Salt Wells, Wyoming Mustang Mare

Saturday, June 9, 2012

The Delicate Zone - Oh My!!

Interesting development in playing with America and the friendly game. She's generally confident of me touching her everywhere including her udder (which she LOVES getting cleaned). The one no-no spot for her is under her tail; no matter how much rubbing and caressing of her butt and tail, she would clamp her tail down if I tried to touch her ever so delicate zone. Well, after playing tonight, I fed her then began playing with her tail. She actually relaxed her tail and allowed me to lift it and touch her ever so gently on the under side of her tail, then changed her mind and swished her tail a few times. I asked again, politely and yeah...she lifted her tail again and allowed me to touch the underside of her tail again, this time without any tail swishing. I retreated before she could change her mind!!

I know Pat checks ears and tails to see how relaxed a horse is...I think America was pretty relaxed and I'm pleased!!

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Softness and Flow...

Played online, liberty, and freestyle tonght. Onlne we played with a bit of stick to me and figure 8' went well, America even stayed with me when I picked up the trot (my energy, not me actually trotting). I even tried a few quick/sharp turns and she looked for and caught up to me putting herself shoulder to shoulder!

At liberty, played with figure 8's and being particular about the drive and draw. We had fun with this and America ended up being able to walk calmly through the center and drawing around the cones without me having to partially disengage her hq to get the draw.

Freestyle...continued to work on FTR at walk, trot, and canter. America is doing very well to the right but the left continues to be a bit diffcult for her. I'm trying to decide if it's physical, emotional, or dominance. It seems more dominance related but I'll check out the other possibilities before coming to any conclusions. America eventually did travel to the left and was soft at the walk and trot...canter was still a bit impulsive. When playing online, going to the left is the direction she occasionally cross fires so maybe there's an issue there? She usually sorts herself out after a few strides so I'm thinking it may be more fitness or just learning related?

Played with some changes of direction and figure 8's freestyle and after a few minutes, it was looking very nice...actually flowing...nice softness!!

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Relationship Building - Making Deposits

America was very calm during 99.9% of our walk. The only time her head came up above her withers was when we were walking by Lake Rousseau and some people in a boat went by. America was watching them intently then wanted to go to the waters edge to get a closer look. She was practically leading me as she confidently walked briskly towards the water!! She really WANTED to get a closer look at the boat and the people.

We had a really nice day, walked for about 3-1/2 hours then headed back to the trailers to relax a bit before loading up to go home. America loaded right in the trailer when asked.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Get Your Good Better!!

 I decided to warm America up for her freestyle session by doing some liberty with her. We played with stick to me and then with figure 8's. The stick to me went well but we had a bit of a rough start with the figure 8's. America would draw around the cones, both right and left, but when I sent her through the center, she would leave. I tried sending her very softly but she still would leave so I "helped' her leave. She figured it out very quickly it was much easier to just walk through the center, around the cone, and back to me for a rub then to go running off at the trot or canter. She's so smart!!

Tonight was the fourth riding session for America with my friend Sheree and everything went very well. We started out with walk to the left and America was following a direct rein nicely, with softness, and with minimal corrections. She also did well at the trot to the left; however, at the canter, she still wanted to turn back to the right. It took some persistence to get her cantering to the left without wanting to turn back but when we got it going well, America had a very nice, relaxed canter without all the impulsiveness she'd displayed in the last session. Her stride was cadenced and smooth. After she'd completed one lap without trying to turn back to the right, Sheree brought her to a walk and they played with the ball for a bit. America enjoyed this, biting the ball and pushing on it with her nose. She even tried to put her foot on it then kicked it!!

After a bit of a rest, Sheree asked America to walk, trot, and canter to the right. This went well as expected...this is America's "easy" side. They did two laps of each then stopped.

I showed Sheree how to do the 9-step back-up and America was nice and soft...backed up 6 steps.

We're going on a trail walk with a friend and her horse tomorrow morning so we can get some trail experience with me on the ground. It's also a great way to spend some undemanding time with America and she deserves a well earned break. She's been learning a lot and working hard lately!!

The next riding session is Saturday morning.

Monday, May 28, 2012

What Happens Before What Happens, Happens!!

Went to a friends house today to play and had a ball. We warmed up online playing with all 7 games with different obstacles: log stumps, a tarp suspended between two trees and blowing in the wind, the arena fence and the driveway, and my friends trailer.

After we warmed up online, we played versions of the same games but freestyle. We did walk and trot in both directions, also peppered in some direct and indirect rein and a bit of yo-yo for upward and downward transitions. America prefers to go to the right so when we went to the left, she kept wanting to turn back to the right. I just slowed everything down and had polite "conversations" with her using the reins until she went left then I left her alone. Eventually she OFFERED to go to the left at both the walk and the trot!!

I tried a few 9-step backups and on the third try, America backed up when I sat in my seat and thought about back...didn't have to pick up the reins at all. She really figured out quickly "what happens before what happens, happens". The back up was really nice and soft too!!

My friend and her horse joined us in the arena after our walk/trot sessions and we played with a couple of patterns and the was fun and America caught on to the patterns really quickly. She wickedly smart!

We played with trailer loading in my friends trailer; it's very different from my open stock trailer, more closed in so more of a squeeze game. I did alot of approach and retreat and after a few minutes, America loaded herself in the trailer and was confident enough to get a bit of hay from the hay net and she stayed in the trailer for several minutes just relaxing in there. Up to that point she had been a bit worried and when she put her hind feet in, I could see them shaking...poor girl was nervous. By backing her out and sending her back in, she gained her confidence enough to go all the way in and then stay in.

It was a really fun day but we had to call it quits as the rain started to move in and was coming down harder. I loaded America in my trailer and put up all my equipment and headed home marveling at all the gifts my horse had given me throughout our play.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Playdays and Cantering!!

It's been a busy two days for America and I. We went to a playday yesterday and played with all kinds of interesting new obstacles: umbrellas, cushions on the ground, a balloon squeeze, a hay ring tipped on end to use as a squeeze, trailer loading into a different trailer, being introduced to the plastic bag on the cs, and being in a pen next to another mare at lunch time.

America did well at all the challenges, even backing through the hay ring squeeze. We've done so much backing through gates I think she thinks that's normal now lol!! The one thing we need to work on is when there is something in her zone 5; she is a bit unconfident about it. It's not extreme but she does want to turn her zone 5 just a bit when she approaches the object.

I was happy when, at lunch time, I put her in a pen between a horse she knows and a little Arab mare. There was the tiniest bit of squealing by the two mares but again, nothing extreme and they settled in and were quiet through lunch.

We played online; I would have liked to ride a little but it was REALLY hot after lunch so I opted to head home instead. When I got home, I got America settled and I jumped in the felt so good!!

Today I had Sheree over again and after warming up at liberty, we played with FTR at the trot to the left first and then to the right. America again preferred going to the right but it was easy to sort that out and soon she was walking then trotting nicely to the left. She was a little bit impulsive at the start but within 2-1/2 to 3 laps, she began to relax and her trot smoothed out. Within another two laps, she was even in her strides and was asking questions so I asked her in to the center to rest.

After the rest, Sheree used a direct rein to ask America to go to the right. After two relaxed walk laps, Sheree asked for the trot and America went into a really nice, relaxed trot. After two trot laps, Sheree asked for the canter. This took a bit of convincing and going through the phases, including using the ss but America began to canter. As expected, she was a bit impulsive but started to relax within 1-1/2 laps so I asked her in to the center to rest. America was standing next to me, with Sheree still mounted and America had her right hind cocked, very relaxed. After a few minutes, Sheree dismounted and I unsaddled America and took her to hose her off. After hosing, Sheree and I took America out to hand graze, spending undemanding time with her.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Maintain Gait and Direction and New Strategies!

 I played online with America tonight and our figure 8's at the walk are going well; America really understands the pattern now. At the trot, she is still having a bit of trouble with the draw around the cone but it's getting better. I think I need to look up a couple of videos to help me get a better idea of how to help her with this! Circles are going really well at the walk and trot; America has found relaxation on the the canter, she is still a bit impulsive but is finding relaxation much quicker now. Got a couple of trot steps during sideways on the fence tonight. Sideways over a log is good a close range (12-15 feet) but beyond that and America seems a bit lost. I need to think about that for a while.

After the online warm up we headed to the round pen for a bit of stick to me at liberty to test our connection before freestyle riding. I also played with leading by the mane I set it up like Linda showed in the video on the Savvy Club site. America did great! We took it slow so she had time to respond and we did forward, a couple of turns and even a back up. The back up started with her just leaning back a bit which I rewarded and the second attempt, she actually took a step back. She got lovin for that one. I should add most of this was done at phase 2 or less with the exception of the first attempt at each...I had to touch her with the cs to cause her to move off. The second attempt just took the phase two. Will play with it again tomorrow night.

