Archive | April 2013

The Honeymoon is over so I am ridin in Sticky Seat Riding Britches




Today was our ( Cato’s and mine) second *getting left behind* lesson; I don’t know how you all choose your riding clothes…. but I consider the weather, which horse I am riding, which saddle I am using,  and then which ones fit best. Primarily, if I think that becoming unseated is a possibility at any time? I choose my plum colored Sticky Seat britches that I bought 2010 Mt Adams ride….that sticky seat does not allow my butt to move much in a slick saddle. Guess which britches I wore today?  for the *amp it up, rev it up lesson*??? yeah….you got it… STICKY SEAT! 

Today we amped up the threshholds; amped up the volume, pushed Cato’s little brain buttons….. Thinking *oh heck he’s gonna be TIRED after yesterday and will be a good boy and listen and be grateful to be working slow and with no sweat*…… Hahahahahaha, NO WAY! On the way out, he does a spooklet about bird fluttering… BIRDS fluttering. Jeez Cato…. where is your brain? Oh. Wait. it is back in the horse trailer.  HE FORGOT TO BRING HIS BRAIN TO THE LESSON!!!! And, it occurred to me that our Honeymoon is OVAH!  Big Time…. he knows he has to work and he is done bein’ good for goodness’ sake…. I have to RIDE him. REALLY ride him.

Us teachers know all about that Honeymoon period of teaching and learning where you can capitalize on the novelty effect for a little while until the relationship becomes REAL.  This is reality, not fantasy anymore. I have to now fall back in love with the REAL Cato, and he with me.

Ok, then…… Celena taught me lateral moves, circles in 8’s, not spins, but circles until he drops his head and then make an 8 by going in the other direction. The main point was to re-engage (read, *go back to the trailer and insert your brain now, pony boy!*.)  He responded really well to the lateral work on the trails, and the circles. Then Celena had me do one rein stops, laterals, and 8’s while she bombed around on the horse she was riding. IF you cannot do laterals on  the trail to mix up the feet pattern, that’s when ya GOT TROUBLE!

We made Cato walk softly the whole time she did that…He got a tad amped up about being passed, but  not badly….one rein stop, re-engage, learned to not allow him to walk on until he stopped and waited for his cue to walk on.  He did REALLY well at that…. REALLY well. I had to remember to stay soft, not brace, and *hug him with both legs*.

Celena ran past us while we *whoaed* and ate… Cato did pretty well with that but I really always got the feeling that if I had not been *brain on hands on legs on* with him? Things might have gone a tad awry right then.

The main lesson in all of the work today was *good behavior always with the lightest possible response when behavior is bad; don’t make the correction any BIGGER than it HAS to be*.  Cato behaves fairly well until……….

[This is a bit like that *intermittent car problem*; you know, when you take the car in and you say to the mechanic, * it does this when I do that* but the mechanic cannot replicate what you are saying the car does…… ya know? the mechanic has to be able to *see and feel* the problem themselves*]

and THEN?????????? yeah…. the* OMG they disappeared* part of the lesson. Celena would pass us/bombing past us going fast and YELLING :-)…. and keep on agoin’ and go HIDE behind a tree ( because I told her of his whack behavior– going sideways on the trail– yesterday when Sue got outa sight). We played that several times and he actually let loose with a small pop sideways and a *snake of the neck*. Which, actually, is a GOOD thing under these controlled circumstances….. so Celena can *see* what he does ( really she had to reply on me telling her cuz she really was up the trail hidin’). Cato lost it a bit… small snaky neck pop up…. lateral and circle did NOT work, or they did not work as well as they had been…. So, we did the turn around, and TROT away. Hahahaha, he SO did NOT want to go the other way. Much resistance….So, there I was, wide hands, legs on– hugging… set to make him go forward and ready for him to *squirt out to one side or another*. READY…..he did not WANT to go forward, but I insisted and after two or three little whiny, * I don’ wanna*’s ( think 6 year old boy whining at decibel 11 * I DON’ WANNA GO THAT WAY I WANNA GO THAT WAY, THE WAY THE BLACK HORSIE AND CRAZY BLONDE WOMAN THAT WAS YELLIN WENT*…..  I corrected him twice, once one direction and then the other across the trail, and then we lined out in a lovely trot away….( like he forgot what he was upset about??? hmmmm) we did that several times and then rewarded him with getting to lead…. he was still a  bit amped up, on the way back to the barn and it took me some laterals, flexions of his neck,  my legs on to get him to relax and move out….and eat and relax…..

