Tuesday, October 8, 2013

saddle fitting


i ran across this wonderful saddle fitting article on facebook today.  it had me laughing out loud!  there is definitely some great info as well as the funny stuff.  just HAD to share number 5:


we in parelli are so lucky that we have access to the wonderful people at Parelli Saddles.   they are a well of information as far as saddle fitting goes.  and they have developed special saddle pads that allow for shimming which will help your saddle fit your horse's back as it changes shape.

if you are like me, however, you can not afford a parelli saddle, not matter how often you dream of one.  sigh.

billy was just a yearling when i brought him home and i could see after he grew 4 inches in two months, that he was going to be bigger than i originally thought!  lucky me, i had a saddle maker boarding her horse at the same barn i was boarding billy at and she was most helpful in the saddle shopping process.  yes, she could have made billy a saddle just for him, but she said i shouldn't spend the big bucks on a saddle until he was done growing.  that made perfect sense to me since i don't have any disposable income as far as saddles go!  after all i have to pay for HAY.

so, i bought a wintec dressage saddle!  it has an adjustable gullet that i can adjust and change as he grows.  i opted for the flocked panels as some of the reviews i read about the air panels said that people felt like they were balancing on a ball on the back of their horse.  that made sense to me!  plus i like the wool flocking as it will warm and take on the shape of the horse's back.


for a saddle pad i opted for a merino wool pad.  billy can not have any synthetic materials against his skin and at the time parelli had not come out with the smart pad yet.  but my merino wool pad is lovely.  i have been able to slide the foam shims under my saddle, between the saddle and the pad and they do not move at all!  they kind of stick to the underside of my saddle.  no pockets needed in my pad.

i bought a montana cincha english girth.  it's 100% wool as well.  i have always preferred the wool girth over the neoprene ones.  i've seen too many horses galled from the neoprene girth.  if you are roping heavy bulls or doing fast moves such as cutting, the neoprene girth can be helpful because it won't slip.  but your horse should not wear it all day long, because it doesn't slip.  i equate it to wearing a bra made out of rubber.  you are sweating, moving, stretching and working and that darn bra is stuck to your skin, itching and pinching.  you would get galls too!

i wanted stirrups that are already turned forward to help out my knees.  that is something that i've always hated about my western saddles, how the stirrups pull at my knees.  i used to twist my fenders and put a broom stick through the stirrups at night, but it felt like they were always pulling to hang straight again.  when i rode english it was easier to keep my stirrups turned for sure, but figured that since they make such cool stirrups i would upgrade!  i couldn't afford the clicking stirrups, so i bought the kind that are always turned.  they look nice and have a good weight to them.  i wanted them a little heavier as i feel that is easier on my knees as well.

SONY DSCthe set up looks wonderful and i can't wait to throw a leg over and go for a ride.  i. can't. wait.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

reinholds horse wellness brushes


hi guys!  i'm here to help you with your horse brush dilemma.  what kind of brush do you need?  what brush do you use?  where?  what is a good quality brush?

i love grooming!  it's one of my favorite things to do with my horse.  i get a good workout and billy gets a wonderful full body skin and muscle massage.  he just glows after a good grooming.  to get this look  i have to be able to muscle my brushes.  brushes from the feed store just don't hold up to this rigorous workout.

i used to buy new brushes every year.  every spring i would do my spring cleaning of my horse trailer and tack room and throw out all my used up, squished, dirty and bristle-less brushes.  now don't get me wrong.  several times during the year i would clean my brushes using dish soap and hot water.  but they would eventually, after all the hard use, just have a generally "squished" look about them.  very disheveled.

then came Reinhold's HorseWellness Brushes.   these brushes are exactly what i've been looking for!  for years i've been searching for a brush of this quality.  something that could stand the test of time. (and my rigorous grooming.)

here is the Reinhold's motto:

"Well Horses Perform Well!™".

"You want your horse to feel and look great. We help you achieve this with products that are mostly from natural materials, innovative and practical.  All our products are backed by a 100% satisfaction guarantee."

their horse brushes are made by Leistner,  made in Germany, since 1882.

my favorite brushes and the ones i use all summer, nearly every day are:

  • horse dandy brush- natural bristles (also called the flick brush)

  • the mud brush with brass bristles

  • horse finishing brush- "grand gilbert"

  • the mane and tail "hedgehog brush" (this is my FAVORITE brush!  i use this one all year round.  it's the best for getting down into that thick curly coat that billy sports in the winter time.)

