Monday, June 28, 2010

Centered Riding Clinic w/ Deb Moynihan

In one word AWESOME!  That said, it was THE hottest day of the year so far.  94 degrees with 72% dew point.  It was hot and humid.  The saving grace was the breeze....the one advantage of being near the river.  We arrived at our old boarding barn about 10 minutes prior to the clinic start, but there were still another 4 horses that needed to arrive.  I expected G to whinney as we came down the driveway, as he usually does when we arrive at a new place.  Not today.  He walked off the trailer, down the drive, into the barn and into his old stall without a peep.  He knew it as home I guess. 

The ground portion of the clinic started around 9:30 and the two hour lecture was crammed into 90 minutes due to the late arrivals.  Deb was pleased with such a great turnout for a Monday.  We had 14 horse/riders and 5 auditors.  We all introduced ourselves with a quick "discipline, what I want to walk away with today, etc." we got the run down on what centered riding is:
  • Breathing - and breathing properly.  How to use your diaphram and how using it correctly or incorrectly effects your horse.
  • Soft eyes - using your peripherial vision; finding visual awareness.  How staring and or fixating effects the ride.
  • Building Blocks - aligning the rider improving straightness, balance, and unimpeded movement.
  • Centering - finding you core and learning how to use it for strength, power and control. 
She touched on the same principles as I've been reading about in The Breathing Book.  One being that adults stop breathing correctly for a variety of reasons.  The author of TBB, Diane Farhi states that as adults we learn to hold in our stomachs in order to try and look trim.  Rather than doing the right core exercises to have a strong core, we try to mimic one.  What that does is collapse the core which in turn limits your diaphragm from working correctly.  This is one of the things I've been working on - it's hard to retrain your body to breathe properly.  Deb says a good way to know what good breathing is, is to listen to your partner breathe while they're sleeping , as the body is breathing naturally with no interference.

Deb asked us all to stand and asked us all to take a deep breath.  She then asked how many of us felt our shoulders move upward.  95% of us did.  She then had us take a deep breath in while pushing out the diaphragm and no one's shoulders rose.  So when we take shallow breaths, we stiffen our bodies without realizing it.  

Soft eyes she went into a little deeper when the riders sat on the exercise ball.  Most riders have a tendency to fixate their eyes on something.  Usually the horse's mane or its ears.  Strangely enough when we stare or fixate on something, we stop breathing.  Stop breathing, we tense. 

While we were standing she had us all put our thumb on our belly buttons and the back of our other hand on our back directly across from our thumbs.  Deep inside the body is your center.  This is where your strength and power comes from.

One at a time she asked the first two riders to sit in a dressage saddle perched on top of an exercise ball.  I thought sitting on one of these balls was tough enough, but to watch Deb J finding her balance, it looked tough.  Here's a pic of Deb M and Deb J.

Once Deb J found her balance, Deb M (the clinician) placed her hands on the rider's shoulders and said "don't help" I'm going to move you.  With that she gently pushed down on the riders shoulders to mimic a walk; then a trot.  With each step the ball would collapse a little and then return to normal.  She then asked the rider to stop breathing.  When she tried to push down, the rider and ball did not move.  She did a few other little tests like asking the rider to curl their toes.  In this instance rather than a straight up and down movement at the trot, the movement became more erratic and the rider bobbed a little to the left a little to the right, etc.  When the rider curled her right toes her body would bob to the left; and to the right when she curled her left toes.  Wild!  With the second rider she asked her to fixate on one of the auditors and when she did, Deb could not move her.  Again, the rider stopped breathing when she stared at the subject.  No breathing = tense body; tense body = no movement.  

The next exercise she had us partner up with another person - one being the horse, one being the rider.  The rider placed their hands on the rib cage of the horse, mimicing the legs.  The horse shut their eyes and let the hands guide their direction.  Deb asked the riders to do different things as they directed the horses.  One, stop breathing.  Two, stare at something.  Three, collapse your shoulders, etc.  I started out as the horse and it was amazing as I would feel tenseness or too much pressure in my ribs and react.  It was interesting to hear each time I would stop or hesitate to hear what the rider had just done.   We then changed places to get a sense on how what happens in our bodies effects our entire bodiea s and how it translates to the horse.  

