Photo by Margaret Chant and edited by Jessica Metropulos

Friday, November 28, 2008

Steps in the Right Direction

Much to my relief today, I was able to attend my lesson I had set up with Farrah. We loaded up (Prin actually loaded herself-lol) and drove out to Stillwater to our mutual friend Michelle's barn. Prin was her usual charming LBI self, lacking motivation, etc, etc.

We started out by basically disecting the problem into "Which principle game is broken?"--both driving and porcupine in Prin's case. Or rather, not broken, in the case of the driving game, but confused. What it breaks down to is this: Prin has a respect issue going on in zone 1 porcupine game: "No, I don't have to yeild to that pressure." Sounds like a simple enough problem, but Farrah pointed out something really amusing that I do that DOES NOT help. In her words "Now, Fran, don't get me wrong, you have been trained REALLY WELL, Pat would be SO PROUD, and I bet you never get rope burns because of it, but you NEVER CLOSE YOUR HANDS! Like I said, it's GREAT. You allow a horse to drift. But in the case of Prin, here, You NEED to keep a firm grip UNTIL she gives, then you can give. Otherwise, she leans and gets away from you." This whole thing became a huge laugh during the entire lesson. Periodically, Farrah would randomly shout "FRAN! HANDS!" and I'd have to grasp again.

Now, back up a second and let's get serious; doesn't Linda say something along the lines of NEVER RELEASE ON A BRACE? I had NEVER thought of that phrase in this context before, but it made PERFECT sense. When I held, it was only a matter of time before Prin relaxed and released! Of course.

We played with finding a rhythm and intention in my phase 4, because to be quite honest, Prin has never taken it seriously, even though she never really WANTS to be swatted, she kind of shakes it off after one and goes on ignoring me. What Farrah had me do was instead of touching Prin once, she had me touch her with the intention of touching her 3 times (or more if needed). If she got out of the way, great, if not, smack, smack, smack on her zone 5 until she skedaddled. Didn't take long. What this built was a really snappy send and some attention, which carried into a much more quality allow. All while paying attention to whether my horse was leaning on the halter, using herself, etc. When she made the slightest effort at purity and decent movement, she came and got rubbed to death. Amazingly, this was enough--I didn't have cookies, but she loved her scratches...something about proper position and timing rings in my head here...

Now, all this while, we'd been playing at the walk/trot on the 12' line. We bumped it up to the 22' line next, and we started playing with heading into the canter. At first, again, Farrah had me playing with trot, only this time, we added a change of direction for two reasons--first, to practice with my snappy departs/leaning issue (I was supposed to do these changes of direction without opening my hands) and also to get Prin to sink back and engage her hindquarters, preparing her to depart into a canter. This went well, and soon enough, Farrah asked me to ask her to canter...And here's where it all adds up. While keeping my hands closed, I had to keep a good rhythm in my effective phase 4, while trying to accept a try and release after she quit bracing.

While I wouldn't call it a miracle session, I'd say it was a start. After playing at the canter for 1/2 an hour, Prin was maintaining for 2-3 laps with me basically neutral. Still not totally there, but MUCH improvement, and more effort from my horse than I'd EVER seen before--even in her "I'll do 14 laps" phase, and the look on her face said it all. Huge hugs to Farrah for helping through this puzzle. I think I've got some good things to play with until we leave for our course. Can't wait to watch the improvements!

Here's a general overview of my notes. Most of this is included within the story, (but these will be easier to follow):

*Pressure on Z4/Z5 means forward as well as disengage/sideways

*Porcupine trouble on Z1--CLOSE HANDS!!! Don't release on a brace

*Bring back when horse falls into a good rhythm/cooperates

*Keep at a managable distance (6-8 feet) until responsive--bring it back in if it regresses

*If it EVER gets unmanagable, SHORTEN ROPE

*Snappy send=snappy allow=snappy bring back

*Rhythmic intention w/ Phase 4--3 slaps as opposed to 1, stop when she puts efford into forward motion vs. sideways

*Do change of direction into canter

*KEEP HANDS CLOSED--Changes of direction especially

*Quicker phases--point, lift, swing, touch, touch, touch.


That's all for tonight, folks. let me know what you think!


Sarah said...

Glad things are going well with the Prin-monster now! Keep working on what Farrah is teaching you, and you'll have Prin doing 20 laps around you at the canter in no time, I bet.

I actually learned a lot of reading this; it sort of mirrors why I'm having troubles with the Circling Game with May, though I think three big Phase 4s would send her off the planet. Guess I'll save those for Micah? :)


wildmagic said...

Sounds like a good lesson.
I have a LBI and one LBE/LBI that likes to get all hussy when you ask her to do something other than eat so its nice to read about problem solving with that type of horsenality.