The horse's pasture to the East...

Thursday, September 30, 2010


My Grandpa used to say that... "If it ain't one thing, it's something else." Then he'd smile, shake his head, check his pocket watch and get on with his day. He was a dairy farmer and, later, a truck farmer who managed to make it through the Depression with his land intact, so he was one tough cookie. He was the one who taught me not to sweat the small stuff way before anyone made that into a catchy title for a book.

Well, last night was one of those "things", or maybe a "something else". The weather was gorgeous. We're in those days of September when Kansas redeems herself. It was 75, no wind and clear as a bell. Grain time was over and it was time to set up to play. Both Lucky and Apache were ready too. They were standing there at the gate, nickering and crooning to us. I love starting our evening with that kind of reward!

John got his equipment and called Apache. I went for mine with Lucky at my shoulder. He puts his head into the halter now, ready to go, with no resistance. Most of our equipment is pretty chewed up because there used to be lots of "nummies" going on. Both of our horses have high play drives and it always came out, right from the beginning, with chewing on the leads and halters. Lucky knows what's going to happen before what happens happens, so he's motivated to get out there. No more "nummies".

We stopped long enough to brush some of the accumulated dirt of the day off, spritz a bit with bug spray since the flies are at their peak and out we went, Sideways this time. He offers it now! We went out the door and this time I added in a turn and kept going along the side of the shed. That surprised him, but he was willing. The best grass is out past the shed anyway.

The whole evening was like that. We were sailing! It was all slide and glide, easy easy. At least it was until something came crashing through the woods in the field to the north of our play area. It may have been some of the calves playing, or a deer, a tree branch breaking. Whatever it was, Lucky went in to a Right Brain panic in a nano second. BOOM! Golly that can happen fast.

Usually he just freezes. It's a jump up and then FREEZE! This time he jumped up, whirled around and took off for the back of the house. That's one of his safety zones. I tried to keep up with him while I let the rope slide through my hands but he was way too fast for me. His legs are long and he can TRUCK when he needs to. I let go. He would have pulled me off my feet. No need to go there and I knew he wasn't going to go far.

Sure enough, he stopped and turned and came back. I know I'm probably anthropomorphising here, but he sure did look like he had a sheepish grin on his face. "Sorry Boss. Won't happen again." My first thought was "Nancy! You could have done better." So I zipped that one up fast. That's negative thinking. What happened happened. Learn from it.

In that way that horses have, the tension came down pretty fast. When he went back to grazing and it was nice languid bites, I knew we were good to go. I played a bit more Friendly Game with him, then we went on with our play time. We did about 30 minutes more and I was feeling pretty good about it too. We managed to find our Mojo and to get our act together and keep on keepin' on. Time to stop while the getting was good. (I'm full of all kinds of old timey sayings today, aren't I?)

We turned back towards the barn and paddock and headed off down the drive. I'd set up the cones down the drive again so we could practice our Weaving. The plan was to Weave and then to do a couple of Figure Eight's moving into Falling Leaf. I love to flow things together. Sometimes it works like a beautiful dance now, more and more often. (Wonder if I should get out the old boom box and put some tunes into the mix?)

We'd gone down the length of the cones, back again, turned and were working on the last leg when something started to crash about in the pond, behind the cedars. (Turned out it was one of the cows, but I found out about that later.) BOOM! Lucky was off again. sigh. I thought I was prepared, that I was looking out for him and he was connected enough to trust me. But the truth of it is, it startled me too. I jumped so he jumped and that was all she wrote. Whirl and gone, just like that. He went back down the side of the house just a bit further again, then stopped, breathing hard.

He waited for me. Thank heavens we're past the evasion that used to happen. I picked up the lead and we went further away. Might as well practice our Approach and Retreat tactics. We didn't come back up to the drive until I was sure he was listening and soft enough to make it home. We went on in to the paddock where John and Apache were waiting for us. This time the sheepish look was on my face!

