This blog is dedicated to my friend, my mentor, and the best teacher I have ever had. Without him, I would not have embarked on this amazing journey. Split, this blog is for you!
Ponderosa Misty Icon, aka "Split," is a handsome gray Welsh pony who came to me via a phone call "out of the blue" (actually Peterborough, Ontario). Our first few months together were rocky to say the least, which made me question my ability as a horse owner, as a horsewoman, and as a rider. Forty years of horse ownership had not prepared me for this little gray pony!
But we muddled through and because of Split, I have begun a journey that is both spiritual and enlightening. I hope something here resonates with you and that you'll check back now and then.
We leave you with one of our favorite quotes: "The best whisper is a click!"

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Playing With Energy!

The other day when Jelly and I were coming back from our daily constitutional, I was delighted to see Split and Jingle cavorting around the paddock! Well, Split was cavorting....Jingle was pretty much just running around and shaking her little donkey head at Split. Split, however, was running, spinning, bucking, farting, whinnying, performing airs above the ground and in general just having a heck of a good time! I thought, "Hmmm....I wonder if I could play with that energy?" I hitched Jelly up in front of the barn, grabbed my dressage whip ("whip" being a misnomer...it's actually an arm extender for me!), and stepped into the paddock. Jingle hopped into her stall and waited patiently for a flake of hay but Split stopped dead, snorted and stared at me, wondering what I was doing there. I stepped to his side, waved my arm and said, "Walk on." "Oh," says he, and off he went at a lovely, bouncy walk. We quickly transitioned up into the trot and then into the canter. What a joy to see! Split was practically floating along....so proud of himself! His trot was exquisite! He was snapping his knees up and just prancing along like he owned the world! We played with lunging at liberty in both directions, at all 3 gaits, and it was absolutely exhilarating! Of course I could also ask WHOA and Split stopped immediately - he got his C/T for that!!!
WHOA is important in my world and we practice at every opportunity! LOL
I'm glad I didn't pass up the chance to play with that energy! At first I was asking myself "can I control it" but really what I needed to ask was, "can I USE it?" The answer was "yes!" Great fun!!
Christmas is only a week away! Hope you all have your shopping done!
Karleen, Split and Jingle

Friday, December 17, 2010

We Are Honored!!!!

You can take away my dishwasher. You can even have my microwave. But DON'T MESS WITH MY COMPUTER! We all grump about how technology has taken over our lives but my computer has proven to be my window on the world. I regularly correspond with women from all over the U.S. and from Norway, Canada, Tasmania, Austraila.....My daughter is living in Spain until June yet we talk every day via Skype - we can even SEE each other!
Just the other day I was reading the posts on one of the clicker training lists and noticed that one writer's internet provider was "sovernet." Because that's also my parents' provider, I emailed and asked if she lived in southern Vermont. Turns out she's in northern Maine but not only had she lived in my home town, Brattleboro, Vermont, for several years, she also had lived outside of Windsor, Vermont (as had I) and had belonged to the Hartland Riding Club (as had I) and we know many of the same people! But the circle becomes smaller.....she also is friends with many of the clicker trainers I am also friends with here in New York! Gotta love the internet.
Well, one thing led to another and Lyndsey discovered that I have a mini donkey...which led her to ask if I'd heard of Ann Firestone's long ear rescue in New Hampshire. Yes, I have! (I purchased some donkey mittens from Ann for my daughter last Christmas!) Another friend sent Lyndsey some pictures of me doing clicker work with my pony and donkey (we'd done a little "introduction to clicker work" day here at my place) and the next thing I know, Lyndsey asked if she could use the photos on Ann's web page!! Wow!! I am truly honored! And am very proud of little Jingle - she's come a long way since landing here Christmas Eve 4 years ago, deathly afraid of "those 2-leggeds," and having no training whatsoever! Go, Jingle! Here's the link to Ann's web page:
Be sure to check us out and, if you are so moved......maybe make a contribution to Ann's most worthy cause!
HAPPY HOLIDAYS..............er, maybe I should say "HAPPY HOLIBRAYS!"
Karleen, Split and Jingle

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Nun Of That!!

No, I didn't spell "nun" incorrectly! I'm substitute teaching this morning for a 5th grade class at a local Catholic school. (Don't worry, I'm not neglecting my duties - the kids are in Art class.) If any situation calls for a clicker, this is it! LOL Do any of you remember the nuns of old pulling out their clickers during mass? CLICK - kneel! CLICK - stand up! And the kids responded! Every time I see a nun wearing a habit, I have the overwhelming desire to pull out my clicker and have at it just to see what would happen! Would she immediately fall to her knees in the middle of the street? Unfortunately, those sisters were quick to follow the click with a clout upside the head (just ask my husband!) if you didn't respond quickly enough. Talk about your poisoned cue!
The farrier was at my house Tuesday morning and for some reason, Split was "antsy" while getting his feet done. This is very unlike him but I just went with it. Mr. Farrier, however, got a little impatient and at one point, he asked me to move Split's hindquarters to my left. As he gave me this request, Mr. Farrier quickly stepped up to Split's shoulder and gave him a small shove which totally confused my pony because I was turning his head (think Back In A Square) and waiting for him to move. Apparently we weren't quick enough because Mr. Farrier went to Split's butt, put his shoulder against it and leaned! I had a nanosecond of "Oh, no! Don't do that!" Naturally Split leaned back! LOL A sticky situation for a few seconds but being the laid-back type of guy that he is, Split looked down at me, glared, and then neatly stepped to my left. But he made his point! I had to stifle a laugh at the expression on Mr. Farrier's face........clearly he was was thinking, "Ugh! Stubborn ponies!" I'm so attuned to clicker training that even small blunders like that make me stop and think, "Gee, that used to be me!" It's amazing to me that more horses don't have behavioral issues...........I guess it's lucky for us that they're mostly a forgiving species and that most of them DO suffer fools gladly.
Art class is over. Back to Math and Science..........................
Have a wonderful day, everyone!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Happy Holidays!!!

HAPPY HOLIDAYS, EVERYONE! The New Year is almost upon us so I decided I need to sit down and get back to bloggin'! I've included a picture of myself and my little rescue beagle, Jellybean, aka "Jelly" for short. Jelly came to us via the Humane Society and was formerly a mom in a puppy mill in Georgia. When she arrived here she was morbidly obese, covered in dandruff, loaded with fleas, had just had tail surgery so it looked like her tail was stumpy and "arrow shaped," and was afraid of just about everything....except human beings. For some reason, she still believed in us sorry creatures (after all, her only experience was from puppy mill owners!) and tried her very best to get us to love her. She didn't have to try very hard....one look from those beautiful amber eyes, one little white paw placed tentatively on my knee, one tiny lick on my nose and.... well, let's just say "she had me at hello." We cleaned her up, started going out for daily walks, and slowly but surely she turned from a little ugly toad of a dog into the shiny, happy, bouncy, loving girl that she is today!
I introduced clicking early on but at the first sound of the click, Jelly dropped to the floor and ran away in abject terror! Hmmm......back to the drawing board. I started using a tongue click and that was acceptable - she quickly figured out that tongue click = treat! She can now sit, wait, sit up (and beg! LOL) and give a high five!
Jelly is my poster child for dog adoption. If you're looking for a dog or cat, please consider adopting one from a rescue organization or your local humane society!
I have lots to tell about my adventures with Split and Jingle so will have to park myself in this chair more often so that I can share with you. I love feedback so leave a message!!!
Wishing you all the best.........
Karleen, Split, Jingle and Jellybeanbeagle

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

A BODY of work!

We all know how off-putting bad body odor is, right? Well, I've come to the conclusion that bad body position is just as off-putting to our animal friends as human B.O. is to us! Just this morning, I was playing out in the meadow with Split and danged if he wasn't "getting" what I was trying to do. Let's set the scene......(hey, you know I'm into theater - setting the scene is what I'm all about! LOL) It's a beautiful fall morning here and my husband has brush hogged the back meadow and left me a new place to play with my critters. Today I'm surrounded by loud sounds.....the people across the road have a tree removal company doing a lot of work with compressors and big a** saws, and my contractor is still working on the outside of the house where he replaced a big dining room window so his compressor is wheezing and snorting away. AND there's quite a breeze, too! Add to that the turkeys that decided to meander along the hedgerow where Split and I were playing and the poor pony was on sensory over-load at first! But he was awfully good! He was a bit "wary," tho of everything going on around him at once, and at first wasn't really paying all that much attention to me. We started with "Grown-Ups Are Talking" (GUAT) which I use every time we start working - I think it reminds us both to be polite and patient. From there, we went to "Why Would You Leave Me" (WWYLM). There were some really good moments in WWYLM, considering we were in an open meadow with no official boundaries. We were, of course, working on a line rather than at liberty because hey, there's still tempting grass out there! Anyway, at one point, Split was actually bending AWAY from me and getting all stiff and acting like he didn't know what I wanted him to do. ARRGH!!
So I stopped and quickly took a mental "picture" of what I was doing with my body and discovered that I was actually turning my outside shoulder INTO him so he was turning his head away from me. At the same time, I was pulling on his lead. Gosh, how embarrassing!! So we went to GUAT for a few seconds which allowed us both to regroup and rethink and then I started WWYLM again, this time paying strict attention to my own body language. Success! So then it became fun to find out what my body language says to Split and I began deliberately to screw things up and I got just what I deserved! I only did this a couple of times - it's not something I want to reinforce - but I did need to see for myself just how much my position was affecting Split.
When we first started exploring clicker training, Split was much more forgiving but now he has no qualms about giving me what I'm aksing for, even if he "knows" it's wrong.
He also knows that it's OK now to do that. He knows I'm not going to fly off the handle and have a melt-down (I always did so quietly but trust me, it was VERY CLEAR to Split what was going on inside my rattled brain!!); he can trust me to stop, step back and analyze the situation. I can almost hear him saying, "Idiot" when I finally get it right. But he says it in a loving way.........with a little chuckle in his voice.
Body language......who knew? I SHOULD have known. I've had horses for over 40 years so you'd think I might have learned something along the way. I did. But I'm STILL learning and that's the fun part!!!!!!