My friend also came over tonight for lesson #2 and we started with walk to the left which went really well...nice relaxed walk. When asked for the trot, America again tried to turn to go in the opposite direction; America REALLY prefers to go to the right. We saw a pattern developing where each time Sheree went through her phases and had to spank with the ss, America used that moment to do her turn which would cause Sheree to stop the spank to pick up the reins. Instead of using the reins to try to "steer" her, I went to the center of the round pen and sent her to the left at a trot. It worked beautifully...America went into a trot with just me bringing up my life and pointing. She maintained gait and direction and was on the rail and Sheree didn't have to use the reins! I began looking for the slightest sign of relaxation so I could ask her in. America went six laps before she began to relax and look for me, asking questions. I invited her in and we all rested in the center while America licked and chewed. I think this worked so well because America and I have played this game at liberty several times and it was familiar to her...she understood. I also really liked the fact it wasn't necessary to use the reins.

After a good, long rest, I left the round pen and Sheree asked her to walk and then trot going to the right. America had no problem in this direction. Sheree allowed her to go two laps then sat down and said whoa and America stopped without having to pick up the reins! SESSION OVER!! Lots of lovin and a couple of cookies while America stood relaxed with her left hind cocked.

After the rest, I unsaddled her and she nibbled a bit of grass then decided to roll while Sheree and I were talking. I think that says alot about how the session went.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Go Buttons, Trotting, NO Brace!!

Spent time with America tonight saddling her up then playing online to warm up for riding. She started out a bit impulsive online but quickly settled down and began connecting with me. Once we had a good connection going, we moved to the round pen for riding to work on trotting more than a few steps...the goal was a complete lap.

I have enlisted the help of a neighbor who is not a Parelli student but is kind and natural with horses and is a good rider (she used to be a jockey!!). I got on first so she could see what we've been working on and where we were. We warmed up by walking a nice, free walk on the rail in both directions and then America offered me a trot when I brought my life up!! We went about 1/4 lap and she stopped, I asked her to go again and when I brought my life up she began trotting again another 1/4 lap. Yeah...we have a go button!!

At this point, I got off and my neighbor got on with a goal of a complete lap without stopping. It took a bit of time and several starts and stops but America then offered 1-1/2 laps at the trot on the rail to the right without stopping at the gates or where I was standing outside the pen. WAHOO!! My neighbor lets her stop and rest and gave her lots of rubs and scratches!!

Next up was FTR to the left at a trot...America kept trying to turn and go back to the right. My neighbor abandoned the trot to the left plan and worked on a bit of direct without brace to get some "steering" going. Once America understood this, they went off to the left at a walk. Sheree left her alone unless she left the rail, then put her back. After a few repetitions, America was walking an entire lap without stopping or changing direction on her own. At that point, we called it quits with more rubs, scratches, and atta girls for America.

It was a great session and fun for me to watch someone else ride my horse so I could see everything. We have several more sessions planned to develop trotting and then cantering and if everything goes as smoothly as tonight did, we'll be cantering in no time.

My neighbor also complimented me on how nice a horse America is...that she's so willing and tries hard. She also said her trot is AWESOME...very smooth even at this early stage.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Being Progressive!!

America and I went camping this weekend with a friend, Terri Love, and her horse Beau. I had such a good time even though it was HOT, HOT, HOT!! The mornings started out cool enough but by afternoon, it felt like the mid 90’s.
We stayed at fellow Parelli student, Mary Lou Hawkins, Renaissance Farm. Mary Lou has a really nice playground and separate riding arena set up. She also has a round pen which I took full advantage of.
We started out in the mornings playing online or at liberty and during the heat of the day, we rested in the shade while the horses enjoyed turnout. Mary Lou also gave us a tour of the neighborhood and their private 23 acre park on the Santa Fe River. It’s so beautiful there and the cool water felt so good on my feet when I went wading out into the river. It was a welcome break during the heat of the day.

America and I played on the 45’ line so I could experiment with playing at distances. We had touch it going pretty well at distances from 22’ to 31’ and circling game at about 34’. It seems America has an easier time cantering out at 34’ than on the 22’ line…she tends to cross fire at that distance. Also, playing on the 45’ line allows me to play the rope out to avoid her pulling on it with her nose and instead, keep her nose tipped inside the circle.
We also had a good squeeze game going at 31’ and she was maintaining direction and gait while jumping obstacles. On the couple of instances she decided to change direction on her own, I just asked her to speed up in the new direction. She decided pretty quickly that it was a good idea to maintain the direction I originally chose!
Sideways is going well; however, the greater the distance, the more she lags her hq. I need to think about that for a while and try to find some info to help problem solve!
Two things America fell in love with over the weekend were the green pedestal and the big, green ball. Once she figured out how to get all four feet up on that pedestal, she kept offering it. I kept having to say “thank you, but how about if we do…”. She pushed the ball with zone 1, zone 2, and zone 3; however, zones 4 and 5 will take more practice. She really enjoyed the big green ball and pushing it with her nose and chest/legs. She also allowed me to bounce it near her and then on her!!
Afternoons were reserved for freestyle riding. We waited until about 6:00 p.m. when it cooled down a bit. The first day for America and I was devoted to getting a relaxed, free walk. By the time our session was finished, we were walking on phase 2 or less and America was allowing me to give her a little direction with the direct and indirect rein. We even had a couple really nice stops off my seat…didn’t have to lift the rein or bend her to a stop. WOOT, WOOT!! We also rode a couple of figure 8’s at the walk to give purpose to the direct and indirect rein. The process certainly doesn’t look like the product I hope to have but it was a great start. One more note, during our walk, America followed the rail and only required two corrections on the last lap!!
Day two started with warming up strong online, again on the 45’ line, reviewing everything from the day before. Our online play was nice and America felt softer than the previous day (I think she was a bit “up” the day before from being in a new place, with new surroundings and new horses). America also felt more connected to me then yesterday and was asking a lot more questions. Since America felt so connected and soft, I decided to go ahead and mount up for our freestyle riding.
I mounted up out in the big playground area and we rode, at a walk, to the round pen. Once inside, we started at the walk and when that was going well, relaxed and free, I asked her for the trot. The first three times I asked, it took me making quite a bit of commotion with the savvy string for her to get the idea. I rewarded her even speeding up her walk a bit at first. I could feel that we were really close to getting the trot. The fourth time I asked for the trot, America picked it up. We only went a about 4 strides but I lavished the praise on her then asked again. We repeated this about three more times then she offered about 1/4 lap of trotting, long enough for me to actually post a couple of strides!! At that point, I decided to stop and we rested at the X in the figure 8 (planning for the future when we’re trotting figure 8’s!!). At this point, I dismounted, and we spent some undemanding time together as a reward for everything America offered me during that freestyle session.
I’m so proud of America. This is all new for her…she is my first “colt starting” project and she’s doing fabulously!!

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Positive, Progressive, and Natural...

America and I had a two hour lesson yesterday with Jerry S. Williams, 3* Parelli Professional, and one obvious fact came out of that lesson. I've been doing a good job with the positive and natural aspects; however, I need to get more progressive to keep everything in balance!

Jerry has been helping me with America's development online, at liberty, and under saddle. We're doing great and are building a nice foundation; however, Jerry noted I need to get more progressive with America to avoid dulling her out. He suggested I need to start challenging not only myself but America as well. We are past the teaching phase in many things and need to move on to reinforcement and refinement. I also need to begin being more particular and working from greater distances and with more speed.

I got some great tips on several things yesterday and saw an immediate improvement with each one. During our online part of the lesson I learned to really use my phases and phases within phases. America has been pretty sticky when I back her up, especially when at a distance. Jerry had me practice being effective in delivering my phase 4 down the a difference and how much easier!! Once I was able to deliver a couple of effective phase 4's down the line, America was backing when I brought my life up and backing with effort!! I found the power of my belly button!!!!!!!

Next, I'd been having a problem online with drawing America around the right barrel in the figure 8; the left barrel is no problem. Jerry noticed, after watching us play, that I tend to reward America after she goes around the left barrel so she "cheats" the right barrel trying to get back to the left barrel to get her reward! Once I stopped rewarding her at the left barrel, America really made an effort to get around that right barrel instead of cheating it. The second trip around the right barrel and she was really looking for me and I brought her in for her reward. I can't wait to play with this some more and get our right barrel as good as our left!!

During our liberty part of the lesson, I learned some stratigies for our stick to me. I tend to "leave" without America and she ends up following my lead rather than staying with me or she will shoot past me, in effect leaving me! Jerry gave me an assignment to help me break the habit of leaving without America or America leaving without me. I am to put a clip, with a string on it, on my shirt at my shoulder and clip the other end to America (on the saddle pad or her mane) at her shoulder. If either of us gets out of position, the clips will come off and I need to do something about it; if America failed to follow my intent of moving forward, I need to encourage her, if I moved off without her I need to start over, if America shoots past me I need to send her out on the rail to work! The clip idea is great because it will increase my awareness!! We also needed help when I ask for the back up as America wants to turn to face me rather than back up straight so the assignment for the teaching phase is to put her on the rail to eliminate that option. It will help her find the right answer sooner.

During our freestyle part of our lesson I got some help with mounting. I had been mounting America from a mounting block or from a fence during the early part of her saddle training. I did this to avoid putting pressure on her withers and to help encourage her to stand still for mounting. Yesterday, I mounted from the ground instead and I was having a bit of a struggle until Jerry reminded me of the proper position. WOW...I bounced three times and up I problem!! One of the things I kept doing before Jerry got me sorted me out was having my butt too far out/away from America's body and my belly button pointed in the wrong direction.

