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, November 5, 2011

Soccer Ball Training

I never realized just how hard dog agility is! As you can see by the photo above, most of the time it's the handler getting the exercise and many times we have to give our dogs a little "boost" to help them understand what we want them to do! The secret to success (besides "practice, practice, practice") is for the dog and handler to be able to read each other's body language. I realized that Jelly and I were sadly lacking in that department when I'd point to an obstacle and she'd go off in the other direction. One afternoon when we were practicing, I decided to try to block her with my feet as she skittered off in yet another direction. She would dodge to the left and so would I. This made her stop and think. She dodged to the right and so did I. We continued this way until suddenly Jelly found herself directly in front of the jump. "Hmmm...." I'm sure she was thinking. "This is interesting." She looked at me. She looked at the jump. I was pointing at the obstacle and saying, "Over, Jelly, over!" She thought about it for a second and then over she went! I immediately clicked and treated her. I pointed to the next obstacle (the tire) and said, "Tire, Jelly, tire." "Boring," says Jelly and off she went in another direction. Again I blocked her with my feet and I thought at the time, "This is like playing soccer." Of course, my goal is not to kick Jelly over, thru, or onto an obstacle, but rather to guide her to where I want her to be. As we practiced this over the weeks, I began to realize that were anticipating each other's every move. She now watches my feet and ankles to see where I'm going and I've become much quicker at anticipating which way she's going to scoot! We've become much more successful at negotiating a course of obstacles! Does that mean we're ready for competition? Uh....I don't think so. But we're getting closer. And it just reinforces what most of you know already - body language is SO important when we're communicating with our animals! I have to be very clear when communicating with Jelly. Of course, she still sometimes sits down, glares at me, and then sticks her nose in the air, and gazes off in the other direction. THAT body language clearly says, "I'm thinking about it!" She's a funny beagle!!!

"The great pleasure of a dog is that you may make a fool of yourself with him and not only will he not scold you, but he will make a fool of himself too." - Samuel Butler

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