"Old minds are like old horses; you must exercise them if you wish to keep them in working order."~ John Adams (1735 - 1826)

You might not have an old mind like mine but it's still a good idea to learn something new every day!!!! Go out and have fun, everyone!

Monday, September 6, 2010

About Nothing

Is anybody reading this a Seinfeld fan?? Is anybody reading this.......period??? ha ha ha Anyway, if you watch Seinfeld then you know that George's concept for a TV show was "a show about nothing." I feel like this is what my writing is about today. Nothing. I'm waiting for Katie to get out of bed so that we can head to the Chatham Fair Horse Show which is our annual Labor Day tradition. We watch the show and then later in the afternoon head into the Fair itself so that we can watch the weird people, visit the livestock barns, and Katie can eat her Bloomin' Onion.
On the way home we stop at Golden Orchards for apples, half a dozen cider donuts, and a caramel walnut apple pie. I look forward to this every year.
The horse show is great fun! All the riders are locals who return year after year and it's all very laid-back and geared toward the kids. There are classes for adults and they're all filled, too! I love trying to second-guess the judge and I actually have a pretty good track record in that respect. Now, put me at the National Show and I wouldn't even know where to begin but here in Chatham, NY, I have a pretty good chance of picking the top 3. LOL!
I've stopped doing horse shows. At my age, they're just too danged much work.
I used to love it, tho! It was such fun getting ready - bathing the horses; cleaning the tack; making sure all my clothes were clean, polished, wrinkle-free; arriving at the barn in the wee hours of the morning to feed early and then load up and hit the road...............Ah, those were the good old days! And all for a bunch of ribbons which, back then, probably cost all of 69 cents each! LOL But it was fun! Now......I'd rather spend the day doing other things with my pony and donkey. We don't win any ribbons, none of us are polished or groomed to perfection, my tack consists of a rope halter and a lead rope..........
"And the winner is............" ME!!!! :0)
Happy Labor Day, everyone!!!!!

Friday, September 3, 2010

Bob and my ass

Well, here I am again. Thank you, Ariamne (isn't that the coolest name??) for inspiring me to sit down at the keyboard and start blogging again. "Reblogging?"
There's another word to add to the dictionary in a few years!
I sort of had the wind taken out of my sails in July. I've been floundering around, trying to wrap my head around the death of one of our very best friends. Bob was 76 and he and his wife, Kathy, have been my husband's and my best friends for 20 years. Bob and Kathy's daughter (their only child), Jess, and my youngest daughter have been best friends for all that time, too! Because Bob and Kathy had no family up here, we spent lots of time together - holidays, graduations, birthdays, sporting events..........20 years of fun, friendship and LOTS of laughter!
Bob was much older than his wife (by 20 years) and had suffered numerous health problems in the last 5 years. But none of us anticipated that one evening he would just..........die. He was like that big, pink bunny who keeps banging on that drum or like a Timex watch - takes a lickin' and keeps on tickin'! Bob was bigger than life. Or so it seemed..................
I was getting ready for bed around 11:30 the evening of July 27 when the phone rang. It showed a call from Virginia and I assumed it was my cousin but it was Jess, phoning to say that her mom had just called to say that her dad had fallen down the stairs at home (final diagnosis - "spontaneous brain bleed") and was being airlifted to Albany Medical Center. Could I please meet them at the ER so that someone would be there with her mom? I woke up Katie (my youngest daughter; Jess's best friend) and told her what was going on. She shot out of bed, grabbed her jeans and said, "I'm coming with you." Bob and Kathy were truly like 2nd parents to Katie - she loves them both. The scene at the ER was like something out of a TV hospital show with everyone working quicky and efficiently. When Bob was finally fully evaluated and brought into a room, I knew immediately that he was, for all intents and purposes, gone from us. What amazed me during all of this was the poise, control and compassion that my daughter possesses. She's always been the social butterfly, the free spirit, the "spit in your eye" type of kid. But that night she showed what she's truly made of. Kathy asked that I stay with her thru all the doctor consultations, the viewing of the x-rays and CT scans, moving Bob to a room in ICU, the visits from the pastoral staff, social workers, etc. Katie asked the ER staff's permission to keep in touch with Jess in Virginia via phone and text messages and they willingly agreed. She helped Jess get her flight up here the next morning, picked her up at the airport, sat with her arm around her while Jess had to hear that there was no hope for her dad, held Bob's hand and talked to him while he took his last breaths..........................
Bob's death was a rude reminder that life is fragile and truly should be handled with care. Kathy told me after the life support systems were disconnected and we were all sitting and waiting.........."Just last night we were cheering the Mets. We were laughing and planning a trip to the track in Saratoga. I can't believe this........"
I learned a lot in those awful 12 hours (the hospital staff kept Bob "alive" until Jess arrived to say goodbye). I learned that I have the strength to comfort a friend in dire need; I learned that I can look death in the eye and while it still frightens and discomforts me because I know that it can take away someone I love, I know it's not the end except for here on earth; I learned that my daughter is an amazing WOMAN and no longer a "kid." I know I will be able to depend on her and her sisters if I am ever in need of them.
I've done a lot of reflection and soul searching in the last month or so but it's all led to the same old place.....the here and now. Because that's all, folks. The here and now. We need to use it wisely. Yesterday is gone; tomorrow is not yet in our grasp. I've read and re-read a wonderful book called "The Power of Now" by Eckhart Tolle, yet little did I realize how important it would become to my life when I first read it last spring. If you've never read Eckhart Tolle's books, I HIGHLY recommend them!!!
Now, about the title of this post....I have to share the story with you! Bob Reinhardt was continually amused and fascinated by the fact that I have a mini donkey which he always referred to as "Karly's ass." Bob nicknamed me "Karly" the first time we met and it just stuck. So after I got Jingle, Bob would always unfailingly greet me with, "Hey, Karly Hayden, how's yer ass?" And I would always reply, "Brown and hairy, same as always." I also like scotch so whenever we got together at the Reinhardts, Bob would have a scotch and soda waiting for me. The last time we were together, in that room at the Albany Med ICU, I rubbed Bob's shoulder as he was taking his last breaths. I told him, (with apologies to his elderly sister who had arrived at the last minute, and his niece), "Bob, I'm going to miss you buddy. But I'm going to go home and in your honor, I'm going to have a scotch and soda and I'm going to "slap" my brown hairy ass." Kathy started giggling amidst her tears and told her sister-in-law and niece the story of "Hey, Karly Hayden, how's yer ass." At the wake on Sunday, everyone in Kathy's family (who had flown in from literally all over the country) had obviously also been told that story because they all greeted me with, "Hey, Karly Hayden, how's yer ass?" I would have laughed but I was too busy crying.
Well, in my next post I'll catch you up on my clicker happenings. We've had a blast this summer!!!
Until next time..............

Love is stronger than death even though it can't stop death from happening, but no matter how hard death tries it can't separate people from love. It can't take away our memories either. In the end, life is stronger than death.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

On Bended Knee

Do any of you have those moments with your animal when they suddenly and unexpectedly present you with a situation for which you're unprepared and you have to think fast? And then you sort of sit back and you see the little light bulb appear in front of you and you think, "Oh, wow. That was pretty cool! Can I turn that into something valuable? Can I take this and run with it?" Those of us in education call those "teachable moments" in the classroom and sometimes those moments morph into some very valuable lessons.
Yesterday I decided to play around with more Stand On Your Mat games. Split and Jingle LOVE their mat (yes, they share) and get very excited when they see me coming out of the barn with it. It's kind of funny to see the 2 of them dancing around and nickering or wheezing (Jingle) as I drag it out of the barn. Who knew a piece of plywood could engender such enthusiasm?? Split is getting very good at standing on that mat no matter where I go in the paddock. He might turn his head to look at me but he stays put until called off. Jingle just stands on the mat and looks cute and collects her treats.
When we'd played with the mat for a while, I put it away and decided to do some grooming. Split used to *require* (oh, how far we've come!!) being tied up in order to be groomed but now he will stand at liberty while being groomed to the "nth degree" and will even stand at liberty for the fly spray. After he was all spiffed up and lookin' good, I went to work on Jingle. Jingle loves being brushed and fussed over unless it involves (cue scary music) SCISSORS!! She will now allow me to trim her mane and her fetlocks but trimming under her throat latch is another story. (For the record, I DO NOT trim whiskers!!! I believe they are there for a reason.) Jingle has a lovely "beard" that I try to trim now and then, not so much because I don't like it, but because I think she needs to get used to being trimmed all over in case of an emergency - you never know when I might need to trim hair away from a cut! Anyway...........the minute the scissors came near her neck, she shook that little donkey head at me and away she went..........about 3 feet away! ha ha She never goes too far. We played target with the scissors and pretty soon I could lay them against her neck and then she willingly allowed me to trim the hairs under her throat. Jingle is so short that I do this while on my knees. WELL....Mr. Split was feeling a bit left out
and decided to butt in on the action by mugging me! OOOOOOOH! Bad decision. I asked him to back but he just put his head up. He again came in for the "mug." This time I fixed him with my best "teacher glare" and said, "BACK!" sternly. Instead, he mugged again. So there I am, kneeling in the dirt, right between a big pony and a little donkey and I thought, "Good thing I trust both of these guys 'cause I could definitely get hurt here." And then I thought, "But what if I was already hurt? What if I was laying in the dirt? What if I was a little girl kneeling to pat this donkey and Split came up and loomed over her?" (Split NEVER bites, thank goodness but he can "nibble" with his lips in his quest for a treat.) Those thoughts led to, "What can I do with this?" I waited a second and sure enough, Split came in for the mug again. I reached out and quickly tapped my hand on the ground and said, "Back." While doing Parelli L1, I had taught Split to back by tapping the ground in front of him with the carrot stick - it still works like a charm so I thought, "Why not try my hand?" Back he went!! C/T (I had to really stretch to give him that treat!) Of course, he came forward again and I again sent him back but this time made him wait for the treat. I did not want him to think that mugging was part of the loop. I wanted him to understand that if I am on the ground and I ask him to back up, he needs to STAY back until I call him to me again. We played with this for quite awhile (and I had to spray the knees of my jeans with Shout last night! LOL) and we were actually successful! Sometimes I would put my finger on his nose and say, "Back!" (Well, you never know what a kid might do!) At first he literally went almost cross-eyed trying to see what the dickens my finger was doing ponking him in the nose but as soon as he took one step back, C/T. It was great fun and totally unplanned! And definitely not in any of Alex Kurland's books! But that's the great thing about clicking!! Once you get the basics solid, you can make up your own stuff or tailor the exercises to fit your own particular needs. But DO MAKE SURE THAT THE BASICS ARE SOLID because we all have holes in our training and they WILL show up eventually. I often find myself having to head right back to square one............but that's OK!!
Well, I'll be interested to see what scenarios present themselves when we're playing today. I like to keep an open mind.......which is probably why I keep losing most of the stuff in it! ha ha

