Photo by Margaret Chant and edited by Jessica Metropulos

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Knightly News Update--El Finale

I've finally found the heart to post this on my blog. Our dear little Knight had to be euthanized on the evening of the 29th. It's a long story to explain, but the ultimate cause of death was colic, we think.

We had noticed him getting a little thin on the 26th, but thought little of it. It had been pretty chilly those past few days, and so we weren't alarmed at his dropping a few pounds. The next day (27th) he looked a bit more gaunt, and I noticed kind of a foul smell coming from his nose. I de-wormed him on a hunch that day, and on the 28th, I noticed some little red worms in his stool. Also on the 28th, we noticed he had kind of isolated himself, and didn't really perk up when we brought feed out. I knew he couldn't be feeling well, and I also knew that the vet was coming on the 29th to do a pre-travel exam on Prin.

The 29th came, and Prin passed her exam with flying colors. I pointed Knight out to the vet, who said "Oh my...go catch him and we'll have a look." (Keep in mind that Knight by this time looked downright gaunt) I brought Knight over to the vet, and he went to take a look inside his mouth. Knight tried to struggle, and much to our horror, was so weak that he fell over! The vet gave us a rundown of what was going on. He said that it looked like he might be feeling the symptoms of a tick-borne disease called Ehrlichiosis. It's similar to Lymes in symptoms, but caused by a different organism. Knight was running a 104 temperature, and based on the fact that he had blood worms, all the elements had combined to create a really sick horse. We were told that we needed to get him indoors, warm, pump all the feed we could into him, get him drinking warm water, de-worm him heavily using SafeGuard, and overall keep a really close eye on him. The vet drew some blood to do some tests, and gave Knight a massive dose of Tetracycline to reduce his fever.

Fast forward to about 9:00 that evening. Knight was in a stall, warm with all the hay and grain he could possibly want. He ate a bit unenthusiastically, and drank a couple of small buckets of molasses water. I had mixed up an electrolyte and pro-bio paste (applesauce, blackstrap molasses, and Fast-Track powder)and wanted to give him some. Knight, however, was standing with his head in a dark corner, and I couldn't see what I was doing. I asked him to turn around really slowly, and he obliged. I gave him the paste, and he went to follow me to the gate for some more, but he was so weak that his knees buckled, and he fell. What happened next will haunt me for a LONG time. Not only did Knight fall, but he fell HARD. Then, he started to thrash and kick at his stomach like I have NEVER seen before. It didnt' take long for that to wear him out, and he just lay on his side panting, looking helpless.

Micky and I were TERRIFIED, so we called the vet, and told him the update. The vet told us that we should administer a large injection of Banamine into Knight's HQ, and wait to see how he did. If his gut sounds and appetite returned, and he could stand up, he might be fine. If not, we'd have to make another call. The banamine seemed to do the trick, and when the Probiotics got there, he seemed to pretty much recover. He ate a bit of grain and hay again, drank half a bucket of water, and seemed to perk up considerably. He tried to stand up, and we all backed away and let him try. But he simply did not have the strength. He fell again, thrashing around like had had the first time, and by then, we knew what we had to do.

The vet came, took one look at him, and went "The only way this horse will survive is if you get him to the U of M. And I highly doubt he'd survive the trailer ride. I think your best bet is the option you obviously are not going to want to take."

But we took it. We HATED to see him like that.

The evening afterward was REALLY hard. Knight was a favorite to all who met him. A horse with that much heart, and SO CUTE. He had a special gift with children, and he seemed to melt when he saw them. To see that little horse go was the most painful thing I've ever been through. We'll miss him SO MUCH.

This concludes your Knightly News Update. Dear god, I'll miss them.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Leader vs. Boss

I lay awake a long time last night thinking about this, and came up with some interesting thoughts I'd like to share. But first let me explain kind of why I was thinking about this.

I had a WEIRD session with Crest yesterday. My usually confident-in-his-leader-and-self LBE had complete and total RBI meltdown, literally. I was out riding with my friend Renee, who was on Prin. We had cut across a corn field to avoid icy roads, and we're about to meet up with the road again, and there was a small patch of ice that we'd have to cross (it was either that, or an almost 4-foot-deep snow drift) to get to where we needed to go. We opted to take the ice. It wasn't a glare sheet, just a patchy spot (ice, dirt, ice, dirt melt pattern). Prin tiptoed across it without so much as a second glance, and Crest easily followed suit...until he realized what he was standing on. Crest's mind went into COMPLETE PANIC mode. But, being that he was on ice, he realized (Thank GOODNESS) that he couldn't scramble, or he'd hurt himself. At this point, I thought it best to get off, and I'm REALLY GLAD I did, because what happened next scared the ever-living out of me. Crest's entire body got tense, and then, he basically collapsed in on himself. I watched him as he did it, he was very careful, and folded his legs up and lay down in a way that wouldn't hurt himself, but then he just stayed there, on the ground, totally tense, and WOULD NOT move.

That's all I'm going to share for now (fear not, Crest is fine save a few surface abrasions from the gravel) because I want to get onto my point. This was such a bizarre experience, because number one, I've never seen a horse get so scared they'd lie down, and number two, I've NEVER seen Crest go catatonic before, so I emailed a couple instructors, wondering what I could have done, and bluntly put, one response really sent me for a loop. I'll let you make the judgment call on it (I'm not at all offended, but am fascinated by how to progress, now)

"You're going to hate (or love) my answer. As his leader you should never have put him in that position. You need to assess the situation and know if it's something you should ask him to do that won't compromise his self confidence or confidence in you.

You handled it well, but in the future savvy means never having to create the problem in the first place. Okay... that's Level 3+, so it's not a judgement but as you are studying that level it is important you know. If you could have done it better you would have... chalk it up to a learning experience and the key then is not to relive it... you'll know better next time. Otherwise it was not a learning experience :)"

Anyway, that sent me into a frenzy of thought (yes, sounds dangerous, I know!) especially since that little skeptic in me said "So wait, how is being a good leader any different than 'showing the horse who's boss'?" So that got me thinking about how I might explain that to a traditional rider who asked that question. Here's what I came up with. A "boss" pushes without an allow. The persona is "I'm in charge, and you'll do what I say, deal with it." Whereas a good leader guides without pressure unless it is appropriate, and causes other to WANT to follow.

It was kind of a strange train of thought, my brain tends to segue a lot, so if you didn't get that, I apologize.

Anyway, That's that for now.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Course Blog is up!

That's the web address for my secondary blog cataloging my experiences while in Florida. I'll try to keep it updated as often as possible :)

Off to feed again, yippee!


Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Happy Holidays and an update

Happy holidays, everyone! Hope everyone has a wonderful day tomorrow, and finds lots of horsey goodness under the tree :)

Here's a little update on MY life, it's been an interesting week, to say the least. Richard is currently out of town for Christmas, and I'm in charge of the farm for a week. No big deal right? WRONG. Let me tell you about what's going on here. First of all, there are two feet of snow on the ground right now. No big deal for Richard, with his 4WD truck. Big deal for me--I have to walk in the 1/2 a mile, down and up a hill, in a full coverall suit, through the snow. It's way more exausting than it may sound. I'm doing this about 3x a day (sometimes 2x, sometimes 4 or 5, depending). The good thing is that I'm shedding fat like mad-haha.

Secondly, we have a compulsive eater on our farm. The majority of the herd could go on two large feedings a day, one around 8 am and one around 8 pm. But then we've got Belle. Belle is Richard's OBESE Morgan mare. Belle is a chronic founder case, and loves to eat, and will do anything TO eat when she's hungry. When she gets hungry, she doesn't think twice, she just bashes down the fence to get to the hay. Three mornings of the past four, we've come out to find Belle on the other side of a very crippled fence. The electricity (enough to knock me on my butt) doesn't even phase her!

Thirdly, Let's talk waterers. Automatic waterers are so fantastic...most of the time. They make doing chores much easier...most of the time. Until the winter when they freeze. ARGH. Ours has been frozen every day I've been out there recently. It's been pretty cold recently (High temps peaked yesterday, and it was 22). Keeping the dang thing open long enough for everyone to get a drink and to refill is tough. Then, two days ago, it wouldn't STOP filling. Fortunately my father, handy-man that he is, realized that the last time the thing had been taken apart, a piece had been put back on backwards, and that's what caused the problem. But since then, it's been off and on freeze. I swear I'm a fan of tank heaters, now.

OTHER THAN THIS, life is actually quite grand. Micky and I took Nugget and Prin out for a trail ride yesterday (Nugget's first!!) which went GREAT. Micky hopped on Nug on the way home, and commented immediately on how much she reminded her of Digger. All in all, a very successful outing. Today, we opened one present before dinner (family tradition) and I was very happy to receive a telephoto lens for my Canon Rebel digital camera. This equipment will all go to FL with me and be used like CRAZY, no worries :)

In other news, as well, one of my students passed her L1 last week, congratulations Jenifer and Mamma! I helped film and coach these two through their assessment, so it gives me a great sense of accomplishment, too. Well done, girls, now onto L2!

OH! Speaking of FL, I'm going to start a new blog and try to keep track of my journey as the course I'm attending progresses. I'll post a link to that as soon as I get it up and running :)

Finally, my two ponies got blankies for Xmas and boy do they look cute! Crest got a green and blue plaid Noreasta turnout, and Prin got a denim/navy Weatherbeeta Orican midweight turnout. They both look fantastic, and will keep nice and warm on these cold nights, now. I'll take pix soon.

I think that's all for now, folks :) Time for me to hit the hay, let Santa do his job, and prepare to get up early again tomorrow morning to go feed...again.

Savvy on and out!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Updates and Such

BRRRR!!! Sorry I've dropped off the face of the planet, my life got crazy! I've had a really interesting week, and while I'd love to write about all of it, my fingers are freezing, (WHO ORDERED THIS WEATHER?!)so I'm going to try to keep kind of general.

Thursday through Sunday last, I took a road trip across the state. First stop was Green Bay to visit my friend and fellow PNHer, Heidi, then back to Mosinee to teach at Anne's for 3 days.

The visit to Heidi's was a blast, we ate a lovely dinner on Thursday night, then stayed up WAY TOO LATE watching Best of Show. Friday morning, we dragged ourselves out of bed and made our way to Algoma to go visit Heidi's horse Charmer. To begin with, Heidi got out Charm and I was partnered with a horse named Dutch, who belonged to the barn owner. He was a bay ball of fun, reminded me a lot of Crest, very playful and devoted to pleasing. We had a good time. Next, we put my fluidity saddle on Charmer, and BOY was there a change! This horse is not one prone to stretching or round/correct self carriage. Check out this video!

Pretty neat huh?

We finished my visit with lunch at a lovely little cafe in Algoma and then I hit the road back to Mosinee.

Saturday was a fun day. It was just warm enough to give the snow a nice crunch, so Anne and I got out the snowmobile and broke some trails around her property both to walk the wiener dogs on (the snow is so deep it swallows them) and also for us to ride on. That was an adventure in itself because this girl here hasn't driven a snowmobile in a couple years, and this one happened to have a sticky throttle. You can imagine where that went... Anyway, we also played with Clearwater, both basic 7 games and also trail riding, some trail riding stuff, and we ended the day on a good note. Sunday, the weather was nasty, but even so, we braved the sleet and went out to play with all things blanket-y. We started with Clear, who couldn't have cared less, then we moved to Blix, who I KNEW would be scary if we just went straight to the blanket. First, I decided we should get him confident with rhythm in general before even TRYING to desensitize him to a big flopping blanket. We played with friendly game with the carrot stick and string, and also discovered that Blixen is a closet LBI...yes. You read correctly. He's a cookie monster. Everything suddenly became easy when we realized this. Anyway, a long story short, carrot stick/string, then saddle blanket, then blanket, with not a single flinch. Very cool stuff.

I got home Sunday night, and have pretty much been home-bound since, it's been a brutal mostly subzero week so far, today was the warmest at 10 above and sunny with little or no windchill. Today I had a nice session with Prin and Nugget though. Prin's been spoiled and not been played with much, so today was an interesting battle of leadership, which I ended up winning by pulling out some exercises from the old Levels. She wasn't quite sure what to think, but it all worked out. Also I played with standing to the trot, an exercise suggested to aid in my apparent inability to properly sit the trot--not caused by a lack of fluidity entirely, but also a lack of properly developed muscle. This has made the person that suggested this exercise public enemy number 1 to my legs, which currently ache so much I can't straighten them entirely. But it definitely aided my sitting trot! I could feel that right away.

Nugget was fantastic, she was very LBE today, her motto was "Look at meeee, I'm WIIIILLLD!!!" We played with some W/G/T/C (G as in GAIT!) stuff, and that little horse just likes to GOOOOOOO. Very fun, she's gonna be a helluva trail horse :)

Anyway, I need to go play with some paperwork, YAY. Course in 19 days :)

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Good Intentions, Anyway...

One of the top things that people say they miss when they move from the midwest to a warmer climate, is the lack of seasons...they say warm all the the time gets old. I say they're crazy.

