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

Thursday, August 16, 2012

A Change in Perspective

I have been struggling over the past few days.  I'm not sure where the funk originated and I cannot really find the grounds for feeling so lousy.  Things are going well.  Better than they have in ages.  So why the doldrums?  I decided I needed a change in perspective.  One that lifted me about 4' off the ground and looked out between my horse's ears.

Last night I had my first ride on Cricket at the farm.  Nothing earth-shattering.  Nothing that's going to set the world on fire.  But fore me, it was simply amazing.  Simple and amazing.

Etruska became very stressed when I took Cricket out of view so instead of my original plan to explore down the road, I decided to follow the fence line to the back of the property, allowing Etruska to walk along side of us.

I had Cricket tacked up in a bareback pad and I just tied my lead line into reins.  We headed off on our little adventure.  I had no idea what to expect.  I have to admit, I was a little nervous.  It is rare that I will ride without someone present.  It is rare that I will ride bareback outside the safety net of an arena.  But I felt this overwhelming feeling of trust.  It feels strange and I want to argue with it but I just know it's really okay.

Cricket was a little forward and animated in her walk.  There were times she was a little argumentative about grazing.  But not once did I feel scared.  Not once.  What I felt was a strong connection with my horse.  I felt our partnership.

I think we were out for about 15 minutes.  Like I said, nothing earth-shattering.  But every minute that we were together, we were together.  And that's what this whole journey has been about.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Bored vs. Tuned Out

I know Linda Parelli talks about horses being bored but I'm not sure if I buy it.  Cricket spends her day nibbling grass, napping and swishing her tail at flies. How is it possible to be more boring that?  Seriously!

To be bored is to be dissatisfied with what you are currently doing and to wish to be doing something else.  I'm not sure that's a thought process that fits in with the general "in the moment" mentality of the horse.

So I just don't buy into the "my horse is bored" theory.  I don't even buy the "my horse finds me boring" approach either.

Any time I interact with Cricket, there is more energy and activity for the duration of our time together than she sees for the entire rest of the day.  Maybe even the week.  Unless there are a lot of flies.

So what is it?  Could it be that the energy we bring lacks meaning and clarity and as such the horse simply tunes out.  It's not that he'd rather be somewhere else but he'd rather understand what you are asking so he can respond appropriately?

I don't know the answer.  I just don't believe my horse is bored.

If I watch her when she's wearing her alpha mare hat, there isn't a lot of activity.  There aren't feet flying and teeth gnashing.  It's actually quite subtle but it is crystal clear.  There is purpose - focused intention - behind every action she takes.  And even in the actions she chooses not to take.

When I look at my feeble attempt at leadership and compare it to hers, I see what I lack.  And it has nothing to do with boredom.  What I'm missing is the focus, intention and purpose.  What I fail to offer is a true release.  What I miss is the natural rhythm of equine interactions - rest, initiate, play and a return to rest.  What I forget is that action must be sustained for a purpose.  Horses do not naturally move except with purpose - fleeing from prey, establishing the hierarchy and winning breeding rights.  So where is the purpose in what I'm asking?  Where is my intention?  Where is my focus?

Monday, July 16, 2012

Time Flies . . . Even When You're Not Having Fun

Two months since my last post . . . big surprise!

The biggest news is that I moved.  It seems very surreal right now but I am living in my new (to me) house and right out the window I can see my Cricket grazing.  In some moments it feels as if it's always been this way and then I blink and wonder how I got here.

The house is proving to be a bigger challenge than I imagined.  I am struggling to stay positive and I need to redouble my efforts.  Too often I find myself complaining and it's draining my motivation and it's entirely too counter-productive.  So I am going to work on my "attitude of gratitude" and shift my focus to everything that is amazing.

I've spent little time with Cricket simply because of the sheer magnitude of everything else that needs to be done.  She is settling in well and I truly believe she's happy.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Super Camp

So I'm slowly returning to reality after an amazing time at Super Camp.  I was able to audit part of the camp last year but my nanny duties kept me from seeing a lot.  I decided to sign up for the following year thinking it would be fun.  I had no idea just what I was getting myself into.

I really was not prepared for how this experience would stretch and test my horsemanship.  I'm pleased to say that Cricket was a total rock star even when I wasn't.