 This was good because we were able to push Cato over his tolerance threshhold and find out where he really loses it and it is now seeming to be when that horse in front goes outa sight. Boom…. goes the brain, out his ears.  We may find other places because next time? amping it up again and see what happens…..

Again, I cannot stress this enough—- Celena is teaching me that the the checks and corrections are NOT Punishments– they are a check and correction because you want the horse to LOVE his job, yeah, duh…. but, if you  make it all a big deal, and make it sadness-causing, the horse will know he is gonna get punished and react against that ahead of time and learn to hate being ridden ( no no no not that!). Celena kept telling me to be as soft as possible, do the correction, reward him, lift, support, correct using many many MANY different tools; as many as you have in your tool box…. when ones does not work, use a different one… Because,she says, if you overuse a tool, the horse can easily turn the corrective action into an excuse for more bad behavior. Huh…. interesting. 

My goal is to have fun riding Cato, but ensure that he does not become unsafe when he thinks he has been abandoned on the trail. Celena said as we finished, * I count that as a success, you were successful in defusing his amped up behavior, and Cato needs this a lot, she emphasized….*he needs someone to realize what is happening when he amps up a small bit, correct the smallest amping up softly so he does not escalate*… Sounds a bit like the Poker tell I was talking about earlier….

Much to think about…. much to practice…. Cato is looking good and eating well he gets some time off of being ridden to think about it all and a Massage and stretches. He worked hard today TOO! Good Boy, Smart Boy Cato….!  

Check out the garmin player link…. you can see the jigs and corrections and back forth parts of the lesson on the Griffinwood trails!





Cato, 2nd *getting left behind* lesson with Celena Pentrak

Cato, 2nd *getting left behind* lesson with Celena Pentrak

If you follow the garmin record, on the player, the little jigs on the way out are *spooklets*; the jigs in the line on the way back are *stopping and being rewarded by eating grass*. More details in the text blog…

The Bit…… suspend your disbelief for a second…

Do you believe in magic? I do, now…… went to the barn… got Cato…… and the wind kicked up some GIANT gusts….. omg. I am watching Cato’s mane and tail ( heavy black hair) FLY in the wind. We get into the indoor arena and the sounds the wind is making is like a dying wild animal…. or someone dropping giant chunks of concrete on the metal roof– you know the sounds. Everything that CAN flap, is flapping wildly in the wind. Cato and do our arena at liberty work; he is in attentive, spooking once or twice every ring around the small indoor arena and… I HAD planned to meet Sue Preston to ride at JBLM– a giant plain and forests wide open to the world bounded by ROADS and military stuff on every side…. Hmmm. I tap my mental finger on my chin… and so starts the self-talk, that leetle voice in my head– you likely have one too..

* should I really do this?* * would a smart person get ON this horse today or bag the plans?*  What should I do?????????   I look at Cato, I count the days left that I have with him and I ask myself * what do Cato and Amanda need most from me?*. My answer? They need Cato to be ridden under EVERY possible circumstance, under any kind of conditions, and just deal with whatever comes. Ok, then, we are GOING. I confess to a small bit of Tummy Twitters– otherwise known as the butterflies. Now, here is where the magic comes in… bit ( hahahah BIT) of a backstory– recall that Celena Pentrak changed bits on Cato at our first lesson? you ask, what did Eileen do with Amanda’s bit? I actually remembered to get it near my truck and trailer… but, I tossed it on the metal toolbox… and then after the lesson I drove away, forgetting about the bit; dammmmmiT!  I confess to Amanda…. and start looking to replace her bit…….we chat, she says to wait n see……. sage advice. Because when I walk by Cato’s stall away from home at Maple Tree Stables? his bit is hangin on his stall halter holdre; I do a double take, REALLY? can I get that LUCKY? Wheeeeee! Turns out Bernie found it when walking Kai, his lovely Corgi doggy in the neighborhood!!!!! I am SAVED!!!! and I take it as a good omen  that JBLM is gonna be a GRAND ADVENTURE….. Cato loads like a champ and we are on our way. The wind gusts about the truck and trailer as we make our way through Lacey and out to JBLM, I gnaw my lower lip- How MUCH do I want to trust my good bit omen? Then, I remember something someone reminded me of recently— that horses will feed off my energy…. OOPS! If I expect Cato to be bad, he will be bad. IF I, however, expect Cato to be good and do what I say, well that is what shall happen instead!  Yeah, so about Rich Road, I start self-talk again…Cato will do everything I tell him, I will be able to stay on during any spook-o-rama and we WILL WILL WILL have a great time; I mean, the sun is shining….. how cool is THAT!  We arrive at TA 22, one of my newest fave places to ride as it fast, flat and well-drained and excellent footing! Cato and I get dressed; the wind is HOWLING and GUSTING, oh well, can’t be helped…. he seems fine! 32 HR….. he is NOT upset….. more about Cato’s upset HR later…. and away we GO!  I know Cato’s not very fit yet as he huffs and puffs on hills… we shall see how he does on the flat.

