A Step in the Right Direction

(Blog from the Past)

Yesterday’s session was awesome! Culo was really calm and connected with me.

Played a few games to start things off, and then I turned him loose. At first he was more focused on things outside the arena, so I played the driving game for several laps in both directions, but as soon as I saw him wanting to connect with me, I took all the pressure off and invited him to join up with me and he did.

Once he was standing beside me, we played the stick to me game – working on upward and downward transitions. Then we played with “wearing a feel” on his nose. He was kind of stuck at first, so I just fixed it up and waited. The second he moved with (not running away from) the feel – he found comfort. Within a few minutes, he was following my feel backwards wonderfully.

From there, we continued at liberty – playing the yo-yo and circling games. He did really well at both of them! He put a lot of try into the yo-yo backwards (I was very pleased with that). Then from about 15 feet away, I sent him on the circle and went back to being neutral. He maintained gait and direction at the walk for 4 circles in both directions! He had a really nice change of direction too! I took a couple steps back, and he turned right around, and then as I stepped forward he continued in the change of direction without breaking gait! That was the first time he has ever done that! The really cool thing was that he had a wonderful expression the whole time! So I called him in and gave him lots of scratches and a short rest!

Next, I yo-yoed him backward and sent him on a circle, but this time instead of circling, I changed things up and turned a half circle into a point to point. I turned the point to point into a sideways game, then back to a point to point to the barrels, which I turned into the touch it game (his favorite!).

From there, I decided to do some bareback riding. My goal was to get better at transitions. So I worked at getting in timing with his feet first. I think I’m starting to get better that – it’s really neat to notice a change in him when we are both in harmony! He gets softer and more fluid, and his expression becomes positive.

The last thing I worked on that day was the backup. The clinic I audited by Lee Smith a few weeks ago was really insightful in my riding, but specially in this area. Before, when I would ask for Culo to backup, he was always really heavy in the reins and sluggish. I knew the problem was me, but I wasn’t really sure what to do differently. Well, since I have had a chance to apply what I learned from watching the clinic, the backup is the best it’s ever been! Lee said, “How many of you are just applying pressure on a daily basis? He wants to stay out of pressure…he should be feeling for where the comfort is. If I see the horse working at it – do less.” I realized that I was just applying pressure to ask him to back up; I wasn’t allowing him to find the comfort in the backup. So first, I picked up a feel on the reins, then I gently asked for him to backup, and the very instant he tried, I did less. I repeated this process several times, pretty soon he started to feel for where the comfort was and put slack in the reins. Before, without even realizing it, I had been taking that slack away; and as a result, he couldn’t find the comfort. But now, he was offering a very athletic backup completely off of a feel. WOW – that was I really really neat feeling! I’ve never felt that before – I had a grin on my face from ear to ear. Culo was licking and chewing and even let out a big sigh! In the end, as soon as he put slack in the reins, I only had two finger tips on the reins for a backup!

So overall, totally rewarding day for both of us!!!

Keep it natural!


(If your interested, below are a few additional quotes that were running through my head that day, which really helped me):

“The horse may not be doing the thing that is the right thing for what the rider is asking him, but as far as the horse is concerned, he is doing the right thing.” ~ Tom Dorrance

“Make the wrong thing difficult, the right thing easy.” ~ Ray Hunt

“As time goes on, all the little things will fall into line. We should be adjusting to fit the horse. Fix it up and let it work. Sometimes the slower you go, the faster you learn.” ~ Ray Hunt

“Successful students willingly accept their responsibility in the horse-human relationship – that the way their horse is responding or not responding is in direct proportion to their level of savvy. They have a lot of Try. They can laugh at themselves. They see every challenge the horse presents them as an opportunity to learn. They are focused and not easily distracted. They are goal oriented but not impatient or direct line. Rather than focusing totally on the result, they can take things one step at a time, systematically and patiently building their skills, until the day they can do amazing things with their horse. This is not a common attitude to learning, but it represents the ideal learning attitude, as it shows flexibility and a willingness to change.” ~ Pat Parelli

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