About Me

Hi, my name is Erica, and I’m an Unofficial Level 2 Parelli Student with my horse Moose. Moose is my levels horse, but I also play with Bella once and a while.

I plan to take Moose as far as I can in the Parelli Program, meaning to Level 4 and beyond! I’m contemplating becoming a Parelli Professional, but if not I will still be a horse ‘trainer’, just not one officially recognized by Parelli.



Moment In History

What happened to Bella while I’ve been gone? She’s got confidence! Woah, who knew!?!? I’d been having issues with her on line for the past few months, because I feel like she’s living inside a little bubble, and the bubble is her comfort zone. And if you push her too close to the bubble, she’d bolt and leave you in the dust, although of course she warns you first. πŸ™‚ But I didn’t see how we could get anything done with her if she’d always get so worried about things, because when she bolts, she’s gone. She’s a Percheron, after all.

But, no issues like that whatsoever today! I finally took the initiative to go play with her, because I usually play with her like once a month, maybe that. Moose is really my focus, sorry Bella (or rather, lucky Bella, depending on your perspective :). Anyways, Bella has been a handful for the farrier and last time she was particularly bad about her feet. So, my mom and I’ve done some research and gained a bunch more savvy arrows, so this time we’re prepared!

For starters, the farrier is coming in 2 weeks. So, one of us is going to play with her at least every other day until the farrier arrives. Our issue specifically is that once we get her foot up, she doesn’t want to keep it up. So, we’re setting up ourselves for success big time. We’re getting her prepared for as long as that takes until she’s a nice, respectful horse. Also, we’re changing the environment around. Normally, we bring the horses out of the pasture to trim their feet into a small area without a whole lot of maneuverability. We’ve changed our game plan. This time, the horses are going to get trimmed inside the pasture.

And thanks to Dave Ellis, we’re going to have a different set of rules with our farrier, too. It’s basically going to run so that if the horse is being naughty, our farrier will tell us “take it away” and drop the foot and the moment that foot hits the ground, we’re off circling and backing ‘for miles’ (I use the quotes, because we’re not going for miles, but we will go for as long as it takes. I’ve heard a story about horses who got backed up all the way down a mile driveway for not standing still to mount and I’ll tell you he didn’t try that again anytime soon.) and going sideways with as much effort as the horse put into being sassy. If Bella gets really bad, even with our preparation, then we’re going to have the farrier trim Moose until she settles down, so that still keeps things efficient time-wise for her. Basically, we’re going to let Bella choose if she’d rather back up for ‘a mile’ or hold her foot up for a minute. And we’re going to play with her for a little while before the farrier gets here, too.

So, today is the 2nd session since we’ve started this plan. With her front feet, things went very well. I could hold her foot up for 7 seconds, and it was still my idea to put it down. Marvelous! She wasn’t so cooperative with her back feet, though, but she does normally have more trouble with those than the front. So, instead of breaking my back trying to get her to understand, I switched to the carrot stick and tapping her foot to lift it. Her first thought was that I wanted her to yield her HQ. So then every time she’d yield her HQ I’d yield them fast in 2 complete circles. So, then when she started thinking a little, she tried backing, and I had her back 4 steps for her every 1 step back. So, then she started alternating between the 2, because she didn’t know what I wanted. After about 10 minutes of this, she stepped back but with the foot I wanted her to pick up, so I released on that. She licked and chewed on that one for a while. Then, I tried tapping once more and it took 3 times, but then she picked up the foot again. I quit on that note, because I wanted to do some other things and then bring her out to graze for a while in case I lost any rapport today.

Today was really a “Moment In History” kind of day, so it was pretty sweet. I was very happy that Bella was left brain, because now we can make some real progress!!! And I am very happy with myself, too. I was an alpha today, that’s for sure, and Bella picked up on that right away. On a comical note, Bella’s yielding her HQ today was better than Moose’s, (but Bella was pretty stiff/tight). And we actually got 1 lap of circing on a 12′ at a walk. *Half-hearted “yippee!”* That’s still pretty pathetic :), but it’s progress all right. My horses are so funny. πŸ˜‰

How to Fix the Bucking Bronco

I forgot to add in my last post about how I’m going to fix Moose’s bucking reaction. The things I learned will definitely come into play, but I found out I am not the sole responsible party for his reaction. Moose does have a legitimate issue with the girth, not so much the bareback pad, though.

I did approach and retreat with the bareback pad to make sure he didn’t have any issues with it. After a little bit, he was pretty relaxed with the pad on, so I didn’t think the pad was a problem. So, I had a 22′ connected to his halter, and I just wrapped part of the rope around his belly. So, I had control of his head in one hand, and his Z3 in another. I rubbed the rope all around him, to see if that irritated him. I tried getting him to yield towards me with the rope, to give him an out if he felt stuck. Then, I simulated the girth by pulling it taught, then loose, then taught, etc. None of this bugged him like it did the other day. So, with my hands on the same position on the ropes, I decided to see if I could get him to yield forward from the rope on his Z3. As soon as the rope pulled taught, Moose’s eyes got huge and he got worried. Actually, he scared me, because I thought he was going to jump forward and run through me or something. I was standing in front of him at the time, because I wanted to lead him forward from Z3, so that put me in a bad position. But at least I found out what the issue is!