Have a clear objective when you ride.  When you have clear objectives, it helps to give clearer cues and direction to the horse.  So often riders are giving mixed messages because they don't have any direction when they ride.  No direction = confused horse.

I could kick myself as I didn't bring a notepad, so there was a lot of little things I'm forgetting for sure.  Guess I need to repurchase Sally Swift's Centered Riding book to pick up on it.  Good reason why not to sell your books!!! 

I didn't get many pics, and didn't ask anyone to take one of us (I know stupid) but it was just too hot and I really didn't want to ask Mary (the clinic organizer) to do one more thing, lol.  So here's one of the other few pics I took.  Deb J and Rebecca on Racie & Patticake with Deb Moynihan.  Oh and the new mirrors on two of the walls - wish those were there when we were!

We got to ride with Abe & Margaret who was one of the pairs we used to trail ride with here and there.  Deb M has never worked with a gaited horse so she wasn't quite sure how to handle it.  She had a hard time grasping the "my horse doesn't trot under saddle" statement.  Instructor:  "You mean he doesn't know how to trot?" Me, "No, he knows how to trot, we just don't do it under saddle.  When we ask for more speed we get flat walk, step pace, rack or running walk. He does a beautiful trot at liberty and on the lunge line."  Instructor: "So why wouldn't you want him to trot under saddle".  Me "I bought a gaited horse so I would never have to post again lol".  Okay, we got past it.  I was amazed that she asked me to correct two things.  One - I allow myself to collapse my core by collapsing my sternum.  So she asked me to bring it up, but not in a military fashion like I had a pencil up my back.  Now I'm sitting taller, my sternum is open and I'm breathing freely.  She then asked me to start thinking 1-2-3-4 in a nice even tempo.  I did.  Not so fast she said.  Start with a slower tempo.  As I did this G seemed to relax a little and I thought I noticed his tempo being more even.  I then brought up the tempo in my head and he started to walk faster.  Here I felt G stiffen a bit and he felt like he was rushing.  She said "see how he is trying to push past you?".  She then asked me to not allow him to push my hips side to side but to concentrate on the forward to back motion only.  Now take it a step further.  Rather then letting his motion direct my movement, breathe deeply and allow my hips to rotate back and forward.  Like pedaling a bike backward.  This really felt weird, as now the motion wasn't just in my hips, but I could feel the movement in my legs.  When I said this outloud, Deb said "exactly! - Remember when I said, too many riders think ear, shoulder, hip, heel and never allow their bodies to move?"  Yes??  "What do you feel now she asked".  I kept my eyes soft, my breathing filling up my diaphragm and lower back; my sternum forward but not puffed out; my hips pedaling softly......and then I felt it.  G was connected back to front, he was on the bit in a beautiful frame, and he had a pure yet powerful 4 beat walk going on.  He wasn't rushing, he was soft in my hands.  WOW!  It was a pretty incredible feeling.  She asked me to keep working on the walk, changing the tempo, etc. as she worked with Abe & Margaret.

When she got back to me, she was happy with the improvement but she wanted to see him gait.  "Show me what he does".  So we did.  We step paced, we hit a little rack; I brought him back to a medium walk and with all these new arrows in my quiver I asked for the flat walk.  He really was striding nicely.  But then I fell apart.  By this time I'm sweating profusely as G is radiating heat.  The breeze has kind of died and I'm thinking its 95 in the arena at least.  This was the kind of day I wouldn't have even thought about riding him, but since we paid for it and it wasn't cancelled due to the heat, I tried not to push too hard.  Time for a break. When we started walking again she asked if we could canter, and I said yes, let's do it.  Our first right canter depart wasn't very clean, but I know it was me trying to think too much and stopped feeling all that she just showed me.  The second was better, but as we came down the long side he fell back into a walk.  I don't know what it is about this particular arena, as we don't have this problem in the new outdoor arena at the new barn, but inside this one he quits on the straight.  Hmmmm?  We reversed direction and he picked up his left lead beautifully and his rocking chair canter emerged.  I kept him on a 20 meter circle for a few revolutions and brought him back to a walk.  Good boy G.  By now we're both way too hot so we walked on the rail as Abe & Margaret got to canter.

