When you come to the end of your rope, tie a knot and hang on – Eleanor Roosevelt

Salsa, Salsa, Salsa. Was ever a pony so aptly named? He’s getting spicier and saucier by the day as his confidence grows, and woe betide the level 2 Parelli student who is trying to insist on politeness and respect but who doesn’t always notice immediately when it’s not happening.

Today was day four of playing porcupine and driving games and day two of the on-line level one touch-it pattern. I wasn’t sure if I should start the pattern so soon, or wait until we had at least five and maybe even the full seven sessions of the games. After today, I am glad I started the pattern. Putting his nose on things and finding cookies gives him incentive to pay attention to what I’m doing, and to respond appropriately to pressure.

porcupineUnfortunately I am not being clear with my pronunciation yet. I find I keep holding the 12-foot line with about six feet of slack between the snap and my hand, which was the right amount for when Rocky and I started. But for him, it’s too much. If I try to send, or porcupine, zone 1, I can extend my arm all I want but nothing moves on his side. I also kept dropping my carrot stick. I read about this phenomenon on the Savvy Club forums — suddenly everything is twice as long as you want it to be, when playing with a mini.

But oh wow, is Salsa mad. He was digging the undemanding time, his only responsibility being to put his nose in his halter, which he will do if you out-wait his evasion and hopes of coaxing you into a wrestling match. And the feet have become an argument again. Now that he is totally comfortable here and in his routine, his innate medium-high spirit left-brain extrovert (LBE) horsenality is coming out, and man oh man is he a dominant one.

Erin was leading him from his night turnout in the Back 40 to his day room in Pen 1A, and she bumped his nose every time he pulled his evasion trick of putting his head high and to the right. I was not there, but as she described it, it sounds like she was working on hindquarter yield and face with two eyes, for the entire route. He got madder and madder and as they passed her Saturn, he let out a double-barrel hind kick right into the car! The car is fine, and Salsa is fine, and Erin is fine, but it was validating to hear that he’s expressing himself with her, too.

clarityI need to work on clarity of motion, reducing the noise in my body language so Salsa can understand the signal. I need this with Rocky too, but Rocky fills in for me, and he pulls my vision out of my head and most of the time brings it to life, because he likes me and usually wants to please me. He also likes to be a partner. Salsa doesn’t yet see any reason to be a partner; our rapport is still fledgling, although he does like me, and he is uber skeptical about granting me his respect.

What’s so cool is that I am recognizing things I would not have seen in level 1, and in part that is due to seeing the Parelli team in person, at the gold summit and at the Reno celebration.

Just as a f’r’instance:

  • Salsa is reactive about zone 5, and nervous about zone 4. Action Step: Lots of friendly game.
  • Salsa is motivated by food, but also motivated by getting to move his feet. Action Step: Intersperse moseying (walking and trotting), so that our touch-it pattern is not a drill.
  • Salsa is innately confident, dominant, curious, and quick to dismiss a human who doesn’t keep ahead of him every moment. Action Step:  Study the LBE/dominance materials on the Savvy Club site, keep the gold hotline handy, put on the music and focus on him like I’m doing a Spotlight.

Erin told me that the way to see if my strategies are working is if the same thing takes half the time the next time. For example, if it took 10 minutes to get the hind foot up and relaxed, then tomorrow or the next day if it takes five minutes, I know I’m on the right track. But if by the third attempt it still takes 10 minutes (or even longer), it’s not working and I need to try something else. So simple! so easy to measure! so d’oh!ladyhunt

Another recent epiphany came from one of these articles in the most recent Savvy Times magazine, about de-spooking a horse. It outlines several tactics and includes a  paragraph that says something like “do one (or more) of the strategies: point his nose at the scary thing and let him drift; do yo-yo game to back him up; play squeeze game” and other things. There is no One Right Way, there is only the way that works for your horse and you, and probably more than one way.

With Rocky, yo-yo game and waiting for him to step over the threshold helps. So does setting it up so he can follow (chase, drive) the scary thing (pot-bellied pig). So does focusing my eyes intently on something in the distance and walking focusedly toward it, engaging the natural power of focus to keep Rocky’s focus. I would not do this if he slammed into a threshold, but this is good for when he’s mildly anxious but willing to trust me.

Rocky told the animal communicator that I was writing a story about him, and he was proud. I’m not sure how he feels about sharing his story — this blog — with Salsa, but it is all part of the journey. Salsa is teaching me things that I would not learn with Rocky, but that I can use to Rocky’s benefit. Salsa came here to teach me about leadership first and language second.

Hey, at least I’ve got the love part down.

Time management is still an issue. I’m toying with the idea of attempting (again) to making 7pm to 9pm horse time, inviolate, no matter how behind I am on work. Today I played with Salsa at lunchtime and helped with the ranch chores in the evening, but I can’t do that all the time, as my deadlines loom. (That’s what they do before they whoosh by.)

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