Thursday, December 2, 2010

Left brain (flash) right brain

Interesting session with Duke last night. Played for over an hour. Inspired by some tasks suggested on Parelli Connect (a new social media for Parelli students) I set about to see if:
  1. Duke would put his front feet on a pedestal with me 22' away from him.
  2. Put his hind feet on a pedestal.
Sent him to the pedestal at a casual walk from the end of a 22' line. Both front feet on the pedestal. Check.

Switch to the circling game at a trot and sent him to the pedestal from the end of a 22' line. Steps up and places both front feet on the pedestal. Check. And at a canter on the same line. Check.

With enthusiasm.


Now to work on task #2. Hind feet on pedestal.

This one is gonna take some time.

Started by asking him to back up to the pedestal and just stand next to it. He did and it was so uplifting to see him doing this with ears forward and a happy, engaged expression on his face. Asking questions.

Duke hasn't asked me questions for a long, long time! Is this what being provacative is?

Several attempts made it clear that I needed to stop and step back because at this stage of his learning it was too soon to expect him to place one, let alone two, hind feet on the pedestal. Everytime his hoof touches the pedestal, Duke takes a small step away. He's not sure exactly what I want. So out come the hoola hoops. Make it easy.We'll start with these and work our way up. He never quite got both hind feet in...but he was trying. My communication could have been clearer too, so I'll work on that.

Move on to something else. We can come back to this later.

At this point the most interesting thing happened. Duke went from left brain introvert to right brain extrovert in a flash. He did this performing a task he has performed dozens of times before. Dozens of times, and each time he was calm and rather non-chalant. But last night something was different. We were playing 'follow a feel' on the 22' line. I thought it might be a good way to send Duke off on a circle, rather than using the same old back up cue using rthymic pressure to push him away from me. As I have done before, dozens of times, I slowly placed the rope over Duke's head, then looped it around his body, back behind him and then stood, waiting for him to follow the feel of the rope, turn 180 degrees then face me. Usually he stands straight for a second, then turns his head away from me, bending his body around as he follows the feel of the rope. Usually. Last night he stood there, looking at me, ears foward. Asking. I took up the slack ever so slightly to encourage him to turn his head the other way, which he did, and then BAM! He quickly whirled completely around 180 degrees and began to back away from me. As if in fear. 100% reactive. No calm slow left brain, been there, done that response. This was a complete departure from the norm.

What changed?

Why the change in behavior? I repeated the exercise several times, and each brought about the same response. Stand for a moment, looking at me, then WHIRL around, hooves flying and try to get away. Even Debbie commented how odd his behavior was.

After thinking it over, I got to wondering if the rope resting just above his hocks was causing the problem. So we tried again, only this time I kept the rope higher and let it drape behind his rump. He was better and slower this time, so we repeated the exercise, and again got a slower more confident response from him.

Hmmn, how interesting.

On that positive note we ended the session. I still don't know exactly what caused the big change from left brain to right brain because we've done lots of desensitizing on the hind legs...lead by the hind legs, friendly game, the tarp wrapped around his hind legs and he took it all in stride. Meh. Didn't care, not a bother. Now I have something to think about, and it will be interesting to see what happens when we play tomorrow. Didn't have time tonight, had to get my hair cut, but we'll give it another go tomorrow.

We need to get ready for our Level 2 auditions: on-line and freestyle. If I'm going to reach my goal of passing both by the end of the year.

Come to think of it, I'm seeing a lot more extroverted behavior in Duke these past couple of months. Hmmm.


Parelli Central said...

Hi Dona, great blog post!
You might want to start with asking your horse to walk over the pedestal with you at close range. It took my mare a while to walk over it and actually put one hind foot on it. (in the beginning she tried very hard to miss it with her hind feet). Now she walks over it and steps with both hind feet on it... Eventually the goal is for your horse to stop and keep his hind feet on it.
Hope that helps!

Petra Christensen
Parelli 2Star Junior Instructor
Parelli Central

Dona said...

Hey Petra! Thanks for the tip! I'll give it a go!