Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Short & Sweet

This afternoon, it was so beautiful outdoors that I resolved to ride Guinness! Unfortunately, I had a very limited amount of time between scheduled activities. While Cody's mom was out for a visit, I took the opportunity to hop on G. (Hey, I needed someone to call 911 if needed!!)

First, I mosied out to the field where the boys were having a nap, and laid down next to Guinness. I scratched him for awhile, and then we walked up to the barn together.

I put Guinness' halter and 12' rope on him, and then he aligned himself to pick me up from the "off side", as I climbed the fence. I swung my leg over his bare back without any preparation, then slid aboard. He gave a head toss as I adjusted myself, but no other objections.

We proceeded to practice Go as I guided him with one rein, flipping it over his head as needed. (He already knows whoa & backing really well.) Each time that I asked him, I progressed from lifting the rein to squeezing my cheeks to a smooch to spanking my shoulders with the end of the rope, to spanking his hiney with the rope. He was surprisingly stoic about me spanking his butt, but eventually got the idea to move forward. No objections from him at all during the 5 minutes or so that I was on him. :-)

This really increases my confidence in his response to pressure from me. As long as I'm clear and methodical, he has proven that he is willing to sort things out.

We also had a play session yesterday. I tied Guinness & Smokey to the hitching posts, while my *husband* played the Seven Games with Cody! Cody really seemed to enjoy the attention and continued to follow my husband around even after he had released him.

Next, I played with Smokey. He was really brave and responsive at Liberty. I think that he is really happy to not be the focus of all of my attention and I wouldn't be surprised if he makes a ton of progress over the next few years. It figures.

Last, I played with Guinness. We successfully played with sharpening up his "hide your hiney" response using the 12' rope. We also did the HQ-yield-FH-yield move. Then I switched to the 22' rope and we played with transitions and change of direction on a circle, then around 1/2 barrels, and finally to a Figure 8 pattern. He was very animated and a bit dominant acting, even while offering a lot of try.

I released him and he followed me back to the barn, where I asked him to bow on both sides in exchange for treats.

I'm going to aim to play with him again tomorrow evening. On Friday it is forecasted to get above 80 degrees, so it will be bath time!

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Parelli in Lexington!

Last weekend, the Parelli Natural Horsemanship "tourstop" visited Lexington, Virginia!

Many members of our local club, The Parelli Play Group of the Virginias, attended together. We had a blast watching the events, shopping, dining out, and even doing simulations on the hotel lawn.

Here is a link to Linda's blog about the weekend - click here.

And here are some photos of the occasion:

Monday, March 29, 2010

Yucky Pinworms

Yesterday evening, I took the opportunity to brush the boys off as they ate dinner. It was about 7:45 pm and just getting dark. As I usually do, I spent some time asking Guinness to lift his tail and allow me to scratch his rear. He has dark skin and all looked good back there - no sign of the runny poop that he had developed several weeks earlier. (I'd dewormed them with Zimectrin Gold 14 days ago.)

Anyway, all of a sudden he starts swishing his tail vigorously. I walked up behind him and he eagerly moved his tail to the side to show me his trouble. There was a gelatinous-looking "string" hanging down, so I hunted for something to scrape it off with. When I touched it with a stick, it tried to escape back inside! Guinness was clearly unhappy about this - so I grabbed it with my fingers! Yuck. (Yes, I do love my horse very much.)

I took the thing back over to the light and took a good look at it. It was about 3 inches long and fat on one end, but narrow on the other. Turns out that this is exactly the description of an adult horse pinworm.

I smooshed it and went back to check his rear again. This time I noticed a greyish blob of goo at about the "7:00" region of his anus. This was the same sort of unexplained "spot" that keeps showing up in that area of his body. I'd been speculating about it, but hadn't figured out what it was. Turns out that it is an egg mass. Double yuck!!

The weird thing is that the fecal sample that was taken when the vet was here for the spring exam was "negative." Since I've actually captured an adult pinworm, the vet's office has advised to retreat all the horses with an ivermectin product.

I've just read on the web that by 3 years of age, most horses have acquired an immunity to adult pinworms. Apparently, this is just another milestone that Guinness has yet to reach..