One of my biggest issues in riding with a group is Cricket's intense defensiveness of her space.  She pins her ears, can lunge and has wheeled to kick.  It looks aggressive but I know better.  Cricket is so overwhelmed with the responsibility of taking care of me because for so long I was such a poor leader from the saddle.

On the first day of camp, I mounted up and we were in the arena with about 35 other horses.  After a brief walk to warm up, we moved out into a crazy forward trot and made our way all around the arena, weaving through horses in various stages of saddling, cinching, warm-up etc.  It was crazy!  And Cricket was amazing because my focus was on going somewhere and taking us through the "minefield."  I won't say we were perfect every day - she did pin her ears and she nearly kicked the little Gypsy Vanner - but on the whole she was INCREDIBLE!

Another issue we have is trail riding.  We went out twice, wending our way down paths that had been mowed in the hay field.  The first outing was strictly walk, with most of the camp group, and we went down to a small obstacle course.  Cricket handled every thing I asked like an absolute pro.  Having never done an "in and out" she was one of the few horses to take it completely in stride.  Some of the "seasoned trail horses" refused to go in or rushed the exit but not my rock star pony!  We passed on the "scootch hill" - I'm still a little freaked out by hills.  Maybe next year?

I had a session about re-shimming my saddle.  We stripped it down to just a center foam shim and I love it!  By the third day, Cricket was noticeably less defensive about girthing and by the last day she was actually nudging the pad and saddle towards her back.  Pretty cool!

I have some brief notes - some thoughts collected through the days but most are from the last day.
  • Phase 4 means "game over" - you get one touch and then it's back to phase 1
  • If your leg = go, use lateral flexion then disengage, then return to lateral flexion.  When you do, change your energy AND your body position . . . neutral, active, neutral (e.g. sit back up - I kept missing this step and wondered why Cricket wouldn't return to lateral flexion)
  • Circle game send - weight should be on the back leg; weight on the front leg=attack and causes your horse to come in and through you vs. out and onto the circle
  • If your horse is moving, stop driving!
  • Use rockslide, falling leaf, etc as purpose - get the energy up or as point to point; don't do it "just because"
  • Under saddle, once you get the stretch, do something with it - snakey bends, etc.
  • Circle game: energy for upward transition can be 180/90 behind the horse OR behind the drive line (for the more technical folks!)
  • If you can cause your horse to engage, he'll offer incredible things.
  • You need respect (the appropriate response to pressure) before you can truly activate "the game."
  • "Feel of, feel for, feel together" can easily get lost in the complacency of familiarity
  • There is not a brace that doesn't affect EVERYTHING you do with your horse
One of the biggest things I've learned is how heavy I've become.  I can start out light and playful but I loose that sense of fun through the game.  I was challenged, on many levels, to get my good better and my better best.

I signed up again for next year.  I hope it works out so I can go . . .

Friday, May 11, 2012

Catching Up

I don't even want to look and see how long it's been since I last posted.

So much has happened in the last two months.  I'm not going to hit all the details because I really would like to do some individual posts.  But here are some highlights.

At the end of March, I took a huge leap outside my comfort zone and took Cricket to the Carolina Parelli Jamboree in Huntersville, NC.  It was challenging on many levels but it turned out to be a truly amazing experience.

For several months, I have been yearning for a place of my own.  A near perfect possibility fell apart but out of the ashes of disappointment, I found an even better opportunity.  I have signed a contract and secured financing and now we are into the details of inspection and appraisal.  If all goes well, I'll be closing at the end of June and moving into my very first house.  Did I mention it has 6.2 acres of land?  And that it's partially fenced?  And you know what that means . . .

In the middle of all the excitement of my new house, I almost forgot about Super Camp.  Five days of instruction with Carol Coppinger and her team of amazing assistant instructors along side more than thirty other students and their horses.  Having just returned Wednesday night, I'm still recovering.  I came away with a deeper appreciation for my horse, for how far we've come and where we need to go now.

Not sure when I'll be able to post the next installment.  Grad school should be starting up soon.  I need to begin packing my house up.  Oh, and there's that little thing called "my job" that pays for it all.  But I'll try to write about super camp as soon as possible.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Two Fabulous Days

I'm a little late in getting this posted but I had a simply fabulous weekend with Cricket.  I managed to play both Saturday and Sunday and I am still pleased at how everything went.