America stood still during my mounting foibles and when I finally got into the saddle, she stood until I asked her to move off. She was a bit sticky at first and I had to use all 4 phases to get us moving. America was drawn to the side of the round pen where someone else was riding their horse. I upped my leadership to make that idea uncomfortable for her and America picked up a really nice free walk and blew out a couple of times...she was pretty relaxed. It was time to ask her up into the trot! It took a bit of convincing, the use of my phases, and rewarding her for going into a faster walk and three repetitions and we went up into the trot. We did 2-3 strides and I rewarded her big time by stopping and rubbing her. I was happy that we got the trot and REALLY happy we got it without a lot of drama and NO BUCKING even though I did have to spank her a bit (only when spanking myself to create commotion didn't work)!!

It was a great lesson, I learned alot, and Jerry gave me some homework assignments: I need to get more progressive (for both of us), I need to make up my clips and use them during our stick to me, we need to do more trotting (starting with a couple minutes and building up to 10-15 at a minimum), and we need to start cantering within the next month even if I need to get someone to do it for me for the first few canter rides. Since Jerry is leaving Florida for the summer, I'm thinking of contacting Emily Thompson, another Parelli Instructor AND a horse development specialist, to help me with the riding parts of this assignment. Emily will be in Florida all summer.

Jerry leaves Florida next week and I'm really going to miss our lessons and his help with America. I'll be looking forward to next fall when he returns! Until then, I have lots to play with and I have a goal to film our Level 2 auditions before summer is over!!

Sunday, April 22, 2012

What a Smarty Pants!

Went to another play day yesterday and played online refining some tasks. Jae gave some helpful tips to improve our figure 8's/weaves and help me help America to uphold her responsibilities...THANKS JAE!! It really helps to have someone watching me!! It turns out I'd been nagging America and micro managing her as I would make a request and continue to hold my rope hand up, in effect always leading her through the pattern instead of helping her find the right answer. Once I quit nagging/micro managing, America really enjoyed showing me how she could do the pattern. I have work to do to break my pattern and actually go into neutral after my request!
The squeeze through the hanging tarp (that was blowing in the wind) was great. America went right up to the tarp, thoroughly investigated it, and walked calmly through. She stopped after passing through with her zone 5 at the tarp and I let her eat a bit of grass right there while the tarp blew on her butt. It didn't bother her one bit!
Sideways is coming along nicely...still working on speeding it up and getting her hq straighter instead of at a 45 degree angle...we're at about 50 degrees now.
Did some nice falling leaf and I really like how America moves her shoulders over to make the turn. She really puts a lot of effort into it. Now I want to refine it so she has more responsibility and I can just use energy/body language and less stick/string!
Did a few really nice trot circles and America is really finding her rhythm and relaxation out on the circle. She used to be so impulsive out on the circle and it would take a while to find the relaxation but she gets it now usually in the first 1/2 lap. Canter circles are a different story; sometimes the canter is relaxed and in rhythm, sometimes she's a little emotional and will cross fire behind but gets herself sorted out within 1/2 lap. Something to keep playing with and ask Jerry about at our next lesson on Saturday.
After playing online in the morning, we had lunch and then saddled up for riding. We did all our pre-flight checks and when I went to mount up, America kept wanting to walk off which is uncharactistic for her. I rechecked everything and all seemed in order so tried remounting again and she walked off again. It was nothing extreme...just a few steps and stop but definitely a polite "no"! We were expecting storms so someone check the weather radar on their phone and WOW...the storms were only about 15" to 20" minutes away. I think America knew that and was politely telling me that now was not a good time to get into a riding session!
I decided to repeat standing in the stirrup until America could stand still and call it a day at that point. The next time I bounced up and down and stood in the stirrup, America stood still and I stayed in that position for about 1 minute and got down and called it quits.
We unsaddled pretty quickly and I put my tack up then loaded America. She went right in the trailer on the first ask and we headed for home (about 15" away). We made it home and I unloaded her just as the first rain drops started to fall. Within another 5 minutes, it was pouring. WHEW...we just made it home in time. I think I have a pretty smart mare!!

Monday, April 9, 2012

Lots of Fun and Several Firsts!

America and I went to a friends to play yesterday and had lots of fun doing some familiar stuff and trying some new things. We had several firsts yesterday!

We warmed up online, playing with lots of obstacles: tarps hanging in trees (and blowing because we had a nice breeze), figure 8's and weaves (with stumps instead of cones as markers), circles at walk, trot, and canter and with an obstacle (small jump). sideways along a fence, without a fence, and over the stumps used for the weave. We also did some falling leaf to work on America moving her shoulder over after the turn...she did beautifully!

After the online play and trying to build a connection, we moved to a small pasture to try some liberty. Terri played with Beau while America and I watched (I still had her online for the moment). We had a fun few minutes when Beau decided to leave and America and I helped to "encourage" him to find Terri. Once they were connected again, I took America off line and we played with stick to me at walk and trot and with some turns and changes of direction. America stayed with me and put effort into keeping her shoulder even with mine. The moment did come when I lost her and she decided to trot off. She went to where Kash was in the paddock...I think she'd been wanting to meet him all day!! I played the catching game with her and she made a lap of the small pasture ending back near Kash. I continued to play the catching game, going towards her hq was thrilled when I was able to draw her from about 50' feet away!! As I approached, she had turned to look at me so I started backing away and used my energy to draw her...she came straight to me. Of course, I rubbed all over her and gave her a cookie. Terri and I took the time to spend several minutes of undemanding time with our horses. They hung with us, AT LIBERTY, while we talked. I loved how they were able to stand fairly close to each other with no "naughty" behavior, both focused on their partner (US!!!).

After our online and liberty sessions, we moved to a small arena for riding. I was a bit nervous about riding in this arena for a couple reasons: the arena is bigger than a round pen and I had my english saddle to ride in. I had dropped off my western saddle on Friday to have the fenders cut down a bit so I have the ability to shorten the stirrups a bit more. I had not ridden America in the english saddle and I don't feel as secure in it as I do in my western saddle.

We did plenty of warm up and I went through all the pre-flight checks. The one issue I saw was our lateral flexion to the left. America is very soft to the right but wants to "argue" a bit on the left. I'm not sure if it's a physical issue or an attitude issue. I plan to rule out any physical issues and then address the emotional issue. I did ride America seeing as this was going to be a passenger lesson and I am able to bend her to the left, it's just not nice and soft...something to work on!! When I mounted up, America stood still for mounting and for about a minute after that, until I asked her to move off.

I'm so happy I rode!! We had a fun ride and we had Terri and Beau in the arena with us. It kind of turned into our first trail ride although America kept cutting across the arena to catch up with Beau and a few times we ended up doing some small circles to the right...America's choice as I wasn't touching the reins. I tried to position my body to "encourage" circles to the left but that wasn't successful...she may be more stiff on that side and it could also be why we have lateral flex issues on that side.

I don't think I could have picked a better horse to try "colt starting" myself. America has been so willing and cooperative and any issues have been pretty easy to sort out. When I first got into horse, I couldn't imagine I'd ever be starting one of my own horses...I'm so proud of my girl!! sort out that lateral flex to the left issue, to move from passenger lessons to guiding, and to move from walk to trot!!

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Our First Trail "Ride"

A friend invited me to go on a trail walk with our horses today and I'm so glad I decided to take her up on her offer. I arrived at the park about 10:00 a.m. and unloaded our horses. America unloaded very nicely, in a slow and controlled manner and began grazing...there was a lot of pretty nice grass in the parking area!!

It took a few minutes for all of us to get everything ready to head out to the trails and America took full advantage of this time to graze, graze, and graze some more!! When we were ready, I started asking her to move her feet by moving her body parts around. I did it to get her focused on me and not on everything else, including the grass!! We headed off down the trail and I was paying particular attention to America's reactions, whether her head was up, down, or level, her breathing, her pace, is she blinking or staring, and whether she was focused on me or something else. I was so pleased when, for 99% of our trail walk, America was very relaxed, her breathing was even, her head was level, and she was connected to me; she would walk when I walked and stop when I stopped. She eventually was confident enough, towards the end of our walk, to allow me to drive her from zones 3 and 4!

America took everything in stride. We came across some orange safety fence out in the middle of nowhere, we went up and down some pretty good sized hills (for Florida anyway), came across a BIG piece of machinery and some porta-potties. None of this caused America any concern, in fact, she was curious about all of it and investigated everything. We did have a couple of moments when her head went up, her ears were forward, and she was really studying something she was seeing but when I asked her to focus on me by moving her around, it was easy to get her attention. We had another moment when something was running through the woods. I was happy when America didn't want to bolt and run but instead, turned, faced, and waited to see what I was going to do. She was looking intently in the direction of the noise but again, it was easy to get her focused back on me.

We also played a bit of "leap frog" on the trail both leading and following and America seemed to have no issues either being in the lead or being in the back. It was interesting that both horses, when in front their ears were forward and when they were behind their ears were back listing behind them. I think America really enjoyed being in the lead though and looked like she thought it was really interesting.

