Sunday, January 18, 2009

Equines Jan 18 2009

Jan 11
Played the 7 games with Link as well as the barrel pattern from the patterns program. Little Gerbil-On-Crack though was a little hyped up and very GoGoGo-I-Must-Move-My-Feet!! Under-saddle we worked on some transitions, back-up, and the figure-eight barrel pattern, during which I felt at times I was working with his ghost - half of his mind was focused on me while the other half was off in LaLa land. Finally I gave up trying to keep his toddler-like mind focused and turned him loose. He promptly itched his back via a good roll in the dirt (making sure of course to make one side as dirty as the other) before taking off, full-tilt, around the arena. I cleaned up, put away barrels, and twiddled my thumbs as he ran circles, without stop, at a full-out gallop for a good solid 15-20 minutes!! Finally he huffed and puffed to a halt in front of me, after which I had to cool him out. I found it somewhat amusing, as well as ironic, that I had to cool him out from his "cool-down", or "max and relax period" when I had not had to do so after our playtime earlier. So my theory as to his as-of-late lack of ability to concentrate and desperate need to move his feet at all times is this: we are right about close to spring training time, where last year as well as the two years prior to that (three years total) he would be headed to the track to train. Also, the same way the Parelli patterns instill confidence and a cemented foundation, the track also instills patterns - in the case of the track, to gallop around a track the same way each day (thus, a pattern). So my theory is that, just as he reverts to right-brain and moving his feet at times when he is unconfident, he is possibly reverting to his old cemented track patterns (ie. track gallops) because he figures he should be starting spring training around this time?? Food for thought...

Jan 18

Visited and played with Silver and Koolaid today, though the wind was howling so strong that it was only 5 minutes before my ears were sore and cold despite the 14C weather!! It was fabulous to see both horses though - I wish I could play with them more regularly!

I started out with the Circling Game to cement our level of respect before going back through the rest of the games. He was very very light (phase 1 or 2) through all 7 games!!! I had actually expected some initial resistance just because he usually throws me a challenge or two to see if I can still earn his respect, but he never challenged my leadership once! Throwing my arm over his back I actually had the intention of driving him forwards however he interpreted my communication otherwise; when I first waved my stick at his hind, he actually pivoted his hind towards me (thus away from the stick)!! I was impressed and so asked his shoulder to move over towards me, to see what I would get: he promptly sidepassed several steps towards me!! I find I am constantly astonished at how much horses retain and figure out; once you teach them to start reasoning and thinking things through it is amazing what can happen!! I've worked hard to build some solid foundations on these two horses and while we still have so much to uncover and play with, that foundation is obviously still holding true and allowing us to communicate in ways I had thought were not yet possible!! Koolaid in particular surprised me as he has always been the most challenging of the two and I had not thought him advanced enough to understand and interpret my request today, which was why I had not actually asked for a sidestep, just a simple forwards motion. Wow though! I cannot wait to play with him some more so that we can continue learning from and challenging one another!!! While Silver is certainly no slouch (and, thanks to Parelli, now thinks most everything through rather than blindly reacting), Koolaid is a Left-Brain-Introvert and so naturally thinks rather than reacts, which certainly causes him to better utilize his intelligence (of sorts) and figure things out quicker than his Right-Brain-Extrovert brother.

His GoGoGo I-Was-A-Racehorse-In-My-Previous-Life self but very responsive and light (phase 1 or two) throughout all 7 games! We whipped through our seven games, including some transitions and change in direction (at the trot and at the canter). I also threw my arm over his back and directed his movement from the opposite side using my carrot stick, having him sidepass but towards me (and thus away from the stick). It was a little rough but I think he got the idea, so we can work on refining and building on it next time!!

Afterwards I trucked out to play with our newest two boys, Sonny and Link. Right now our main focus is on advancing through the Freestyle (under-saddle - eventually escalates to liberty riding) and On-Line (on the 12', 22', and 45' lines - eventually allows for an escalation to liberty work through the Liberty patterns) patterns through the new Parelli patterns program. Each patterns quadrant (ie. On-Line and Freestyle - there are four total: Freestyle, Finess, On-Line, and Liberty) consists of 4 Levels which each consist of various patterns. Level 1 On-Line (12' lead) consists of Touch-It and Figure-8, Level 2 (12'/22' leads) is Touch-It, Figure-8, Weave, Circles (pattern #6), Circles (pattern #7), Trailer, Push a Ball, and Obstacles. Level 1 Freestyle (hackamore, casual rein) is Follow the Rail and Figure-8 and Level 2 (hackamore/bit, carrot stick) is Follow the Rail, Figure 8, Weave, etc...

