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.
Here's the 7 KEYS TO SUCCESS. 1. ATTITUDE
It just doesn't get any better than that!