We set off and immediately Sue gets a phone call– ironically, this is my friend Sue, whom I have know for a long long long time who used to say she hated that we carried cell phones….. and since she has now started her business Vet in Motion, Mobile Vet, Sue has a new cell phone and she stops and tries to take the call…. 🙂 yeah, I’m smiling…. we start out, again… and Cato? has decided he does NOT want to walk through puddles. OMG…. REALLY? Seriously you huge galoot of a horse? I JUST bragged about what a great trail horse you are and that you *goe where I point you* and you pull  this NOW? Humph, no way Cato….. you ARE going through the puddles, for heaven’s sake!… and we did and he did. Hmmmph! Sheesh, horse. and off we  trot….. planning 10+ miles…we head down trails that we have never done before — if you see the map and follow our tracks, we went down every turn, and came back when stopped by tree-fall. Then,we found ourselves on a road that *felt* like it would take us back to the trailers, but I was uncertain whether it would and since I had a class to teach….. we opted to go back and hit a trail we knew would take us back. So, all this time, I am grabbing mane, because, IF Cato decides to  Mega SPOOK at speed, I am unsure if I can ride it, so, I grab mane SHAMElessly. Until I really get to know this horse? I shall grab mane at speed….as an extra precaution.  He does little spooklets at …. yeah, wood on the ground… yeah…. wood on the ground. But, as I told Amanda, he gave himself away when I dropped something important on the ground and had to get off to get it and had to find SOMETHING to get me in the air more to get back on…. I chose a giant log stump and the damn thing rolled OUT from underneath me on to Cato’s front feet and he….. wait for it………. WAIT for it…… and he JUST STOOD there! ah HA! a giant log almost rolls on TOP of you and you do NOTHING? and then you try to tell me you want to spook at a much smaller log, further away from you… on the way by? YOU are SO HOSED big guy

:-)….I have your number BIG time! No excuses at ALL….. NONE! 🙂  bwahhahahaha hahahahahah; as a former high school teacher, I do enjoy that moment when you get something over on someone and they know you know…. 🙂 yeah….I don’t actually play chess? but I think I play *horse chess* really well….  

Mostly, though….. we are trotting in lovely flowing strides through a lovely park-like place, gettin’ some miles on the boy…. as Amanda, his mom, requested we do. 

One of  the things I love about JBLM are the lovely glades of green grass where horses can gnosh on green grass in the sun…. while riders can relax a bit…. This last bit ( bit!!!)  I told Sue I wanted her to lead…. and then I increased the distance between us little by little…. at the point she went out of sight is when Cato’s HR went boing boing boing pound pound pound pound… omg…. he is physiologically reacting to the other horse being gone. We did one nose to kneee and he settled down…… then after the last greengrass break I told Sue I was gonna walk Cato in; she asked if I would be *OK* if she trotted in….. I said, *maybe, we shall see*. When she left him his heart started pounding AGAIN! That is amazing….. he really is going into *fight or flight response* good to know! So, based on Celena’s training we walked the OTHER way, easily, no big deal….. push through and use the resistance. until the HR came down….. then we easily  and slowly, so so so CHILL….. like Celena said….turned around and walked in. at 5min after coming in he was at HR 52. I was delighted, I was happy, I was sparkly eyed. WE  DID IT! YEAH, ARM PUMP!  and we did not die or anything close to it; Amanda got 16miles on her big guy at an average of 6.1 mph…. not too bad considering everything, eh? Here’s  our link, route and map…. ENJOY!


JBLM TA 22 Cato and the Fort….