We did some transitions on the trail rom walk to trot back to walk and then stop. America kept pace with me and my hand was open on the lead rope!! I played with using just my energy to cause the transitions and America really connected with my energy.

I really enjoyed going on this trail walk. It gave me the opportunity to expose America to a lot of the things we will encounter on future trail rides and see just how she will react to those situations. I'm very comfortable saying and thinking once we have the walk, trot, canter, and bending to a stop at all three gaits going well in the round pen and arena, we should be able to go trail riding with confidence.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Our Third Ride!!

We started our session with the catching game at liberty and I only had to go to America's hq once; after that one time, she stayed with me no matter where I turned and even trotted to keep up when I took off running! After a good rub, we went online and played the 7 games to check where we were...everything went well and I only had to reinforce a couple of times in the sideways game so I played with advancing our sideways on the fence. America wanted to lag her hq a bit so I pushed a little more of my energy towards her hq and she straightened up a bit. With a bit more of an energy push and me speeding up a bit, she took a few trotting sideways steps so I stopped and rewarded was exactly what I wanted and I was rewarded with lots of licking and chewing. I'd also like to note, I was about 18' feet from America while influencing her with my carrot stick or string involved!!

We also played with our figure 8's online and we're getting better. I've noticed I really need to slow down when drawing America around the cones...she seems a bit unsure of what to do, especially when going to the left. She also getting better when I send her, she is really moving her shoulders over and going straight through the "X" in the center. This is much better when I'm sending her to the left...need to work more on pushing that shoulder over when sending her to the right but I'll take time with this as this is the side where our draw is more difficult.

After our liberty and online, I saddled America and she was a champ. Did all the prep; cinching 3 times while moving her around in between and got ready to mount. America felt the need to move her feet when I stood in the stirrup so I got down, moved her back into position and tried again. This time she stood still while I stood in the stirrup so I swung my leg over and sat quietly. After 30 -45 seconds, I asked for lateral flexion in both directions and for hq disengage in both directions. Everything was a go, so I asked her to move off by bringing my life up and squeezing with all 4 cheeks and she walked off very nicely. She actually went to the rail and followed the rail. We made a whole lap going to the left at a relaxed walk with no corrections!! I then did an indirect rein then a direct rein to change direction and we did a complete lap at a relaxed walk with no corrections to the right too!! I bent her to a stop and rubbed her for about 2 minutes and gave her a cookie from the saddle and got off.

I'm so pleased with our progress. This was only our third ride and America is really doing well!!

Saturday, February 25, 2012

The Florida PaRally

I'm finally getting around to writing a post about the Florida PaRally and I've got lots to share! December, Tink, and Marjie put a lot of effort into putting this thing together and did all the heavy lifting. My role was coach, cheerleader, and networking...a very easy tasks for me being a LBE!

The girls were there on Wednesday and Thursday setting up all the wonderful obstacles and getting things organized. I couldn't be there as I had to work although I did stop by on Thursday evening to say hello and drop off some cavalettis. The girls were hard at work setting things up. I can't imagine how tired they all must have been after the conclusion of the rally!

I attended on Friday without my horse. I figured I could man the registration table and that would free up December and Tink to play with their equines; I imagine they didn't get much time to play on Wednesday or Thursday. Registrations went in spurts so I had time to join in some of the simulations. The "brick and feather" or "ice cream cone and tick tock" simulations with Pete Rodda were enlightening and lots of fun. I also enjoyed the riding simulations and how to find your balance point with Karen Woodbury and Annie Shank. After the simulations, it was time for me to get back to the registration table and let others get in on some of the fun. I also wanted to chat with Bonnie Williams about the Young Living Essential Oils and her table happened to be right next to the registration very convenient!! I ended up having to leave earlier than I'd wanted to; I had gone to my truck to put something in it and noticed I had a tire going flat. Luckily the ranch had a compressor so I was able to inflate my tire but then the hunt was on to get it fixed...not an easy thing on Friday after 5:00 p.m. I absolutely needed to get it fixed as I was hauling my horse to the PaRally on Saturday morning. Lucky for me I was able to get it fixed but I didn't make it home until almost 9:00 p.m.

Saturday I was up bright and early since I wanted to get to the ranch by 8:00 a.m. I loaded America at 6:30 in the morning and even though we'd not practiced loading in the dark, she loaded with no problems and we hit the road. I had to stop at the store to pick up a few things as I was planning on staying overnight if America was handling everything well. We arrived at the ranch just before 8:00 a.m. and did our check in. A previous post tells all about our adventures on Saturday and Sunday.

The facilities at Goethe Trail Head Ranch were very nice. There were plenty of stalls and lots of room for hook-ups. The ranch even has a pool, although the weather wasn't quite warm enough for a dip and I didn't have a swim suit anyway. There were 2 round pens and either 8 or 10 turn out areas for horses. The main arena was very nice and lighted all night long for night time use! Also, the restrooms and showers were very nice with plenty of hot water for showers. I didn't get in there until late and thought I'd have to take a cold shower but was pleasantly suprised to have hot water...and boy did it feel good after a long day of horse play!!

The Parelli Professionals, Karen Woodbury, Annie Shank, Dancin' Pete Rodda, Whitney Van Zyl, and Jerry S. Williams, were outstanding and represented Parelli Natural Horsemanship very well. Their demos, similations, and lessons were informative and fun and several people signed up for lessons with each instructor. Jerry's "laser coaching" sessions were amazing, free of charge, and very popular. Each participant had 10" and explained their particular issue in one or two sentences. Jerry then gave them some strategies to use to make a change. Transformations were amazing and people went away with new information, happy to have new tools to problem solve. Whitney Van Zyl had just received her 2* rating from Parelli and needed to give away 10 hours of freestyle lessons as part of her new 2* status. I'm happy to say, participants at the rally helped her meet that requirement and were very happy for the opportunity!!

The presentations by Dr. Fred, the equine dentist, and Beth Ramsay were outstanding. Dr. Fred's presentation was very interesting and informative...I wish more people understood the importance of having regular dental visits for their equine partners. Beth's presentation on personalities and working well with others was a hoot. There was a lot of information and Beth presented it in a very entertaining way. We all had fun deciding who was D, C, S or I and the best approach to working with them. There was a lot of laughing as we all recognized ourselves in the information Beth shared. I highly recommend participating in this presentation if you get the opportunity.

I don't know the final tally on numbers of horses, riders, and people that visited without horses but we had a lot of people at the PaRally and there was plenty to do. In fact, I missed a couple of things I'd wanted to do because I was busy doing something else.

I also want to acknowledge all the volunteers, especially December's husband Brian, and Whitney's dad, Dan. They were invaluable all weekend with their willingness to jump in and do what ever needed to be done...we couldn't have done it without them!! Another huge thank you goes out to Lorel, AmberRay, and Jeff at Gothe Trail Head Ranch. All three of them worked very hard all weekend to provide the PaRally participants with a wonderful experience and take care of all our needs. Well done to all of you!!

I am very happy to say, we didn't completely wear out December, Tink, and Marjie and the best news is, there is already plans for the 2nd Annual PaRally, February 15-17, 2013!! I can't wait until 2013!!

Friday, February 24, 2012

The Florida PaRally Part 3

I was up early Sunday morning, partly because I wanted to check on America and partly because I sometimes have trouble sleeping in new places. Either way it worked out well and I got an early start on the day. I fed America and cleaned her stall while she was eating then we went out and went for a walk and some hand grazing and hang out time for about 45". I then turned her out in a turn out pen to stretch her legs while I went to get my breakfast; she did a couple of laps around the pen at the trot but then settled down to more grazing.

After breakfast we went out to the big playground that had lots of obstacles. We played with figure 8's at the walk and trot which went well; I stopped when she made the effort to draw to me then go when I sent her with energy rather than having to use my stick and string.

The next obstacle was a kind of car wash with pool noddles placed vertically along upright posts. They could be moved in or out to make more or less of a squeeze. America didn't have any problem with the noodles as we have a car wash at home made of hanging pool noodles...she kept playing with them, mashing them with her nose!

Next up was the water obstacle. It was a big wooden box, lined with a heavy liner and filled with water. At first America was hesitant and would only go so close to the obstacle then need to move away. I kept playing squeeze game with her, gradually asking her to move closer. Pretty soon she was smelling the obstacle, then drinking the water and then in went the feet...all 4 of them!! She began pawing and splashing and generally having a ball. I'm glad I was standing a distance away or I would have gotten soaked!! When I asked her to come out, she did it calmly and went back in for round two when I asked. I was sending her from about 18'!

By the time we finished with the water obstacle, it was time to head back to the barn and get ready for check out. I still had to strip America's stall and pack everything up. I was a bit sad having to leave so soon but very happy with how everything went for America and I the entire weekend. I think I have one very special horse!!

When it was time to load up, America hesitated a bit, almost as if to say she didn't want to leave either but when I asked her again she went right in the trailer and we headed for home. As we got about 1/2 block from home, I think Li"Bert"y heard the horse trailer because I could hear him calling for America...he absolutely adores her. He was so happy she was back home! When I unloaded America and put her in the pasture she gently reasserted herself as the leader of the herd by moving everyone around the pasture. Once that was established, she set about eating some hay and Li"Bert"y was right by her side.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The Florida PaRally Part 2

After America's turnout time, I went to get her and she greeted me at the gate (whew...relationship still intact even after everything I'd been asking of her all day!!). We went together back to her stall so I could feed her and get ready for my dinner. She got her soaked cubes and a bit of her forage based feed mix and she thoroughly enjoyed her meal!!

