Photo by Margaret Chant and edited by Jessica Metropulos

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Trailer loading, Thresholds, and Adrenaline

Oh my, what an interesting equine day today. It's broken down into three parts, named after the sections in the title.


I got a call yesterday from a student of mine who lives about an hour from me. She was in the middle of practicing trailer loading her horse, a lovely Left-Brain Introvert mare. However, the not so lovely side of the LBI came out, and Kristina (her mare) had thrown a tantrum, dug her feet into the ground, stuck out her tongue, and in a classic LBI manner, said "NO, I don't think I'll be going in there today, why don't you try and MAKE ME!" My poor student had no clue where to go or what to do. So today, I hopped in the ol' car and went up to her place to help her out.

Kristina is an interesting horse. She's really arrogant and full of herself, and displays it prominantly. However, when a dominant, firm leader such as myself steps up and establishes position, she has a tendency to almost immediatly turn right-brain, and get defensive. So, treading a thin line, I started to play around with this trailer loading issue.

This horse was NOT afraid of the trailer. It was obvious to me from the get go. The horse is anything but scared. She obviously had a bit of an attitude, and definitely wanted nothing to do with the trailer, but it was a game, not a fear. I know from my experience with both my Left-brain brats that the last thing to do is to go straight to the trailer and make it all about that. I decided to play a game with Kristina. The game was simple, we were going to do zone 3 driving and she was going to put her nose on something. Very basic, but intriguing to a LBI because it seemingly has a purpose. The way the yard is laid out, there are several trucks and trailers and little squeezy types of situations that we played with and then, after playing around a bit, what do you know, a trailer with open doors just "happened" to show up.

From there, we began with our trailer loading. In the beginning, Kristina would load her front feet in the trailer and then lose her confidence and rush out. I played a game of when she got Right-Brained and tried to rush out, I would actually yo-yo her out faster than she wanted to go. This made going RB and rushing uncomfortable, and thus undesirable. It took about 20 minutes, but Kristina finally willingly loaded her front end in, and stood until asked to come out.

Since she did what she was asked, I decided that it would be best to quit on the trailer for a while, and we went into the arena and played around. After a little while, we mosied back to try the trailer. She loaded her front end in willingly and confidently, and so I decided that she was ready for a little more "insistance".

Pat Parelli always says "Never ask a trying horse to try harder". It's a great way to destroy a horse's confidence in what he's doing. Well, Kristina had quit TRYING to make progress. She thought she had it made loading her front end in, and wouldn't even look at the idea of loading further, so I opened another can of worms and another game. I simply said "You don't get to rest unless you rest in the trailer." For a LBI, rest is a VERY good motivator. It took several minutes of "NO!" attitude, but Kristina figured out pretty quickly that it was worth it to just load up, and stand. Now coming out was still a big source of trouble, Kristina was still unconfident. We played the same game, you back out faster than you want to, until finally, she could stand in the trailer calmly and then back out sanely. interesting.


The threshold part of this story comes in later in the afternoon. I didn't get a chance to play with Crest yesterday, and felt like I needed to do something with him today. He seemed eager enough as I began to play with him, but he was just a little on edge. I've been doing my best to not mirror his emotions, but sometimes it's a little tough. Anyway, Crest was just a little on edge, not enough to be considered Right-Brained, but not his usual Left-Brain Extrovert self either. I would call it adrenalized actually. Anyway, I played with him on the ground until he looked ridable and HOOOLLLLYYYY COW, when I got on, there was no moving forward. Crest had the worst case of thresholds I've ridden in a LONG time. It was like his feet were rooted in the ground. For about 20 minutes, we took 3 steps forward, 2 steps back, 3 steps forward, 2 back. Then Crest spotted a horse-eating pile of snow, and everything began to fall apart.

I did the savvy thing (pat on the back for me!) and got off. That pile of snow was still absolutely terrifying, and Crest could barely keep his feet still. Wondering what I should do, and trying not to go Right-Brain myself, I thought back to a response Linda wrote to a question in the eNews last week, about a horse that seemed afraid to be turned loose. Linda suggested that the owner play the squeeze game very fast and urgently at the gate where he was turned out. This would desensitize the horse to the gate and situation, while causing him to cross the flightline repeatedly, and making him go back to Left-Brain.

The flightline is crossed when the horse yeilds his hindquarters and turns and faces. It's a prey-flight response, and when the flight line is crossed, the horse must go Left-Brain and think. This idea made a great deal of sense to my current situation, so I squeezed and squeezed and squeezed Crest by that pile of snow until he started to show signs of Left-Brain relaxation, blowing, actually resisting speed, etc. Then I hopped back on, which leads me to my next topic


Crest was still REALLY adrenalized when I got on his back, and I spent a lot of time on an impulsion pattern Linda had suggested for me. Previously, this had calmed Crest down within minutes, but today, it was just almost impossible to get his brain functioning. I kept doing the pattern, over and over and over, until finally, BFO, DUH! I was really adrenalized!! I wasn't keeping MY energy calm as I did the pattern, and while my PHYSICAL transitions were smooth and flowing, my mind was racing at a zillion miles an hour, my body was tense, and I was anticipating his energy. I literally FORCED myself to calm down, and of course, immediately he started to blow and shake his head. I figured that was as good a place as any to get off and call it a day, so I did.

