects of adrenaline.

However, even with the medications, I can still go into information overload. Like my horse, Smokey, if I can't run, than I BALK (shut down). My record button turns OFF, and so I'm having short term memory issues. Funny thing, if I have small accidental successes then I start thinking again. Also, I hate not knowing what I'm doing, especially with folks watching. Fortunately, this is not as big of a problem by phone, where I can fake it, as it is in person.

My pattern is to preemptively quit in order to stop the uncomfortable feelings. All of my life this has halted my progress in lots of areas. I keep telling myself that I'm not going to react that way this time and that they will have to fire me to get rid of me (which I sometimes think that I'm looking forward to).

The weird thing is that even in the midst of a panic, I can still be detached enough to observe my "inner horse" freak out and to think, "how interesting." Also, I've noticed that I tend to complain when I feel unconfident, but I'm much more forgiving of situations at other times. I also tend to look for others that feel the same way as I do, so that I can match how they are coping. ("Should we all RUN away together?")

As an RBE, there are things that I've discovered to be helpful: a "you can do it" message of reassurance from a confident leader, not too much pressure, more carrot and less stick, small opportunities for success, take it slow - time to "lick & chew" over things. If I was having a full blown panic, a firm message of "STOP, breathe, you are OK" would help. (I try to keep myself from going there!)

I'm trying to use the strategies in the book Move Closer, Stay Longer so that I can learn to persist through the bad places long enough to reach the fun on other side (just as I did in this summer's "Joseph" musical production). I need to stick with it until there is a change in my response/mental state.

My goal is to learn to function as a moderate LBE, with more controlled and focused energy, and to teach my "butterflies to fly in formation"!

I think that Guinness and I are a good match. He seems to be a motivated LBI. He actively seeks out new things to play with, but also displays a lot of "you can't make me" with the other horses. He is not domineering and seems to be happy as a subordinate in the herd, as long as there is lots of play. He is also pretty darned unflappable and sensible, which helps to keep me from going RBE. We compliment each other pretty well. The big test will be whether we could survive performing at a Celebration event together someday!

Lots to ponder..

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Pony Party

Today I celebrated my birthday by hosting a little pony-party!

My friend, Sierra, came with her horse, Gandalf. This was her first solo trailering experience and she did great!

Several other friends came horseless. We had a great time talking and pigging out on a delicious carrot cake that my mother-in-law had prepared.

I just wanted to report on a few of Guinness' successes today.
  • A balloon popped under him while he was drinking from the trough and he didn't even lift his head
  • He backed up on to a trailer (with a ramp) and then cantered back to me
  • Both Sierra and I rode him in the round pen, and Sierra dismounted twice by sliding over his rump
  • He chased a bike with balloons and streamers tied to it, at liberty
  • He got all 4 of his feet up on a tractor-tire pedestal for the first time!

What a fun day. :-)

PS - My camera is lost again..

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Hoofin' It

This afternoon, Sierra & her mom, Julie, and I met up at the local National Forest recreational trail hub. Sierra brought her 12 hh, 12(?) year old Amish-raised Haflinger mare, Persimmon. I brought Guinness. And, Julie brought her 6 hh black Newfoundland dog, Yona.

Honestly, I was running late and didn't play with Guinness before inviting him out of the paddock where he was watching me. I sent him on to the trailer from Zone 4. I took a moment to adjust his leg wraps, and in that time he decided to hop off of the trailer and wander off to see his buddies (who were calling to him). Whoops..

I retrieved him and then allowed him to mosey back while munching grass. Then I re-sent him and quickly ran around to tie him in. No problem, except that he is a bit silly about stepping onto the trailer with his back legs and kinda leaps on board.

Sierra & Julie were already at the park when we arrived. (Fortunately, we all agree that we have fun throughout the entire process of loading, traveling, unloaded and prepping our horses, and are in no great rush to hit the trails.) We unloaded and followed them down the main trail with me leading Guinness on the 22' line.

Our little "herd" traveled along together. Sometimes, Yona was off-leash and sometime on. Sometimes, Sierra rode and sometimes walked. We rotated who was in the lead and who was behind. I started off leading Guinness and he obediently stayed behind me. Later, I drove him from Zone 5 - mostly with one rein, but sometimes two. We also practiced stick-to-me from Zone 3.

We stopped at a creek crossing to allow everyone to drink and play in the water. Persimmon was a wonderful influence and really helped Guinness to feel confident about exploring the water and rocks. (He had been somewhat unconfident about this during our last visit.)

The best part about this excursion was that Julie took us down a trail that was new to me! She had been researching the trails on a map, and this, in conjunction with some new trail signs, allowed us to go *completely* around the pond on horse trails. Some of the footing was rocky, steep, and narrow. It was an excellent opportunity to improve our skills.

The most hair-raising part of the trip was when two mountain bikers came racing around a curve heading down the mountain straight toward us. Persimmon was in front and braced herself, but didn't jump - which was a blessing since Sierra was mounted and one side of the trail dropped steeply away. Fortunately, the biker glanced up in time to keep from wrecking into the horse. He was as shocked by the near miss as Sierra was!! A second biker almost repeated the scene. Through it all, Guinness watched with big eyes and planted feet.

During our approximately 6 mile trek, Guinness and I played with many obstacles such as the creek, and downed logs. He did traveling circles, sideways, and backing from Zone 5 (via both tail and rope). At times, the horses were out of sight of each other and didn't even seem to notice.

Guinness and I managed our 22' line in many ways including: draping it over his back, under his tail and around his body, between his front legs, wrapping it around trees, and often stepping on and getting tangled in it. The good news is that it gave purpose to my many small gestures as I helped him to figure his way out of the entanglements. He thinks that I'm a genious. ;-)

When we arrived back at the parking area, most everyone else was gone. Both horses loaded right up and stood peering at each other through their respective windows across the parking lot. No calling or being silly. Guinness was excited to discover chopped apples in his manger.

Everyone had a safe trip home. We are all blissfully tired. What a great afternoon.

I know that I'm always raving about Guinness, but he continually amazes me. If I'd had a blog prior to having him, it would have been full of complaints and whining about making no progress and feeling inadequate. This little guy is proving to me once more that horses can be FUN. Having the right partner makes the total difference.

PS - I'm sorry that I forgot my camera.