06.08.24: Do Not Challenge Tables

The morning came early as usual, and Roscoe was fed and watered, eager for his breakfast.

I somehow lucked out and managed to be in the same remuda again. Kathy is a great leader though, so the discussions were in depth and the details were very good. People were bringing up good points and observations with their horses. Roscoe worked well the previous day. He was still fairly unconfident though, but yet went right into the playground on his own.

We did the "coke bottle communication game" within our group. We paired up and had to use the bottle as a carrot stick to get our partner to do a task. Most things are simple tasks, such as putting your foot on a chair. But without verbal communication and only a bottle to express your desires, it can be a great challenge. It very effectively gives you an appreciation for what your horse struggles through to understand your desires. It also makes you think about how to better break things down so it is easier to understand the task as a whole. It also proves the value of friendly game and releasing pressure at the correct point. Without it, the task becomes so much more stressful and that much more difficult. The probability of succeeding in the task drops way down.

We broke from our remuda and class started in the lodge shortly thereafter. Don taught on how horses learn. The discussion was interesting and very in depth. Horses can only learn when certain aspects of their hierarchy of needs are met. Most important is safety. If the horse does not feel safe, then there will be no learning. To achieve safety requires confidence & leadership. Following that is comfort. The release is what teaches with a horse. Releasing at the appropriate time creates the comfort that the horse needs, and the horse will learn quickly at that point. Following comfort, a horse needs play and then food. Play with humans comes in the form of fun and variety. Without variety, the 7 games become the 7 jobs. Food is used as an incentive not a bribe. It helps to reinforce that the horse did something correctly. One should be very careful that the task does not become an unthinking trick.

Class wrapped up and Don took us out to the Coverall for a demo on teaching horses.

John went first with his horse, Bojangles, teaching him to step up on a pedestal, as well as work over a tarp. Bojangles was highly curious, and very inquisitive to begin with, and he picked up on everything fast. John finally had the pedestal on the tarp with Bojangles stepping up on it happily. After that Don brought in the horse that was a gift from Pat and Linda to him, Frontier. It was amusing that Frontier and Bojangles could almost be a matched set.

Don explained that last session he did the same demonstration with Frontier using food as an incentive for the horse. He explained that he was interested to see how Frontier did since he had done no play since involving the pedestal.

Immediately, Frontier began playing with the tarp, pawing it vigorously, and then even biting it. Don asked him to go to the pedestal, and immediately Frontier climbed up with all four feet. He remembered exactly what the lesson was from weeks before. He got a cookie for that. Don worked with him more, and he gave 110% the entire time. Getting up onto the pedestal was becoming more of a trick to get the cookie than a thinking activity.

So Don changed the game. He removed the line, and put it around Frontier's left front leg and began asking him to lead. Then he asked Frontier to only move that leg. It took Frontier a while to figure out and understand that Don was asking for only the left front leg. Once he picked up on that, Don returned to the pedestal and asked Frontier to put only that foot up on the pedestal. Frontier was a bit over excited still and attempted to fully stand on it again. Don stopped him and it took a while for it to click in Frontier's mind that one foot, specifically just his left front foot was all that Don wanted. He finally understood and was delighted to paw and get a cookie. By then it was lunch and I was delighted to find Michelle waiting. It was great to see her again, and she was excited to hear about Roscoe. Gretchen also stopped by during lunch, which was a pleasant surprise. It was great to talk to them both through lunch and catch up.

We finished up and headed up to the pens to get Roscoe to take him to check out the two saddles that Michelle borrowed. She was pleased to see Roscoe coming over happily in the pen. We took him out to the parking lot and he did much better with his confidence than he had before. Michelle was happy that he was making progress.
We moseyed up to where her truck was parked and Roscoe did well. We tried the saddles on his back and the synthetic seemed to fit the best. When it comes time to ride, I will be sure to get an instructor to go over everything with me to be sure it will work properly.

We brought him back down with the selected saddle and dropped it off at the tack room before putting Roscoe away. Then we made the long trek back to the truck with a quick stop at the office.

We were finally off to town. We decided to have malts first since it was so warm outside. It was good to get off the ranch and we had a great time discussing my notes and talking over things. Getting up to leave the ice-cream shop, I managed to smash my knee right on the kneecap on the post under the table. It hurt like the dickens, though today I have no bruise to show for the pain that I get when I walk down hills. It figures that tables are apparently more dangerous than horses.

It was still quite sunny when we finished our ice-cream, so we decided to walk along the river for a bit. Before we got all the way there the clouds moved in enough that it would make the hot springs comfortable. We checked in and I managed to get the local discount, which is $10.00 instead of $15.00. I just have to bring her local mail next time. We discovered that the clerk is just starting Parelli, which was great.

Michelle and I headed out and wandered around until we finally found the cool pools at 95 degrees. We hung out there for a long time, before we tried out the pool that was 87 degrees which is really nice to swim in.

After a while we decided to check out the 100 degree pool which was really nice. We only had one guy following us around, but luckily his little boy distracted him plenty. We ended up running other people off due to our conversations about artificial insemination, Barbaro, and horse medicine.

We got out after awhile and I hurried back to the ranch to feed Roscoe and get back down to the lodge before dinner was over. Thankfully Lillan and Emma were able to help me out and give Roscoe his feed when it was done soaking. I was just barley in time to grab a few pieces of pizza before dinner ended.

At 8:00 RFD TV is shown on the TV for Pat & Linda's half hour TV show. I was amused because it just so happened to be film from Linda's talk at the tour stop that we attended in Harrisburg, PA. I think my legs were in view a few times. It was interesting to hear it again.

After that was over it was time for the weekly campfire. The space around the roaring fire quickly filled up. It was a delight as always, getting to the point where there were six guitar players, including someone from our class that was a phenomenal player. Pat and Dave Ellis came down, but Linda was feeling a bit under the weather. The singing was still going on after I left, though apparently not for much longer. It was beautiful to watch the lightening down over the valley across the campfire with the brilliant Colorado sky overhead.

This is late today because the computers have been out all morning. Hopefully that won't happen again, I don't want to get my days confused!

Next Page: Friday, August 25, 2006: From One End to the Other