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

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}