From Log, 04.01.03
It finally warmed up, so I've been spending the majority of my afternoons with my horse(s). The bond between me and Wildflower is developing beautifully, and she's picking up the Games really well. We've had a couple of great rides; hoping today I'll get another one. As for Cheerios, well, I thought I had finally found a leaser for him but the girl's parents' financial situation suddenly changed so we dropped it. Too bad, cuz she was perfect for him. She already had her own horse, a 2-year-old colt she's training, and needed something to ride for the next year or so. She's a great rider, has done eventing and jumping and had nerves of steel plus patience.
So I took another stab at showing Cheerios the Games and although it started out fine, by the time we got to our previous stopping point (Circling), it had disintegrated again. He still scares me when he blows up; not AS badly, but it's still there and I don't think it's gonna go away easily. So I suppose he'll be finding a new home for real very soon. The interesting thing is that after a few months away from them, then working with Wildflower, it's very apparent that they are two different animals and that I like WF much better. Cheerios just isn't a very nice horse! Cute, yes, and he loves me, but he has absolutely no respect for me and nothing I can do can convince him otherwise. (Kind of like the men I tend to date.)
I had an awesome ride yesterday but was concerned WF might cop a 'tude today because I was sort of rude with her. I basically marched out to the pasture, dragged her reluctantly into the barn, hurried up and saddled her with only a perfunctory dusting off of shavings and dirt with my hand (no time to brush, my buddies were already saddled and mounted when I arrived unexpectedly at the barn and they said come with us) and hopped on. Her whole attitude that ride said "I feel so... used... not even a CARROT or a brushing harrumph". She even gave a little buck when we cantered (and for the first time ever, it didn't even phase me).
She did her best to challenged my authority quite a bit by turning around every now and then, but I maintained my calm patient firmness and had fun anyway. I basically ignored her attempts at challenging me, made light of them, and just politely put her back in the direction I wanted her to go in. So I was expecting her to turn her butt to me and run off today.
I was fully prepared to play the Catch Me game with her, but she surprised me. She came right up to me! I must've done something right to earn her respect. My jaw was dropping all over the place today because I didn't even put the halter on her, she followed me right up to the round pen and went in the gate when I pointed. (This Parelli stuff is working!!!) I probably spoiled her dinner by filling her up afterwards with carrot treats.
Something must be changing in me, because even Cheerios acted differently today. I watched the geldings for awhile—about half the male herd, maybe 12 horses or so, were having a race. They were galloping furiously from one end of the pasture to the other, bucking and kicking, snorting and farting. It was unbelievable. Back and forth several times. I was standing right by the fence and they were whizzing past me no more than two feet away; the ground was shaking from the thundering hooves, and they'd eyeball me as they passed. After they finished, and were standing around recovering, I noticed Cheerios had a hoofprint on his shoulder—someone had kicked him a good one! So I called him over to the fence and he came right up. Then this big ol' seal brown gelding shoved himself in front of Cheerios to hog my attention, and gave Cheerios the Look (My. Space. Leave. Now.) and my poor baby slunk off, looking pitifully at me. So I did the Driving Game with the seal horse.
I stood straight up, flicked my fingers at his face. He flinched. I flicked harder (increasing the pressure in phases). He looked like he was considering moving... so I kept going until I was flapping my arms at him and stomped the ground a couple times and then imitated a horse's snort warning. The horse's eyes got big and he decided he'd best leave. Once he turned, I dropped my energy to passive and beckoned to Cheerios. Cheerios looked so surprised. He blinked a couple times then walked toward me, looked at the seal horse a couple times, saw the other horse had clearly deferred to me, and came to me with a complete submissive posture ("You are my master, O Mighty One, You have scared away the Bully and I am your dutiful servant."). He behaved perfectly when I haltered him and brought him in to have a look at his wound (superficial). His respect for me went up a notch and all I had to do was show my dominance (or leadership) over the one that dominates him. Is that all it takes?
Somewhere in here during the month of April (I got a little sidetracked), I spent a good part of every day playing with WF (we're talking three or four hours a day), gradually improving her games and having breakthroughs everywhere. I got her to go Sideways for about three steps—trouble is, I don't know if she was paying attention b/c she was very busy munching grass. The mares aren't allowed in their pasture for a month while the grass grows up, so they are stuck in the dirt arena and bored and grassless. So any stray blade is attacked by a horse.
I got into Bruce's L1 Holy Toledo clinic next week, and in Carol's L2 providing I pass 90% of my L1 before then (shouldn't be a problem, I hope). If we can get a truck, Nicole will cart us to Cleveland the 23rd of May for the Advancing to Harmony and my assessment.
Went to the barn today. Dad wanted to see my horse and see what I've been doing with her. I was a little nervous, performing for him. He doesn't really understand what some of the games are supposed to accomplish (yo-yo, for one) but he thinks I'm doing really well with her. I played Games 1-5 with her and she did the most beautiful circling game. I started to get her to figure out that rub means stop. She was getting better at that too. Then I saddled her Indian side (Dad didn't get that one at all). OK, I was a doofus at first. Couldn't figure out where the lead rope went, (arm closest to horse when facing horse, at beginning rope is behind me) had trouble hugging the saddle (very heavy). Mounting got better, but I mounted from the Cowboy side only (I'll work on both sides when I don't have an impatient audience). I have to switch my rigging to Indian side I guess. Or do I?
I know I have a LOT of work to do with my direct and indirect reins b/c she does lateral flexion really well but does lateral flexion when I ask for indirect rein. Not sure what I'm doing wrong, but that'll be fixed in the clinic. That's WHY I'm going. I changed to the natural hackamore and left the round pen. It was a test, b/c all the mares were milling around but she listened pretty well considering it was near feeding time. We did figure 8s at a trot, and then I cantered her and bent to a stop. Whoooo! First time w/o a bit and bridle. Yay! There was one point where she was cantering and didn't listen to my direct rein request, and came perilously close to running into the round pen. I had a moment of "OH CRAP" then remembered horses know not to run into it and relaxed. Good thing. She kind of slammed to a stop, avoided the pen with a sharp turn and changed direction (U-turn). I stuck it out. Unphased. Gettin' better...
Also gettin' better at fluidity riding. I'm tired now b/c I was workin' my legs with her trot, and moving my arms with her canter. But I'm beginning to get the gist of how it works and melting into the horse. Of course, I'm trotting naturally and my dad calls out Sit Up Straight...
So there were some new things and some breakthroughs and I'm happy overall. Plus Dad decided he's supportive of my career plans. He asked over dinner if the program would be eligible for student loans for when I go to the ISC in a year or two. I don't know... gotta find out. Gotta find out how to support it. Good news all around.