I have a standing "pony play date" on Saturday afternoons with two dear Parelli friends.  It's just a lovely, low-key time to play with like-minded friends.  All three of us are in it for the relationship above all else and so there is great energy when we are together.

We started with a good grooming session.  The warm weather is upon us and Cricket is actually blowing her coat instead of letting it go one hair at a time!  This is peaceful and meditative - mainly because you don't talk whilst grooming lest you end up with a mouthful of hair.

I started Cricket on a traveling circle game.  I've found it to be a great tool for teaching Cricket her responsibility to maintain gait as there seems to be some built-in purpose (e.g. we are going somewhere).  She gave me some beautiful canter and even when I arrived at my destination, she continued the canter circle.  Fabulous!  I disengaged her and allowed her to graze.

Sheila was having some trouble with her little gelding and I helped her with the challenge of "I'm not going" and "I'm not looking at you."  I had such fun with Nipper.  He's got a pretty big play drive but can easily lose his confidence.  I showed Sheila how she could be quite soft yet still have some intention and intensity.  I gave him back and she had much greater success and Nipper came out feeling like a winner.

It's been awhile since I've challenged Cricket's trailer-loading so I decided to see what we could do with Sheila's small, 2H slant-load.  Cricket was pretty happy to check it out and just fine to go all the way in.  I loaded her from the fender and then from the hitch.  She was so funny as she'd only circle out half way down the line, stop at the fender, go sideways and then curve around the back to load.  All on one send.

The big challenge came when I asked her to accept the squeeze of the divider.  Cricket is a big mare and it is a small trailer.  She tried her heart out for me and with some approach and retreat, she accepted the closed divider.  We finished with some yo-yo at the edge of the trailer, increasing her confidence to step down.  All in all, she was a total rock star and we had a super fun day.

On Sunday, I brought her back to the field to graze while I played with my 45' line.  I need to become more proficient if I have any hopes of achieving L4!  I threw it out and re-coiled it until I felt more fluid in the movement and the rope was laying better in my hand.

I hooked C up and we played off and on with canter at the end of the line. For not having been on the 45' in some time, she was fantastic.  While I cannot say we got a true canter depart, she did canter within about two strides of a soft, phase 1 send.  I'll take it to start.  We finished with six laps at the canter with only one correction.  Again, we are on a mission to improve her "maintain gait" and I was super-pleased with her rhythm, relaxation and connection.  My biggest challenge is getting more athletic in my rope handling and getting Cricket to better understand "canter draw, redirect, FLC".  But we're getting there!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Back to Basics - Part 1

When I set out on my Parelli journey in 2002, the home study program went through L3. So that was my goal.  Achieving my green string left me a little lost.  What to do now?  Surely L4 with a LBI was insane and totally out of the question.  In the past several months, Cricket's extroversion is growing and suddenly L4 doesn't seem like such a pipe dream.

But I keep having this little stumbling blocks.  Like maintain gait at the canter.  Like circle at the end of a 45'.  Like execute a clean FLC on line.  In thinking about this - because I'm a left-brain introvert and we love to think - I came to the realization that if L4 is just L1 with excellence, I needed to look in L1 for my answers.  I decided to revisit Parelli Connect and work through the eLearning modules, looking at the L1 concepts through the lens of a L4 student.

What follows are some of my thoughts from the first 4 or 5 lessons.

Too often, I treat Cricket like a prisoner instead of a partner.
In reading the first lesson, I realize that too often I treat Cricket like a prisoner. No, I don't trap her or cross-tie her but have a tendency to get stronger instead of softer and I'm far too impatient with her. Need to start framing things like a partner.

Preparing to Play: Simulations
I don't know if I've ever made a program of simulations with my carrot stick. Hmm, how interesting! I lack precision in L4 . . . Could the two things be related? Methinks yes.

"Your [carrot] stick is attached to your attitude." ~ Linda Parelli
In my last Carol camp, we talked at great length about *intention*. The stick is an extension of your intention. So rolling this all together, if the stick is just my attitude and intention, C's actions in response to the stick are nothing more than her attitude and intentions about me.

