Photo by Margaret Chant and edited by Jessica Metropulos

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Solving the "LBI Package"

Hi all,

It's been literally months since I've been compelled to write about anything at all. Been having some huge discoveries in my horsemanship,and in my journey, and only recently have I been processing coherently enough to start blogging again. However, yesterday's session with Prin was super-cool. So cool in fact that I felt I not only SHOULD share, I HAD to share.

Prin and me in FL. Photo by Coco
A little history beforehand: Prin has a bundle of "braces" that I like to call the "Left-Brain Introvert Package"…kind of a pattern with LBIs that have had their dignity stripped. She’s challenging to bridle, can be a little cinchy, is funny about needles, used to pull back, and is a terror to clip. I became acutely aware of these things after I spent a considerable amount of one-on-one time with John Baar during my externship, addressing her clipping troubles, and realizing that there were braces that I had ignored just about everywhere else.

So with that in mind,yesterday was "deworming day"…and that is one of the things I’ve just sort of plowed through in times past with her. She’s always been easy enough, and as a human, I’ve just done it without thinking much. But since becoming aware of these braces, I’ve been sure to address things more thoroughly and put the relationship first.

Her behavior was no surprise, she snorted and pulled away pretty hard when she saw the tube. Over the next 30 minutes, I played around with her, asking her to keep her feet moving so she couldn’t lock up and explode aggressively, something she's been more apt to do since exposing these things. I’d stay at her shoulder out of the strike zone and I’d offer her the tube to sniff. If she got snorty, I’d move her feet again, if she looked at it, sniffed it, touched it, I’d give her a rub, and I’d let her eat grass.

John Baar and Prin in FL
By the end of the session, she was offering to put her nose on tube, and I could put the syringe in her mouth with NO protest. All with her ears forward lower lip floppy, and eyes half-open. She looked happy and boy, did I feel happy! I didn’t deworm her, of course. Talk about a horrible reinforcement for great behavior! Today, I plan to play with it, and give her a syringe full of applesauce.

  Needless to say, I’m VERY pleased. I feel like we broke down a major threshold and she felt successful. SO cool!

Stay tuned for more of the things I've been learning from Prin since returning home from my externship. She's teaching me HUGE lessons, and expanding horizons I didn't know existed

Saturday, December 11, 2010

11 weeks and No Updates...

Hello gang!

My life of insanity has definitely taken over my blogging time, but when I peeked at my blog the other day, I realized that it had been over 11 weeks since I last updated. Sorry!!!!

Just a brief "catch you up to speed on Fran's Parelli adventure"; I'm now heading into week 9 of my Externship. I'm on campus in Reddick, FL, and learning an amazing amount of information! This has turned out to be exactly what I expected and more, and I'm so grateful for the opportunity.

In reflecting on the past 9 weeks, I cannot begin to decide what I want to blog about. There's SO much to this experience, it's hard to pick just one thing. Not to mention, as with every time a person spends time here, it's not just what you do and learn in the moment, it's the days, weeks, and months of learning afterward that is even more worthwhile to share. (Stay tuned for multiple BFO-themed blogs in January/February/March etc, I'm sure-ha!)

So I've decided to open that decision up to my readers. What would YOU like to read about? The entire event is far too much for a single entry, so I'd challenge you to come up with something specific for me. But I'd love to share the experience, and I want to hear what you're interested in knowing.

Let me know in a comment or an email: and I'll start writing something up.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

An Update Just For Petra

As I was doing my evening chores last night, one of my blog followers (and new friend!) Petra came up and teased me about needing to update my blogs more often, that a month without writing was simple unacceptable. So, especially for Petra, here I am, updating my blog ;)

For those of you who don't know, I'm currently in Pagosa Springs, CO as a working student at the Parelli Ranch. I've been here since September 7th, am in Pagosa until October 7th, and then I'll leave for Florida. I plan on being with Parelli until January of 2011 at least, hoping to start as an Extern on the 15th of October.

It's been a really wonderful adventure thus far. There are people here from all over the world for the Fast-Track Course, as Externs, Working Students, and Mastery students, and it's been a wonderful opportunity to make new friends, as well as a chance to spend some time with familiar faces.

I currently have Crest on site and Prin will join us in a few days from her current location at a ranch about 10 minutes north of the Parelli Center. It's been a wonderful opportunity to have my horses in such a beautiful place and with like-minded energy. We've had lots of fun playing with all kinds of things, and life is good.

I'm also totally in love with the town of Pagosa Springs itself. At home, I live in a pretty small town, so this isn't culture shock, and I love the home-y feeling. I'm already on a first-name basis with the gals that work at the local coffee shop, and they know my usual order.

So that's what's up for now. Updates on here will be time-permitting, and right now, computer time is pretty limited. But for daily updates, add me as a friend on Facebook!

Savvy on!

Monday, August 23, 2010

Where did Crest Come From, Anyway?

 Since the lesson with Linda, I’ve had quite a few inquiries about where Crest came from, as well what his history was. Linda had implied in her blog that he was a rescue, and we never really did give much background on him during the lesson, so I thought a blog to clarify and share might be the way to go!

