Saturday, January 23, 2010

Freestyle Riding: Steps 1 -3

Lately, it has occurred to me that Guinness and I aren't even on the "chart" yet for Freestyle riding (the Parelli chart of the Patterns for each Savvy). To get started, we needed to first practice more of Step 1: Mounting.

To help us along, this afternoon Sierra came over to play with Guinness & me. She brought her new 9 month old Aussie Cattle Dog pound-puppy, "Bella" with her. Bella alternated pining for her mother and playing with Zippy in the yard, while the rest of us hung out in the roundpen.

After playing many games on the 22' line and at Liberty (sideways away, beginning sideways toward!, energetic departures & cantering draw, and circling with change of direction), Sierra took the first turn at mounting.

She started by using the mounting block and desensitizing Guinness to having her feet back over his rump - which he had some issues with. I then led G. around while Sierra had her belly across his back. When she swung all the way up, Guinness appeared to think, "wow, that's better."

We played with circling on the 22' with several steps of a gait. Then, Sierra dismounted and mounted repeatedly by merely swinging her leg up (a truly amazing sight). Finally, she dismounted repeatedly by sliding off of Guinness rear. He objected to this with some half-hearted bucks. To work through this, we used approach/retreat - plus cookies for not reacting! He quickly figured out that it was no big deal.

Next came my turn. Guinness positioned himself at the mounting block while I swung my leg over a few times and rubbed his rump with my foot. When I mounted all the way up, he didn't even appear to notice. Sierra started out leading us, but then switched to Circling Game.

Step 2: Walking Forward. Since Guinness had both the 22' and rope reins attached to his halter, whenever he turned in toward Sierra, I used the opportunity to change direction on the circle. We practiced the cues to walk forward, starting with lifting my energy and rein, then squeezing gently with my seat and legs, then a smooch, then spanking my shoulders with my Savvy String and/or patting his rump with my hand. We also practiced halting with me "stopping riding" and exhaling. (I need to remember to lift my rein to give him advance notice..)

We also practiced backing. All I needed to do was shorten my reins a little, lift my hand, and lean back slightly and he would drop his head and back up. Unbelievable. No resistance at all.

Step 3: Steering. Finally, Sierra unhooked the 22' so that Guinness and I could practice more elaborate steering. I really tried to use the power of focus and my legs only for specific cues. He even turned once when I pointed in a direction without pulling on the rein at all. We tried the hindquarter yield-into-forehand-lead-across pattern for the first time in both directions.

At last I dismounted, and we removed his ropes and opened the roundpen up. I sent Guinness out and he ran off to join his buddies, still wearing his halter and bareback pad. After a minute, he came back to hang out with Sierra & frisk her for treats. As I walked back to the barn, I called him over and he joined up to walk to the gate where I untacked him.

His "bow" has gotten sticky from lack of practice, so we tried that a few times in the run-in until the other horses barged in.

We spent about an hour and a half playing with Guinness today and made loads of progress. He has lots to reflect on. I believe that the last time I was on him was the very end of November..

Next time, we are planning to exit the roundpen and practice "Follow the Rail" pattern. :-)

Thank you so much for your help, Sierra!!!

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