Teaching should be full of ideas instead of stuffed with facts. ~Author Unknown

"Just the facts, m'am" is okay for Joe Friday and yes, we do need to make sure that we have all our facts straight (i.e., make sure we understand the basics) but there's a lot of fun in creativity! Happy clicking, everyone!!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Goin' To The Mat!

Split LOVES mat work! I mean, he "hangs out" and makes all these funny little nickering sounds in his throat when he hears me click......he gets uber enthusiastic, actually! So we need to work on some emotional control but that's what this journey is all about - for both of us!
Split knows when that big piece of plywood comes out that he's going to get lots of treats 'cause all he has to do is stand on it. Oh, boy!! Today my loop was: stand on the mat, C/T; mom walks away while Split continues to stand on the mat then calls Split to "come," CT; Split is told "on the mat" (and I walk over and tap it) and back he goes. This isn't really too difficult or complicated for him because we've been working on this off and on for a while. Split was a prince while I walked away from him while he could see me, however, as soon as I walked away by walking BEHIND him, well, that was a different matter! He would immediately leave the mat and try to follow me. Interesting! (Meanwhile, Jingle continued to stand politely on the mat and wait for her share of the treats! LOL) Obviously I had to break this down. I started by walking past his shoulder. If he stood on the mat, C/T. He quickly caught onto that. Then I walked past his rump.....and so it progressed. I was able to walk behind him and all the way to the corner of the paddock while he stood looking away from me, waiting until he was called. Great progress!!! He did get a bit frustrated at one point and I may have been walking too far away, i.e., not breaking this down into small enough segments, because he repeatedly turned and walked off the mat to follow me. I simply asked him to walk back to the mat. When he repeated the "turn and follow mom" behavior 3 times, I realized that there was a big hole somewhere and we needed to address that. And so we began again.............I did not click and treat when I had to ask him to return to the mat because I didn't want him to create his own loop of "stand on the mat, mom walks away, Split follows, mom brings Split back to the mat for a treat." I wanted him to understand that I want him to stand on the mat even when I walk away unless I cue him to leave. It's going well - can't wait til tomorrow!
The only "problem" I had was when I bent down to pick up the mat...........both Split and Jingle came running and stood on it!! ha ha ha I had to ask them to back up, of course. Jingle would back off and as I was asking Split to back off of it, Jingle would step onto it and vice versa. Finally I got them both to walk off at the same time and I quickly picked up the mat and made off with it! Those guys..............

"The two most powerful warriors are patience and time." Tolstoy

I've got lots of time...............need to work on the patience!!!
So long for now!


Monday, July 12, 2010

Ms. Personality!!

AA Milne knew a thing or two about donkeys when he came up with Eeyore! That "hang dog" expression, the head lowering, the "well, ok, you can do it but I'm not gonna like it" attitude...........I have a mini donkey just like that! She's the cutest thing on 4 hooves, I think.
When she first arrived here, plucked out of a huge free roaming herd in Nebraska (she'd started life at a mini donk farm in Vermont), she'd had little interaction with humans and considered us all the devil's minions. But slowly, very slowly, she began to see that we aren't all bad and now she believes that we live to scratch her hiney or her chest! ha ha
Jingle is clearly an old soul (and perhaps all donkeys are). She is patient, she's tolerant of over-zealous children, and of dogs and cats strolling through the pasture. She's curious about everything and will stick those long ears straight up and stare at something til she's figured it out. She's very smart, too, and catches onto the clicker work simply by watching Split and me. When Split and I play Why Would You Leave Me, Jingle walks on one side of me, Split on the other - I'm like the filling in a horsey sandwich. Jingle steps right along with us, stops when we stop, and switches directions when we do. I didn't teach her this - she literally picked it up on her own! She does all of this without a halter or lead rope. When Split and I began working more with Stand On A Mat, Jingle figured out that if she, too, stands on the mat, she will also get a treat! What a clever girl!
But what I really love about little Jingle is her ability to intuit when someone needs some extra TLC; a warm body to hug; someone to absorb their sadness or loneliness. Sometimes if I'm feeling over-whelmed or sad I will go out to the barn and just sit with Split and Jingle. Both of them will come and stand with me; both will let me pour out my troubles; both will take on some of my negative or sad energy. But there's something about Jingle that's more "grandmotherly." I really can't put my finger on it.
Last month my youngest daughter's best friend for the past 20 years suffered a break-down due to some extremely difficult and over-whelming circumstances in her life. She came here and asked to stay with us because things were not working out at home. Known to take in strays of all sizes and descriptions, my immediate answer was, "Sure! Stay as long as you want." As days turned into weeks, I listened, counseled to the best of my ability, and finally got Friend into a professional counselor. But in the meantime, Jingle took care of things very nicely! One afternoon when Friend just couldn't seem to get a grip on her crying or sadness, I suggested that she come out to the barn with me and just sit and hang out with Split and Jingle while I did chores. Both equines are equally friendly but Split preferred to hang around with me after greeting Friend. But that Jingle.......Friend sat down on the step going into the barn and just stared off into space. Jingle watched this for a few minutes, clearly sizing up the situation. Finally, she took a few steps toward Friend; Friend looked at Jingle and smiled. Jingle took a few more steps; Friend reached out and touched Jingle's face. After a few minutes of this interaction, Jingle sighed, put her head against Friend's chest and just chilled out there with her. Friend patted Jingle and hugged her and leaned against her and talked to her. When I was done with chores, I suggested to Friend (who, among other things was suffering from severe sleep deprivation) that she sit in the old Adirondack chair that I keep in the barn (for quick naps, of course!). There was a lovely breeze and it was so relaxing..........Within minutes, Friend was SOUND ASLEEP! I don't know exactly how long she slept but I walked around her with hay and water buckets and the manure bucket.....and still she snored on. When she finally woke up, she looked 100% better than she had in weeks! She told me later (she is a physical therapist) that she's read about the healing abilities of animals but it was so cool to actually EXPERIENCE IT! Friend's road to recovery actually began that afternoon and she continues to do well, even being able to move back home and cope admirably with things there. And to think we owe it all to a little red donkey who if asked would say, "Aw, shucks. Just doin' my job!"

"A little Consideration, a little Thought for Others, makes all the difference."

Here's to Jingle the mini donk!!!!!

Friday, July 2, 2010

Mr. Personality!

I've been learning about the clicker and the CAT approach but haven't heard much discussion about how the personality of the animal plays into things. Or maybe I've just not done enough research......At any rate, I was thinking about this the other day when I was riding. Split is easily frustrated by my ineptitude and doesn't hesitate to show it; Jingle just waits til I figure out what I'm doing and then goes along with whatever it was I was attempting to do. Split flips his head and flaps his lips in frustration; Jingle waits patiently for me to figure things out. Split will argue with me - stop, step sideways, flip his head, walk in a circle...Jingle never argues - she just waits patiently.
Through the course of the years I've dealt with lots of animal personalities and I do think that they play into how the animal perceives the world and the humans around him/her. Some horses are more forgiving than others; some are naturally braver, more athletic, smarter, have a sense of humor, etc. Just like we humans.
I think, though, that many humans probably lump all horses - indeed ALL animals - into one unthinking mass and treat them all the same. That's pretty sad.
Despite Split's low frustration level and his high flight or fight response, he has many, many wonderful personality traits! He has a great sense of humor (did you know a pony can tip toe??), he's extremely loving, he takes care of me whenever I'm around him (he knows exactly where I am at all times to avoid stepping on me or knocking me down), he's patient with children, he's patient with clicker newbies, he's adept at reading my moods and has at times absorbed my sadness for me................................
I'd love to hear from others about their horse's distinct and different personalities and how they play into your training approach!

"When your horse follows you without being asked, when he rubs his head on yours, and when you look at him and feel a tingle down your spine...you know you are loved." John Lyons

Have a great weekend, everyone!!

Monday, June 28, 2010

We Ride!