He's still got extremely bouncy movement, and I really need to get a saddle to use with him, because I cannot keep riding him so poorly and expect to make progress. LINDA! I need FLUIDITY HELP!-lol Cannot wait for my fluidity saddle.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Mixed feelings

Well, I had an...erm...interesting session tonight. I would say overall, my horse and I came out of it both feeling pretty good, but we had a bit of a spot in the middle that was questionable.

I played with Crest tonight. I've been in Chicago for 3 days, so he's been bored to tears, and the way I understand it, he's been instigating all kinds of trouble, so with that in mind, I kind of prepared myself for Left-Brain Extroversion and started out with him. I had the halter and 22' line, and we just started out doing (or TRYING to do) some basic circling game stuff, but there was a lot of exuberance on the end of that line, and so I had to find something for him to DO, or things were going to be out of hand. I set up some barrels in a line as a slalom, the idea behind it being to give him a pattern to think about while exercising the idea of changing directions online, thus making it productive in a few ways. He did that several times, he's so bloody smart, it took him about 30 seconds and he knew the pattern. There we go, onto something else.

I decided to work on some circling with him jumping barrels, and that's when the iffy streak came in. Crest has always had a dislike for ropes and things around his legs. As of right now, it's a million times better than it was when I got him, but his dislike is still there, and he has a tendency to get a little frantic when he gets tangled. Well, Crest, Mr. Exuberant extrordinaire did a fantastic leap and roll back (LBE-AHHH!!!), the rope went under his leg and got yanked out of my hands, and the entire lovely session fell apart for 10 minutes while Crest galloped around the pasture. I gave up on even TRYING to chase him very early on, it's useless and I know that. Instead, I went over to Prin, hopped on her bridless and decided I would use her calm and "hey what's up" attitude to head Crest off and get a hold of him. That definitely worked brilliantly, and when I finally got him back, he was RBE and thoroughly bouncy.

I had to interrupt several bolt-y types of patterns, but then he finally calmed down, and I asked for some canter circles. When he did those well, I unhaltered him and called it a day. I'll probably play with him tomorrow. Now that the days are longer and the weather is nicer, I'll have less excuses to NOT play with him, and I'll get him going more thoroughly, cannot wait for big progress!

Monday, March 24, 2008

I Want Them to Say "WOW!"

You know, it's sessions like this evening's when you start to realize just how far PNH has brought you. I want people to say "wow, she's gotten BETTER!" when I'm in Madison this year, and the way my horse is doing, I might just get my wish.

I went out and had a little play session with miss Princess, and man, was she FANTASTIC. Princess is innately a mild to moderate Left-Brain Introvert, and while she's never been really a challenging horse exactly, getting high level maneuvers out of a horse that isn't thrilled with moving in general can be difficult. You know you're doing something right when high level things are just miraculously offered, and that's exactly what I was getting this evening.

Haltered Prin up and decided to warm up at liberty (Ice FINALLY melted off that stupid round pen) to see if some of her amazing online would carry over, since my dear little (erm...well) horse has been offering close range circling and some other stuff. Sure as anything, got my 4 laps of close range in each direction, complete with change of direction, got some like...beyond amazing backing by the tail/ Zone 5 driving, and trot towards me sideways at liberty, etc. I hopped on and we rode briefly, but regardless of session length, my horse was just DANCING. Earlier this fall, we hit a wall with canter half-pass lead changes, and today, you'd have never known it. Princess was springing into her half-pass lead changes, collecting up bareback in a halter, and doing TINY little canter circles. While the final doesn't seem like a big deal, it always blows my mind, because Princess is a large horse with a large stride, and when she offers to collect and make her stride small, you know she's in there, thinking and trying her heart and mind out. I NEED to video some of this stuff. I really need to!

My goal for "wow" is getting closer and closer, cannot wait for Madison!

Savvy out!

Sunday, March 23, 2008

A Bouncy Morning

Spring has sprung in more than one way here in Wisconsin. We just got our traditional March blizzard, which, believe it or not, is a symbol of warmer weather a'coming, nature's got all the crappy weather out of her system, and now we move on to warmer temps and sunny days.

