Posts Tagged With: threshold

Our first attempt at walkies out in the world

I took Rock off the property today in his new boots. We hit a threshold almost immediately — goats — and I used yo-yo to approach and retreat. I tried so hard to read him: do you need to move your feet? OK, squeeze game. Do you need to think first? Ok, yo-yo and stay back.

Rocky staring at horse-eating goats

Rocky staring at horse-eating goats

But I feel so incompetent. I don’t know if I pushed him over any edges. I tried not to! I don’t know if we came in too soon. I think not, because Linda says you can always stop, just make sure the last thing you do is a comfortable and familiar thing, to end on a good note. (We did that.)

He could not stand still on the squeeze so he had to do several 180s with only a 1 second halt. He had his head up and nostrils huge almost the whole time he could stand still. He did drop his nose a few times and he even got some bites of dried grass, but then he’d fling it up again and have another cycle of spook and adrenalin.

With lots (lots) of backing and waiting and squeezing, we made it to the first mailbox on the route. I had cookies and put one on there and said Touch, and he did. He had a hard time finding the cookie and seemed to be torn between staring and spooking about the goats and nuzzling the mailbox until he got the cookie.

The big wide world

The big wide world

He has been walking beside me rather than behind me lately and I have been working on that. I am having to back him many times even just between the pasture and the barn. Does that mean my phase 4 is not strong enough? What if I try a new tactic: instead of turning and yo-yoing him back, what if I say Ok, go ahead! and turn it into a Falling Leaf, back and forth in front of me? Or even Traveling Circles? I usually feel too claustrophobic on the 12-foot line for those “big” patterns but too clumsy and tangly to trust myself with a 22-foot line in a new environment, especially with the road right there. I bet the 12 feet are enough, though, if he can squeeze with it, and it’ll be 14 feet if I extend my arm.

Today was the first time in a long time that I felt my own negative emotions rising — a little bit of fear, a little bit of frustration with myself for having studied so much but not knowing what to do in situ. I was in the Not So Sure zone of Stephanie Burns’ “Move Closer/Stay Longer.”

Here’s what Natural Horse Lover wrote about it last year:

The idea of the [comfort zone] model is to explore where you and your horse are and stretching the comfort zone by taking your horse and yourself into the Not So Sure Zone and returning back to the Comfort Zone, while avoiding the Unknown/Danger Zone.

This can be applied to any game we play, on the ground and while riding. The base line of the zones will be different for every horse and human and will change with progression in the Parelli Program.

We want our horses and ourselves to be in the Comfort Zone most of the time. If we decide to go into the Not So Sure Zone we need to know that we can deal with their reactions and with our reactions and then return safely back into the Comfort Zone. The further into the Not So Sure Zone you go, the further & longer you need to go back into the Comfort Zone for both of you. This will build you and your horse’s confidence.

It seems like it “should be” such a simple thing: take the horse for a walk.

This is simple, but it’s not easy. ~ Pat Parelli, Warren Buffet, & Lots of Other Wise People

I have to have faith that by taking the time it takes and not just jamming him along, both of us will grow in confidence, and then skills. At the moment I feel conflicted and incompetent and resigned and back at the beginning.

I am waiting for you, Vizzini. You told me to go back to the beginning. So I have. This is where I am, and this is where I’ll stay. I will not be moved. … When a job went wrong, you went back to the beginning. And this is where we got the job. So it’s the beginning, and I’m staying till Vizzini comes. …  I. Am. Waiting. For. Vizzini. ~ Inigo Montoya

In a way, it is back at the beginning, because I have to go back to “walk behind me not beside me” and playing the games on the 12-foot line with the carrot stick and string dragging but not being stepped on. I have to build up my leadership and become more interesting than spooking.

After an experiment at Liberty in the round pen that resulted in the six geldings in the turnout (which shares a fence with the round pen) galloping, farting, and bucking all over the place, and Rocky doing the same in the suddenly little tiny circle with me in the middle, I took him to the Comfort Zone: the covered arena.

buck appyThere I let him loose to roll and gallop and buck and kick, which he did with more energy than I’ve seen in a long time. So much that he ended up with one of his boots dangling from the pastern strap.

I stood in neutral in the middle and pretended I didn’t notice him snaking his head, holding it to the outside, or otherwise trying to dominate me. When he stopped and looked at me, I waited until he picked up a front hoof (30 seconds? a minute?) and then walked backwards in friendly pose, and he drew into me really cute and perked. I scratched him a bit and put him away in time for his dinner; we hung out at the trough for a bit so he could play with curling the water on his tongue and then sucking it.

Categories: Leadership, Learning Experience, Liberty, On-Line | Tags: , , | 2 Comments

Freestyle: Follow the Rail, Figure 8, and Outside the Arena

Tonight we did our fourth Follow the Rail session, and this time I did much better at consistently turning in the same spots and doing the halt-back-halt each time we came to the mounting block, and at changes of direction at regular spots. Once I got comfortable I asked for a more energetic walk, and then I added in transitions to trot for 8 strides. I’d forgotten to wear my knee brace so I couldn’t do a lot of trot, but what we did manage felt – dare I say it – mostly soft. Certainly softer than last time.

I also stuck with Follow the Rail through a threshold of my own. Not a fear threshold, but my mental or emotional block about making mistakes that could cause discomfort for Rocky. I reminded myself that the only way to learn to be more comfortable for him is to do the best I can to practice and improve, and I kept going along the pattern, and lo! I got through the block. And practiced relaxing. Rocky did not seem bored, either.

It went so well that I started us on the Freestyle Figure 8. He gave no resistance to the turn or the trot, although he did want to swing wide around one of the barrels and then cut in close on the way to the center. That was okay – the point was not to get lovely circles this first time, but to start a new Pattern and see how we felt about it.

We did the whole thing with the gate wide open because I couldn’t maneuver us properly to shut it behind us after I mounted from the big tack trunk outside the arena. After a few figure 8s, we had a bit of a rest and a cookie, and then I focused on the outside world and rode him along the outside of the arena and around a corner.

He hit a threshold there and I immediately backed him up, so that he could retreat but not flee. We waited. He relaxed. I urged him forward and this time he wanted to go left, toward a patch of grass. I closed that door and laughed and asked for a step over his threshold. I got one, smiled, said good boy, and turned him immediately back toward the tack trunk so I could dismount. (I am under doctor’s orders to have no impact on my feet whatsoever for the next few months, until the physical therapy has time to work. I’m taking advantage of this limited mobility to teach us how to sidle up to the trunk and stand quietly despite being in a patch of grass.)

I felt Rocky’s surprise that I didn’t push him any further forward. One step beyond the threshold was fine by me. It’s the old “I don’t know if I can allow you to whitewash the fence” technique. One of these days he’s going to beg to be allowed to keep going on that ‘trail.’

I need to practice mounting from the off side, and also pausing before I swing my leg over, but I did take time to rub him and lean over him and not get frustrated when he put his head down toward the grass. I even managed not to pull up, but instead to hold the reins steady, so that he was in charge of his own comfort and pressure.

When I went back for the dismount, he stood and waited, and didn’t drop his head until I swung down and said “Okay” and took the reins down to show him it was fine by me. That he’ll get to graze…when I say so.

Categories: Freestyle | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

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