  • hoof brush-stiff

these brushes are made from natural fibers and hairs.  the synthetic fiber brushes tend to build up static electricity when i brush billy and they are scratchy and uncomfortable.  when i use the natural fiber brushes billy will lean into the brush, loving how they get the itches out.  i love how they deep clean his skin and get all the dirt and dry skin up and out of his coat.

other natural fiber brushes that i've tried over the years just do not hold up like these brushes do.  when i first found their site i thought they would be too pricey for me... but they're not!  these are just as affordable as any brush you will buy at the tack/feed store (that will wear out in a year) and these brushes hold up beautifully!

i cleaned mine up so i could show you how well they've held up.  i've had them for a year and six months now and they look nearly new!

the first thing i brush billy with is the rubber curry.  the one i have now is not from Reinhold's, but i will be purchasing one from them soon!  i use this brush in a circular motion, really getting down through the hair to the skin to get out the dried mud, dirt and dry skin.  this is the curry i will be purchasing.

the next brush i use is the hedgehog brush.  this is billy's FAVORITE brush.  he really leans into me when i brush with this one.  the picture on the left and the one in the middle are of my brand new hedgehog brush.  it's so clean and shiny!  the picture on the right is my old one.  i've had that brush for a year and a half and used it nearly every single day.  if you've ever purchased a pin style brush from petsmart or walmart, or target and then used it on your horse, you'll know that almost immediately the pins start to fall out.  after a month or two all the pins will be gone and your left with a pin-less cushion!  but these pins did NOT fall out.  they are a little bent, but that's from billy picking it up with his TEETH and walking around with it when i wasn't looking.  i think he was going to take it back to his stall so he could use it later....

[caption id="attachment_550" align="aligncenter" width="500"]mane_tail_hedge_medium picture from Reinhold's Horse Wellness site[/caption]

$16.95 US

[caption id="attachment_546" align="aligncenter" width="760"]hedgehogbrush the picture on the left and the one in the middle are pictures of my brand new hedgehog brush. the one on the right is my old one. i've had that one for a year and a half and i use it nearly every day![/caption]

then we have the mud brush with brass bristles.  this is a prototype brush that Reinhold's sent me to try out on billy's difficult winter coat.  so far i really love how it gets down in the hair and does not cause a static build up!  i use this brush third because it will dig down through the hair and help bring out the dirt and dry skin. CURLY HORSE OWNERS!!!  take a look at this brush.  you will love it and so will your horse!


after i use the mud brush then i use the dandy/flick brush.  this brush literally flicks the dirt and dry skin.  this brush is another one of my favorites.  i think because it's called the "flick" brush...

[caption id="attachment_551" align="aligncenter" width="500"]horse_dandy_brush_medium picture from Reinhold's Horse Wellness site[/caption]

$13.00 US


the final brush i use is the finish brush.  this is such a luxurious brush.  so thick and full of horse hair.  billy loves this brush on his face.  he will push into me and just close his eyes and enjoy it.




sometimes i use the hoof brush.  i trim billy's feet myself so sometimes i have to clean the canvas before i start!


hoofbrushif anything here sparks your interest or if you just want to see all the loveliness over at Reinhold's Horse Wellness website please click here.  tell them mindy schroder sent ya'!

Tuesday, October 1, 2013



in the above video linda parelli talks about being soft when we ask our horses to do things.  how softly can you ask for a transition?  a stop?  a back up?

i find myself yelling at billy a lot because i "think" i need to really be obvious in what i'm asking.  we have moved beyond that in our training however and i need to remember my own advice about progress!

one thing i struggle with a bit is when i am being soft i also feel like i'm being a big sneaky.  then when i start to think about being sneaky, billy mostly always tries to leave or does if we are playing at liberty!  how interesting!

i watched the gal in the above video asking hot jazz ever so softly for the transitions and the bring back and realized that softness does not have to look sneaky.  however when she "swung" her stick that DID look a bit sneaky to me.  i thought it looked like she was afraid to swing the stick?  thoughts on this?

i guess i would be afraid to swing a stick and string at linda parelli's horse with her looking on.....

when i am soft and quiet in my body, mind and emotions our play times seem to just flow.  billy is light as a feather as i ask for changes of direction, transitions up and down, half jumps and jumping the barrels.  the whole thing looks like a beautiful dance.  those sessions feed my soul and support me during the sessions where he runs me over, steals my treat bag and leaves with his tail flagging in the air- nanner nanner!

it's completely clear to me how important it is to be myself and be in the moment when i'm playing with billy.  however he also has responsibilities in our sessions.  i could be buddha some days and it wouldn't matter.  billy would still have his own agenda and his own ideas.

of course if i WAS buddha i guess i would completely understand the idea of never making the horse feel wrong...

