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!"

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!!

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