I know that sounds a little garbled but where I'm going is that using the stick is not about getting a particular movement but offering an attitude and intention that creates desire and movement. If C responds appropriately to my attitude and intention then I'll get the requested movement but that flows from her attitude.

It's little wonder why on line was/is my worst savvy. I can use that halter and rope to either make Cricket do as I please or at the very least make us both miserable in the process. If the CS is an extension of attitude and intention - if that's what makes it a "tool" - then the halter and lead are no different. If I use the line to make her do something then all my "natural" just went out the window.

"Most people keep having the same problem over and over, year after year… which adds up to a lot more than two days."
This is the crux of my impetus for going back to L1. I have certainly spent much more than 2 days trying to cause Cricket to maintain gait on the circle, especially at the canter. I don't think we've solved it, by any means. But paying attention to *intention* and thinking about Cricket as a partner vs. a prisoner has yielded some of the most positive results we've had in a LONG time.

"When you open your hands, you release everything." ~ P. Parelli
The above might be a bit of a paraphrase as I don't have the scrap of paper where I wrote it down. Pat was discussing "hands that close slowly and open quickly as well as energy control.

So how many times, when I release, do I hold the tension or intention in my body? How is my grip on the line? On the stick? How is my attitude towards my horse? Have I truly released her into the movement or I'm I holding tension in critique?

Please feel free to join the discussions by connecting with me and looking for the eL-TotD (eLearning Thought of the Day). 

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Now That's More Like It

Had the privilege of playing with Cricket last night.  My good friend Tina made mention of this on Facebook or ParelliConnect (cannot remember which) and I decided that was the attitude I needed.  Having Cricket in my life is one of the most amazing blessings and I need to be reminded not to take her for granted.

I had a plan of playing "that's enough" - setting up some different tasks and just getting a better try before moving on.  I shifted my plan when I arrived at the barn.  Things went so poorly on Monday that I wanted to give Cricket big incentive to follow my requests.  I took about 2/3 of her grain (it's not really grain . . .) ration and divided it amongst several buckets around the arena.

And then I had a jumbled, mixed up, free-form, loosey-goosey session.  Totally channeled my RB.  And had a little FUN.  I really didn't care too much what Cricket did except that I wanted enthusiasm and "yes ma'am."  At first she was completely focused on the buckets.  I expected this and so was not frustrated.  As we continued to play, I got more specific about when she could stop for a nibble (or a cookie when the grain was gone).  And she started asking questions, "Is it okay if I check for a smackerel?"

We did a little with "more energy/maintain canter" on the circle.  I decided to use change of direction to encourage maintain gait.  This is not my favorite strategy but it worked for what I wanted.  Each time she slowed to the trot, I had an OH BOY moment with the change.  As soon as she put in more effort, I allowed her to stop and that was it on canter circles.

After a little more play - and finding some holes that need to be addressed - I decided the connection was strong enough and I slipped her halter off.  As soon as we moved forward, she headed for a (now empty) bucket.  I smacked the ground to disengage her with an "I didn't say you could leave" attitude and she whipped around to face me.  No argument, no bolt.  I brought her to me.  And gave her a cookie.

She was fantastic.  Lots of stick to me, a jump, some COD and she even offered some canter around me.  I brought her to the mounting block and she was happy to let me get on.  We had a very short, very slow walk around the arena - bareback and bridle-less.

Throughout the session, I had my spotlight music playing on my iPhone in my back pocket.  I really like the music I've chosen and I felt good playing to it.  I'm going to re-order the songs, moving the Jason Mraz tune to the front and the Joshua Radin song to the end.  If I can connect to that sense of play and connection, the spotlight is going to be just fine.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Partner vs. Predator

Less than stellar evening with La Principessa.  {sigh}

I had a plan to keep it simple.  Touch on just a few things and then feed her and leave.  Did I follow my plan? Nooo.  Did things go well as a result? Nooo.

We were out in the field with the herd so I haltered her and, using the 22' featherline, asked her for some canter departs on the circle.  Should have quit when I got what I was looking for . . .  It went south, but not too far.  I flipped the line over her back and asked for some sideways from Z5.  Should have quit when I got what I was looking for . . . Back down south again.

I managed to find a stopping point and should have called it quits there.  But since things were going "so well" (HA!) online, I decided to play at liberty.  Didn't take her long to bolt.  Big surprise!

