Yesterday was all about puzzles and questions.
I wasn't sure I was going to get to play - right when I arrived at the barn, a big thunderstorm rolled in. I decided to review the self-assessments and see if I could wait it out. The storm finally moved on and I went ahead with my session.
I decided to start Bleu on the L1 on-line patterns, beginning at the beginning with Touch It. I set up the arena with obstacles and cookies and then went to fetch her. She caught me right away, walking up with confidence. Love it!
Going into the arena, Bleu can get pretty uptight. She's not used to arenas and as a RBI, gets pretty skeptical. Once in the arena, I decided to check her friendly game and just tossed the string over her back, around her legs - just a basic L1 friendly game. Just that soft rhythm helped her to relax. I need to make sure I make a program of relaxation first so we start off on the right note.
I started the pattern, driving her from Z2/3, asking her to touch obstacles with her nose. By about the third obstacles - after interrupting forward at times and redirecting Z1 - she sort of started to understand that touching yielded a cookie. Then we came to the tarp and Bleu showed me a major threshold.
Taking a strategy from Natural Solutions for Spooky Horses, I moved her between the tarp (big threshold) and pedestal (relative confidence). I didn't care how close she got to the tarp, as long as she didn't try to push past me to get away from it. I also wanted to prove to her that when she was worried, she could trust me to help her and not over-face her. Finally, when it was her idea to be brave and confident, she sniffed at the tarp and was rewarded with two cookies.
I moved on to playing with more friendly game and checking her forehand porcupine game. We finished with a little more touch it, revisiting the tarp. After some more approach and retreat, she offered to put her foot on it. TOUCHDOWN! I walked her away and tied her to the rail while I went and got Cricket.
With Cricket, I wanted a low energy session that really worked on her mind. Wendy Morgan, soon to be fully licensed 1* Parelli Instructor, helped me set up some puzzles for our partnership. It's about working on a task - like sideways from Zone 1 - but setting up a puzzle that causes you and the horse to work together using the skill rather than just pushing the horse by drilling the skill. I call them Wendy Puzzles.
I set up a sideways/backing puzzle and a squeeze with options puzzle. The first had me behind a pole and Cricket between two cones with the tarp behind her. The puzzle was sideways from Zone 1 between the cones, adding in a back up to stand on the tarp. By the end, I had her going sideways from one cone to the middle, backing up to stand on the tarp, coming forward and then asking the question to complete the sideways to the other cone.
The squeeze with options had me behind a pole with the pedestal and a cone. I had the option of squeezing her onto the pedestal or going between the pedestal and the cone. For Cricket his is hard because she makes a lot of assumptions about the pedestal. The first few sends, I had to be clear, tagging her shoulder to get her off the pedestal and do the squeeze I requested. She finally got it and gave me a few "yes ma'am" squeezes.
Then I changed my focus and asked her to cross the pedestal. She got it right away. Then I changed my focus and asked for the squeeze. She was absolutely convinced she needed to cross the pedestal. I had to come across my pole to reinforce the squeeze I wanted. When she came through that squeeze, she was licking and chewing and licking and chewing. After that, she just got it. I did a squeeze over the pedestal followed by a squeeze around the pedestal and she just got it.
I doctored her belly spot (which is finally healing) and put her back in her run. I got the stuff to doctor Bleu's latest hickey and then turned all the horses out. Cricket hung back in her run while everyone else left. Then she mosied right up to me. It's almost like she was waiting to have me to herself. I gave her scratches and a cookie and headed home.