Day 4 of Back to The Herd
Ohhh myyy gosh! Only 10 days left! I am sort of panicky because Sharlie & I haven't really DONE anything. I have learned alot of stuff about myself and her, but have I really accomplished anything towards my main goals: the auditions. (Balance & Fluidity are included in the Freestyle audition. Can't have one without the other.)
First thing this morning. Well I need to mention that Kara was a lazy bum and slept in! :P Silly! (Im writing this just so it gets on her nerves)
Once I got Kara out of bed and outside we both went into the arena and played online. I tried to get Sharlie to go sideways but she got confused very quickly. I decided to go back to the first 3 games and make sure they are okay. Porcupine and Driving were pretty good (there is always room for improvement) but I wasn't teaching something new right then and there. I was just reviewing what she already knew. Friendly game with their HUGE yellow Equi-Spirit ball was another matter. I spent several minutes just bouncing it next to her till she relaxed by cocking her leg and blowing out a huge sigh. Then came resting on her back. She took that fairly well and was fine with me rolling it around on her back. (Its too huge to bounce) I also played with slapping the stick around which led Kara and I to seeing who could hit the barrel the hardest. It was Kara (and she was still half asleep!)
Then we saddled up, getting ready for our trail ride. I tried a new shim pattern that Kara suggested- having one shim in the middle. I trotted & cantered her on the ground first to see how she would react. Her trot was much slower but it was odd-looking. That is the best I can describe it. Kara pointed out how slow it was but I said I wouldn't be able to ride it anyway. Plus I had no intentions of trotting after yesterday. Her canter though looked amazing. It was slow, graceful and somewhat collected! Very rare to see that nowadays with Sharlie. With that I hopped on and relaxed, trying to find my balance point. I found my hips very relaxed which was good. I was still trying to figure out how to release the tension in my shoulders. As I frequently asked Kara where the tension was, she said "Your shoulders are moving slightly but there is still some tension there. Your upper back is tense, as well as your ankles." Thats pretty amazing considering I was wearing my boots!
"The unconfident and the ego do not go anywhere, the quiet confidence is the key to the adventure." -Unknown
Kara and I also took turns telling a story about Merlin the turtle. He fell down a hole and became captive to a furry white creature with icy blue eyes and whenver you look him in the eye, you forget everything. He is being held hostage along with dozens of other animals but they don't know it because they think they are happy and so they stay there. Etc... It became very dark very quickly ;)
We were out on the trails for about 3 and a half hours. During this time I noticed some very important things. One thing for example is when I use the reins I tense up. But also when I use the reins, I find myself leaning far forward and blocking her shoulders. Bad bad bad!
Another thing I noticed if I used my arms to match Sharlie's front legs as they walked, I would become slightly less tense in my shoulders, but I still need to work on that.
When we returned we went to ride around the playground. Sharlie did fine with the pedestal, natural squeeze and cavelletis but she absolutely hated the tire. That is something we are going to work on as I want to include it in my audition.
"If the horse says no, you are either asking the question wrong or asking the wrong question."
After riding around I let Sharlie graze freely while on the 22 foot line (just in case) while I took a short break to grab a snack, clean out her stall (which later on she promptly did her business the moment she walked in)
After completely soaking my boot (Thanks Kara for that. Because I sooo enjoy walking around in a squishy boot.) I took Sharlie into the arena for a short liberty session. I tried just leaving the lead rope to drag, to see how she would do. It turns out she hated it. She kept trying to leave because she got frustrated with it so I unclipped it. Thats when she started staying with me. The figure 8 was slightly unmotivated so we will have to work on that for our Audition. Though I do enjoy going very slowly at Liberty.
When I tried to introduce her to the Weave, she quickly got frustrated and left. We have this deal that when she leaves, she has to work more than if she did if she stayed with me. So I sent her off at a trot and she became really excited. WAHH! I HAVE A LOT MORE ROOM TO RUN AROUND! She seemed to say. She trotted over the poles and in between the barrels. (Oh so you can weave Sharlie?) I asked her for a few steps of canter. She resisted at first but then did a few beautiful steps. I then allowed her to come back in. We did some Stick To Me but then she left again when I tried the weave again. This time I asked her to do a whole lap of canter. This is a challenge for her, even online so I knew if she managed to do it, we would end the session there. She cantered a few steps the first time then asked if she could come in. I told her no and that she had to do a whole lap. I imagined it in my mind and the next thing I knew she did a lovely canter for a whole lap. Yay!