Forty-five minutes went by really fast, even with the stinky hot, lol.  As we were finishing I rode over to Deb M and asked her what else I needed to work on.   She said, nope, only what I showed you.....keep breathing; your sternum and using your hips better.  Really?  My eyes are soft? Check!  My hips are open enough? Check!  I'm sitting balanced on both seat bones? Check!  Woohoo!  I really truly thought I would find out I have more to work on.  I guess that's a good thing though.  I can tackle two things at once.  Five?  I'd be in trouble!!

Even with the stinky hot humid weather it was a great day.  It was fun going back to the old barn and seeing our old friends; and having G so relaxed at a clinic was just wonderful.  By the time we got back to the barn it was almost time for dinner so I left him in.  He went right to drinking water and eating night hay.  Oh, and he got an oatmeal cookie before I left....he really was a good boy today. 

Monday, June 14, 2010

Trail Obstacle Challenge - Guiness Book of World Records

.....Attempt June 13, 2010. WE DID IT!!! Well, not sure if we made the record or not, but we were a part of the attempt, and finished the course with smiles on our faces. Okay, so I had a smile on my face, G I imagine was just happy to get back to his hay.

The alarm went off at 5:00 am and it really was the last thing I wanted to hear. Although we went to bed at 10:00 I think I only managed about 5 hours of real good sleep. So reminiscent of those first days of school and work jitters – what is it about women anyway? Why can’t we just shut down our brains like the click of a switch? Hubby’s head hits the pillow, 5 minutes later he’s snoring, lol.

We had the trailer packed and hooked up to the truck the day before so all we had to do was load G in and hit the road. It only took 10 minutes so we were on the road by 6:30. The day was damp and dreary, but weather reports predicted only a 30% chance of showers or thundershowers so I was being optimistic that we’d stay dry. About 20 minutes from our destination the highway was really wet, so we just missed a down pour, but that was all the rain we were to see. When we got to McCulloch’s Morgan Farm, we were directed to a parking space – I was so thankful I’d asked hubby to drive. He had to maneuver backing the trailer between the front porch of a small house and a tree, all the while not hitting a rig already parked in this yard. He did an awesome job. Found out later the gal whose rig was there drove around the barn so she came in straight lol. There was a wide variety of rigs here, from the oldest and smallest to the Freight Liner hauling a 3 horse LQ with bump out (gorgeous!!); horses tied to trailers, some in portable pens. Folks for the most part were walking around in rain gear, as they had been hit by that passing down pour. 
We started chatting with the gal next to us and it turns out she’s not only from a town two over from where we board G, but she’s also the vet tech for our new equine vet! How small a world is it? She came by herself hoping to meet new people to trail ride with, well, she got lucky right off the bat, lol. I asked her if she wanted to buddy up on the ride since it was our first time doing something like this. Turned out to be her first time too, so it was great as we didn’t hold each other up to any expectations, lol. She is owned by a 12 year old Buckskin mare named Ellie. Very sweet and well built QH. Here they are coming back to the finish:

And us looking out the indoor arena where we warmed up a little:

Me & G hanging out after registration:

The rider briefing meeting was held at 9:00 where the obstacles and trail maps were handed out. Great. Not one single obstacle that we’d worked on the past three weeks, figures!

This event was really well organized, and I thought the woman I had been conversing with via email was, well, a woman. Turned out she was 18-19 years old. Boy was this girl organized, she did an incredible job.

Two groups were scheduled to go out. Twenty riders at 10:00 and then the remaining seventeen at 10:15. We went to the start line around 10:12 and were told we could head out. The first obstacle was less than a mile was the dreaded blue tarp on the ground. Object was in one minute to get your horse to the center, stand for 3 seconds on a loose rein and walk off. G has seen blue tarps, he’s walked by them, he’s stood by them, and he’s even half worn one. But walk on one? I’ve never asked him to do this. G snorted, dropped his head and side passed right. He side passed left. He backed two steps, he stopped and snorted. The judge said “times up”. I said is it okay if I ask again; they said yes. This time I gave G a little kick rather than squeezing and he stepped on it with two feet and stopped. I asked again. We got to the center, I asked him to stop; he did. Woohoo! Okay, so the easy part is getting off it right? No. I had to give him a bit of a kick for motivation and the moment his hoof moved and it crinkled, he snorted; but then lept forward. Ahhhh, we’re off it. I praised the heck out of him, and we walked a few paces off to wait for Claudine and Ellie. Ellie dropped her head, snorted. She side passed right, side passed left, she backed, she side passed again. She ran out of time, and although they continued to try after another minute Claudine decided to walk her around it. Ellie looked at it the whole way like it was going to eat her alive. Off we went through the woods.

