Happiness is not a matter of intensity but of balance, order, rhythm and harmony. ~ Thomas Merton

Friday, February 26, 2010

From Little Things

My play sessions with Cricket have just been little things. But some of these little things seem to be netting big results.

I have become more particular with her when leading her from her stall to the arena. We only cross 20' of aisle way but to her left is the stack of hay and to her right, the observation deck under which the feed cans are housed. Pretty big temptations for a very food motivated horse.

Rather than allowing her to drift to the hay stack and nibble, I've begun to insist she stand and wait while I refasten her stall door. Or if we walk down to the tack room, past the feed cans and desperately close to something that could be called grass, I ask her to focus on where we are going and to stand while I get whatever it was I forgot. She's getting better. This will take time as I'm the one who allowed the bad habit to develop. What I'm noticing is that she's more in tune with me from the get-go once we do start playing. Hmm, interesting what a little leadership can do.

In our ground play, I've become more particular about her attitude during the send and the change of direction on the circle game. In re-watching one of the SC DVDs, I came to better understand that her pinned ears may be her nature as a cow-y horse but her evil/driving thoughts need not be directed at me. I've started using a pattern interrupt to stop her in her tracks when she gets her "drive the momma" thoughts. I've had to balance this with maintaining her confidence. As evidenced by her somewhat erratic ear movement, she's quite conflicted in her thoughts on the change. I'm doing my best to accept her tries without allowing her to slip back into evil thoughts.

The net result is a horse who is now much more willing to canter. Odd for my little LBI pony. Even when I ask her down to the trot, she's prone to go back to the canter. Love it. Trying not to take advantage of it.

Riding is our littlest thing right now. I'm trying not to over-do anything. I still have discomfort from my gall bladder surgery but it seems to be improving. I rode her on Tuesday. We used follow the rail (consistency) with circles, walk to halt transitions, back-up, change of direction (variety) to warm up. When I asked her for the trot, she was forward and quickly became a little RB and spooky. I eased her back down to the walk and did more follow the rail. I asked her for just a few strides of trot and then back to the walk. Within one or two transitions she was back in harmony with me. I stopped and dismounted. It wasn't about the riding. It was about re-establishing my leadership and getting her focus back on me - despite the barking dogs, howling coyotes and the weird half-light shadows at the back of the barn.

Little things that seem to be growing into something big.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Back In The Saddle - Finally

I actually put a saddle on my horse and rode yesterday. It's a Christmas miracle in February. It's been just two weeks since my surgery and I feel pretty good.

We started with a short ground warm-up. During our recent winter weather event in which I was iced in, I started re-watching some of my SC DVDs. I watched Linda do a lesson in which she paid particular attention to the horse's attitude. Hmm, how interesting. As this was a comment on my recent Liberty audition, I decided to take Linda's techniques an see if I couldn't give Cricket a little attitude adjustment.

On the circle game, during change of direction, if she pinned her ears I gave her a pattern interrupt. I tried to be quick, effective and unemotional. For the most part I think I succeeded. I was probably late on my timing but I wasn't mean or mad. She started licking and chewing and having better thoughts on the change. We did just a little trot and canter. She was fairly responsive, not overly forward. Good enough to ride.

Because my tummy is still bruised and tender from the surgery, I actually had to get my saddle out so I could mount without causing further injury. Girthing her up, I realized how much Cricket has slimmed down over the past several months. Her girth that was on 5/6 or maybe 6/7 is now easily on 7/8. She's by no means skinny - I still cannot feel her ribs. If she stays this sleek, I may have to invest in a shorter girth.

She was good for mounting and we just warmed up at a walk. That felt good and I asked for a trot. Man, did she open up. What started as a little jog quickly became a forward, working trot. I posted her and just combed the hackamore reins - not with enough pressure to affect her but to keep me from grabbing on to anything. I alternated between "at the buckle" and combing the reins. The cool thing was that I didn't feel she was racing or bracing. I wouldn't say she was totally relaxed because let's face it, neither was I. I'm not used to her being so forward. I'm adjusting from initial fear (months ago) to unconfidence (before Christmas) to mildly unsure (is she racing and bracing or is everything okay?). Sometimes I forget to breathe and that inhibits her breathing.

All in all we only rode maybe 20-30 minutes. I was so pleased with her forward motion AND her willingness to come down with just my breath. And not slam on the brakes halt but rather melting to a nice stop. In my mind, that causes me to think she was more relaxed because she was able to maintain her connection. She also did some nice stretching under saddle.

The dismount was awkward. My muscle memory includes laying over her and scratching her belly before jumping down. Can't do that right now. I got a little tense and managed to waller off of her. I think I stressed my surgery site because it's a little more tender today than yesterday. But not bad enough not to ride today.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

What An Honor!

I know most of you have already seen my liberty audition. But the above link is to ParelliTube, the Parelli channel on YouTube where my audition was posted as the first in what I assume will be a series of Featured Auditions.

I cannot believe my humble little audition was chosen. I am honored and humbled to think John Baar watched this impromptu session and decided it was something he wanted to feature as representative of the Parelli program.

I'm going to be out of the loop for awhile. I recently had gall bladder surgery and it's going to be awhile before I get back into the swing of things.

Until then, happy trails and may the horse be with you.