During the afternoon I spent the whole afternoon trying to figure out tasks and goals for me to work on toward my Online and Liberty Audition. I'm pretty sure at the moment that I won't be doing Freestyle. It is a big disappointment but if it doesn't happen it doesn't happen. I will just have to wait to go back to Kara's with Sharlie again in order to do that. (There is no way I have the confidence to do it at Mercy :/)
Until then I can keep trying to advance my on the ground so then maybe one day riding can catch up.
Knowing that the last 3 games would probably be the hardest for me & Sharlie both online and liberty, I decided I should play with those this evening. (Circling, Sideways and Squeeze) What I didn't realize is that the evening would become quite a different learning experience.
I started off in the arena and let Sharlie wander around a bit by herself as I set up some barrels and poles for sideways and squeeze. I already knew she wouldn't circle in the arena as there were so many toys around (not that I'm complaining!) Sideways over the pole was...okay. Sharlie became frustrated quickly but did manage a few good steps of sideways before I said "Thats it. Don't worry that was all I wanted."
Next came Squeeze Game. I had placed some barrels for her to squeeze through. At first she was slightly hesitant but soon she became very relaxed. I made the space smaller and smaller until the barrels were right next to each other. I didn't think she would jump, I knew she wouldn't jump (though it would have been nice if she had) but she didn't. It took her a good 20 minutes to figure out how to get over the barrels. Finally she pushed it with her nose and one of them moved. Took her a few more tries and finally she was able to squeeze through.
We then made our way out into the back field so we could work on our circling game. I had looked back at our Level 1 audition and I had sent Sharlie into a canter at Phase 1. Why did I have to use Phase 4 now? I had sent Sharlie into a trot at phase one in that video too. Now I had to use Phase 3/4.
All I could say was I was glad Kara was watching because otherwise I would have kept on the destructive path I was on. I won't get into detail of what I was doing because frankly its just plain downright embarrassing and depressing. But I will give you a summary. I was a predator and I was chasing her to trot and canter (to maintain the trot and to pick up the canter which she never did) I stopped after getting tired, still mad and frustrated as was Sharlie. She even looked ticked off.
Kara- being cautious as she sometimes is- waited till I had calmed down before pointing out what I was doing wrong. She offered to try herself and try and find the difference.
As she did she had a completely different attitude. At first Sharlie wasn't much different then she started become lighter.
Kara explained to me that she was becoming very excited and bringing up her energy to motivate Sharlie and when Sharlie did what she asked (pick up the walk, pick up the trot, slow down, speed up, etc...) she would feel overly over joyed. Sharlie would take this as a sign she was doing the right thing.
Yea, it was much better than me chasing her with a frown on my face.
Kara got me to try and I definitely had a hard time. I am innately introverted, whether left or right brained so I had a hard time bringing my energy up and being excited(!) But when I did figure it out Kara pointed out the difference. Sharlie was rounding her back and her neck, her trot was more fluid and she was motivated and looked happy.
I also felt much more at peace. Hmmm...how interesting. Something important to keep in mind.
I also played with the pedestal and the same thing was applied. I quickly became frsutrated when she refused to stand still on the pedestal if it was anything other than her front hooves.
Kara yelled to me "Relax!" as she could see, even from a distance, I was tense. I took a deep breath and felt patience being restored. As I settled for her thinking about putting a 3rd leg up onto the pedestal without freaking out, I rubbed her affectionatly and turned to lead her off so I could go join Kara and Brita who were grazing a distance off. What I didn't realize is that Sharlie had moved to keep her hind legs on the pedestal! I didn't notice till she was moving off, but I was astounded.
Amazing. I will have to work on being excited, motivated and "overjoyed" whenever they do something good.
I didn't complete most of my goals that I set out to do this evening which is fine as I have several hours tomorrow. Its much more important I learned this.
I feel like I have made amazing progress. Even if it wasn't expected.