Yes, folks, the world's biggest wienie rider actually rode today!! My husband finally mowed all that over-grown grass in the riding ring and it looks awesome - like a REAL riding ring! I'd spent some time last March and early in April working with Split and the mounting block. At first we would just walk up and stop - C/T. Then it was walk up, stop, line up at the block - C/T. That culminated in me getting on and riding away. I wondered how much Split would remember from those fews months ago. As always, he makes me wonder WHY I'm such a worry wart! When we first got to the ring, we played Why Would You Leave Me in both directions - very successful. And then I led Split over to the mounting block to see what would happen. Psh! He was way ahead of me. He was like, "Oh, yeah, let's see here. I walk up, survey the area, place my feet just so.....and stop. TA DA!" ha ha ha I actually thought he was beginning to "paw" at one point which is what he'd done when he first arrived and he didn't understand what I wanted him to do under saddle. He'd paw furiously, clearly saying, "For gawd's sake, just TELL ME WHAT YOU WANT!" LOL! But no.....he was just placing his front feet carefully so that he would be lined up nicely. Hmmmm.....coincidence? Let's try that again. Nope - he knew what to do! After messin' around with that for a while, I added another part to the loop:
Lead horse to mounting block, human steps up on mounting block, horse lines self up. COOL! We nailed it on the first try. But we practiced a few more times just to be sure. And THEN, because I'd "remembered" to plunk my helmet on my head, I decided to add "mom gets on" to the loop. I had no intention of riding, actually, but once I got on Split and felt his lovely, warm, even energy, I thought, "Ah, what the flip! Let's go." We had a great ride - just amblin' along around the ring. We watched the birds down by the pond and did serpentines and circles and actually, I started "refreshing" him on neck reining! I don't own a saddle (well, I do, but they're ancient and really not useable) so I ride bareback with just a halter and lead rope. Neck reining is definitely a valuable skill to have when one rides like that. At first Split wasn't quite sure what I wanted (use it or lose, it guess) but as soon as I reminded myself that I DO know how to use my legs properly and I added that leg cue, he instantly complied. What a guy!!!!
I'm happy plopping around my riding ring. Split's happy plopping along with me. I'm a firm believer in that old adage, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it." And right now we ain't broke.........

This is a great quote for riders like me:

“Fast is fine, but accuracy is everything.”

We'll be workin' on accuracy for a while! Enjoy the day, friends!

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Splitter the Spook

I've mentioned before that Split has a very high "fight or flight" response but what's really interesting is that if he spooks when I'm working him on the ground, he knows exactly where I am and goes to great lengths to avoid running into/mowing over/knocking me down. He'd rather get pecked by that killer turkey or jumped by that rabid rabbit than hurt his mom!!!
The only time that I've ever been afraid of him was that fateful day that he bolted with me and now, in retrospect, I realize that it was just a whole crucible of errors that led to his running away and truthfully, I'd have done the same in his position. But I digress...........
One day before I got my hearing aides, I decided to take Split for a leisurely walk thru the meadows around our property - on line, not riding him. We were returning home and were walking along this narrow strip of grass in front of our house. Within one step to my left was our tall privet hedge; on my right was Split; one step to his right was the road. All was going well and we were ambling along on a loose line when suddenly I felt Split's entire body go tense. He stopped, nostrils flared, head up, tail up, prancing in place. I had no idea what was going on.......I couldn't HEAR anything, that's for sure. I stood beside him, not sure what was going to happen next. He turned his head to the right as if to look down the road and I knew he wanted to face whatever monster was coming from behind us but he didn't because he knew he would have to knock me down in the process. All of this "action" took place within a matter of seconds - it wasn't like I even had time to think about what to do next! I turned my head, too, and saw this gigantic, big, bad-a** dump truck-looking rig hauling another big piece of equipment behind it bearing down on us, and could only imagine the banging, wheezing, clanking and thumping accompanying it (remember, for all intents and purposes, I was DEAF then)! I swallowed the lump in my throat as Split turned forward, tucked his tail and sat back on his haunches, prepared to blast off! All I remember thinking was, "Crap! That hedge is gonna hurt when I hit it!" and hoping and praying that Split didn't run into the road if he got out of my grasp. But something - instinct, gut feeling, guardian angel - told me to "stand still and hold on" as that truck went flying past. I've never seen ANYTHING like what Split did that day! He spooked - big time! But he spooked IN PLACE. He had his left eye on me, probably his right eye on that truck - and all of his "flight" energy went down into his feet where it came out as a "horsey tap dance" - his feet were flying but staying right in place!!! As I said, this all took place within a matter of seconds - we both had decisions to make in a nanosecond. Once the scary monster truck had blasted by us, Split stood stock-still and stared after it for a second or two. Then he very slowly turned his head and looked at me for several seconds, clearly saying, "Can you believe that?" He sighed, shook himself vigorously, and continued on as though nothing had happened. I was impressed, let me tell you! He could have run and injured either or both of us but he chose to stay with me and keep us both safe. Amazing!!
Just the other day I was walking him down into our little riding ring and in order to get into the ring, we have to walk thru a narrow chute that has electric fencing on both sides. As we went into the chute, a big ol' turkey flew up virtually under our noses! It scared the daylights out of me and nearly made Split jump out of his skin! He COULD have turned and bolted out of there - which would have resulted in him knocking me down and running me over - but instead he simply jumped a little in place, snorted and stood like a statue beside me. After the initial shock, I had to burst out laughing - and give Split a big hug! I noticed that left eye was once again keeping track of his mom!
Yesterday we put Split and Jingle out into the "new" pasture and the grass is quite long. Split started out at a canter but when all the birds flew up out of the grass, he stopped, whirled, and bolted for "home base." ha ha I noticed something interesting as I watched his progress back out into the pasture. He'd go just "so far," just into his "comfort zone," and then come back to the paddock gate to graze in safety. He did this several times before he finally figured out, "OH! They're BIRDS!" And then he was off and running. But going a few steps and turning back to the comfort zone is something that clicker trainers advise riders with anxiety (like me!) to do.......Ride to your comfort zone and maybe a step beyond but turn and go back BEFORE you get into scary territory. Yesterday I saw Split do this "naturally." Amazing what that pony can teach me!!!

"When we listen to our horses, we get an education. When we don't, we get an experience." Mark Rashid

Listening involves more than my hearing aides these days!!!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Donker Dog con't!

I always thought that Eeyore was a very cute little critter but I never really understood just how true to donkey personality he is until I actually started living with a donkey! A.A. Milne must have know a real donkey or 2 himself!
Jingle is a smart little gal and she quickly figured out that if her halter was being put on, it was for a specific reason and she wasn't going to like it! She would never, ever bite or kick but instead was quite accepting of her "fate." She would allow me to halter her and then literally lower her nose to the ground, lop those big ears over and stand there quietly - EXACTLY like Eeyore! She was clearly saying, "I don't like this. I don't want this. But you can go ahead and do what you want." I could "hear" Eeyore's voice in my head! LOL
The first time I tried to lead her into the barn so that the farrier could trim her hooves, she dug in her feet, pulled back and just sat there. How embarrassing!!
I'd spent lots of time getting her used to having her legs and feet handled (no clicker for me yet.....hadn't yet become "enlightened") and just assumed that because she followed me willingly at liberty all the time, she would do the same with a halter on! Well, you know what they say about "assume!"
By that spring, Mary Arena had started pounding clicking into my head (yeah, I'm a little slow on the uptake sometimes.............ha ha) and I thought (DUH), "Wow! I bet this will work for Jingle, too!"
Jingle LOVES clicking! She did learn to lead very well altho I must say that she still goes into "Eeyore mode" when she knows that the farrier or vet are on their way and believe me, she KNOWS the difference between when I put the halter on for vetting or trimming and when I put it on for playing!! Anyway, Jingle looks forward to our walk-abouts and leads even better than my beagle!
She steps right along, ears up, eyes sparkling, clearly enjoying our outings!
People always slow down when they see us walking along the edge of the meadow next to the road. They honk, they wave, they stop and say HI. But the best one was a guy who pulled up beside us and said, "Hey, what is that? A pony or a donkey?" I said, "It's a miniature donkey." "Oh," he said. "That's the cutest thing I've ever seen, man!" ha ha I'm going to start telling people that Jingle is a "Donker Dog" - part donkey and part Golden Retriever! She is, after all, a red donkey, so I think I can fool people!

I love this quote:
"I am a prince and you are a prince; who will lead the donkeys?"
-Arabian Proverb

Have a great day, everyone!!!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

How Jingle Came To Be Here..............

