Liberty Bloopers video

It is quite hot here in Poland. Bugs are making horses go crazy. All precision tasks are on hold until it gets cooler. I've decided to focus on bits and pieces of liberty. One day everything was going great, great draw, Juliano did sideways and circling game at liberty and stayed with me. The next day Juliano was palying mind games with me ... just have a look

HD version http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pq3CTo-mLr0


Dreams do come true

“Organize your life around your dreams - and watch them come true.”

Two weeks ago I've sent my resume along with a link to my blog to Parelli Center. I applied for a social media internship. Few days after that I knew I was going to UK for the Royal Festival of the Horse to see Pat and Linda, their horses and to get a chance to work closely with the team.

When I got the call from Brett and Sue from Colorado I was on cloud nine. It has been my dream for some time now to see Parelli and Parelli instructors work up close. And now not only will I see Pat and Linda live but I will have a chance to get a glance of "behind the scenes" action. I still can't believe it. I'm taking my camera with me so be sure to find tons of photos here when I get back. I hope Mikey Wanzenried will be there and will find few minutes for me cause I need to pick his mind about his work with Red Sun. By the way, this video of Michael and Red Sun was one of the first Parelli clips I've seen and I'm amazed by the relationship between them every time I watch it.

I'm so excited I can't sleep. Now the birds are singing so loud I'm sure I'll have trouble falling asleep, so it's 4:25AM and I'm off to let Juliano and his gang out.

Happy horses out in the pasture and their new friend - roe deer

Fox bark friendly game

Looking through my cell phone I came across an old MP3 of a fox barking. It reminded me of a problem we've faced last winter.

We were working on-line with our horses in the indoor arena. It was dark, everything was cover in snow. Our indoor arena is right next to the woods so if there are any animals nearby we can hear them inside as the arena is under a big balloon-type roof. That night we've heard a vary strange and quite frightening voice. It sounded a bit like an animal calling for help. All our horses spooked. They went left brain and wouldn't settle down. Even Dum, which was strange cause he is the one that stays calm most of the times. We tried different approaches to calm our horses down, nothing seemed to work as the animal kept calling. We began to worry something bad was going on in the woods. After half an hour of struggling we managed to take our horses back to the stables. Even though the stable is quite far from the indoor arena the horses kept looking out their windows and were still under a great deal of stress.

When I got back home I started searching the net for wild animal sounds and I found the exact same voice we've heard that night. It was a bark of a fox. Some sites said it was a "warning" bark. I downloaded the voice onto my phone and played it to our horses over and over. After roughly a dozen loops of the MP3 the horses started to ignore it. Dum was the last one to settle. It just proves that it is quite hard to spook a left-brain introvert but when they do get scared it takes them longer to get over it. Juliano (left-brain extrovert) is the other way round, he spooks at something, jumps and than he goes "Hey! what a tasty piece of grass next to that scary thing". Anyway, thanks to our MP3 friendly game our horses were desensitized to foxes barking and the next time they heard the bark live they didn't even notice it! We soon forgot about the whole thing but I also forgot that I set my ring tone (only when Magda was calling me) to the "Fox" MP3. Few days later I was leading all 3 horses to the paddock and Magda called me. The fox on my phone started barking and I jumped right up. Juliano, Dum and Wisełka looked at me with a face that said "You stupid human! It's just a fox, relax" :)

Here is the link to MP3 that we used http://www.mscustomcalls.com/mp3/fox/fox%20calling%20out.mp3


Step away from the horse!

There are certain days when everything just goes wrong. Monday was like that, we call it "Black Monday". Few stressful situations at work, friends dog got seriously injured by wild bores, Dum didn't eat his oats at all that day - you name it, everything was just not right. So why did I expect our session with J to work out.

We worked on-line and there were a lot of people there, watching or not, putting on pressure. When you have a mix of people in the stable, some "naturals" and some "classical" it's obvious both groups will observe each other and maybe, not always out of bad will, criticize. That puts a lot of pressure on the rider. Over the years I learned to ignore it and focus on Juliano but on days like this you want at least your horse to understand you. Well, it turned out I couldn't be more wrong. I had to understand myself first. As game after game fell apart I had to step away from Juliano and observe him for clues, clues about myself and I got it. I was focusing on our human problems not on him. Why should Juliano focus on me than. He wanted to go back to his pasture as he knew there was no point in cooperating with a "right brain" human.

"Blah, blah, blah not interested"

"I will go sideways in trot but still not interested"

That night I was thinking what to do next, how to make the next day positive. There were two thoughts that went through my mind which I thought were the best solution:

1. work alone with J, away from human distractions
2. work on something simple that I know from today is broken

So the next day we did a Level 1 circling game. We played away from people on the secluded pasture. Only me, Juliano, his pasture mates and Magda were there. Magda was working with Dum in one end of the paddock and I took Juliano to the other end. All the puzzle pieces from yesterday started coming together. Juliano was not turning his had away from me on the circle. He did beautiful changes of direction and although I didn't ask for it he did a flying lead change a couple of times. These were his first flying lead changes on-line ever! We played for 15minutes and it all just worked out great.

These two days proved to me that a bad session is not a bad session after all. It highlights the problem areas and allows both you and your horse to make a step forward the next time you play. Most of the time the next day brings you something unexpected like the flying lead change. I'm sure that if I drilled Juliano to do the change we both would get upset. Another thing that I noticed is a change in Juliano, he wasn't the emotional one on Monday, in fact he was exuberant but not right-brain crazy thoroughbred he used to be. So a word of advice, before you judge your horse's behavior: step away from the horse and look at yourself. Are you as focused, cool and collected as you can be? Are you a good leader for your horse? Remember your horse will read you like an open book, any time.