Cato gets to rock JBLM on Monday April 29 with Sue and Lucky……

TA 22 is OPEN…… flat fast and furious…. I hear there are coyotes out there…. they better stay outa the way!

Neighing when he sees me….

When I was in high school. I kept a journal…. that journal was filled with my thoughts and feelings and my super secret thoughts. I still have those journals and when I read them now, 40 years later; I am struck by the essential need I had, back then, of *being noticed, being liked and being somebody*, but mostly being noticed by BOYS! Yes, BOYS! every page is filled with *so and so NOTICED me today, I am so in loooooove*..   Guess what? I get that same gooey feeling when Cato comes trotting across his borrowed paddock and NEIGHS at me when I yell *Hey CATO*. he NEIGHS…. I don’t know natural horsemanship, I am not trained by Ray Hunt, or Pat Parelli, or anyone else that has a name that anyone would recognize. I don’t know all the little moves that others know about how to *get your horse to….* fill in the blank. I don’t understand Chi, yeah, I read the books. I did, really. BUT, I do know that horses LIKE me and I do know that this big buckskin guy likes me! That is an incredible feeling….. this horse whom I uprooted from his pastoral home in Woodinville, and brought to Olympia, WA, seems to really enjoy it here and enjoys hangin out with me. He nuzzles my neck and closes his eyes when I scritch his ears…. he asks for carrots and pets. He leans on me when we are just hangin out…. and nickers at me when I go see him in the barn to tuck him into bed. He is Amazing….. he communicates so MUCH all the time. Amanda, you are so lucky to have this guy…. and I am so lucky to be allowed to hang out with him. Next on the menu is *more miles*. Mr. Cato is not very fit…. so 10 miles, all at the trot… easy and steady…… with Heart Rate measures. His resting HR is 32 that I can tell…. and usually after a work out he is at 40 after 15 min…. not bad, he sweats and huffs and puffs a lot but he has loads of energy and EAGERLY goes forward, through all kinds of trail challenges. ( had him knee deep in mud at Griffinwood, That clay sucky mud,,,, the clay that sucks shoes off and he was fine…. just slogged through it and then we cleaned up in the creek). He goes where I ask him to go, thus far.

Brown Panties, Green patches on knees


IMG951782This morning, I was a tad..ahem…… nervous. All I could remember was that giant snaking head of Cato’s disappearing from view and his hind end popping up @ 9mph trot!!!! Can I handle him when that happens again? What do I do? I know Celena can help me but I really think she needs to have a *simultaneous feedback system* so that when he DOES somethin; she can just talk in my ear and tell me exactly what to do. First, show up at the barn and exercise Chancey. When I go to catch Cato, I yell * Caaaatoooo* and he NEIGHS at me… and comes on over. He is being very responsive and it gladdens my heart. That means he is enjoying what we are doing even if some of it is Cato Discipline. Head over to Griffinwood wearing brown panties, you know, just in case I crap my pants in fear or Cato causes me to … well, you know. JUST IN CASE! There was so much I learned today….. both Cato’s and my brains were full….. so I am pretty sure I will forget something. We get there an hour early…we work in the arena, walk, trot canter, bend, circles, side pass, weave through poles, do cavaletti, weave around in and out of barrels, lovely work out he is listening. He moves so darn big that I lose my stirrup twice at the canter, but am able to pick it back up at the canter. No use for brown panties, yet, But….. it’s coming….. what will he do? can I handle it? what happens if…. will we die? will he dump me? The arena work? That is the the round and round on the garmin player track. 