Friday, September 27, 2013

a little something for the weekend


this article is an eye opener for why america is producing so many mediocre instructors.  wow!

here is an interesting article by tom moates.  i agree with some of what he says and disagree with some.  there is always something to learn from everyone, even when that someone is downtroding what you believe in ;)  i have read a few of tom's books that he wrote about harry whitney.  i really enjoyed them, though once again i felt that he had misinterpreted things that parelli teaches.  that seems to happen often in the "natural horsemanship world" and mostly i find out later that the person who is misquoting, or misunderstanding the program has never studied it.  i feel that it's difficult to make a clear judgement about something until you've put your time in and learned what you can about it first hand.

this pony is in amazing shape!!!  what an imagination these two have...

at the david lichman clinic he talked a lot about using music to get rhythm and relaxation.  this video is the ultimate example of this!  i've loved this video since they rode this test at the 2006 world equestrian games.  i sat on the edge of my seat watching it then and every single time i watch it now i'm on the edge of my seat, clapping, with tears in my eyes.  these two are simply amazing...

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

friendly game


i've been thinking about the friendly game versus desensitizing a horse.  i live in a place where the old cowboy way still prevails, though i must say most have tried to tone it down some.  probably because the cowboys aren't as young as they used to be and being bucked off before every ride just isn't in the cards anymore.  but i digress....

if you've been around horses for any length of time you've probably witnessed a horse being desensitized.  sometimes people just bombard the horse with lots of different stimulants, saddle pads, tarps, plastic bags, saddles, themselves, all done in fairly quick accession not allowing the horse time to think.  sometimes they barely have time to react, though i've seen a few just simply fall to the ground in panic.  then they get their feet tied and they have to lay there and be desensitized.  or if they put up a fight they are thrown to the ground and then desensitized.

when people desensitize their horse they are simply teaching them to put up with rude behavior.  not only that but over stimulating in this way can make the horse dull.  non responsive to it's environment.  and you are part of this environment.  so are grizzly bears.

the friendly game is not desensitization and should not be confused with that.

when we play the friendly game we are looking to teach our horse to manage it's emotions and think through things rather than just react.  we are not trying to desensitize them to this commotion.  we are looking to have our horses be responsive to us and to listen to us in times of stress.  when the friendly game is done right it can show your horse what a dependable leader you are, thereby encouraging your horse to look to you for support when it is scared.  looking to you for support and jumping on you when scared are two different things.  just sayin.

do things with the horse and for the horse, but never TO the horse.

the friendly game is the #1 game in the list of the 7 games for a reason.  it's the most important one to win.  winning the friendly game is the key to teaching your horse to "do nothing" when he is scared, instead of spooking, bolting, jumping on you or fighting.

it's never too late to spiff up your friendly game.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013


something i've noticed in the parelli program are students that don't progress.  people often come to the program because they have a difficult horse.  they start at one point in the process and get some tools, have some breakthroughs and then don't ask for more, of themselves or their horse.  the horse may have come into the program an extreme Right Brained Extrovert but as they gain confidence, they started to become more centered.  but the human still thinks of them as an extreme and treats them as such.  keeping both themselves and their horse in that tiny little spot on the horsenality chart.

i see people that are stuck in level 2, not progressing beyond because they are afraid to scare their horse.

the name of the game is progress.  and progress comes in the simplest of forms.

it can be a simple friendly game in which you up the anti.  progress further.  just how friendly can you get your horse with an umbrella?

be imaginative!  throw things on the ground.  stumble around like a drunk person.  note how your horse handles this and then PROGRESS.  help your horse get brave.  help him move past his fears to that space where he feels safe.  where he sees you as an effective leader.  use your imagination and the imaginations of your friends!

in one savvy club dvd (issue 74: calm, connected and responsive - extroverts - online) i heard linda parelli say that many many people have not won the friendly game.  they can play it with their stick and string and maybe they can touch the horse all over.  maybe.  but they don't progress the friendly game beyond that.  and then they wonder why their horse is always so nervous.

pay attention to how your horse feels about the situations you are putting him in and then balance your friendly game!  the friendly game can always be expanded on.  there is always one more thing you can try, test your horses confidence and then help him gain even more.

progress is the name of the game.  don't get stuck in the mud!  and don't blame the parelli program (or your instructor) when you don't progress.  it's completely up to you.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

making our better best

billyscollagesometimes i lay awake at night worrying that i am letting billy down.  lately i've had such a hard time getting any play time in because of my darned foot, then i got the flu, it's been so hot and buggy making play time miserable. and on and on and on.  all these excuses.  they keep me up at night.