Now the only problem is that I can’t solve it without buying another 22′. 😦 My idea is to have him on a 22′ line in case he gets scared. And then I want a 22′ around his girth area to act like a normal girth. So, first I want to see how much pressure he can take from the ‘girth’, and if he’s out on a circle while I do this, that puts me in a safe position. I’m hoping that doing that will get rid of most of his issue. So, then I can leave leading by Z3 to a time when he’s more left-brain and more prepared to follow the feel.

So, that’s my genius idea, but seeing as I don’t have 2 22′ lines, I’m just going to have to experiment with having him on a 22′ and then a 12′ around his Z3. I’ll let you know how it goes.

Finding Time for Time

Due to a change in my schedule, I’m not going to be updating as often as I’d like. Things just got a whole lot busier, so free time on computer will be sketchy on most days. I’m not real excited about it, but oh well. πŸ™‚

Anyways, what have Moose and I been doing lately!? We’ve just been refreshing from vacation! That’s right. Tuesday night was the last night in our longest time without playing ever: 5 days. Oh, I know. . . the horror! I wasn’t very happy about it, since I thought that the 5 days off were going to make him forget everything, or something silly like that. πŸ™‚ But surprisingly (to me), when I played with him on Tuesday he was actually the most in tune with me that he’s ever been. I wouldn’t call it our best day ever, but our communication was definitely subtler than normal. For instance, sometimes when I send him out on a circle, he goes the wrong direction. So, I yo-yo him back to say ‘wrong answer.’ Then, I kept pointing in the direction I want him to go, and yo-yoing if he went the wrong way. After a few times of going the wrong direction, he would back up from a brisk phase 1. Normally, it’s a phase 2 when he makes a mistake, because he obviously thinks that the direction he wants to go is right or he wouldn’t be going there, and my suggestion of backing usually takes him by surprise. This time he was paying more attention to me. So, that was kind of cool.

Also, I played yesterday and today, and Moose has actually woken up a little bit. Yesterday, he pinned his ears back a few times when I told him that “no, he cannot come in and needs to circle.” And the day before, I sent him and he took off like a lunatic and pulled me off balance. Today, he got a little revved up when I told him that I needed his HQ to yield when I ask, so he was sending with a lot of energy again. There was one other thing he did the other day, but I can’t remember what it was. Anyways, I wasn’t really sure what to think about all this, because I think my horse has actually found his play drive now! So, now I just have to figure out the line between play and dominance. :0

And right before our little vacation, I got my bareback pad!!! Hip hip horray! It’s green and it’s Parelli. I sat on it on a barrel and can already feel how the pad gives your seat almost a velcro-like feeling. Since I was so excited to go try it out right when I got it, I went out and got Moose and played some quick Friendly with it and then put it on him. Sent him out for some circles, then brought him in. Tightened up the girth a little. Then, I wanted to play Touch It on some tires we have set up as a pedestal. From there, I wanted him to jump the tires as a pre-flight check. Ready, set, go and we’re off to the tires. And only 1 of us ended up getting there, and it wasn’t me. Moose blew a gasket, and gallopped off bucking at the same time. He ran around the whole pasture freaking out when he finally stopped near Bella (who, by the way, when she saw Moose freaking out promptly decided the sky was falling and ran around with Moose for all of 8 strides before reaching the decision that running is too much work and stopped on a dime and ate grass like nothing happened) and let me take the bareback pad off. 2 things of note: 1) the bareback pad was in exactly the same position it was in when I did up the cinch the 2nd time. Hmm, how interesting! 2) When I took off the bareback pad the first thing Moose did was yawn about 5 times. To be expected, but I guess that just told me that I need to read my horse better. And so afterwards, I did approach and retreat with the bareback pad and he went back to being my LBI Moose. So, what did I learn from this experience? 1) Don’t be direct-line. I was direct-line by going straight to the bareback pad. 2) Don’t make assumptions. I assumed Moose would be LBI Moose eand not have an issue with the pad or girth. 3) There is a reason I haven’t made a lot of progress with him, so I’m not just being an incompetent human. I was on to something when I pinned him as a LBI with an RBI side, and this means I’m still somewhat right by going slow with him. This proved to me that his RBI side is still in there. I had suspected so, but never proven it until this day. 4) When a RBI’s eyes get even a little hard, you just found a threshold. Time for retreat.

And I’m excited now, too, because I might have finally found a saddle! A friend of mine had an old Western saddle in her tack room that was just collecting dust, and said if it fit Moose I could have it. Well, lo and behold, it’s black and it’s dusty, but it’s a Big Horn. :0 So, I tried it on him tonight and it looks a lot better than the other saddle we bought for him. This one is going to need 1 or 2 shims to keep it off his shoulders, because the saddle is tight there, and possibly one in back to keep the weight off the back of the saddle, but it is still a lot nicer. The other saddle I had was an Abetta and it was in better condition, but it just sunk right down on his shoulders, so the saddle would have needed quite a few shims to even be level in the first place. It wouldn’t have worked very well. And if this works out, then I even have enough money to buy the Theraflex pad! I love it when a plan come together.

