Yesterday was amazing! As every day I get to spend lots of time with Xena is. Boy, she is teaching me SO much. The main thing is Pat's principle #2: Don't make or teach assumptions. It's like... the eight principles, lots of the Parelli-isms, eight responsibilities... they've all been floating around in my head for years, since I started the program. I remembered them, but it's only now that I'm starting to truly understand the meaning. Like I always say, "Everything you need to know you learned in kindergarden; it's up to the rest of your life to interperate it."
With Xena, I know not to assume she'll ever be the same horse two days in a row. I never assume she will respond to something one day perfectly just because she's done it before. Because I know this horse was predictably unpredictable, and jumping ahead to learn something new, without being 100% certain that she's solid in our language and confident, is downright dangerous. Not to mention rude. And, out of a new natural habit, I've been doing this with my other horses. Checking all our level 1 things work properly before doing anything else. If the horse was hard to catch, it isn't a good day to teach it something new. I think this was really the missing link in my relationship for everyone. I was making way too many assumptions that now that so-and-so is in level 3 she shouldn't act like that. Giving them the respect of still being prey animals whose emotions change at the drop of a hat, never forgetting to read the horse, has made all of us get along so much better. No more dust! Thanks to my new found savvy, I was able to braid Sugar's forlock for hte first time (the extreme RBI abused rescue mini)!!!! That was the coolest feeling. 3 years of owning that horse, and I couldn't pick her feet or touch her forlock or ears. Yesterday we did both! And I've got halfway down the back legs and the top of her tail! *Floating!!!*
So other than my amazing success with Sugar, I think I'm almost ready to get on Xena. She's truly starting to trust me now. To "take my word for it" as I like to think. Even if she's unsure of something, she's beginning to realize that I'll never force her to do anything she doens't want, and that no matter where I take her she'll be safe. I went in to get her out of her pen. I try to always follow the rule of don't just go get the horse. So even though the pen was ankle deep in ice/mud/slush, and it was tempting to throw her halter on and haul her outta there, I climbed up on the fence and sat there for a minute. I like to do this, especially before playing with her, to get totally present... not thinking about my day, or what else I have to do, just the two of us. She went from standing beside me with her head turned away to investigating me, then pulling the halter off the rail. :D I think that means she wanted out, huh? She licked her lips and thought about that. Guess I did the right thing! It really is the little things that mean the world to them.
This was the start of an awesome session with her. On the way to the arena, we passed the tractor that was turned on. It's parked by her pen, and usually she bucks and spins when it turns on. This time, I stopped around 6 feet from it to wait and see what she thought, and to my suprise she walked forward! So I sent her to put her nose on it and she did!!!! Then she started eating out of one of the buckets, of a loud, noisy, working trailer! I am so proud.
In the arena, I was mainly playing with desensitizing to more things. She has to be literally bomb proof before I feel comfortable really riding her. So I started with a small plastic bag. And at the end of the session, I could rub her all over with the large plastic bag, and scratch her forhead with it. I love her. Also played with some head lowering without the halter. It's a little sticky, but it works. We also played a bit with sending her into the washrack. It is a quite scary washrack if I do say so myself. Dark, totally boxed in concrete stall with a metal gate, and they can't see out. But thanks to the squeeze game, I could point and she'd go in after about 10 minutes.
I considered that more than a small success for the day, and ended there. I've been letting her graze afterwords in the aisle where they keep the hay. It happens to be right next to the washrack gate.... and she felt so connected to me (and I'm also confident in that this horse loves hay so much that it would take quite a bit to spook her)... I hopped right on! Of course I'm no where near truly riding yet, but might as well get the both of us confident in me sitting on her, while it's a pleasant experience such as grazing. An added bonus is that since she's RBI, before she outwardly spooks at anything, she'll stop eating first. Great warning for me to get off - the calm before the storm.