i think about all that we have to do before i can ride him.  at this rate i won't be on his back until he is 10 and i'm 45!!

then that sends me back to the fact that i can not get all caught up in the "shoulds" of life.  what i should do compared to what i am doing.  nothing that i'm doing right now, allowing billy to grow up some more, eat yummy green grass, chase his goats, is hurting him.  not at all!

i'll ride him when i ride him.  i sat on him two days ago and he was totally fine with it.  we have come so far in our horsemanship and have a long way to go, but again, i remind myself that we don't have a timeline.

billyatonecollagei like to look back at pictures i've taken of billy over the years that i've had him.  it's amazing how much he has changed, grown up, started to really muscle up.  i can see by his build that he has a bit more filling out to do and i have some weight to lose.  giving each other a bit more time is a great idea.

we will work on making our better best!

Monday, September 16, 2013

i love

chaosofhomeschooli love that even when my horse is out in the 10 acres, eating, and he sees my car he will canter across it to meet me at the driveway.  playfully bucking, striking and nickering his way over to me.

i love that my horse is so confident that he will come join in while we build a goat shed.  just hanging out while we run circular saws, nail guns and screw guns.  none of that phases him as long as he gets to be part of it all.

i love that my horse has two goats to move around, gather up, sometimes chase.  and when he nickers to them, they come gallumping, in their awkward way, to his call.

i love that my horse will come stand with his head inside the feed shed while i get his dinner ready, but will NOT come INTO the feed shed.

i love that when i take him his dinner he will stand patiently outside of his house while i fill the feeder and get everything ready.  i love that he will NOT enter until i tell him to.

i love that my horse will stand patiently for me to open the gate to his pen so he can go out and eat.  he will stand there until i tell him he can go out the open gate.

i love that my horse calls to me whenever he sees me outside and will leave his food to come see what i'm doing.

i love that when he hears me reading to my boys in the backyard during homeschool he will come find us and then beg to be allowed into the yard to eat while we sit out there working.

i love that my horse is my partner.

i love parelli.

Thursday, September 12, 2013


billychaoscollage"In the midst of transformation, the chaos seems never-ending. It is difficult to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

But when you get to the other side, order resumes and your higher vision shines brightly in the fresh, new light you have created."

sometimes the journey of natural horsemanship can look like chaos.  it's all ups and downs, tiny, halting steps forward then falling, rolling, leaping backward.  then tiny steps forward again.  it's a give and take that requires a lot of commitment to the actual journey and very little thought of the finished product.  if you are in this for the horse then there really is never a finished product.  there is always learning, changing, making your journey at once chaotic and joyful.

"you know you are putting the relationship first when rapport, connection, trust and confidence are more important than achieving the task or goal itself."  ~linda parelli

when you put your horse's needs first then great things will follow.  if you are taking care of your relationship before you know it you will have surpassed all your goals.  this is something that i keep telling myself, hoping that it proves true for billy and i!  our journey has been a bit uncomfortable lately... they do say that the best learning happens outside of your comfort zone!  sigh.  i am definitely doing some licking and chewing over here.

but having my horse offer to load himself in any open horse trailer, jump a single down barrel whenever he sees one, boldly walk up to any pedestal and put all four feet on it, come sideways towards me with just a wave of my hand, is the most amazing feeling.  having billy feel so willing to do what i ask and eagerly look forward to our play time is an amazing feeling.  this makes me feel like i am on the right track.

chaos and all.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Friday, September 6, 2013

a little something for the weekend

believecollagewhat happens after level 4?  you pick your sport!  i'm thinking billy's sport will be trail riding and doing demonstrations...

what do you think?  to bit or not to bit?  that is the question...

i'm a firm believer in the KISS method of feeding.  billy gets hay/grass (depending on the time of year) and plain old triple cleaned oats with either dried chamomile flowers, OR ground flax seed OR this herbal mix.   i prefer to never feed all at the same time.  i've been feeding the herbal mix to our goats and their hair coats have gotten so healthy and shiny.  a wonderful side effect i've noticed is that they are not bothered by the flying and buzzing bugs like billy is.  the other night after i had fed the goats billy was begging to see their little feed pans, so i allowed him a look.  he immediately started to lick and lick the residual herb mixture that was in the bottom of the pan.  i went straight into the house and ordered him the very same mix.  when the herbs came he tried to open the bag all by himself and anxiously awaited his chance at them.  as i was mixing his feed he was nickering and nickering, pacing around his pen.  he never does this.  hmmmm how interesting!

i also use young living essential oils on him.  he will sometimes have the opportunity to choose his own oils.  he is very good at this!  if you haven't looked into these for your horse and yourself i high recommend them!