Performing like a Partner

I had another lesson with Shirley on Friday. It went great! My mom taped a video of me this time. I’d put it up, but you can’t hear the audio very well, so it’d be kind of pointless.

Shirley was in a very good mood, and I earned another level of respect from Moose. Plus, it was plain as day to me this time that Moose was being disrespectful. And it comfirmed that he and I are still in the teaching phases: although that is depressing news I kind of expected it. Shirley agreed with me when I said that I didn’t feel like we were making much progress for the amount I play with him, and apparently it is mostly because of my leadership.

So, I played with him on Saturday and took it a little too far in the leadership category. Interestingly enough, this happened last time I had a lesson with Shirley, too. During the lesson, we focus on gaining more respect from Moose the whole time, so the next day I go out and play and am a dictator, because that is what I thought we did the previous day. Of course, that’d not the case, but the lesson just tilts my love, language and leadership scale off-kilter a little bit, so now I have to rebalance it.

Dave Ellis Day 2

  • Help your horse think through trouble
  • “Every ying has a yang.”
  • Horses are horses. It’s their job to perceive danger and run.
  • Don’t knock your horse down to your level, instead improve yourself. Dave gave a very inspiring speech about this. He said that horses will wait a lifetime for you if you keep trying to improve yourself for them. Dave said that if he tries things at too high of a level for his horses even he has days where he puts his mules up and they have that look in their eye like “maybe tomorrow he’ll get it.”
  • Whenever your energy is down, your horse should not go anywhere no matter what you do. That is not probably not going to happen in Level 3, even, but that should be your end result. Dave furthered that by saying that when you play Friendly, make sure your energy is down or you’re desensitizing them to the point of danger. Like he said earlier, it’s a horse’s job to perceive danger and run, and if you desensitize him to your energy being up that is the equivalent of desensitizing him to a mountain lion. He mentioned too that when you watch Pat play extreme Friendly Game with a horse, he always looks at the ground, because he wants the energy to go nowhere.
  • When you say “Don’t trot too fast!” and so slow your horse down, that’s bringing your horse down to your level.
  • Your horse perceives comfort will be found in what he does, so use comfort-discomfort to motivate him
  • “What pushes my horse’s buttons? What really makes him tick?”
  • Dave quotes someone when he said this, sorry I can’t remember who: “None of us dig in deep enough to find the real horse. Most of us don’t have the confidence/maturity to accept the real horse.” So, what we end up doing is making the horse we have into our dream horse. On the same note, “Look down that line and if what you see looking down that line doesn’t make you feel wonderful, get rid of it.”
  • What my horse is like while I’m learning is completely different than after you’ve learned.
  • “At any time we should be able to walk up to our horse and ask them to do something.”
  • The horse who gets in the last word is in charge, so the last word should always be yours
  • Match the opposition. Opposition = how much effort she is putting in to being resistant.
  • Your horse should quit going to the degree that you quit riding.
  • “The best way to fix anything is to be aware.” -Linda Parelli
  • When your horse moves without you asking, play tit for tat. For example, if your horse walks 2 steps forward without you asking them to, have them back up 4 steps.
  • Dave had one clinic participant bring her horse out and play Circling Game. He wanted her to pick a foot on the outside of the circle and move her hand to the rhythm of that foot. To speed her horse up, she picked the outside back foot and just asked it to speed up the tempo a little. To slow down. she picked the outside front foot and just asked it to shorten its stride. All of this was done with just her energy, or ki. The results were incredible to see, because the transitions seemed effortless. Dave furthered this by having her push an outside foot off the circle one step only (but again only using her energy) and having her horse still keep the same rhythm. Dave wanted everyone to think about only moving that one foot, because if you try to move the whole horse that’s about 1,200 lbs (give or take), but the hoof only weighs 5 lbs.
  • “Don’t allow the horse to be wrong for so long they think they’re right.”
  • If your horse doesn’t put his/her foot where you want, you don’t have his/her respect.
  • Ill respect = not disrespect, but clearly didn’t do what you want
  • “I don’t make anything happen, I just don’t go away.”