I quit before I got too frustrated.  I grabbed the feed bowls and fed Cricket and Etruska.

And since liberty went so well the first time, I decided to try it again (yeah, I know, not too bright!).  She was gone in a flash.  The session rapidly devolved into Cricket running, totally RB, around the field and me trudging after her Z5 trying to figure out how to salvage the mess.

Finally, in the near dark, she turned to face me.  I crouched down, doing my level best to remove pressure but keep facing her.  She took awhile to process but finally, with tentative steps, approached.  She didn't run when I rubbed her with the stick.

I slipped the string around her neck and walked her to one of the hay piles, driving off another horse in the process.  Before allowing her to eat, I asked her for HQ yields as well as backing.  Somehow I needed to end on a leadership note.  I had the string around her neck but she could have easily pulled it from my hands as I was just holding the two ends together.  She didn't.  I slipped the string off and played some friendly and some yields.  She was right with me, "yes ma'am" and all.  When I turned to leave, she came with me, unbidden.

If the day ever comes when I can simply approach my horse, play with her in a non-offensive way and quit when it's all good, I will consider I've finally learned what Cricket has been brought here to teach.  At the rate I'm going, she'll live forever.  {sigh}

Friday, February 17, 2012

Having FUN

I was chatting with my friend Tina the other night on Facebook and we were talking about having FUN with our horses.  It's in all caps for a reason because we think, say and even type it with enthusiasm.  I am coming to realize that most of the really cool stuff going on with Cricket is because I'm having FUN.

My only real goal with Parelli was to pass L3.  I started PNH in 2002 when the home study ended at L3 and anything beyond was available only through direct study at the centers.  Even when the program changed to put L4 in home study format, I never changed my original goal.  With Cricket being innately introverted, I imagined L4 to be another adventure in frustration for both of us.

So when I returned from camp with my green string, I became lost.  I didn't know what to do so I just started goofing off.  Trying things just for fun and laughing when things didn't go so well.  And that's when it all started changing.  Cricket started becoming more engaged.  She began offering more energy.  She started having FUN.

Now I have this tiny inkling that maybe L4 is possible.  But if I'm going to get there, I'm going to play my way there.  I'm going to have FUN.

Last night I had FUN.  Since the stalls weren't ready when I arrived at the barn, I took Cricket and Etruska into the arena while they were being cleaned.  I put them both on featherlines -one white and one black so I knew which was which - and I played tandem games with my LBI/E and my best friend's RBE/I.  I had them circling, Cricket stretched and blowing at the canter and Etruska stretched and blowing at the trot (because she's a big ol' warmblood and can trot to Cricket's QH canter).  We did some COD and that was a little comical but we worked it out.  I finished with some FLC with Cricket alone and we had a fabulous canter draw to finish it off.

Yeah, maybe we can get to L4 if we keep having FUN.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Don't Try, Just Do It

I will never forget the lesson in which I first heard these words: Don't try, just do it.

I was taking periodic lessons from a natural dressage instructor.  He had laid out a pattern for me to ride and when he'd finished giving his instruction, my reply was, "I'll try."  And that's when I heard those words.

How many times, in doing something with our horses, do we try?  We try to get out to the barn more often, we try to follow the Patterns, we try to be more creative, less demanding, more provocative, less critical.

If I asked you to try to tie your shoes, that request would seem silly.  Of course you can tie your shoes.  You don't try, you just do it.  But if I asked you to do it with one hand, would your reply be to do it or to say, "I'll try."

You see, buried in the phrase I'll try is the acceptance of failure.  Think about it.

Saying "I'll try" is the precursor to saying "I tried."  I'll try to get to the barn three times a week leads to I didn't get out there at all but at least I tried.

Don't try, just do it.

Don't get me wrong, there's nothing wrong with failure.  And there's nothing wrong with fear.  Failure can be the gateway to amazing discoveries.  Fear is the mind protecting the body.

I'll try is not about failure or fear.  It's about the fear of failure.

The fear of failure stops us from moving forward.

I've been afraid.  I've failed.  I'll be there again, no doubt.  But I don't want to be afraid to fail.  Being afraid to fail keeps me in the arena.  Being afraid to fail keeps me walking endless, boring circles.  Being afraid to fail keeps me from being a partner and a leader.