After everyone was in for the evening, I asked John if he would help with some simulations before we went in. He had some ideas and we wanted to try them. We took turns being the horse and figured out how to, possibly, head Lucky off at the pass when something like this happens. Of course my head went blank, obviously. I needed to get some more information tattooed on the back of my eyelids! (It's gonna get pretty crowded in there, the further I go along with this.)

I think I'm going to try running at a 45 degree angle from him next time and then use the rope as a "lever", helping to disengage his back end and swing him around. We worked and worked at it until it felt natural. Ate a late dinner too. It was almost nine by the time we went in. That's OK. The evening was gorgeous!

My breakthrough? I didn't panic. I didn't cry. Instead I was thoughtful. My heart didn't pound. In fact, I don't think my heart rate even went all. I even stopped myself from berating myself.

I think I'm getting the hang of this "Don't sweat the small stuff". If it ain't one thing, it's something else. And it's all something I can learn from too.

Nancy, smiling sheepishly but smiling none the less

Tuesday, September 28, 2010


Did you ever go to one of those County Fair's where they had a carny running a Wheel of Fortune? You'd pay your quarter and then you'd get to spin the wheel. The carny would say " Round and round it goes. Where it stops, nobody knows!" Most of the time you landed on a slot that said "Better luck next time". And sometimes you'd win. The fun was in NOT knowing where it was going to take you. It was such an innocent little thrill.

That's the way it is when I take Lucky out to play. I never know what slot/horse I'm going to be playing with. And, yes, it's still fun NOT knowing. I love the challenge that always presents to me. And I've been even more hyper aware of that since our episode a few evenings ago, when he went off to his 'happy place' in the Round Corral. There's always an up side to everything, good or bad, that happens. That being hyper aware is our up side. Lesson well learned!

I've been keeping it light and easy and working at setting us up for success. Both of us came away from our Round Corral encounter with our confidence shaken. I've gone back to my plan of focusing on A game each evening and still going forward with our Patterns at the same time. Last night we worked on Circle Game with lots of Sideways review. But I also wanted to make sure my timing was better. I'd just finished watching one of the DVD's where Linda Parelli talks about the "silence between the notes". It was easy to remember for just the shear poetry of the metaphor she used... "silence between the notes".

We have a nice, big double door on the barn, so I opened it up completely and we Circled out...a new one for us. Lucky's a Left Brained Introvert, so Circle has to have some kind of reason for him to be motivated to do it. Going OUTSIDE on to the grass is a big motivator for him. That boy does love to eat! Later, when we came home, I asked him to Sidepass down the hill to get to the doors, then turned him and we backed in. There's an endless repertoire of Games for us to play for just going in and out of his barn. I love that! So does he. I'm starting to get that conversational flick of the ears towards me when we come to gates and doors now. He's so focused on what we're going to choose to do, the usual anxiety of coming and going is forgotten.

We're on the smudgy line between Level Two and Three on the ground where we're beginning to work on Level Three varying gaits while playing a Game and me standing further away when I request something, being more specific. He's getting lighter and lighter in the Games we know well, but we're still working on getting it clear enough in the new Games. I've come in a bit closer again to try newer things. It makes him and me more comfortable while we work out how to break things down in to smaller building blocks.

Our breakthrough last night? He did a Sideways/Sidepass coming towards me. HUGE! The first time we did it, I kind of tricked myself and him in to doing it. But the second time we did it, and the third, I did it as if we had been doing it all along. AND IT WORKED! I got so excited I dropped the line and did a little jig right there. WOO HOO! He got excited because I did, so verbal horse that he is, he did his own " woooo-hooooo-hoooo-hooo". He stood there, ears forward, and asked me "Did I do it right? Want to do it again? Want to do something else?" Golly, I love this program. All it took was five little steps Sideways and both of us are on top and back!

So, off we went, this time doing Weaving up and down the drive (we have 99 percent hills here, so the drive is where we do long patterns) at a walk, then a gait, then a walk. He was on! He was right there with me and both of us were laughing all the way.

