Thursday, May 6, 2010

Taking Time

"Take the time it takes.."
- Pat Parelli

These are truly words to live by.

This morning, Guinness and I made it over to the indoor arena. This was our 3rd to last session over there. My written goals were:

On 22' line:
  • pick a gait and circle
  • weave
  • fig 8
  • sideways
  • influence zone 1 from zone 4
Mounted with carrot stick:
  • lateral flexion
  • HQ yield
  • FH yield
  • follow the rail/corners
However, upon arrival we discovered that the far door to the arena was now also open, revealing a whole new landscape! This, plus the short but ever-stimulating ride over (lots of gravel hills and sharp turns), caused Guinness to go into wide-eyed, shallow-breathing RBI mode.

After thinking a moment, I decided to address this by casually leading him around the perimeter of the arena on the 12' line, letting him check things out and giving him small tasks, such as circling the barrel at the corners. We did a couple of huge figure 8s, and I encouraged him to stay as far away from me as he was able to be.

Once his head lowered and he started licking & chewing, I aimed him toward a vacant corner stall with the intention of sticking him in there while I set up some obstacles and loaded up my treat bag. This was probably not the easiest idea for him at the time.. He immediately became unconfident again. I stayed with him awhile, and we played some games. Then I left the stall and began to walk across the arena.

As soon as I did, Guinness started searching for the "release" in a very LBE way by backing and then looking to see if that was what I wanted, coming forward, pawing, half-rearing, etc. Whoops. So, the moment that he stood still, I began to walk back toward him. If he pawed I stopped; if he reared, I *ran* backward! He seemed to get the point, but was still pretty unhappy about it.

I reentered the stall and attached the rope. Then I backed him away and opened up the stall door. I stood casually inside as he played approach & retreat and squeeze with the stall doorway. When he came back in and was mellow for a moment (looking for treats), we exited.

By then we only had a half-hour of time left, and realized that my stomach felt very tense. (I am somewhat concerned about housing Guinness in a stall in an indoor arena at the clinic 8 days from now..) I prudently decided to abandon the riding idea - part of me wanted to push on, but the other part was relieved!

I released him into the arena at liberty. He immediately began to explore and I encouraged his idea with the carrot stick. This simultaneously got his thinking-brain going, and brought his life up. Something to do with his remaining adrenaline! We played at liberty with jumping, various obstacles, and yo-yo.

When it was time to go, we did some gate work from the ground, and then I tied him to the trailer to put his boots on. He loaded right up and stood tied on the trailer until he blew out loudly, and started to calmly eat hay. I drove the longish way home, and then left him tied in the trailer with the doors open. After about 15 minutes, I unloaded him and parked him in the front yard to graze with his hobbles on while I started to blog. After 20 minutes or so, the bugs got too much for both of us and I returned him to the herd.


Upon reflection, I'm starting to let go of the idea that Guinness is at all LBI. He is food-motivated, but that is about it.. I thought that he was easily bored, however that is probably more a lack of patience and the need to move his feet. I believe now that he is innately a mild, motivated LBE and a confident learner. However, in new environments he tends to go RBI and becomes moderately tense, quiet/obedient, hesitant and clingy. If pushed and/or over-stimulated his adrenaline comes up and he becomes high-headed, bracy, and can't stand still with a tendency to bolt/rear.

My job as his leader is to recognize when he is going RBI (subtle!) and guide him back into LBE mode.

Signs of Guinness going RB: (check out the old photo above)
  • any pooping
  • frantic grazing or frantic treat-seeking (pacifier)
  • lack of blinking, prominent eyebrows
  • shallow breathing
  • raised head, stiff neck, stiff ears
  • hiding behind me
  • hesitation, balking
His release of adrenaline looks like:
  • blinking
  • breathing, blowing
  • head lowering
  • shaking like a dog (if big release)
  • calm eating
  • showing me itchy spots
  • willingness to be out in front of me
Goals for LBE*: Positive action with respect.
Me: I need to be quick, decisive and firm, with smile on my face.
Strategies: Play with mouth, food, redirect focus, back up, drive FH, do the opposite times 2!

Goals for RBI*: Confidence without excessive thinking.
Me: I need to keep the pressure low, with extra dwell time (long phase 1).
Strategies: Horseman's handshake (target fist), slow rub/stroke, hold head under arm, ask to lower head, don't push - wait for him to offer, perform familiar patterns, hide hiney

* based on p.81, Savvy Times, November 2009

Our job as leaders to facilitate bringing life/energy up, and then to bring it back down again. Never leave a horse in "up" mode or it will build anxiety for the next time (per Linda in the Liberty section of the Circling Game SC DVD, issue 49).

The good news is that when Guinness is in RBI mode, it is a great opportunity for me to offer him the leadership that he is seeking. :-)

Regarding the upcoming clinic: I need to accept that it is 90% likely that Guinness will be in RBI mode - at least for the first day or so. While in this mode, we don't need to be trying a bunch of new things. This is probably cool for me too, since I am likely to feel a little nervous myself. I need to be careful not to push him over the line into RBE mode. As we both mellow out, I will switch over to the LBE strategies.

I am so grateful that I will able to take the time to focus on "just us" at the clinic. I'm planning to arrive as early as possible on Friday afternoon, so that we have time to adjust to the surroundings before having to put him into the stall. (I will bring a tube of Quietex herbal paste along, just in case.) The clinic will be on Saturday and Sunday. The group will be split in two, alternating with some watching while the others participate. On Monday, I'm hoping to just hang out and audit Day 1 of the L3/4 camp. This format should allow Guinness plenty of time to get into the groove without pressure.

Now I need to remember to print this out and take it with me!!

1 comment:

Parelli Central said...

Hi Clare!

I just wanted to let you know I really enjoyed this post! It's a great reminder for us all to set goals but also be flexible and put our horse first! As such, I linked to your blog from my post about goal setting on Parelli Central today. You can check it out here:

Thanks for sharing!

~Sarah from Parelli