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

Monday, January 31, 2011

A Glimpse of Things to Come

This weekend I caught a glimpse of things to come.

Our weather was gorgeous.  Saturday was sunny with a lovely breeze and our temperatures topped out in the low 60s.  It was a beautiful breath of the Spring that is waiting on the other side of Winter.

I started my play with Bleu and Cricket on-line, together.  After a little confusion, I managed a very cool circle game with Cricket cantering in front and Bleu trotting behind.  I finished our tandem play with sideways from Zone 1, asking Cricket to push Bleu and help her understand.  Both horses did very well and I'm excited to see the prospect of playing with them together.

I saddled Cricket and decided to ride with one rein and a stick.  It went well but I just wasn't feeling like I wanted to push my envelope.  I've cantered Cricket with a stick and the reins but I felt like I survived it more than enjoyed it.  I've allowed her to canter while I was "hands-off" the reins and holding a stick but that was her idea.  It's always good when it's her idea.  I just get a little queasy when I think about cantering with just the sticks.

I decided I just wanted to have fun so I exchanged my stick and lead for clip reins and off we went.

Cricket is becoming a bit of a canter-aholic.  It seems to be her favorite gait, almost as if she's making up for all the times I wouldn't let her canter.  I have to admit, I'm becoming a bit of a canter junkie myself.  As if I'm making up for all the times I wanted but just couldn't trust my horse.

We just sort of monkeyed around and then I got a wild idea: I decided to try out my spurs.  Just to play a little with my yield isolations.  I dont' fully trust the stability of my lower leg to do much else.  I strapped them on, hollered out, "hey, y'all hold my beer and watch this" and got on.

Holy Crap!  That little mare can MOVE!  Cricket did really well.  I knew she would.  She's ready for this and, to some degree, so am I.  We did some HQ yields, some sideways and some forehand yields.  We rode around a little but I was nervous about how much the spurs were touching her and that, more than anything else, was making her cranky.  I stopped and asked for a quality HQ yield to both sides and then took off the spurs.

Then we took off again.  By this time, Ed was in the arena, cantering Slingshot so I decided just to follow him.  Whatever he did, wherever he went - we followed.  It was so much fun and it gave enough purpose to make it a little more meaningful for Cricket.

At one point, we were on a left lead, doing circles at the back of the arena.  Cricket finally relaxed and just arced into the bend.  It was awesome.  I told her, "good girl" and she slammed on the brakes and damn near pitched me over her ears. I had to laugh, however, because I've apparently taught her that "good girl" means "get a cookie" so it's my own fault!

Next we did some weaves and I tried, oh how I tried, to do the weave at the trot but Cricket just kept breaking into the canter.  I think she would have done flying changes if I'd had the coordination to ask for them!  I'll admit I probably didn't try hard enough to enforce the trot.  Mostly because I was laughing so much at my little LBI Energizer Bunny.

I did, finally, manage some trotting on her but the minute I thought about the canter, BAM! we were off again.

The coolest thing was that I could see how far we can go together if I can just pull some things together on my end.  I rode Cricket for about 2 hours with some LONG stretches of canter and she was so ready to go.  By the end of the ride, she was pretty sweaty and was breathing heavy but even in her cool out she was ready to canter at the drop of a hat.

I have a list of things to work on:
  • First and foremost, either disassociate "good girl" with treats or find a different phrase to praise and encourage her while riding.  I don't like my "saddle turned ejector seat."
  • Get control over my body while I ride.  When we canter, I still feel a little like a marionette in the hands of an epileptic.  I seem to have lost all I gained from my Pilates training.  Maybe my break is over and I need to get my butt back in the studio.
  • As much fun as our canter is, I need to take control over the gas pedal.  Having her canter when she wants is no different than having her not go when I want.  It's all about who's foot is on the pedal and right now, it's not mine.  I'm fortunate that I can stop her with little more than a breath out but we need also to be able to transition from one gait to the next, up AND down.
All in all, though, I enjoyed just having some fun.  Just doing something with her and not "working" on anything.  I think we have good things in our future together and I'm excited to see more of what's down the road.


Mary Hunter said...

Sounds like Cricket is doing well!

I really like having a set sound or word that means stop what you're doing, a treat is coming.

I think this adds a lot of clarity to giving treats. And, it can serve, if needed, as a super emergency brake.

However, it is nice to have a distinction between the treat sound/phrase and general praise. :)

One possibility--Good girl is a logical one to use for praise, so you might actually consider using a different word or sound to mean "treats are coming." I know some people who use a short, sharp letter, such as "Z," "T" or a sharp "yes."

Or, find a different, fun word to use for praise. I have a friend who uses "Yyyaay," said in a really enthusiastic voice with her birds. It's been paired with a variety of different things (treats, attention, scratches, etc.) so it's come to mean "good." They love it.

I would be interested in hearing more details and progress reports about your work with both horses together. I'd LOVE to try some of this with some of ours, probably this summer when I have more time. I think it would be challenging, but a lot of fun.


Lisa said...

The whole "good girl" = treat has been completely unconscious. I didn't realize how powerful an association it had become until she came to a screeching halt the moment I said it. Of course she's also of the mindset of "any excuse for a treat."

As soon as I get my Parelli L3 out of the way, I want to get serious about CT. Not that one has anything to do with the other except that I want to feel "finished" on one thing before starting another.

I don't have a set protocol for playing with two horses. I just play. I've done a little with Cricket at liberty and Bleu on-line but my last session, they were both on-line. I just play, using my energy and my horses' energy to do something different. Cricket gets very responsible, like the big sister and seems to understand her job. I can use her energy to help the other horse figure out what's going on and it's pretty cool.

The big thing is to be patient so the horse's learn when energy is directed at them and when it's aimed at the other horse. Another is to really watch for dominance games between the horses. I can use Cricket to move Bleu but Cricket shouldn't pin her ears or try driving Bleu. I try to do just enough to make it productive and fun.

Tina said...

You post just oozes happiness and fun. I'm so happy for you! I'm a canter junkie, too, to some extent, esp on the trail and Dixie is happy to accommodate me. In the arena, yeah, not so much.

I love the idea of playing with both together as well! Maybe you'll be ready for some team driving by the time I get down there?! ;)

Lisa said...

Cantering on the trail, or anywhere out in the open, is still a bit scary for me. I did canter Cricket out in the paddock last spring but not since then.

We have a great "rails to trails" with good footing and some nice long stretches. That might be a goal for me this year - get comfortable enough on trail rides to ask for the canter.

I am having so much fun with Cricket. It's part of the reason I just cannot stress over the trot or anything else. It's been a long time coming - this feeling of FUN and I just want to enjoy it for awhile.

"By the time I get there"? Does that mean what I think that means? Our little fantasy turned reality?

steveandtania said...

HI Lisa, I hope our family in australia are doing well in regards to tropical cyclone Yasi, will be sending out good vibes for their safety

steveandtania said...

That sounds fantastic. Can I ask how much time a day you spend on average with or working your horses?

Lisa said...

Tania - thanks for the good thoughts about my family. I believe they are out of harms way, further south. Still, prayers for those who will be affected - it's going to be a doozie of a storm.

If I really had to average my time out with my horses, I probably spend about 15 minutes a day. I don't have a set amount of time to play. I usually have a goal and that determines what I do. Right now, my main focus is riding so I spend less time on the ground and more time in the saddle. But once I'm mounted, I might ride for 20 minutes - get something good and then get off.

But I've been playing with Cricket for over 7 years now so I have a pretty good read on her. Within a few minutes of being with her I can take a pretty accurate guess at what I might be able to do and where I just shouldn't even go.