It was a very good day with horses. Both Dawn and Maisie got worked, and both did very well. First I brought Dawn in, groomed her and then got her ready with her fuzzy-nose halter, surcingle and long lines. She did make some faces at the surcingle, so I didn't tighten it as much this time, which seemed to help. We managed to make several circuits of the barn, a bit on the trail, including going about 50 yards farther away from the barn than we've been yet, with a nicely executed 180 degree turn, and some good figures and turns on the slope behind the barn. We went over the "black snake" - the sump pump discharge hose from the back of the barn - the first time she got a bit fussed and high-stepped it, so we circled back and did it again much more calmly. She's got the idea of going forward and pretty much has stopped trying to dive for grass. I'm able to work her from directly behind or at her side. She's offering up some nice softness at the walk - I can see her back lift when she does. No entanglements this time, which was good.
There are two things I can see right now that need some attention. When she gives to pressure, say with head-lowering, or softens to pressure on the lines, the sequence is: brace, soften abruptly and sometimes to excess (the nose to chest), and then pop the head back to the original position. I believe she is convinced that that's what she's supposed to do, which means I need to only give a release when the quality of the softening as well as maintaining it (without over-achieving, which is Dawn's style) is obtained. We need to work on the softness of the softening, if that makes sense, and on maintaining the softness we get. This will take some work, since she's very sure that what she is doing is correct. I'll have to think of some exercises to help her with this.
The second thing I've noticed is that she wants to rush through things. She halts, and then wants to move off immediately. She backs, and then wants to move forward right away. She doesn't have the concept of waiting for the next cue. This is partially just the stage she's at in developing her attentiveness to me - this is really progressing rapidly but there's more to go - and partly that she's a bit of a worrier and always wants to get on to the next thing. She's always trying to anticipate what she thinks might be coming next - I have to be careful with my sequences of steps to avoid too many repeated patterns since she's so smart that she'll think that a particular sequence of steps is what I want every time. I also think it's time to introduce some of our patience and self-calming exercises, like ground-tying and "just standing around".
But those are adjustments to what is very good work on her part. I continue to find her a delight to work with, and I'm very proud of the progress she's making. We've come a long way together already.
Then to finish off a wonderful horse day, Maisie and I went on another lovely trail ride - in the rain! The sun was just setting, and it went from sprinkling to raining. We used the Dr. Cook's bitless bridle again - it's working very well for us on the trail. We didn't go too far, and took another loop from the way we went yesterday. We repeated our "loving-kindness" meditation exercise on a whole new set of houses we passed (read yesterday's post if you haven't a clue what I'm talking about), and once again Maisie was completely relaxed, despite the wind and the rain - just shaking her head from time to time to get the water out of her ears - she went the whole way there and back on a completely loose rein, and was more relaxed when she was heading back to the barn even than she was on the way out. It was fairly warm, and the leaves that are still on the trees were blowing in the wind - it was beautiful even though we got a bit wet.
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Tomorrow morning, very early, I'm flying to New York to visit my younger daughter at college. It's been a couple of years since I've flown - it's hard to believe that I used to spend 3 to 5 days a week traveling on business, including at least one and sometimes two trips a month to Europe. As a result, I'm a lifetime 1,000,000 mile member on American - there are a few perks that go with that. I got to see and do some amazing thing, but by the end I wasn't just burned out, I was a crispy critter. New York used to be a day trip - 6:00 a.m. flight, a couple of meetings, and then back that night. This time I get to take a whole 3 days and have some fun at it! I'm looking forward to seeing my daughter, and having her show me her campus, and we also hope to perhaps visit a museum and catch a Broadway show, and perhaps see a bit of the New York Marathon, while I'm there. Have a great weekend (may it include horses!) and see you next week!