Friday, February 20, 2009

Intro to the new mare

So today was the first day working with the new mare, Chickadee! I am pretty positive so far that she is actually a Right-Brain Introvert. She is extremely willing to please and was very intent on having me only have to go through the lightest phases. Though she was left-brained for the majority of our session, she definitely demonstrated that right-brain "lean" - no dominant behaviour whatsoever (so far!) like such that you'd anticipate with a LBI or LBE. Very very "what can I do to please you??" Your classic QH in that if something startled her, she would start but return to LB within seconds. Also your classic cutting-bred QH: rather than turning a full circle she simply sits back on that big QH rump of hers and pivots cutting-horse style. Lol. She looks too like she would make an excellent cow horse - a few times she spooked when I turned her loose in the arena (while I set up for our games and patterns) and she'd deek as if cutting a steer from the herd! I think that she will be very naturally cowy for sure. She's inspired me...might just have to get myself a good cutting horse one day! Love the energy of that cutting movement and the quickness of a good cutter's feet and body. Oh, and she was in heat today! Haha just my luck. Despite being in heat though she was a fabulous partner throughout.

Of course first we started with the 7 games:
Friendly game: started a bit when I brought out the carrot stick but quickly returned to LB. Same followed for when I swung the savvy string at the end of the stick about her body, however it was only a few minutes before the string was whistling through the air like a rope and she stood quietly.
Porcupine game: wow she has NO idea how to move off of pressure and she did not really seem to get all that lighter at this game during our session. Judging by her responses to everything else though I think she will pick it up and be light in no time. I need to remember to go through my phases slowly too.
Driving game: I don't think she yet fully understands disengaging her HQ when I drive them yet, but she caught on for the most part rather quickly. She picked the Driving game up pretty easily at the front though, having that front end around; she just naturally sits back and pivots on that rump. Also a few times (during other games) her shoulder would get into my space so I'd have to quickly drive it out and even there she moved out instantly.
Yo-Yo: she actually picked up on this one rather quickly and was keen to come back in to me with a lowered head.
Circle game: poor girl had absolutely no idea what I wanted at first, but once she figured it out, she really had it and mastered it!! Within a few minutes she was circling independent and responsibly (very little direction on my part - she easily completed 2 circles on her own) at both the walk and trot and hiding her HQ pretty nicely. She is very very light on the rope (she kept it slack 100% of the time) so if she wasn't sure what I wanted as far as disengaging that hind, I just ever-so-lightly lifted that rope a bit to tip her nose in and help her know to turn and face me, disengaging the hind end. Later I expanded on the Circling game, having her spiral in and out at the trot (very minimal corrections, I think I only corrected her back into a jog once throughout the exercise) and also change direction. Her direction changes were amazing, I'd ask her to hide her hind and then point in the opposite direction (remember how she is so light? Well lifting my hand to point in the opposite direction, with slack in the rope still, would easily tip her nose in the direction I wanted her to go) and she'd split in the other direction as if she were cutting some steer. Nice!! Lastly, we did a bit of traveling circle, which she seemed to pick up well after a few shots at it.
Squeeze game: I rarely teach the last two games to a horse within the first session because a) usually it just ends up as brain overload and b) I find you usually require the first 5 games to be stronger so as to build upon for the last two. She seemed to really do well at the first 5 though so I thought I'd see how she was at the last two - she was great! She was a little leery at first but walked between me and the wall in either direction after only a few seconds of deliberation and turned and faced, completely LB throughout!
Sideways game: she actually sidepassed a few steps in either direction fairly easily, completely LB and even staying facing the wall afterwards.

She did so well with the 7 games that I thought I'd try out the Patterns with her! To tell the truth though I wasn't sure how (or if) we had enough basics for the Patterns though (on the first day)...but we did! We started out with Touch-It. I had the huge tarp out (roughly 10' by 25' or so), which she was convinced was certainly horse-eating. Since she was so skeptical, we ended the game with her placing her nose on the tarp - great progress for her on the first day! At the end of the session I actually led her up to the tarp and she tentatively walked up and chewed a bit on the end! Great for Level 1. Afterwards we did the Figure-8 - she aced it immediately! She saw the barrels and took to them as if she thought she was born to do patterns on barrels. It took very little direction to have her moving around the barrels in the pattern, and completely LB! We also did the Weave pattern afterwards as well, which she also took to easily, not missing a single cone and taking very little direction on my part.

Finally, I looped her lead around her feet and asked her to pick up all four feet, which she did nicely and with very little resistance (no kicking!). I had forgotten to ask her owners if she tied but while she pawed a bit at first, she stood very relaxed and quiet afterwards.

Whipped through our 7 games as usual - this time I mixed up the games to keep it a little interesting, rather than just running through them one after the other. The same friend who'd worked with Sonny yesterday had mixed up the games with Sonny and had found it kept the horse interested, so I thought I'd take a page from his book and try to be a little creative too haha ;P Afterwards we expanded on our Circling game: spiraling in and out twice in either direction at the trot (I think I only corrected him once throughout!), direction changes (at the trot), and the traveling circle also at the trot (my walking from one point of the arena to another with the goal of him continuously circling). His Figure-8 and Weave were great, even at the trot, so I threw him on the 22' line. He was amazing, performing the Figure-8 perfectly as I gradually increased the distance between us to the point where eventually I was standing at the end of the 22' and directing him around the barrels in the pattern! He did amazingly well, performing several consecutive patterns at the full length of the rope, however he then switched to become completely RB with me (should have stopped while I was ahead!). We did get a bit of Figure-8 and Weave in after that, but very little and I had to be excruciatingly quiet in my body language with him. The hardest part for him was going around that left-hand barrel and turning into the center of the pattern. So more work ahead of us yet! He did amazingly well though for the session (particularly for it being only his second time ever on the 22' lead, and for doing the pattern at full length!!), so I think next time we will do the same but keep the session a bit shorter, quitting before he has the chance to go RB on me. The 22' is great because my non-creative-mind realised that I can actually use our yo-yo to help guide Link around the barrels lol.

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