Thursday, February 26, 2009

Developing Feel and Timing

I have been experimenting with a format to develop feel and timing with our horses. Feel and timing is the element in our horsemanship that wraps everything together. We watch amazing horsemen who have it so naturally. They just know what, when, where and how to be at the right place at the right time.
I would like to present this format to you and have you experiment with your horses and see what results you come up with. I would love your stories and questions.
Here we go...... First of all I want you to think about your communication with your horses in 4 categories. 1.Balance, 2.focus, 3.direction, 4.intention. These are the four elements needed for a good ride. Now take a number system from 1-10. The goal is to have you and your horse be in perfect harmony at a 5 together. For example, if your horse was not focused he may only be offering a 2 in focus (10 being the best). To help your horse you would fill in for him at a 8 in your focus. You might help him focus more with your reins, legs, seat, or line of sight.
What if he was really go-ee , he might have his energy at a 9, you then would relax your body only offering a 1, to help him calm down. This would be adjusting your intention,
This system is the beginning of feel and timing when communicating with your horse. As you develop this skill you will be changing your feel often to help him be with you at that 5.
Lets play with a few more examples... we will use direction. Direction is how you apply your reins. If he can carry himself and stay in rhythm on his own you may be able to ride on a loose rein. If he is pushy you may need to support him with more feel on your reins to slow his feet down. Again you would be adjusting as needed.
If you are off balance on your horse you could be sending him mixed messages. Sitting back might slow him down. Leaning forward may speed him up. Adjusting your seat can bring you both in harmony.
We want our horses to be connected to us, but many times we ride in a way that gives them nothing to connect to.
This format is a moment by moment, stride by stride adjustment to your horse. The format allows you to develop the feel and timing necessary to give your horse what he needs when he needs it instead of just surviving the ride.
I would love to receive you feedback on these ideas. Christa Lynn

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Feel and Timing

Feel and timing is one of those concepts that sound so accomplished and yet we fumble in our minds with what it really means . We are all striving for it with our horses and yet talk about it with such mystery. How do we contain it. Is there a way to put these graceful words into a format or easy steps to follow.
Feel and timing are one of the most important ingredients in our horsemanship. It must come through in our lives before it can come through to our horsemanship.
Feel and timing should be what embraces our dreams, decisions, communications and how we roll up the hose.
Our horses are the ultimate example of feel and timing. They plan everything and yet make many decisions with no plans. They understand to survive they must feel the moment and time the action.
Feel and timing can only be attained when you are in the moment. If you are in the past or in the future you will not have the exact feel that you need for the moment you are in.
If you are in the moment you will have the timing you need exactly when you feel it.
We must abandon all cants, wont's, dont's and buts and allow our selves to give the present all that it deserves.
I invite your thoughts on feel and timing in your life. I love to share some practical ways to use this in your personal situation. Christa Lynn

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Question and Answer on going through the creek

I got another great question from jane augenstein regarding her horse struggling to go through a ankle deep creek.
Hey Jane, it sounds like you have been very devoted to working through this problem with your horse. That is why I hope my answer will maybe shed some new light and open your thoughts to another angle of looking at this problem. I read your question very carefully and thought about how your horse may be interpreting this situation.
When approaching a problem we have to find the root of what is really going on from the horses point of view before we can find the best way to help your horse.
We are predatory and our horses are prey. That sounds like horse 101 but how does that apply in this case. We view the ankle deep creek as something simple for them but horses do not have good depth perception and sometimes cannot judge if it is a black whole 50 ft deep or a simple creek that takes 3 strides to cross. If he were on his own he would probably choose to go around it.
All that being said is the creek your problem at all? In your question you stated several times that you were concerned if you would be able to stay on and ride out what ever came up.
Your horse may be interpreting your concerns as you not having confidence in him. He knows when ever you approach that creek together that your feeling in him changes and in yourself. Our natural response is to tighten and stop breathing when we are unsure. Your horse may be trying to get a way from that feeling of your confidence changing more than the creek.
I say that because you mentioned when you get off and walk him he is fine. When you get off you remove that pressure from him and yourself and you take leadership. He then has no problem following you through the creek.
You also mentioned when you up the pressure through aids he really over reacts. Again that is more pressure on pressure.
My advice is to try an new angle. I would pretend the creek is a non issue for awhile. Start by doing what you have done successfully the next few times. Get off and walk him through it. Show him you are a confident leader , even if it is on the ground.
After you do that a few time try riding him around the creek if there is room like that is exactly what you planned. Your goal right now is to stay relaxed and confident around the creek at all costs. He wants to please you so set it up for success.
Once you have accomplished that a few times in a row then try and get closer to the creek, just wait for him to stand quietly pointed at it , if he does that then just pass it by again as a reward. The next time get a little closer to it and see if he will just drop his head and sniff it. Then pass by. Then ask for a foot, and so on, yes this will take time but you are building confidence.
All of those behaviors he was having are defensive so we are taking away the fight and rewarding each try. If you follow this idea he will walk through the creek on his own. .
Set up the right answer and wait. So many times our horses Begin to try and give us something and we add to much pressure to quick and then they shut down or like your horse back up and get agitated.
You are not the looser if you give him ways to win, like getting off or going around. Your proving to him you care about his confidence and want him to feel good about what you are asking him to do.
Remember reward each step toward the creek by taking off the pressure. This could take 10 times or more but the results in trust and confidence in you and your horse will last a life time.
Please let me know how this goes or if you have any more questions. I cant wait to here.
christa Lynn

