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!"

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!

Friday, April 9, 2010

Long time, no see.............

These past few weeks have been a bit stressful on many levels and I've (obviously) neglected my writing. I started this blog to try to get the creative juices flowing; to get some thoughts into print; to help myself sort through the ideas and philosophies presented to me on a daily basis..............But life has a way of throwing us off track; of totally unbalancing us. Trying to get back in balance is so very difficult. Being out of balance affects everything about me, from my frame of mind, to the songs that run through my head, my choice of books, my interaction with my family, and my health. Life is a balancing act in more ways than one.
One of the areas of my life that got "back burnered" was the clicking but that will always be there. I know that I can go out and throw on my ol' fishing vest full of treats (the "vest o' treats" ha ha) and Split and Jingle will put those ears up and nicker and wheeze (Jingle - she sounds like an asthmatic when she nickers) and beg to play the game! That's security. I know I can depend on that.
And that's what made me brave enough to start riding again. Split loves to click whether I'm on the ground or on his back. And now when I feel unbalanced on his back and he shakes his head at me, I can stop, breathe, and ask myself, "What just happened that I/we need to work on?" I no longer go, "AGH! Oh, no! He's going to run away! He's going to rear! (He's NEVER!) I'm going to fall off! The sky is falling! The sky is falling!" (Ok, I just threw that in there so you would understand how ridiculous I was being.) Now I sit calmly and review the situation. I can click/treat for everything that goes right or I can "punish" for everything that goes wrong. Think about that.......which would you prefer? So now Split will try very hard to do what he THINKS I want and that's made us much better partners. Our communication skills have improved a hundred-fold and we are much more patient with each other.
Life has thrown me some curves this past month and I'm sorely being tested on whether or not I'm enlightened enough to understand "the power of now." I think I'm beginning to get it. It's never too late to change our way of thinking, in fact, I think it's amazing that we can continue to evolve and grow no matter how old we get! And every day, many times a day, I'm now asking myself, "What am I going to do with my now?"

We leave you with this quote:

Death is not the greatest loss in life. The greatest loss is what dies inside us while we live.
Norman Cousins

Rest in peace, Zack Duncan! You lived life to the fullest and I will always remember the twinkle in your eye and the smile that could light up a room! Your journey here was a short one and we are all left wondering "why?" Your spirit will live on in others here on earth and in the hearts of all whose lives you touched. Shoot some heavenly hoops, little buddy!!!