  • If a point is too small, make a vicinity to put his foot in so it’s easier
  • Pick a focus and go. If your horse is resistant, then he’s saying “hey, we made a deal here that you won’t ask much and I’ll do just enough to get along.”
  • Have an attitude of “Can you help me get to that?” or “We need to be over there.”
  • I can’t remember who Dave quoted for this one either: “Don’t leave without your horse and don’t let your horse leave you.”
  • When you’re moving his foot to a specific place, have an attitude of “I see where I wish this foot would go” not “move your foot.”
  • If you talk to the HQ, the front feet should do nothing different.
  • The reason for focusing on the outside legs is because if you focus on the inside your horse will probably disengage.
  • When you keep in time with their feet, you don’t necessarily have to be in every single foot fall. For example, if you’re trying to keep in time with the feet with a Paso Fino, you might pick every 4 strides or something like that.
  • Horses don’t like to be out of sync.
  • Neutral in the Circling Game is not dead. When you put your car in neutral, is it dead?
  • The rhythm you have in your body determines what gait you want. It’s our responsibility to put the energy in our body.
  • Horses are approximately 100x more sensitive than humans
  • In Freestyle, the hand holding the reins should be the direction you’re going.
  • Freestyle to Finesse shouldn’t change your horse’s gait at all
  • Trotting is the easiest gait for the horse, but the hardest for the human
  • If you want to get a good stop, then get a world-class back-up. Get your horse thinking back up not stop. You know you’ve done it enough when your horse steps back to regain his balance.
  • Feel of, for, and with your horse
  • Do Step #1 in 9 step back-up. Does your horse do anything? Then do step #2. Feel of him. Then step #3, feel for him. Then #4-7. Step #8 and 9, feel with him. Steps #1-3 are preparatory commands.
  • If you’re riding your horse through 2 barrels and he purposely knocks one of the barrels over, bump him with the rein on the opposite side of the barrel he knocked over. The reason you bump him it so that he gets a consequence for what he did. The reason you bump on the other side is because if you were a fence post and your horse turned his head to knock the barrel over, he’d run into the rein on the opposite side.
  • Linda once said that a level 3 grad should be able to do any transition within a 2 step maximum. So, since this clinic was level 2/3 Dave said to aim for 3-4 steps.
  • If you’re riding the trot and you bring your energy down to a walk (and your horse doesn’t listen right away), sometimes our inner ear gets in the way and causes us to think we’re going to fall off because we’re bouncing. To counteract this, put your hand on the horn/pommel so you stay secure in your seat.
  • When you ride, the more your leading hand is bent, the more tight you’ve been.
  • When you have a backing up energy in your body and your horse doesn’t listen, bump 1 rein if you’re riding Finesse, or comb the reins underhanded if you’re riding Freestyle.
  • When your horse changes the game on you, say “let me show you how well I can play this game”. (For example, I tried to teach Moose to back by the tail yesterday and after I did it a few times, he started moving his HQ out of the way to get out of doing it. So, instead of saying “don’t move your hiney,” I just moved it more than he wanted it to move. So, the answer was to just back up when I asked). Another option is to play the game with different criteria, make up rules that he didn’t know existed. Just remember that this is not a dictatorship, it’s a partnership, so your partner has the right to express him/herself. You don’t have the authority to say “no, we’re not doing that right now! We’re doing this, so quit it!”
  • Another thing to try is to quit the game sooner than she/he thought you’d quit. In this case, a girl had a question about her mule, because her mule would do really good for her, but then she always had a point where she would become resistant because she wanted her leadership back. Dave said it was simple, just quit before she gets crabby. And he did a simulation to prove it. Dave held onto one end of the 12′ line and a different girl held onto the end of it. Dave said that when he said ‘now’ he wanted the girl to pull as hard as she could on the end of the rope. He said now, and right as she pulled Dave let go of the rope and walked away, saying “oh, look at the sand” or something like that. He did it with such nonchalance, too, like he couldn’t have cared less that the girl just fell over. It was pretty funny (and completely unexpected), but also a very good lesson: It takes 2 to argue.
  • And lastly, undemanding time establishes the relationship. It doesn’t necessarily improve it.

