Saturday, April 4, 2009

Oh...oops...okay moving upwind

April 3

Our groundwork today was rather quick, as her owners were coming out to see her under-saddle and I wanted to have her saddled by the time they got there. We whipped through all her 7 games and the patterns - she was great and even improved over yesterday's session. Her owners got there just as I was saddling her, which was sort of neat because I was saddling her ground-tied and she stood still throughout the process (as usual), so they got to see that part as well. I wasn't quite sure what they wanted to see so I just went through everything we normally do under-saddle, but in a shortened format. We did walk-trot transitions along the rail, circles on the rail, etc. I think they were sort of starting to doubt me at this point; Chicka was spooking at the far end of the arena so I played a little touch-it under-saddle with her, having her walk up to the areas that were spooking her and putting her nose on them. She did it fairly easily, but her owners seemed like they were wondering what we were doing and whether it was her or me having control, haha. I explained the procedure to them before moving on to some stuff that would help them see better where she was at (by then she was pretty good about the far end of the arena). We did some trot and came down the center line weaving through the cones. I wasn't sure if she'd miss those cones or not because I could feel she was a little anxious, but she didn't which made sure we did look good haha. She looked great weaving through those cones at the trot. We also did some figure-8 at the walk and trot, showed her owners her back-up, and did some canter in either direction. They seemed very very pleased with her progress, which was great. She is doing very well, though today she was a little on edge so I was hoping she could accurately show them where she was at, which she did nicely. Over the next two weeks here I'd like to re-cement tarps, ropes around her rump, ropes being swung off of her, and get her leg aids down better than they are. Generally I'd just like to clean up what we have, ie. snappy downward transitions, clean corners, relaxed gaits, etc. She's doing great though and should go home in good order on the 19th :)

Wow my favourite man was amazing today! When we entered the arena it was empty, so he was pretty uptight initially, spooking at everything and generally restless. I did not tie him and although he calmed down throughout the grooming process (so much damn winter hair! haha) he was still pretty restless. Doing our games though he slowly relaxed as we worked our way through them, but he still had that tendency to be RB. We tackled all other 6 games (which were great, most phase 1 or 2) before trying out the circling game and its associated patterns. I spoke to him a lot today, constantly saying 'easy' while he circled at the trot - it really really made all the difference today!! For the first time ever, we did the traveling circle at the trot, full 22', and he remained at the trot and relatively calm. He was a bit on edge, but never once tipped over that edge, which he usually does. We also did some transitions, which he started to pick up really well by the end, and we did some changes in direction; today he was anything but reactive. He was a little excited but held gait at the trot and was very responsive! We worked a little more on the driving game at this time too because he had the tendency a bit to just ignore me (out of disrespect, from what I could see); with a little work though he was soon hiding his hiney quite nicely and very quickly. When I asked him to disengage today, rather than disengaging and trying immediately to take off in the opposite direction, he was actually pretty calm (he looked like he wanted to take off, but didn't) and just walked up to me instead of taking off. The taking off is a manifestation of his feeling the need to continuously move his feet (flight), so it was great today to have him feeling like he did not have to move his feet so much. Next we took on the weave pattern - I really had to work uber hard to relax my body so that he wouldn't get RB and pick up speed on me. Once I learned to pay attention to myself and relax my body (I'd thought I was relaxed, but when I really evaluated myself I realised I wasn't completely relaxed - it was like I was trying to be relaxed but was poised to spring after him to correct him and him being so sensitive he definitely was picking that energy up), he really responded. He has a really long stride, so at the trot it was hard for me to stay super relaxed and still keep up haha but I figured out how to do it, and in doing so he also relaxed his trot so that I could keep up and he just naturally did the pattern well even when I fell behind, because I was allowing him to think rather than (inadvertently) pressuring him to be almost RB. The figure-8 he did perfectly at the trot...he was a little RB at first and even threw in some canter (!! haha) but he still did the pattern perfectly and then relaxed.

I've been really studying Cesar Millan (the Dog Whisperer on National Geographic), including reading his books - for awhile now, and have been finding a lot of it applicable to horses even!! One of the points was to not reward excitable energy, for example, you wouldn't put the leash on the dog until it's calm submissive, rather than excited dominant (for example). Excited submissive is a step down and is okay if it's part of the progress, but ultimately you do want calm submissive. Well with the horses then, and in particular then Link today, I didn't reward his RB behaviour by halting the pattern, even though he'd done it perfectly a few times already. Instead, I waited until he was calm and submissive before asking him to halt. It doesn't matter that he does it or not, it matters how he does it (which can affect whether he does it or not too). Pat I believe mentions this in his patterns dvd though, to not stop until you have the horse doing the pattern calmly. There's a lot more that I have found transferable from Millan's dog ideas to Parelli's horse ones.