PaRally offered a catered wonderful catered dinner consisting of baby back ribs and smoked chicken with all the fixins. It was sooo delicious after spending all day working up an appetite!! After dinner and a shower, I got America out again and we took a walk to spend some undemanding time and do a little grazing. My friend Ingrid and her horse Cayenne were kind enough to keep us company. It was already dark so this was new for America too. She did have a couple moments of mild unconfidence but otherwise took everything in stride, especially once we found the tree draped in spanish moss. I kept pulling moss down and giving it to America...she loves the stuff!!

By this time, it was quite late and time for everyone to turn in for the had been a very full day and we still had tomorrow to go; I wanted to be rested for day two of the PaRally!! I slept well but did get up during the night to check on America...she kinda looked at me like..."what??...I was sleeping good til you started shining that flashlight on me!!". She handled the night in the stall really well but she was really happy to see me when I went out to feed at 5:30 a.m.; she was really nickering at me (or maybe it was because I had the food lol!!).

I know this is a short post; I'll do a separate one for Sunday...probably tomorrow, and then I'll do another post all about the rest of the PaRally experience...the demos, the presentations, the mini-workshops, the laser coaching sessions, etc.; there's so much to share!!

Monday, February 20, 2012

The Florida PaRally Part 1

The Florida PaRally took place this past Friday, Saturday, and Sunday at Gothe Trail Head Ranch and it was an amazing and fun weekend. I went Friday sans horse so I could just be a volunteer, checking people in, helping to organize, and anything else that might be needed. I ended up having to leave earlier than I'd wanted to because, as I went to put something in my truck, I noticed one of my tires had low pressure. I had to leave so I could get my tire fixed since I was planning on hauling my horse on Saturday. I also had to finish packing my trailer and get my gear together. I wanted to be prepared so that if America did well, we could stay overnight.

Saturday morning I got up early and wanted to be on the road by 7:00 a.m. so I loaded America up while it was still dark out. We'd never done this before but thanks to all our positive trailer loading practice, she loaded right up for me and we hit the road and arrived at the ranch just before 8:00 a.m. After getting registered and finding a stall, I unloaded America. She unloaded quietly but did a fair amount of looking around and calling out to other horses. She was a bit unconfident but not frantic (whew!!) and I had to gently remind her I was with her and to pay attention to me.

The first order of business was to introduce America to her stall and it took some time to build her confidence enough for her to go in and stay in. Funny how it's so similar to trailer loading yet she was so hesitant to go in. We did a lot of approach and retreat and I was blessed to have Whitney Van Zyl, a 2* Parelli Professional nearby to coach me through everything. Eventually, America decided it was o.k. to go in and STAY in and was even more o.k. with it when some food appeared for her to eat!! The HUGE bonus to all this, and because I took the time it takes, America was fine with going in and out of her stall for the remainder of the weekend. I even upped the ante a couple of times by backing her in to and out of her stall!! After getting her squared away, I went to park the truck and trailer and get myself organized. Then it was time to go get America for a look around the ranch.

When I got America out of her stall to begin exploring, she did a bunch of looking around and calling to other horses. I decided to gently ask her to move her feet, doing some sideways, some falling leaf, playing with a couple of obstacles just to get her attention and have her focus on me. It took a good hour of this gentle play to help her relax and after about 1-1/2 hours she was able to play stick to me. I took her back to her stall and she went right in, got a drink of water and began eating some hay so I let her stay in her stall while I went to help Jerry S. Williams, 3* Parelli Professional,  with his laser coaching sessions; I had volunteered to help with the sign up and keep things moving along. I'll write a separate post a little later on the laser sessions and some of the other workshops that Karen Woodbury, Annie Shank, and Dancin' Pete Rodda did.

After the laser sessions were done, I went and got America for another look around and to warm up for our lesson with Jerry S. Williams at 2:30 p.m. I wanted to really prepare America as I was hoping we could do a freestyle lesson or at least a little bit of freestyle during our lesson. We played with some really interesting obstacles: milk jugs strung on lines hanging down...kinda like a car wash but with milk jugs instead, a shower curtain hanging (and blowing in the was a bit breezy Saturday!!), a teeter totter, the paint "cow" in the arena, a pedestal, a bridge, a bit of figure 8, some touch it, and sideways both with and without a fence. These are all things we have done at home with the exception of the "cow" and the teeter totter. I wanted America to do familiar things in a new place to build her confidence.

After our play session, I saddled her up and we went to the round pen for our lesson. Jerry had me begin online with the 7 games including cantering on a circle then had me do several things that would be done during a colt starting to make sure America was o.k. with everything including flapping stirrups, me jumping up and down, etc. She was giving us green lights so Jerry asked if I wanted to/felt confident enough get on and of course I said yes! I had America move over to the fence and mounted from there. I had a bit of an issue with getting my foot in the stirrup and America stood still while I had to fiddle for a minute. I need to twist the fenders and plan on getting started with that tomorrow when I get off work!!

Jerry had me check my lateral flexion and hq disengage to make sure I had brakes and America did really well with the later flexion...nice and soft give on both sides. Hindquarter disengage was acceptable but I want to get it much better and can work on that both on the ground and in the saddle. Next he had me do an indirect rein into a direct rein and we were off!! We went a few strides at the walk and then he had me bend her to a stop and rub, rub, rub until she relaxed. We repeated this sequence several times, each time ending with lots of rubbing until she relaxed and then it was time to get off. When I dismounted America nickered at me!!

I'm so proud of America (and a little bit proud of myself as well). We prepared well and had our second ride in a new place with lots of distractions/activities going on and we were partners in a successful ride!! I couldn't have been more thrilled with how everything went and it was an awesome lesson.

After our lesson, I unsaddled America and took her back to her stall to get some water, hay and take a bit of a rest. She was happy to go in her stall...almost couldn't wait to get in there!! Once she was settled, I went to get a quick bite of lunch and take a bit of a break myself.

After our break, I got America out again and we just did a walk about, spending some undemanding time while she grazed a bit. She was much more relaxed now...not doing so much looking around, calling to other horses only occasionally, had a very soft look to her eye and was blinking. After our walk about, I found a turn out pen and let her have an hour to herself. She immediately laid down and rolled...I'd say she was more relaxed!! She wouldn't have done that when we first far we'd come in 8 hours!!

Well, that's enough for this installment...I'll post more tomorrow.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Liberty Fun!!

Played at liberty with America tonight. Played the catching game and it's getting better each time we play...most times it only takes an invitation from me and America catches me. Now we need to start playing with increasing the distance!!

Stick to me is going really well too...walk is good, trot is getting better. Our downward transitions: walk or trot to stop are getting better with America staying straighter when we stop. I've noticed I really have to use a LONG phase 1 so she has time to think her way through the stopping process!! Back up is a bit sticky so I'll wait a little bit until our stop is a bit better and begin with walk to stop.

I decided to try a bit of sideways with a fence and the first time I must have been projecting too much energy too quickly as we lost our connection and America left me. I played the catching game to get her back then a bit of stick to me then slowed everything down for sideways on the fence take two and VOILA...she did a very nice sideways. Her hq lagged just a tiny bit but that's to play with on another day...I was thrilled with the sideways without leaving!!

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Riding America!!

I played with America today in preparation for riding. To begin, we went through our saddling routine, making sure America was comfortable with everything we were doing before moving on to the next step. She did great and stood ground tied the whole time, participating in the saddling like a partner!

Once I had America saddled up, we played online for a little bit to warm up. We started with a little stick to me which went well. We then went to figure 8's and when I backed America up through the center, I sent her and she came around the cone and it was obvious she knew the pattern as she turned and went through the center and around the other cone. Waaahoooo!! She's such a smart cookie.

Next up was a squeeze over the log, turn, face and wait then repeat. She's got that pattern down so I changed it up a bit by asking her to stop 1/2 way over...tada...she did great with just a light wiggle of the rope to ask her to stop. From there we did sideways away from me with me standing still. We did great until we lost our connection at about 17'...something to work on later. Next up was asking her over the log one foot at a time. It took a bit but we managed it. America wants to bring her feet over in pairs but if I slow it waaayyy down she starts thinking down to her feet and it gets easier. At one point she was reading my body language so well, when I released the pressure while she was moving her foot...she left it in mid air!!

We moved to the round pen for the remainder of our session. I asked her to back through the gate...she's really got this pattern down and she didn't hesitate even though she was saddled and it was a bit more of a squeeze. Once in the round pen, we played with tossing the rein over her head, back and forth...all good, tested our lateral flexion...all good, checked our hq disengage...all good, jumping up and down in the stirrup...all good. Time to set up in the stirup...America moved off 2 steps so I got down, repositioned her and stepped up again...all good...she stood still for mounting. I got off then walked her over to the fence to mount from there and make sure she was good with me being above her...all good so I got on. It was kinds of funny, when I got on America nickered!!

