It's the first time I've seen Aspen all week thanks to a very full work schedule and then a minor out-patient surgery yesterday. With the handful of stitches in my leg I can't ride for at least a couple days which will give us plenty of time to focus on a few things that need a little development on-line.
Teri Sprague's Secondhand Gold, The Horseman's Vowels in the May Savvy Times was a great piece on how to test and expand your skills in sideways and back up. According to her directions I layed out my three poles going length ways and one perpendicular to it at the end to form a T. I also grabbed my hula hoop to test how well we could keep one end of the horse in the hoop and move the other end around the hoop in a circle - showing how much control I had of each piece of the horse.
Before I could get started Emma, the barn owner's 7yr old daughter, came down to join me in the arena. She has been very intrigued in all this 'stuff' I'm doing with my horse besides riding. I explained to her as best I could in 7yr old terms that the ground games were the foundation to riding and provided me ways to evaluate my horse's trust and confidence in me and her current state of mind to learn new things. I proceeded to show Emma the 7 games and then let her try them each with Aspen. She got a great kick out of it everytime I said 'look I bet she'll lick and chew' or 'wait and watch her, she's going to start blinking' - who knew I was a psychic too? :) Pretty soom Emma was intently watching Aspen's face for signs to slow down or to proceed with the games and then the Touch-It pattern. :) It was great fun to share a little bit of how safe and fun Parelli is with Emma and that there is WAY more to horses than just riding. Not to mention, I am SO proud of Aspen for being such a good example and partner!
I played with the hoop and asking her to either step her hinds or fronts around and leave the other set in the hoop. I can see that we have a lot of drift forward and shuffling around so this will be great for me to create some precision with a purpose and practice keeping the feet still that need to be still and the feet moving in correct form that need to be moving. In playing with the poles set up like a T I could again see that we had a lot of tendancy to drift forward and a lack of straightness in the backup. In order to better develop a straighter sideways I needed a clear signal for back-up. I played with walking her down the fence line with me in Z3 and then using my stick in front of her face to signal a stop and then back up. After this I asked her onto a circle to see how it may transfer to our transitions and it definitely helped. She is started to see the stick as not something to push through or be nervous of but to simply just slow down, stop, back up. For the next 7 sessions I will be making this my focus to really hone our skills in a straight, true, clear back up. I can't wait to see how to improves everything else!
I'm also going to be filling out another Horsenality chart and the levels sheets to post exactly where we're at and what we're working on. :) Check back soon!