Monday, November 29, 2010

But, I don't WANT to... (in a whiney voice)

I just read a very good blog post:

It got me thinking about how our over-thinking can box us in. Here are two of my current mental blocks:

1. I still feel distinctly uncomfortable with the thought of riding in my tiny back field (basically my back yard). Why?? Because about 7 years ago, Smokey threatened to run away with me. Did he? No, 'cause I got off. Since then, I've ridden Bandit back there a little, years ago. I've also ridden Guinness there about 4 times (with someone else nearby giving me moral support). Come to think of it, it may have something to do with my high-school horse running off & dumping me while in a field with his buddies. But, even when the other horses are confined, I get sort of anxious! I guess that I need approach and retreat. I'd really love for someone to bring a horse over here to ride with me!! I'm going to try to rope some friends into coming over. Perhaps I should host a playdate or try bribery?

2. My horses CAN NOT do the Figure 8 pattern. When I send them, they go the the barrel (or whatever) and try to climb on it (mostly Guinness). I get my rope tangled up and knock things over. I feel stupid. I've been half-a**ed playing with this pattern for a YEAR. I hate it!.. However, I used to feel that circling was impossible too, and breaking it down and rewarding each component is solving this. I suspect that what I need to do is to start circling around cones, then using the cones to mark changes of direction, and mixing it up to finally develop a Fig. 8 pattern. Any other ideas?

So what are YOUR mental blocks that are preventing you from progressing? Fess up!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Nitty Gritty Plan

Guinness and I are enrolled in Carol Coppinger's L3 camp in Bristol next May. Although she has already approved us to participate based on our performance last year, it seems only reasonable that we strive to officially pass L2 prior to the event. I'd like to have both auditions submitted by April 1st, at the latest.

Online Level 2 Try using a feather-light line or the equivalent to prevent "noise" in the line

We should be able to knock these two tasks right out:
  • Teach horse to stand on 3 legs (hold each leg up for 30 seconds)
  • YoYo back and forth from Zone 3 practice stick-to-me
Patterns: Break down into components, CT to teach/reinforce each component, then chain together with emphasis on giving Guinness responsibility for each pattern. study the Patterns!
  • Figure 8
  • Weave
Sideways: Guinness knows this behavior, but I need to allow him more responsibility in the execution! I need to focus on getting quieter in my body.
  • Move sideways keep feet still
  • Sideways without fence
Circles: Guinness has learned to circle me up to 4 or so laps at a time at a walk, but it needs to be reinforced in and out of the roundpen. Trotting is a bit newer to him. I need to help him to differentiate between my requests for walk vs. trot vs. canter (cue words) and to teach him to maintain the gait until requested otherwise, understanding that this is a *challenging* task for an LBI unless a game is made of it! (Break gait/change direction/tag where he was with a laugh. Jackpot when he "wins.") Once he masters the cues for the three gaits and the "game" and then all four of these will be achievable.
  • Circling 2 – 4 laps without breaking gait at both walk & trot
  • Circling 4 – 6 laps trot/canter
  • Circling with obstacles and maintain gait at a trot
  • Traveling circles
Freestyle Riding Level 2
  • Passenger Lesson at trot
    We are ready to play with this NOW! I'd like to do this in Julie's small arena the first time and work up to doing it in my back field. Even if he canters a bit, he is so "short" that I should survive..
    This is mostly about MY confidence, 'cause I don't intend to use the reins!!
  • Circle with Casual Rein, 4 laps at walk and trot
    Should be a cinch after mastering circles online, but need to exit the roundpen for trotting.
  • Sideways 20’ facing a fence
    Practice traveling up to 20' feet with subtle cues.
  • Freestyle patterns: FTR, Fig.-8, Weave, Transitions, Question Box, Obstacles
    I have a vision of creating a Question Box in the center of my roundpen and leaving both gates open. This would allow us to ride within the roundpen, just outside the perimeter of the roundpen, and in large loops from one entrance to the other. I have plenty of barrels, logs, poles, etc. to provide variation & amusement - I just need to take the time to set them up. Our practice with this will probably be at the walk/trot due to the likelihood of slippery footing. When the roads are ok, I could haul to a friend's place with a large outdoor arena and firm parking area.

We have 4 months to prepare, but they tend to be rainy/cold months, so it will take perseverance. Michelle's husband gave me advice about lighting my roundpen/back field with two 500 watt halogen fixtures mounted to the rail of my deck, which should help a ton. Thanks, Rick!

