Saturday, August 08, 2009

Two horses on the docket today: Mona and Kat. Since these are the horses with deadlines, they get priority sessions. First up was Kat.

My initial challenge was getting her from the pasture with Mona to the round pen on the other side of the barn. Sounds simple, right? Not with a RBE with separation anxiety. A whinny duet commenced, complete with panicked left-behind Arabian tearing around the pasture, and panicked Pintabian trying to run over me.

Oh, yes, I was being very mindful of the thresholds. But for Kat, her threshold is five feet away from Mona on the other side of the fence.

Actually, let me rethink that. It just occurred to me that it's really away from Mona with a human on the end of the line.

I had a plan, though. We'd successfully gotten Mona to the round pen in the same condition the first day; and since our round pen session, she was much better. I think I made a mistake with Kat the previous day, and went in with a new plan.

Instead of being firm, I'd try mirroring her.

It started with her being so upset she was half-rearing at the round pen fence trying to get out. I just ignored that and kept mirroring her behavior like Linda did on the Dec 2004 (I think) SC DVD.

Guess what.

It worked.

Pretty soon she tuned into me, and both stopped whinnying. When it was "safe", I entered the corral and continued mirroring. At some point it changed to becoming leader. I don't know how to describe it. It was more of a knowing. I got her through games 1-4. She is having major trouble with friendly stick and string. This is why I think she might be a difficult horse, not ready to ride in a week or so. She cannot tolerate string on back; how will she tolerate a saddle let alone a rider?

The last thing we did once she'd sighed hugely and put her head in my lap was to work on gate entrances. She rushed the gate. I sent her back and forth until she went in calmly, stopped, waited, and came out calmly. Then I released her to the pasture.

Mona was up next. She whinnied a bit, but was much more manageable on the trip to the pen. I mirrored her, too. They need work to get over the separation thing. Eventually, she forgot about Kat, hooked onto me, and we made it to Circling. She became curious. She was very light and responsive. She got the concept of circling. I hung out with her, even squatted to remove pressure.

She tolerates things better. I think she'll be rideable much sooner than Kat.

That was the day.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Title change from Mustang Chronicles to Training Log, since the Mustang is only one of the nine horses (besides my own) that I'm playing with.

Second day in a row. Started with a long-overdue set of trims for my two, coupled with guidance from my NHCP on how to maintain the trims every four weeks (to offset the costs of trimming for the moment). Learned: the White Line isn't white, it's yellowish, and the Water Line, which is the trimming/rolling guideline, IS white. Confusing? Of course. LOL! Learned about false sole growth. Cheerios had quite a bit. It's bizarre! But now I feel more confident that I can maintain their hooves without fear of hurting them.

After a PB&J break, it was time to go to work. I'll say this: the lesson for the day was what happens when Goals precede Principles.

First up: Kat the Paint.

Kat (LBE) was up for threshhold work. She and Mona both have huge ones about leaving each other and the pasture. Mona got over hers, and now she's my best bud. Kat is another story. Kat and Mona both need to be "rideable" soon, as the owner is putting pressure on the barn manager about getting a saddle on them this week.

I played with Kat for two straight hours. Friendly Game only, with the stick and string. It was more about determining which of us was in control of the situation than having a conversation. When she got too RB and I tried to snap her out of it by yo-yoing, she popped up her FQ and reared. (Oh boy! OK, that didn't work...) She was a sweaty mess by the time we finished, but she did eventually settle down and decide that she wasn't going to die if the string touched her back.

Now. If she won't tolerate a delicate little string lightly caressing her back, what do you suppose she'll do with a blanket? Or a saddle? Or, God forbid, a human?

Right. She'll explode. Which means, right now, she is absolutely un-rideable, and will be until she has moved past the Friendly Game threshold. So let me ask you, Mr. Owner—are you willing to take that risk? Because I'm not. (And you shouldn't be, either.)

I was about to call it a day and go play with my long-forgotten horse, but BM called me over to help with another boarder's horse she is tweaking for the boarder. The boarder just bought her. The horse has been ridden a lot before, but spent the last year or so in the pasture. She needed a "tune-up". BM was attempting to longe her in the next pasture, but gave up in frustration. She asked me to see if there was anything I could do. Key goals: respect, listening, not crowding.

Sounds like an LBI to me. This is Laney. She is a BIG solid paint mare. Built like a tank. Needs to shed a few pounds. I strolled in. She was friendly enough. Tested her boundaries. Not bothered by much of anything.

Also not willing to budge out of my space.

My best Phase Four was met with a blink. Not even a flinch. The more energy I threw at her, the more keyed up she got, until her FQ popped up. Second horse today that I sent into a rear! Coincidence?

I played with her a bit and discovered when she gets confused, she either charges into you or shoulders you hard. Since Phase Four wasn't working and I wound up getting out of her way more than vice versa, I had to come up with another tactic. I decided Yo-Yo was the primary interest. But I had to combine methods. Push back on the rope while tapping.

The lightbulb went off.

OK. Wiggle finger, tap tap tap WHACK.

Another lightbulb went off.

Within minutes, she "said" "Oh. OK. When you do that, it means back up. Got it." and she did it, no questions asked.

Disengagement was faulty. She'd bring her FQ to me instead of pivoting the HQ away. It's the shoulder thing. Her Lateral Flexion was not there, either. Tip her nose, here comes the shoulder. Everything meant shoulder to her.