I love my little mini donkey! Not only does she keep my pony company but she has this lovely, serene demeanor that never fails to have a calming effect on everyone with whom she comes in contact.
"Asspirin Acres Joan of Arc" came to us on Christmas Eve day. The tag on her halter said simply "Joan." Well, THAT wasn't going to fly so we all tried to think up a more "Christmassy" name for her. "Dominic" was rejected right out of hand (my daughters think they're funny) and neither Noel, Holly, Carol (eek!), nor Mary seemed to fit, either. I finally said, "Let's call her Nellie." THAT set everyone back a bit because Nellie was my mother-in-law's name. When my family said, "Why Nellie?" I replied, "Because she's round, has brown hair, is cute and she seems very gentle." (All qualities possessed by my deceased mother-in-law.) WELL, to my surprise, everyone thought it was a great idea.....until we actually CALLED the little donkey "Nellie." Back to square one. I finally said, "Grandma loved Christmas. Let's think what Grandma loved best about it and see if that give us any ideas." My oldest daughter said, "She always used to hang that Jingle Bells banner across the mantle in the kitchen." And - BAM - that was it......"Jingle!"
I'd been looking for a companion for Split - who'd lived as a bachelor his first year here - and had always wanted a mini donkey. I finally wore my husband down - he gave in just to shut me up, I think - and began making calls. I was surprised at how expensive mini donks are and wasn't having any luck finding a rescue donkey. I contacted Asspirin Acres in Vergennes, VT but Marshlyn didn't have any geldings for sale at the time. She later called to tell me that a woman to whom she'd sold some donkeys several years ago wanted to sell them back and would I be interested in one of those geldings? The price was right and the deal was struck. But then the owner decided she couldn't part with the donkeys after all and I was right back to where I started from - donk-less. A few weeks later Marshlyn called to tell me that one of her mares who'd been sold several years previously was being shipped back because she was barren. Marshlyn is a very responsible breeder who honored her contract and replaced the mare but suddenly had a barren mare - obviously she wasn't going to fit into their breeding program and would I be interested? The only catch was that this donkey been running in a big herd out in Nebraska and had no training and very little socialization with humans. Not a problem for me - I was willing to take a chance.
Marshlyn's husband had to be in this area on Christmas Eve day so that's when we arranged to have Jingle delivered. The second she stepped hesitantly off the trailer, we were all in love with this little critter!! She followed Mike out to our pasture (reluctantly at times but she allowed herself to be led) and he recommended that we put Split in the paddock and turn Jingle out in the pasture so that they could sniff each other over the fence. Poor little Jingle looked so lost and all alone out there. She just stood and hung her head. However, if we were to approach her, she would take off in a panic so we took turns sitting in the paddock, all bundled up in winter clothing, hoping she would come to us. Finally my husband said, "It's getting dark. We can't leave her out there all alone and with no shelter. We've got to bring her into the paddock so she can at least get into the barn. You've got to let Split out into the pasture so that they can get acquainted." GULP! Split had been running around the paddock calling to Jingle all afternoon and when we opened that gate, he shot out of there like a thoroughbred at Saratoga! Jingle took one look, went, "GAH! I'm out of here!" and she, too, took off running! They raced around the pasture, Jingle dodging left and right to avoid Split, when suddenly she screeched to a halt. This surprised Split so he put on the brakes, too. He approached her very cautiously - head down, sniffing and snorting. He got right up to her rear end and quick as a wink her little hind feet flew out and landed 2 solid thumps on his left cheek! (He actually had muddy prints there for a day or 2!) He skittered backward and stared. Very slowly, Jingle turned and began walking back up toward the paddock. Split followed respectfully behind and they have been the best of friends ever since.
Jingle didn't warm up to her humans very quickly. She was quite afraid of "the two-leggeds" and any attempt to touch or pat her resulted in her running for her very life. My daughters would go out each day and sit in the snow (they weren't little kids then, either - they were in their early 20's and late teens) and wait and hope that Jingle would come to them. One day Colleen came rushing into the house with the announcement, "Mom! I got one finger on her!" What a break-through! ha ha Slowly, very slowly, Jingle came to accept that we were not going to hurt her and she began to come up to us to get her chest or butt scratched. By spring I could actually run a brush over her and put the halter on her but leading her was another matter entirely!!! We've all heard the expression "stubborn as a mule" but that could be changed very easily to "stubborn as a mini donkey!" Jingle had a lot to teach this "old gray mare" and that's where clicking came in handy!! But for now, I have to write..........
TO BE CONTINUED.............................. :0)

"To carry his load without resting, not to be bothered by heat or cold and always be content: these three things we can learn from a donkey."
Indian Proverb

Enjoy the day, friends!

Monday, June 21, 2010


I need to plunk my butt down in this chair and write more often. Time has a way of getting away from me. My oldest daughter just moved to South Carolina, my kitchen is being gutted and redesigned so I'm currently living out of boxes and milk crates and bags which are scattered throughout the first floor of my house, my middle daughter is planning her wedding, and my youngest just announced that she got a teaching job for next year - IN SPAIN! Boy, it never rains...it POURS around here!! LOL
Thank goodness for my constant link to sanity - my animals! I have a lovely little beagle named Jellybean whom we adopted from the Humane Society 24 hours before she was to be euthanized. I never liked beagles; never wanted a beagle. Well, so much for that............because now I can't imagine life without this shorty, pudgy ray of sunshine! She's an absolute delight!
I have a feral cat who showed up on our doorstep several years ago. He was scruffy and angry and extremely aggressive toward any animal who approached him, including humans! I've never been attacked by an animal before but he came very close - I can still see those flattened ears, huge eyes, fangs, and claws coming at me!!! So we decided to "live and let live" and GrayKitty was fed alongside our old cat, Rosie, who was the only animal GrayKitty would allow into his personal space. Eventually we won him over or he decided we weren't all that bad and he began to look forward to his interactions with us. Now I can pick him up and sling him over my shoulder and he purrs so loudly that you can probably hear him a block away. He's a character, tho, and if things don't go his way, you're apt to get a swat with the paw or a little bite that says, "Back off, idiot." He's also a clown who loves to do the unexpected and then he sits back with those squinty eyes and a smirk on his face, obviously delighting in the humans' startled expressions.
Last week the vet came to give Split and Jingle their booster shots and when I was writing out the check, GrayKitty jumped up into the back of Kristin's truck. From there he jumped up into the open drawer of her wooden cabinet, stretched out on top of the syringes and packages of needles, crossed his front paws and looked at us as tho saying, "Well, what do you think of this?" We burst out laughing and Kristin asked if she could take some photos because she'd never had a cat do THAT before! After she took his "portrait," she jokingly picked up an syringe, pointed it at him and said, "Do you want a shot, too?" Quick as a wink, GrayKitty turned and bit the hand with the syringe!! She dropped it like a hot potato and said, "Gee, you'd think he knew what I was saying!" OF COURSE he knew what she was saying! What a cat!
Split and Jingle and I have been having great fun! The other day when the temps were hovering around 95 degrees, I decided to give Split a bath. Split doesn't particularly like his bath but I suspect it's due to the cold water. His former owner has sent me pics of Split quite obviously enjoying his ablutions up in Canada but she has a nice wash area with hot and cold water. Me? I just have cold water so "deal with it" has been my motto. I decided to take a different approach recently. I walked Split up to the hose and, as expected, he snorted and backed away. No biggie. I waited and he targeted. C/T. All S.O.P. for us. Pretty soon, he was fine with the hose so I turned it on. Not so "ok." ha ha He's not freaked out - he just steps back and snorts a little. I had the nozzle on "mist" and pretty soon he was literally playing in it - flapping his lips up and down and running his muzzle thru it. Each positive interaction earned him a C/T. THEN I switched to "shower." Hmmmm..............He wasn't so sure about that and definitely didn't want it touching him. I allowed him to walk away (the length of the rope - about 12') but, being Split, he always came back to investigate. I decided to try something different. When he finally put his muzzle into the spray to check it out, I turned off the water. He was surprised! This was a new development! He nudged the nozzle and I turned the water back on. He was startled but just moved his muzzle out of the way and stared at the water. He put his nose back in the spray and the water stopped. Nudged the nozzle and the water came back on! He was thrilled with this game and I was getting a really good laugh at the expression on his face!! Next time he "started" the water, I showered his legs. He wasn't happy about that and walked backward a few steps. I went with him, gently showering his front legs. He reached out and touched the nozzle and.........the water stopped! "Well!" I imagined him thinking. "I can turn this thing on and off by myself!" This was a great game for Split because he has a very smart brain and loves a challenge! We kept playing as I moved the hose from his legs to his body, neck, and, using the mister, even to his face (which he loves!!). I allowed him to "tell" me when he'd had enough by letting him nuzzle the nozzle. Inevitably, he would always ask me to turn it back on, too! It was wonderful to see the progress once Split realized that he could tell me when enough was enough! I didn't click during any of this because I wanted Split to understand that he could TELL ME when he was uncomfortable. I didn't want him to just tolerate the spray because he wanted his treat. This approach seemed to work well in this particular situation and I enjoyed experimenting with it.
But the click? Well, ya just can't beat it! I use it all the time and I've had some wonderful walks with Split recently. We go out into the neighbor's meadow and play games there. I can lunge him out there, too, and I know that the people driving by are thinking, "Wow! Look at that beautiful pony!"
I've been taking little Jingle the mini donk for walks, too, and she's completely different than Split. But I think I'll save that story for another day.

Here's a great quote from Ray Hunt:
"Believe in your horse so your horse can believe in you"

Have a great day, friends!

