Thursday, January 6, 2011

Taking it easy

I slipped into Journey's pen yesterday with some new ideas and feelings. She did her usual obsessive facing me. I don't like that. I don't like it because I made it, and it's not natural or nice. But I guess it's all about balance.

I had a feeling when we headed for the round pen the first time, that it would be difficult to progress. I just couldn't put my finger on why. Today, I got a little support in the form of a technical suggestion from a friend (thanks, Jeff!), who stated the obvious. If you can only get into Zone 1, try playing the Friendly Game in Zone 5. That gave me pause. I
sn't the Catching Game all about driving the rear end away? In order to draw Zone 1? But of course that might be appropriate if Zone 1 is always leaving and Zone 5 might be threatening, but if Zone 1 is in your face and Zone 5 is elusive, then maybe the pendulum needs to swing the other way.

With a reminder to myself to have soft eyes, and a soft attitude, I began the dance to unwind the spiral and try to turn it the other way now. Journey's pen can be divided into two parts. I sent her into the smaller and shut the gate. She snapped to attention and spent quite a bit of time shuffling around as I tried to approach her hindquarters. I tried to keep my gaze neutral and soft, and was very mindful to keep my head, neck and body straight upright so as not to send her any signals to disengage. Occasionally she would hesitate in her rhythm . . . and I would be too slow with my release. However, I think she still noticed.

The hesitations became pauses, my timing got better, and it only took two or three clear releases for her to figure out what I wanted. Smart horse! During releases, I looked at the horizon, or watched what the cows were doing. Softly. When I was approaching or being in Zone 3-4-5 I was often "touching" her with my gaze, or touching her airspace with my hand, in the same way I will touch her hairspace when she's ready. I mixed things up by letting her sniff my hand, touching her nose and face, even scratching her neck, and also walking away to do little jobs like taking ice out of her water bucket.

I feel that it was a much better session, and more progressive than our others.

Once we finished our session, I decided to put Ranger in with her. They have been friendly over the fence all week, and they haven't been eating their hay very well. So I thought a bit of company and friendly competition for food might make a good change for both of them. That went very smoothly, and I think Ranger will definitely be the boss.

In between chores I saw the other four horses all standing nearby at the loafing shed, so I thought I would just go out and be friendly. I decided to carry a halter and rope just for fun. The Fells came over for scratches and cookies. Hunter hung back, so I made a few overtures. He tried to herd Dove away and to hide behind her. So I made a point to stay until he was more relaxed and even ready to be haltered. I haltered him, gave him some cookies and then led him over to Dove, where I was able to give her some scratches, too. Then I took the halter off and left. Tee hee.

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