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!