January – BRRRRR
February – He’s all tongue!
March - Learning to whisper to Billy...
March – Learning to whisper to Billy…
April – Your horse is your mirror.
May - Billy came HOME!
May – Billy came HOME!
June - Baby teeth!
June – Baby teeth!
July – Billy’s growing up…
August - David Lichman clinic with my cousin Heather!
August – David Lichman clinic with my cousin Heather!
September - It's just chaos!
September – It’s just chaos!
October - He's really growing into his saddle...
October – He’s really growing into his saddle…
November - OMG!!!
November – OMG!!!
December - Billy says, "Out with the old, in with the new!"
December – Billy says, “Out with the old, in with the new!”

the clinic wrapped up and those of us that volunteered to help with the clinic stayed to clean up and help david load all his gear.

billy’s pen had been taken over by a herd of roping steers and there was a full on roping going on in the outdoor arena… so billy had to stand tied in the indoor arena while we worked around him.  he didn’t seem to mind, unless i managed to stay out of his sight or hearing too long.  but it was a great experience for him.  he calmed down very nicely and stood patiently.

just before we volunteers said good bye we got to see the famous 13 do a few of his moves.  ones that wouldn’t stress him too much in his stall.  he is a sweet boy and clearly missed showing off during the demonstration.

heather and i said our goodbyes, went out and tied billy to the trailer while we finished loading all our stuff and tying everything down.  heather filled billy’s hay net and i took it to soak it for the trip home.  it was 7 pm by this time… we had started our sunday at 8 am!!  i pretty much had billy online from 9 am until 7 pm with a half an hour lunch break in there somewhere.  it was a long day!

billy loaded into the trailer with just a little coaxing which surprised me as the trip on friday afternoon was long and hot and tiring.  he must have been ready to go home!  i know i was!

heather and i set out, after changing into some comfy travel clothes.  we stopped at a gas station to check the air pressure in all the trailer tires and off we went!

at about 7:45 i heard a POP and saw some of my trailer tire flying off down the interstate behind us…  we had a flat.

i limped the truck and trailer to the side of the road, we hopped out to take a look and decided to continue limping along until we could pull all the way off the interstate.  i wasn’t interested in changing that tire so close to semi trucks barreling along at 70 miles per hour.

even in the semi darkness, covered in mosquitoes, sweating and wearing axle grease, heather and i can look sexy. keepin it real!

after some sweating and grumbling and then lots of laughing and giggling, heather and i had the hub cap off the trailer tire, backed the trailer up onto the ramp and had the spare tire ON!  whoot whoot!  we totally rocked that flat tire!!!


billy and i pulled into our driveway at 1 am.  thank goodness it was nearly a full moon.  billy backed calmly off the trailer after a harrowing ride that lasted 5 and a half hours… and shouldn’t have been longer than 3.

wow.  what a trip!!!  exciting right up to the very end.  we totally know how to ROCK a weekend!

dancingdavid(2)in the afternoon we moved right into using music to help encourage rhythm, relaxation and maintaining gait.

use music you like with a good down beat.   you will count the beats per minute then match a tempo to your horses natural gait.  to count the beats, time your counting for 15 seconds and then multiply by four…. or use Turn Over to help you count the beats.  Turn Over will allow you to count the beats using the space bar on your computer and then it will automatically show the beats per minute alongside your song in itunes.  so you know at a glance what you need.

most everyone rode for this segment… i was able to match strides while being on the ground with billy.  lucky for me he loves stick to me and will match my strides nearly perfectly without the music!  the music made it easier as he quickly figured out that the down beat was important.

you want to get two eyes and two ears??  dance!!  billy would just LOOK at me while i was dancing away in the middle of the arena.  he was awaiting my every move looking for an opportunity to mirror me.  just think, doing the jitterbug with my billy blaze!

david used all kinds of music to get his point across in this session.  classical, classic rock, country, pop, alternative rock, etc.  really you can do this with whatever music you like.  i plan to use LOTS of lindsey stirling

during this session one of the other riders decided to get off her horse because there was some anxiety coming up in her.  her herd mates had left the arena and she was anxious, so her rider just hopped off and joined me on the ground.  david noticed that both our horses were matching the beat pretty well, in their different ways, and tossed out that we should do the carousel!  i’ve always wanted to do that but no one would ever play that with my “shark” billy blaze!!!  how exciting!

the little gal was just 14 years old, but up for the challenge.  her mare is a quarter horse/ paint cross who trotted just as a quarter horse/paint cross would.  billy was showing his long floaty trot so it made for an interesting carousel!  he was a bit faster than bailey, but they both did their best.  i was so proud!  we lost billy once and bailey once, but i thought we did awesome for our first time with 9 other horses trotting around the rail of the arena.  both of our horses were listening to us in all that commotion!


