Photo by Margaret Chant and edited by Jessica Metropulos

Friday, December 11, 2009

Savvy String Saves the Day!

People have asked me why I carry multiple savvy strings on me...this is why:

I live in the currently-snowy state of Wisconsin. We had a blizzard this week, and my region of the state is covered in 12-15 inches of snow. I drive a Ford Taurus station wagon with two-wheel drive. I've been essentially home-bound for the past 3 days, first waiting for the snow to stop falling, then because the roads were so bad. Today is my first day REALLY out and about since Monday.

Today, I went to visit some friends of mine who live about an hour away. As I pulled into their driveway, I cringed a bit to see it hadn't been fully plowed, but figured if worse came to worse, I could probably crawl my way out--I've lived here long enough to know how to get myself out of smaller snow "situations"

Ugh, Principle #2 comes to bite my butt--make or teach no assumptions?

The snow was packed down in the tire tracks, but not so much that it didn't cave a little when I turned my wheels. Both front wheels fell neatly into a rut, and dropped the front of my car practically into the snow. Peachy.

My friends, fortunately, are horse people, so they have a truck and offered to pull me out. The only problem: Connecting a tow strap to the frame involves either reaching a hand through the mechanics under the hood (learned the hard way never to try that again) or getting underneath my car--something I could not do with front of the car almost in the snow. So, conundrum, right? My friend said sarcastically that a coat hanger would be useful. And then it hit me...Why use a coat hanger when I could use...MY SAVVY STRING! So...slightly reluctantly, and with a "Please don't fail me now, baby!", I pulled my green string off my belt and handed it to my friend, who stuck it through the mechanics under my hood. I hooked the strap to the loop in the string, and my friend pulled it up and through with ease and dropped it on the other side of the bar, where I connected the hook to the strap. My friend was able to pull me out, and I was able to get home in time to play with my horse.

Savvy strings...such simple little things...SO MANY USES...I'm so glad I carry mine with me :)

Monday, December 7, 2009


Yeah, I don't even know how to talk about my session with Prin today. I'm honestly at a loss for words for how INCREDIBLE it was. You ever have those days where everything you've been playing towards just suddenly drops into place? That was today.

I took Prin out, vowing that I wouldn't get hung up or obsessed with the big picture, the goal, the task, whatever, that I was going to focus on the pieces and reward the slightest try. Interesting how motivating that strategy is for an LBI...Isn't it fun? I can have the same BFO on a half a dozen times on different levels...all in one year!

Anyway, everything sort of just fell into place. I've been playing for the past week or so in isolating porcupine games and getting different parts of her body super light and responsive to a feel. Isolate, separate, and recombine, and all that. I'd been focusing particularly on zones one and 3/4, because this is pretty much where my Prin's biggest physical blocks are. I started using cookies as incentives in her zone 1, simply because I could, coupled with some lift and driving game in circles, really close in until she relaxed and REALLY flexed around me. I saw some big changes there, but the biggest surprises came when I decided to play with some zone 5 driving. After some small isolations in her hind end, she offered amazingness: QUALITY haunches in/half pass from zone 5 with ONE LINE! Um...COOL?! I'm really excited for this, because it's going to help our finesse SO MUCH. I'm really loving how my online is turning into my finesse!

When it comes to zone 1 with Prin, one scenario has always stayed true in my head--I feel like the ultimate zone 1 accomplishment with her (and maybe this is because of how..DULL Prin used to be!)is to achieve quality and correct vertical flexion in the halter, and be able to perform collected maneuvers as such. Farrah and Caesar are a great example, and I once asked her if it were as simple as a broken porcupine game, or if there was more to it than that. Farrah responded that yes, it was a broken porcupine game, but the reason probably wasn't disrespect so much as a lack of strength/flexibility, and that she's just telling me by resisting that she isn't strong enough to do it. That's been a journey in and of itself--helping her find that strength! But recently, I've felt that we're on the edge of a breakthrough.

Well...ladies and gentlemen. Today. I isolated, separated, and recombined. I showed Prin what it was I wanted, helped her find comfort in it, and she got it! Prin, for the first time in our partnership, was prancing around like a dressage pony with her head all in and a HALTER! This is I mentioned, can't really find words for it! It shows me that my horse has developed physically in a way I had truthfully seen as only wishful thinking, and is starting to offer it as her own ideas. It also shows me how much EASIER my finesse journey is going to be if I continue to develop this on the ground, then apply it to my riding.

