Thursday, October 21, 2010

Bruce is Back - First Session

Livia returned Bruce to me, safe and sound, a couple of weeks ago. She and I spent an enjoyable few days together, playing with him, riding, and talking about some of the things she learned during her time as an extern at the Parelli ranch in Pagosa Springs. During one session, I watched her ride Bruce in the Cradle Bridle. I think both Livia and Bruce were tired, and the session wasn't great. It really got me thinking, yet again, about where I stand on bits, on so-called collection, etc.

Like a lot of Parelli students, I would prefer to ride without a bit. I'm not vehemently against them, but they aren't my ideal, either. However, I'm curions, and recently experimented a little with Iona in the Cradle, and found it pretty easy to get a "soft feel" that might just develop into something we could both enjoy. The conclusion that I've come to is that most of us don't have our Porcupine Game in Zone 1 anywhere near good enough to be messing around with contact with a bit. For sure, Bruce's Zone 1 stuff has never been very good at all. When I first started riding him, I couldn't steer him at all in a hackamore. Of course, I thought that just because we could play the 7 Games fairly well that it was time to get on and start riding him. And when that was difficult, I just fought with him as best I could.

I haven't ridden him in the hackamore since he came back from the ISC, so I don't know yet what may have changed. It is a testament to Livia that she managed some good sessions with him in the Cradle. However, I've made up my mind to make a big effort to get all our horses soft, soft, soft in all their Zone 1 yields, and to explore whether we can even make some steps into contact and collection in the hackamore before we use bits for these things.

All this is really just a prelude to telling you about my session with Brucie today, as I didn't want to interrup the flow of the description explaining all this.

The first things I played with today was yielding the forehand with finger pressure just in front of the girth. Bruce was doing well with this previously, but found it trick to keep his feet still for a complete 360 degree turn. He can do that now, and is lighter and more confident with it than before. Yay!! I also played with lowering his head, backing him up with my fingers on his nose, lateral flexion with my hand on his muzzle, etc. These things felt really good. He need a little more friendly game in his mouth, I think, and then I might try some lead by the lip.

I am still working my way through the tasks I planned with the trailer (see I Have a Plan) so I thought we'd go do that next. My plan was to play the games On Line inside the trailer. We headed to the trailer, which I keep in a roped off area. However, I didn't think I'd need to close the gate! Well, it seems that Bruce has a few concerns about the trailer. Whether he doesn't want to take a six hour trip only to find himself away from home for three months, or just didn't like the hunks of bark and stuff that were decorating the trailer floor (Mark hauled some firewood) I really don't know. I got him in on the first couple of sends, did something he didn't like, so he came out. No big deal. I re-sent him and he just left. Went to talk to the cows about borrowing some alfalfa. Okay, so he still knows how to leave. Not surprised!

Back at the trailer again, I shut the gate this time and tried a few hard sends on a circle, but of course he's too smart for that. Back to trailer loading, then. He wasn't enthusiastic, but it didn't take much to get him going in the trailer easily. He was more sceptical about me coming in, though, so we played with that, and with me playing a bit of Friendly Game with the back door of the trailer, too. In the end, we did manage to play the games inside, although I'd say there were some reactions amongst the responses. It wasn't easy enough to get him to lower his head, for one thing. However, I decided to keep things light and not make the session too long, so I wound things up, and will come back to it later. 

Our last task today was circles. My goal was 5 laps of trot on the 22' line. We did this in the arena, in the corner nearest to the loafing shed. I fully expected to have trouble hanging onto him, but he never left. When we started the session my plan was to get first one lap, then three, and then five. He started off constantly breaking gait and leaning on the rope. I decided to fix the leaning first, so I asked for walk. The moment he put slack in the rope I brought him in for a rest. The next time I waited about 12 strides, after he put the slack in, and the next time he managed a full circle. It doesn't take him long to figure things out! (I was proud of myself for remembering my goal of lightness in Zone 1.)

We moved on to trot, and it really didn't take much to reach my goal of 1, 3 and 5 laps. He didn't have a lot of impulsion, and on the five laps, he leaned on the rope sometimes. But I never stopped while he was leaning! We will sort those things out, but at least he maintained gait in this simple task, and understood that slack in the rope is important.