OK. Strategy: brace my fist against her shoulder, and work it like a clutch and gas pedal. Guide the nose to me, push the shoulder away. Guide, push. Guide, push.

There's another lightbulb. Once she got that on her own, I added the butt. VOILA now we're cookin' with fire.

Pretty soon, she was trotting nicely around the circle, stopping and disengaging, etc.

No problems here. Just, she hears flailing as noise and gets confused, then resorts to her old tricks. I communicated clearly, and she was AWESOME. I'd like to ride her next.

FINALLY I got to ride Cheerios. But I almost didn't. He wasn't all that interested in being saddled, and I admit, I made him do it. Because I haven't done much with him since his feet got too long, and after all these not-mine horses, I needed desperately to play with and ride something familiar. Easy. Hop on and go.

Cheerios' "hop on and go" feature was disabled, unfortunately. Even HE popped up into a rear because he was pissy about cantering on the 22! Wow. What is up with me, I thought? But after playing with the untamed crew, I had more tricks up my sleeve, and quickly quelled any nonsense. He settled into his former LBI self, and he felt rideable.

So we rode. It was fine. He was fine. In fact, it was one of our better sessions with Sideways, rein positions, and focus in general.

Later, I thought about it and realized, the whole day, I'd geared around goals:
  • get Kat to the rideable point fast, so disable her threshold issues pronto (never mind the consequences)
  • fix the other mare so she'd be usable for her owner's first lesson the next day
  • ride my own horse, darn it!
In each instance, it must've changed my energy, because I tuned out what I was reading and became focused on making it work. I got lucky with Laney, because she's a good old LBI at heart and merely needed clear instruction, but Kat?

Geez. I hope I can undo whatever I might have done.

I'm going to have to be frank with the BM so she can pass it on to the owner: do you want this horse to be barely but somewhat rideable by a deadline (and questionable ever after)? Or do you want this to be a good partner for life? Because I can go either way. I can push thresholds, focus on goals instead of the relationship and principles, and force her to tolerate it and comply (and cross my fingers that her next owner has the savvy to manage the negative consequences it'll create). Or, I can take the time it takes, develop her into a solid citizen, and provide you with a partner you'll be proud of and enjoy SAFELY for the rest of her (and your) life.

Your choice.

If you opt with B, it might take a little longer, it might take a lot longer. But really—is your life and safety worth it? Do you really want to ride a boxcar full of TNT while smoking a lit cigarette?

Tomorrow's mission: no goals. Do what is best for whichever horse needs me most.


Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Let's see if we can make this quick, cuz I'm starved.

Today, I played with four horses. All had major breakthroughs. All are two years old or under. Details follow after the jump.

And here's the jump.

My mission today: get Mona and Kat over their herd sweetness and thresholds going from pasture to round pen. If I could get one into the round pen calmly, great! If all we did was play halfway there, great. I also wanted to take Magic the opposite way—from the round pen where he's living to the arena/pasture to give him room to stretch his legs and see if he's truly catchable yet. Once he is, he can live with the rest of the herd.

Note: Mona and Kat are pastured together. Everyone else is on the big pasture. Except Magic, who lives in the round pen for now.

Mona was more catchable. Played with her a bit in the pasture. Made sure she was listening. Did the threshold thing. Took the time. Let her graze along the way. Approach, retreat. Kat was more bothered being left behind than Mona was. Made it all the way to the round pen, and in. (Yes Magic was in there. He just drifted over to the opposite side.)

Returned. Switched horses. (Mona took about 45-60 minutes). Kat wasn't so easy. Played catching game with both in pasture as BM was preparing boarder's horse in next paddock. Very interesting playing at Liberty with both Mona and Kat. They knew when I was talking to one and not the other.

Finally Kat hooked on. Haltered, played games. Did not get to thresholds. For her, because she was too "up", I sent her sideways first. Whoo! Got her thinking. Then games. Huh. Fuzzy now. Oh. Food aggression. BM put Mona in adjacent paddock after lesson was finished. Then she fed their hay and grain. Worked on having Kat listen to me as leader instead of diving for food. Went pretty well, actually. She has a tendency to rear when asked to back. Is that LBE? Must look that up.

That was another hour done.

Next up: Magic the Mustang. He's easy to catch now. Did not do pasture because of feeding time. Will do tomorrow. Reinforced Seven Games in round pen. He is ONE SMART COOKIE and a fast learner. Had a little bit of a blowup when he got confused when I increased pressure, but it was over and done with and forgotten quickly.

One more hour down.

Collected Aries from the big pasture. Games along the way in. He's more like Cheerios—LBI. Had to get ahold of him, disengage firmly to get his attention. After that, he listened. He needs to learn to maintain responsibility for circling and not stop behind me. Saddled, rode for about 15 minutes, just walk trot. Has NO lateral flexion on right side—stiff as a board. Worked on that. Worked on Direct/Indirect Rein. He is very good at lifting into the trot off of energy, and he follows focus pretty well. A little confused about bend to a stop. But he stood still for mounting this time.

All in all, a great session. Five hours—4:00 PM to 9:20 PM—of just horse play. Sigh. I really COULD do this for a living.

According to Pat, on the SC DVD Sept 06, Colt Starting is just Level One with Excellence. Whew! That means I should be able to do this.