We went right on in to the arena and did some Walk/Stop and Walk/Gait transitions in straight lines, following the rail. Lucky loves straight lines when we work. It means we're going somewhere. And I love it because it builds our ability to move with synchronicity. It's so rewarding when you move completely together with that lovely, big horse floating right next to you, following and listening. Who knew you could do this with a horse? Blows me away every single time.

I have a mounting stand, one of those three step plastic ones, that I keep over at the arena. Sometimes I sit on it while we work, just to keep things interesting. Since one of the things I was searching for and trying to learn was the "silence between the notes", I decided to use the mounting block to do just that. I sat on it between games and waited for Lucky to relax. It was a new way for me to try that, so he was intrigued. And then it began to have a discernible effect on our play time last night.

I waited and waited and he looked at me, waiting too. As soon as he really relaxed, head down and eyes soft, instead of getting up and heading off to do something else, I reached up and gave him a massage. Blew his circuits! "Whaaaat?" He loved it. He got softer and softer, until he laid down and rolled on to his side. WOW! He was a big puddle of Luck, right there next to me, melted just like butter on a hot day. I kept softly rubbing all down his side...and he just laid there and let me. I also cried all over the Big Kahuna. Guess I had some of my own "issues" to blow off.

I felt much better and so did he. After he got up, he offered to do a Sidepass/Sideways Circle all the way around the mounting block! I'd picked up my stick to get up and he read it as a request and just went, like he'd been doing it for years, all the way around me. I sat there in neutral, handing the rope around and he Sidepassed around me! I couldn't see what he was doing behind me, but John saw it. He said Lucky never missed a beat...sailed all the way around!

I ended it right there. We were more than done. He went out with me and spent a good 15 minutes eating what ever lovely grass he wanted. When we got back to the barn, all I did was think about the Sideways down the hill and then the Backwards in to the barn...and he did it! I think my horse was reading my mind! Course, what he was reading was my intention in my body, but it still verged on being psychic.

"Round and round we go. Where we stop, nobody knows!" Looks like last night was a BIG WINNER! Doesn't get any better than that!
Nancy, smiling BIG TIME

Thursday, September 23, 2010


Just when I begin to feel like I'm in my comfort zone, I find out I'm far out instead. Now that's my version of an old sixties joke (and didn't THAT just date me!), but it still does a good job of letting you know in fifty words or less what it's like to learn how to "talk horse".

My goal this week has been to read where all the little thresholds are when I'm with Lucky and to react appropriately. I'm trying to give very clear requests to him while staying at a Phase 1 too. (For anyone reading who isn't in the world of Parelli, I'm talking about the importance of listening to my horse and using the lightest of cues to communicate with him. The lighter, the better.)

I decided the best way to do that was to experiment with a combination of walk about with him leading and me playing games along the way. So when he wanted to walk the whole length of the drive with me, eating all the tasty weeds growing in the middle of the road, I said "Cool! While we're heading up the drive, how about doing it in Traveling Circles?"

Being a the lovely Left Brained Introvert that he is, he lives to eat. Apache (Left Brained Extrovert) eats to live. Big difference when it comes to the temptation of green lawn grass. Lucky did the Traveling Circles while he skimmed the grass, eating all the way. Totally cracked me up! He was just a munching and a crunching along and humming to himself. "Hhhmmmm...crunch, crunch...mrunch!" One of our neighbors happened to be driving past while we were walking along, Lucky humming and eating and walking in Circles around me and me laughing like a lunatic. He slowed the truck to watch, smiling and giving me a tentative little wave. Bet he had a good story to tell his wife when he got home!

Part of the walk about portion of the evening was letting Lucky choose the place we were going to work...Round Corral or Arena. Again, he surprised me. He chose the Round Corral. It's not his favorite place. He came to me with a lot of 'baggage' connected to his old style of training that was started in a Round Corral. I was not there to see it, so it's conjecture on my part about what was done to him. But I do know that it involved abuse, so having him choose to go there was a breakthrough for us. I felt pretty good about that.

Up until now we've been doing lots of Approach and Retreat with the Corral. We played around the outside of it for months this past Spring and Summer (It's not about the Corral...or the trailer...or whatever else becomes the issue of the day.) while I learned how to read every little threshold. I wanted it to be a place he WANTED to go to, not a place we had to go to.