We got about 6 inches of snow last night, enough to cause administrators around the area to call school off, etc. When school is called off in WI, most of the time, you KNOW there's a good reason for it, because if the plows can't get it done, no one's driving anywhere. That being said, what better way to start out the day than go for a drive, eh?

I spent most of my morning at Warren's, doing some work on the computer, chatting over coffee, and just hanging out with my boy. We had a fantastic time, I don't usually get that much quality time with him during the week because he's working a lot, etc. He had to work tonight, as well, so I was "booted" at 2:30 so he could get ready.

I decided to head for the farm, since it was a gorgeous day after snowfall. Perfect temperature to hop on and go for a bareback "dash through the snow".

Richard's drive way has always been some cause for concern to me during the winter, having a 2WD car, and usually by mid December, I'm left to park at the top of the hill that goes down to the driveway. Today, I wasn't entirely sure on the traction, so I did a fairly classic traction test: Try reversing out every couple of feet until you start to feel the slightest inkling of slipping. If you feel that AT ALL, DO NOT PROCEED. I did this going down the hill, and didn't hit a single spot I couldn't back out of, so I just let myself creep down the hill slowly, and went up the other side. This side of the hill has NEVER (Never say never?) given me a problem during the winter. It's a straight shot up, not very steep, and doesn't drift badly at all, and usually, there's at least a little bit of gravel to get a grip on. Today's conditions looked no different. I started to climb the hill at about 15 mph, as usual, and got nearly to the top, and then felt the thing EVERYONE dreads. My tires started to spin and give way to the soft but "full-bodied" snow.

Now at this point, I realized I wasn't going to crest the hill. The smart thing to do would have been to park the car and run into Richard's on foot and grab our ever-present bucket of wood ash, come back, dump it in my slippery spot, and continue driving. Of course, I'm not that smart. So, what do I do? I decide I should probably back down the hill and get a better "running start". WRONG. As SOON as I started to back, I started to slide. I cranked my wheel around to try to get back on the road, and instead of straightening up, I slid more crooked. When I looked out my rear-view and saw the ditch I was already 1/2 into, I realized that I was just downright screwed. I half heartedly tried to drive out, realized that it was hopeless, put the car in park, and trudged into the farm to do feed, anyway.

Richard and I will pull the car out tomorrow (would have tonight, but the sun was setting by the time he got there, and he didn't have his tire chains) so all is not lost, but I'm disgusted with my stupid decision. Ah well...such is winter in WI. My intentions were good, at least. Thank goodness for warm savvy places like Florida :)

Monday, December 8, 2008

A Horse in the HOUSE?!

We have a town holiday festival every year the first weekend in December. This year, my mom asked me if I'd bring my miniature horse (Now affectionately known as L.B. for those who helped me name her some time ago) into town and parade her around for the little kids to pet, etc. I thought it sounded like fun, and what a great way for L.B. to get exposed to "stuff". So, instead of being all traditional and hitching up the trailer, Micky and I loaded L.B. in the back of the car, and drove her into town. Here's where the pictures begin:

On the way to town, driving. She rode just like my dog does.

Santas and the Mini
Posing with Santa :)

After meeting and greeting for over two hours, all 3 of us got COLD! We walked back to my house, and were going to put L.B. on the porch to eat, drink, etc while we warmed up. No such luck! L.B. drank some water, then marched up to the door of the house, and started pawing on the door...she wanted IN. I was honestly afraid she might do some damage to the door, so I grabbed a towel and a hoof pick, cleaned her up, and let her come in.

In the kitchen "Hey...what's this?"

Hanging out with mom


Checking out the kitchen table

Makes a good head rest!

Long story short, my mother wasn't thrilled, but we didn't make a mess, my father thought it was hilarious and now has a new best friend, and she's expected to make more trips to town in the future :)

Friday, December 5, 2008

Drama is SO Overrated!

I'm posting this entry on my blog mainly out of frustration. I'm trying to put some thought into this, and also try to be careful what I say, because I am not in the business of insulting people. Everything I've said here is what I've thought today and refrained from posting on the forum, for fear of being ripped open.

The Parelli Savvy Club was created over 5 years ago as a student body that could study and share information together. People NEED to be able to study together to stay motivated on this journey we call horsemanship, and the Savvy Club Forum is a great place to ask questions and get support...until recently. Obviously when you put 20,000 some odd users on a forum together, there isn't always going to be total agreement on everything said, but in the past month or so, the place has totally erupted into CHAOS. There have always been differing opinions (hoof care, cost of the Parelli program, nutrition/holistic care, just to name a few hot topics), and that's fine when people can carry out mature discussions, and most of all, agree to disagree when opposite points of view can't be seen.

I have frequented the forum for over a year now, enjoying reading a lot of the topics and posts written. It gives me something to think about, and a way to test my own knowledge. Recently though, the atmosphere has been coming up nothing short of poisonous and hostile, and I can't help but think: "Has everyone FORGOTTEN what our goals are here?" There are some people on there that I'm beginning to think pay the $20/month to Parelli JUST so they can complain about it. Some have been threatening to quit Parelli for MONTHS now, and I'm going through a serious attitude shift towards them: Quit already! If you really and truly hate it that much, GET OUT OF HERE! STOP POISONING THE FORUM! STOP LIGHTING FIRES! But that's where we hit a problem: OF COURSE they don't hate it that much! They love PNH, they're just really not happy, positive people, they just are looking for an outlet to complain. Come on guys, go outside, and do something with YOUR horses for once, instead of picking Pat and Linda's.

This statement (^^^) opens up another can of worms. Plenty of people retaliate with "Well we're genuinely concerned about the wellfare of their horses." Sure. Right. That's why you're complaining on a forum, and not writing to THEM. I will give you a little piece of information: TELL THEM about it! I certainly have. The information they provide you with might surprise you.

A lot of people think that the reason I don't like these posts is because I follow blindly every word that Pat and Linda say. I'm here to say now, that this is not true. Underlying all the complaining I've heard about hoof care, the representation Pat and Linda have in their company, the welfare of Remmer and Allure etc, I've actually heard a lot of good points brought to the table.

Yes, I'm actually very concerned about Remmer's feet and Allure's right-hand side, and I don't think either one can be solved entirely by putting bigger, thicker, specially designed, shimmed, (you name it) shoes on their feet. I'm a devout barefoot trimmer, and I don't believe for a second that their horses HAVE to be shod. But the Parellis have an underlying reason why they don't advocate barefoot trimming (and no, it's not "we travel a lot"...that's their cover story). Granted they may not be 100% justified (I wish I could point them to Pete Ramey's stuff), but they're certainly not totally ignorant.