Dave Ellis Day 1

As I mentioned in my little teaser post about the session I had with Moose Saturday night, I audited Dave Ellis on Saturday and Sunday. Honest to god, I’ve got to say that was probably the best decision I’ve made all summer. πŸ™‚ He was such a good instructor, I highly recommend that you go see him if you have the chance.

Anyways, I wanted to post my notes about the clinic. If you have any questions, just leave a comment: when typing them, I assumed that the people reading do Parelli, so some things might confuse anyone who reads who isn’t a Parelli person.

  • Assertive= “It’s going to happen eventually.”
  • Passive= “I don’t know why you’re not backing up.”
  • Aggressive= “I said move!”
  • If the horse does something you don’t want, do anything to lessen his comfort and then wait. If you always make the right thing easy and wrong thing difficult, your horse will begin to ‘hunt for the comfort.’
  • Dave stressed this philosophy of “Make the right thing easy and the wrong thing difficult” because it’s hard for us humans. It causes us to take the time it takes, and we naturally look for shortcuts.
  • Dave had a good point about riding a horse that always drops his shoulder when turning. He said that our horses will train us to use higher phases on them when riding, because we say “well if I just put my leg on him, then he turns well,” but the point is not to have to use your leg, so your horse is winning the game. Using the same example, but going back to using comfort and discomfort to motivate them, Dave asked “Would you take 2 days to stop a horse from dropping his shoulder?” *
  • Pat is so good with horses because he’s the king of lateral thinkers.
  • The Circling Game is where your horse shows you how much he respects you, so if you have a broken Circling Game you have broke another game that you have to fix before your Circling will get better.
  • You get respect by moving your horse’s feet
  • The more your horse respects you, the less opposition reflex he’ll have
  • Make sure your body language is clear and your energy is projecting out to where you want it.
  • Friendly Game should not cause a change in your horse. For example, if you stand in your stirrups while trotting (not posting), your horse should not change rhythm, because that is Friendly.
  • Step #7 in a 9 Step Back-up does not mean back-up. It means get ready to back-up.
  • “Can your horse carry the feel and not make a change?”
  • Have something in mind when you change your horse’s shape, because then he has a reason to do it. Dave said that when you get out of the teaching and controlling phases, you should have a reason for your horse to do what you want instead of doing it just because you asked for it. For example, if you want your horse to canter, have the attitude of “We need to canter, because we need to get over there really fast.”
  • Dave had the clinic participants do Extreme Yo-Yo and Extreme Porcupine game on line. To do Extreme Yo-yo, back your horse up until the rope is tight. Hold the rope in both hands. Put one hand on your hip to anchor you, and then just rock your weight back (not leaning back, though and not jerking your horse). You shouldn’t have to use your biceps to pull him back, use your whole body. Then, he had them do Extreme Porcupine Game which was basically pulling your horses head down to the ground instead of using phases of pressure. It wasn’t a jerk, it was just one big pull.Β  These exercises cause your horse to respond to more pressure than he thinks he’s going to get. For example, if you tie your horse up and he pulls back that’s a lot of pressure on the halter all of a sudden, so a practical use of these exercises is to prepare your horse for tying. By the way, you should practice this until your horse is so good at it that he won’t let you pull him.
  • Another thing Dave had the participants do was see if you can lead your horse different directions with your hands on his nose, but your fingers have to be straight or you’re cheating. This was just to see how good your horse is at following a feel. He also had them lead by the tip of the ear. If your horse didn’t go, then just support with Driving. He also had them stand in Zone 1 and try to move the horse’s nose without touching it by just putting a feel on the lead rope and then supporting with Driving.
  • “If we use Driving Game to support Porcupine, when why do we drive?” The answer is to drive when Porcupine doesn’t work.
  • The four phases of teaching are teach, control, refinforce, refine
  • Friendly= Rhythmic motion
  • Porcupine= Steady pressure
  • Driving= Rhythmic pressure
  • You’re playing Porcupine Game whenever you have a focus with intent, so that means that when you started out in Level 1 and you played the Driving Game with the HQ, your Phase 1 was to look at the HQ which was actually a Porcupine Game, and then Phases 2,3 and 4 were Driving to support the Porcupine.
  • Nose, neck, maybe front feet
  • At the teach it and control it phases, take what the horse offers you, but not at reinforce and refine.
  • “Once you can do something, do something else.”
  • “Wait for orders from headquarters.” Dave gave a really good analogy about your horse’s relationship being equivalent to you owning 51% of the stocks in a company, and your horse owns the other 49%. So, you’re the majority voter, but that doesn’t mean your horse has no say in the company.
  • If you want the belly of the rope on the ground, then your horse should be able to keep it there. But if you want your horse to keep the belly off the ground, he should be able to carry that feel too.
  • “Your horse does not want to see Phase 4 twice.” It was clear by Dave’s tone of voice in this sentence that “does not” means “should not”.
  • Respect lessens with longer distances away from you
  • Make the right thing easy and the wrong thing difficult. If your horse wants to trot when you want a walk, say “great, I love that you want to trot” and then just pick up a circle and keep making it smaller until he changes gait
  • “Turn their dream into a nightmare.”
  • To go sideways while riding, use a direct rein, then indirect rein, and repeat until you achieve your goal.
  • If your horse is not mentally ‘with you,’ you probably haven’t done enough with his feet.
  • Horses don’t like to lean on 1 rein. Because of this, never have your hands at exactly the same level
  • When backing-up while riding, lift up the hand that is the next direction you want to go. For example, I’m backing up and I hold my right hand higher than my left. So, when I stop backing I should be going to the right.
  • When you do a direct rein, keep a straight elbow
  • Practice peripheral vision
  • “We need to go over here. . . And here’s a reason for you to be going.”
  • Until level 5, whenever you ride with contact your hands should be level with the ground. This helps sit you back on your balance point.
  • Movement with steady pressure is still steady pressure if it’s in time with your horse’s feet.
  • In a correct indirect rein, the HQ do more than the FQ.
  • If you’re riding your horse with other horses, and your horse keeps putting his ears back at the other horses, first you should rub him to make sure he doesn’t feel threatened by them. But then, you have to say “fight on your own time” and keep his/her attention on you. Dave had the rider of a horse who kept putting his ears back hit her horse with her savvy string on the shoulder every time the horse put his ears back. Your attitude should be “I beg your pardon.” Dave’s theory for why horses start being dominant with others is that when you start winning the 7 games, then the horse takes the #2 position, so some horses start looking for a #3.
  • “The line between make and cause is in your heart.”
  • Don’t make anything happen, just start taking away your horse’s comfort so he can make the decision.
  • “Who’s gonna blink first?”

*My personal answer to this was no, but I thought that was a very good question and so included it in the notes. Would you outpersist a horse on something as simple as that? I just thought it was very revealing, because I want to say I would take that time, but I don’t think I would. Would you? Just something to think about.

