Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Manny, Day One
Today was my first play session with one of the BM's horses. First I cleaned six stalls. Six seems to be my limit so far. By the time I'm halfway done, my back starts aching and my arms refuse to lift one more shovelful. On the upside, it went more quickly this time. I figure by the end of the week I should be able to add a stall or two as my muscles accustom themselves to this job.

When I was done, S asked if I was too tired to play with a horse. I said "No, if I can sit down for a minute first." :-) Took a break. She'd already put a horse in the round pen for me. The briefing was this: he has a lot of energy. He's a thoroughbred. When he's being lunged, she doesn't have to do much but stand there because he shoots off onto the circle and just goes and goes and goes.

OK, he has impulsion.

I went in and just tried to see what I had. Cute horse. Little bay gelding with a white blaze, kind of reminds me of Wildflower. He was very lacking in confidence. It didn't take much to send him circling the pen. She's right. He's the energizer bunny. I watched him for a bit. He was going and going and going. Not even looking to slow down. Very fit, this one.

OK, enough of that. Change direction. Flies off in the other direction. Goes and goes and goes and...

OK. Well then. Let's change directions until you decide to stand still. I think he changed direction about 30 times before he stopped. I relaxed.

He wasn't sure what just happened.

Initiate Catching Game. Got a lot of questions. Made sure to turn off my bullhorn when he looked at me with a question. Still not coming near me, though. Couldn't get near Zone 5 to tag it either. Hmm.

OK. Change tactics. Noticed he flinches every time I raise the carrot stick. What if I dropped the stick?

Aha. Still responsive, still circles, but more inclined to look at me and come into me. Play Catching Game for a bit without the stick. Still not making a change.

OK... will he let me near him? Yes. OK. Good. A bit unconfident, but with approach and retreat, he figures out I'm safe enough and comes to me. Let's introduce the halter and lead rope to sniff. Hmm. Not too sure about that. Give him a few chances to sniff it, approach, retreat—OK it's safe. Halter him. Leads nicely. Interesting. He'll following willingly with a rope on him, but won't follow at liberty. Definite confidence issue.

First things first. Let's get this carrot stick intro out of the way. Very unsure about it. The usual: approach, retreat, when I can finally get it near him without him escaping, rub briefly, stop. Think. Slow, deliberate but not sneaky movements: lift the stick, retreat, come in, retreat, come in... OK now we can rub him all over with it. Still not completely convinced, but he's accepted it enough to where I can begin to teach him it won't hurt him.

Ran through the first five games mostly to see what he knows, how he responds, what bothers him/doesn't bother him. He's responsive—very sensitive—maybe too much. Wanted to escape from steady pressure. Worked on the basic M.O.: stand still until I ask you to move, move when I ask, stop when I ask you to stop, and please do it politely. It was rough around the edges, but I introduced him to the basic concepts of moving off steady pressure in all the major zones, introduced driving, yo-yo and circling.

He has trouble backing up and trouble staying out. He wants to come crowd back in. His bring back is great. (Too great.) He understands the concepts to turn on the FQ and pivot the HQ but only through steady pressure. Driving game makes him want to "go lunging" or go forward. We'll work on that. Probably got some inconsisent signals. If all that's been done is lunge, he might think that everything means go run around the circle.

The interesting thing is that I corrected his explosive send pretty easily. He sent at a polite walk very well. Of course, he's been lunged so he grasps that concept. It's the other stuff he's confused on. But that's OK. I introduced him to the concept of staying out on the circle in gait until I ask—he had the habit of stopping behind me. He made it around one full circle and asked a question and stopped. I took it.

That was pretty much it. Oh, lots of friendly game with the string, and a bit of leading him while flopping the string ahead of me so he begins to understand to read ME, not the stick. I ended by rubbing him well and just standing there. After a bit I leaned over. I would have sat, but I was concerned that in my state of soreness I might not be able to get back up, LOL, so I just leaned over. It was still "down" to the horse. He dropped his head immediately.

Good sign.

He learned fast on the way in to stay behind me, don't overtake me, don't make decisions yet, follow my lead, wait until I invite you to enter your stall, and please disengage your HQ for unhaltering before eating. He did very well there.

After that, I got to go get my poor lonesome Cheerios who was the last one left in the pasture at turn-in. He also behaved admirably on the way in. None of that yanking my arm off to get to the food, which surprised me. Pleasantly. I felt a bit bad, though, because he was watching me the whole time as I played with Manny—like "hey, why aren't you playing with me?" I explained to him that I would—that I hadn't abandoned him, I'm just working off his board and one of my jobs is playing with other horses. Please forgive me—I'll play with you, too.


S said to me on the way out that I'll have to teach her, too, so she'll know what to do with them. Can I tell you how happy that makes me to hear that? I opened my car door and pulled out two of the Success Series DVDS—Catching and the Games—and handed them to her. Though I still think of them as Parelli Lite, for someone just being introduced to the concepts, it's a good start. Later I'll hit her with the in-depth mind-blowing stuff. Hee hee hee.

Great day.

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