Yes, Linda is a representative of her company. Her recent segment on purity of gait with Allure was probably not her best representation of her knowledge on the subject. I think what she was aiming for was more to show how one might START developing purity of gait. Remmer would have done it perfectly, Allure hasn't done it, and so I think the point was to show the development. And maybe it wasn't the best idea. But let's not decapitate the poor girl, and for God sake, to whatever imbecile said "Linda is NOT a student, she is a professional" Have you HEARD THE WOMAN TALK?! EVER?! She is SO on a journey of never-ending self improvement, that it can be a bit intimidating to people who don't have that drive. Self-improvement comes from learning. Any person who learns is a student of some kind. Sure, she's a professional, and she IS professional. She admits that she doesn't know what's going on, and that she's working to fix it (some may not agree with the steps she's taking, but at least she's made an effort!). A non professional person (I actually had a PNH instructor do this once) would get all huffy and defensive, and pretend as if nothing was wrong, and try to make their students feel ignorant.

I guess the bottom line of this rant is that I am TIRED of people using the Parelli Forum (Remember? that Positive-minded student body?) to pick on Pat and Linda's character for not understanding something. They're trying. They really and truly are. As I put it to a friend in conversation today, it'd be like if I screamed at you "YOU CAN'T DO CALCULUS??? YOU ARE SUCH A MONEY-STEALING JERK BECAUSE YOU CAN'T DO CALCULUS!" Okay, rediculous, flamboyant, and just downright out of line. Cut them some slack, they're doing the best they can with the resources they have. If you're not fond of their resources, provide them with some that you think they could benefit from! Let's be productive here!

I apologize in advance for the severity of this post. These thoughts have been weighing on my mind all day. I may end up removing it eventually, anyway.

THanks for reading, and I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

A Few Pics!

We had our first real snowfall of the season last night, and Prin and I took advantage of it today and had a nice online session. Here are a few photos. Take notice of how uphill and round she is, and the nice expression on her face :)

Tall horse, short girl ^^^

Bring back
Drawing in :)

Gorgeous Canter
Big extended ROUND canter (using her shoulders for once!) Playing traveling circling game here.

This pic just blows my mind. she's uphill, round, LOOK AT HER HIND QUARTERS, theres slack in the's just gorgeous.

Let me know what you think!!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Online, Freestyle Patterns and the Like

I have to say, since starting to play with Nugget, I've gained a whole new appreciation for the usfulness and effectiveness of the Parelli patterns pack. Not that I had any doubt about it, but being that I come from older Parelli, I'm kinda partial to the levels formatting, particularly to old levels. But the more I use this new stuff (with my prior knowledge of horsenality and the seven games) the more I like the format.

Anyway, point of this statement is to open up what I did today. I actually started out with Crest before playing with Nugget. After my experience yesterday trimming Crest's feet (I didn't write about this because I was too exausted, but long story short, I had a hard time doing his back feet because of the weakness in his stifles leftover from the accident we had in winter '07) I decided he needs to get strengthened up in that hind end. I figured probably the best way to go about that was to just do another 4 weeks of hill therapy, but because his back is strong enough this time, and I have a good saddle, maybe allow myself to ride him a bit. So we started playing with the circles pattern, and I put hills and obstacles in the way accordingly. We pretty much played all over the property, up and down, over barrels, down through some steep stuff, up into a nicely sloping corn field, and Crest seemed to really enjoy himself, while getting a really good workout. Watching him move all over the place like that had me DROOLING. He's such a gorgeous horse.

Moving on to miss Nugget. She was queen of multiple horsenalities today, and I could have been better "on my game" at first, but I think all in all it went well. We started out playing the catching game for the first time since she's been here. I'm of the opinion that Crest and Cricket are teaching her this during feeding time, since one or both of them consistantly takes off after being fed, insisting that they have some grazing time. Anyway, we played with that for about 5 minutes, then she came to me with a truly confused look ("I don't know why but I'm strangly drawn to you...") and we headed out to the west paddock to feed and play.

Nugget has had a little (VERY minor) food aggression thing since she's been here, and I've played with it a little bit, but just enough to get her to not lay her ears back while I'm throwing hay. Today, for some reason, I was not in the mood to play dominance games anymore, so I pulled out a new trick. I decided that this pan of feed was MY feed, and that she didn't get any until she yo-yo'd to the end of the line, ASKED ME PERMISSION to come in and eat,and then came in with her ears forward, or at least one ear on me. She wasn't exactly pleased with this at first (got some serious tail swishing) but when she caught onto the game, it actually improved her entire attitude in the session.

Next, we played a little with the weave pattern, which she was quite RBE about at first (I'm thinking I may have scared her a little with my sudden quest for dominance) but she calmed down after seeing that there was purpose and "FOCUS" for her scattered energy. We also played a bit with more extreme friendly games, getting comfortable with the "helicopter" action with CS and string, etc.

Then I hopped on, and this is where things got really interesting. She was a little uneasy at first coming to get me off the barrel, but she soon settled when I played friendly and just leaned on her back, etc. When she finally relaxed, I put some weight on, and she didnt' object, so I hopped on. I asked her to bend in each direction, then backup, then stand, and then I asked politely for her to walk on. She had a CLASSIC RBI moment, and totally froze up. I backed off until she turned her head to check in. I played friendly and then asked her forward again. 3 little bucks in a row, on the spot is what I got in return. How INTERESTING...I bent her head without getting tense, asked her to back up, and then asked her forward again, and she kind of BLASTED into a walk, and proceeded to attempt to walk me off, I think. Instead of asking her to slow (I'm HAPPY that she wanted to move!) I immediately directed her towards the barrels, where I still had my weave pattern set up. We power-walked through the pattern about 4 times, and then, like clockwork (Pat and Linda sure know what they're talking about ;P ) she started to lower her head, blow out, relax, slow down, etc. Her ears went forward, and all of a sudden, she had this attitude of "Let's DO something!" and she took me for a walk around the paddock, just investigating everything. I even got several strides of a lovely smooth trot, and got her to walk over a log, and do an entire fence line of running walk. This gaited thing is kinda fun!

I ended the session with her relaxing and blowing out even more adrenaline, and walking me over to the gate, no hurry, just moseying. I'm pleased with this girl's progress! Pix to come soon, I hope :)

Time for me to go to bed now! It's supposed to snow tonight, YAY!

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Free Advertising

Not that she'll ever see this, but I just thought I'd throw out some free advertising for Farrah Green in here. If anyone wants to have a genuinely FANTASTIC learning experience, whether it be in clinic format or a private lesson, seriously, check her out!