Freestyle video

A quick update how we are doing is now up on YouTube. I've decided to make it a quick, relaxing ride so I got on J out in the filed, I didn't want to take J away from his pasture friends. When he saw me with a pad and carrot stick he came walking straight to me, good sign :) We walked for a bit together than I got on him. Few minutes of walk, head down, Juliano seems relaxed. In trot he got tense a bit so we tried some figures eight, serpentines and transitions. I think he may be still a bit uncomfortable after his farrier visit on Tuesday. When he relaxed in trot we cantered a couple of laps and that was it. I got of him, he waited for me to send him away, again good sign. At the end of our short session we did Juliano's "abs workout" routine.

Enjoy! Larger video here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pzEG92L3n3E


We ride our problems into our horses

Lately I started fixating on Juliano's well being, again. Especially his neck, shoulder muscles and topline. I looked through the books I have on this topic, and to be honest one thing is consistent through all types of books: relaxation. Whether is an anatomy DVD, classical dressage book, savvy magazine or veterinary book. If you want your horse to be well and correctly build you have to work on his mental and physical relaxation! This is nothing new, we've heard it a thousand times from Pan & Linda "Mental/emotional relaxation is number one". But I was surprised that word "relaxation" is so widely present in classical books and the authors put great emphasis on that. I was surprised because most of the dressage riders I watch these seem to forget all about it.

Dr. Gerd Heuschermann in his book "Tug of War - Classical versus Modern Dressage" writes:

The great importance of looseness

Looseness is a central criterion for a horse's entire training... only through looseness can:
1. The gaits remain pure
2. The horse achieve the optimal muscle tone
3. Real collection be achieved
4. Complete "throughness" be attained
5. The horse develop its maximum capacity to perform without getting tired.

I decided to set my goal for this month to total relaxation. On-line and freestyle, especially finesse. I will not put any pressure on Juliano and I will be not trying to tech him new things until I either see he is getting bored or I can see he is loose and ok with the element he is doing. This may mean we will have to walk only for some time. I don't care :) it's time to relax even more.

Unfortunately Juliano picked up on my contemplating mood yesterday and he seemed a bit sad to me, or maybe he was just calm. If you have a LBE and you don't see him go nuts you automatically think he is sad. Well Juliano definitely put his Zen mode on yesterday.


Finesse - oh boy!

It was quite hot today, so I went to the stables in flip-flops. I was meant to get changed into riding boots later and ride finesse in the saddle. But silly me, I forgot to take my socks with me. So I rode bareback.

We haven't done finesse in a while. Maybe that's why todays ride was filled with "Oh boy's!" Juliano was very energetic today so at first we had problems relaxing and slowing down. We have to work on straightness, that's for sure. Juliano wanted to do small circles today and the chiropractor we saw on Monday told us to ride straight for a while. That's what made Juliano brace a bit and speed up even more. Another oh boy was when I picked up the reins. He was much more comfortable with traveling with his head down. So we mixed both, I asked for a bit of contact on a straight, when he settled in it he got to travel with his head low again and do a small circle.

The thing about riding finesse bareback on J is my balance. When he gets tense and rushy I loose my balance for few seconds and this makes him rush even faster. This is not a problem when we do freestyle, cause than we stay more in sync. It took us while to overcome this today. By the end of the ride I worked out a way to stay relaxed. I figured that if I pull my toes down, instead of heal down my seat is much more relaxed. This was even easier to do with no boots on :) so maybe it was a good thing I forgot my socks!


Chiropracter visit

Today we went to see a chiropractor, one of the 52 best in the World. He works with horses in USA, Canada, United Arab Emirates etc. He is also the official vet/chiropractor for German Olympic Team. We had to hire a trailer and it was a first trail ride for Juliano since 2004. We loaded up at 8:30 and went to a nearby stable where the chiropractor would examine 24 horses. When we got there Juliano was quite excited about the new place, although we went for a long hack there last year, and wanted to see everything and greet all horses. At 1PM the chiropractor arrived and J was second to go.

The man looked at Juliano and said "Right, this horse was ridden by a heavy rider about 4-5 years ago". I was shocked as I didn't even have time to tell him Juliano's story and he knew what was wrong straight away. He worked on his neck and shoulder muscles as he said he was tense and had rotated his shoulders. He also said this was an old habit of J's and he had to carry himself like this to compensate for the weight of the rider on his back. Juliano was trying to walk away from him at first but soon stood still, relaxed and started to snort. After 10 minutes it was all over and I was told that J will move his shoulders more freely and use his hind legs better.

It was a very interesting to see what the chiropractor would say about the other horses. He forbid to lounge some horses, as he found them to be overdeveloped in their shoulders and under in rumps. He looked at one horse and said "The horse is ok, but the rider is stiff and crooked. Where is the rider?" He than worked on the rider. Most of the time he advised riding on long reins and encouraging horses to stretch down and doing a lot of sideways. He didn't tell me to change anything so I hope I'm working in J's favor. After he has seen all horses he decided 60% of them are worked incorrectly. He will come back in September to give us a demo on correct techniques, watch us work with horses and than work on problem areas in our horses. It will be interesting to see how it goes as the man also told us he is not going to work with people that didn't change their work routine as he advised. I'm a bit nervous cause now we will have to focus on every detail of our work through muscle building perspective, and as I was not told to change anything I have to work that out on my own.

I'm going to review all the DVD's and books I have on conformation, massage and anatomy. If I find anything interesting I will share it with you. I will also try to keep in mind to note down here how we focus on posture with Juliano and if he changed after his chiropractor experience.