Friday, March 19, 2010

Sunny Days

Friday evening -

It was beautiful outside, so I grabbed Guinness, 4 small cones, and a 22' rope and mosied along the driveway (eating grass) down to the big field. The gate was closed so we'd have some privacy from the other horses. Once we got out of eyesight, Smokey started calling. Guinness didn't call back, but gave me some hard stares before following me out into the field.

Once out there, I set the four cones approx. 15' from the center of a circle. Guinness started leaping in the air (his LBE showing) and kicking vaguely in my direction - so we played some serious "get out to the end of the rope and hide your hiney!"

I backed him out quickly about 18' and then sent him in circles. He was having some emotions about everything, but had to work to maintain his gait up and down the slopes (nothing is really flat around my farm). When he mellowed out, I encouraged him to rest and eat grass.

We played with this both directions, and also with changing directions. Then we did some traveling circles evolving into my attempt at a Falling Leaf pattern - as far as I could tell, not too bad!

Then I repositioned the cones and sent him in a circle around one and then brought him straight back to me. I allowed him to pass me and then he offered a Figure 8 at a trot - apparently he has been paying attention. We did this a couple of times and then called it a day. We wandered back up to the house and grazed in the yard for a while, while watching my husband and the boys burn a big pile of brush. I came inside at 7:45 pm and it was just getting dark. :-)

Saturday am -

After feeding, I took a brush box, stick, halter & rope out to the roundpen and waited for one of the critters to volunteer. Cody came and offered to play gelding games over the rail with me, but it was Guinness who decided to come on in. We started by playing some of his favorite games - knocking over the brush box to explore what is in it, chewing on ropes, etc. then moved onto some Porcupine as we groomed. Later, we played a little Liberty, inspired by the new L3 Liberty dvd (thanks for the heads up, Lisa!).

I left the roundpen with him at liberty, and he followed me up to visit a friend that had stopped by. Then I held up his halter and he shoved his nose in, so we left the paddock and went for a stroll through the woods in search of grass. :-)

We stopped at the large rock up in the woods, so I asked him to come to pick me up, and I sat on him bareback a moment and then dismounted the off side and trotted off down the path ahead of him.

We reentered the pasture via a different gate, with me being more particular about where he would need to be for me to do this task mounted. Then, I sent him from 10' to the tire pedestal where he put all four feet, then the hind only, back to all four, then completely over and across some poles. I released him right after that and all of the horses and I ran to the closed gate to the big field. I opened it and sent them through, then closed it again, so that my husband could POOP SCOOP under the hay shed. Yippee - Spring is Here!!

Saturday pm -

Hung out the blankets to bake in the sun while I whipped the tackroom into order. Put the saddles in the trailer - where they should have been all winter to protect them from mice. Raked out all of the yucky hay.

Guinness played with the blue ball for about an hour. Then I invited him to tack up and we walked to the roundpen. He was distinctly unenthusiastic, so I revised my plan to a simple pushing passenger lesson and ended on a high note. All went well. We put a new roundbale out and the horses are happy as can be after an afternoon of "grazing" in the big field.

Tomorrow, there is a horse event at Virginia Tech and a chance of rain, so I probably won't get to play with the boys. If the rain holds off, we may try a trail ride on Monday - either that or I'll start utilizing the indoor arena.

Sunday pm -

Well, the rain held off and I had an extra hour, so I decided to tack G. up with my Wintec english saddle complete with the safety stirrups that I purchased this morning from the used tack sale! I had reviewed the new L2 section about mounting earlier in the day.

I invited him out to the roundpen (after having tacked him up at liberty) where I put his halter and 22' rope on. We played with Million Dollar Move (as I think Dennis Reis calls it) where I ask him to yield his HQ, and then give me his other eye and yield his FH. We also played Porcupine with him yielding his HQ with me pushing slightly behind the girth, and his FH with me pushing just in front of his girth & guiding his nose away. Pretty good!

Then I sent him out to circle as I stood on the mounting block and we played with transitions (up & down - halt, walk, trot) and Yo-Yo at a greater distance. I tried the trick of "swirling" with him to speed him up, and then drew him into me. Wow, such exuberance! He also sought out two different jumps - two tipped over cones and a row of barrels and I didn't even have the intention of him jumping them yet.