I opened the gate and in we went, humming and munching along. It was one of those "Hey...look at us!" moments. I was that thrilled!

I'd hooked my goody bag to the fence, thinking that bites of carrots might sweeten the deal for him as we walked around inside. I took the lead off to take that last bit of pressure off of him. We strolled, stopping to "pat and rub" the fence. (Good thing my neighbor wasn't there to see THAT part. Would have added to his story when he got home. " Honey, I saw the neighbor lady talking to a fence and rubbing it!" Hard enough being an artist on a road of ranches and farms, much less being the lady who talks to fences!) I wanted him to see it as non threatening.

I thought we were doing pretty good too. We even played a little, doing a couple of Figure Eights and Half Circles with changes of direction. I took it too far though. I was having so much fun and was so excited about what we were doing, I forgot to look for his thresholds. Lucky's can sometimes be very subtle...a bit of tension around his eyes and mouth, tension in his neck or even his head coming down and staying there, like he's hiding. That one's easy to misread. Usually a head down means a horse is relaxed. And sometimes it does with Lucky too.

His head came down and then he just left. His eyes went blank, completely blank. I'd asked him to play Circle game with me in a confined space. I missed his signals of distress and IN he went. He was gone, to some "happy place" far away. Lucky was catatonic.

I've seen videos of Linda Parelli's horse, Allure, go inward when he was given a cookie. I think I did the same thing unintentionally. I'm not sure about that though. But I was giving him little pieces of carrot every time he tried something for me and we were in the Round Corral, a place he finds very scary. I'm guessing it was the Circle game that triggered it.

I turned away from him and took all pressure off immediately. I stood there breathing the way I do when I meditate and do Yoga, breathing from my diaphragm, in through my nose and out through my mouth. I did my best to let all of the tension out of my body too. If I'm the leader and he's looking for me to tell him it's OK, then I wanted to make it as obvious as possible that it really was OK...that no one was going to EVER frighten him in an enclosed space again.

I stood there, breathing and trying not to cry. I'd pushed too far in my excitement. My 'monkey brain' took over and the predator came out. I was appalled! But I was also supposed to be in the moment with Lucky. It was my job to correct what had happened as best I could. So I stood there and breathed and waited with my back to him.

I stood there until he nudged me. It was just a tentative little nudge, a tiny little touch, right in the middle of my back between my shoulders. He was back. And it was time to make a slow and measured retreat from our Round Corral. I wanted him out of there as soon as possible. I walked over to the gate where I'd hung the rope up, without looking at him. He was with me too. I could hear him breathing just behind my ear.

I reached up, still without looking at him. I was trying not to put any kind of pressure on him. I reconnected the lead to his rope halter, picked up my stick and opened the door while I stepped to the side. He stepped out on to the grass, took a huge breath in and walked about ten paces away before he stopped. Then he laid down and began to roll. He was blowing off the fear and adrenalin. Back and forth, back and forth. He must have gotten up and laid back down four or five times before he felt better. Thank heavens for the systems Nature puts in place to help horses change their blood chemistry!

We strolled games this time. It was just a nice, easy walk back to the barn and paddocks. By the time we got "Home" the sun was down and the full moon was up. I've never been so glad to take my partner home! Meditating while he went inward helped me to stay centered so I could stay calm, but I still felt terrible.

I'm going to have to work on that "monkey brain" thing. I'd prefer not to repeat the turning inward again.

I think sometimes that when I make that kind of mistake, I learn at a deeper level. It's in my bones now and tattooed on the back of my eyelids (another Parelli saying). I will know better the next time and see it coming from much further off when Lucky reaches one of those thresholds. And this evening I'm getting my Liberty and Horse Behavior out again. It's time I rewatched that series.

My new goals? I'd like to keep us 'outward' and going forward, keeping it fun!

I remain ever yours, a recalcitrant Nancy, smiling (especially when I think about my audience driving by in the truck!)