Once I was mounted, I rechecked our lateral flexion and disengage hq...all good. Brought my life up...nada, squeezed with all 4 cheeks...nada, squeezed with my legs...nada, so I added tapping her rump with my cs...AND we're off!! We went walking around the round pen...I didn't care where we went, just that we were moving. We had quite a bit of stop and go, I went through my phases each time but each time I went through them a little resting during the stops. There were a couple of times America got sticky feet but I persisted in the tapping her rump. She got a little grumpy for just a minute but finally moved off and we made 1/2 lap on the rail!! America had impulsion at the walk but not impulsiveness and her ears were forward...not grumpy. I decided this would be a good time to stop for the day...I wasn't going to push it on our first ride!! Interesting that when I dismounted, America stood perfectly still and when my feet hit the ground America nickered again like she did when I mounted. I'm not quite sure what all that nickering means...hope it's a good thing!!

I wanted to try a back up for one or two steps but decided since America was having difficulty going forward, I decided to just work on forward for now and leave back-up for another day.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Double The Fun!!

I played with America twice today and boy did we have fun! The first session consisted of tossing the "rein" over her head. I think I need to practice without her; from the ground. I'm having trouble tossing it just right to clear her head and too often get it caught on her ears or on her nose. That has to be annoying for her. On the plus side, she won't get upset if it happens when I'm in the saddle!

Played touch it with two frisbees, sending America from one to the other. She remembered this game from the other day and went straight to the frisbee and put her nose on it each time I sent her...I think she was looking for a cookie as that's how I got her interested in finding the frisbee the first time we played the game.

We did some circling game looking for relaxation while increasing the number of laps we can do while still being relaxed. America is up to 3 laps now in both directions; circling to the left is more relaxed than to the right but we're working on it. I decided to add a little interest to the circling game after the 3 relaxed laps and moved to a log obstacle to see if America would maintain gait and direction while jumping an obstacle. She did great but got a little bit impulsive after the jump so I added in a change of direction and that helped her relax a bit. Will play with this a bit more to see how it goes.

Our second session consisted of a little online warm up to help us connect then we went to liberty in the big pasture. Oh what fun that was. The weather is a bit windy and cool so all the horses were a bit frisky and America was no exception. After the online warm up with some touch it and stick to me, I took the halter off and invited America to walk with me. Everything was going well until I upped my energy to trot. America picked up the trot then took off across the pasture. Of course Bert joined her and they cantered around in sync. When America stopped and looked at me I would turn and walk away. If she didn't follow I would send her again. This is where Bert comes in handy...he LOVES to go and America will go with him. It only took three sends and America was looking for me and came to me at a very ENERGETIC walk with Bert right behind her. When I turned and started walking she followed me and placed herself shoulder to shoulder with me. This time when I upped my energy to trot, she trotted but when I slowed and stopped so did she. Of course Bert was participating in all this by following America. We played with go and stop several times and America stuck with me each time. When she stopped slowly and stayed straight when I stopped it was time to quit. Her reward was some scratches and a couple of cookies then hang out time while I played friendly with Bert with the cs and string.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

A Perfect Day!!

I couldn't ask for a more perfect day then I'm having today; first I audited a workshop then had a lesson with America and Jerry S. Williams and now I'm watching the Superbowl. Horses and football...two of my favorite things!!

I loaded up this morning and headed out to audit a L 2/3 workshop with Jerry S. Williams..."Does My Horse Respect Me?". The workshop was a great refresher for me, especially now I'm playing with a new partner, plus I learned several new techniques to add to my quiver of arrows.

After the workshop, Ingrid's husband Bob, grilled hot dogs and participants and auditors alike were invited to have lunch. What a gracious offering...Bob and Ingrid are incredible hosts!! We all had a nice visit with old friends and new while eating lunch.

After lunch was over, it was time for my lesson with America and it was an amazing lesson. We are still working online and building her confidence when away from home. America was a bit RB when we first arrived at the wasn't extreme and I found it fairly easy to regain her attention; however, her attention span was pretty short to begin with. During the workshop she did some moving in the round pen, trotting and occasionally cantering around, sometimes calling to other horses but she eventually became comfortable enough to take a couple of rolls and do some grazing. After this I noticed she was much calmer and when she did feel the need to move her feet, it was at the walk and occasional trot and not the trot and canter she was previously doing. When I went to get her for our lesson, she met me at the gate and seemed ready for our session. I played version 1 of the catching game and she stuck to me nicely so we haltered up and went out to the playground, no need to play versions 2 and 3 of the catching game. We played with  several of the obstacles and one thing became very clear...America is VERY careful where she puts her feet...she thinks about things before she does them. It's a big key to who she is...I have to give her time to think down to each foot. Another big key is her responsiveness to my energy. She can feel the pressure of my "bullhorn" belly button so I need to be cognizant of where it's aimed!! It's also very easy to influence her depending on where I aim my "bullhorn". That's not to say she is over-reactive to my energy, just that my phases can be so much lighter with/for her. For instance, when playing the yo-yo, I can project energy through my belly button and she will begin backing and she will continue to back until I turn it off!! To bring her back, I project my energy behind me and relax my shoulders a bit and she comes back in. I love that our yo-yo is pretty's just as easy to send her back as it is to bring her in.

Ingrid has an obstacle that is two big boxes filled with sand. One is fairly low and sits next to another that is fairly high. You can access it from all sides, from both high and low and you can access the high side from the lower side. America had no problem going up and down the low side nor did she have a problem going from low to high but when I asked her to go off the high side, she really had to think about it. I had to back her up and send her several times and she finally decided to go off although she really had to think about it and she did it s-l-o-w-l-y, thinking her way through it.

We played with figure 8's for the second time during our lesson, playing with energy and drive and draw. America was a bit sticky and wasn't putting in a whole lot of effort so we upped the game a bit, upping my phases for a few revolutions of the pattern and she caught on pretty quickly. We ended up doing the figure 8's at the trot with America putting effort into it and looking very LB at the same time. This is a huge improvement for her as previously when we upped the gait the would become RB and reactive.

We also played a bit with the circling game keeping with our theme of looking for relaxation then bringing her in. It didn't take long...her trot looked lovely and relaxed after 2-1/2 laps. She really was looking pretty relaxed on the first lap but I wanted to get a really good look at her on the circle, hence the 2-1/2 laps. Left and right circles were equally good. She was a bit drawn to the horses in the pasture next to where we were circling, pulling a bit in that direction, but Jerry gave me a good strategy for that and it worked like a charm; the next circle there was no pulling so I allowed her to go 1/4 more lap and bring her in. I didn't want to bring her in where she was doing the pulling!

We had quite an audience during our lesson and I had to laugh when during our figure 8's, someone held up a card with a 10 on it! I thought it was such a fun thing. I'm so smitten with my Mustang mare...she makes me look so good, like I actually know what I'm doing. I can't give her enough credit for trying her heart out for me; she makes everything seem soooo easy. I do want to say though...Renegade has been one heck of a teacher...he required I earn my leadership points with him EVERY day, every play session, sometimes several times during our sessions and that has prepared me to offer my best to America. Thank you Renegade and Thank You America!

Sunday, January 29, 2012


America and I went to a friends house to play today making this our second trip off the farm. America loaded right up this morning; I was standing about 18' from the trailer, I pointed and America went right in with just a point of my finger. The trip to my friends house was uneventful and when we arrived, I left America in the trailer for a few minutes while I got ready to unload her. Leaving her in the trailer is also part of a strategy I have to avoid teaching her that she has to get off the trailer as soon as we arrive or as soon as the door opens. It works great and even when I open the door, she waits until I invite her off the trailer; there is no rushing out!

America was mildly RB after I unloaded her; there were two new horses and a whole new world to explore. We began by walking around and checking things out; we even played some touch it with the ATV, the boat, and my friends horse trailer. By doing this, I was able to get America to focus on me instead of everything else.

Terri has lots of obstacles and we took full advantage of them. America was quite concerned about the tarp tied between two trees, especially when the wind blew it. We played the squeeze game near the tarp until she could walk by it relaxed then we went on to something else. We played touch it with some logs that are set up for a weave and America got this pretty quickly. She ended up putting her foot on a couple of them and her nose on a couple of others. We played with the tire pedestal and America had no problem with this even though it was her first time. I sent her to it and she started investigating it, put her foot on it, pawed it a bit, then put both front feet on it. I let her stand there for a few minutes to lick and chew.

Next up was two tires half buried in the ground to make a squeeze. I thought this would be challenging but America walked right through it in both directions, smelling the tires on the way through. We went from there to doing a figure 8 with two cones. This is our second time doing this pattern and America did great. The draw of her right eye is a bit challenging...she is unconfident on that side.After three reps, I got a good draw on that side and quit on that good note. We also played with trailer loading into my friends trailer. It's quite different from my stock trailer which is open. This trailer is more closed in and the door is narrower. America felt the difference in the squeeze game going in and the farthest she got in was with her back feet at the rubber bumper. I was fine with's not about the trailer; it's about building her confidence one step at a time!

