Thursday, June 17, 2010

More Impulsion!

I spent a nice morning with Iona, mostly riding. The weather is very hot here, and it's a struggle for me to get up and out early enough to beat the heat. I just don't sleep well if I go to bed unusually early. I'm working on it! However, I have done a little better this week - played with Iona a couple of mornings and Hunter once, too. (Pat on back!)

Circles aren't going as well again. I suspect there is some "make" creeping in on my part. So the pendulum has already swung a little too far in the dominance game, I guess. Iona is playing The Eating Game with me, and the Running Off With the Line Attached Game. I am finally learning to hang on a little better, so I am grateful for the chance to learn about that. I see that my assertiveness is starting to border on aggression about the eating, though. Need to think of some Savvy Arrows quick. Maybe I just need to play the Own the Grass/Food game more, and build the distance. Yep, that should work.'s not as much fun as making her run around, but I'll put it on the list.

I think one reason I was impatient this morning was because I had a plan about riding, and Travelling Circles on the 45' line were supposed to be the warm up. Which they were, but not that pretty. All the eating/running off stuff happened on the right rein as I was trying to increase the distance and just walk around a little, doing walk-trot transitions. We did finally get to the end of the line with some respect. I did a few trot-canter transitons on the left rein, then felt more like doing simple changes instead, so we did a few of those, which she was better with, so I stopped.

She was now all saddled up and I think she was surprised when we left the playground and headed out on the track. Part one of my plan was underway! Hunter and Bruce had obliged nicely by leaving beforehand and going about 1/2 mile or so around. So we were going to have no impulsion problems getting that far! My plan was to catch up with them, and then play with overtaking them, retreating back to them, etc. Play was the important word in that last sentence. We started down the drive at a brisk walk, and I worked on my Fluidity, which has been really lacking in the saddle, the odd time I've bothered with one recently. It really felt awful at first - a foreign object wedged between me and my horse. (Yes, I mean my beautifully fitting and seriously expensive Balance saddle.) I peddled like crazy. We did a little sitting and rising trot. That felt a bit better.We turned the first corner in walk. I decided to involve my arms in my fluidity exercises, and that was an excuse to trot. That was okay with me, but downward transitions were hard and not very long lasting, so we did some direct and indirect reins, just to resume communication. Around the next corner and I figured she was ready to canter. Yep! So we trotted and cantered most of the rest of the way, then hung out with the boys for a bit.

The going ahead and retreating went much more easily than I expected, thanks to Mr Hunter. What I hadn't realised was that he will go with Iona and leave Bruce, I still did some approach and retreat, but it turned out to be pretty easy for the next half mile or so. One place where she's always sticky she went "I'm gonna sull up and buck now." I said "Go ahead" and she said "Yeah, never mind." Hmmmm. The first time I asked for canter she wouldn't, so I just blew her mind by asking her to do a short one back toward Bruce (who hadn't bothered to follow us at all). Then I let her eat (still a long way from Bruce) and after that canter was easy. Fancy that!

When we got half way around by the olive trees we lost Hunter, and I thought we would have an arguement. Wrong. Now bugs came to my aid. I suspect Hunter knew about these, which is why he left us. However, Iona decided any direction would do as long as we kept moving, so the rest of my ride was controlled, but quite speedy. Fun! Well, except for the flies and mosquitos...

I was so pleased, I wondered whether to quit for the day, but I decided to go ahead with part two of my plan. Patterns in the playground. These went so well that there's not really much to describe. I managed to do both Figure 8 and Weave at trot, with just a few corrections at first and finished up both of them without using my reins or stick. Hooray!! I'm sure that long warm up ride helped us both.

One other thing I noticed was from a tip I had from Jerry Williams about the Theraflex pad. I've been using the sideways shimming pattern that Linda P now recommends for low withered horses for awhile, but Jerry told me to actually let the two halves of the pad splay apart at the front, and this seemed to help today with the pad and saddle going in opposite directions, Everything stayed in place better, and I think we were both more comfortable as a result.

What a great morning! I watched some Parelli DVDs in the nice cool house after that to celebrate.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Learning Frame of Mind

Had a session with Iona yesterday. Even though we started fairly early in the morning, it was very hot! Think it got up to 101F or something yesteday. However, I was determined, and thankfully a breeze and a few clouds made it possible for awhile! We played with canter circles, which ended up taking some time. She's in season, and was making a fuss about being away from Bruce. There was a bit of running off, but we weren't in a very big space, so I just persevered. I was trying for six laps. Got three easily each way, but when I went for six, she would get almost to six and then break gait. This happens so often that I wonder whether there is a change in my energy when we get close. I do my best to control it, but I still wonder...

We got six on the left rein with either a minor correction from me or self correction. Then on the right she decided to run around and leave me because Bruce and Hunter were on the move on the track. We went into a roundpen and finished pretty easily there. We were both hot and sweaty, so we called it a day and I hosed her off.

I got up nice and early this morning to beat the heat, and it worked out really well. We headed out to the playground where I had set out some half barrels for a Weave and cones for a Figure 8. I wanted to work on Weave on the 45' line. This hasn't been going well. We warmed up with some Traveling Circles. Iona is still Iona, and has her opinions, but I was left feeling like "When did we get to the place where I can move you through time and space on a longer line, and you do maintain gait? Wow! This is new and cool!" (I had much the same feeling playing with Bruce the other night. Gee - maybe I'm changing...) So we did that for awhile, and she was great! Then I realised that I needed to go shut a gate out in the pasture, so I left her happily eating grass or a few minutes.