As a side note; this Morgan farm (McColloch Morgans) consists of 600 acres and it backs up to Preservation lands. We both kept commenting on how gorgeous these trails were. For the most part they were two and a half horses wide and because of the sandy/small stone soil, in pretty good condition considering all the rain we’d had. We’ve also agreed that if they hold any more events such as this, we’re there!

Hubby was able to walk out to two of the obstacles that were a stone’s throw from one another, so when we approached obstacle 2 he was there to take pictures. This was a square box on the ground with a small evergreen in the middle of it. Originally there was supposed to be come kind of animal in a cage, but because of the weather they didn’t want to risk it. THANK GOODNESS!! Now if it had been a chicken, maybe, but anything else and I bet G wouldn’t have gone in there. For the pleasure division, you just had to walk your horse in forward and around the tree. So turning on the haunches was required, and G did well on this one. This first picture I was facing G away from the two horses that were in front of us. He was doing great on the trail until we told these two riders they could go ahead of us. Once they started leaving an obstacle G wanted to follow. Then it would take 3 minutes to get his mind back on me, so I found this was easier. What he couldn’t see couldn’t hurt ‘um.

Ellie did well on this one, Claudine had her back around it so she scored extra points (open division).
Off we went to find obstacle 3. These were spaced about a mile apart from one another, so it gave you time to mosey through the woods, which we did. It was so beautiful I really didn’t want to rush through it.  Obstacle #3 was a hoola hoop on the ground where you would place your horse's front hooves and then do a turn on the forehand.  BUT, what they found out after the first group is that if a horse stepped on it just so, the hoola hoop would pop up and pop the horse.  Needless to say the hoola hoop got put aside and they just asked for people to do a turn on the forehand.  We did okay on this. 

Obstacle #4 for pleasure riders was to trot from one cone to the next and come to a complete stop, drop their reins for 3 seconds.  Since G doesn't trot I asked if I could canter, which was the request for the open division.  So we did.  G did really well.  I was pleased at his prompt response both in the up and down transitions.  See, all that arena work does come in handy, lol. 

Obstacle #5 was near #2 so hubby was waiting for us when we arrived.  He told us it had taken 45 minutes to get there from #2 (not sure he was happy about that).  This was the dreaded "L" on the ground.  For pleasure you only had to back up through the straight section, open did the full L.  Glad I registered pleasure, cause getting G to back up straight with barriers on the ground doesn't work so well.  He is just starting to back straight in an open this was pushing the envelope a bit.  I was pleased that he only stepped on the right outside bark barrier; hence the smile on my face in the 2nd shot.

I sure wish I’d brought a second camera to take some pics along the trail.  This was one of the prettiest places I’ve ridden in awhile and surprisingly not all flat!  Not hills by definition of those living in places like Pennsylvania; but considering we’re at the beach, very surprising.  Claudine and I kept saying “dang, I want to come ride here again”.  We rode up a drive way and through a small saw mill which was also a surprise.  I later found out from hubby that the current owner is the great great grandson of the founder who bought the land for $5 an acre.  Wowser!

We finally made it to obstacle #6 which was simply walking over 5 ground poles.  Pleasure division simply had to walk it, so it was a piece of cake.  Up ahead they had five more poles that were elevated for the Open division which needed to trot over them.  I should’ve gone for the extra points – but so far we’ve only trotted over ground poles, not elevated ones.  From the last obstacle it was less than a mile from the farm.  We left at 10:14 and returned at 12:20. 

As we were coming up the drive I was doing serpentines to keep G at a walk so we wouldn’t out walk Ellie.  When G hits wide open flatlands he really likes to move out so I thought this would be a nice cool down and easy way to ask him to walk.  I looked down the road and see about twelve people standing at the finish line.  Most in judge’s t-shirts; there are two photographers and hubby with my camera.  I asked Claudine if it would be a problem if I moved out and she said not at all.  So with that I squeezed, and asked G to gait.  We started to rack and I pushed him further into a really smooth step pace.  It really put a smile on my face.  I know, showing off for the judges lol.  Well, they were giving out prizes for best dressed western, English and best groomed horse so I thought maybe his flash would wow them a little.  NOT, we didn’t get best groomed.  Darn.