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Question and Answer

I got a great question from Pony Girl tonight on catching her horse and bringing up the life in him with out using spurs. These are great questions and are the foundation of our relationship with our horses.
So here we go.......The first thing to remember in catching our horses is to keep in mind that we by nature are predatory. Although our intentions are good we think like a predator. A predator would have a direct thought like "I need to catch my horse." The horse then feels the pressure of that. We spend a lot of time teaching them to move away from pressure and by nature they would move a way from direct pressure.
When I go into a pen with a horse I change my presentation and body language to acting as if I am not even interested in catching him. My shoulders and breath come way down. My eye contact changes to a space on the ground near him. As I approach I will walk towards his shoulder. If I see him begin to move away at any time I stop my approach and immediately walk away. This may take a couple of approaches but soon you will see your horse starting to become curious in you, and that's what we want.
He will start to realize that he is wasting energy running from you. Once you see him start to drop his head and lick his lips hes thinking instead of reacting. You are going to use this approach and retreat method for as long as it takes the first few times.
I suggest you have the halter and lead rope in your hand but keep it down by your side. You should be able to get closer each time. The secret is not catching him but releasing the pressure every time he moves or gets tense.
Once you get where you can touch him with your hand on his shoulder immediately walk away. Try and be the one to initiate that first before he moves. Walk away about 5 steps and then slowly but surly move back towards him and touch his shoulder for a little longer. repeat these steps.
Each time you walk away and re approach you touch a place closer and closer to his head. Don't even think about putting the halter on until you can touch him with the halter all over these areas. If you visualize that you are just brushing him with the halter like you would a brush you will present the halter in a non threatening way.
This could take many sessions so plan on taking the time it takes to build a solid trust in this area. Once you are able to halter him again take it off immediately and walk away. You may even give 5 minute breaks between a really big break through. Horses learn and are rewarded when the pressure is off. Once you are able to halter him reward him by taking it off and being done for the day with that session or leading him to a great grooming session or walk.
When we are working with our horses we are always training for tomorrow. If we put a lot of pressure on our horses after they have made a break through like being caught then many times they don't absorb the catching lesson they are on to anticipating the next turn of events.
Each task we are teaching our horses are separate thoughts and concepts to them because they see things in small pictures. Our goal is to ultimately put all of those pictures together but we have to slow down and make each one solid. If we can bring out the curiosity in our horses then we wont be catching them they will be catching us.
The second question is about bringing up the energy in a lazy horse with out using spurs. It is important to remember horses don't like to waist their energy unless there is a important reason. So the first thing is to create in your mind the focus of exactly what you want. Pick a focus spot a head of you and fix your eyes on that goal.
If we look at our horses or stop breathing we will bring our energy down and our horse will match that. So bring your energy up make sure your breathing and send down the intention of life you want him to have. You can cue you horse with a bump of your legs but quickly open them and release his energy. Imagine releasing a handful of doves. you may need to bump and release a few time until he makes a change. Try and reward the slightest change in him by releasing the pressure in your body. If he dies down start again. You may get 2 lively steps and then reapply cue, then maybe 5, soon he will carry more life. We want our horses to match our life so using focus and intention gives him something to follow. Once he starts walking with life remember to move with. him. At the walk his barrel moves left to right make sure you allow you legs to move with that movement. If you tighten when he is trying to move out you will shut him down. At the trot he also moves side to side. Let your hips follow his hips and he will enjoy the ride. I have many more suggestions on this subject but would encourage you to start here. I would love to here how this goes and then we can add some more ideas. good luck.
Christa Lynn

Monday, February 9, 2009

Straight from the horses mouth

Have you ever wondered what our horses would say to us if they could talk. Would they tell us they are here to make us look great? feel in control of our lives? feel warm and fuzzy when we give them a carrot and put their blankets on them for a cold night? or would they share with us that they are the safest way to look into our own souls.
Horses have no agendas and yet our daring enough to be completely honest with us. Their responses to us are many times a reflection of what is going on inside of us. We usually try and change that in our horses because those behaviors are not pleasing to us. We blame them, the tack, the last trainer, last owner and search for equipment to mask the behavior.
What if we listened to them and thanked them for showing us a glimpse into our own being. Wait a minute that would mean we would have to look at ourselves.
If we could look at ourselves and consider that we may be the mirror they are reflecting we could begin to make changes in our responses and by changing our hearts it might go down through our hands and onto our horses.
The softness in our hearts might bring out the softness we are all looking for in our horses. You may ask how is what your are saying practical ? How can I use these thoughts in my training with my horse?
I have some great answers to ponder and put to practical use. I would love to stimulate your comments to this post. Please ask questions and tell me your story about you and what problem you are having right now with your horse. Keep it to the point and I will answer questions and give practical ways to make some changes that will amaze you and your horse in my next post.

Christa Lynn

Sunday, February 8, 2009

upcoming ideas

Lots of great new horsemanship conecepts coming your way. Cant wait to get started blogging.

This is my first Post! cowgirl on the porch

This picture represents my fun side. I love to seek out the positive in any situation. I am willing to see life in a way that i can grow from and become wiser and stronger.
I love seeing the best in others and animals. I tell myself that if I can give my self the grace I give others I could do anything. I strive for my personal best and try and motivates others around me to do the same.

Giddy up, Christa Lynn