SONY DSCafter lunch, in the afternoon, david brought our goals from the beginning of the clinic out into the arena.  we were all gathered, all 11 of us with our horses and he went over each and every one of our goals.  if we missed something then we discussed it and did something about it!

mine was my circling game.  i just can not get billy to offer more than 16 strides of canter on the circle.

then came david…

he had me send him out on the circle, without focusing so much on my send = pointing with my finger.  i’m to use my intention more.  makes sense for level 4!

i’m to focus my eyes just behind his drive line and with the intention that i’m a wildcat about to pounce on his back, ask him to transition up.  then if he doesn’t go i bring my stick and string UP from the ground in an arc, kind of a sideways movement, and ZING him in the rear, aiming for his tail.  it took two times of this from david and billy was picking up the canter with just the intention of canter.  then he offered 29 strides!!!!  almost 3 laps.  i was amazed.  david handed him back and said, “done!”  LOL!

now i just have to practice this myself.  when i clean up my mushy communication and become more concise and clear with my intention that will really help.

later that day when we got our horses david had us preparing for liberty close up circles.  this had me processing quite a bit.  it seemed like a simple process, but was actually quite difficult to teach.  both billy and i go RBI when we are learning.  so here i was learning a new technique and teaching it.  and poor billy.  he went a little RBI and a little RBE in this session.  BUT i was able to pull up my big girl panties and get it done.

my biggest concern during this session was that billy would leave me and run off biting and kicking the other horses.  he left me twice, but really had no interest in the other horses, just needed to leave my energy and give himself a little space.  david said that when billy leaves i must not bring him back with cookies and petting because this just enforces the leaving.  horses are smart and figure out quickly that if they leave they get to come back to cookies.  duh.  this makes so much sense!  instead when he leaves, join his dance, get him back and then go back to the thing that caused him to leave, but hold onto the rope this time…

in this session we were playing with getting and KEEPING two eyes.  keeping the horses concentration/attention on us.  causing the horse to believe that we are the sweet spot.  the horse HAS to be with us and the horse GETS to be with us.

to do this we start with the horses head at our belly button, “the sweet spot”.  then we ask our horse to circle at liberty by sending them and tapping their shoulder with our stick if they need help moving their feet.  BUT they must keep two eyes on us at first.  the horse will kind of go sideways in order to accomplish this.  if the horse starts to leave, back up, or takes two eyes off us, then we really flick their hind quarters, phase 4, to correct.  the flick must be quick, kind of like a snake striking, and must be done on the horse, not on the ground.  it’s just like hide the hiney!  when you get both eyes again, repeat the ask and allow the movement as long as they keep their eyes on you.

left: hiding that hiney middle: he left! right: bringing him back to the sweet spot

it’s hard to get the timing and the feel for this one.  it seems so simple, but the horse is so close to you that it’s difficult to keep things gathered up.  my stick felt too long, my rope kept getting tangled around my feet.  when i put the rope around his neck he left me twice.  sigh.  i was a mess!

david said my communication was too mushy.  i must be clear and concise with my movements to get the desired result from billy, otherwise he’ll just leave!

SONY DSCsend, drop my hand when he moves, tap his shoulder if he needs help.  if he gets too far away, backs up or takes his eyes off me, swat that hiney and bring him back into the sweet spot.  draw, draw, draw!  i must be sure that if i have to swat him that i give him pets and cookies to balance the reinforcement.  i feel like too often i have to phase 4 him and then i don’t balance that with friendly.  this has resulted in my draw not being as good as it once was.  balance is key!

here is a little video that i made last night of our progress…

on sunday we gathered as a group first thing and had the pleasure of watching an animal training video that david made with one of his mentors, Jenifer Zeligs.  she works in CA at Mosslanding Marine Labs with sea lions and is doing amazing things with them!

Jenifer Zeligs and one of her sea lions.

afterwards we had a question and answer session.  i asked if he thought billy was ready to ride yet and his answer had many parts.  the first part was that he feels that billy still has too many of his own ideas.  he is not obedient enough yet.  this made me feel a little sad because i’ve worked so hard on getting him to respect me as a leader and yet i can see what david is saying because i have not been particular enough with him.  i’ve allowed him to be sloppy with his answers.  if my communication is mushy, then his answers will not be snappy.

