Saturday, March 21, 2009

Yesterday was hoof trimming day. After trims, I played with Cheerios and had an amazing session Online and at Liberty in the round pen. I'm still blown away by what I experienced. There were a few "firsts" for me.

First time ever—haltered and lead in both horses at once! I figured I could do it without incident since the three of us had played at Liberty in the round pen last fall, and both seemed very laid back. Leading them both wasn't my main concern; it was dealing with the other herd members. Nobody rushed the gate, so we were good. Shaveya and Cheerios plodded in as if we do this all the time. (Maybe they do; I don't know if the barn manager brings them in one at a time or not.)

First time ever—approached Shaveya while she was lying down and she stayed down rather than get all nervous about my approach (she's RB for sure, but I haven't figured out if she's latently E or I). She let me halter her while she was laying down. She let me rub her all over while laying down. HUGE. She got up when I asked. Cheerios stood there politely waiting for us while I interacted with her.

This is beginning to be so utterly cool that I'm feelin' Level 3 already!

Yesterday was chillier than anticipated, and I almost opted to forgo horseplay after the feet were done because I had no gloves (don't like to play in gloves anyway) and the wind was nippy. I'm glad I decided what the hey, let's play for 10 minutes in the round pen online before turning him out. Ten minutes turned into a couple of hours, as it does.

Because I'm gearing up to tape my Level 2 Audition (I can hear you all saying, "it's about time, Jeanne!!!"), I wanted to focus on our Online communication. The Extreme Friendly game was broken last time. First we made strides to fixing it.

Checked out Porcupine. Working pretty good. HQ a little stickier than the FQ, which is unusual for him, usually it's the other way around. Driving fine. Yo-yo—better. Sideways—TADAAAHHH much better. He knows what I'm asking for. I'm also much more direct and forthright about asking.

I'll interrupt my progress report—while searching for a decent photo of Cheerios and I for publication in the next Savvy Times (yep! I submitted a 150-word mini-article about how Freestyle Patterns have changed our lives and it's being published), I scanned a video of us from 2006. How far we have come! First, I'm ashamed to admit I was totally boring my LBI with endless circles. Even I was getting bored watching! I found myself yelling at the video—yelling at myself, "Touch him! Touch him! You're nagging at Phase 3!!! During the part where I was riding, I was yelling, "For God's Sake, trot! Come ON!!!"

After watching, I realized how hesitant I'd been, and how much better he responded when I just ASKED. It's changed my entire perspective and technique lately, for the better. I highly recommend videotaping yourself, putting the tape away for six months, then watching it to see what you were doing before. Eye-opening.

I only asked for a couple of circles before moving on this time. Seriously. Four laps, transitions, you're good. Next?

I turned him loose and we played at Liberty. During Stick To Me, we were able to walk, trot, stop and back up in synch. That was pretty cool, so I thought, maybe I can teach him to canter with me.

I "cantered". He went with me, but trotted. He wouldn’t do it when I did it. So I sent him to canter along the perimeter. When he picked up into it, I started cantering beside him.

You should have seem the look on his face—it was comical. Like "WHAT are you DOING?" He stayed in synch, though, and when I got tired of "cantering" (out of shape, much?) and slowed to a trot, he did it with me.

Because he was so in synch with me, I had the inspiration to try an experiment Jesse did with us at one of the clinics. At the clinic, Jesse stood in the center and had us form a circle around him (without horses). He said something to the effect of "don't think about it, just do what comes naturally". He had us walk around him clockwise at a comfortable pace. None of us had any idea what this was about.

At first, Jesse stood there, head tilted down, eyes off of us (no pressure), hands folded at his waist, carrot stick in one hand, at rest. We all kept walking around the circle. (I'm trying to remember if we had our eyes closed or not. We might have formed a conga chain—it's fuzzy now.)

Jesse started slowly pivoting in the center. He wasn’t looking at us. He pivoted clockwise with us for a few rounds.

Then he changed direction and pivoted counter clockwise for a few rounds, while we continued clockwise.

When he went clockwise with us, it made me feel like I wanted to catch up to him; so I sped up. When he went the other way it felt resistant, like he was going against me. I wanted to slow down. Some people responded to it, some didn't.

The thing we were supposed to notice was how it “felt”. I noticed because I’m attuned to it—it’s the energy. He was bringing his energy up and down, and moving his energy with and against ours.

He did the same exercises but he adjusted his energy in stages. I could feel it. The pressure to go faster, slow down. It all went in time with his energy and the speed at which he spun (and he never spun fast).

Yesterday, I tried it with Cheerios. I sent him out to trot lightly on the circle. I let him establish his trot while I stood relaxing. Then I stood up slightly, and slowly began pivoting in the center without looking at him, in the same direction he was going. Simultaneously, I focused on lifting my energy just a little, in increments.

He sped up gracefully. He lifted into a beautiful slow canter.

I dropped back into relaxed pose and released pressure. He maintained the canter.

I let him go for a couple laps, then I stood straighter again, changed direction, pivoted opposite his direction, but lowered my energy, slowly, calmly, without looking AT him. I sort of pushed against his energy.

He slowed down. My mind exploded (!!!!!).

When I let out my air and just went whoosh limp like I do when riding, he stopped and stood still.


Can I just say that again? IT WAS SO COOL!!!!!!!

I had to play with it for awhile to make sure it wasn’t a fluke.

It wasn’t.