Thursday, September 5, 2013


handsome hubby was out practicing with his new firearm and the goats and billy were about 50 feet away.  i "shot" this video to document how well he handles the loud "BANG!"

Sunday, September 1, 2013

taking a break

billygrazingbilly and i are taking a little break.  we learned so much at the david lichman clinic.  after that we have more than enough to keep us busy for the next few YEARS...  but i hurt my foot and can barely hobble around and i think billy has earned a break, so we are hanging up the halter and concentrating on eating grass (billy blaze) and healing (me).

we'll be back soon!!!

Thursday, August 29, 2013

audrey hepburn


"for attractive lips, speak words of kindness.  for lovely eyes, seek out the good in people.  for a slim figure, share your food with the hungry.  for beautiful hair, let a child run their fingers through it once a day.  for poise, walk with the knowledge that you never walk alone.  people, more than things, have to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed and redeemed.  remember, if you ever need a helping hand, you will find one at the end of each of your arms.  as you grow older, you will discover that you have two hands, one for helping yourself and the other for helping others."

~ Audrey Hepburn

Monday, August 26, 2013

sunday part five

the clinic wrapped up and those of us that volunteered to help with the clinic stayed to clean up and help david load all his gear.

billy's pen had been taken over by a herd of roping steers and there was a full on roping going on in the outdoor arena... so billy had to stand tied in the indoor arena while we worked around him.  he didn't seem to mind, unless i managed to stay out of his sight or hearing too long.  but it was a great experience for him.  he calmed down very nicely and stood patiently.

just before we volunteers said good bye we got to see the famous 13 do a few of his moves.  ones that wouldn't stress him too much in his stall.  he is a sweet boy and clearly missed showing off during the demonstration.

heather and i said our goodbyes, went out and tied billy to the trailer while we finished loading all our stuff and tying everything down.  heather filled billy's hay net and i took it to soak it for the trip home.  it was 7 pm by this time... we had started our sunday at 8 am!!  i pretty much had billy online from 9 am until 7 pm with a half an hour lunch break in there somewhere.  it was a long day!

billy loaded into the trailer with just a little coaxing which surprised me as the trip on friday afternoon was long and hot and tiring.  he must have been ready to go home!  i know i was!

heather and i set out, after changing into some comfy travel clothes.  we stopped at a gas station to check the air pressure in all the trailer tires and off we went!

at about 7:45 i heard a POP and saw some of my trailer tire flying off down the interstate behind us...  we had a flat.

i limped the truck and trailer to the side of the road, we hopped out to take a look and decided to continue limping along until we could pull all the way off the interstate.  i wasn't interested in changing that tire so close to semi trucks barreling along at 70 miles per hour.

[caption id="attachment_420" align="aligncenter" width="640"]changingthetire even in the semi darkness, covered in mosquitoes, sweating and wearing axle grease, heather and i can look sexy. keepin it real![/caption]

after some sweating and grumbling and then lots of laughing and giggling, heather and i had the hub cap off the trailer tire, backed the trailer up onto the ramp and had the spare tire ON!  whoot whoot!  we totally rocked that flat tire!!!


billy and i pulled into our driveway at 1 am.  thank goodness it was nearly a full moon.  billy backed calmly off the trailer after a harrowing ride that lasted 5 and a half hours... and shouldn't have been longer than 3.

wow.  what a trip!!!  exciting right up to the very end.  we totally know how to ROCK a weekend!

Sunday, August 25, 2013

sunday part four

dancingdavid(2)in the afternoon we moved right into using music to help encourage rhythm, relaxation and maintaining gait.

use music you like with a good down beat.   you will count the beats per minute then match a tempo to your horses natural gait.  to count the beats, time your counting for 15 seconds and then multiply by four.... or use Turn Over to help you count the beats.  Turn Over will allow you to count the beats using the space bar on your computer and then it will automatically show the beats per minute alongside your song in itunes.  so you know at a glance what you need.

most everyone rode for this segment... i was able to match strides while being on the ground with billy.  lucky for me he loves stick to me and will match my strides nearly perfectly without the music!  the music made it easier as he quickly figured out that the down beat was important.

you want to get two eyes and two ears??  dance!!  billy would just LOOK at me while i was dancing away in the middle of the arena.  he was awaiting my every move looking for an opportunity to mirror me.  just think, doing the jitterbug with my billy blaze!