Next, I asked him to join me at the mounting block. He was kind of porky - bumping me, not lining up well, etc. We played with that a bit and once he got into position, moved onto me rocking his saddle vigorously and leaning on the saddle. Not much reaction. Next, I put my foot in the stirrup with some weight on it, then leaned my hip into the saddle. At this, his head shot up and he swung his head around as if to complain, "how rude." I rubbed him, gave him a cheerio, and then slid down and repeated the process about 3 times. Each time he seemed to have less of a response, so we quit on a good note. (This process is new to him since I've ridden him all but twice in the bareback pad, and the two other times I mounted straight from a fence and didn't put weight into the stirrup to mount.)

I removed his halter and asked him to walk with me as I opened the rope gates and walked back to the barn where I unsaddled him and gave him some back scratches.

Some points to ponder:

I called Tenley this evening to discuss my session (since she is also playing at about the same level with her 4 year old draft - click here to view a video). She brought up the needs of the different stages of learning - teach, control, reinforce, refine. I need to find more info about this, but it is pretty easy to relate to clicker training protocol.

Speaking of which, I think that I'm giving him too many cookies. I want to develop him as a learner by increasing his patience & tolerance, and getting him past his "I want it NOW" attitude. Instead of always rewarding the slightest try, I need to reward him for an increase in effort. In particular, I'm going to focus on the duration of his "park out" response.

Also, by changing out my stirrups to the safety variety, it completely resolved my fear of getting my foot hung up on a stirrup. I hadn't even realized this was an issue, until I felt relief in its place. :-)

Monday afternoon -

I took the stuff (curry, hoofpick, halter, 22', stick, saddle) out to the roundpen and invited G. to come over. He was pretty much not interested. Hmm. I put a little energy in Zone 5 and he turned to face me. I went over and scratched him, and eventually looped the 22' over his neck and he followed me into the roundpen.

I sat on the mounting block and invited him to present different parts of his body for grooming. This worked pretty well. Then, he allowed me to pick all 4 of his feet from his left side. (He was a bit irritated with the off front hoof.) Then we tacked up.

When he wandered off, we did a little circling game at the walk and trot - not very particularly in either gate, but he circled pretty willingly. Then I allowed him to jump the small barrels (with turning & facing), and then we switched to the large barrels without much difference.

Next, we tried a little more mounting practice, focusing on him politely lining up. We played with both sides, and with shaking the saddle and applying weight to the stirrup. I actually did hop up and put my right hip in the saddle. When I leaned over to ask permission, he head stayed low, so I slid down and we called it quits. We did a little "stick with me" back to the barn. Then he bowed once on each side for a treat. (No treats prior to that during this session.)

We may try to head to the barn tomorrow evening, during lesson time. If we do, I'd like to get there early enough for him to really mellow out there.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Gap-tooth Grinning

Today, Dr. Lamb came out to do spring vaccinations, etc. Of course, Guinness volunteered to be first. He smiled to show her his snaggley grin. He now weighs roughly 840 lbs (a gain of 80 lbs since last fall's vet visit). I forgot to ask her to check how tall he is now.

Next, he took his shots like a champ (distracted by cookies as we have yet to play much with needle desensitization). Then she checked his teeth and there were numerous sharp points and hooks, so we opted to float his teeth. While he was under sedation, we took the opportunity to really check out how his forehead wound was healing - fine but with a bump where some of the tissue didn't align quite right.

She also found that he still had one tiny wolf-tooth (lower left) even though his other his wolf-teeth had been removed when he was gelded. She plucked it out, and then decided to pull the remaining (baby) cap on his top central incisor. The poor guy just stood there unconcerned with blood clotting on his lip, taking a snooze while Cody and Smokey took their turns.

Cody was so unconcerned when I went to get him that he didn't even bother to stand when I haltered him - or perhaps he was thinking that if he just stayed down, I'd leave him alone? ;-) He was a champ for his shots and his teeth were fine. He weighs 1050 lbs.

To save $, we just did the basic shots and no Coggins or dental (he didn't need it) on Smokey. I really don't anticipate doing much with him this year since Guinness is now under saddle. Smokey prefers it this way and has been getting more affectionate with me. He weighs about 950 lbs. and looks a bit on the thin side to me.. He will be 18 years old in April.