I should probably plan to enroll in "lessons" at my local indoor arena in Feb/March, just to have a back-up place once per week to practice (provided that the roads are passible).

Time to git 'er done.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

For the Record

To date, here is my inventory of Guinness' and my remaining L2 & L3 tasks to master:

Level 2
  • Patterns: Figure-8, Weave, Circles
  • Move sideways (keep feet still) - need to test
  • Teach horse to stand on 3 legs (hold each leg up for 30 seconds) - we're so close!
  • YoYo back and forth from Zone 3 - need to test
  • Circling 4 – 6 laps trot, canter - we have 4 laps at a trot, on a good day
  • Traveling circles - sort of
  • Circling with obstacles and maintain gait at a trot
  • Circling 2 – 4 laps without breaking gait at walk, trot - how does this differ from above?
  • Sideways without fence - needs to be straighter
Level 3 (we haven't done anything with the 45' yet)
  • Massage with clippers - need to test, ok with messager
  • Lead backwards by hind leg -usually
  • Point A to Point B, 45-foot Line
  • Drive from Z5: one rein - great on the trail, but in an open area?
  • Back and draw towards you (45-foot Line)
  • Jump towards you, stop, back to obstacle
  • One hind leg and front leg over a pole - straddle?
  • Circling 6 – 10 laps at canter
  • Circling walk, trot, canter transitions
  • Simple change of direction at canter
  • Obstacles, hills, maintain gait
  • Sideways fast (on 22 or 45-foot Line)
  • Along log or fence, keep my feet still
Freestyle Riding
Level 2
  • Passenger Lesson at trot *very soon!
  • Circle with Casual Rein, 4 laps at walk and trot
  • Sideways 20’ (facing the fence)
  • All Freestyle patterns, except Follow the Rail
Level 3 (I haven't tried riding with two carrot sticks yet)
  • Passenger Lesson at canter
  • Bridle and unbridle from your horse’s back - I bet that we can do this now
  • Canter, stop and get off - with the sticks?
  • Refined Direct and Indirect Rein
  • Lateral Flexion, 2 Sticks
  • Disengage with two Carrot Sticks
  • Full turn - with sticks?
  • Transitions: halt-walk-trot-canter (2 Sticks)
  • Circling carrot Sticks on your shoulders, canter 4 laps, with less than 4 corrections total (1 per lap)
  • Circling simple change, bowtie
  • Circling with Casual Reins: canter 4 laps with less than 2 corrections per lap - is this correct?
  • Sideways with 2 Carrot Sticks
  • 20’ Sideways without fence
  • A log (12”-18”), turn, face and wait, 2 sticks
Level 2 - Done!
Level 3
  • Lead backwards by hind leg - most of the time
  • Lead by ear, chin - most of the time
  • Stick to Me at canter
  • Stick to Me Transitions: walk, trot, canter, halt and back up - most of the time
  • YoYo transitions: halt, walk, trot, canter and back up - not sure what this means
  • Circling 6 – 10 laps (trot and canter)
  • Circling walk, trot and canter - transitions?
  • Circling change of direction at canter with simple change
  • Circling 3 laps with a barrel - what does this mean?
  • Circling single spin - working on it!
  • Circling change direction at trot
  • All Level 2 and up - I'm not planning to ride him in a bridle until he will follow my feel without reins

A lack of impulsion is our main obstacle in many of these tasks. Looks as though we need to let go of the roundpen and to focus on practicing the Patterns, both Online & Freestyle, in our small pasture. It is time to truly let go of my historic reluctance to ride outside of the roundpen at home. Funny - I confidently ride him everywhere away from home.

* Please post a comment if you can offer me insight into any of this! *

Our Second Anniversary Together

On November 21st, Guinness (my cookie-monster) and I celebrated the 2nd anniversary of our partnership by going to visit our friend Julie for the first time.

Julie, who has lots of dressage & eventing experience, and her partner, Shadowfax, are playing somewhere in L2/L3. Julie recently purchased Karen Rohlf's study materials and is busy integrating it into her studies. She encouraged me to watch some of it with her, and I admit that I'm captivated too! I'm now trying to figure out how to wrangle her Everything Pack for myself for Christmas (probably wishful thinking..).

In several of her videos, Karen plays successfully with young LBI horses (often bareback and using only a halter) as she laughs and coaxes them along. I find these both instructional and highly inspirational. (As I have found those of Linda P. and her LBI, Remmer, to be.) I had held the mistaken belief that I wasn't "worthy" to study Karen's materials yet since I'm not even close to being a L4 student, however she offers strategies for issues that I am having this moment with Guinness. I'm especially appreciative that her philosophies mesh perfectly with those of PNH.

