Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Just what level was she?

Just got back from the barn. I had an AWESOME time with Xena. As always, an eye opener. Every day she reveals the horse that's inside, and I learn a bit more about her past.

Every day I see the horse that will be there in a few months, years, or 5. I can't wait to see where our relationship will take us. Oh when I ever get to finesse with her, how beautiful she'll be taking me across the arena in half-passes. Girl can dream!

Little victory: She walked really fast up to me when I went in with her halter today! And she stopped halfway out of the door to go outside, where she used to bolt out of the squeeze. This is actually where I haltered her tonight, in the middle of the doorway. She put her head down and everything, she's sooo sweet. As long as you aren't asking her to do too much, she's sweet lol!

Another thing that happens every day.... I learn how little proper training she's had. We've been playing with giving to halter pressure while standing still and walking, as you've probably read, and she's actually been getting lighter and putting effort into trying to get it right. Well, she was following perfectly, our hindquarter yeild was working, so was porcupining the front end... so I decided let's try and revisit our problem areas with driving and circling. Oh boy!

Because she has been listening to light yo-yos and I know I can back her up now, I started with backing from the chest. She would procupine backwards, but she continued trotting out on a circle when I tried driving her back. I was feeling particularly savvy because I had just had a great time with Ghost, so I just let her figure out that trotting forwards into the pressure of the stick didn't work. 3 laps of her trotting around me while I was doing my best to be passively persistant on her chest (I probably looked like a crazy person lounging the wrong end of the horse lol!) she finally stopped and backed. She wasn't happy about it, but she got the idea pretty quickly. Then driving from zone 1 worked pretty well, she thought it meant forward at first too, but when I gave her a place to land her nose it made sense. Then we started circling (which, last time I played with her, in CA before the move) I had going really well, could canter 4 laps at liberty, and go pretty long with just the savvy string around her neck. Tonight she kept wanting to come back to me. Now that I understand she's RBI, I allowed that and kept sending her until I got 4 good, confident laps. It felt AWESOME! Then each time I brought her in I had her stand by me with her head down. She started looking like a partner for the first time. It was great. We could just sit there together, she didn't move her head from next to me the whole time. Like a mare standing over a foal. Man, when she's good she is GREAT.

I found out that I can get her to do things with very light phases, but she gets defensive again if I get to phase 4.

She gets really offended if I do any more than phase 2 yo-yo. Backing up with my hand still gets a good amount of resistance and head tossing. I remember watching Pat playing with a young foal at a Savvy Conference, Liberty Belle, and how she was head tossing, shaking her head low, and resisting the halter, and how he explained that it's easy for horses to get offended about things being on her face. *insert licking and chewing image of me here*

That's exactly what Xena does!!!! Waitaminute.... okay she had opposition reflex everywhere you could possibly apply pressure, she didn't know how to respond to the halter, she didn't know to follow people, she's offended by things on her face, she kicks at phase 4.... What the heck level was she?!?!?! Like level negative 3 or something? For a 9 year old horse, she knew less than most yearlings. Actually it's worse than that, she had negative experiences with everything.

So I was reading the self-assessment check list for level 1. I was looking at how when I got her, every single thing on that list she at the very least couldn't do, and some she would kick or blow up if you asked her to do it. Like tonight.... she was grazing right in front of her stall door when I was trying to put her back... I was pretty slow with phases 1-3 because I knew she wouldn't be happy, but she was left brain and ignoring it.... phase 4 on hindquarters and OMG she leaped in the air, bucked at the stick, tossed her head like an angry arab stallion with her ears back.... then went back to grazing. Well THAT's not a positive reflex!!!!!! Also, as I was walking her back, I was using fences and snow piles as natural barriers to slow her down so I didn't have to nag her... when she walked her nose right into the pipe corral!!! No wonder she didn't stop when that one trainer tried to run her into a fence to stop her... this horse doesn't watch where she's going and won't even give to the pressure of a fence! Anyway the check list got me thinking... depending on how messed up the horse was to start with, I've generally been able to make progress through level 1 fairly quickly with the horses I've either owned, played with, or had the job of fixing. Most of them would learn all 7 games and the level 1 patterns enough to blow the socks off of their owners, in about 2 hours or less. The extreme RBE racehorse I worked with took a little over a month to get entirely through level 1, and stop acting like a prey animal, but she at least learned to give to pressure the first time I played with her! Why is Xena taking so long? Not that I have a time limit, or even want it to be any easier, it just gives perspective to how far in the negative levels she must have been, to have had her for almost a month now and still be pretty sketchy in the games. It's like her first owners must have practically caught her and saddled her, straight from the wild lol!

The four responsibilities of the horse:
1. Act like a partner, not a prey animal
2. Maintain gait
3. Maintin direction
4. Look where you're going.

We're 0 for 4 over here. Xena:
1. Acts like a prey animal (mostly, getting a few nice moments here and there)
2. Changes gait constantly, can't maintain trot or stand still too long
3. Is all over the place
4. Ignores her surroundings and runs right into fences!

Someone at the barn keeps bugging me to ride her. HAHA I don't have a death wish! I am not going to even sit on her until I know that we have at least completed level 2 ground skills, that there is zero chance of her fighting me. Anything can happen that will set her off... so I'm not gettin on her until all 7 games work at phase 1, and I can pony her off of the tractor while other horses run around her, and all her negative responses are a thing of the past. Seriously.

WHEW! All in all, it was a great day. I got SO much accomplished with her, I am starting to see our language coming together. And I love her more and more every day.

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