The Definition of Leadership

I just audited a level 2/3 clinic by Dave Ellis today – details about the clinic in another post – but I had to talk about my play session with Moose when I got home. He did INCREDIBLE!!!!!!! πŸ™‚ Like I seriously think that was the best I’ve ever (so consequently, the best HE’s) played.

I was a leader. I didn’t think my way through it. I made it simple just like Dave kept repeating: “Make the right thing easy and the wrong thing difficult. That’s all it is.” And I did just that. I said Moose, let’s do this. Moose, let’s do that. And I tried doing lots of stuff with the same attitude. “Hey, I didn’t ask you to do that.” “Honey, I need you to try it.” “Thanks for offering, but I want you to do ______ instead.” And he woke up like I had slapped him in the face.

I didn’t worry about things like I normally do. For instance, whenever I got particular in the past, Moose would start running off in the Circling Game. So, I would say “Well, I must’ve been too particular with him, and I just need to go slower.” This time, I didn’t conclude that I’d been too particular. I just said “Don’t run off! Don’t walk! Don’t canter! Just trot.” And after 2 laps of gallopping off, then stopping and looking at me, then cantering, then looking at me, then cantering, he got it and gave me a lap of trotting, so I stopped and rewarded him. I just made the wrong thing difficult. “You want to canter? That’s great, but right now we’re trotting.” His Circling got a lot better, too, with the go – woah exercise Dave played with the mule. I just sent Moose off, then immediately looked at his HQ to disengage. Of course, he had going on the brain, so I said “Don’t run off, just stop.” And so he stopped, and then I sent him and he took off again, and we repeated the same thing over again. Took him like 3 sends before he figured out that just-getting-the-heck-outta-there when I send made it really hard to yield his hindquarters.

But the biggest breakthrough is yet to come. Moose has trouble putting his foot on/in things. If I ask him to put it inside a tire, he won’t do it. He always puts it around, and I’ve gotten him to put it in/on, but he’s never offered anything and it took a while. Well, I mentioned this in an older post that we have 2 tractor tires full of dirt right next to each other which can serve as a pedestal/jump/mounting block. Well, he’s had issues jumping it, so I wanted to give it a try today. He jumped it fine one way after a few re-sends. Then, I tried the other way, and after a few re-sends, he started pawing the dirt in the tire. So, I let him, since that’s progress. Then, I sent him again, and he actually stood on the dirt!!!! That’s HUGE!!!!!!!!! Like I was crying tears of joy good, and doing cartwheels good and running-out-of-treats-to-feed-him good. I was so impressed. . . I even unhaltered him standing up there (after I knew that he wasn’t going to jump down on me, though). A very ecstatic moment . . . I just had to share!Β  Savvy on! πŸ˜›

Zap In The Face

I went out today to go apologize to Moose yesterday, and so wanted to have a little fun day today. I hid treats around the pasture on various items so we could play with our Touch It becoming a little better, and get him interested at the same time.

So, we started out, and he wouldn’t put his nose on anything. Being in a better mood today than in our session yesterday (and stopping my leadership experiment, BTW), I just noticed this and kept on trucking instead of getting emotional. Well, after he discovered a treat inside a tractor tire I had him touch, he started investigating the objects a little more. Score! So, I took him to another tractor tire where the treat was balanced precariously – in retrospect, this was stupidity on my part – on the tire (it’s at a funny angle). He noticed it was there after a second, and knocked it on the grass. Upon trying to retrieve it, he got stung by a bee on his nose!!! Then, he gets into a mad rush to itch his nose on anything within walking distance. And by pure chance, Bella is close by. So, he rubs himself all over her and Bella of course retaliates with a kick, but she missed him.

So, first time I’ve ever had a horse get stung and hopefully the last. I’ve got to say that I wasn’t really sure what to do in that situation: I just let him go itch, because I’m sure it didn’t feel good, but should I have become more of a leader and said “I’m more important than your itch?” Just something to ponder.

After that, things went alright, but the bee ruined his good mood. He no longer investigated anything, so I felt bad that just when he started to become brave it got knocked out of him. And he got extremely bugged-out after that, too. Every time I asked him to go touch the next obstacle, he’d start tossing his head. And if any bug came on him, he stopped thinking for a second, and then had to itch.

And to top things off, Bella was feelingΒ  a little RBE because of how windy it was today, so after Moose got stung he tuned right into her mood. So, a very strange day, but not necessarily bad in my opinion. We’ll see what he thinks about me tomorrow.

A Day of Mistakes

Had a very average day today, meaning that it wasn’t good. At the beginning of the session, my plan was to be a better leader, because in case I haven’t mentioned it, I’m experimenting with leadership this week due to an e-mail with Shirley.