On the way home we were talking and he said “ya know when you were coming down the drive, one of the judges asked me why I was doing serpentines” and he answered “G is a Walking Horse and if she lets him go, he’ll out walk that nice Quarter Horse she’s riding with.  Maybe she’ll let him gait so you can see how smooth he is”.  Within 10 seconds of him saying that is when I opened him up lol.  Hubby said there were lots of comments like “wow look at that”; “shoot how smooth is that?” “her head isn’t moving one iota”.  When I crossed the finish line we had our picture taken several times and I got a few questions regarding Walking Horses.  Nice that he behaved so well for me, as I love when I can contribute to positive marketing for the breed.   Here we are coming up the drive

(that expression is one of relief....we did it!!!)

Following the ride we gathered around the tents for a lunch.  We had hamburgers, hot dogs, potato, pasta and fruit salads and water/soda.  It was really neat to sit around and talk about the course and how folks did and their experience or lack thereof in CTC events.  I was surprised at how many first timers were there, and hubby was surprised that the majority of riders were over 40-45.  
After lunch they held the award cermony which everyone stuck around for which I thought was nice.   All the riders received a Guinness Book of World Records certificate, a commemorative red ribbon and a couple of little equine items (I think antibacterial spray & EZall's shine & detangler).  So I have a few things to add to our scrapbook album.  When I ever get around to doing G's!!

 Hubby also had to take a picture of the one horse he was fascinated with.....only it wasn't a horse.... His rider was the only Junior rider.  And for my gaited horse friends, no, he wasn't gaited.

We didn't want to stick around to wait for all the scores to be posted so I have no idea how we did "officially".  I do know we got a zero for the tarp, lol.  I checked ACTHA's website when I got home this evening but our ride hasn't been posted yet.  I'm just happy that we had a wonderful experience and that G gave me his all.  Considering he was in a strange place with a strange horse, doing strange things, and the fact that he kept his head, means it was a successful ride for us both.  But when I find out, I'll make sure to add them to the blog.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Lesson in Sidepassing

Our lesson last week was the sidepass.  Since I've entered me & G in our first competitve trail ride, I wanted to work on sidepassing to objects.  G, being the fearful horse that he is, is claustrophobic.  He will sidepass, but don't put something next to him or ask him  to stand while I try to unlock a gate or open the light box in the indoor arena.  I rode him in the dressage saddle which was great, as he can feel my leg cues better then in my western. 

At first he wasn't quite sure what I was asking.  Hmm, do I back up?  No she's not asking that.  Hmmm, maybe step forward one step?  No, not that either.  Okay I'll try moving away from the leg.  Hey, she told me I was a good boy, that must've been it!  We've worked so much the past few months on smooth backing, and G being the ancipating horse that he is, thinks if I'm keeping him from forward motion it must mean back.  We managed to get I'd say three really nice passes in either direction.  So we decided to work on canter transitions.  G was doing really well, but it was hot and buggy.  We gave him lots of breaks in between everything, but he was a sweaty boy in need of a cool shower. 

Last night I tacked him up in the western saddle figuring we need to practice in it since that's what we're using on Sunday.  Well.  He was great sidepassing to the right.  I was so excited as Val was giving a lesson in the arena and called over "that was really nice Kate".  G was actually moving his shoulders and hips at the same time, woohoo.  We've got this down I'm thinking to myself.  Now I ask with my right leg and outside rein to move to the left.  G steps back.  I shut down his movement.  Try again.  He steps forward.  I shut him down and ask again.  He starts backing and took about 5 steps before he would halt.  I feel like I'm using the same amount of pressure as with my left leg, but he's obviously not feeling it.  Trish mentioned that her horse isn't as responsive to leg aids in the western saddle either, and that he side passes in one direction better than the other.  So I decide that we'll stop asking for the sidepass to the left and head for the arena gate.  It took about 4 minutes, but I got G to stand while I unlatched the chain, walked through the gate (though I had to let go) and sidepass over the gate so I could relatch it.  I'd set up the stanchions and rope gate on the other side of the barn so we headed over and worked on that some.  G really dislikes having to walk up beside "things" but after the first five minutes of walking to it, positioning him parallel to the rope and standing still he then stood while I removed the rope loop.  I asked G to back up rather than go through the opening and asked him to stand.  I took the rope rubbed it all over his neck and shoulders and even flipped it back and forth over his head like a jump rope.  Nothing, stood perfectly still.  Okay we're ready to try again.  It took 3 attempts but we finally managed to open the gate, walk through the opening and closed the gate.  WOOHOO!!!  He's getting praised like the dickens.  I asked him to repeat the exercise and the second went smoother.  I praised him and walked him away. 