When I originally brought Link in I had not planned on riding him, I did not think that I could get him LB enough to do any under-saddle work, as there was no other horses in the arena and he does not yet fully trust me as his leader. When we finished all our groundwork though he was great - he was very LB and I'd seen a drastic transition and a lot of thinking on his part from beginning to end of the ground session. He was a little ancy saddling, he kept his feet still after one correction but bobbed his head quite a bit, a manifestation of his anxiety. At that point actually someone came in to watch us a bit and so I wasn't sure how that would play in with Link's need for a herd - when she went to leave later would he be upset, or would he still see me as an adequate leader? We did all our level 1 patterns, walk-trot transitions, circles on the rail, figure-8, back-up. He did well at all of them and was much more responsive at our 3-part maneuver - particularly the bend to a stop!! His right side was hugely improved to the point where he wasn't moving his feet much and he was bending his neck with no resistance!! I was very proud to have him working as a partner with me. At that point the individual who had been watching us left, and Link's partnership with me did not change whatsoever. We did some point-to-point on short lines to relax him at the trot and work on our halts from the trot. His halts from the trot got better and better with each short line, to the point where I threw in some canter as well, on slightly longer lines. At first he was a little RB, wanting to take off and he felt like he might even buck, but by that point we'd already be at the halting point, so he'd have to halt. With a number of repeats he was giving me an actually pretty calm canter!! Still a ton of work to do, but I was very proud of him to get such a nice trot out of him after the point-to-point lines and to actually get a decent canter without his becoming too RB!!! All in all he was amazing today!! We finished with him completely LB.

The best part too was afterwards when I untacked him and he followed me about rather than pacing the fenceline. He paced a couple of times when I'd leave to take tack out to my car, but would immediately stop and remain LB when I returned!! Normally once he gets into his pacing pattern he doesn't stop for anything. It's like he gets into this unhealthy, unstable (mentally and emotionally) zone and cannot leave it for the world. So to see him pace, but still thinking while he did it, was amazing - and therefore to have him leave that pattern to follow me again was even better! He'd go from his grain bucket to follow me, then back to the grain bucket, then check out what I was doing, etc. A huge difference from some of our past sessions, it was great to see him so LB and thinking, and to see him working as a true partner with me. It was a fabulous feeling!!

His knee is still a little swollen, but there was less warmth there than yesterday, which is an improvement for sure. Full flexibility and no cracking noises or anything else unusual today!

When I was out checking in on Koolaid and Silver though I thought I could see out in the next field over (under different ownership), two cow bodies. So I went over and checked...the rest of the herd was a little ways off and I couldn't tell if they were pregnant or not, but there definitely wasn't a single calf on the ground out of say 12 or so cows that I could see (some were behind hills and such though). The cows I found were definitely pregnant. The first one had been torn apart a bit by coyotes, but she hadn't been dead for more than a day or so. The calf was still inside (very visible though thanks to the coyotes) :S I couldn't tell if he was breech or something, it was too hard to tell and I wasn't going to pick through everything with bare hands (lol). The second cow hadn't delivered either, and there wasn't a mark on her as far as coyotes go. She hadn't been dead for more than 15 minutes, maybe up to 30 but that's it; she still had foam around her mouth, she was still actively bleeding, etc. Her vulva seemed torn and she was definitely bleeding, but not enough to kill her...but perhaps there was more going on internally? I found it interesting that the second cow had chosen to lie (and later die) so close to this other dead cow... Also, I found it pretty maddening that these cows had died fruitlessly. Cows are expensive to lose, especially two, PLUS their calves! Where was the owner of these cows??? Why weren't they in? Why were they left to calve out in some field far away from any watchful eye?? Were these the only pregnant cows in the herd and so the owner did not value them or their calves?? I don't understand, but it's such a waste and it makes me angry that two cows suffered and died without someone even trying to save them or help them. To lose a cow or a calf despite every effort is one thing, but to lose one because you didn't (seem to) give a shit, is another. I'm not in that rancher's shoes so I cannot really judge - maybe the two calved earlier than the rancher had anticipated and so were not brought in yet, but it is still upsetting to find two cows and their calves in the shape they were, with no apparent care. My only recommendation is to stay upwind. Don't walk downwind of dead I did. Lol.

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