It's been a busy few weeks since I last wrote anything. Petra's lesson series is up and running, and I think all the students are enjoying it. I will try to get some pictures of the action up, soon. We've continued to have quite a bit of mud and snow, so playtimes have been pretty limited. However, I have spent a lot of time watching the new Parelli Levels material, and taking notes, which are already proving a big help. I've got them in a little book, so that I can take them out with me and apply them.
Today I played with Iona all afternoon. We started with the inevitable circle laps. I still believe that these are going to prove to be a key that unlocks many good doors for us. I had 10 laps trot and 6 laps canter on my list, but I decided that if I could get the 10 laps trot, that would be a good session. We played in the large visitors' pen, which is where I usually put Iona when she's in - just to groom her and maybe let her eat hay. It's a funny shape, but at the widest part is big enough to circle on a 22' line. So it gives us a little support, but still gives her some areas to run away to (!!) so that she can express herself.
So my plan was to build up the laps, with rests and maybe some other tasks in between. 1, 2, 3, 5, then 10 laps. My notes from the new DVDs only go through Level 1 so far, but I've been throwing them into my play sessions just for self improvement, and to help new ideas stick. We started off with a little driving the FQ. That went okay, so I started the circles. Lots of running off at first, however, I was proud that I managed to hang on most of the time. She likes to run into the shed. Silly, because there are two poles in there which are just great for wrapping the rope around and disengaging her, etc. My L1 notes said "Horse leaning on halter - do HQ yield." So we did quite a bit of that, whether she was leaning, running off or just looking out on the circle. It's surprising just how long it took me to get that 1 lap each way! I let her rest, and sat down on a barrel and looked at my notes.
"Pressure motivates, the release teaches" they read. My gut instinct is that I need to use an effective phase 4, or she won't get motivated, and I won't get an opportunity to release and teach. She got pretty arguementative, pulling faces and kind of halfway charging at me on the send. I persevered and we finally made 2 really nice laps left. Gave her a treat and right came a little easier. I walked away again and read my notes some more.
"For the horse, with the horse, not to the horse." Well I figure I am doing it for her, trying to help her learn to hold up her responsibilities, etc. Not so sure about "with", though, and I'm sure it feels like "to" to her sometimes. That was probably a fair assessment, as when I sent her to do 3 laps she left immediately for the shed, yanking the rope from my hands hard. So I did some HQ yields, etc and smiled and sent her off again. She then did a lot of coming in and stopping. I just stayed firm and friendly and kept sending her again. When we got our 3 laps I asked for a little bit of canter before I asked her in. The canter was very nice. Read my notes.
"Recognise the slightest try." Well, I would look for a chance to do that. Naturally, she thought cantering was probably a pretty good idea now, so I thanked her for offering and reminded her to stay in trot. I got to thinking about some of Karen Rohlf's theories about having better self carriage in ourselves improving the horse's posture, and about visualising what you want your horse to look like, rather than settling for them just doing a sloppy trot. Interestingly, it seemed to make a difference right away. There was some slight leaning toward the gate and stuff, but it went better, and again I asked for a few strides of canter before we took a little break and went the other way. Now she was a little hyped. However, the thought of cantering improved her trot. She did offer it a few times, and I think my new version of "neutral posture with better self-carriage" had a little more energy which confused her a little. However, she then went into a beautiful, very engaged trot. Nice long strides and really picked herself up. She held that for several laps before I asked her in. I gave her lots of praise and treats, and what really surprised me was that she hardly licked and chewed at all. I think this may be because she really enjoyed those laps as much as I did. After that the 10 laps came pretty easy, and we were outta that pen!
I saddled her and we headed out to the playground. Something isn't great about how the saddle is fitting, though. The pad kept squirting out the front. A problem to be solved another day, though. We just readjusted a few times and lived with it. I put her on the 45' and we did some Figure 8s. The circle session did set us up for success, I think. She cantered pretty willingly, and if I'm not mistaken did one or two flying changes. I say that because her little legs go really fast, and her leads are not terrible pronounced, so it's very hard to spot in the moment, and hard to tell whether there was a quick trot stride in there somewhere, but I'm pretty sure she did it. The uncertainty made it a little anti-climactic, but I praised her and fed her treats and got off it!
Follow the Rail was a bucking session again, though. It's about wanting to go to the gate. The herd always seem to be hanging around when we do this, and I'm convinced that this is a factor, but so be it. Since I had a saddle, the bucking didn't really bother me, but it makes me sad. I did stick with it, and things improved a little. We got several nice right leads, which have been problematic again recently. I ended on the best note I could, when we had at least done a full circuit of the playground in trot. However, what was missing was harmony and rhythm. I think when she is so under-impulsive I get a bit tight and desperate for her to just go. I don't quite understand why the groundwork doesn't improve the ridden stuff, We have been here before and I am tired of it. I need to find a way to make the ridden strategies more like the ones I used on the circle laps....
I unsaddled her and we had a little session in the roundpen. I probably shouldn't have bothered as we were both a little tired. We just did walk/trot transitions and a few laps of each gait each way. It wasn't brilliant, but probably a better place to stop than after the riding. I'm not sure. She didn't seem in any hurry to leave either the roundpen or the playground, which surprised me. Looking back, I know that I forgot to carry some of the good stuff I learned in the On Line session into the Liberty. Next time!!