Oops, I made the coffee really strong this morning. I like it strong, but today it’s really strong. I almost choked on the first sip I took. LOL. Would you like a cup? Or, just wait a minute, and I’ll make some new for you. You like it strong? Great!
How is your week? Is your work week over? We’ve had another very rainy week. In the beginning of the week it rained so hard, that it felt unsafe to take the freeway to my horse (which I did anyway. Being extremely careful. With my heart in my throat.)
My daughter and I had a great week, school wise. We worked more with our parrot theme, it’s becoming a rather extensive theme. We work in units, projects based on her interests. All the subjects falls under that project. Naturally we do other things as well, but the parrot theme is our main project right now. Besides that, the majority of our math, and science lessons have been in the kitchen this week. Baking, with yeast, and the process of how the yeast works inside the bread is something that fascinates my daughter. I try to break up our lessons with lighter activities in between; art, photography, dancing, and this week jumping in rain puddles!
We started to read a new chapter book, Pollyanna, as a part of our evening reading routine. I haven’t read it before. It came up when I googled; children and gratitude. So far we both like it a lot. I believe it’s the first chapter book we are reading together, causing my daughter to get completely absorbed in the story. I like that a lot! I want so badly for her to treasure books, and be able to read/write really well. I’ve been reading to her ever since I first found out that I was pregnant. I recommend reading Pollyanna with your children, if you have young children. Without encouragement from me, the story makes my daughter reflect over things in her life that she should be grateful for (her health, family, friends etc.) I can tell, since she now brings it up several times a day.
I love being my little girls teacher. It’s the greatest blessing. When she’s with me most of the time (naturally she plays with friends etc.) there’s so many opportunities for meaningful conversations. It means the world to me. I’ve made choices in my life that I’m not so proud over, but my daughter, I am giving her 100%, and I am so proud of her. Since she unexpectedly came into my life she’s been my universe. Don’t get me wrong, I have by no means played the martyr, not indulging in things that I enjoy. That’s not the case, but I have carefully arranged them with a little girl in mind. One of the major things being, only accepting jobs where I can bring her with me. As you can imagine that limits the market quiet a bit. I have never regretted that choice. These years will never come back, and I intend to live every minute of them. She is getting older, and I am now able to do more things, and now I have a wonderful, happy, healthy, well mannered (at least most of the time..lol,) girl by my side. Besides the time together this has also forced me to think outside the box, something that definitely have been most beneficial to me, I know I was a little rigid in my way of thinking.
The rain this week forced me to adjust my training sessions with Ghost a little. I have been going to him twice a day, every day except Tuesday, but our sessions have been shorter than usual. The weather was so bad two days this week, that I wasn’t been able to give him any pasture time at all, for safety reasons. It builds up a lot of energy in a young horse, when he spend lots of time in a stall. I have been taking Ghost on walks around the property, when it’s been safe to do so, and when the indoor arena have been available we’ve been playing there. He’s been taking all this pretty good, but naturally it does effect him. With his mental wellness in mind, I have been taking him out to pasture for a few hours in the am, days when the wind wasn’t too bad, but it rained pretty hard. He doesn’t mind the rain, having lived most of his life in a big pasture. I board him at a place with more than 30 other horses, those days he’s been the only horse out. It still looks like he’s been enjoying it. It doesn’t freak him out to be out alone, as long as he can see other horses. One day when I came to take him in to the stable, we had to walk through a small pond of water, to get out of the pasture. He didn’t hesitate once. I like that about him!
Yesterday morning there was only a light rain, and we played with obstacles in the outdoor arena. I asked my daughter if she wanted to borrow my camera, and help me take some photos for this post. (She accidentally lost her camera during an adventure in Lassen Volcanic National Park. We both got so into the moment that we accidentally left her camera hanging from a limb of a tree.) Photography is one of her favorite subjects, and she loves documenting things. She was thrilled! All the photos below is taken by her. I helped her a little with the settings, I told her what I wanted to document, and we talked about how to frame the photo to get the best results. These are the results!
Having my horse 100% clean is not my first priority. Please don’t mind the mud. I do groom him 1hour day, divided in two sessions, on most days. For circulation, and as bonding time. Days like this..you can’t tell.
Our main focus in everything we do right now, is to take the time it takes, to encounter a challenge in a calm, thinking state of mind. Ghost is a reactive horse, with a lot of flight in him. It takes less than a second for him, to be transport himself to the opposite side of the arena, if he feels to much pressure.
If he wants to stop and investigate something, I encourage that. Curiosity is a much better (and safer) answer to a question (my question here being a request to cross this wooden bridge,) than a NO, flight, or a forced yes.