So, I see Moose. He looks at me. I circle around to yield his HQ so he’ll turn and face so I can halter up. He trots off! I whack my carrot stick on the ground hard and walk after him. After a few times of making the right thing easy and the wrong thing difficult, he let me walk up to him and so I haltered up and started playing, completely ignoring the fact that he was hard to catch. *Possible Mistake #1. How to fix if I could’ve done it all over again: skip the play session entirely, and take the halter off after giving him a treat.*

Then, I tried some Porcupine and Driving Game. I was just doing the basic Porcupine the Forehand in a circle, then Porcupine the back end, then do Driving on the forehand and then on the back end, then switch sides and repeat. He did okay, but he won’t pivot! It was really bugging me that he wouldn’t, but I just went back to doing 1 or 2 steps, for the goal of building off that in the future. *Possible mistake #2. How to fix if I could’ve done it all over again: taking a break while I was frustrated, because I find that once my emotions come up, retreating helps them go back down.* But I did notice a staggering difference between his right side and left. Left was a lot easier and had more flow, right was really jerky and just plain more difficult.

After that, we did some Touch It. We haven’t done that in a while and he was very rusty. We did Touch It all over the pasture, and he really didn’t have touching things on his mind. And it bothered me again that he won’t go straight at the things I point him at (I go straight to the item, but is kind of bent around me). This’s been going on for forever, but it had to pop up today. Luckily, I didn’t act on that thought, but just stored it for later. *Good choice.*

Then, I tried getting him to touch the chicken coop with me being about 12′ away. I had to move closer to him before he would move his forehand and thus put his nose on it, but he did it. So, then with me standing in the same spot, I sent him to a tree (so I’m still about 12′ away ), and he touched it again. Cheers for Moose! So, I sent him back to my first destination and he wanted to put his Zone 2 next to it, not his Zone 1 facing it. I had to get firm with him that I wanted his Zone 1 near the coop, so then he was too focused on me to think about touching it. *Possible mistake #3. How to fix if I could’ve done it all over again: Stopped when he touched the tree, that was good enough for one day.*

Then, we did Falling Leaf and he did okay for a little big, but then he started running around behind me and not yielding his hind end. I just passively persisted for a little bit, but then I got angry and said “I want those HQ now!” and he faced up fast but very wide-eyed. So, I apologized for getting firm, then yielded his HQ at close range to make sure he understood. I was still a little annoyed at this point, but decided I could be fair.

So, then I started playing with our change of direction, because in all honesty you would think we never practice it. *Mistake. How to fix if I could’ve done it all over again: Not even attempt this when I’m annoyed. I remember thinking: “do I want to quit here or get all worked up again?” Unfortunately, I made this decision off of feelings, not logic, because if my brain would’ve been working I would’ve just called it quits beforehand, and not have put my horse through torture from my own lack of emotional fitness.* He didn’t do very good, and that was to be expected. I backed up as far as I could, he ran forward and completely ignored my looking at his hinder, so my angry predator came to life again and started whacking with that stick at his butt vigorously, and Moose obviously kept running. But after doing that twice, my brain kicked in and I decided I didn’t want Moose to hate me for life.

Now, the good part about all this is that I thought of a way to fix our change of direction! Use a fence. *Good choice.* I stand a ways off the fence, so I have room to back up. I send Moose out, and then back up to the fence and if he runs forward, he just runs into the fence, and I just re-direct and then ta-da! A change of direction! Did that 3x and he changed without the fence for support. πŸ™‚

So, I’m guessing tomorrow’s going to be a bad day, so I’m going to get proactive and play with him with a bag of carrots tonight instead. Hopefully, that’ll change his mind that I’m not so bad after all.

Within Reach

I’m feeling pretty excited today! I just looked over the On-Line Self-Assessments sheet, and was blown away. Everything on the Level 2 portion is within reach! I mean, we haven’t attempted quite a few things on the sheet yet, but I don’t feel like it will be really hard to teach any of them. Nothing feels like “Oh my god, how am I ever going to get that done?” like it used to. It used to be a really big elephant, but now the elephant’s just shrunk without me knowing it. So that just made my day. πŸ™‚

To the Edge, But Not Over

A few days ago, I tried putting ropes around Bella’s legs and then putting pressure on and seeing what she’d do. I was very impressed with her reactions, she was very LB and came off the pressure easily every time! A very good start to lead backwards by hind leg. What a smart girl!

And so the day after that, I played with Bella for about a half hour since it was getting dark out and I decided on impulse to do something with her quick. And so, I decided to try experimenting with a lunging whip we have for Friendly Game. I wanted to see how much she could tolerate/accept. Well, she handled it pretty well. I had to hit it pretty hard on the ground before she had a little blow-up moment and tried to bolt off. But it was just a little one, so I held onto the rope and brought her right back to me.

And then I immediately went off to try some Stick To Me. She did really well, I mean she actually trotted to keep up with me, so that in itself was worth a treat. πŸ™‚

Overall, I was very proud that I didn’t push her over a cliff. Go Savvy!

An Almost Potentially Dangerous Situation

Recently, I’ve been trying to get over my fear of riding Moose one step at a time, and yesterday I felt like doing a pushing passenger lesson at the walk inside our round pen. So, I squeezed . . . then all the way down to my legs, then clucked and that caused him to start walking. He walked right up to our gate, which is 2 elastic ties hooked together. (To see a picture of my round pen, click here). I thought about turning him away from the gate, and then starting again, but decided he’d turn by himself. So, I asked him to move off. He walked forward into the ties, and didn’t know what to do about them being there. I felt his back tighten up, and he got really worried and flew sideways (alls I know is that he was in front of the gate, and then the next moment we were facing the fence). I immediately remembered the emergency stop, and did lateral flexion. The moment his head came around I jumped off him. It shook my confidence a little, but I’m very proud that I got off him right away. And I feel lucky that he didn’t try to run through the pressure (that would’ve been ugly), and that I was doing a pushing passenger, so I still had my seat.