Last I worked with Sonny I had a lot of trouble keeping him focused and left-brained but today the Right-Brain-Extrovert was extremely sensitive yet focused!! I initially started with him as, when I entered the arena, the main door was wide open to the dark evening (and all its accompanying distractions) and another boarder was working his Paso Fino in the arena. I tied Sonny to remove Link's blanket, but something startled Sonny, causing him to pull back. I quickly calmed him down but felt that although he had given in to the pressure of the rope, by leaving him and working with Link first, I would be leaving Sonny in a negative emotional state - one whereby he'd be likely to pull back again. So I gave each horse a quick brush-over before toting Sonny into the arena.

7 Games
Each session we still do a quick run-through of our games, though I try to keep it short and sweet so as to prevent souring on the games. Our goal is to improve them a bit each time without really focusing on them too much so. Thus we re-cement our games, and thus our primary foundation, before we advance and build upon that same foundation. It also allows me to see what side of the pasture the horse woke up on as well as gain the horse's focus.
Friendly Game we ensured the "rope" boogeymen were vanquished and also worked on diminishing some of our carrot-stick-circling-like-a-helicopter-over-my-head mortal fears.
Porcupine was quite light, though we are focusing on making it even lighter (some days it is Phase 1 while other days - presumably when Sonny is bored and in a calm, left-brain emotional state, we are Phase 3). I expanded this game a bit by wrapping him in his lead rope and asking him to follow the feel and thus unravel himself - he thought his way through the puzzle very calmly!
Driving Game was quite short and sweet with focus on a little refinement of HQ and FQ movement. I also threw in a backwards driving game: I moved the stick in a circular motion at his shoulder-level while standing behind his shoulder. I had been prepared to "help" him by yo-yo'ing him back with the lead at the same time however it was not necessary, as he instantly picked up the new game and moved back with ease!
Yo-Yo was Phase 1 and 2, though I played with it a bit, moving forwards on him (while asking him to back) to get a longer back-up and backing up to obtain a longer draw (ie. when he was coming back in to me).
Circling we did w/t/c and then also expanded and played more with it in our On-Line session (see: below).
Sideways I asked Sonny to move off sideways without the aid of a wall yet he performed brilliantly, correctly interpreting and putting into action my request immediately.
Squeeze Game I sent Sonny over a set of 3 barrels (laid down) without the aid of a wall. Initially I asked him to simply touch them with his nose before adding some pressure to have him jump them from a standstill. Rather than giving me the lazy jump he usually does (when at the trot), he cleared them cleanly with his fronts, though hitting them with his hinds. Afterwards, rather than run around high on adrenaline in a state reminiscent of a chicken with its head cut off, he jumped the barrels then calmly turned to face at once to ask what my next request would be!! This is still a huge learning experience for him and so I was quite happy with his level of try this time - a major improvement for him, particularly to squeeze in such a calm emotional state.