I purposely choose an obstacles that I knew Ghost wouldn’t have a big reaction to anymore (he had a HUGE reaction the first 100 times we did it,) since my daughter was in the arena with us. After letting him smell the obstacle for a couple seconds, I politely ask him, to cross, by lifting the rope (not pulling.) If this was the first time we encountered this obstacle, I would of taken all the time it takes, even if he needed an hour, or two, to be comfortable. I never stop until there is some kind of progress. He doesn’t need to be completely comfortable with something, but he needs to try his best, before quitting. To always end on a good note is critical, otherwise I’m teaching him to fear things, instead of helping him become braver.
The first time I showed him this obstacle I asked him to stand still and look at it, from a distance of 10 ft. That made him completely freak out 9 weeks ago (I’ve had him 10 weeks. He wasn’t halter broke when I got him.)
The second session I asked him to walk up to it. I planted my feet firmly in the ground. I was very careful to not put pressure on him, more than necessary. I showed him with a slow motion of my hand, while focusing my energy towards the obstacle, what I wanted him to do. He had 25 feet of rope available to him. He spend majority of an hour by the end of it. In the beginning stages I am happy as long as he faces the obstacle. I just stood still, waiting, breathing very slowly, relaxing my body, until he found the courage to try. He did eventually smell the obstacle. I’m telling you the background, to let you know how difficult this was for him, and how he always faces his fears, when given the time to do so. He has a very big heart. I want to honor that.
This is relatively easy for him now. His body is long, and relaxed. His ears are relaxed, his lower jaw is relaxed, his head is below his withers. He willingly said yes. To me that YES, is very beautiful, and most precious.
This is not a dominant horse, and I could of forced him to just cross the bridge. Even that first time, I could of. I’m a human, a predator. He is a horse, a prey animal. It would of been a fast, quick way to do it. I see absolutely no point in that. Then he would be nervous, and afraid, his head would be high. Eventually he would stop trusting me (there’s still a very few people that he lets himself be physically touched by,) and say no to my future requests. I want to make my questions clear, and I want it to be as easy as possible to say yes, when I ask something.
You can never rely on a horse that is educated by fear. There will always be something that he fears more than you. We shall take great care not to annoy the horse and spoil his friendly charm, for it is like the scent of a blossom – once lost it will never return. In training horses, one trains himself.
– Antoine de Pluvinel (1552, Crest, Dauphiné – 24 August 1620.)
I have great respect for this early master of horsemanship. I’ve read his books, and I think it’s amazing that his ancient wisdom is available to us today. I try to keep this quote in the back of my mind, when I feel a tendency to rush things sneaking up on me. I’m my own worst enemy. When I’m able to stay in the moment (easier without distractions..) horses trusts me. Even severely abused ones. Ghost is not an abused horse, just an un-handled, sensitive, young horse.
I love how calmly he crosses the bridge at a slow walk now. During our first session, the very first time he decided he was ready to try to cross the bridge, he jumped over. I just stood beside the bridge. After that he rushed over a few times. Eventually, he started to walk fast over. Now he can walk slow, and even stop on the bridge if asked. That is a big step towards becoming a brave, safe, riding horse, which is my goal.
It makes Ghost braver when he gets to take a good look at things. He wants to see, and fully understand what I ask, before doing something. Then his yes comes much quicker. Slow is usually fast, when it comes to learning new things, and facing fears. Especially with horses.
A horse has to learn everything from both sides. When we mastered walking over the obstacle slowly, away from the barn, we worked on passing over the obstacle towards home (the barn,) without speeding up.
Considering where we started, it is OK that it looks like he’s almost sleeping. He’s not sleeping, he is very aware of where he places his hooves, but he is relaxed, and comfortable with the situation.
I am showing him that I trust him, by giving him a slack (loose) rope, letting him be responsible for his speed, and where he is in relation to me. I trust him, he trust me. Give and take. His body language, ears, and open/kind face tells me that he is feeling very good about this session.
This is my personal favorite, of all the photos my daughter took yesterday morning. Even though I sometimes have to challenge my horse’s comfort zone, to get to the next level, our friendship is still the most important thing to me. I have very specific goals for our training, but to get there fast is not worth loosing our friendship for. Winning a horse trust is an amazing feeling. A reward in itself.
I apologize for the length of this post. (It’s OK if you only looked at the photos.) These Weekly Coffee Share‘s, sometimes inspire a lengthy post. LOL.
I hope that the coffee was OK. Do you want another cup? I’m in no rush to go nowhere. Why don’t you tell me more about your week?
PS. This is my 5 year old daughter’s entry to the weekly photo challenge; I’d Rather Be…. All photos in this post is hers! Given the choice she would document horse stories all day long. I don’t know how on earth she got into horses and photography ..