In the other sense of the word "spring", today was a day for Crest. The first since last Sunday, when I got my video critiques back from Linda. According to that, Crest, biomechanically is, well, kind of a wreck. He could possibly be out through his hips and stifles, but for sure, he's bowed out to the right in his ribs, making it hard for him to take a right lead without dropping his shoulder or cross firing, go sideways to the left, and creates misery when riding for both of us. As far as my problems go, I'm mainly just terrible at reading my horse and his extremeness. My energy level is often too great for his Left-brain extroversion, (wow, you don't hear THAT very often!) and I change game plan too quickly. The reason this is a problem is because Crest is also a fairly extreme Right-Brain Extrovert, and he needs just enough repetition to make him feel confident in himself and that he's performing the task correctly. Anyway, all that aside, I'll get to solutions and results later on, let me just focus on the session.

Went out and Crest met me at the gate. This is not unusual behavior for him, he'll take any attention he can get. I haltered him up and I could tell just by looking that, oh boy, this was going to be an energetic session. Set out with a loosely oriented plan around possibly riding, and with that in mind, set out into our play area. Well the first thing I noticed is that Crest was erm..bouncy. I sent him out onto the circle, and for 10 minutes straight, it was pure exuberance, canter-bounce-canter-bounce, etc. He actually looked great, it was a nice change from the Right-Brain stuff he's been into lately, and I let him do what he wanted. Got his brain focused on something other than goofiness finally (Cantering around barrels in a figure 8 pattern, with an added little buck when he changed directions-LOL). Did some sideways work, he really likes to look at me while he's doing his thing, which kind of defeats the purpose of the sideways, as Linda said, gotta send his nose better. Will keep progressing on that.

After about 20 minutes, he looked ridable, so I hopped on. Recall the title of this entry: "A Bouncy Afternoon". Well, that's how it was to ride. He was nice and calm straight out into the walk, nice even, medium pace, no braciness, no big impulsion stuff. We just walked around, and then I asked him to trot. Since I found out about his ribs being bowed out, I've been sitting over to the right a little, in the "relative center" of his back, and it's been doing really well, and today I really felt a change in his trot. While he's always been tough to sit (Big bouncy gaits), I really feel a freedom in his stride today, like he was moving as well as he does without a rider, which is great for him in his body, but sucks for me as a rider, because I have to sit through that much more BOING BOING BOING! it all went well, worked on some techniques that were suggested for a LBE/RBE impulsive horse, basically a series of wide, arching 180's along the fence. It adds the elements of the straight lines for the Left-brain, and the circles for the Right-Brain, and adds a sense of calm for any tension. He seriously felt wonderful. Ended on an interesting note, the girls (Princess, and the barn owner's two mares) were feeling rambunctious, and Crest really wanted to go play with them, so we did a nice trot circle, and unhaltered, he took off running and snorting and farting, Oy, Extroverts. We seem to have a lot of them around here.

On a side note: Can't wait to feel his movement and progress when I get my fluidity saddle!
Savvy out.

About Me

My name is Fran, and I am horse crazy. This blog will address anything in that world which I deem important enough for sharing. I must clarify though. I keep a lot of things to myself, and am terrible at keeping up with a regular blog, so bear with me if this is sporatic, I'll try to keep up with as best as possible.
In coming up with a paragraph to describe myself, I run into a problem. I am much older than I look, and I am much younger than I act. I'm an extremely deep thinker and an observer of behavior. I have a deep desire to learn anything and everything I can. If I had to list my interests, there would be four. Writing, psychology, playing with, riding, and developing horses, but above all that, teaching. My passion is in helping teach people how to savvy their horses, and my goal in life it to be a Parelli Professional.

I have two lovely horses, the first being a mare by the name of Princess. Princess is a 16.2hh sorrel and white tobiano Paint mare, born in 2001. She is my pride, joy, best friend, and greatest love in my life. Period. Princess and I are in the final tasks of level 3 of the Parelli Natural Horsemanship program, and enjoy doing low level dressage, as well as jumping. I would love to do some eventing with her later on after high school.
My second horse is a gelding by the name of Crest. Crest is a 15.3hh dark, dapple bay Thoroughbred/Paint cross. He's also a 2001 baby. I got Crest in 2005 as a challenge for myself when I began level 3, and a challenge he is proving to be. Crest is a big, strong, very opininated horse with lots going on in his head. He's a bit like the "Sybil" of the horse world, he's got multiple "horsenalities" and he uses them very well on me. He challenges me every day as a budding horseman, and I thank him for it. He's turning me into more of a well rounded horse handler, whether I like it or not, and I REFUSE to give up on him. We are somewhere in level 2 at the moment, ask me on three different days and I'll give you three different answers.

I am a Parelli Natural Horsemanship student, advocate, and believer to the death. What the savvy system has done for horses and people all around the world is mind boggling to me, and I will recommend, defend, and use it for the rest of my life.

I think that pretty much sums up Fran in a nutshell. I'm really quite one track minded, and in all, the things I do in my life are all linked into my horsemanship somehow. Thanks for reading!