Reason I throw the above message out there before starting my blog is because I had a wonderful, VERY effective session with my horse today, utilizing the information Farrah provided me in our lesson yesterday. To go into detail would basically be regurgitating what I wrote yesterday, but the result is what prompted the free advertising. Prin cantered 6 laps on the 22' line today without my being at all persistant, and I hardly had to up my phase much. I sent her out on phase 1, and asked her into the canter in like moderate 2 or so, and other than following her with my eyes with disbelief, she held in place with no reminders. Guess she realized that I can be and am bossy. The difference between this and what I had before (even when Prin WAS cantering more online) is like night and day, she's cantering A LOT, cantering WILLINGLY, and honestly putting effort into it. I'd rather have 4 laps of this than 18 laps of LBI "Ba...da...dum..." ANY day! Video/pix soon, I hope.

In other news, Nugget's owners came out to see her today, and were ASTOUNDED when I met them at the gate on her bareback with one rein. She's catching on so quickly, I think tomorrow I may start some L1 freestyle patterns with her.

Time to go eat some spaghetti, soak in a hot bath, and read a good book. Here's to comfort evenings! Savvy OUT!

Friday, November 28, 2008

Steps in the Right Direction

Much to my relief today, I was able to attend my lesson I had set up with Farrah. We loaded up (Prin actually loaded herself-lol) and drove out to Stillwater to our mutual friend Michelle's barn. Prin was her usual charming LBI self, lacking motivation, etc, etc.

We started out by basically disecting the problem into "Which principle game is broken?"--both driving and porcupine in Prin's case. Or rather, not broken, in the case of the driving game, but confused. What it breaks down to is this: Prin has a respect issue going on in zone 1 porcupine game: "No, I don't have to yeild to that pressure." Sounds like a simple enough problem, but Farrah pointed out something really amusing that I do that DOES NOT help. In her words "Now, Fran, don't get me wrong, you have been trained REALLY WELL, Pat would be SO PROUD, and I bet you never get rope burns because of it, but you NEVER CLOSE YOUR HANDS! Like I said, it's GREAT. You allow a horse to drift. But in the case of Prin, here, You NEED to keep a firm grip UNTIL she gives, then you can give. Otherwise, she leans and gets away from you." This whole thing became a huge laugh during the entire lesson. Periodically, Farrah would randomly shout "FRAN! HANDS!" and I'd have to grasp again.

Now, back up a second and let's get serious; doesn't Linda say something along the lines of NEVER RELEASE ON A BRACE? I had NEVER thought of that phrase in this context before, but it made PERFECT sense. When I held, it was only a matter of time before Prin relaxed and released! Of course.

We played with finding a rhythm and intention in my phase 4, because to be quite honest, Prin has never taken it seriously, even though she never really WANTS to be swatted, she kind of shakes it off after one and goes on ignoring me. What Farrah had me do was instead of touching Prin once, she had me touch her with the intention of touching her 3 times (or more if needed). If she got out of the way, great, if not, smack, smack, smack on her zone 5 until she skedaddled. Didn't take long. What this built was a really snappy send and some attention, which carried into a much more quality allow. All while paying attention to whether my horse was leaning on the halter, using herself, etc. When she made the slightest effort at purity and decent movement, she came and got rubbed to death. Amazingly, this was enough--I didn't have cookies, but she loved her scratches...something about proper position and timing rings in my head here...

Now, all this while, we'd been playing at the walk/trot on the 12' line. We bumped it up to the 22' line next, and we started playing with heading into the canter. At first, again, Farrah had me playing with trot, only this time, we added a change of direction for two reasons--first, to practice with my snappy departs/leaning issue (I was supposed to do these changes of direction without opening my hands) and also to get Prin to sink back and engage her hindquarters, preparing her to depart into a canter. This went well, and soon enough, Farrah asked me to ask her to canter...And here's where it all adds up. While keeping my hands closed, I had to keep a good rhythm in my effective phase 4, while trying to accept a try and release after she quit bracing.

While I wouldn't call it a miracle session, I'd say it was a start. After playing at the canter for 1/2 an hour, Prin was maintaining for 2-3 laps with me basically neutral. Still not totally there, but MUCH improvement, and more effort from my horse than I'd EVER seen before--even in her "I'll do 14 laps" phase, and the look on her face said it all. Huge hugs to Farrah for helping through this puzzle. I think I've got some good things to play with until we leave for our course. Can't wait to watch the improvements!

Here's a general overview of my notes. Most of this is included within the story, (but these will be easier to follow):

*Pressure on Z4/Z5 means forward as well as disengage/sideways

*Porcupine trouble on Z1--CLOSE HANDS!!! Don't release on a brace

*Bring back when horse falls into a good rhythm/cooperates

*Keep at a managable distance (6-8 feet) until responsive--bring it back in if it regresses

*If it EVER gets unmanagable, SHORTEN ROPE

*Snappy send=snappy allow=snappy bring back

*Rhythmic intention w/ Phase 4--3 slaps as opposed to 1, stop when she puts efford into forward motion vs. sideways

*Do change of direction into canter

*KEEP HANDS CLOSED--Changes of direction especially

*Quicker phases--point, lift, swing, touch, touch, touch.


That's all for tonight, folks. let me know what you think!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

It's Only Discomfort...

One of my constant hauntings in the back of my head is that little Aussie accent, reminding me that "I didn't mean you weren't allowed to get upset, it's just how you handle your emotions."

Today was a day of...well...not handling my emotions so well. You know that saying "Everything that can go wrong WILL go wrong."? That pretty much sums up my day. Now before I delve into it, let me explain: I've whined, melted down, cried buckets, but the fact of the matter is, really, it's just discomfort...on several largly varied degrees, but STILL, it's only discomfort, and I can get through that. I'm onto the next thing, but I wanted to share, and just let this be my attempt at a neutral post. I'm trying to see today as a learning experience.

Anyway, the starter for all this frustration lies in the new intern program Parelli has put out. I've got some thoughts about it, which for the most part I'll keep to myself, but let's just put it this way: I'll be looking for new career options if this replaces the instructor program. That was enough to start my day off poorly. It was not made better by the fact that when I got to the farm to feed this evening, Prin was showing the signs of a classic colic case. She was kicking her belly and trying to drop and roll, and let me just say it sent me for a panic attack. In the 6 years I've owned my horses, I've never once had a colic problem. I've seen cases, but mine have been VERY healthy. So anyway, those two things piled on top of eachother to make a nice emotional stack. Then the straw that broke the camel's back comes: Richard's truck decided it was LBI. It's got SOMETHING wrong with it, and probably won't be able to take me to Stillwater for my private lesson with Farrah that I had planned for Friday.