On-Line (on the ground)
Sonny and I completed both Level 1 and Level 2 and also did some prep work for Level 3.
Touch-It consisted of my having him walk up to and place his nose on a few suspicious (surely horse-eating) objects.
Though a little skeptical at first, he performed the Figure-8 flawlessly and with very little direction on my part (I simply stood by). His confidence visibly soared as he continued around the barrels (both walk - Level 1, and trot - Level 2) calmly while keeping a keen observing eye on my next request.
Next I asked him to Weave through 3 barrels (I'll have to add to that number using cones next time, as I ran out of barrels!) while I trotted along next to him (trot and walk), driving and drawing him through the barrels. As we had just completed the Figure-8, he easily performed this one with very little direction as well, even when I switched directions several times and thus walked on opposite sides of the barrels (something new for him, working the barrels from either side).
We also expanded on our Circling Game with the Circles pattern (#6 in the Level 2 patterns pack), which consisted of a few downwards transitions (trot to walk) as well as some changes in direction at the trot. This was our first attempt at this pattern and so while it was a little rough he did seem to understand it so next step is to establish it as a pattern through playing it a few more times and thus raise his confidence level in the pattern.
The second Circles pattern (#7 in the Level 2 On-Line patterns pack) consisted of my walking a straight line down the arena while Sonny meanwhile kept circling. At first he kept asking if he was supposed to continue circling (at the trot) rather than simply follow me so we kept playing the pattern until he made several consecutive laps in either direction as I continued walking.
The Trailer pattern I expect to play with Sonny when the weather provides the opportunity to easily move (and thus play with) the trailer. I am excited to do so as Sonny is rather skeptical of trailers (I foresee some Touch-It!) and it will also enable me the opportunity to reinforce my attempt at lateral (aka prey animal, rather than straight-line, aka predator) thinking (watch the On-Line Trailer video in the patterns pack).
Push-a-Ball will likely be replaced with my ball-less version: Play-with-a-Tarp (haha), as I am definitely ball-deficient.
Obstacles will be done as obstacles are presented (lol) - including tarps, as I do not currently have an obstacle course available for my use.
Our dabble into Level 3 consisted of some further expansion of the Circling Game, whereby I spiraled Sonny in and out of a circle at the trot. Sonny was definitely initially convinced that a smaller circle meant easier-horse-eating-carrot-stick-prey (despite our initial Friendly Game involving the carrot stick, as by now the carrot stick had been involved in some "suspicious" Driving Game-like circumstances that made it worthy of skepticism it may yet be hungry for equine steak) and he was also of the line of thought that it was not possible for him to circle such a small diameter. After a few successful circles on the smallest circle (successful meaning he continued responsibly at the trot without asking me for further direction) I spiraled him back out before spiraling him back in, then back out and to a halt - in either direction. His carrot stick worries rapidly evaporated and his confidence in the game certainly increased quickly.

Though he was somewhat restless once tied after our session (and made it known through audible movement in addition to both loud cries for help and minute squeals of protestation) Sonny never once tested the tied rope and, by the end of my session with Link, had resigned himself to standing quietly with a hind leg cocked. Progress!!

As in our previous session, I had my hands full maintaining his focus, though my purposely sloth-like slowness seemed to counteract his right-brained GoGoGo emotions and thus balance his mental state somewhat and thus maintain his concentration on the games and patterns.

7 Games
We whipped through our 7 games much the same as with Sonny and with much the same results, though Link was much more high strung and so I had to progress much more calmly so as to pass that calmness on to him through quiet leadership.
Respect is a challenge with Link moreso than with Sonny simply due to the very different horsenalities and that combined with our repetition of the games caused Link to challenge my leadership slightly during the Porcupine Game and particularly when I asked for his HQ to respond. This is where I had to back off a bit and ensure that I was very light and fair. I think too that next time I need to back off and ask very lightly then drive his HQ a bit rather than increase my pressure phases.
Our Driving Game I asked Link, same as with Sonny, to back while I stood at his shoulder. Link got a bit uptight and frazzled and so I had to use a wall to block his movement somewhat and thus set him up to better think through the puzzle. As I maintained consistency and rewarded with a quick release he quieted down and thought his way through to a back-up.
Link's Sideways Game was not quite as crisp as Sunny's however it was done very well, particularly considering his comparatively limited time off the track so far.
Our Squeeze Game I also asked Link to jump the barrels without the use of the wall; he popped over them very easily and though was slightly pumped afterwards, he calmed down quickly from his jumping high. This time I also had him jump one barrel with two standing barrels flanking the one lying down - after a little initial hesitation (but continued forward motion) he popped over nicely.

