Friday, January 04, 2008

Today began chilly, at about -2F at 7:30 a.m. but by 11 a.m. we had warmed up to almost 20 and we got to the mid-20's by the late afternoon. We had off and on sunshine and everyone, humans and horses alike, enjoyed being outside.

I have noticed that when we have a couple of days of really frigid weather, as we just did, that the following day the horses spend a lot of time napping. Of course, the amount of hay the consume lessens considerably, but it amazes me the amount of time that they will spend lieing down and sleeping. Adult horses rarely spend more than 2 hours out of 24 laying down to sleep, but most of mine today spent more than that. As I worked outside, the feeling surrounding our space was of total relaxation and peacefulness. Lovely!

This afternoon, I took *Jack down to the arena to do a few minutes of in-hand work. We walked and trotted in hand, and I varied the speed that I traveled, which *Jack noticed and changed his speed to accompany me. This is good! Then we did a trip through the TEAM labyrinth and next I decided to begin teaching him the Yo, of the Parelli game 4 "Yo-yo" game. Please note that I am not a "level" anything in Parelli-speak, but I have found much to his 7-games and enjoy using them with the horses as alternative training techniques. Therefore, how I do his games may not be "perfect" according to his goals.

Anyway, the "Yo-yo" game is one in which the horse is asked to back away from you while you stand still; get to the end of the line and "dwell" for a while; then on request come back into you. The object, of course, is to make the requests you use as subtle as possible.

Now *Jack understands the voice command of "back-up" and he understands pressure on the bridge of his nose and that he must move backwards when I walk towards his head/chest area. He has known all that since he was but a foal. Today was the day to incorporate an object to drive him backwards (that happens to be Game 3). As I had my TEAM wand in hand, I simple held it pointing toward him and began moving it rhythmically toward his chest, between his front legs. I then said "back" (I believe that Parelli discourages the use of voice, but as I drive I prefer them to be extra familiar with voice cues). *Jack just looked at me. When he hadn't responded in a few moments, the wand tapped him between his legs. I could see on *Jack's face a "What?". Again, I said back, and when he didn't respond, I increased the amount of contact (that's PC for the wand 'tapped' him harder, lol). At that he took a tentative step backwards with his left fore and I immediately stopped the movement and praised him. We did this 3 to 4 times, and each time he needed the contact of the wand to respond. So, it was time for a break.

We walked off, we did the labyrinth, looked out the door at the turkeys, and then went back to Game 4. Lo-and-behold he got it right away! As is usual he simply had needed a bit of "dwell" time to process what I had been asking. This time when he gave me two lovely steps backwards with just a wave of the wand toward him, I lavished praise on him and gave him a treat. Oh *Jack liked that! And we quit.

I was very proud of his good work.

Next out was Silken and Dude (you will notice there are no astericks next to their names; that is because we use the asterick* to denote a curly coat. No *, means no visible curls). I brought Silken in and Guin brought in Dude. I like to start my work sessions with a trip around the arena. It sets the "mood", i.e. "This is now learning/work time, not relaxing time". So, Silken and I made a trip around the arena, and we varied our speeds in the walk and trot as I had with *Jack. I took Silken through the labyrinth for a first time and she did well. Then I began the games with her. Silken knows the games and is a sensitive mare. What she will help me with is my subtlety.

Each horse responds differently to the different games. For instance in the Yo-yo game, Silken's yo is much better than her Yo. She does not like to be asked away from the human. She does it, but you can see in her eyes that she doesn't like being "sent away". So I make sure to do it gently, quietly. I think that I can become even quieter yet. Silken also has a default behaviour and that is to do the Circle game, or game 5. If she is confused at all, she circles you. So, one must be aware of it and ready to interrupt her circling. But, it is a game she does really well!

And her Game 7, or Sideways game is soooooo smooth. Lovely to work with, lovely to watch. Again, I know I can become more subtle with it though as I got a couple of tail-twists and snorts with a head bob. She was telling me that I was "shouting" and that she could hear me just fine "thank you very much"!!

After a bit with them both, we went out and just walked around a bit with them. Guin and I agreed that it was fun playing with two horses at the same time and want to do more of it.

After that it was time to wait for my new helper! Beginning today I have a cute-as-a-button 9 year old coming to help with afternoon chores and learn more about horses. Today, she helped me water; mix supper; give the night hay out; and feed supper to the horses. While we worked I asked her to think about a topic for each Friday that she would like to talk about regarding horses. I did catch her by surprise with this but she decided that today we should talk about the insides of a horse! So I told her how they were the same and how they were different. We spoke about their brains, their digestive system, and how they are prey not preditors and how that effects their insides and thinking. I had a great time and I think she did too! I'm looking forward to next Friday.

We hope you had a lovely day today as well.

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