Friday, August 1, 2008

Notes from the dog park

Yeah, I know, all I do is talk about Cersei. Well, I think she's an awful lot of fun, and I see her more often than the horses, so I am paying a lot of attention to her lately.

It's not like I don't pay attention to her when I'm working a horse every day. It's a different kind of attention these days.

I don't have a natural eye for horses. Maybe nobody has a "natural eye" for these things and it all depends on how early you were exposed to them. I got involved in horses so recently, though, that I remember just how hard I've worked to be able to see what I can see. I mean, at first I couldn't tell the difference between a gaiting walking horse and a trotting quarter horse. Honestly. It was all a huge blur of feet and huge alert alive animal snorting and plunging around. But pretty quickly, I learned how to see the footfalls for a trot and I started trying to learn more things. What's a racky running walk? What's a pacey RW? What's a slightly lame horse look like?

After basic gaits, I tried (and am STILL trying) to learn to "see" dressage stuff. Collection had me stumped for the longest time. I watched youtube videos over and over. I read sites that had actual diagrams of the way a collected horse moves versus the way a strung out horse moves. None of it ever seemed to gel in my head, but I kept at it.

I still don't know what "false collection" is. I mean, I can tell an unhappy horse, but I can't just look at him and say "oh he's traveling hollow and behind the bit." I can almost see the nuances like that, but not yet, not quite. And jumping is a HUGE mystery, but I keep watching Daun's videos and one day I will figure it out.

Anyway... back to my little yellow dog. We went out about 5:30. She didn't want to play with Rogue (goofy rude female Rott) so we threw the ball for a while. Rogue's people left and Daisy (somewhat rude young female Doberman) showed up. Cersei kinda sorta almost played with Daisy, just a bit - at one point she bit Daisy gently on the leg, all on her own - but ultimately, ball. Eventually, Ripley (very pushy funny huge female bulldog) and a little lab mix showed up, and I hid the ball in a tree. Daisy and Ripley and the little mix ran around biting ears and playing chase and generally having a truly wonderful doggy time, and Cersei followed them, on the outskirts, kind of wanting to play and scared to play. Awww.

Ripley's human had brought a very large thick knotted rope, so I got Cersei to start tugging on it then got Ripley to come take my end. Cersei was SO CONFUSED - she loves tuggy game, but she hates for other dogs to try to take her toys! I did that several times, and I started some chase games that got all the dogs involved. Cersei actually got involved enough to bark at the other dogs a few times, and she definitely was more involved than usual.

But what got me thinking about horses was how I judge her tiredness. There's a couple of stages - the spazzed out full of energy 100% go stage, where she will gallop out to the ball and canter back with it. Then there's the kinda tired stage, where she'll gallop out and trot back. Then she slowly gets more tired, til she's almost completely worn out and she gallops out (because the ball is always worth running to get) and then walks back. Well, tonight I stopped the ball-game at the trotting stage and encouraged her to interact with the other dogs. She looked good for a while, but at one point late in the evening she was running behind the pack of running chasing playing dogs and I noticed her canter was really strung out.

I was so proud of myself. I've really worked hard to learn what I know about horses (and dogs, and livestock in general), and for me to see something, think "that looks like X," and know I'm right because I know what's going on? That's just awesome. Really exciting. There's hope for me yet. One day I'll watch Brego jumping and be able to think "Oh, good form but he rushed that jump" or something super-intelligent like that.

For now, I'm just really happy that my girl is learning to play with dogs and that I'm learning to read her body language. :)

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