I have experienced amazing things with Cricket over the last year and even more so over the past several months.  In large part because I've finally quit trying.

Monday, February 6, 2012

In the Dreaming

Several months ago I created a vision of a farm.  My farm.  I even named it.  Cooinda.  It's aboriginal for "happy place."  I knew it was real even though it wasn't yet mine.  In my dream, I built a place where I could simply enjoy my horse and have space, one day, to expand it to something more.

In the last several days, some doors have opened.  There is a distinct possibility that my dream may become reality much sooner than I ever imagined.

I have no idea how this is going to play out.  I'm going to try and trust my intuition.  I'll know it's right when I step foot on the property and it says, "welcome home."

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Our Liberty

I managed to tape our liberty session tonight.  It wasn't as spectacular or energetic as it has been.  Cricket was fairly low key at the start.  I think I was a little preoccupied with the camera.

The clip is edited and annotated.  Of course some of the best stuff happened outside the field of view.

Monday, January 16, 2012


I wish I had Cricket's original horsenality charts.  Honestly, I don't even remember if I properly charted her.  I do remember thinking that everything about the left-brain introvert was patterned directly on my mare.

Following are the charts I did for her this weekend.  I've done both the horsenality and the positive attributes charts.

I find it fascinating how her chart has rotated about 45° clockwise.  Her original charts were very heavy LBI with a few dots in RBI and a few in LBE.  Now she's moving more into LBE and has a few dots in LBI and RBE.  Hmm, how interesting!

Looking at the positive attributes, she's all over the map.  Pretty cool!

The thing I need to remember is even though she's charting LBE, she's innately LBI.  It's not about making her into something she's not; it's not about staying where I'm comfortable.  It's about understanding that, although she's displaying more extroversion, she's still an introvert.  I need to be aware that I don't use and abuse the beautiful energy she's offering.  I need to keep my eyes open to those moments when she needs a little extra time to think or when her confidence waivers.


It may be hard for an egg to turn into a bird: it would be a jolly sight harder for it to learn to fly while remaining an egg. We are like eggs at present. And you cannot go on indefinitely being just an ordinary, decent egg. We must be hatched or go bad. ~C. S. Lewis

I think both Cricket and I are emerging from our shells.  And we are learning to fly.

The journey to my green string was huge for me.  Taking the time to build my confidence and chip away at my fear was a long process.  It's not finished.  There are still moments where I feel my anxiety rise.  That's okay.  I've come this far; I can keep going forward.

Cricket is becoming the horse I never imagined I could own.

Our session on Saturday was mind-blowing.  I love the development in Cricket's magnetism.  I've stopped screaming at her with exaggerated phases and I've started keeping an eye on her confidence.  I've started allowing her to initiate games and I've stopped feeling the need to manage every step.

She left once.  But that led to the coolest part of the day.  I brought her to me at the canter.  First. Time. Ever.

We had tons of fun.  Her circle game is back.  Including transitions and change of direction.  We had a little trouble with the FLC from right to left but she nailed it going right to left.  And she maintained the canter in the new direction.

We played with some sideways and she gave me a few hop-canter steps going down the arena wall.

Riding didn't start so well.  Not sure where we broke down but she seemed mad at me.  I think my energy was off before I even got on and we were just out of sync.  It took us awhile to find a rhythm but eventually things started to harmonize.

I played with her canter on the question box.  I learned, very quickly, that I'm not ready to ask her for flying lead changes under saddle.  I need to go back to lower gaits and work out the mechanics of my body and her body.  It doesn't matter that it didn't work out - we played with it and she was so patient and tolerant.

We did a little bit of jumping and my friend helped me find better position and the last time over the cross-rail felt so good and balanced.

When I got home, I charted Cricket's horsenality.  I converted the PDF horsenality charts into a JPG image so I can just chart her on my computer and then upload.  I'll save that for another post . . .

Thursday, January 12, 2012


Sometimes the best sessions are the ones we don't plan.  Where we just play and we just BE.

With Cricket, those sessions are rare.  She is so full of her own ideas that without a plan, I usually don't stand a chance.  Monday was one of those precious moments.

Cricket came in from the field wet.  I had an idea to play with emergency dismount but sitting on a soggy pony wasn't my idea of fun.  I turned her into the arena while Bonnie cleaned stalls.  I thought maybe we could work a little on laying down.  Wet Pony + Sand = Roll.

