Salt Wells, Wyoming Mustang Mare

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.