On-Line (on the ground)
Touch-It is not a high priority for Link simply due to his horsenality - as a LBE he is naturally inquisitive and not as skeptical as say a RBE like Sonny. Actually, whenever I lay out an object such as a tarp, Link usually spends his time attempting to drag me over to said object so that he may play with it himself! We'll continue this game though as we find additional objects to play with (particularly horse-eating objects)!
This was Link's second session with the Figure-8 pattern so we were able to clean it up quite a bit. Previously he would at times run through my request (ie. just run right past my stick) in a right-brained attempt at pushing through pressure and thus evading it. This time he did so twice initially; the second time though he paused in his evasion and so I simply continued to hold my stick still out in front of his path and waited for him to stop, relax, and think through my request (not increasing my phases and thus allowing him the chance to think). As he realised that he had little to be skeptical of carrot-stick-wise, he relaxed and thought through the puzzle I'd presented him with. Pretty quickly he was walking through the pattern with a 9/10 confidence at both the walk and trot and constantly eyeing me for my next move, trying to interpret and follow through with my not-yet-requested next request...which resulted in a few humourous miscommunications on my part.
Next we tackled the Weave (3 barrels as well), which ended much the same as the Figure-8 had, with several successful run-throughs in either direction.
Circles (#6) I found to be more challenging with Link than with Sonny. Sonny had been in a calm and thinking state of mind whereas Link, when I held up my stick for a downward transition, had the tendency to freeze up and react in flight mode with forwards movement. I brought him in to a smaller circle so I could more clearly communicate with him which seemed to help quite a lot (as also did my very deliberately calm and quiet movements). A few more transitions repetitions should help break down his walls of pressure evasion and instead get him more in a thinking pattern. I also had him change direction at the trot as well however it was much the same as the transitions - more playing yet to accomplish!
Circles (#7) was much the same as with Sonny and ended well with several successful laps in either direction as I paced down the middle of the long side of the arena.
Push-a-Ball, Trailer, and Obstacles follows the same for Link as with Sonny. I am looking forward too with working with Link with the trailer as he has not been particularly fond of hauling in the past.

Freestyle (under-saddle)
Initially Link and I did our Cloverleaf Pattern (actually done in Level 3 at the trot) at the walk to re-cement our past work. He moved off my leg very well (most often simply when I turned my body and thus applied a bit of thigh pressure) though I found I had to be exceptionally clear and there was the odd time when he broke rhythm and increased his pace to a trot, I think just because he was carrying a bit of extra emotional/mental energy.
In our Follow the Rail I found Link to follow the rail with ease but he seemed to become a little worried during our transitions. Some transitions (walk-to-trot, trot-to-walk) he responded beautifully while a few others he either was reluctant to pick up the trot or would fall into flight mode once in the trot and thus not transition down. Several other times though he responded into a trot with a simple increase in energy on my part or into a walk with a decrease in energy and relaxation on my part. We also did some 9-step-back-up, which really lightened up after a few repetitions (and very clear and quiet communication from me). Lastly, we did some full turns and simple change in direction using leg aid backed up by both direct and indirect reins (his direct is fabulous so we primarily used indirect). My mind was not completely in the game at this point so it took a few tries before I improved my ask enough for him to improve his turn, which worked out great in the end!
Our Figure-8 was very good (once I focused in on asking him correctly!) though I think some additional work at it will clean it up even more.
Lastly Link and I took a stab at a little carrot stick riding (Level 3) - Figure-8 and Follow the Rail. It was quite rusty and Link tended to fret, turn right-brain, and therefore run through my request rather than think it through. In the end though we did manage to finish with a few good barrel patterns and turns along the rail. I think some continued work on Level 2 to really establish a strong foundation with those patterns will enable us to have more confidence in Level 3 patterns. So...more playing!!

I had actually wanted to ride Link a little at liberty today; we finished off our cloverleaf with 9/10 confidence and calmness however the additional challenges of the new patterns we worked on afterwards ruined our chances at liberty, as Link was a little too right-brained (though still left-brained and calm overall) for it to be a successful attempt. Next time!! This time our patterns, which will provide us a stronger foundation for liberty riding, were more important.

Afterwards I turned the two horses loose for some good rolls in the sand and to play a bit with each other before turning them back out to pasture...just for kicks, when I later caught them up, I thought I'd take a stab at playing the Circling Game with both horses at was actually pretty fun and challenging at the same time, as it was difficult to talk to one horse without accidentally miscommunicating to the other haha. We'll have to make a few more attempts at it ;P

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