david used all kinds of music to get his point across in this session.  classical, classic rock, country, pop, alternative rock, etc.  really you can do this with whatever music you like.  i plan to use LOTS of lindsey stirling...

during this session one of the other riders decided to get off her horse because there was some anxiety coming up in her.  her herd mates had left the arena and she was anxious, so her rider just hopped off and joined me on the ground.  david noticed that both our horses were matching the beat pretty well, in their different ways, and tossed out that we should do the carousel!  i've always wanted to do that but no one would ever play that with my "shark" billy blaze!!!  how exciting!

the little gal was just 14 years old, but up for the challenge.  her mare is a quarter horse/ paint cross who trotted just as a quarter horse/paint cross would.  billy was showing his long floaty trot so it made for an interesting carousel!  he was a bit faster than bailey, but they both did their best.  i was so proud!  we lost billy once and bailey once, but i thought we did awesome for our first time with 9 other horses trotting around the rail of the arena.  both of our horses were listening to us in all that commotion!


Saturday, August 24, 2013

sunday part three

SONY DSCafter lunch, in the afternoon, david brought our goals from the beginning of the clinic out into the arena.  we were all gathered, all 11 of us with our horses and he went over each and every one of our goals.  if we missed something then we discussed it and did something about it!

mine was my circling game.  i just can not get billy to offer more than 16 strides of canter on the circle.

then came david...

he had me send him out on the circle, without focusing so much on my send = pointing with my finger.  i'm to use my intention more.  makes sense for level 4!

i'm to focus my eyes just behind his drive line and with the intention that i'm a wildcat about to pounce on his back, ask him to transition up.  then if he doesn't go i bring my stick and string UP from the ground in an arc, kind of a sideways movement, and ZING him in the rear, aiming for his tail.  it took two times of this from david and billy was picking up the canter with just the intention of canter.  then he offered 29 strides!!!!  almost 3 laps.  i was amazed.  david handed him back and said, "done!"  LOL!

now i just have to practice this myself.  when i clean up my mushy communication and become more concise and clear with my intention that will really help.

Friday, August 23, 2013

sunday part two

later that day when we got our horses david had us preparing for liberty close up circles.  this had me processing quite a bit.  it seemed like a simple process, but was actually quite difficult to teach.  both billy and i go RBI when we are learning.  so here i was learning a new technique and teaching it.  and poor billy.  he went a little RBI and a little RBE in this session.  BUT i was able to pull up my big girl panties and get it done.

my biggest concern during this session was that billy would leave me and run off biting and kicking the other horses.  he left me twice, but really had no interest in the other horses, just needed to leave my energy and give himself a little space.  david said that when billy leaves i must not bring him back with cookies and petting because this just enforces the leaving.  horses are smart and figure out quickly that if they leave they get to come back to cookies.  duh.  this makes so much sense!  instead when he leaves, join his dance, get him back and then go back to the thing that caused him to leave, but hold onto the rope this time...

in this session we were playing with getting and KEEPING two eyes.  keeping the horses concentration/attention on us.  causing the horse to believe that we are the sweet spot.  the horse HAS to be with us and the horse GETS to be with us.

to do this we start with the horses head at our belly button, “the sweet spot”.  then we ask our horse to circle at liberty by sending them and tapping their shoulder with our stick if they need help moving their feet.  BUT they must keep two eyes on us at first.  the horse will kind of go sideways in order to accomplish this.  if the horse starts to leave, back up, or takes two eyes off us, then we really flick their hind quarters, phase 4, to correct.  the flick must be quick, kind of like a snake striking, and must be done on the horse, not on the ground.  it’s just like hide the hiney!  when you get both eyes again, repeat the ask and allow the movement as long as they keep their eyes on you.

[caption id="attachment_404" align="aligncenter" width="640"]libertycircles left: hiding that hiney middle: he left! right: bringing him back to the sweet spot[/caption]

it’s hard to get the timing and the feel for this one.  it seems so simple, but the horse is so close to you that it’s difficult to keep things gathered up.  my stick felt too long, my rope kept getting tangled around my feet.  when i put the rope around his neck he left me twice.  sigh.  i was a mess!

david said my communication was too mushy.  i must be clear and concise with my movements to get the desired result from billy, otherwise he’ll just leave!

SONY DSCsend, drop my hand when he moves, tap his shoulder if he needs help.  if he gets too far away, backs up or takes his eyes off me, swat that hiney and bring him back into the sweet spot.  draw, draw, draw!  i must be sure that if i have to swat him that i give him pets and cookies to balance the reinforcement.  i feel like too often i have to phase 4 him and then i don’t balance that with friendly.  this has resulted in my draw not being as good as it once was.  balance is key!

here is a little video that i made last night of our progress...