We headed to the other side of the barn where the plank bridge is.  It too took several attempts before he would even put one hoof on it.  Several more attempts and he half heartedly walked across it.  This is good, we're making progress.  What a good boy, let's go cool off and call it a day.  I put him in the cross ties and look at his hooves.  Oh crud, he's due for a trim.  Soooo, I pulled out all my equipment and went to work.  Since it was a cool night I decided to just get it over with and do all four hooves.  Boy was I pooped when I left last night!  But G's tootsies are done, and we're ready to try the gate again tonight or tomorrow if we get rained out.

The competive trail ride is Sunday, and they are also are predicting rain :(

We've also signed up for a centered riding clinic with Deb Moynihan that's being held at our old barn on the 28th.  It'll be fun to see our ex-boarding friends and I'm curious to see G's reaction in "coming home again" so to speak.  Hopefully he won't think he is home and decide not to reload to come back to his new home. 

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Busy, Busy, Busy

It appears the official start to summer has begun.  With Memorial Day comes parades; flowers on soldier's gravestones; and family time.  Flags waving from the front stoops of neighborhood houses; smells of barbeque in the air.

We spent a pretty quiet weekend staying away from computers, blackberries and cellphones.  The only electronic device used was the TV for awhile as we watched some old classic war movies.  Pin Up Girl with Betty Grable was my favorite since I'd never seen it and boy oh boy did it make me think of my dad and his service days in WWII.  I'm sure he or someone in his barracks had this pin up inside their locker .

"Wow look at those GAMS" I can hear my father saying.  In seeing this particular photo I can see why he used to tell me that wearing a one piece bathing suit was far sexier then a bikini.  In his words "your eyes are drawn to the whole body, not parts and pieces" he said to me many times.  Yep, I think women have lost much of the mystique since wearing less in public has become the norm.  Anyway, it was a fun corny movie and hubby and I both found ourselves giggling throughout.

Saturday was a work day.  It was predicted to be the coolest of the three days so I wrangled hubby into tearing out the living room wall to wall carpet.  I'm guessing the carpet was about 20 years old.  Coming from a house with many cats & dogs throughout the years and a mom with a "dripping" oxygen tank, the wood floor underneath was definitely stained, but we think totally salvagable.  Oh man the fine sand and dirt under the foam padding was enough to choke a horse!  I think I know why hubby & I have been so stuffed up lately.  Even the power vac we have wasn't picking this up.  So once removed, we vacuumed a couple times; I washed the floor twice and then dry mopped Old English hoping it would moisturize the wood a little.  We then went out and bought an 10' x 12' remnant piece of burgandy carpet to protect the wood from further damage (and not see it of course).  The next task will be removing the 12" x 12" peel &  stick tile I installed for my mom over the dining room area and hallway wood floors.  I can't imagine the mess, and it will be a long process I'm sure.  But once done, we can refinish the wood floors, which will definitely add value to the resale value.

Although I had three days off, I only rode G on Sunday morning.  Since it was supposed to get hot we hit the trail around 10:15 with our trail buddy Ozzy.  Going out G kept turning his head to the left looking at the farm and I kept urging him forward.  Great, I'm thinking.  Now he's going to be buddy/barn sour.  We got up in the woods and he at least stopped looking around.  We got a good groove going and then navigated down Big Butt Hill (yeah I know all you mountain folks laugh at this lol).  Since the black flies are at their worst, I stayed out of the woods and went through the Christmas tree farm toward the marshes.  Around the corner we go and G drops a shoulder, stops and snorts.  Off waddle two Canadian Geese to the marsh on the left.  Okay buddy, just Geese let's go I said.  I could feel his tenseness so I made sure I was breathing nice and steady, sitting in my 3-point position.  This didn't seem to help.  As we turned to the right, we flush out a Red Tail Hawk out of a low bush.  Dropped a shoulder again with a half hearted attempt to spin.  Caught him in time and urged him forward.  He's getting more tense.  I've really focused on being relaxed and then I see Ozzy sniffing something in the middle of the trail.  As we ride up to it I realized he was sniffing Bear poop.  Oh great, I bet this is what G is smelling.  So I urged him past and took him to the end of the other marsh to the right. 

