Things that eat horses, according to Rockstar

Today’s top predators:

  • Tarp over the burn pile, which now open at one end and three times the height it was two days ago.
  • Neighbor’s riding mower, which we’ve only lived next door to for five years.
  • Other neighbor’s Mystery Big Square Thing, which neither moved nor made any noise.

After warming up in the arena, Rocky and I went out the gate (like it was nuthin’!) to trail ride around the ranch. Little did we know that the burn pile has changed in the past few days, growing taller, fuller, and also open at one side. Like a dragon’s cave. Full of bones.


What’s really cool about today is that:

  • I was totally confident –and skilled enough — to deal with it from the saddle.
  • I had enough savvy arrows in my quiver that I didn’t even have to use them all.
  • Rocky got to experience my leadership in balance with my respect for his thresholds.
  • I got to sing a whole bunch of songs I know only some of the words to, replacing their lyrics with words about Rocky.
  • I never felt inadequate to the task. And therefore I was not.

Rocky was spooky in general today. I don’t know if it was the breeze making the tarp really billow or if it was anything other than Rocky being in a Mood. But what worked was a combination of focusing on patterns and providing incentive.

At the burn pile, we made excellent use of yo-yo game, sideways game, bending, hindquarter yields, and resting.

At the neighbor’s mower, I simply turned Rocky to the left and started a pattern of figure 8s. When Rocky started to pay more attention to the pattern than to the spooking, he got to rest and nibble on the grass. When he shifted his focus back to spooking, I made the pattern more complex. Interlocking figure 8s around three trees that involved tight squeezes, terrain changes, stepping over a log, trotting the straightaways, sharp turns, and traveling through dappled sunlight and shadow? Not worth spooking at anything. And when not spooking, there was resting and grazing and eventually a nice walk back to the arena to  strip off the saddle and roll in the warm sand.

We passed the burn pile again on our way back and Rocky still hesitated but we did not need to repeat any of the strategies. I focused on our destination and asked him to “just walk by it” and he did.


Categories: Leadership, Rockstar, Thresholds, Trail | Tags: , , | 1 Comment

Rocky meets a cow

In the past couple of months Rocky and I have had only 6 or 7 sessions, not counting the turnouts in the arena where I spend a few minutes with him before returning to the office. We are proving that the Parelli method works even if you can’t live in a tent with your horse 24/7  — that you can do a lot even if you only have an hour a week or 10 minutes every other day. Rock is still jogging to the gate when he sees me coming and he still jams his nose into the halter with exuberance, so I know I’m doing enough good stuff to balance out my many mistakes.

We took the neighborhood loop walk on one of those sessions.

Loop walk map

Loop walk map

It was one of those crisp, cold, clear days that you know are going to be the Last Day Ever before the new ice age, so you must get out and experience every moment of it, work and deadlines be damned.

Jan and Salsa came with us, and we girls had some fun with our cell phone cameras. It’s funny how hard it is to get all scared and nervous when your horse hits a threshold when you really just want to get a good angle to photograph the panic. I was calm and laughing through the whole experience because I just could not get an expert shot with my phone.

I uploaded some of the photos from the slide show, in case you want to get a closer look at Rocky’s body language (and, alas, mine). Click any of the photos after the jump to get a bigger version. Continue reading

Categories: Gratuitous Pictures, Gratuitous Videos, Learning Experience, On-Line, Trail | Leave a comment

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