So just where did Crest come from , anyway? How did I end up with him? This big, handsome bay horse of mine has a kind of colorful history.  Crest was born May 23rd 2001 on a private farm in Kellogg, MN.  He was named “Crest” because he was born the day that the spring floodwaters on the Mississippi River crested in 2001.  He is by a tri-colored Paint stallion named Cherokee, and out of a red roan mare named Frog.  Both parents carry a majority of Thoroughbred lineage—this is why I refer to him as a Paint x Thoroughbred.

The owner of the farm on which he was bred was not a cruel-hearted person. However, he didn’t handle his horses much, and when they were handled, it was not naturally, to say the least.  Crest lived essentially feral as the second and younger stallion in large herd of horses until he was almost 3 yrs old.  His father was the lead stud, and he continually ran Crest off and wouldn’t allow him to be a part of the herd.  I suspect he was essentially run into the poor condition he was in when I met him, and not being allowed to be a member of the herd probably did considerable damage to the young Crest’s mind.

In October of 2003, a family friend of ours (also the ex-girlfriend of the farm’s owner), bought Crest. She was really the one who “rescued” him, not me.  He was loaded into a trailer (I’m still not sure how exactly they did it) and brought to Pepin, WI. When he arrived, he was a scrawny, wormy, sick-looking 3-year old stallion.   He was gelded, and then turned out into a pasture with two dominant mares who also liked to beat up on him.  The photo at left was taken a month after Crest arrived at our friend's place.

Our friend is a very kind person with lots of knowledge in holistic horse care, and is also interested in Parelli.  She nursed him to a place of better health physically, but Crest had some very intense mental and emotional scars, and she knew that she had gotten way more horse than she could or wanted to handle.  She called me the following summer (2004), and wondered if I’d be interested in giving training Crest a go for her. 

I was almost 14, and just finishing level 2 at the time. Though I had played with several dozen horses, and had started a few youngsters, including my levels mare, Prin, I had never dealt with a horse of Crest’s extremity before. Hindsight being what it is, I probably was not cut out to deal with a horse as fearful or as extreme as he, but at 14, I was cocky and bullet-proof. So I took him on.

I agreed to put 30 days of training on Crest. I remember the first day I played with him. Another “trainer” that I knew was there as well, and I opted to let her give him a shot first. Truth be told, I didn’t know what to make of him. Evidently, neither did she. She tied him to a corral post, slapped a western saddle (back cinch and all) on his back, and turned him loose in a round pen.  What I watched happen next is something I always keep in the back of my mind today, as a reminder of what he’s capable of: Crest bucked, and he bucked HARD. A minute passed, and he didn’t stop. Then two minutes.  And then the saddle came sailing off over his rump.  He had bucked so hard that he had managed to BREAK the back cinch, and loosen the front one enough that it slid back and over.  Once the saddle was off, he ran a couple more laps and then stopped at the gate, head out towards the corral, dripping with sweat and literally shaking.

Not knowing exactly what the right thing to do was, but also knowing that what had just happened was not right, I went over and snapped a lead onto his halter, and said “Okay, I think I’d like to try some things now.”

A long story short, after not thirty, but ninety days, Crest and I had still not made much progress.  I had taught him the 7 games online to a level 1 standard, but he was still very reactive, very spooky, and prone to go into a frothing panic if something worried him. He was terrified of anything touching his back legs, and of course anything on his back.  We had hardly made ANY headway with him carrying a rider. I could sit on him, but he was so claustrophobic that if my legs touched him at all, I was in for quite a ride. Obviously not at all what a person has in mind when they start a riding horse.  

Anyone who knows me knows that to give up on something is just not in my nature.  But after being hurt at least twice a week for the final month, I was beginning to have some realizations.  I realized that Crest was WAY more horse than I had given him credit for. I realized that I did not have the savvy to help him be a partner for myself, let alone someone else. I also realized that he had the potential to be a super horse—I’d never met a horse so sensitive before, nor one with as much versatile athleticism and as natural a mover as Crest.  And finally, I realized I had two options: either I would dedicate myself to learning what he needed, or pack up and go home. 

So I did what any obsessed Parelli student would have done:  I threw aside everything that had already happened, abandoned the “must be trained” timeline, and I bought the horse for myself! Crest came home as mine on July 22nd, 2005.
Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on your perspective), our story still hasn’t been the “happily ever after” scenario that we might have hoped for.  Crest has constantly challenged me to grow and evolve every time we reach a new level, especially when it comes to being ridden.  He still has residual baggage about having something on his back, there have been a number of scary “near misses” we’ve had, as well as one really bad accident, and there are still days when I don’t know what to do with him.  This is part of why his online and liberty are so advanced, but his under-saddle savvys are not—his confidence blossoms and play drive emerges when we play on the ground.