First thing Celena does is change bits from the loose ring snaffle to a full cheek comfort snaffle….. so I can do *one rein stops* on the trail; she is afraid the loose ring snaffle will just pull through his mouth. He seems to do really well with the full cheek snaffle and I can DO one rein stops really well and have the green patches on the knees of my britches to PROVE that we pretty much did one reins stops during the whole lesson. Celena asks me *about Cato, tell me about Cato*. I related my experiences with Cato thus far…. especially the experience last Saturday with the *head snake* and *butt pop*…… So, after a chat about horse and herd mentality and appropriate attention to the rider 🙂 ( yes, it IS all about US, the rider) we proceed to the trails at the lovely Griffinwood Stables 100 acres of omg paradise trails….. and Celena on Rosie and Paige on Addie help by being distractions for Cato. We start with Cato standing still while Paige and Celena trot by him and we watch what he does. Celena teaches me two strategies: one rein stop and going the other direction at strategic times…. with the fine tuning of *using Cato energy correctly* and re-engaging Cato’s brain. We did Cato leading, Celena leading, Celena leaving us on the trail, 1,2,3 4 horse lengths ahead and then OUT OF SIGHT AROUND THE CORNER…. OMG! Cato perked up his ears and started looking around….. one rein stop, hey big guy, look to your rider here….and again, leave him, pass him, leave him, pass him, let him lead; face to face, pressure ON; pressure OFF, Pressure ON, Pressure OFF. Ask him to do the right thing, reward him, ask him to do the right thing, reward him, one rein stop, go the other way. Must do it immediately so Cato knows that he MUST look to his rider for direction ALWAYS! ALWAYSALWAYSWALWAYS. He never really needs to decide stuff by himself. He has a Partner…. and it is a partnership, with two-way communication ALWAYS! Celena then proceeds to *walk away* from Cato telling me that as SOON as he shows any tendency towards losing it, to either go the other way or do a one rein stop. Ok, we can do that….. I feel so awkward….but the goal is to get the big guy thinkin’ about his rider to the point where he will *ask* his rider, *hey what should I do?*… He has a combination of *jerk horse behaviors* and * high energy horse behaviors* that need to be addressed ( Um, Like all horses???? Cato is no different than any other horse, no worse, no better, he is a HORSE!). We work on that with varying degrees of separation at the walk and slow trot,passing, them leaving him, him passing them, him standing still while they go BY him….having him whoa while other horses go by him and by him again…… I have realized that with Cato? it is all about learning his *tells* like in Poker. I don’t know him very well yet, but, I think he starts amping up small then it gets bigger over time. So, I must STOP it as soon as it starts; not assuming that if it is small it will stay small. With Cato, it will not stay small….. At some point in the lesson I realize he looked around to ask me, * hey is it OK if I go fwd, look…they are…*. OMG. That is so COOL! Ok he is listening. The other strategy is to turn him around to make him go the other way….. and then come back….. Interesting, that. Because Cato has absolutely no resistance to going the other way, *OK let’s GO, even if it’s away from the other horses*, I need to watch for the resistance to push through it…. so if you watch the Garmin player you will see us going back n forth until his head drops with the pressure of a horse and rider at either end… on the trail, heading back to the barn, etc. Celena said * and you need to do this whenever you are riding with other people, do this with ALL horses, all the time, they ALL need it to re-engage with their rider. We worked hard for a good amount of time and then called it GOOD and Cato and I went home. He had a bath, some treats, a roll and he has on his new buckskin fly mask… pretty darn handsome! This evening, Peter and I stop by the barn to say hi…Peter, who is non horsey to the max? Says * hmmm, nice lookin horse* 🙂 High praise indeed! Tomorrow, Cato gets a day off while I ride Chancey pants! I look forward to getting on the big Cato horse…..and I want that to continue and will work concertedly hard to have that happen! Thank you Amanda for the privelege of riding your boy.

This lunch time, went to check on the Cato

This lunch time, went to check on the big buckskin guy…… he was happily grazing in his paddock but he came over when called; to get a carrot and an ear scritch and some nuzzle time. I notice he takes his time to eat—- he *grazes* on everything, including his morning and evening gruel, hay and grass…. he is a kid at a buffet— * let me try some of that next*. By the time he comes in for the evening he is done with breakfast and by the time he gets put out for the day he is done with dinner but he does NOT wolf his food…. interesting. For an endurance horse, that habituation of eating routine is interesting.  Is he the same at a ride? In the evenings; I am used to getting Bella and Chancey nickers.  This evening?  OMG, walked into the barn and a giant buckskin nicker erupted from Cato….he said * hello* . I actually teared up……. he NICKERED at me!!!! I am in Loooove!  Chancey does that too…. Bella is a love and nickers a *hello*. But, Cato and I are so new to each other…. wow, I am honored. a NICKER! and it was so obviously FOR me that it was no mistaking it. My barn owner and barn mate noticed…… * he likes you* they said. You know, he might…… But, I also know that may or may not translate to good behavior on the morrow. We shall see……but, I am ready. I get so nervous….. and so excited to ride the big guy.  My barn owner Bernie said this evening * That is a GOOD horse, he has a great personality, I LIKE him*. 🙂 Amanda, that should make you feel really good! He is a love…..and is worming his way into our hearts and lives as he did with you and your life and home.

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