Thursday, August 22, 2013

sunday part one

on sunday we gathered as a group first thing and had the pleasure of watching an animal training video that david made with one of his mentors, Jenifer Zeligs.  she works in CA at Mosslanding Marine Labs with sea lions and is doing amazing things with them!

[caption id="attachment_412" align="aligncenter" width="350"]JZCAswim2011 Jenifer Zeligs and one of her sea lions.[/caption]

afterwards we had a question and answer session.  i asked if he thought billy was ready to ride yet and his answer had many parts.  the first part was that he feels that billy still has too many of his own ideas.  he is not obedient enough yet.  this made me feel a little sad because i’ve worked so hard on getting him to respect me as a leader and yet i can see what david is saying because i have not been particular enough with him.  i’ve allowed him to be sloppy with his answers.  if my communication is mushy, then his answers will not be snappy.

SONY DSCanother part of the answer had to do with the parelli guidelines for riding a young horse.
at 2 1/2 years old put 10 rides on him.  at 3 1/2 put another 10 rides on.  then at 4 years old he is ready to ride!  i thought this was an excellent guideline and one that i’ve basically followed with my other young horses.  though i didn’t put 10 rides on at 2.  i just waited until they were 3.  i must say that billy is farther along right now, at 3 years old than some of my riding horses were at 6 and 7 in my normal days!

he read off a list of things that billy “should” be able to do.  a few things on that list include:

  • cantering with a tarp on him

  • dragging all kinds of different things

  • the tail flip (keeping his tail relaxed as i move it up and over and all around)

  • moving around with the flank rope

  • stand tied for hours and hours and hours

  • 1500 hours of trail walking

there were many more... but i couldn’t write fast enough!!!  basically what he was saying was get creative.  think outside the box.  if it’s crazy, try it!

david said that my goal of passing level 4 online and at liberty before i ride is a great one and i should stick to that.  he also talked about not chasing the levels.  just put the pieces together and before you know it, level 4 is behind you!

he talked a lot about animal psychology and this really fascinated me.  i think i may look into some college courses on that.  jenifer zeligs, his mentor, does a week long animal training/psychology course in CA that i am going to look into as well.

a woman named Kayce Cover does some classes on animal psychology as well and i’m going to start investing in those.

[caption id="attachment_415" align="aligncenter" width="396"]11-1 Kayce Cover and her monkey Tish featured on the cover of National Geographic World.[/caption]

the way horses, dogs, cats, deer, etc. see the world and why they do the things they do has always fascinated me.  i remember my mom watching a horse do something and then being that horse’s voice when i was growing up.  i was certain that my mom KNEW what the horse was thinking and always wanted to have that ability too.  watching body language and paying attention to how the horse reacts to things has been a focus for me since i was little.  taking these classes just seems like the next natural step!

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

saturday part two

after our session on head lowering, we moved into "the sweet spot".  this is our belly button.  for this you draw your horse into your belly button, reaching out and taking a hold of each side of the halter if they need a little help coming all the way in.  then treat treat treat!

this was hard for billy as i've spent so much time keeping him out of my bubble.  the belly button draw is not something that students below a level 3 should do.  unless your horse is obedient enough, this could get out of hand very quickly.  the horse has to kind of push into your space and he could knock you right over.

this is helpful for teaching the horse that being with you is the BEST place he could be.  this also set us up for the circle at liberty which we did on sunday.

later in the afternoon david had me being more particular with my back up.  billy will go back, but he is either going back and sideways, or curving off across the arena, or putting his head up, hollowing his back.

[caption id="attachment_391" align="aligncenter" width="640"]backing(1) starting the back up...[/caption]

[caption id="attachment_392" align="aligncenter" width="640"]backing(2) and how it should look![/caption]

the pieces were:

  • lower head

  • back up

  • go straight

he could do one of those things at a time, but not all three.  so i just had to get very particular.  i've allowed him to be sloppy in some areas of our games.  i'm not sure why, other than i get so overwhelmed with all that we have to do and then i worry that i'm getting too direct line so i just take what he freely offers and don't ask for more.  this must stop.  he is capable of so much more and i need to ask for that!