Now...looking at all this objectively, This is all going to end fine, I'm sure, but this evening it sent me for a loop. I haven't cried that much in ages. I haven't been that angry at NOTHING in a while either. I snapped at several people who didn't deserve it (and a couple didn't take it very well, can't say as I blame them, either) and to those who read my blog who recieved my wrath, I am truly SORRY, I have no excuse.

Anyway, beyond that, I'm regrouping and hoping to get constructive and do something. At this point, the best I can do is drink some water, avoid coffee, and try to find another truck to use. Anyone?

Sorry for going crazy guys. Back to myself soon. A little sleep will help that I'm sure...and I suppose I should stop thinking, too. That get's dangerous.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Breathing? SERIOUSLY?!

Let me just open with this statement: Oh what a great student I would be if I TOOK MY OWN ADVICE ONCE IN A WHILE!!! I am, in short, a VERY confident rider, trainer, and instructor. I don't sit around and worry about what COULD happen very often, but rather, I choose to see things in every situation. I consider myself a good reader, both in horses and humans, and can usually change situations without getting worried. That is, until, something happens TO worry me.

Last week, I believe it was the second day Nugget was here, she pulled an RBI whip-and-kick manuver on me. It startled the hell out of me, and though I wasn't hurt (She didnt' actually connect) I've got a healthy respect for that horse's reflexes now. Looking back, it was totally my fault, damn my predatorial direct-line thinking ANYWAY, but it left this slightly cautious side to me. Now, forget that for now. It has very little to do with the story.

I started playing with the Figure-8 Pattern with Nugget today, and starting out she was REALLY pushy. Nugget, has this tendency (because she's gaited) to be able to bend and "snap" really well physically. This makes the driving game a PAIN, because she's so flexible, she can bend nearly in half before yeilding. So anyway, I started out playing with just zone 3 driving the figure 8 so she could get the VERY basic concept down. To make a long story short, she had a coniption about driving away from me, around the barrel. She'd get really pushy and use her shoulder like a linebacker and try to smush me out of the way. Then, when I'd correct her, she'd whip really fast away from me, bringing up my tension level, for fear of being kicked at again.

Now at that point, I was kind of faced with an interesting problem. I get mad at myself for being unreasonably afraid. It's definitely a part of my personality that I'm trying to improve. Anyway, I had to stop and think for a moment because I could feel my frustration coming up. My first thought was "How's your breathing, Fran?", because when people get tense, they have a tendency to hold their breath, which causes horses to hold their breath too, and make everything even more unbearably tense, not to mention VERY physically trying.

Of course, I wasn't breathing. But the problem wasn't that I wasn't breathing, it was that I COULD NOT get myself TO BREATH. Now, I have like 3 students who have this problem to a MUCH deeper level than I will ever hope to understand, BUT, I do know how to help THEM through it.

Frequently, if I've got a student who's holding their breath, and won't take to advice well, I just start talking to them as they play, and insist they answer me. It is physically impossible to talk and hold your breath at the same time. As quoted by my friend Katie in her situation:

"Fran finally got me to turn and talk to her while circling Lady and within a few minutes my mind was open and guess what happened next? Lady started blowing out. She began releasing adrenaline and tension like crazy and Fran turned to me, smiled and said "You're coming off of adrenaline. Know how I know? Because your horse is coming off of adrenaline."

This is a perfect example of what I'll do. OR, if a student is too focused to talk, I'll ask them to sing a little tune to themselves as they play--another thing that's literally impossible to do while holding your breath. And frequently, the results are instantaneous and quite obvious, horses relax and smiles appear. YES, you all who have had me do this during your lessons, NOW YOU KNOW why I did it!

Anyway, back to ME...I started to sing under my breath. I chose the most rediculous song I could, just so I could have a laugh get my mind positive again, too. (Thank you Richard Bandler!) So...picture this: I'm walking a figure-8 pattern from zone 3 of a tall, beautiful dark horse around barrels, singing The ABC's audibly enough that anyone within a 20 foot radius could hear it. Of course. Rediculously silly, and effective. Such is the Parelli program.

The session changed DRAMATICALLY after I started to sing. Nugget immediately relaxed, and turned into just an absolute DOLL. I directed her through the figure 8, and then moved to the weave, and she followed my lead and did the patterns like she'd been doing them her whole life. By the end of the session, we were both so relaxed and focused that I made a big decision, and decided that she was ready for me to back her for the first time. She handled it like a champ (details later, I'll probably do it tomorrow as well) and we ended on a REALLY great note.

So...this breathing thing...important? You BET it's important!! Savvy on, and PLEASE, I'd LOVE to hear feedback on this entry!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Pads and Blankets and Girths--OH MY!

That pretty much sums up the session Nugget and I had together this afternoon.

After being with me a week, miss Nugget has taken very well to the seven games. She's a bit sticky in her driving and yoyo, and likes to be CLOSE in her circling, (Extrovert much?) but she's got the concept to basically a L1 standard. We're constantly improving, of course, but she's where she needs to be for me right now anyway.

So today was all about introducing Nugget to my other "toys", saddle pads and blankets, and then the concept of the girth. I dont' want to push the saddling too hard on a horse that's not ready for it, but simulations are fun, and Nugget's so smart, I felt she was ready for me.

I started out by just randomly placing saddle pads around the paddock, over barrels, fences, rails, etc, so we could just "happen" upon them as we played. This was REALLY funny, because Nugget immediately caught onto the difference, and wasn't quite sure what to think. Her first response was to follow her LBE side, and go ATTACK THE PADS, but then she'd scare herself half to death, jolt backwards, then suspiciously walk foward, sniff, and then start pawing...such a funny pattern. I let her figure this out with the 4 pads I had laid out, and we repeated the cycle until she wasn't phased anymore, then I started to play with desensitizing her to them. I'd pick them up and throw them, drop them, wave them in the air, etc. None of this really seemed to bother her, but she was very perplexed...the look on her face said it all: "What the...? Um...weirdo?"

Finally, after much silly preparation, I got to the point, and started "contact" friendly game with the pads, putting them all over her body and having her move with them on her, too. She handled it all like a trooper, though I will say it was funny watching her try to "follow the feel" off the blanket on her neck. She kept putting her head DOWN, then flinging it up and throwing the pad in the air, then looking amused and confused as it landed on her back. Personally, I think it was a game entirely.

Next, I introduced her to the concept of the girth by playing with the 22' line. The goal was eventually to put a flank rope around her barrel and get her used to varying degrees of pressure, and also getting her to follow the feel off the rope. Started off by simply throwing different parts of the rope over her back, and letting her get used to it bouncing and dragging around her, etc. She did great with that, didn't even bat an eye as it was bouncing around and hitting her legs. So then I put it around her barrel as a flank rope, sort of expecting a rodeo, but not entirely, since her calm behavior was proving me wrong in all other aspects.