At this point we went back to revisit the tarp that had bothered America. We played squeeze games again with lots of changes of direction and after 7 changes in each direction, America stepped up to the tarp and began to investigate it, smelling it, tasting it, then relaxing very close to it. She did even get upset when the wind blew and the tarp went above her head. She just looked up and when it came down she smelled and tasted it again! This was a perfect place to quit since some other friends showed up. It was lunch time and we had all planned on having lunch together. While we stood and chatted for a few minutes, America stood near me and after about 10" she began to yawn, blow, and really relax. I waited until she was finished, gave her some good rubs and scratches then put her in a pen with her hay while we ate lunch. She was perfectly happy and content, munching her hay, very relaxed and confident in her surroundings.

After we ate lunch and watched a DVD on exercises for horses, it was time to go home. I went out and America greeted me at the gate, I entered, said hello, haltered her and we went together to the trailer. When I asked her to go in, she went with just a point. Ah...relationship still intact!!

When I made the decision to change partners from Renegade to America, I felt bad initially, feeling like I failed or was quitting on Renegade. Now after playing with America for the past several weeks, I know I made the right decision. Not that I didn't have fun with Renegade, because I did, I'm having, REALLY having, fun with America. It's such a pleasure working with a horse that's so willing to please and that tries so hard for me, even when she's unsure or unconfident. My hope is  America will take me through L3 and L4, allowing me to learn so much more that I will then be able to offer Renegade. Renegade has been an awesome teacher and I think America also has much to teach me. I also think Renegade is enjoying his semi-vacation; he's been meeting me at the gate, and (I know we're not supposed to anthropomorphise) seems more interested in interacting with me and seems more affectionate. He's even willingly allowing me to caress his head and chin...something he's not been willing to allow previously.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

By Invitation Only!!

Our play session tonight was really great!! We started by backing into the round pen but this time instead of just backing America in, I yo-yo'd her several times. I called it quits when she backed herself in when I asked and actually lined herself up correctly without my micromanagement here!!

I closed the gate and removed the halter and lead rope, tossing it aside. When I moved off, I invited/suggested America come with me and she did on the first ask! I tried a few turns, switching direction both slowly and quickly and she stayed with me the entire time.Hooray, we got stick to me/catching game at liberty, version 1 straight need to go to versions 2 and 3.

I changed the order of the next two exercises, doing the relaxation on the circle before the back and over, hoping it would help America unstick her feet and make back and over easier. I think it worked because back and over was much easier tonight, even on her right side, and even during those times I need to reinforce a bit, it was not more than a phase 2. We're making progress!!

Relaxation on the circle was much quicker tonight...only 4 laps to the right and 6 to the left before America showed relaxation by lowering her head and slowing her gait. I really feel like America is beginning to catch on to the games!

We went out to the big pasture to play around with some online things. We started with touch it, sending America to different trees in the pasture, especially the ones with Spanish Moss dangling...she loves that stuff. Didn't take long for her to catch on to that! Did a bit of sideways without a fence, some one rein driving, put your foot on the frisbee, sidepass over the log, and ended up with figure 8's at the walk using the frisbees as markers.

Sideways without a fence is getting better but America still wants to creep forward occasionally, a light wiggle of the rope is enough to move her back into position. The one rein driving was nice although she could be a little straighter but for our first time, America was fantastic walking down the fence line with me in zone 5 (well out of kick range) and she did an awesome stop when I breathed out, sucked my energy back and stopped walking. I didn't even have to put any pressure on the rope! Putting her foot on the frisbee proved to be difficult at first so I placed a cookie on each of the two frisbees as a motivator. It didn't take long before America was honing in on those frisbees!! That worked to my advantage when we did the figure 8's as the frisbees were now important to her and she knew where they were. Drive and draw were wonderful and I didn't need to move my feet much. It was easy to PUSH her shoulder over to send her through the center using only my energy. On the first three reps, pushing her right shoulder caused her rush through the pattern a little bit. Pushing on the left shoulder was smooth and easy as was the draw on that side. I slowed down when pushing her right shoulder and drawing on that side and we did two nice, relaxed reps and QUIT!! This was our first time doing this pattern and America was reading me and my body language very well. I was paying attention, trying to be clear, and watching my energy and stick use; as little as possible but as much as necessary to be effective.

America was a bit unconfident with sideways over the log so we did some squeeze over, turn, face and wait until she could relax over the jump. Once she began to slow down, she was practically walking over the log then stopped 1/2 way over. I let her rest there for a bit. I then asked for sideways and she did several beautiful steps...TIME TO QUIT!! 

It was a really fun two hours tonight. After we were finished, we just hung out for a while and we had a cookie fest!!

Friday, January 27, 2012


I didn't post last night...had a bad headache and was REALLY tired from lack of sleep the night before. I have two dogs that are aging and it's like having puppies all over again...they need to make frequent trips outside to avoid accidents in the house and I can't seem to get them on the same schedule!!

Last nights session was pretty much a repeat from the day before but the session tonight had some interesting moments. We started out with the catching game at liberty. We started with version 1 and again, America kept turning to face me but was not making any effort to follow me so I progressed to version 2. After 4 laps she was still not looking for me so I went to version 3. On the first lap of version 3, America chose the wrong answer but on the second lap she was looking for me and this is when she really began to put some energy and effort into following me even when I changed direction and/or speed and she positioned herself with her shoulder at my shoulder. She also did a nice job of stopping when I stopped, although we still need to work on her stopping straight - she sometimes wants to swing her hq out and away. It only took about 5 minutes to go through the entire process so we're making progress there too.

We moved to online for the back and over exercise. Interestingly, with me on her right side (where she often tries to put me on her left), we got the best back and over. I had played some friendly game on that side until she relaxed and the back and over was nice, slow, and her front crossed over while her hind foot stayed planted. With me on her left, she again had sticky feet during the over part of the exercise. The back up was nice and soft and on a simple lift of the lead (with an open hand and the rope in my palm). For the open part of the exercise, I gave her a change (long phase 1) to think through what I wanted then went through my phases until she responded. After two repetitions she was much more responsive and moving off phase 1 or 2. I noticed from this side, her hind feet tend to creep a bit more as well. I'll need to pay attention to that in our next session.

The next exercise was circling and looking for relaxation on the circle. This took a bit more time tonight and it may be because it rained today and the weather is cooler but it took her 10-12 laps to the left for her to finally relax on the circle. It took her that long to lower her head a bit but when she did, she lowered her head, blew, and came down to a walk. Whew...that took a while. On the circles to the right, it only took 4 laps for America to relax and lower her head. This is the opposite of what happened last night when she relaxed quicker on the circles to the left and the right took longer.

Our squeeze game while backing into and out of the round pen is really getting nice..America is moving off my energy more and more so I don't need to use higher phases.

We played some sideways game tonight and America is getting better at staying in position and not lagging in her hq. When she does lag her hq I gently swing the rope towards her hq, she moves back into position and keeps moving. It was kind of fun tonight while doing the sideways; I had left a barrel near the rail and when we got to it, America looked at it, moved her body into position, and sidepassed right over it. I gave her a little time when we got to the barrel to sort her feet out and was rewarded with the sidepass over the was fun and made the sideways game interesting for America. I rewarded her for her effort by stopping right after and got quite a bit of licking and chewing!

We also played with squeeze over the barrel but I might put this on the back burner for a while as America tends to rush through the jump and the turn, face, and wait is also rushed even though I'm not using my cs and string for the bring back. I want to ask Jerry about this at our next lesson. I'm not sure if she's unconfident with the jump but suspect that's the problem and I want to get more arrows before playing with this any more so I can avoid creating or reinforcing unwanted behavior/reactions.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012


Sticking to our program and working on the exercises Jerry gave me for America's development:

1. Online back and over:  had a little trouble with this tonight; The back was nice, just a light lift of the lead rope and she would back up one step but America was a little sticky in the over part of the exercise. I took my time and gave her time to think about where to place her foot but when she got "heavy" I added some tapping to the porcupine game to help her move her shoulder over. I'm paying particular attention to making sure her neck is not bent around, a little tip is o.k. but bent around is not. She stays pretty straight through the exercise so this is good. This exercise is easier with me on America's left side, on her right side she wants to try and put me on her left so we slow everything down even more and play friendly game until she's confident and comfortable with me on the right.

2. Relaxation on the circle: America is catching on to this game very quickly and is relaxing sooner...generally within 1-1/2 to 2 laps. Tonight, while on a circle to the right she made two laps then lowered her head and actually "blew out the butterflies". over!! On a circle to the left, she did 1-1/4 laps and her head went down...again game over to reward the relaxation. At one point she decided to begin circling herself without me sending her. I wanted to see what she would do so I let it happen. She circled at a nice, cadenced trot for 2 laps, lowered her head, came down to a nice, relaxed walk, and looked at me asking a question...I said, of course you can come in and what a good girl!! She did quite a bit of licking and chewing at this point.

3. Catching game at liberty: this game is taking less and less time. We went to the round pen and I backed America through the gate - she did a super job of maneuvering her hind end through the gate and not bumping into anything. When I removed the halter and lead rope I invited her to walk with me and she blew me off by smelling the gound, etc. Going in large circles towards her hq wasn't working...she kept turning to face me but not following as I moved off so I sent her off and went to the center. I tried several times to invite her in and she kept circling so we went to version three. After one lap, America was beginning to look for me so I invited her in. As she started in, I began walking away and she followed me. As I sped up so did she and she eventually put her shoulder even with mine. Of course, we did better when I was on her left side. We'll need to have more practice with me on the right!

