The horse's pasture to the East...

Saturday, March 12, 2011


In geological terms, we're just an eye blink in history. Maybe we're less than that...the thought we have before we blink. If you're Christian, you believe in the world being made in seven days. I've always thought that was a nice allegory for what really happened.

Think about it. If God has always been and always will be, then "days " are meaningless. Time has no definition and everything is happening all at once. So "days" would be in terms we mortals can't wrap our heads around. A billion years ... that's 1,000,000,000,000 ! ... (hard to look at much less think about, isn't it?) would be a day to an immortal being. And that's how we become eye blinks, or the thought before the eye blink. And that's where the "seven days" comes from. Just add all those zeros and you begin to see what was really happening on an infinite scale.

The way I manage time has changed too. Pat Parelli has a saying he uses a lot when he's doing demonstrations for his students. "Take the time that it takes, so it takes less time." I like it so much that I have it at the end of all my emails. It's become one of the mantras that I chant to myself during my day. I used to say it out loud to myself. Now it's become one of those thoughts I have before I blink.

He also has lists of things he wants his students to learn. 7 KEYS TO SUCCESS, QUALITIES OF A HORSEMAN, EIGHT PRINCIPALS OF HORSE-MAN-SHIP, and EIGHT RESPONSIBILITIES OF HORSE-MAN-SHIP. On three of those lists he talks about time. #5 Time, 7 KEYS OF SUCCESS...  #7 Timing, QUALITIES OF A HORSEMAN...  #8 Principals, purpose and time are the tools of teaching. , EIGHT RESPONSIBILITIES OF HORSE-MAN-SHIP   So you know how important timing is in all aspects of working with a horse if he mentions it that often.

This past weekend John and I went to a clinic in KC. The instructors were Jenny and Tony Vaught, former Parelli Professionals. It was a clinic focused on gaited horses. We audited it. I would have loved to have Lucky there, but this year auditing will have to do. And I learn at all of the clinics we audit. I sit there and twitch, using the same muscles I would be using if I were with my horse. John told me that my hands open and close as if I had the reins or the lead in my hands. (If you can't tell by looking through this BLOG, I'm obsessed with my horses.) This event was no exception.

Jenny Vaught was particularly good at taking the time to come down to our end of the arena to talk to us. We were the only auditors who were there for the whole weekend, so that was a real treat for me. With gaited horses the need for having good timing is magnified. I know the names of the gaits that Lucky can do now. Ready? It's quite a list. He can : trail walk, dog walk, flat foot walk, lateral pace, foxtrot, hard trot, canter and gallop, and RUN FOR YOUR LIFE! full out run, but I try not to go there. You can see why timing is everything, can't you? Jenny said "Riding a Foxtrotter is like taking a Master's Course." Whew!

She's right too. I've been trying to work it out on the ground first, but there were so many variations on a theme it was hard to keep track of what he was doing. No worries! I love a challenge. My job this year is going to be figuring out what kinds of subtle signals to give, on the ground and on top, to allow us to work as a more synchronized partnership.

I waited for a few days before I started back to work with him. I like to sleep on it when I've learned that intensely. We started up slow, staying inside his pasture and paddock for the first few days. I kept the sessions light and easy too, one day Online, the next at Liberty. And I've been doing simulations with John also. We talk during the day when we're taking a lunch break (I love Blue Tooth for that.) and plan out our strategies. Tomorrow is the change over for Daylight Savings Time, so we'll have an extra hour every evening too. WOO HOO!

The last couple of days I've upped the ante to see where the weak links are. Sure enough, he tried the "Run Away From Nancy" game (some people call it bolting. It's really pretty serious stuff that has to be stopped. Not a good pattern to allow to set in place.). Thank heavens for Parelli Simulations! It's brilliant on their part, to encourage us to practice things before we have the horse in our hands.

He did the bolt at the end of the season last year, right before the snows started. John and I spent the Winter practicing strategies. That's pretty important for us since he's a young, strong and very intelligent horse. He can run much faster than I can. And he's big too, much bigger than I can handle if he decides to pull away from me. So having the ideas in place and the strategies in mind ahead of time is everything for me.

This evening was the time to test my theories. I played with him for just over an hour, slowly making it more and more intense. I worked on the areas he (ME TOO!) is weakest in ... backing and sideways. I kept it as interesting as I could, using some of the new ideas and skills I learned at the clinic with the Vaught's. Timing was everything!

We worked on backing in curves, using the lightest of pressures...light as a feather, just one ounce. Whenever he tried for me, I released immediately. It worked too. He was like smooth chocolate, melting just right. (and from me, chocoholic that I am, that's quite a comparison) I switched that over to Sideways up and down hills and over objects. Again, my real focus was on the timing. Then I added in Squeeze, asking him to back into the barn stall in a half circle. The barn stall opens up right next to the fence, so it's a corner. There's also a step up of about ten inches, more like a trailer. The doorway is low and narrow too, so again it's very much like a trailer. I use it a lot to play with since I'm always looking for things to do trailer simulations with (we have no trailer).

Slowly upping the tension without tripping him in to being frightened wasn't easy. It was a good game for the both of us to play with each other. My goal was to have him back half way through the door, then come back out. I didn't want to push him too far. We did it too, but I could feel the electricity building. Other's probably wouldn't have noticed it, but I did. We're pretty attuned to each other now.

Then, after taking a rest and playing a bit of Friendly game, I switched it up. I had a cone set up about 3/4's of the way out into his paddock. I set off, driving him from zone 3 and 4, trying to find one of our walks. I started with the trail walk, then upped it to the flat foot walk and then I smooched and took us up to the foxtrot. WHAM! The tension he was showing came out in the form of " I'm done. I don't want to and you can't make me!" and he tried to bolt.

He swung in a curve out to my right to come around in front of me. That's what he usually does. He swings around in front and runs past me. He uses it with Apache too. I've watched him out in the field when they're playing. I was ready for him. I let him run out to the end of the rope while I ran along with him (now you know why we started in the paddock. It's contained. Not much room for him to navigate in.) and, as he passed in front of my right shoulder, I shook the rope as hard as I could, shutting him down so fast he swung around to look at me and then jumped in place twice. IT WORKED! The look on his face was exactly what I wanted to see. "You stopped me! I didn't know you could do that!"

We stood there with me turned away from him to take every last bit of pressure off. I waited...and waited...and waited. As soon as his head came down and he licked and then let out a long, whooping sigh, I knew I had his attention and that he was thinking and relaxed. I brought him to me, rubbed him on his whithers. We turned and I started again with the same pattern going in the opposite direction towards a post in the paddock as my focus. This time, when I turned up the speed and asked for that foxtrot, he looked at me and hesitated....and we took it home TOGETHER without a hitch. And that's where our evening ended too, on a good note.

Timing really is one of the most important elements running through everything I do with my herd.

Tomorrow we're going to a sale at a tack store in KC. Maybe I'll find my saddle! If I'm lucky, the timing for that may be right too.

I am, ever yours, Nancy, thinking and blinking at you

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