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

Monday, October 3, 2011

Afterall, It's Supposed to Be Fun

At the heart of Parelli is the idea of playing games with your horse.  You'd think I would have figured that out by now.  Apparently not.

I scheduled a lesson with our local 2* Junior Instructor, Robin Harris, as a tune-up for camp.  I've been struggling with Cricket's on-line canter and nothing I'm doing is terribly effective.  Rather than count on camp to fix things, I set up a lesson.  After Cricket's little buck-up last week, I decided to include some riding in the lesson.

We started by just running through the games.  As I applied steady pressure to Cricket's shoulder, Robin asked, "Is that how you always check your porcupine?"  "Yes."  "Do it differently."

Huh?  I stood there, with a completely blank expression.

"How is your 'lead by'?"

So we did lead by the mane and lead by the leg.  Robin suggested incorporating more of this into our daily routine and to use grooming for checking basic yields.  The same basic challenge was issued regarding driving game so we did driving from Z3 and dwell only came when Cricket matched the energy I wanted.

The rest of the games were good and we deliberately omitted circles.

For the circle game, I showed Robin what we had and just how well it wasn't working.

We did a little on the circle but it wasn't working so Robin had me do a short range circle.  The idea was a 2 second lead it/energy cue followed up with a deliberate but quick phase 4.  Cricket gave me some great energy so we took that to the regular circle.

When I finally got the play dynamic right, Cricket gave me some beautiful canter.  Simply beautiful.  The first time I stopped her, I did so with a disengage.  Robin encouraged me to use more draw so we could both become more comfortable with that energy coming towards me.  The first time I asked, off a left circle, Cricket came in and jumped right, jumped left, reared a little and finally straightened up towards me.  I swear, with a lift of my arm to the right, I would have gotten the most beautiful FLC.  Going the other direction, she was much straighter.

Instead of wearing that out, we called it a win and moved onto riding.  We adjusted my shim pattern in an effort to alleviate the back pain I've been feeling lately.  I think it worked because I didn't feel a twinge or spasm during the entire ride!

Robin introduced me to the steady rein and using weight aids to move your horse.  The weight aids comes from Colleen Kelly and it's something with which I'm already familiar.  My dear friend Kathy has been certified by Colleen to teach her methods and we've played with it off and on over the years.  We played a little with canter and Robin helped me adjust my request so I could stay with Cricket during the transition and canter rather than falling behind and inadvertently driving with my seat.

What I need to remember:
  • Be more creative.  Cricket knows her basic yields so check those during grooming, haltering, etc.  Use play time to expand on those basic yields.
  • The key to Cricket's play drive is mental intensity.
  • She needs to understand the consequences for breaking gait and I need to follow through when she does.  If there's no repercussions for dropping to the trot, why should she exert the energy to canter?
  • More draw to bring back, less disengage.  Keep the energy flowing and forward.
  • If she offers her crappy 4-beat canter, do some transitions until she can move into a forward, correct canter.  Don't punish the crappy canter but find a way to let her know that's not what I wanted.
  • If she pins her ears, don't make her feel wrong but do something about it - change something to effect a change in her.  Foster the happy ears without criticizing the driving ears.
  • Stop making excuses for her.
  • Ask for the canter by riding the transition UP.  Literally.  Lift the inside hip a little and get up with her.  When Cricket offers a true transition, she's very up in her front end and I need to be ready for that on the first beat.
  • Be more particular on the small things - straightness through the transition, up or down; go when I say; whoa when I say.
All in all it was a great lesson.  Now I have camp in just under two weeks and then Wendy comes back in November.  I should be rockin' and rollin' just in time for winter to come in and shut everything down!  Ain't that the way it goes?

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