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.


Michelle AKA arabhorselover1 said...

Sounds like you and Guiness are soul mates Clare! I am so happy for you. It sounds like you had a fun and creative time. He seems to truly enjoy being wiht you and I know you are going to progress very quickly wtih this horse! How cool is that? Awesome! I wish I could share in your playtime like the old days.

Missing you...

-Michelle (in NY)

Lisa said...

Sounds like FUN! I'm glad you liked the L3 liberty. I've found Pat's approach has really strengthened my liberty connection with Cricket. Yesterday, after our ride, she was cantering circles at liberty in the big arena. Something we haven't been able to do in ages.

I've been paying attention to Cricket's moods - making sure she's in the mood to be saddled, in the mood to be mounted, etc. It seems to help with her mounting FG. Something that seems to be a never ending battle!