Once we were finished with our exercises, we just chilled for a bit and of course, I had a couple of cookies for America in my pocket. Once she had her cookies and a few scratches, we backed out of the round pen and headed back to the pasture for turnout and evening feed.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

New Patterns Beginning To Emerge

We played with the same things tonight as we did last night. America is really catching on quickly and I'm loving how she puts so much effort in to finding me/staying with me in the catching game. I think it's also interesting to her because she's had the most positive expression on her face while we play!

I'm having fun being able to play with using my energy to cause things to happen and that's exciting. Renegade used to just blow through or ignore my energy whereas America puts effort into reading me and responding to my body language and energy. This creates a whole new level of responsibility for me...I now have to REALLY pay attention to not only what I'm doing with my body but also how much energy I'm projecting when I do it!! It's a whole new level of savvy to be developed and it's thrilling me to have the opportunity to do this with such a wonderful mare!!

Monday, January 23, 2012

Play Time or Perfect Practice!

We practiced everything we learned at our lesson on Saturday and all I can say is AWESOME!! We started our play session with some liberty and the catching game. Jerry had taught me three versions, each a progression of the previous one and each a strategy depending on how America was responding. I started with version 1 and America wasn't and didn't get particularly connected to me...was lagging way behind, stopping, or just turning to face me when I went towards her hq but not following me. We went to version 2 and the connection was a bit better for a couple of tries but she was still lagging, stopping, not putting any real effort into "catching" me so on to version 3. Well, this made all the didn't take long before America was really looking for me, putting effort into staying with me and actually positioned herself with her shoulder to my shoulder. I called it quits at that point...that's a huge improvement for us!!

The next thing on our play list was porcupine game moving the fq and hq but being particular about the hind foot staying still, her neck not being bent around, and not moving forward. It took three repetitions and she "got it"...I got one really nice step over in the front (me on her left side) with the back foot planted and her neck straight.  With me on her right side, she kept wanting to put me on her left. I just blocked that and did some friendly until she was o.k. with me on her right. The porcupine was more difficult on this side...she didn't want/couldn't take 1 step straight back so we practiced that a few times until she understood. Once we got that fq yield was pretty easy. She planted her back foot, kept her neck straight and gave me one really nice step. Time to quit!! We repeated the porcupine on the hq and again it was more difficult with me on her right. We worked through it until we got a nice yield on both sides, right and left, then quit.

Edit on 01/24/12...I had to come back and add to this post because I forgot we played with the circling game looking for relaxation on the circle; I send America out on a circle and as soon as I see the slightest relaxation from her, I bring her in. The first couple days when we played with this it took several laps for her to begin to relax. Tonight however, America did 1-1/2 laps then dropped her head to wither level...WOOHOOO...time to come in darlin!! When I invited her in, she came at an energetic walk with a really nice expression on her face and ears forward. She really catches on quickly!!

We also did a couple really nice squeezes when entering and exiting the round pen while I had her back in and out of the gate. She put effort into finding where to put her butt so she could back in/out.

When we were finished, we hung out for a bit while I gave her some scratches and she nickered softly at me a couple of times!!

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Lesson Day!!

We had our first lesson today and was awesome!! Trailer loading and the ride all went well and we arrived at Holistic Horsemanship Center early because everything went so smoothly. It was nice to have a little extra time to just explore and let America check out her surroundings before beginning our lesson.

We started out online and Jerry S. Williams had us go through the 7 games so he could assess where we are and where we need to go. We have a good beginning and are definitely "safe" but need to work on our partnership and connection, especially in new or unfamiliar places or situations. America was being obedient/compliant but not particularly connected with me during the 7 games. Jerry gave me several good strategies to build our relationship and connection. One of those strategies is playing the catching game so we went to the round pen for a liberty session.

Our liberty session was amazing. It took a little time but eventually America began to connect to me, having an ear on me then an eye and finally looking for me. Once we had a connection going, we stopped to reward the connection and America was content to hang out with us as we chatted at the rail. After a few minutes she began to lick, chew, and yawn, coming off the adrenaline and really relaxing. She yawned quite a lot and it went on for quite a while. Once she finished, she was happy to hang with us for a few more minutes then she left for the other side of the round pen, closer to the horses in the field across the street. I set about playing the catching game with her again and it was very easy to get her connected to me again.

All too soon, it was time to leave. Loading her into the trailer was a breeze...I had her on the 22' line and I loaded her from about 15' away. I just pointed to the trailer and she loaded herself then stood quietly while I closed the door. The ride home was uneventful (except for all the thoughts running through my head lol!!). When we arrived home, America unloaded beautifully...slow and calm...a perfect end to a perfect day.

I can't say it enough...I LOVE MY MARE!! She AWESOME!!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Fun Play Time Last Night

I got home from work early enough (and hubby was working late) to allow me time to play with all four horses last night. For Captain, our play consisted mostly of me drawing him to me at liberty. This can be a bit of a challenge as he tends to get lost without the connection of a halter and lead rope (remember, he's blind). I'm trying to teach him to follow the sound of my voice. We had a couple of hesitant starts then I think he figured it out because he came walking to me, when asked, in a very confident manner...not his usual hesitant, careful steps. Of course, he got lots of lovin' and a few cookies for his efforts.

Play time with America consisted of some online play with the 7 games, then a little bit of stick to me at liberty. I was attempting to get America to trot when I asked. She's pretty good at walking with me already. She had a bit of a time catching on to the trotting then when she finally got it, she would trot right past me. I decided not to worry about that at this point...the whole idea was to get her trotting when I upped my energy and I didn't want to confuse her by trying to shut her down. Also, when she would trot past me, I would go to a slow walk or stop and she would stop, turn and come back to me...she didn't just keep trotting away from me. I'll take it for now...the rest will come with repetition! We didn't do any trailer loading tonight...she's been doing so well with it and I don't want to overdo it.

Renegade was actually the first horse I played with. He was waiting at the gate, nickering at me and just had that "please come play with me look on his face". I decided to play "fetch" with him as it's always been a favorite game for him and we hadn't played it for quite some time. I actually thought we'd have to do some refresher work but he got it right away. I would throw the Jolly Ball and point to it, Renegade would walk or trot over to get it, picked it up in his teeth then either walk or trot back to me with the ball. He kept dropping it at my feet but I wanted to get a bit provocative so I asked him to put it directly into my hands rather than drop it on the ground. Haha...he caught on right away. I loved the look he had during our play time...he was so engaged and was enthusiastic, actually putting effort into the game. We had lots of fun; I think we both needed it!!

Play time with Bert consisted of continuing the friendly game. He's gotten good at it on line and can finally stand still when I throw the string over and around him and slap the ground with the stick and string. He's gotten so good at it on line, I decided to try it at liberty. Tossing the string over and around him went well and he was able to stand still but when I slapped the ground with the string, he was o.k. with it until I got to zone 4 then he felt the need to move his feet. What that tells me is I need to go back on line and do more in zone 4 until he's completely comfortable then we can try liberty again. All in all, we had a good session and Bert is making terrific progress!

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Day 15 - Trailer Loading 1.14

Upping the trailer loading game was the theme for play this afternoon. I put America on the 22' line and sent her to the trailer from 15' then 20'...she went in both times with no hesitation! Next up was some squeeze game inside the trailer. I haven't tied her in the trailer yet and I haven't put her in a stall and set the divider. Tonight I decided to just move the divider to squeeze her a bit. The first couple of times she got a little nervous and at one point she felt the need to get out of the trailer. I let her come out but sent her right back in and resumed our squeeze with the divider using plenty of approach and retreat. After about 15", America was allowing me to touch her with the divider, staying calm through the whole process and even getting curious enough to investigate the divider by smelling and tasting it! That was plenty good enough for me so we quit and I asked her out of the trailer.

We played outside the trailer for a while; sideways, yo-yo, and circling game. She's doing well with the yo-yo...we're playing with using energy to drive and draw her. Occasionally I need to reinforce but for the most part she responds to my to just speed it up a bit. The circling game was fun...America was doing upward transitions with just a lift and lead...rarely had to pick up my stick. To the left was better than to the the right she got a bit confused on the send and tried to back up but I just stayed with her until she went out to the right. It took three tries but she got it and got plenty of scratches as a reward. Lots of licking and chewing on that one!!

America is an amazing mare, tries so hard to please and puts effort into her offerings. She is such a pleasure to play with!

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Day 14 - Trailer Loading 1.13

I waited until just before dark to feed the horses tonight so that I could try trailer loading in the dark (or nearly dark) with America. I'm not sure what I expected but it was a non-event. America loaded right up with just a point of my finger and I was standing on the side of the trailer at about the half way mark between the front and the back. The good news is she loaded and there was NO food in the trailer!! Of course, I did feed her in there...a delicious bran mash with some of her regular feed, her supplements and a candy cane broken in small pieces.

I can't say it enough...I just LOVE my Mustang mare!!