Saturday, February 6, 2010

Planning for Progress

As Linda Parelli explained in her recent blog, "The best time to prepare is before you are with your horse, even the night before! Make your plan and mentally explore what could go wrong and what you would do about it. This is mental preparation. Then when you are with your horse, play out your plan - don't go in expecting to have problems or you cannot function as a leader. You have to go in with a plan of what you're going to accomplish with your horse today and do everything you can to set yourself and your horse up for success to achieve your goals."

I'm trying my best to apply this advice while I create a master plan for Guinness and my play sessions. I'm feeling a bit stuck and a little avoidant, so I'm taking the time now to explore our situation..

Goal: To play with the L1 Freestyle Patterns: Follow the Rail & Figure 8s.

Sticking point: Mounting Guinness - I haven't been doing it regularly..

Feelings of avoidance/apprehension due to my approaching a "threshold." (See my blog about an accident that I had a few years ago.) The reality is that Guinness has had very few adverse reactions to being mounted and even fewer to being ridden. We have utilized outside assistance in this, but I fear that I've become overly dependent upon having someone here to hold my hand. Also, I don't seem to have this fear once I trust that the horse isn't inclined to buck.

Plan: For my own head, use "approach & retreat" method around mounting Guinness. When feeding each evening, halter G and defend him as he eats. Once finished, tack him up and lead him to roundpen to play on the ground. When ready, practice mounting/dismounting (bareback, w. pad, with saddle, from mounting block, from rail, from ground).

Low lighting in roundpen - does this really matter? More of a hindrance to me than to the horse. Time - not much of a problem in the evening.

What could go wrong?:
"Guinness could buck me off and drag me by my foot."
Is this true? Yes, G. could unseat me.
Is this likely? No.
Preparation: Mentally rehearse the entire process! Then, using approach & retreat, practice this task 7 days in a row to build up our mutual trust. (I'm totally fine mounting Doc, the school horse.) Practice without bareback or with a pad (no stirrups) at first. Rehearse emergency dismounts. Be sure that my husband is keeping an eye out for me with a cell phone in hand..

"Guinness could bite me."
Is this true? Yes, but so what.
Is this likely? Not if I'm being considerate of his feelings.
Preparation: Lots of Friendly, cookies for when I'm accidentally rude. I need to continue to strengthen my own muscles so that my body is better balanced & controlled.

Once I'm regularly sitting on Guinness, it would just be a small leap to playing Follow the Rail in the roundpen. Figure 8 in the roundpen would be easy as well..

Another sticking point: Riding outside the roundpen in my field - another mental threshold for me!

Why?: When I first got Smokey, I would attempt to ride him in the little field behind my house (where he spends 95% of his time). At first I was confident, and he wasn't. Then I learned to be unconfident and stopped trying - even though he was improving! (Also, the horse that I rode in high school loved to run off with me across open spaces, but was trustworthy on trails.)

Interestingly, I'm totally confident about hauling somewhere else to ride. This is because:
- The horse acts less herdbound and relies more on me.
- I have friends to ride with & there is a plan of action.
- I have a "date" to ride vs. always having other obligations when at home.

Plan: In Blue L2 pack, (program guide 3, p. 37) Linda says, "Make a trail plan in your arena, pasture or back yard." What a liberating idea! Once I'm comfortable riding Guinness by myself in the roundpen, I'll open the "gates" and ride around the outside of the roundpen, along the rail, since the visual barrier of the rail gives me confidence. Then we can shift to riding along the perimeter of the small field (on a bluestone path that my husband created for me). Then we could ride from barrel to barrel, and other point-to-point in the field.

Also, to develop his confidence, I need to continue to practice leading Guinness along the path into the remote field and outside the field through the woods. Eventually, we should be able to alternate leading with riding. ;-)

Limitations: My anxiety. I need to take things step by step, on a daily basis, to redefine my own thresholds.

What could go wrong?:
"Guinness could buck me off."
Is this true? Yes.
Is this likely? No. With the exception of the accident with Parlay (when my foot got caught), I've successfully ridden many bucks. Plus, this isn't really Guinness' inclination. He doesn't spook easily and gives lots of warning.
Preparation: Develop confidence riding in the roundpen, and leading on trials, without boring Guinness into opposition.

"Guinness could run away with me and then fall down, or I'd fall off and hit my head."
Is this true? Yes.
Is this likely? Nope. If he did this it would be in a LB frame of mind. (He doesn't tend to run from things that spook him.) There would be warning and I could dismount and address the issue.
Preparation: Mentally rehearse a successful outcome. Take things slowly. Wear a helmet. Utilize our one rein stop. Practice emergency dismounts outside the roundpen. Practice one rein stops. Practice cantering & stopping a school horse! Take Guinness over to the local covered arena to ride. :-)

That is far enough to plan for now. Achieving these tasks would allow Guinness & I to be prepared for our upcoming lessons/clinics in April and May. We've got over 2 months to practice.

Effective leadership is about setting the situation us for a "win-win" outcome for both horse & human. It helps that I can now identify *myself* as a RBE "horsenality" when on adrenaline and a "LBI" when relaxed. When I'm in RBE mode, I need a plan and to be safe. When LBI, I need companionship and motivation. Guinness displays a balance of LBE/LBI characteristics. We are a good pair. When I'm RBE, he is unlikely to go RB too. (I go RB in response to my thoughts and very rarely over external situations.) And when I'm LB, I can find incentive for him and fun things for us to do.

Now I want to go outside to play in the snow!!


Lisa said...

Two things come to mind:
1. Watch the recent (not sure which number but not too long ago) SC DVD with Linda and Elizabeth. I've used the process not so much for my confidence but to check Cricket's acceptance. It's an awesome "retreat & re-approach" program for mounting confidence.

2. A suggestion from a friend of mine who is now a 1* instructor trainee - don't push yourself until you are truly ready to move on. I had *huge* bareback confidence issues. My friend told me to get on and set a timer for 45 min. In that time I wasn't even so much as to ask Cricket to move, I was just to be a passenger at the halt. Of course Cricket wandered around and I felt okay so I allowed it. At about 42 min she let out a big sigh and lick and chew and finally relaxed with me on her. The idea is do do nothing for 45 min each session until you simply cannot stand to sit still any longer. Then walk until you can't stand it. I never did more than the one session but that session did more for my bareback confidence than anything else I've ever done. It also reminded me that riding starts as a friendly game and until I won that aspect, there was no point moving to the next stage.

Naturally Gaited said...

Thanks, Lisa! I'll look for the Linda/Elizabeth DVD.

And thanks for the reminder that it is ok just to sit still. :-)