Wednesday, September 15, 2010


It's raining today...long, soft, rumbling, grumbling thunderstorms. My kind of September rain; not too serious but no stop to it either. When I was a girl, I took long walks in this kind of weather, much to the consternation of my Mom. "Silly girl! Walking out in a thunderstorm...what were you thinking?"

I wasn't thinking. I was very young and in love. I was in the moment.

This morning, while I was out with my herd doing chores in the rain, I was in the moment too, horse style. I'd decided to keep them up in the paddock. This was no light and easy rain. When the thunder and lightening came in, it REALLY came in. And if I'm out there with them they'll come in to stand in the big shed with me instead of standing on the top of the hill, making themselves in to lightening rods.

I was cleaning, they were chewing and watching me to make sure it was safe to be inside instead of out on the hill, where their instincts told them to go. Ever so often it would really BOOM!, and they'd stop and check in again. " Still alright?" Amazing! They're really beginning to believe me when I say "Yup. Alright."

When I was sure the worst part of the storms had passed, I decided it was OK for me to go inside. I walked around to make sure all buckets were full, shed and stall clean, hay out, gates closed. And I stopped to check on them too.

I leaned on the shed doorway, over to the right, and watched the rain drip off the trees and run down the hill to the pond. Beautiful! And then Lucky stepped forward and stood next to me, steaming and dripping with rain. His head came down to my level (he's 16 hands high and I'm 5'4", so he had to come down a ways) and we relaxed together, watching. And Patch stepped forward to, on Lucky's other side, his head coming down to match ours.

I don't know how long we stood there. It didn't matter. We were in the moment, together, being.

Maybe that's the best kind of "training" session there is...just being...together.

It doesn't get any better than that!

Nancy, smiling at the way things go!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010


Every time I say "It just doesn't get any better than that!"... it does get better than that!

Sunday evening last John and I decided to take the horses on a walk-about. It's always interesting and unexpected because you never know where they're going to take us. They love being the leaders on our adventures, and they're surprisingly brave too.

We went out for about an hour and explored lots of new

territory. In fact, most of it was brand new to them. How

interesting! All of the heebie jeebies were gone and the

world was their oyster.

We went to the neighbor's yard to explore her gardens, around the back of the pond along the berm, up hills and down dales, across fields they never go in to. By the end of the evening both of them were like melted butter, they were so soft.

Yesterday evening we went back to a more formal and structured kind of play/work time. This week I'm concentrating on a new game each day. I'll still play other games, but the idea is to really improve my ability to communicate with Lucky while keeping it fun AND concentrating on whatever the game of the day is.

I choose Sideways Game for Monday. It's not one of Lucky's easiest games to play. He's gaited, so his legs have a tendency to want to move in certain patterns that are nothing like the average horse. Sideways has been a hard one for him to achieve, and for me too. Finding a way to work with him that doesn't push him past his emotional breaking point when trying to learn something new, working on a way to get my timing down and to make it intriguing for him has been a real challenge for the two of us.

We had some lovely little breakthroughs with doing Sideways (also called sidepass) without a fence in front of us and me in front, and in doing a sideways with me standing next to him and trying to make my only cue moving my feet the way I want him to move his. It was just a few steps each time, but we did it and, even better, we did it together with him soft and asking questions each time! NOW THAT'S HUGE!

We played lots of other games in between too, games that he already knows, just to keep a nice flow going. And at the end of our time in the arena we did a little bit of synchronized walk/stop transitions with John and Apache.

Oh...not to forget his hardest game...he sidepassed over a cone and then, later in the arena, down the length of a board. He did that twice in one evening and his head never came up. He was soft and willing, focused and asking all kinds of questions. Even when the scary parade of cows and calves came down the field across from the arena and, later, the jumping, tail tossing deer as they came across the same field didn't frighten him this time. I was very pleased about that.

I'd changed the whole set up and did things in completely different orders, trying to keep from being to predictable. I know that helped. But the real breakthrough was in me! I was having fun...real fun...the whole time. I wasn't stressed or worried about whether or not I had the timing down or was graceful enough for him. I smiled so much, my cheeks began to hurt. I think I even got a few bugs in my teeth, a real hazard here this time of the year in buggy OZ. I just couldn't stop smiling.