He was in tune with my energy. He sped up from a walk to a canter when I did so within my energy. He slammed to a stop when I suddenly reversed direction and let out all my air. He backed up when I brought up a little life and pivoted against his direction of travel. All while staying out on the circle.

It was so effing cool I was almost in tears. I didn’t have to look at him, touch him, use the stick or ANYTHING. Just shift my energy and turn with or against his direction of movement. He was compelled to respond to it.

Wow, man, I totally get it now.

Y’know, I dye beautiful yarn, but it never makes me cry. I write good songs sometimes... OK, sometimes they make me cry, but the thought of being a musician doesn’t. This horse thing... It gets to me. It’s poetry. It’s a symphony. It’s...

Beyond cool.

He got a lot of good scratches and hang time after that. I scratched the itchy spot on the crest of his mane (where he gets a dreadlock) so thoroughly I thought he was going to keel over from ecstasy (I love how they look when they get there).

I’ve been picking out music to make my audition soundtrack and getting that ready. I think we’re go for taping Online Friday (weather permitting) and maybe even Freestyle. It’s time for me to get out of Level Two. Though we still have Level Two tasks to “perfect” and I have a couple of minor fear issues to overcome (jumping), it’s obvious to ME that I am already IN Level Three for the most part. I might not be galloping or jumping three foot barrels or riding bridleless yet, but I’m past Level Two in most things. When I can do those things, and do them with excellence, I will PASS Level Three. But I don’t have to be able to do those things to be IN it.

It's so good to be back. This is where I belong.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Spring has returned to NW Ohio. The crocuses have bloomed FINALLY (last year it was on the 2nd, this year the 16th), the weather is warm, the horses are shedding out in strange patches... and I finally got back to the barn to play for a change.

And it was AMAZING. Both of my horses remembered me and came right up to me for greetings and scritches. Shaveya's lameness is a bit aggravated, but she usually does that the first couple weeks of spring. They also need a trim.

Before I could play, I had to meet the latest arrival at the barn. On the 1st, the barn manager's mare foaled the most adorable little red dun colt. There is just something about that baby horse smell...

Because of the turnout configuration yesterday, we played in the round pen. I had no plan, I just wanted to see where we stood after a few weeks off. We played online first. Things were fine—good responses to Porcupine and Driving, very light but not anticipatory. Circling, good. Even Sideways—I got a few steps that looked automatic on his part—big change from last year.

Surprisingly, Extreme Friendly is broken. The moment I started thwapping, he went all RBE. I debated—do I hold onto the line during this and allow him to continue lunging himself into me; or do I release him and let him move his feet as required while allowing myself ample room to get out of his way should he explode?

I opted with Liberty. I might rethink that in the future only because I'd retain communication, but it was really a debate between communication and self-preservation and self-preservation won. I can drive him out of my space a lot better without the rope in my hands.

Hmm. Maybe I should pay attention to that. Maybe the fact that I can't communicate "Get Out Of My Space" as effectively WITH the rope in hand is something I should correct until it is as effective as driving him out of it.

He performed some very daring aerial acrobatics for me, but failed to unhinge me. (That's getting better all the time.) I've noticed the moment he sees that his attempts to upset me aren't working, he loses interest in trying, calms down, and does what he is asked to do.

This is interesting to me, and goes against the conventional RBE wisdom, which is raise your energy to match his. Had I done that, he would have jumped the gate.

Which means... maybe it wasn't RBE. Maybe it was LBE masked as RBE. Hmmm. Because matching his energy increased his—lowering mine or staying neutral diffused it. I should email an instructor about that.

Or do I have it backwards? RB, needs safety and comfort... retreat... release pressure... Hmm. I'll go rewatch the Savvy Club DVD with the four horseanalities and trailer loading to see what I had. I did the right thing, I think, but I'm not sure whether he was RB or LB.

Anyway. He settled down, the rest of it went great. I started teaching him to lead by the tail from Zone 5. We did a few S patterns. (I keep getting Falling Leaf and S patterns mixed up—one moves forward and the other backward.)

When he looked rideable, we saddled up and I got on and just sat there.

MAN it felt great to be back on the horse. Life just looks so much better from there.

Again, I had no plan, just see where we were. We walked a bit. Communication nice and light. Responding to my energy. His trot—it was smooth! Huh? Mr. Jackhammer? Mr. Pogo Stick? Smooth? I was posting to it nicely, and oddly, without even thinking about it, on the correct diagonal (when did I learn to do that?!?). Stops when I let out my energy, transitions better... and we cantered.

Know that I have never cantered in a round pen, because I once thought I needed to provide this big animal with plenty of room so he could pick up speed and plenty of room to slow him back down. Being in a 50-foot round pen is too small, plus it is, y'know, round. So I'd have to canter on a *gasp* circle.

He's not a jetliner, fer goodness' sake, he's an animal designed to whirl on a dime, bolt from predators, and slam to a stop. He doesn't need extra runway. What on earth was wrong with me?

Well, we cantered. He transitioned smoothly, it was a nice little lope, on the proper lead, and in a lovely circle. And it felt as natural as anything. It felt as though there had never been a problem before, never a threat to buck, never a nervous moment on my part.

For the first time I can remember, I felt like we were truly in harmony with one another. It's been eight years in the making.

More days like this, please.

I believe we are ready to tape our L2 auditions. For those who aren't completely in the loop, it's free until May 1, 2009. So get on it! See you there!