On Friday I spent another great day with Mas and Stephanie (who played with her horse, Morado). We were fortunate enough to have an arena filled with sand (finally!) to play in. The black flies, mosquitoes, and horse flies were thick due to the hot weather and plenty of rain showers so it was nice to be inside the arena where there were less bugs. This arena is well lit, too, so it almost felt like we were in an outdoor arena.
After putting on Mas’s new fly mask and applying salve to his sunburned nose we were ready to play! I had a few tasks on my list that I wanted to try and began with those, well, I began with those after walking him around the arena a few times. Stephanie was getting Morado used to the sound of her Carrot stick against the walls of the arena and I thought Mas would probably like to focus on that too, getting used to a scary sound!
Mas and I worked together going through my task list while Stephanie played with Morado, jumping him over upright barrels. Morado is very athletic!
It was inspiring watching Stephanie and Morado work together with the barrels. Stephanie started out circling Morado and doing other transitions before ramping it up to barrel extravaganza! I was excited to get such good photos of the two of them.
I brought some treats for Mas and a few carrots to entice him and see if I could get some life into his loins! He is a left brain introvert, which according to Parelli means that he has more “whoa” than “go” and can get bored very easily. Stephanie and the Parelli DVDs are helping to educate me a horse’s behavior traits, or horsenality. In some of the DVDs, Linda Parelli demonstrate tasks with her horse, Remmer, who is also a left brain introvert, motivating him with the use of treats. The goal for me, though, is to know when is enough so that I don’t go overboard and spoil Mas with too many treats. Luckily, I have Stephanie to guide me. Mas was much more animated, knowing that the possibility of getting a treat existed. I had fun placing the treats on the barrels and watching him slowly realize that each time we reached a barrel he could find a treat on top of it. Eventually, when I was in the saddle I asked him to bend his neck around to my leg and offered him a treat when he did it; man, can that horse bend his neck much further than I thought.
Near the end of the day we decided to put the western saddle on Mas. Stephanie suggested that I play the Seven Games with the saddle as an obstacle. This was the first time I have played the games using an obstacle, and the first time I have played all of the games in a row. I had a bit of a brain freeze and couldn’t remember the order of the games. It was one of those moments that showed me a hole in my skills–I need to learn the Seven Games in order and be able to use them in somewhat of a flow. Since then I wrote the letters of the Seven Games–FPDYCSS–on my hand and have recited them many times as a way of remembering them. Friendly, Porcupine, Driving, Yo-Yo, Circling, Sideways, Squeeze. Got it!
We played all games with the saddle as an obstacle before placing the saddle on Mas’s back. He was quite content to stand and allow me to learn how to saddle using proper technique. After I had the saddle on I tightened the cinch in three stages with the third tightening being the last. Then I got on Mas for the first time using a saddle.
I rode using the lead rope in one hand and a carrot stick in the other hand. This time I made sure I did not apply pressure to the delicate zone and instead applied pressure to the air or bubble around Mas’s neck. He did great. We walked and turned around barrels before trotting.
One thing that I learned watching Linda Parelli’s DVD on Lead Changes this morning was that I probably should have done a number of transitions from walk to trot rather than trotting 3-4 circles each way with Mas. He would have been more engaged and probably would have had more fun. Something to try for next time.
While I was sitting on him I also asked him to bend his neck around and offered him a carrot when he did it. I think he liked that game.
After we rode around for about 20 minutes I got off and walked around the arena to find out if Mas would follow me. He was very interested in staying with me and when I picked up the pace he trotted after me! All in the name of a carrot. I had so much fun with him and I think he had fun with me too.
The following two things felt like the main lessons of the day.
1) When you ask a horse to do something and the horse is doing something else, it’s highly likely that your body language is asking for that something else. Each time that I asked something and it didn’t seem to work the way I wanted, I would ask Stephanie for help and she would point out how my body was in a position for something other than what I wanted. When I moved and got into the correct position, bingo!, Mas would give me what I asked for.
2) Fun, fun, fun! To me the best part of the day was when I got Mas’s energy level up and he began playing with me. Keeping it fun is important!