Was my horse a reflection of me? YOU BET! Maybe it was the walk-about on Sunday. Maybe it's the Liberty and Horse Behavior discs we've been watching again. We watched the segment on the inner game of horse-man-ship again. Something real sank in this time, possibly because I'm at last beginning to get the techniques in to my bones and tattooed on the back of my eyelids ala Parelli. Whatever it was, the real breakthrough was in me!

Lucky already has all of the things we're doing together down pat (pun intended). His breakthrough was that he's beginning to trust me to be his leader. Even when a big, rattling truck and combine went down the road, clinking and huffing and puffing one after the other, he turned to me and asked "Is that alright?" Having that kind of trust from him is EVERYTHING. And it's what this whole thing has been about.

I have written on the bottom of all of my emails a quote from Pat Parelli. It says "Take the time it takes, so it takes less time." I use that in everything I do now, not just when I'm with Lucky. I thought I'd always done a good job of that, but I'm finding there's always room for improvement. The more I follow that one axiom, the better it gets between Lucky and me and in my other life as an artist too. No more torn up canvases. If it isn't working, I put it aside and come back later to work things out. Same with Lucky, only I call it Approach and Retreat (again, ala Parelli).

Last night if there was even the hint of tension, I retreated and then we came back. Son of a gun! This Approach and Retreat stuff works! The more I did for him, the softer he was and more willing to try something new.

See? That's why I said the breakthrough was in me. He's a reflection of how I react, how focused and thoughtful I am and how honest I am about what he or I can handle.

So maybe I should have titled this the 7 KEYS TO SUCCESS?! I think we hit just about every single one of them last night, and it showed! The closer I follow this program, the more forward Lucky and I are together.








It just doesn't get any better than that!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010


I should set the stage before I go to far with this post. Three years back Lucky (and the rest of my herd!) had a reaction to Spring Inoculations. The Vet thought it might have been the 5 in 1 that set it off. Which ever it was, he went in to Laminitis. It was serious too. At one point both the Vet and the Farrier suggested I put Lucky down. Lucky made it clear he wanted to fight, so fight we did. All of this happened just as we were going to send in a video of our Level One audition. This year has been the first year since, where we've been able to work everyday, so the progress we're making is blowing me away!

Now, to bring you up to last night. It was a Tuesday after a holiday, so I knew John wasn't going to be home for a while. Lots of catch up after his time off. Since he's working with Apache and I'm trying to set him up for success, I've been waiting and going out to work with Lucky at the same time he does, to help alleviate the tension of being separated from Lucky, for Apache. As their relationship deepens, Lucky and I will go back to working on our own.

John called and told me he was going to be even later than he anticipated, so I said I'd just groom the guys while we waited. I did, and it was a very nice, mellow evening. We're all working on standing at Liberty quietly while I brush coats and pick hooves. I always throw in a massage to make it worth their while(s) to stand still. Last night was so nice and quiet that I was able to stand them next to each other and work on one, then the other. I love it when it's like that! Apache even "groomed" me between my shoulders (on my whithers).

By the time John made it home, there were only about 30 or 40 minutes left before the sun went down, so not enough time to do our usual hour or so of work/play. No worries! John didn't even stop to change out of his work clothing. He just came in to greet me, Lucky and Apache (I was the only one who got a kiss!) and to go get the halter and lead, carrot stick and string. We talked about it while we got ready to go OUTSIDE and decided to do a Walk-About with the horses leading us. Always fun because neither of us every has any idea where they will take us.

Now a bit more back fill to the story. The past two weeks I've been doing my own version of the Patterns with Lucky. I'm still doing everything in order (will wonders never cease?!), but I'm also emphasizing one game each evening. One day it's Friendly and as many different kinds of Friendly as I can come up with, based on our skill levels together. The next it might be Circle or YoYo. It's my way of trying to take us to a higher level of communication and still keep it fun and intriguing for Lucky.

