Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Establishing a pattern

Since the 13th when I got my nerve back again, I've been trying to get on Gwen at least once every other day. She's doing quite well. I'm doing quite well. Her soft attitude about carrying me around has come back, there's no more giraffe neck when I stand on the mounting block or slide onto her back, and my heart no longer pounds like a frightened bird every time I'm looking down on her. We've got our mojo back.

I'm trying something a bit different this time- I'm setting up a pattern so that she knows exactly what to expect when I'm sitting on her. Initially I slid on, clicked and gave her a treat, slid off. Then I added in a neck flexion in each direction (not to my knee, just to 3 and 9 'o clock). After that I added in a step forward, then two steps forward. Yesterday I added in a hip yield to the right and she was right there, tonight I'll see if I can add one to the left too.

So far I haven't asked her for anything new, just going back over the things she already knows. I think this is good, it gives me a chance to really carve those essential skills into stone and it gives her confidence. Best of all, I think she's actually enjoying it. She marches right over to the mounting block now, ready to go, and when I slide off (which is relatively quickly since it only takes about 3 minutes to go through the pattern) she looks at me like, "is that it?"

"Are you really leaving for the day?"
I think it's best right now to leave her wanting more. I have plans to add the other hip yield then ask her to walk forward and follow her nose in each direction, after we get those I'll ask her to back up. Any other suggestions? Other than picking the poo out of the run-in, I'll be doing that tonight.

Unfortunately (fortunately) her lessons will be on hiatus for a week. The husband and I are going on a little vacation to celebrate our wedding anniversary next week. I'm a little bummed about leaving her when we've been making such progress but it's not often that you get a partially expense paid trip to Hawaii (husband has a work conference there and I'm piggy-backing on it), so it was too good an opportunity to turn down.

Aloha everyone!


  1. Having a pattern can really help confidence - hers and yours. Once things are back to normal, then you can start breaking the pattern up to introduce some challenges. Glad you're getting back on board.

  2. Thanks Kate, confidence is the name of the game right now, neither of us can afford to have it shattered again.

  3. You've got a great plan going for the both of you right now. I think that once she gets something and you add another for her that should keep her interest. You're right to always leave her wanting more instead of wanting you to get off. I'm sure she'll be fine with your little vacation, it will give her time to think things over. Happy Anniversary! Enjoy your trip.

  4. Do not apologize for going to Hawaii! :)

    The only thing I can think of (with what little experience I have) is do some ground work before getting on her. From both sides from the ground I have my horse: turn his hind quarters, then his front quarters, bend his neck to his shoulder, back up and then circle around me - preferably walking and listening to my cues ... NO lunging at a jog or faster and tuning me out. I have learned to do all these things with a stick and string and short lead rope. We will be graduating to a longer rope soon and different kinds of variety of things to do on the ground.

    I guess people call this "Natural Horsemanship" but I do hate the labeling. I like it because the horse sees me as the boss on the ground (I'm the lead mare ha!) and knows the cues before I get on the back. One benefit I think of going this route is I KNOW what kind of attitude my horse is in before mounting.

    Whether or not you do the groundwork, it sounds like you have a plan and your confidence and your horses is being addressed.

    Enjoy the vacation!

  5. I'm so tickled for you vacation plans! That sounds wonderful. Gwen will be there waiting for you when you get back.
    Loved the post - both you & your Commenters really spoke to me and my young horse Hawk. Thanks!

  6. Heh heh, Margaret that's exactly what I tell people ;) I happen to believe that groundwork is never done and I have plans to do some more ground-driving with her out on the trails all by herself (she has a history of being extraordinarily herd bound). We've just gotten to the point where we won't make any progress if I don't get on her. Know what I mean?

    Thanks Deanna, I'm glad you're feeling better about Hawk. I meant to head over to your blog and comment on your latest post, 1 sec...

  7. Hello Mojo!! Yes!! I think your new routine is building confidence in both of you. She marches over to the mounting block?? Awesome! Poor you, having to go to Hawaii. ;-) Have a fabulous time and Happy Anniversary!!!

  8. I think it does sound like she wants more and that she's enjoying her time with you. Just imagine how happy she'll be when you get back! Speaking of which, Hawaii sounds great! Do you have room for me in your suitcase? :) Happy Anniversary!

  9. Good plan with Gwen.

    Aloha! My husband and I keep saying "We have to go back to the island." Our pockets disagree at the moment, but a partially funded trip is not to be passed up. Have fun!

  10. Yep, I agree--no apologizing for the Hawaii trip!

    Sometimes you really do have to mess with their little minds. With some mares, capturing their interest and curiosity is everything.

    I remember once hearing a talk by a guy who came to talk at our school district. The talk was intended for teachers who had disruptive students. His talk was called "disrupt the disruptor" and it was about things teachers could do to throw these kids off their game. (As any teacher knows, a lot of the disruptive students tend to be the smart, bored kids.) Anyway, I will never forget one of his tactics was to ask a strange question as soon as the kid came in to class. Like: "Chocolate or vanilla?" And the kid would stand there, blinking, trying to figure out what the teacher meant. We had great success with this method.

    Not to say that horses should be left "wondering" what the heck is going on all the time (I think they really feel most comfortable with routine and met expectations) but getting that little spark of curiosity is sometimes a big step toward partnership.

  11. Wolfie- I know, isn't she great? If she sees the block when she's loose she just walks over to it on her own and looks at me :)

    Sorry in2paints- the airlines new fees for checked baggage rule out stowaways :(

    Thanks Val!

    Fetlock, that's a great story. That is part of why I like to mix things up so my horses never really know what's going to happen. It does keep them fresh and interested.

  12. Fantastic! That Gwen is a smart one. Good work, she and you have much more confidence together. Love that she goes over to the block ;). Have a blast on the trip Gwen will be waiting...after having thought the whole week of riding with you!

  13. I'm am idiot...lost your address, please send it again. ;) finally have the "Soft Touch" girth ready to ship!