Monday, October 5, 2009

Straight trail riding

I had left Cody in a smaller pen last night, to let him think over our session last night by himself, and to make him easier to catch in the morning – I was hoping somehow it would help things sink in and that it would further our partnership. Today when I walked out to Cody’s paddock, he seemed happy to see me, walking right up to the fence, though not letting me touch him through the fence (he is still pretty particular about zone 1 – his nose). I ignored him, even in his pen a few minutes later, snapping away photos of Silver and Link, who were standing just outside Cody’s pen. When I turned around – several times, there were Cody’s whiskers, literally inches away. It was great! He allowed me to walk up to him and catch him right away, without much playing at all. We played all 7 games online and he did fantastic! Just as last night, I had to be uber patient with his sideways game, but we succeeded in obtaining several nice steps in either direction, and Cody was a little more trustful!! He was of course still very tense and wary of me while playing the sideways game (he seems to feel very trapped and vulnerable in that position), but he was more trusting than our first attempts at the game, so it is still progress. For our squeeze game, I sent him into the trailer – there was some hesitation at first, but he knew what I was asking and so after a moment or two of contemplation (evaluating me), he walked right in. It surprised me, I expected him to just put his front feet in or something at first, but he offered me a lot, so I was pretty impressed. He can be a little hard to read, because he is so introverted, so sometimes I am not quite sure what he will do. My challenge is to make him more extroverted, because he’s a little extreme introverted at times – I want to encourage him to be more curious about things and to express himself more. It is all just about developing him and teaching him it is ok and safe to be curious and expressive. When I first asked, Cody went to move back, but I used my body language and held until he released, then pointed (phase 1) and flicked the tail end of my stick at the ground in a super small movement I knew was enough for Cody to see (phase 2). He walked towards the trailer then looked at me, as if gauging whether he could trust me or not. Finally, he just walked right in, before I could even ask for more! I had him walk in once more, backing out both times – he was very calm backing out and much more trusting at it :)

After our games, we saddled up (another challenge will be to get him to allow me to trust me enough to saddle him at liberty, right now he still can be quite nervous about the saddle) and headed out to the lease property (4 quarter sections) to see if we could locate my lost camera (no such luck, unfortunately). Cody was pretty spooky at first, but still moved out when I asked, at the gaits I asked. He just did a lot of “body shivers” and the odd skirt around an object – moreso than he usually does. At one point, he actually unseated me, but stood still and did his job to allow me back up into the saddle from my perch hanging off the side (lol)…which had been partially my part – I was so tense, waiting for a spook that I wasn’t relaxed enough to zig when he zigged! Needless to say, he was obviously quite tense at first, but after the first hour, he was actually pretty relaxed and was back to his usual self. We toured two quarter sections of the property, with his doing absolutely awesome. A good 50 percent of the ride I just threw my reins down on his neck or over the horn, leaving Cody on a super loose rein, while I took photos. Whenever I needed him to stop (which was, admittedly often, kudos to my insane photo-taking, haha), I would relax my seat and he’d halt – immediately. If I needed him to move down a specific path, I just needed to apply some leg, and he’d shift over in the direction I had indicated. He is actually very responsive and wants to be very light, so it should not take long before he’s working on some advanced stuff! My hardest job with him will be developing him into a more confident horse and then also earning his trust. Once I do, he’s going to be unstoppable :) Throughout our three-hour ride, Cody was very pleasurable to work with, including at canter and along the roads. At the end of the day (after riding both Cody and Link), Cody even allowed me to walk up to him and pet him in the pasture and didn’t flinch (first time) when I rubbed him gently while he was eating. My touch has changed with him though, thanks to the new, or more developed, perspectives the Parelli DVD’s (Collection and Liberty) have offered me. I am even more compassionate and softer in my touch, and I take the time to just stand and rub him, to let him know he can trust me, to let him know he is loved - rather than having such a business and work-man-like approach. Doing the same with Link, when I normally would have become frustrated with his acting out and being rude (which he was a couple of times when I asked him to stand quietly), calmed him as well. I’m so excited to keep developing and improving myself.

Last in line today was Link – he was, as usual, very high energy during our 7 games, but he was ok with his focus and loaded very well into the trailer (squeeze game) – first try! He also stood and then backed out of the trailer best he ever has, very calm. I realised, after watching the Parelli Collection DVD (very inspirational, re-affirmed that I have been doing things correctly, but also taught me so much!!!) that Link is one of those horses that is like a spring coiled up very tightly – too ready to “break”. One of the things Pat recommended to “unwind” such a horse, is to do casual work, on a loose rein, which made sense to me. Of course Link is improving as we develop him in general – with the games and such, but we could use more “unwinding”!!! I realised after watching the DVD that we do a lot of good work, but something that can help us even further is to work on a loose rein more, to just do casual stuff. Usually we hack out in the English saddle and in the cradle bridle – light contact, but contact nonetheless. So today I saddled Link up western, tossed on the hackamore, and we headed out for an hour-long walk! He actually did relax very well, though started to tense up some after I continuously stopped him for photos and after we crossed the creek (he did amazing with the creek crossing – he walked pretty calmly through the deep muck and handled it the best he ever has!), so next time I will be sure to dedicate my time to him fully (no camera). I even let him out a bit (for a gallop) at the end, which seemed to help let off some steam. All in all though, I felt he did very well, so we’ll repeat it a few more times before returning home – just some nice, leisurely walks around the property.

I have to really recommend the PNH Collection DVD as well as the Liberty DVD (Beyond the Round Pen). They were both amazing and taught me so much. The Collection DVD re-affirmed so much for me but also taught me some new exercises, techniques, and ideas – the learning part of it with Linda and Remmer was based on classical dressage. I will probably share some about it on The Perfect Horse. Both DVD’s taught me a lot in general – about really making sure to allow our horses to keep their dignity, rather than just respecting them, and about staying very soft and just letting things flow, rather than trying to make things happen. It’s funny how when you’re no longer trying to force things to happen, so much more happens – at first you think “well that’s not what I was looking for”, but then you realise “hey, that’s actually more than what I asked for!!”. Your horse offers you more and you take what they give and run with it, developing it into something you do want, even if you were not expecting it at first.

Tomorrow I am busy during the day, so I’m not sure who I will get out…we will see how the day goes!

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