When I turned him around he turned into the G I remember oh too well.  Jig, jig, jig, "gotta go, gotta get out of here, gotta gooooo hoooooome".  It never ceases to amaze me how a horse that will stop on a dime with my seat cue in the arena can totally blow it off on the trail.  This means I have to add in rein cues.  Okay, that's not doing much either but slowing him down until I would release, then it's back to jig, jig, jig, "gotta go, gotta get out of here, gotta gooooo hooooome" [heavy sigh].  So begins our one rein stops.  Stop turn around walk the opposite direction 10 steps, stop stand relax, turn.  G jigs, we one rein stop, we turn, we travel in the opposite direction, we stop facing away from home until he relaxes, we turn again.  After the 4th or 5th time I decided to try Joanna's trick she uses with Montero and rather than allow him to walk forward toward home, he can walk backward.  Once the head would come down and he seemed softer, turn around again walk toward home.  Jig, jig, jig.  Poor Ozzy.  At this point he's run back and forth trying to follow us during the 15 minute exercise and he's out of breath and panting.  I got G turned around again, stoppped and standing long enough for me to give Ozzy a drink from his doggy bottle/trough.  By this time we're at the base of Big Butt Hill and he has one choice.  Walk it, or not go up it.  Surprisingly he walked it.  A little more animated then I would have liked, but by about the 20th step he realized he'd better pay closer attention to his steps and lowered his head.  Ahhhhhhh.  Rather than stop and let him blow at the top I let him continue walking.  Now he's walking rather than jigging so onward.  He got a little antsy coming back down the hill to the farm, but by the time we reached the bottom he was happy to deliver a nice relaxed walk.  Of course he thought he was done, so I took him to the outdoor arena and started working on side passing to open the gate, walk through it and close it.  It took about 10 minutes until I could unlatch the chain and open it, as we walked through G rushed through so I had to let go of the gate.  Dang, we're going to get this yet.  We cantered both directions about 4x each and then I walked him until he cooled down some.  On the trail, I'm not sure if it was the biting bugs (I got bit a couple times) or the smell of the bear, or a combination of it all, but he was back to being the G of 6 years ago [heavy sigh again].  I think its Lynn Palm that advocates "if you're not having fun, time to sell the horse".  I can't tell you how many times this thought went through my head during the weekend.  Am I really having fun?  I question my sanity, wonder why I love this horse with all my heart, and then realize that I can't imagine life without him at this point.

Monday we stopped at a friend's house who has holds an annual campout and just hung out for awhile.  Its a chance to get to see some people we don't see often.  After we headed over to the barn to check on G.  As expected the day would come....I stood at the gate and whistled.  The lead horse Sunny picked up his head, everyone else ignored me and kept on grazing.  I called G, he ignored me. I asked him if he was a good boy [he knows this means a treat] he ignores me.  I went out into the pasture about 1/4 of the distance to the herd, still talking to G and who comes up but Sunny - "hey you got something for me?" I shoo'd him off.  Next comes Irish, G's best buddy - "hey is that for me?" I shoo him off.  I took four more steps and said "G were you a good boy?" and he finally lifts his head.  Hmmmm....naahhhh grass is better.  Took two more steps "G, last call.  Come and get it or it's going." I get that look like you'd imagine your 5 year old gives you "oh do I have to?" but he walks over.  I let him have one morsel of oatmeal cookie and walk to the gate, he's following closely behind.  Food, the great motivator.  When he got to the gate, I gave him the rest of the cookie, gave his neck a stroke and walked out.   I stand there watching him walk away to the water trough and I look at hubby and say "I've lost him to the herd, just like I thought".  Hubby put his arm around me and went back to the car.  All the way home I keep thinking to myself.....would G be happier somewhere else?  Would I be happier with a different horse?  Am I ready to move on? 

We finished off the day with a nice steak on the barbie with grilled asparagus, garlic toast and played some cribbage before calling it a night.  It was overall a very productive and relaxing weekend.  I went to bed and stopped asking questions.