And of course, she was calm as could be. She got a little unconfident and walked around kind of quickly, but soon started blowing off adrenaline and settling in. We played on both sides, and she really got it. I'm VERY pleased with her. I'll try to get some photos tomorrow, and hopefully by next week, we may be playing consistantly in the bareback pad :)

That's all for now, folks. Gotta go finish some dishes and go to bed UBER EARLY!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008


You know, it's really interesting, studying horses, Parelli, etc, for years, knowing horsenality front to back, and having a seemingly excellent grasp on even the most obscure little pieces of information on how to play with different horses in different situations, and yet, the variations of strategies are so great that you don't realize you've missed something find what you missed.

Now, if you were able to follow that obnoxiously long run-on, congrats. What I'm getting at is that there are SO MANY WAYS to motivate an LBI, and if you think you've tried them all, chances are, you really haven't. I had one such experience today with Prin. Now you would think, after having this horse for 6 years, KNOWING she's an LBI, KNOWING she likes food and scratches and slowness, you might get it, and get creative.

I've played a lot with incentives recently, especially now that we're getting more into things that require a greater level of athletecism, that Prin, little miss LBI that she is, doesn't necessarily WANT to do. I've found that there's REALLY nothing Prin won't do for a Winnies cookie, but often times, especially if she's farther out on the line, etc, the moment passes before I can reel her in to give her a cookie, and then we kind of lose all sense of goodness.

So, anyway, today, I happened upon something that actually worked really well, and I found it completely by accident. I had been playing on the 45' line a bit, which had gone okay. We were playing with relaxing and stretching down in the canter, which actually did come together, Prin was blowing and extending out a bit (as opposed to lifting her neck and getting "crunched up")and looked a bit more comfortable. But, as usual, there was a lack of try, and a big "Why am I DOING this? I'm BORED! I HATE circles!" and when she DID try, no way could I get her attention quick enough to get her to associate the reward with the behavior.

After finishing up on a fairly decent note, I left the line and halter on Prin and went and got her feed pan with her grain, and as I was climbing the fence, a thought struck me. I don't know WHY the synapses connected, but for some reason, I thought of how much Prin liked her grain, and just how tangible and OBVIOUS a feed pan was, and how if I placed it strategically enough in the center of the circle, let Prin know I had it, and then set the situation up, my horse would literally create her own motivation. The very best way I can put this is in one word: SUCCESS!

I sent Prin out on the circle, and INSTANTLY encountered a new thing: I actually had trouble getting her to TAKE the rope! usually, on the 45' she goes "Hey, rope, cool! Bye!" and goes to the end. Today, it was a consistant, comfortable 35-40 feet, with slack, belly of the rope dragging, and a WHOLE NEW HORSE out there. She was stretched and moving round, carrying her body arched with the circle, and with NO DRAG AT ALL on her halter. WOW. I couldn't BELIEVE it! She wasn't offering anything spectacularly athletic, but I wasn't expecting that, but the change in mental/physical alone was enough to boggle my mind. I did eventually GET her to canter a couple laps in each direction (using her shoulders correctly, btw) and also got a whole new level of close range circling (WOW let's talk flexibility!).

All in all, a very interesting experience. We'll have to see how this pans out, and whether or not there is a situational thing here, or I've really figured out WHY Farrah actually plays with her horses before they eat ;)

Pix to come tomorrow, lets hope!

Savvy on, and hey look, it's only 10:30! I might get some good sleep tonight!

Monday, November 17, 2008

Filming Filming, Filming, and KNEELING!

Short blog tonight, but I felt like I should probably update since I've been mystery woman all fall, and am in danger of keeping it up.

Yesterday and today (and part of tomorrow for that matter), I've spent the majority of my time filming one of my student's L1 assessment. It's gone almost flawlessly, save for a few humorous bobbles in the Squeeze game, and follow the rail, and a great "finger freezing" episode toward the end of the saddling.

I'm now in the process of rough-cutting the video together (fancy stuff comes tomorrow, after we finish the pushing passenger lesson) and I'm thoroughly enjoying something that I KNOW what should look like, as opposed to my "highlight" videos, which I really never have a plan for.

Anyway, the final part of this would have to do with Prin :) I've been playing with all sorts of fun stuff this summer/fall/ and now into winter, and one of them is the bow/lie down task. Farrah has always emphasized the importance of breaking everything down into tiny little bits and getting each component perfect, so that they all come together flawlessly into the task. I understand this, of course, but it is only human of me to go "C'mon, can't you just LIE DOWN?!" Which is EXACTLY why it's been an epic failure so far.

I noticed today, as I was playing with Prin's bow (she's getting REALLY good at that) that if she is left to her own devices with her legs, she'll actually put a knee down on her own without my asking. I played around with different degrees of weight and balance on her, and realized that she's actually far more confident if I just pick her foot up for her, then let it go. Two times trying this, and Prin swept low into a MAGNIFICENT bow, and then she turned, looked at me, and put her other knee down, and knelt, much like I've seen Farrah do with Caesar on multiple occasions. I gave her about a cookie, rubbed her a BUNCH, and then ASKED her to get up...I'm pretty sure she'dve gone all the way down for me, had I asked, but I wanted her to feel safe and confident around me so that she'd be confident in my asking her to do it again some time. So...YAY! Progress!

I'm learning every day just how important being particular about the little pieces is. I'm SO glad I spent time getting her shoulders loose, getting her to stretch her topline, getting her to Spanish walk and park out. It's starting to come together, and I'm REALLY excited for the progress.

And on that note, I'm off for bed. It's COLD tonight! I'm not ready for winter yet!!

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Nuggets and Assessments

Hey all,

So, news for the day is that I've got a new horse in training!! I know, random right? Who'da thunk in the middle of November? Anyway, about the pony :)

Her name is Nugget, hence the first part of the title. Nugget is a 2005 Tennessee Walker mare, about 15.2 I'd guess, black with two white socks on her hinds, and VERY sweet. Upon first impression, I pinned her at RBI. She was shy, there was no tongue when she licked her lips, very untrusting and tense, and she had a high tendency to whip and kick (tried once at me, twice at other horses), and was overall just kind of aloof. Well, that couldn't have been a worse misread, upon actually getting to KNOW the horse.