And because of this, we’re going to do something about those ties. I don’t know if they’re in a bad position, or if the horses don’t respect them or can’t see them or something, but we’re going to change our gate to something else. Bella walked into them before, too, but she responded by walking under them (think about it, those ties are at around 3′, and Bella’s 16hh – those things are stretchy!) and so now wants to get out of the round pen every time I try to play in there. (I realize that says something about our relationship, and don’t worry, I’m trying to fix it, but that’s not my point). I still want them to have the option of going out if I am putting too much pressure on, but they need to know that there is a gate there.

Life Goes On

First of all, I thought I’d re-do our ponies’ horsenalities, so you can see where they’re at.

Horsenality Moose 8.5.09

Although it may not look like it from this chart, I've been thinking lately that Bella is innately LBI.

Although it may not look like it from this chart, I've been thinking lately that Bella is innately LBI.

And on that note, we are now one pony short. After around 10 years of boarding at our house, Dancer is no longer with us. Don’t worry, she’s alive! Her owner always wanted to have Dancer at her house, and her dream finally became a reality this year. I’m sad to see her go, but I’m happy for her owner! πŸ™‚

Busy Busy Busy

August has been a very busy month. Last weekend I went up to a dressage horse show to see my friend show her horse. They did really well, and I got to use her camera to take pictures of her. Oh, now THAT was a CAMERA! If I had the money, swear to god I would’ve gone out and bought that same exact one after the show. My mom estimates that that camera probably cost around $900, so you can see why I couldn’t buy it. 😦 But at least now I know what it feels like to take really good pictures, almost effortlessly.

On another note, in an older post I mentioned that I was going to play with another lady’s horses, because she didn’t have time to herself. Well, I got to play with an RBE named Star, and she told me that I have a lot to learn about RB horses. I mean, I just realized how nicely I’ve got it with a bunch of LB guys to play with on a daily basis. No exaggeration: Star wouldn’t even let me move the carrot stick. So, forget about throwing it over her back! My starting point was to try to move it without her taking off. And in retrospect, I realized that I got my strategy wrong. I started out with doing as little as I could with the carrot stick and working up to moving it a little more, but she would still move no matter how little I moved it. So, I abandoned the idea of retreating even more (like starting out with picking it up), and upped the anty instead. I threw it over her back. She ran out of there, of course, and then I kept throwing it over until she calmed down even a little, or I stopped her with yo-yo and stopped the CS. I was treating her issue with the CS as a RBE thing, because she was being RBE, but her problem was that she didn’t trust the Carrot Stick (Trust me, trust my tools). So, if I could’ve done it over again, I would’ve gone a lot slower. But otherwise, she still did alright. After I gave up playing a broken Friendly game, I had her circle for a while, because of the consistency. This taught me that I don’t know the strategies for RBE’s very well at all. Circling was the only thing I could think of doing! But she responded well: she tried walking on their teeter-totter (I’ll take a picture, it’s SOO industrial) with little prompting from me, and even walked right over the tarp 2 or 3x. That’s a big deal, because she was forced over it the other day by a normal at their facility. Next time I go out, I’ll take some pictures. It’s a pretty cool place!

And on Saturday, my mom and I went to a speed show they were holding. It was a very good demonstration of what NOT to do. Many people were being direct-line. And there was 1 quite ironic incident. There was a litle boy doing poles on thisΒ  21 year old pony that looked a lot older than 21. My mom asked the owner: “So, how old’s the pony?” “21” the guys said. “He looks really gentle.” “Yeah, he is. He’s not our horse, he’s my friends and all of their horses are real laid-back.” Just as he said that, the pony took off and the kid ended up flying off of him. Luckily the kid wasn’t hurt (he was wearing a helmet and chest protector), just a little shocked. But that just made me think of a phrase I heard recently: “Most people get hurt on gentle horses.” And it makes a lot of sense, too. People think that their lack of savvy can be made up for by buying an old, experienced horse, but that horse can still go Right Brain as easily as the next.

And Moosey and I are doing alright. Had a discussion with him yesterday about walking over two tires right next to each other filled with dirt. I sent him to squeeze over it, and he said “I can’t do that.” So, I had to say “try, at least try,” because his mind was totally closed to the idea. So, he’s still not real confident with it, because he’ll only jump it from one side, but I had to end early because the mosquitos were eating me alive last night.

And the horse’s hooves need to be done really bad. Moose’s are starting to chip off. We accidentally waited until 8 weeks to call the farrier, and then we couldn’t get a hold of her, so she’s coming tomorrow. Unfortunately, that’ll be 10 weeks since their last trim (there goes Moose’s halfway-nice-looking hooves), but oh well.