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

Monday, April 19, 2010

Figuring Out the Figure 8

I don't know if I've posted about how much trouble I've been having with Cricket in on-line play. I hate it. She hates it. She's so grumpy about being on-line that I usually play at liberty or just muddle through and get on to riding.

I've tried doing on-line patterns with her and we always get stuck on the Figure 8. Some days it's good, some days it's just okay but most days she is obviously hateful on the pattern. I've come to believe that all of our on-line issues are manifested in what happens when we work on that blasted Figure 8. If I can figure that out, I can figure out every other on-line problem we have.

This weekend I hosted my good friend and Parelli 1* Trainee Instructor, Wendy Morgan. Because I had volunteered to watch Wendy's daughter, I did not schedule a lesson for myself. I was mostly okay with this because I knew how much it meant to Wendy having someone she trusted take care of Stella. Still, as I watched other people having lovely sessions with their horses, I got a smidge jealous.

Sunday, my dear friend Becky offered to watch Stella so I could squeeze in a lesson. Yippee!!!

I started out with my normal on-line play, just letting Wendy watch me with Cricket. She then asked me about specific issues. My two main points were Figure 8 and cantering on the 22'. We started with Figure 8. I showed Wendy what normally happens. Cricket was good but saw no purpose in the pattern and was just grumpy about it.

So Wendy had me send her around one cone and just as she gave me two eyes for the draw, turn my back and walk to a barrel that was "behind" the Figure 8 pattern. At the barrel I was simply to scratch and love on her. We did this a few times and Cricket had a lovely attitude shift about the pattern. Wendy also worked on softening my send. What I thought was helping motivate Cricket to put in more effort was actually contributing to the grumpiness.

When Cricket offered a soft, energetic send and a happy draw, we moved on to a similar concept with the pedestal. The goal was to focus on the pedestal but the moment Cricket hooked on to the idea, move away and give her scratches. The whole idea was to really get my idea to be her idea. Now Cricket knows all four feet on the pedestal very well. But rather than the "oh well" attitude, we were looking for the "oh boy" attitude.

We returned to the Figure 8 and put a little more variety into it. Cricket was really softening and becoming more receptive. She even started offering some sassy play drive. We decided to move on and have a look at the circle game.

Cricket was fantastic. She gave me some of the best upward transitions, smooth cantering and maintain gait. Gone was the choppy, stompy four-beat canter. Gone was the snarky attitude and the refusal to maintain canter for more than a few strides. I barely had to do anything but let her know what I wanted. At one point she did a bit of a buck and jump and got away from me. It was cool, though, because that's the exuberance we often get at liberty but rarely see on-line.

We ended with a little bit of free-form "send around, come back and get scratches" and called it all a win.

I had so much fun playing with Cricket. Gone was the feeling of drudgery. I saw how much my attitude affected Cricket. And I was reminded that I need to make things into games and puzzles so Cricket can show off just how smart she is. It was a fantastic lesson.

Wendy is coming back next weekend and I'm hoping, with Becky's help, we can squeeze in another lesson!

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