Even after Guinness was turned out, he came back to us to check out what we were doing. Gotta love his attitude. :-)

The tooth on the left side was his baby upper left central incisor. The tooth on the right was his lower left "wolf" tooth.

Happy St. Patricks Day - and Pat Parelli's birthday!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Final Session: Small Successes

This evening was my final "riding lesson" however, I didn't ride at all this time.

I decided to bring Guinness with me and while on the trailer he lost one of his top front baby teeth! Needless to say, he was distracted by the sudden gap in his mouth and kept making strange faces..

We did, however, have some small successes that I'd like to share:
  • he met me at the gate - even after seeing that the trailer was ready to roll
  • he cantered to me several times while playing Yo-Yo game from 22' away!
  • he stood calmly with me in the stall that he tried to climb out of last week
  • he loaded right onto the trailer both times
  • I played with him on the 22' in front of multiple people, even though I felt totally awkward
  • he peed on cue (I whistle the theme from "Andy Griffith") though I admit that he looked as though he needed to go

I've decided to drag that bloody 22' rope and stick around through the dirt until I finally get the hang of handling them together. It isn't pretty, and I'd rather skip it (and miraculously improve), however I've resigned myself to the fact that practice is that only way that I'm going to get better at it. Plus, I'm pretty sure that most people have to work through feeling this way..

I'm going to arrange to have access to this indoor arena over the next month. That way, we will have plenty of time to play and to learn to relax in that setting. I'll be getting to the arena between 6:00 and 9:00 am, in order to have it to myself. I'm looking forward to some Liberty sessions in there too.

Oh, I did try laying 2 flat ground poles in front of the entrance to the trailer in order to encourage Guinness to move his feet independently. It worked! On the first try he did pretty well, so I gave him a bite of his dinner and then backed him off. On the second try he stepped right up with each hind foot individually. Yeah!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Levels Self-Assessment

In order to assure myself that Guinness is ready to participate in a L2/3 clinic in May, I've self-assessed with Guinness and, amazingly, he has demonstrated that he can do the majority of L2 and some L3 things!

The things that we need to play with most are:

  • good, consistent circles at the full 22', with obstacles and w/o breaking gait
  • good, constant Sideways over a pole at a distance and w/o a fence
  • jumping barrels
  • good, consistent weave & figure-8 patterns (more my issue than his!!)
  • life up to go
  • walk/trot or gait transitions
  • Sideways 20' along a fence
  • Open a gate

Here is the detailed breakdown:

  • All L1 tasks
  • All L2 except: pick up all 4 from one side (not tried), circling with obstacles maintaining gate, reliable sideways over pole, sideways w/o fence, jump barrels.
  • L3 achieved: extreme helicopter, flag, pedestal, hind feet on pedestal, message inside ear, ball on horse, lead by ear, hold tongue, lead by mane, drive from Z5 w. one rein (out on trails!!), S patterns, falling leaf (my technique needs improvement), trailer load, forward under tarp, one foot on a pole.
  • L4 achieved: Swing rope from Zone 5, 1 foot on object, bounce ball on horse, slap ground 6 times from Zone 5, lead backward by tail, backward under tarp.
  • All L1, except: squeeze to go (still refining)
  • L2 achieved: swing legs, rub w. raincoat, toss rein over head, swing carrot stick, mount from fence, back up 10 steps w. 9 step backup, lift rein & hold to stop and back up, change direction at walk, ride through narrow space, walk over small log, turn face & wait.
  • All L2 except: walk-trot-walk transitions
  • L3 achieved: horse comes willingly, stand on tarp/pedestal, extreme friendly Z1-3, lead backward by tail, lead backward by leg, lead by ear, move hind end, draw at walk, change direction at trot, slow sideways

The clinic is still 8 weeks away from now. Given the snow & mud of the last 3 months, I think that Guinness is coming along really well. We'll have unlimited use of an indoor arena at a local riding stable for the next month, so I'm pretty sure that we will be able to progress his Freestyle skills further. The biggest thing is for me to improve my 22' rope skills!

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Mental Gridlock

This morning, I was invited over to play with my L3/4 friend's mare, Vanna. The rain held off just long enough for us to have time for a good session.