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Wide Open Spaces! LOL

Yes, folks, Split and I hit the wide open spaces, today! The wide open spaces of...............my lawn and driveway. Yes, it's embarrassing to admit that those are wide open spaces for us but hey, we've got to start somewhere, right? This spring I've been working in our dirt paddock which, altho not very level, is the closest thing I have to a "round pen." I do have a lovely little riding ring but it's actually part of one of our pastures and right now it's knee-deep in grass. Working my pony in there would be akin (in my mind, anyway) to taking a kid to the candy shop and telling him, "Forget the candy, kid, you have math work to do for the next hour." ha ha Anyway............I led Split out onto the barn floor and he was like, "OMG! Where am I?" even tho he's been there too many times to count in the past 4 years. He got all tense and his nostrils flared and he snorted and looked around for potential killers. I went into the "Grown-Ups Are Talking" stance - something with which Split is familiar and is calming to him - but also decided to take a bit of a CAT (Constructional Approach Training) approach to this as well. I also thought, "Well, if this is as far as we get today, this is as far as we get." Quite a mind shift for this old gal! I stood and waited for Split to tell me when he was ready to move on. While he was scanning the area for danger, he spotted my dog's blanket (she likes to hang out with me while I work outside) on the floor and immediately went into flight or fight mode. He stretched his neck out and sniffed the blanket. Rather than click and treat this behavior, I waited. I've learned something very important about Split - I can actually interrupt his thinking or calming behaviors with the click which can then, I believe (at least with him), lead to frustration but more about that later.
He sniffed that blanket, he backed up, he stretched forward and sniffed again. He licked it, he played with it and finally he sighed and turned to me, clearly asking, "How was that?" THAT was when I clicked and treated! I told him, "That was awesome, pal!" Then we took another 2 steps up to the open barn door and Split was all googly-eyed and snorting at the wide open spaces beyond!!!
Again, I went into the Grown-Ups Are Talking stance and simply.....waited. Split looked and snorted and scanned the "horizon" and then he put his head down. He was using this to calm himself! This is always thrilling for me and I've learned (or Split has taught me) not to interrupt this process. I waited while he looked and went into head down several times. Finally he just........walked out the door! As calmly as could be, he walked out and started grazing. He was also very good as I lead him across our very large back lawn (lots of nice grass there!) - he walked beside me and only once or twice stopped to grab a snack.
As we approached the picnic table and the Adirondack chair and the big shovel and the rake.....all those terribly scary items......I felt him tense up and begin to look around apprehensively. No worries. I let him stop and look around. He finally went over to each thing and targeted it on his own - C/T! He even tried a "bite" of the picnic table! ha ha I decided to stand up on the bench of the picnic table and at first Split was amazed by this - he looked at me like, "What the heck?" but then he came over and nuzzled my foot. I stood up on the table top.
THAT startled Split a bit but he walked over and looked at me calmly - C/T. All of this was very impromptu - I hadn't thought about doing this beforehand. Then I got it in my head to start walking around the perimeter of the table top! Would Split follow?? He wasn't sure at first but after being C/T for the first few steps, he thought it was a great game! He would follow me all around the table as I walked the perimeter of the top! Can you see where this is going eventually???
Yeah - I could mount up from the picnic table. But not today! LOL
From there we went to playing Why Would You Leave Me in the driveway. I have a circular drive so utilized the horseshoe shape to my advantage. What I found interesting was that when I was on Split's left, he was much more relaxed and less anxious no matter where we were in the driveway. When I was on his right, he got VERY tense and would actually LEAN on me if he got nervous. How interesting!!!! Could it be me? Click and treat yourself if you answered YES! I am decidedly more comfortable walking on Split's left but I didn't realize it. So we worked with me always being on his right and as I relaxed and paid attention to my shoulders and hips, I could see a change in him as well! At one point, when we were finally working as a team to the right, I stopped and Split - God bless his little pony soul - actually turned to me and nuzzled ME, clearly telling me, "Good job, Mom!" AWWWWW! Can you say, "Give the pony a peppermint?"
There were some interesing moments when Split saw or heard a loud motorcycle or the local garbage truck. I felt him tense up and he'd stop and stare. Rather than force him along (as I would have done in a previous life), I went into the Grown-Ups Are Talking stance and simply waited. Split DID go to head down many times! I didn't interrupt it - I waited til he told me, "I'm OK now" and then I C/T. I'd love to hear from others of you what you think of this and if it's worked for you! I love clicking and will defend it to the death (bring on the epees! ha ha) but I think sometimes I actually muddle the things by clicking too much or at the wrong moment which interrupts the process, leading to some of Split's frustrations with me. I think he's saying, "Hold on! Hold on! I'm thinking this over!" And I have to respect that.
This is such an awesome journey that all of us are on! I'm learning far more from Split than he is from me, I'm sure!!!! What will be interesting is when I take my little donkey out for some clicking. I wonder how she will react to everything?? I'll be sure to let you know!

This is a fun quote for today:
“The key to everything is patience. You get the chicken by hatching the egg, not by smashing it.” Arnold Glasgow

Enjoy the day, everyone!!!

Saturday, May 15, 2010

I don't wanna play!

"Who wants to play clicker?" is usually greeted with enthusiastic nickering and asthmatic donkey wheezing in my barn. Yesterday was a bit different.............
I've been gradually getting Split and Jingle adjusted to their spring diet of fresh, green grass. I started by letting them out to graze for 15 minutes a day at the end of March, gradually increasing the time so that now they can go out for about 90 minutes twice a day. I toss a flake of hay into the paddock now and then so that they have something to nosh on (other than my barn) but they've gone on a "hay strike" as in "WHAT? You expect us to eat THAT CRAP when there are acres of nice, green grass to be had? Away with you!"
Yesterday afternoon was just like summer and I headed out to the barn mid-afternoon to do some clicking and some chores. I donned the vest o' treats, grabbed my grooming box and went out into the paddock. Split walked over to see what was going on but there was no "Hi-dee-ho neighbor" nickering. I picked up the curry comb, gave him 2 good rubs with it and he walked away, leaving me grooming the air! How interesting. He walked over to the gate that opens into the pasture and just stood there. He didn't put his ears back; there was no tension around his muzzle; his eyes were nice and soft. I thought perhaps he just wanted to stand somewhere else so I walked over and started currying again. He turned and walked away again! I walked up to him and he walked off again - straight to the pasture gate. Well, REALLY! I can take a hint! LOL He was clearly saying, "Enough with the beauty routine. LET ME OUT TO EAT!" Well, OK. Since he didn't want to be groomed, that was fine. I turned my attention to Jingle. SHE was delighted to be fussed over!! After her grooming, which Split watched with interest, but he didn't come near us, I got my target on a stick (duct taped soda bottle attached to an old lunge whip) and Jingle and I played with that. Again, Split watched from his post by the gate, licking and chewing, ears up, eyes soft......but he didn't offer to play. Jingle and I ignored him. After about 15 minutes, I saw Split out of the corner of my eye - he was moseying over to where we were. I ignored him. He very slowly walked over to the target I was holding out for Jingle and gently touched it with his nose! I C/T but then offered it to Jingle; then Split; then Jingle. We played this way for quite a while, alternating the target between them and sometimes playing "follow the target" as well.
So? What's the point? In a "former life," I would have INSISTED that Split stick around to be groomed; I would have gotten his halter and tied him up and forced him into being spiffed up. I would have been insulted that he didn't want to spend time with me!! Yesterday my first thought was, "Ok, then. Do what you want. I'm going to go play with Jingle." And I just walked away................That's a big mind shift for me because, like many of you, I was brought up with the "don't let them get away with that" mentality. WAS I "letting" Split get away with something? Yes, I was letting him "get away" with his own, true feelings - he had a say in the matter. And that's the beauty of letting things unfold at their own pace, I believe. If I'd been getting ready for show season, I would have been frantically trying to get his mane detangled, his tail combed out, his whiskers trimmed, and there would have been a sense of urgency and tension about it all. (I'm not condemning horse shows; I'm just using that as an example of how things can become stressed out as soon as you put deadlines on them.) If a trainer says to you, "I'll have this horse jumping 3 feet by your show next month, I promise ya that," you might want to ask yourself, "Yeah, but at what cost to my horse?" I firmly believe that when horses balk, buck, rear, run away, stop dead.....that they're trying to tell us something in the only way they know how. Are there horses that will never be trustworthy? Sure. There are some human beings that are damaged beyond repair, too. There will always be that segment of the population, whether human or animal. But I believe that lots of horse-related problems are created by humans who don't or won't listen to their horse, and who have to "prove" that as the human being, the "smarter one" of the pair, they will prevail at all costs!! Of course, if you're reading this, you know that I'm just "preaching to the choir." I'm enjoying not having any deadline - which is different than a goal. The word deadline is off-putting simply because it has the word "dead" in it - something's going to give and end up "dead" alright, whether it's your spirit, your horse's spirit, your relationship with your horse.....whatever. But if you set a GOAL, you can leave it open-ended as to how and when you reach that goal! Does anyone else feel that way? I'd love to know what you think!
It's beautiful here today! I love springtime! Go out and play today!

"In the spring, at the end of the day, you should smell like dirt."
Margaret Atwood

Or horses!!!! Or horses AND dirt! Enjoy the weekend, everyone! Go out and get smelly!

Friday, May 14, 2010

A New Tail

No, I didn't get Splitter hair extensions!! He has more mane and tail hair than any pony I've ever seen! He actually gets "dreads" unless I keep his tail brushed, and his mane is triple layered which quickly develops mats over the winter! I'm working on combing/brushing them out and he's gotten really good about standing still at liberty and allowing me to fuss with his hair (thanks to clicking!). He's like the little girl in Kindergarten who has long hair and screams bloody murder when her mom takes a brush to it! ha ha Anyway......Because Split is gray, and we all know what sort of skin problems that can lead to, I make it a point to check around his muzzle, eyes and under his tail on a regular basis. When Split first arrived, if I tried to lift his tail, he would clamp it down and trot away unless he was tied up. If I tied him up, he would allow me to "lift" his tail - sort of. It's hard to get a clear look at a horses "bum" when he's clamping his tail down so hard!
Enter the clicker................I began by asking Split, "Can I rub the base of your tail?" (Sure, that feels good!) C/T "Can I pull your tail gently?" (I guess. I'm not happy about it but I'll let you do it.) C/T "Can I lift your tail a little?" (NO!) "Ok, I will respect that." It took several months actually, but we kept chipping away at it. I can now take Split's temp while he stands at liberty and the other day when I was grooming him, I lifted his tail (which he will now allow me to do while he's at liberty but there's always that little "hint" of tension) and up it went, like a well-oiled pump handle - NO TENSION whatsoever!!! I was amazed - and really pleased that all our little steps had finally added up to "Ok, sure. You can lift my tail. Have at it!" It was a peppermint moment, for sure! (Re-reading this, I realize that there aren't too many people who would be as excited as I about being able to look at a horse's arse end so thanks for letting me share! ha ha)
Like most beginner clickers, at first I wanted it ALL! I wanted Split to comply 100% with what I was asking - just do it! But then I watched a session on "micro shaping" and went, "Huh." It was then that I finally understood that I needed to break down every single task into little, tiny steps.....as many as necessary! You'd think that I would have learned something after 20 years of teaching first grade but if I did, it all went out the window when working with my animals! I wanted it ALL - NOW! Clicking really set me back on my heels and made me look at things completely differently.
I'll tell you what....I even use the micro shaping on my husband now and it's so subtle that he doesn't even know what's happening! ha ha I "plant the "seed" of an idea and I just keep adding to it a little at a time and finally.....TA DA! He actually SUGGESTS that I purchase a Christ Lammfelle bareback pad! He said, "Sounds good. Just buy it." It didn't happen over-night, of course. You have to go with your gut instincts and ask just the right question at the right time and then be happy with the tiniest positive response. Sound familiar??
SSSSSHHHHHHH! Don't tell my husband, OK??