SONY DSCanother part of the answer had to do with the parelli guidelines for riding a young horse.
at 2 1/2 years old put 10 rides on him.  at 3 1/2 put another 10 rides on.  then at 4 years old he is ready to ride!  i thought this was an excellent guideline and one that i’ve basically followed with my other young horses.  though i didn’t put 10 rides on at 2.  i just waited until they were 3.  i must say that billy is farther along right now, at 3 years old than some of my riding horses were at 6 and 7 in my normal days!

he read off a list of things that billy “should” be able to do.  a few things on that list include:

  • cantering with a tarp on him
  • dragging all kinds of different things
  • the tail flip (keeping his tail relaxed as i move it up and over and all around)
  • moving around with the flank rope
  • stand tied for hours and hours and hours
  • 1500 hours of trail walking

there were many more… but i couldn’t write fast enough!!!  basically what he was saying was get creative.  think outside the box.  if it’s crazy, try it!

david said that my goal of passing level 4 online and at liberty before i ride is a great one and i should stick to that.  he also talked about not chasing the levels.  just put the pieces together and before you know it, level 4 is behind you!

he talked a lot about animal psychology and this really fascinated me.  i think i may look into some college courses on that.  jenifer zeligs, his mentor, does a week long animal training/psychology course in CA that i am going to look into as well.

a woman named Kayce Cover does some classes on animal psychology as well and i’m going to start investing in those.

Kayce Cover and her monkey Tish featured on the cover of National Geographic World.

the way horses, dogs, cats, deer, etc. see the world and why they do the things they do has always fascinated me.  i remember my mom watching a horse do something and then being that horse’s voice when i was growing up.  i was certain that my mom KNEW what the horse was thinking and always wanted to have that ability too.  watching body language and paying attention to how the horse reacts to things has been a focus for me since i was little.  taking these classes just seems like the next natural step!

after our session on head lowering, we moved into “the sweet spot”.  this is our belly button.  for this you draw your horse into your belly button, reaching out and taking a hold of each side of the halter if they need a little help coming all the way in.  then treat treat treat!

this was hard for billy as i’ve spent so much time keeping him out of my bubble.  the belly button draw is not something that students below a level 3 should do.  unless your horse is obedient enough, this could get out of hand very quickly.  the horse has to kind of push into your space and he could knock you right over.

this is helpful for teaching the horse that being with you is the BEST place he could be.  this also set us up for the circle at liberty which we did on sunday.

later in the afternoon david had me being more particular with my back up.  billy will go back, but he is either going back and sideways, or curving off across the arena, or putting his head up, hollowing his back.

starting the back up…
and how it should look!

the pieces were:

  • lower head
  • back up
  • go straight

he could do one of those things at a time, but not all three.  so i just had to get very particular.  i’ve allowed him to be sloppy in some areas of our games.  i’m not sure why, other than i get so overwhelmed with all that we have to do and then i worry that i’m getting too direct line so i just take what he freely offers and don’t ask for more.  this must stop.  he is capable of so much more and i need to ask for that!

backing with the head lowered… then keeping it down for me!

i used the wall of the arena some to help him stay straight.  then i would target different obstacles in the arena and back towards them as straight as i could keep him, not only in the back up but also in his body.  all the while being sure that he could keep his head down low and really round his back.  i also had to watch for others that were sharing the arena, riding and doing ground work.  sometimes it got interesting!

it finally started to click with billy and i could just lightly touch the loop on his halter and he would back right up with his head down.  backing with my hand on his nose needs more repetition but i have time!

mixing it up with some half jump over a barrel.
and standing on the gigantic pedestal!! whoot whoot!

at the end of the afternoon session on saturday david came out and showed me some zone 5 driving!  finally!!!  i’ve been asking for help with this for months so i was particularly thrilled to get help with it.

he showed me how to put the 45′ line on the halter so there isn’t a loop and then off we went!  i drove professionally for years and you never never never thwap the horse on the rear with the reins to get them go in the show ring…. but that is EXACTLY what you do in zone 5 driving… basically you create a commotion to get the horse thinking forward and then you allow that forward movement.  i was ready for the allow, but the forward was lacking.

left: hooking up the line middle: going forward! left: bringing billy back to me…

we had some forward on saturday and i hooked him up on sunday as well and he was nice and forward with a little commotion made with the reins.  it was wonderful!!!

i have so much to work on now.  but we have all winter to play around with this stuff….