Once again, as I stepped out into the arena, my brain seemed to stop functioning! After some prompting to do a "pre-flight check" of Vanna's responses to the Porcupine (she escaped a bit) and Driving games, my friend challenged me to stand on a pedestal and send Vanna in a circle 3x each way at a trot.

This was (of course) more difficult than it seemed it should have been. First off, Vanna just didn't want to back in anything like a straight line. Instead, she offered me sidepassing in a circle, backing in a circle, a squiggly back, and various other evasions/tries. Instead of getting too particular about backing up, we allowed her to move her feet in a walking circle.

Like last time, I struggled with keeping the 22' rope away from my feet and out of a knot with my savvy string. My stick kept falling to the ground, which was farther than usual do to me being on the pedestal! Boy, was it awkward, and frustrating since I've been supposedly doing PNH for oh, over six years..

After we sort of got the hang of the basic circle at the trot (not so hard since Miss Vanna is a quite the extrovert), we moved into transitions. Once again, while my head was thinking,"Which way should I turn in order to slow her down?", the moment had passed and I had to adjust to a different situation. Eeek. (Honestly, I think that the last time that I actually played with this task was with Smokey at a Kelly Sigler clinic two years ago.)

We stopped for a bit and played with some simulations, taking advantage of three innocent bystanders to form a Conga Horse. ;-) This worked great, because it allowed me to rehearse my rope handling, cues, and energy, without creating a bunch of static for a real horse. Thanks, Aunt Barb!

It occurred to me once more that all of my studying of PNH materials, without the corresponding time with an actual horse, is more of a hindrance than a help to me right now. I'm so self-critical that I just want to run screaming sometimes.. However, Alyssa is doing a great job acting patient and non-judgmental (even though inside she must either be cringing or laughing her butt off - or both).

I realize now that the name of the game for me is going to have to be MUSCLE MEMORY. This is what saved my rear in the production of Joseph last summer. I practiced enough that my body knew how to dance even though my brain was freaking out. I just had to trust the process and keep my brain from messing things up. It was a huge lesson for me.

So, from now on, before trying a new skill with a horse, I'm going to strive to rehearse some simulations to set the movements in my body. That should relieve the pressure on my struggling brain.

For all of my whining, this practice with Vanna is helping me a ton. It is becoming increasingly clear to me that I wouldn't be able to pull out this rut without a coach being physically present with me on a regular basis. I'm sure that once my motor skills catch up with my mental stuff, I'll be primed to really make some progress.

Another thought is that, boy is it a different perspective actually standing in the center as a horse is circling around me, versus viewing the PNH study materials from the viewpoint of a spectator!

As I've told many folks, the Parelli "Patterns" DVD set are about as interesting as a set of crochet instructions - unless you DO them. I need to diligently apply this idea to the rest of the PNH materials. Perhaps a 30-day commitment to play with Guinness is in order?

I'm looking forward to another session with G. in the indoor arena. Hopefully, it will be this Tuesday evening. My freind gave me a tip: to get Guinness moving without having to spank him, try lifting and leading one rein in the direction that I'd like him to move, and then bring up my energy.

Unfortunately, I seem to be more "green" than I'd given myself credit for. Thank goodness that I picked a baby with a mellow and forgiving horsenality.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Indoor Adventures

This evening was session #5 for me at a local riding stable. This time, since the driveway has finally melted, I decided to bring Guinness along with me.

He loaded right up, even though he hasn't been on a trailer in a few months, and we headed two miles down the road to the stable.

Once there, I opened his window. Guinness was very interested in the cars passing by on the highway and he nickered at a horse in a paddock in the distance.

I unloaded him and walked him into the indoor arena. There were no lights on yet, so it was pretty dim, but he walked right in (knocking over buckets hunting for food as he went).

The barn manager directed me to a large stall in the corner where he could safely hang out to watch me ride. I parked him in there, and then went just outside to catch my lesson horse. While outside, I heard loud banging and some yelling. It happened again. The barn manager hollered, "Clare, you'd better get back in here - your horse it trying to climb out of the stall!" Oh my.