Okay, time for the dreaded Weave!! The first thing I noticed was that she had lots of go. Excellent! The next thing I noticed was that I wasn't doing a great job of directing her. She was actually trying, but when I was unclear she just made up her own stuff, like jump the half barrel, go around two, stop and eat... I bagan to sort out my timing, and in the process I realised that the further away I am the less I have to move and the easier it is to be clear, too, I think. Again, Iona did a pretty good job of maintaining gait, and really tried for me. That, in turn, made it a lot easier to be able to work on my end of the deal. It's a completely different game than when a horse is just stopping and goofing off all the time. Then it's very hard for the human to make progress. I was really pleased with Iona and I felt we made a lot of progress on this!

After a suitable break, we moved on to Freestyle Figure 8 at trot. Or tried to. Again, Iona got really distracted by Bruce and Hunter out on the track. She was actually going around with her head in the air calling to them. If she could get that big tail in the air she'd have been doing a pretty good imitation of an Arab. I thought we'd start with a little point to point just to see where we were. Did I mention we were bareback? I was gonna use tack, but discovered a HUGE welt from a bug bite just where the girth goes.... Boy am I out of shape! Haven't been riding enough, so I'm up there slipping around on her nice shiny summer coat. Yikes!

Point to point was do-able, so I decided to just go for it. Then I remembered I was supposed to be riding with my stick. Doh! Got that, and Iona took off in her punchiest, most jarring fast trot, with a big loop on the side where the boys were and completely missing X, also in favour of going toward males, then trying to just go straight and run around at the other end of the pattern. Great. I was all over the place - trying to resist te urge to use my reins for balance, frustrated by the stick and must have left my balance point at the breakfast table. Wonderful.

This whole crazy trot thing seems to surface at times when I am bareback and/or riding with the stick. I've wondered why. I'm not always that unbalanced, but have wondered if there's a lack of confidence with the stick, a discomfort with the bareback trot, or what. Still don't know the answer, However, what I learned today was that it is okay to do something about it. I think I have been sort of like a rabbit in the headlights with it. Just gamely riding it and waiting and hoping for a change. Sometimes it does come eventually.... So after 5 or 10 minutes (felt much longer!) of awful, during which I managed to stay on, stay roughly on the pattern and saw no improvement - I had a brainstorm........I sinply asked her to slow down. Not walk. We could do that. Just trot slower and relax. And then we did it. Problem solved.

I also discovered some of the same problems with my timing on asking for a change of bend, that I found earlier on the Weave. I'm really happy with what I learned today. Sometimes I feel like I'm not progressing, because I can't figure out what I need to learn. I love breakthrough days!

Oh, yes - she never bucked.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

More fun with Bruce!

My Beautiful Brucie
(taken in Scotland)

Denise and I have had a few sessions with Bruce since I last posted. Their partnership is improving. Denise has stepped up to take on the things I am asking her to do with him, and he is having a lot of fun playing and enjoying the extra attention. Yesterday evening was really fun, though!

We started by looking at playing Games 4-7 in a flow, and I suggested that Brucie should really be trotting 90% of the time. I played first, and I have to say I was surprised at just how well he did. I didn't need to ask him to pick up the pace much at all - he just went. Denise also had a good little session, although she needed to remember to "expect a lot" as she just didn't realise he could easily do much more for her at first.

We then had a look at tacking him up with a bareback pad. Typically, he was trying to undo the latigos and "help" her put it on. He is always impatient with tacking up. He thinks it take too long.

In the interest of continuing with the Impulsion Programs, I had to think of a way to play the Trotting Game dismounted. I decided we could try Liberty. We were in the small arena, so Denise and I each took a half and I sent him off - really to go where he liked as long as he trotted! And if he went over to Denise's side, then it was up to her to keep him trotting. Naturally, he had no idea what we were asking him to do. However, that just seemed to make it more fun for him and he was pretty expressive. Only one or two little moments of "uh-oh, I guess I'm wrong!" He mostly offered to do big circles around us, and we ended up having to sort of discuss how to get him to go to the other person's side. We all had a blast, and ended up asking him not to canter more than not to walk, by far. It would be very easy to get him to do a big Figure 8 around the two of us, I think.

Denise then mounted up to work on her lateral flexion, friendly game and a bit of Passenger Lesson. I'm not sure that too much Passenger Lesson will be a good thing for Bruce, so this may be a bit of a compromise. Hopefully, Denise can sort of get that just riding him around with me and Iona before too long.

Because of Bruce's impending trip, I thought I'd better work on his trailer loading. We haven't done much with it since the Trailer Woes thing this autumn. However, after a little initial scepticism he went on and off several times easily. I then experimented with how he felt about me coming in. No problem, so we played a little Yo-yo game and stuff in there, and I also experimented with running the lead rope through the bars to simulate tying him up. That also went just fine. I think that's where we had problems the last time - or at the next step, where I dallied the rope to something and left him - and then he panicked a little. No problem this time. I didn't dally the rope, but did get out of the trailer and go around and give him a treat through the bars from the outside. A pattern he knows from our old trailer in Scotland. I was really happy with that session, and with how the whole evening went.