We leave you with this tongue-in-cheek quote:

Sometimes I wonder if men and women really suit each other. Perhaps they should live next door and just visit now and then. ~Katherine Hepburn

Hmmm.....maybe it isn't so tongue-in-cheek, after all! LOL
Have a good weekend, friends!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

A Girl And Her Angel

My 23 year old daughter still lives at home. She has a BA in Spanish. In today's economy, that and a buck will get her a cup of coffee at MacDonalds! She currently works for minimum wage at a local day care center and until yesterday had plans to attend SUNY to get her Masters in English As A Second Language. Alas, she applied for late admission and was apparently.......too late. Sigh......So here she is still at home, leaving dirty dishes everywhere, eating my food, partying on the weekends with friends, coming home at all hours, piling laundry in the basement...in short, treating our house like her college dorm and living her life as tho she's still a care-free college student. Just when I despair of her ever growing up and becoming a self-supporting adult, something comes along and smacks me right between the eyes, sets me back on my heels; makes me realize that I'm a whiner and Katie is really a good kid......really, it could be worse. Just today I was putting some clean laundry in her room (occasionally I'll throw some of her stuff in with mine to make a whole load, lest you think I actually do the girl's laundry!!) and noticed some photos spread out on the top of her bed comforter. I can honestly say that I'm not one of those nosy moms who's constantly snooping thru my kids' things (trust me - I DON'T WANNA KNOW!) but those photos made me pause.......and remember. They put a squeeze in my chest, a lump in my throat....I picked the photos up and looked at them with fondness and sadness. They were pictures of a girl and her Angel...........
I have 3 daughters and my 2 oldest were each given riding lessons at a young age. I hoped, of course, that they would share my enthusiasm for horses and riding. And they did - for about 3 weeks and then they found other things to do. When daughter #3 came along, I figured why waste the time and money - obviously none of my girls was going to be a horsewoman so I'd have the hobby all to myself - not bad, really. It was something in which I could selfishly indulge myself!
The summer Katie turned 13, I had been working at AppleCreek for 6 months as general stable help and the owner (Penny) asked me if I'd be interested in helping with her summer day camp. I was delighted! I was a teacher and normally just hung around the house arbitrating my kids' arguments during the summers so this was perfect - kids and horses! My 2 oldest daughters were less than enthusiastic about having to watch their little sister all day but since neither of them were working full-time, it fell to them to do the job. I'd like to say that that worked out well but I tend to deal in reality - within 2 weeks, all 3 girls hated each other and I was tired of coming home at the end of a long day (kids and horses? WHAT was I thinking??!!) and having to listen to 3 girls screaming their side of the story at me. Out of desperation, I asked Katie if she'd like to start going to the farm with me and hanging around with the day camp kids. (Penny had no problem with it - what was one more kid?) She was delighted to get away from her sisters (who are now, I'm happy to say, grown up and on their own and REALLY AWESOME women!!!) and happily tagged along with me the following Monday.
Katie is one of those kids who's naturally out-going and makes friends easily and within 2 days she was part of the gang. Within a week she was doing all the barn chores - feeding, watering, mucking, mixing supplements...whatever needed to be done. Within 2 weeks she was grooming and bathing ponies and helping the little kids get tacked up. She worked her butt off all summer, 5 days at week with no pay other than the fun of being around the other kids and the horses! By August she was still slaving away happily - and had never even sat on a horse's back! I finally asked, "Are you interested in learning to ride?" (Am I a dumb mother, or what?) The rest, as they say, is history. From the moment that kid plunked her butt in the saddle, we all knew we had a rider in the making. Katie is one of those people who sit in the saddle and know instinctively what do to - she has balance, she has feel, she looks gorgeous. Boy, was I jealous! LOL She rode all fall and winter and by spring had "out-grown" the beginner ponies and was assigned to Angel. Angel was a gorgeous bay QH who must have been appendix with quite a bit of thoroughbred him, judging by his build. He and Katie were the proverbial match made in heaven! By summer, they attended their first show together. Angel was an old hand; Katie had never ridden in a show before. They rode away with their division championship and their fate was sealed. They became an inseparable pair. But Angel had some lameness issues that were raising their ugly head more and more as he aged. His ankles were shot - totally arthritic - and his hocks were pretty much gone, too. He was OK for light riding but there were times when he was too lame to ride, even tho he was given daily supplements, had his hocks drained, and was receiving Adequon (did I spell that right?). During those stretches, Katie would patiently take Angel out to hand graze or if the weather was rainy or it was during the winter, she would walk him in the indoor.
Time marched on for the next few years and to our shock and dismay, one summer Penny announced that she was divorcing her husband, retiring, selling the farm and the horses, and moving south. By then, Angel was in almost constant pain, and the very difficult decision was made to put him down rather than try to sell him and risk having him abused by hard riding or an uncaring owner. Katie was devastated and begged me to bring Angel home to our little place down the road. But the bottom line is that I was in no position to care for a chronically lame horse and Katie would soon be off to college. It was hard on both of us but Katie understood. On "the appointed day," I allowed Katie to skip school so that she could go to the barn and spend time with Angel. She gave him his last grooming, his last bath, his last peppermints.
She took him out to graze in the warm sunshine and waited until the vet arrived. We all gathered in the pasture where Angel would be put down and buried - the back hoe and tarp were standing by. The vet explained to Katie exactly what would happen when he put Angel to sleep and asked her if she would rather go and wait in the barn but she took a deep breath, stood up tall, and said, "No. I'll stay with him." She was so brave as she hugged him good-bye one last time and stood beside him as he took his last breath. She stoked his neck when he was gone and then quietly walked away.
The pictures I found on her bed today were taken that day - pictures of Katie grooming Angel, grazing him, walking him to his final resting place.
I realized then that my daughter is really going to be a fine adult. She's strong, she's kind, she's loving (she's also stubborn, head-strong, opinionated.......LOL!!!) - she's just finding her way right now. Besides, I know she'll always have Angel in her heart to help her along the way.
A girl and her Angel...........He is gone from her life but lives on in her heart.
He taught her well.

"Horses and children, I often think, have a lot of the good sense there is in the world." ~Josephine Demott Robinson

Monday, May 10, 2010

Ramblin' on.........

Well, here I am again. What shall I write about today? Last week was a crazy one! I had to sub at school several days and was trying to get some yard work finished up, flowers planted (and now look at this weather! BRRR!!), some dog beds sewn.......I did get in some clicking, tho! Split loves to see me don that fishing vest! So many pockets, so many treats.............
Split's the kind of guy who needs to be challenged a lot when we click. He grasps a concept very quickly and once he's got it, his attitude is, "I know this. WHY do we have to keep harping on it?" So I tend to shake things up as we go along. He enjoys trying to figure out what I want next. Once we have a nice, clean loop, I have to think up another task for our loop or switch gears completely and come up with another loop. He's also the kind of pony who will tell me when he doesn't get it - no stuffing emotions with him! - or will inform me that I'VE screwed things up. No one likes to be told that but I'm learning to accept his criticism and input with a joyful heart! ha ha It sort of sets one back on their heels when their animal says, "Listen, Ma, you need to slow down and relax! Just go with the flow, Ma.....go with the flow........." Split's communications aren't explosive like so many others experience with their horses (and kudos to all of you who are working through those issues!!!!). He's a subtle kind of guy - he'll shake his head or perhaps stomp one hoof or he'll walk away or turn his hiney to me (I call this "getting the horsey finger"). I used to take all of that personally as in "How DARE YOU disobey me?" I would get angry and frustrated that Split wasn't doing as I'd asked! After all, he's a HORSE and I'm a HUMAN. Hmmm.......How the "mighty" have fallen! LOL Split does not tolerate fools gladly and I'm quite often at the top of the fool chain with him. But when we do "click;" when we do get the communication flowing between us, there is nothing better! We become like ballet dancers, giving and taking; supporting and complementing each other; moving as one creature. Those moments are glorious and I wish I could create them more often but I'm trying! And part of that trying is letting go of that time-honored tradition among horsemen that "you have to show them who's boss" or "don't let them get away with that." You all know what I mean. It's tough to change 45 years of thinking but it CAN be done! Our horses - indeed, ANY of our animals - are willing to teach us IF we're willing to listen. And that's hard, too. They're ANIMALS, for heaven's sake! Who are THEY to tell US what to do? And yet, they are wise beyond our comprehension and they try so very hard to *tell* us what we're doing wrong but we, as a human race, are incredibly deaf to what they're saying.
WELL.....this has taken quite a turn, hasn't it? I started out thinking that I would ramble on about clicking and have segued into communication but let's face it, clicking and communication go hand in glove. Once cannot be successful at clicking unless one has begun to communicate with the animal - on many different levels. And THAT'S why Split came here. He came to teach me humility (thanks for dumping me on the kitchen lawn, pal! ha ha), patience, to love myself, to stop judging and questioning myself, to be present in the moment, to LISTEN, always LISTEN.
A friend told me that God may have taken away my physical hearing but He replaced it with a different kind of hearing. (Thank you, Toni!) That is one of the most profound things anyone has ever said to me!!! And it's true! I try to remind myself of that every day!

We leave you with this quote for today. There was no author attributed to it, unfortunately, for they are wise words:

“Friendship is a comforting smile, a familiar voice that warms the heart, and the freedom to be the person God intended.”

I believe this holds true for us humans and our animal friends!
Enjoy the day, everyone!

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Holes, holes, everywhere there's holes..............