But our lesson with Linda has led to a much greater understanding of why he does what he does when he’s ridden, and it has led to a strengthening of bond and understanding that we both had only dreamed of before.  It has allowed me to let Crest be the horse that he is, and help him by shaping his innate character for the positive, and becoming a leader that he can feel confidence in. Now, not only am I riding Crest, but we’re riding and doing things with more confidence than ever before—we’ve even cantered bareback with relaxation on a trail ride now.

I hope this clarifies and gives answers to some of the questions people have had about Crest, and I hope it also sheds some light on why this was such a complex, but necessary lesson for Linda to teach in the way that she did. Crest’s layers run deep, and he carries some heavy baggage, and he and I both needed to be taken to that limit, but not over. Linda delivered perfectly, I know that I’m grateful every day for those 3 intense hours in that arena in Columbus Ohio.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Born to Fly

Hi folks,

More blogs coming soon, I PROMISE. I've started two that I need to finish.  But for now, I wanted to give you a little treat. Or...well..I think it's a treat, I'll let you make the final judgment ;)

Below is a video of me playing with Sunny on the day that I took her home.  She taught me lots while she was here. Some of the big things were being in the moment, as well as an acute sensitivity to personal space, and understanding comfort/discomfort motivation to a new level.  I'm very proud of what the two of us were able to accomplish in our time together, and I hope that her owner finds as much joy in playing with her as I did :)

Please let me know what you think!

Friday, July 30, 2010

The Truck of My Dreams

Just for fun and off the topic of horses somewhat.

I've been sort of half-shopping for a truck for a couple of years now, but not until this summer did the push really start to get to me. (well, actually, all through the winter I lamented that I needed 4WD, but really...) I have a trailer already, (is that like getting your cart before your horse?) and I hate having to ask people to transport my horses everywhere, especially on longer trips.  I've been searching casually for a truck on craigslist and a couple other sites since April, and have gone so far as to call on a couple of ads, but not much has come of the search. 

I had gotten pretty much fed up with sifting through pages of ads, and was ready to start giving my specifications to dealer owners to see if they could find what I needed...I didn't think it was that complicated--2003 or newer Dodge Ram with a Cummins diesel motor, (prefer a one-ton but 3/4 was fine) in good mechanical working condition under $20,000.  I had some other specifications too, but they weren't the set-in-stone kind; I'd prefer a long box and crew cab, but wouldn't turn down a working short box in the right range. I wanted an automatic, but could learn to love a manual,  I would love to get something with a goose-neck ball already installed, but obviously was set to put one in if it didn't have one. I liked blue, silver, or white for color, but would take anything functional. You know, that sort of thing.

That is until Monday night.  It was pretty late, probably about midnight or a little later, and I was getting ready to tuck in for the night. But for whatever the reason (I, personally, am a believer in the Law of Attraction to some extent...) I got the itch to check craigslist for the first time in several weeks.

And there it was.  I knew it was the truck for me without even opening the ad (it was that "that's it!" feeling).   But when I did, my jaw hit the floor.  2003 Dark blue Dodge Ram 3500 Cummins Dually (BEAST!).  Crew Cab, long box, gooseneck ball already installed, and totally set up to tow. A truck that, mileage and condition included, blue-books for $17,000 for sale for $12,000.  The small used-car dealership had just bought it as a re-posess from Chrysler financial, and they weren't even finished prepping it to sell.

I went Tuesday morning to take it for a test-drive, and Wednesday,  I was back with a check.  Though the truck has high miles, everything about it is mechanically perfect. I'm still getting used to all the POWER in that thing, but I love it.  I've named her "Kat"... the acronym stands for Kick-Ass Truck, and it's a very fitting name--she doesn't roar, she purrrrrrrrs!  The photo above was taken just after test-driving on Tuesday,  and deciding that she was indeed my truck. 

I didn't waste any time getting Kat home and putting her to work. My trailer has been sitting in the same spot for 5 years (actually belongs to Richard,  my barn owner, and his truck doesn't have a gooseneck ball in it right now) and so we hitched up and pulled the trailer out to give it some TLC.  Spectacularly, the trailer is in great working condition, though it will need some more extensive work before I take it anything farther than locally.  I spent the majority of the afternoon yesterday pressure-washing the heck out of it, and it looks better, anyway. The photos at left shows the rig all hitched up--the top was taken pre-wash. The photo below is a fun one, taken by my friend Sherri, who generously let me use her pressure washer to get the project started.  It was definitely a  satisfying and productive afternoon, even if we did all get a little bit wet!

This afternoon was my first time hauling the rig with horses in it. My friend, mentor, and instructor, Kristi Smith, is here for the weekend to teach workshops and lessons, and instead of my usual afternoon spent riding my horses into town, I got to haul them myself. Thank heavens both of my horses are good travelers, because Franny was a little bit nervous, hauling my very own rig for the first time! (Interesting how driving someone else's doesn't phase me!) But all is well, and it's fun to have a little base to call "home" at the event :)

Friday, July 23, 2010

We're Featured on Linda's Blog!

Linda wrote a blog featuring the lesson she gave Crest and me!  Too cool, and a VERY informative read :)  Check it out!


Would love to hear what people thought! :)