It's not hard to do this. Seven games, seven days. It's never dull when I keep adding in new components. Lucky's a Left Brain Introvert with some Right Brain Introvert tendencies, so we're working on timing. Ever so often he flips over into a Right Brain panic so I do my best to shift to Right Brain Introvert techniques. Keeps me hopping, I can tell you that! We are getting more and more balanced as his confidence comes up, so I must be going in the right direction.

Well, last night HE decided to make it a Squeeze Game night. It's not his favorite game, so he really surprised me. We started out with him leading and me following in either Zone 3, 4 or 5. I wanted him to feel like he was in control, that this was a Walking Passenger kind of a trek. Didn't take him long to get it either. As soon as he realized he was Leader and I was there to follow, off we went!

And it was ALL Squeeze games too. Being a bit slower than he is, it took me a good five minutes to understand what he was doing. We Squeezed through all kinds of tight spaces...between the propane tank and the end of the shed and then the forsythia bushes and the shed, then under the little oak in the front yard, with the branches brushing his back (and me ducking). We walked along the outside of the arena between the hill on our right and the fence line on the left, then across the driveway and under every single one of the cedars and pines! Somewhere along the way I lost my hat when it was knocked off.

We walked around the back of the pond, along the top of the berm. That's usually a very "scary" space because there's quite a drop off to either side into water or a creek. We walked up around the house and under the carport. There's a step up on the side we came through, much like getting into a trailer. It's cement too, so there's a hollow clop-clop-clop sound when we walk through. That was brand new territory for us. Usually it's just an Approach and Retreat space without actually going through since his thresholds are so evident. Looks like it's working too, because not only did we walk through (and it's only nine feet high, so pretty low for my big 16 hand horse) but we Squeezed between the truck parked there and the wisteria vine, past a wheel barrow and over the water hose twice.

We even stopped to step into the vegetable garden, just in case something especially nice might be growing in there. His opinion? Tomatoes are awful, butternut squash are tasty. Green peppers make an nice sound when you crunch on them, but they aren't good enough to swallow. Basil isn't as interesting as it looked from the other side of the fence. Ah, but little, brand new green lettuces for the Autumn are worth pulling straight out of the ground. I'll have to replant those and I don't mind if I do. It was his first time inside the garden...and it's all raised beds with tiny pathes in between and a deer fence around it too...more Squeeze!

Then we headed up the driveway along the back of the shed with a drop off on one side and the shed on the other, around the end and between the propane tank, forsythia and the shed again. By this time my mouth was hanging open in astonishment! The best part was for last though.

We have a little gate next to the shed that we call the "Donkey Gate". It's just the right size for one of us or Willow to go through. Most of the time I can leave it open while I'm doing chores and neither of the horses does much more than just stick their head through to watch. It's so close together that if one of them goes through, their sides will touch both sides of the fences posts at the same time. That's a bit too intense, or at least I THOUGHT it was. Lucky headed straight for it, walked through and stopped to scratch both sides by rubbing back and forth before he walked on in. It's so low he had to lean down to get through too!

The horse completely blew my circuits last night! He knew it too. I could swear his eyes had a sparkle in them when he turned to look at me after we got home. Not once did his head come up or did any thresholds show up. No spooking, no tension. It was all easy, easy does it. All I could do was stand there with my jaw dropped clear to the center of my chest, goggling at him. I was that surprised!

Number 2 in the 8 Principals of HORSE-MAN-SHIP is : "Don't make or teach assumptions." and Number 7 is : "Horses teach humans and humans teach horses." I think I can easily say that Lucky was the Master last night. I was just the "grasshopper".

Oh...and John? He looked kind of cute in his city clothes, working with his horse. Guess he's lucky Apache didn't take him into the pond! He told me the look of astonishment on Apache's face when Lucky Squeezed under the carport and through all the obstacles was worth the cleaning bill for his clothes.

I am having so much fun! Does it get any better than that? I think it might, given the new things that come up nearly every day. The learning curve is steep and my brain is being my horse Lucky, the Squeeze King.

Nancy, laughing all the way!