Yep, there I go ripping off song lyrics again! LOL I don't know about anyone else but just when I feel like I've got this clicking thing "down pat," Split shows me that I'm really still just a neophyte! I guess that's what I get for having such a smart pony. Dang it!
I decided to play with targeting the other day. It's a simple task and one which Split particularly enjoys (so does Jingle!). But it gets frustrating because Split actually opens that big mouth and grabs the cone (I have small orange soccer cones) so our targeting sometimes turns into tug o' war. If I put the cone on the ground, he will go to it but he picks it up, flips it around, throws it, or plays tug o' war with it. Hmmmm.......And whose fault would that be, KARLEEN??!!!!! It dawned on me that I had another hole in my training. I'd ALLOWED Split to do this because I was a) lazy b) didn't know any better c) thought it was cute at first or d) all of the above. If you chose "d," you are correct! (Click and treat yourself!) UGH! It's hard being human sometimes. So...what to do? The best thing would be to begin at the beginning ("a very good place to start" - name that movie). I went out with my orange cone and Split was all excited! Yay! A simple game guaranteed to garner him lots of treats. Not so fast, buddy! I started by showing him the cone and asking him to target. Right away his mouth opened wide and he lunged at it. Surprise! The cone disappeared from view! (I put it behind my back.) The look on his face was priceless! He tried mugging me but I stepped out of his way and waited quietly (he's not one to be overly muggy). I offered the cone again and again he opened his mouth and tried to grab it - the cone disappeared. "Well," I could imagine him thinking. "This is quite the conundrum!" I offered it again and this time he very hesitantly poked his nose toward it but the mouth stayed closed. C/T! It took awhile but in the end, Split was touching the target gently with his nose - mouth closed!
I then created the loop: Touch target with mouth closed; I walked a few feet away and asked Split to walk to me and touch it (mouth closed, of course); touch target while I stand next to him; I walk away and call him to touch it. We made our way all around the paddock this way! Oh, and Jingle?? Well, she came with us and I offered her the target, too! I call it "tandem clicking!"
Maybe no one ever reads this blog but I have to say that writing down my clicking experiences with Split and Jingle has made me take a hard look at what I'm doing out with them. It's forced me to reflect on my strengths and my weaknesses. I highly recommend that anyone who is clicking, especially if you're new to it, keep a journal or blog. Sometimes as I'm writing things down, I'll have that "lightbulb" or "aha!" moment that I never would have had otherwise.

We leave you with this quote for today:

“Sometimes the questions are complicated and the answers are simple.”
Dr. Seuss

'Nuff said!!!!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Standing, standing, standing on the everlasting mat!

Does anyone out there (who am I kidding - who READS this thing??) know that old hymn that I paraphrased?? Anyway...........
Today we worked on Stand On A Mat again. Jingle still has trouble figuring out if she's supposed to kill it, eat it or just stand on it and prefers to try to share Split's mat! LOL She's a cutie pie! But I digress..........
When I brought Split's mat out, he was like, "Yay! I like this game!" He got right on his mat and stayed there until he'd had enough and then he just.....moseyed away. Yep, that horse moseys. He just sighed and said, "Ok. I get it. Next?" ha ha ha Of course we went back to the mat where we practiced some more but I added another element to the loop. I've mentioned that I usually use a tongue click with my critters because I'm too uncoordinated. With me, it's: click, fumble, switch hands, drop treat, give the treat. Well, not always, but I found that if I eliminated the mechanical clicker I could get the treat to Split faster. AND I also discovered that once Split caught onto the clicker, the minute I put my hand in my pocket or on the lanyard on which the clicker hangs around my neck, he wanted that treat right then and there and would turn into a terrible mugger! But today I realized that I was dodging the issue. The bottom line is that he SHOULD NOT mug me like that, whether I use a tongue click or a mechanical clicker. So out came the real clicker. We had Stand On A Mat down very well so I added "Grown-ups Are Talking" in which my criteria was that Split had to stand quietly as I reached for the clicker and as I reached into my vest pocket for the treat! Yep, the minute I reached for the clicker, his head whipped around (I was at his shoulder) and he began mugging. I stepped away and waited. When he turned his head away, C/T! I moved to his shoulder again and we repeated every step (and it didn't take long - he's a really quick learner!) on both sides and with me standing in front of him. So now we went Stand On A Mat while mom walks to the other side of the paddock and then walks back, C/T; Grown-ups Are Talking (while I reach for my clicker and treat, alternating left, right and standing in front of Split. Stand On A Mat; Grown-ups. It was a nice, clean loop in the end and Split now understands that even if I reach for the clicker, that DOES NOT MEAN THE SAME AS THE CLICK. We're getting there!
And little Jingle?? Well, she stood on her mat for a while and she got some rapid C/T's for it (and Split really understood which clicks were hers and which were his - reallycool!) but mostly she played with it. But we're getting there. She SO DIFFERENT from Split! That's what makes it so fun and interesting!!

We leave you with this quote for today:

“That which is called firmness in a king is called obstinacy in a donkey.”
John Erskine

All hail, Queen Jingle! :0)

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Stand on the mat

Well, it's been a while since I played clicker with my guys so I thought, "Hmm....what should we work on today?" Since I have a pony and a mini donkey, I thought perhaps we should all practice standing on our very own mats!! This is something that I have done with Split and Jingle separately but today I decided to bring both mats out at once and see what would happen. Split's "mat" is actually a large piece of plywood - he can fit all 4 feet on it comfortably. Jingle's mat is a red carpet square that I appropriated from my friend the pre-school teacher. It's bright red - ya can't miss it! LOL Split remembered what his mat was for - he walked over and placed both front feet squarely on it. "TA DA!" he nickered. Jingle had a tougher time. Was it to pick up and flip around? No. Hmm....Shall I stomp it to death? No? How about if I just paw at it for a while. Not that, either. Well then, maybe I'll just STAND ON IT!
Yay! Click and treat! While Jingle was trying to figure out what to do with her mat, Split moved off and on his. I had to be quick to catch those few seconds when he stood like a statue. Sometimes he'd come off the mat completely and walk toward where I was working with Jingle and try to mug me. I had to ignore that. He'd back up, offer head down, mug, walk in a circle around me, etc. I finally walked him back to the mat and when his front feet were on it, C/T. It only took a few times for him to figure out, "Oh! I STAND HERE AND DO NOTHING AND GET REWARDED! OH!" ha ha It was a pretty successful 45 minutes over-all. At one point, after Split had actually been standing on the mat for quite a while (and getting C/T'd for it), Jingle walked up and started pawing the plywood like crazy! I'm sure poor Split was feeling the vibrations go up his legs. He wiggled a little and moved his feet but he DID NOT MOVE OFF OF THE MAT! I had to jackpot him then - peppermint! His favorite but they're only doled out on a limited basis.
I tried to pay attention to MY body energy today, too. At one point when I was working with Jingle, Split got VERY pushy with the mugging but as soon as I changed my body position and communicated with energy that he was not to do that, he moved out of my space. No hitting, no yelling, no ropes flying. He's a very sensitive pony and realized that - oops! - this mugging thing was getting him nowhere. He backed away and waited patiently. He's no fool. Which is why he gets frustrated with me, I think. I'm a bit slow on the uptake sometimes! LOL But we're plodding along and having a great time. We all learned something today. Split re-learned Stand On A Mat; Jingle is working on Stand On A Mat and I've discovered that she will pick things up just from watching Split and me and then she will OFFER the behavior herself! What a hoot! I learned that I need to be clearer with what I'm asking and also need to be careful what loops I create so that I don't inadvertently end up with a behavior I don't want. This clicking stuff is HARD!!!!!!!!
We leave you with this quote today:

"Recognize the smallest change, the slightest try." Ray Hunt

I hope you all have sunshine and warm weather today! We're finally enjoying the springtime here in the Great Northeast U.S.!!

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Back to reality......

Well, it's back to reality! The play I directed for Holy Spirit School, "Alice In Wonderland," closed last night to rave reviews! The children were wonderful - I just can't say enough about how hard they worked to bring this story to the stage! Many of the kids are tone deaf and have 2 left feet but they poured their little hearts and souls into singing and dancing for this production and the results were just awesome! I think part of our success was due to the fact that I and the other directors (I had 6 other teachers helping me!) allowed the children to have input of their own. The 2 boys who played the Tweedles asked if they could say their lines with British accents. Well......why not? Ok, they were the WORST British accents we've ever heard but the boys had a ball and because we'd given them the go ahead to be goofy with the accents, they took the ball and ran with it and added lots of crazy gestures and moves to their dance routines. They had the audience falling on the floor laughing!!
At the end of every rehearsal we would ask the kids if they had any questions or suggestions for each other and quite often they would notice some things that had escaped the directors' notice! And sometimes the other kids would be more open to constructive criticism from their peers than from us old farts. LOL
Working with children is truly a humbling experience. And in order to have even a modicum of success, you have to become astute at reading body language, facial expressions, and at feeling energy levels. The youngest children that I work with (5-7 year olds) are blatantly honest and think nothing of coming up and asking, "What are those big plugs in your ears?" (My hearing aides!) Or they might say, "I'm tired. Do we HAVE to do this AGAIN?" at a rehearsal. The older kids, however, "know better." I have to be sensitive to the rolled eyes, the tired faces, the angry energy. Clicker training has truly made me MUCH BETTER at this and because of clicking, I believe I'm also a better director and teacher! And I'm not just talking about horses.............I think I'm much more patient with my fellow human beings. I'm much more open to listening to everyone's ideas and much more sensitive about including EVERYONE in decisions, and about the giving and taking of ideas. I admit, that was hard for me in the past.
Clicking is not just about the animal (I sound like a broken record)! For me, it's been a huge wake-up call and I wish I had learned about clicking long before now. But all things happen in their own time and for a reason and what I must focus on now is NOW.
So thank you to all who have brought the click into my life - Mary, Michelene, Mundi (or the "3M's" as I call them in my mind - LOL!), Alex Kurland, Laurel Gordon, Dolores Arste.......the list goes on and on. I hope I can pass along some of what you've taught me to others! I look forward to learning more from you all - and I mean YOU ALL! Everyone I come in contact with is my teacher in some way!

We leave you with this quote for today:

"Good teaching is more a giving of right questions than a giving of right answers." --Josef Albers

Enjoy the day!