Julie, the horses, and I played with driving game on a circle. The focus was to see if the horses were able to match our energy to make appropriate transitions. It was totally different from anything that I've played before with Guinness and I could see the wheels turning in his brain.

We played at liberty including the catching game (which I find incredibly helpful to set the tone for a playdate). When Guinness showed her his new behavior of holding each leg folded up high on cue, she commented that Karen R. uses tapping on the side of the withers as a cue for the same behavior. In a couple of tries, I was able to morph the cue from tapping the point of his shoulder to tapping his withers and he got it! He was even able to figure it out for each foreleg while mounted. :-))

It was tons of fun and I hope to do it again very soon. Thanks, Julie!


This past year has been very eventful for G. and me. (The photo is of the two of us this past January. Note that we are still on a leadline.)

To recap:
  • I began seriously riding him in April, utilizing a local indoor arena
  • We participated fully in a Carol Coppinger L2 clinic in May
  • We attended two informal trail competitions this summer, and he placed in both
  • We successfully rode in two 6-mile American Competitive Trail Horse Association rides
  • He went "swimming" in the river several times
  • I rode him in our local July 4th parade
  • We've hauled all over the place to visit friends for playdates and to ride the trails
In a mere 8 months, he has met all of my expectations for a horse partner (unlike my previous partner, Smokey - age 18 - who still couldn't handle all of this after 8 years with me & PNH). I attribute this to his outgoing, friendly, rock-solid LBI temperament and to the use of marker signals in conjunction with treats in his Parelli Natural Horsemanship education.

Guinness is now about 3 1/2 years old. He stands about 15 hands tall and weighs about 850 lbs (compared to our other Rocky who is 12, about the same height, and weighs about 1100 lbs).

This photo is of us at our second ACTHA ride on October 16, 2010. Note how much he has grown in 10 months. Wow.

I can't wait for 2011.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Guinness' Full Sister

Here is a video of Guinness' full sister. She was born in 2006 and is almost exactly one year older than him. Apparently, she is for sale:

Click here to find out more about "Raven". If you buy her, please let me know!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Musings on Equality

My Parelli Play Group is currently discussing the "Six Golden Principles" outlined by the founders of Cavalia in their book, Gallop to Freedom.

I wanted to blog my reflections on Principle One:

Foster a more equal relationship, based on trust and respect, in which we learn from each other.

"I believe we can forge a new kind of relationship with a horse based on a greater degree of equality than most people have thought possible. Horses themselves form very close relationships that can last a lifetime. I want the same: I want to reach the stage where they don't drive me from their space and I don't drive them from mine. I have to convince them that the space belongs to both of us."

- Gallop to Freedom

What this idea means to me:

Allowing natural pauses in my "conversation" with Guinness (ie; make a request of him and then allow him to chew on it a moment before responding). Expecting snappy everything all of the time feels like me yelling at him. He can tell how urgent something is by my energy - I don't have to always be loud and demanding. Threatening him doesn't work. I can use a cue that appears to be a driving game, but I know that unless he agrees with my idea, it would take a h*** of a lot to phase 4 him when he is in LBI mode. (You guys should see what he takes from the other horses without giving an inch!!) I'm saving the true driving for resolving safety issues such as "get out of my space NOW." The more polite that I am with him, the more polite he is with me.

Being open to communication and exchange of ideas with my horse. Not monopolizing the conversation. Exploring different ideas of what communication can look like: marker sounds, verbal cues, gestures, energy, body language, breath, imagery, etc. Sometimes *he* chooses our topics of discussion - where he would like me to scratch, where he would prefer to graze, when he rather me ride than lead him, what object he'd rather play with, and more.

Treating him like the sentient being that he is. Not that he could take care of himself in the artificial environment that people have contrived, but neither is he a slave that exists only to do my bidding. His thoughts and feelings have value too.

Taking the time it takes - we have plenty of it. I plan to have this horse for the rest of his life and Rockies can easily live 30+ years..

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Riding from the Ground

I've recently viewed two inspirational online videos that I'd like to share.

The first is of Ein Parelli-SchĂĽler auf dem Philippe Karl Kurs in der Schweiz. (I'm not sure what this means, but I'm very impressed!)

And with a young clicker-trained mule:

There is hope for us - Guinness included! :-)