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, 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!!!

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