[caption id="attachment_390" align="aligncenter" width="640"]backing backing with the head lowered... then keeping it down for me![/caption]

i used the wall of the arena some to help him stay straight.  then i would target different obstacles in the arena and back towards them as straight as i could keep him, not only in the back up but also in his body.  all the while being sure that he could keep his head down low and really round his back.  i also had to watch for others that were sharing the arena, riding and doing ground work.  sometimes it got interesting!

it finally started to click with billy and i could just lightly touch the loop on his halter and he would back right up with his head down.  backing with my hand on his nose needs more repetition but i have time!

[caption id="attachment_394" align="aligncenter" width="640"]halfjump mixing it up with some half jump over a barrel.[/caption]

[caption id="attachment_395" align="aligncenter" width="640"]pedestal and standing on the gigantic pedestal!! whoot whoot![/caption]

at the end of the afternoon session on saturday david came out and showed me some zone 5 driving!  finally!!!  i've been asking for help with this for months so i was particularly thrilled to get help with it.

he showed me how to put the 45' line on the halter so there isn't a loop and then off we went!  i drove professionally for years and you never never never thwap the horse on the rear with the reins to get them go in the show ring.... but that is EXACTLY what you do in zone 5 driving... basically you create a commotion to get the horse thinking forward and then you allow that forward movement.  i was ready for the allow, but the forward was lacking.

[caption id="attachment_393" align="aligncenter" width="640"]driving left: hooking up the line middle: going forward! left: bringing billy back to me...[/caption]

we had some forward on saturday and i hooked him up on sunday as well and he was nice and forward with a little commotion made with the reins.  it was wonderful!!!

i have so much to work on now.  but we have all winter to play around with this stuff....

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

saturday part one

we started our day with a little meeting of the minds.  david took the time to get to know each of us a little bit and we discussed what our goals were for the clinic.  i was so impressed with this part.  i don't think any instructor, in any of the clinics i've been to, has really asked about my goals and then followed up to be sure they were met!

my goals:

  • to enhance my communication (ie. STOP WAVING MY ROPE, STICK AND STRING!!!!!)

  • motivate billy (which will help with the communication)

  • work on ground driving

  • have fun

all 11 participants had their own goals for the weekend and he went over each and every one.  listening to each person talk about their journey was so inspiring.  everyone brought to the table something that we could all relate to.  some goals were more simple and some way beyond me.

after our little meeting david broke us into two groups, group 1 and group A... the man obviously has worked with a bunch of women before!

for the morning i was in group 1 so went out to gather up billy blaze.

we came back into the arena and learned about the importance of teaching our horses to lower it's head whenever it feels overwhelmed or scared.  with a lowered head comes relaxation and engages the brain.  THIS is how we teach our horse to do NOTHING when it becomes scared.

lowerheadlowered head = nothing

how interesting!

to teach this we would create a commotion with the stick, in what ever way we needed to for our own horse.  for some that would be just the stick tapping  the back (and we all started here...) and for others they quickly graduated to using a plastic bag on the stick and/or tied to the end of the string.  we would tap tap tap in a way that was annoying to the horse, then help it find the answer if it couldn't within two or three taps, by putting a tiny amount of downward pressure on the halter.  this would condition the horse to lower it's head whenever it wants the commotion to stop.  this will transfer out in the "real" world as well.  if the horse feels scared it will lower it's head and wait for us to remove the scary object whether that is by taking the object away, or backing the horse away, approach and retreat...

SONY DSCultimately this puts the horse in control of it's own destiny.  to empower our horses we need to offer this.  the horse needs to be in control of his own destiny.  this is how we will make our horse our partner and not our slave.

then we moved to having the horse lower it's head while in motion.  this will help improve the posture and was the missing link for me!!!  billy knows the lowering the head when he is worried.  we've been doing that for about 2 years now, but i had a hard time teaching him this while he was moving if we weren't in the round pen.

to teach it, you walk backwards holding the loop of the halter or the halter rope up by the snap, tap tap tapping on the horse's back (after you have conditioned this at the stand still) and he will look for the release by lowering his head.  the hard part is convincing him to keep moving!  billy would lower his head but stop his feet.  this is just something that will take practice.  he would also offer other answers to my request, such as sideways towards, the spanish walk, more sideways towards.  i would just keep tapping and then help him with some downward pressure on the halter so he could get the answer right.

SONY DSCthe question came up "won't it confuse the horse if we have already used that as a cue for another behavior?"

david said it will at first, but ultimately it comes down to the horse reading our body language effectively.

he talked about power = energy, relaxation and balance.  so we won't be able to get the power we are seeking for maintaining gait in the circle game (my issue) or flying lead changes, or proper posture, or proper gaiting (for the gaited horses in the clinic) if we don't have the relaxation.  how interesting!!!

i found it so interesting that we can TEACH relaxation.  how amazing.