I walked quickly back in to see Guinness rearing up and trying to scale the bars at the top of the stall. He wasn't calling and seemed pretty deliberate about it. I whistled to him to let him know that I was coming, and then approached him. He reared again, and I waved him back as I entered the stall. Once inside, I backed him up some more until he dropped his head, and then attached his lead rope. I opened the stall door and asked him to wait, then turned him around and he backed willingly out into the arena. Whew!

I gave up on the lesson horse and changed plans to play with Guinness instead. We walked around a little on the 12' rope, then walked outside to switch to the 22' and to put on his bareback pad. Once back indoors (with the lights on), we played online until we ran out of things to try and he was feeling happy.

Fortunately, there were only two other people in the lesson and everyone was very patient. Guinness was starting to look for more things to do, so I asked him to pick me up at the mounting block. He simultaneously tried to push me off of the mounting block, stand on it himself and park-out. He was very enthusiastic. Once he got into position, I climbed aboard and gave him a treat. He then kept twisting his head around trying to see if I had more cookies.

We walked casually around and explored the arena. (The trainer commented that he didn't appear at all worried about me being on him.) The other students decided to try pole bending for fun. Guinness stopped and STARED, especially when the horses cantered toward us. I don't think that he has ever seen horses running around with riders on them.

He was so intent that I allowed him to try it himself. He steered surprisingly well, but doesn't yet respond to leg pressure to move forward, so I had to resort to patting him on the rump (I forgot my spanky string).

All went great through the end of the lesson. I even cued him to lay down to roll two times - rewarded by cookies!!

It was dark outside and I needed to load Guinness to go home. The trailer was parked on a slight hill, which didn't help his head. He loaded once, then backed out and refused get back on. I was thinking, "Oh great, and I can't even leave you in a stall overnight.."

I reparked the trailer in a more level place, turned on the interior light, then reapproached the task with a helper at the rear with my stick. When he started to balk at moving forward, she tapped him on the rump and he hopped right in and started eating, so she shut the door. We let him relax for a minute, then closed everything up and headed back home without incident.

What a saga! Now we know that we need to work on trailer loading in the dark, stepping up with individual hind legs, and hanging out in a stall. I'm looking forward to taking him back next week. Fortunately, the time will change before then, so it will still be daylight when we finish up. :-)

Little Sister

Doug and Alicia Coop, of Coops Rockies, are proud to announce the birth of Guinness' new half sister!

She was born on March 8th, and is chocolate with a light color mane. Her name is "Coops Free Cocoa Finale" - nicknamed "Allie."

Her mom is Barb's Cocoa - Guinness' mother. And her sire is Coops Freedom, the black stallion featured in the very first blog post on this website. She will be Barb's last foal.

Congratulations on a gorgeous baby!

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Horsenality: Charting Guinness

I just took a moment to re-chart Guinness' horsenality on the Parelli Horsenality Profiletm chart. (Click here for sample charts.)

Here are the significant results. I've omitted the "mild" traits - by far the majority!

Left-Brain Extrovert characteristics (7 of them)


  • playful
  • tendency to bite/strike (other horses)
  • mouthy
  • friendly
  • smart
  • willful
  • exuberant

Left-Brain Introvert characteristics (5 of them)

  • food-oriented
  • calm
  • easily bored
  • clever
  • dependable
This pretty much shows that he is, at this point, borderline LBE/LBI - perhaps leaning toward "extrovert." There were no marks in RBI and only 3 mild marks in RBE (at a parade!) for impulsive, runs over you, & bracy.

In my opinion, leadership strategies for him, in particular, would include:

1. Play

  • be creative
  • new things/lessons
  • speed up
2. Incentive
  • purpose
  • scratches
  • treats

* The big challenge for me will be getting him obedient (goal for LBE) while maintaining his motivation (goal for LBI) - remembering that he desensitizes really easily.

I should avoid:
  • retreat (except possibly to improve draw)
  • repetition?
  • going slowly
  • allowing him to be close to me all of the time
  • Liberty, until he is much more obedient Online
We should particularly practice (on the 22' & eventually 45' rope)
  • moving his FOREHAND!
  • Yo-Yo - balanced drive/draw
  • Porcupine Game
  • All parts of Circling Game
  • Figure 8 pattern
I'm going to try to go through the PNH literature with all of this in mind. I'm also going to print this out and post it in the barn as a reminder!!