So. That's what's going on here. Yeah, Prin is pretty much awesome. I'm SO proud of her!

And now I'm off for bed. The forecast is promising a blizzard tomorrow (6-12 inches of snow), so I may be home-bound tomorrow...or I may be riding in the snow. Either way, I'm tired now! Savvy on!

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Three LBEs in the Snow

Yeah, that's what happened at Brown Coulee Farm today. It was chilly again, though not nearly as cutting as it was yesterday. I was going to play with Prin, but one look told me she was not in an active mood, which is never pleasant when it's chilly outside. But I knew who would be in the mood to move...

I have a little project visiting me for several weeks right now--my friend Micky's horse, Shadow, is here to have some foundation time put on him. It's a nice swap, Hart is living with Micky for a while to get some extra feeding and provide her with some confidence.

Anyway, Shadow is a character, I blogged a little about him when she first got him last summer, but here's a little refresher. Shadow is a 3 yr old bay roan AQHA gelding. Totally a LBE, very dominant, (I must be drawing these horses to me, subconsciously!)and so far, hasn't really done a whole lot just with schedules being the way they are. So he's pretty fresh.

I've had a couple sessions with him already, but figured I wouldn't blog until there was actually something to talk about. Shadow, being extremely dominant, is not the type of horse that I'm going to be playing with on my own on the ground at first. It's really difficult, and not safe for me to try to build rapport with a horse that wants to be on top of me, and even more unsafe for me to try to establish boundaries with him, because of his punk tendencies (that include rearing and striking--I've watched him extensively in the herd). So with that in mind, I've decided that until I can safely, lightly, and effectively play all 7 games with him from the back of another horse, I'm not going to attempt to talk to him on my own.

Today was my second day of playing with that, and I used Crest as my back-up, because he is Mr. Amazing when it comes to colt starting...something about the responsibility that it gives him really works well. Anyway, it was quite interesting, it was really a good-natured battle of wills between the three of us (all LBEs, yikes!), but the fortunate thing was that I had Crest on my side. We played with only very basic things--friendly games (He has the same over-sensitivity to high energy that Crest does), and learning to yield HQ and FQ, which wouldn't have gone nearly as well, had it not been for Crest's awesome assistance. He was not only solid and confident for me, but he also helped out applying pressure when it was needed, and reinforcing my phases when Shadow got sassy. He's turning into such a fabulous partner.

Shadow learned the basics of yielding his forehand and hind-quarters, follows a feel, and plays stick-to-me pretty well. We need to keep playing with desensitizing him to high energy, but sensitizing him to driving games (in other words, creating more of a defining line between the two), and all around developing more respect. I'll keep blogging as we go, and I'll try to get some pictures of our upcoming sessions--perhaps even tomorrow, since Micky's going to spend the day with me.

Savvy on, I'm going to bed early!

Friday, December 4, 2009


Ack! Winter is upon us all of a sudden. It took two days, the temperature dropped from high 40's to low 20's, and we got our first noticeable snowfall last night. I'm not opposed to winter weather, but today was uncomfortably chilly--with highs only reaching 21 and gusty arctic winds blowing on us.

Regardless, I managed to get motivated to go play with Prinny this afternoon (please don't ask what possessed me, I froze my tail off!). We practiced some things online, which went alright. I'm fairly certain both Prin and I are getting more clear in our communication, because she's gotten very accurate at showing me EXACTLY what is broken when I lack something, and I have less and less trouble interpreting it, which is fun.

Anyway, she exposed some holes in our communication, namely in our porcupine/driving games from zones 4/5 that I think will have a big impact on our liberty. I apparently cannot communicate my ideas effectively to the break between zones 3 and 4, FROM zone 5, or from zone 4, if that makes sense. We played with it a bit and started to get some really nice soft results, but there's definitely a lot to do yet.

So that's pretty much it. I'll keep blogging as I learn and develop in it. It's always something new to learn in this. Neat stuff :)

Savvy on!