Cricket had other ideas.

One of the best ways to get her feet moving without breaking the connection is Squeeze Game.  That mare will canter a squeeze and easily disengage when any other send will elicit a bolt.  I sent her over the small jump and she just sailed right over and looked at me as if to say, "what next?"  So I upped the ante by asking her to jump the cross-rail and then a single down barrel.  Piece of cake.

After a few repetitions, I decided to move on with some stick-to-me and maybe build a circle game.  As we left the jumps, the big 40" ball was right in her way.  She jumped it.

I stopped dead in my tracks.  She knows it moves.  But she jumped it without disturbing the ball at all.  Did I mention she's an introvert?  A left-brain introvert?

Since she was still cool with jumping, we played with a three jump combo - cross-rail, barrel and ball.  She never got all three in a row but she did get two out of the three most of the time.  Including several more jumps over the ball.

We finally moved on to F8 and I blew it.  She was cantering around the left cone and I wanted a FLC in the middle. She tried and tried and eventually bolted.  Damn it!

I got her back and we played very slowly with the F8.  I used a few bits and pieces from The Project and eventually we finished with a soft, connected F8.  Not a bad recovery.

With her energy down, I asked her to try to think about laying down.  We never accomplished the lay down but her connection and curiosity were worth every minute - including the ones where I went down and rolled in the sand!

I think we are making huge strides in our liberty connection.  I know I threw in a little circling and she never left me.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Riding in the New Year

Cricket, rigged up in surcingle, bridle and long lines.
There are numerous superstitions and traditions surrounding New Year's Day.  Some make sense.  Having money in your pocket or paying off debt before the stroke of midnight signal hope for financial prosperity.  Others not so much.  Seriously, what's up with wearing yellow underwear? (I'm not kidding, google it.)

My only New Year's tradition is to do on this day all the things with which I hope to fill the coming year.  I spent time with friends and family, puttered with some hobbies, worked a little around my house, got in a bit of exercise and, of course, played with my horse.

Becky and I make a point to meet on New Year's Day and do something with the horses.  The weather was supremely cooperative this year and we had a truly glorious day.

After hand-grazing and grooming, I played with Cricket just briefly.  I need to work more variety into our ground play and until I get my creative juices going, I just want to make sure she's free and forward.  She offered me some beautiful circles and I was pleased.  I sent her over a small cross-rail, part of a pattern that was set up in the arena, and she took it nicely in stride.

I saddled up with my ReactorPanel, my fantabulous English saddle.  One of my goals is to start jumping and to do so, I need to reacquaint myself with my English saddle.  I decided to shorten my stirrups as I have a feeling they are way too long.  It felt awkward at first but as soon as Cricket picked up a trot, I realized how much easier it was to rise to her trot with shorter stirrups.

After a nice warm-up, I took her through the jump pattern.  We trotted up the east wall and around the north side of the arena.  We turned in and took three trot poles back towards the east wall.  Following the east wall, we came around the open south end towards the small cross-rail.  And then we jumped.

Okay, not a real jump.  Cricket took the jump in a high trot stride.  But still . . . She was so soft and forward.  She felt so balanced and sane.  It was wonderful.  I wasn't afraid at all.  Well, maybe I was a little apprehensive but it felt so good.

So we did it again.  And then again.  The final time through, she jumped a little more and that was just fine.

I was thrilled!

We finished with some left lead canter circles.  I had asked Cricket for a right lead and she was very rushy and I didn't like it.  I put her on the left lead on a question box.  The first time, she popped two little bucks.  I think I was squeezing her with both legs.  The second time, she was relaxed and forward.

I decided to strip her saddle off and rig her up in long lines and her surcingle.  It's been ages since we've done anything with driving and I'd like to get back on track with it.  We did a simple follow the rail and we just worked on solving the puzzle of following a feel on the lines.  I asked her for some trot but was unable to be effective from Z5.  We need to play with that some more.  I quit when she offered a canter stride - not because I wanted the canter but because she tried really hard to do what she thought I was asking.

The day ended with more hand grazing in neighbor Dave's field.

If that day is a sign of things to come in the new year, I couldn't be happier.