Innately, she's actually a very silly LBE. This morning, after haltering her up and cluing her into the wonders of the Winnies cookie (I have another addict on my hands!), Nugget showed me her snotty, dominant, "let me eat your gloves!" side of her lovely little horsenality. We played with the friendly game, and then "Hi there, Meet my stick and string, these are my tools." which started out a little spooky, but by the second toss over her back, she was turning her head to nibble on the string, and was trying to take the stick from my hands with her muzzle, etc.

I started a little bit on teaching the other two Principle games, too, which I would call "rocky". As with many horses that haven't been approached with the Parelli technique, Nugget was pretty clueless when it came to yielding to any sort of pressure, be it rhythmic or steady. This made teaching the porcupine game especially difficult, since if there isnt' a response to the steady feel, the addition of driving is generally encouraged. At first, she REALLY had a tendency to want to lift UP, she actually reared and struck once while I was driving her forhand to the left, something I really don't want to deal with, let alone ENCOURAGE. Anyway, after about 6 or 8 rocky attempts, we finally started to get the concept, and we quit on that. I think tomorrow will be devoted to a similar session, but hopefully I will get the opportunity to refine, and hopefully won't be quite as "all thumbs" as I was today (cold weather+wind+awkward leather work gloves=VERY weird rope handling).

I'll try to get some photos tomorrow, too. She's really a cutie with such a beautiful face. Can't wait for you all to see :)

Also, on another note (Second part of my title), I helped a student film her L1 today. We got about 3/4 of it done, which was pretty good, considering my camera was threatening to die the entire time we were out there. The filming went almost flawlessly, Jenifer handles pressure and hardly gets stressed at ALL in front of the camera, which made for quick progressive tasking. I'm really looking forward to editing it together. For some reason, the lighting was really pretty, and so I'm looking forward to playing with music, fonts, and fading to go with the video. Nothing like a well-put-together assessment :)

Anyway, time for me to go eat dinner. I'll get some pics of Nugget tomorrow! Savvy on, all!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Liberty in the Rain


It's literally been raining non-stop since Tuesday, and the clay soil in our pasture has turned to muck. In some places, my mud boots were wet well past my ankles, and it is truly hard to walk.

Anyway, today Jess and I (By the way, Jess is staying with me until Saturday) decided we HAD to get some filming done, since Jess wants to do a huge video of my horses and me. The ground is just too soppy for riding (in the pasture, anyway) and any ropes used were going to get soaked, so Jess and I decided liberty was the way to go. I got Prin, went to the round pen, and filme, and all in all, it went well. I think the highlights were definitely firstly, backing Prin across the pen with a phase 1 (She went back REALLY enthusiastically, too, which was NEAT) and having her put zone 5 on the panel behind her. She did it so easily, it was like she had been waiting for me to suggest it. Secondly, Prin came as close as she's EVER come to lying down for me, she actually knelt at liberty twice, and we got the best one on camera. She'll be lying down soon enough, and what'll be really neat is that she'll do it at liberty, I bet.

We also went for a little ride out with Jess and Amigo, too. That was fun, and tomorrow, we tackle Jess's dislike of the trot-muahaha.

Anyway, that's a short update of my life, I'll have more when there's more to tell. I'll be going to bed now. I'm sleepy!

Also, Anyone have a set of orange polos, and an orange saddle blanket that they'd be willing to part with? Deer season is coming, and I'm SO not missing my daily ride out because of idiots with guns that shoot at anything that moves around here. So. Anyone?

Thursday, November 6, 2008

A Strange Twist on a Romance Novel

Yes...that is what I intended the title of this blog entry to be, because it describes EXACTLY what my ride was like this afternoon.

I took Prin out, played for 20 minutes or so on the ground to get her moving and breathing. What's really neat is that she's finding that rhythm SO MUCH EASIER now, and her movement and body is reflecting it! I was watching her muscles today, thinking "Has she ALWAYS had that much definition in her back?", and listening to her breathing, she settled in and started to actually stretch down after only about 5 laps or so, which is great. Her flexibility is also slowly improving, and it almost seemed like her playdrive was up, too. YAY fitness! She'll be so much easier to develop in those higher levels when she can actually HANDLE what I'm asking for.

Next, I decided we were going to go on one of our long trots. So, we went trotting out, probably a mile or so, quite a distance from the farm out into the Dusek's chopped corn fields, and things were just going GREAT. Prin was round, powerful, and engaged, she felt light as a feather, and like she could do anything I threw at her (but I didn't, I just wanted a nice, rhythmic trot) Anyway, about a mile out, I realized that my girth wasn't tight enough (saddle started to slip a bit), so I hopped off, adjusted, and could not, for the LIFE of me, get myself back in the saddle. And of course at that instant, it starts to RAIN. I don't mean a little bit of rain--oh no, I mean, torrential, tempist-like, freezing cold DOWNPOUR.

I don't know how I did it, but I did manage to scramble back onto my horse(adrenaline makes a lot of things possible). I upped prin into a canter at first, realized we were getting nowhere, and so I just let her have her head. We ran FLAT OUT home, and really the only way to describe it is that it was exhilerating! The rain, the dramatic sky, the horse who, by the way, is moving CORRECTLY in gallop (this is NEW), and is therefore like riding a thoroughbred race horse, and of course the feeling of going fast. Everything sort of joined together, and we just ran. Prin's breathing was in time with her feet, we were both soaked, hair flying out behind us, and what was really neat was that I never felt out of control ONCE. We were just running.

Yes. It is a scene, right out of a romance novel, minus the attractive man that should have appeared somewhere in the scene. But that's okay. We both had fun, and my saddle got a good loving out of it, too. So everyone came out happy, and it was just a neat experience, to have everything just sort of synchronize. Perhaps this was a tiny taste into what we're all striving for in true unity.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Fitness and Flexibility

It has become painfully evident to me over the past few days that Prin is grossly out of shape, and also very inflexible. I've known of some of the inflexibility since June, but only now is the extent of the problem becoming obvious. Prin's got what I would call a fairly straight, inflexible rib cage, some (although not nearly as much)tension in her stifles, and of course, really locked down shoulders. Such is the build and intent of a western-pleasure type stock horse, but I DON'T WANT THAT, so, we're going to change that.

Yesterday and today, under the guidance of Farrah (over the phone-haha), I set up some obstacle assessments to see where exactly my horse is at, and what needs to develop, and based on that, I think I've kind of come up with a fitness and flexibility program for her that is as follows:

Finding a Rhythm

Prin has a bit of an issue finding a good rhythm online with an obstacle in her path. She has a tendency to think in straight lines instead of circles (typical LBI much?) and so as she's circling, she'll jump the jump, then continue off in a straight line, instead of flexing and bending back into the circle after jumping. She does fairly well on the 12' line, but the goal is to get her doing it out to the end of the 45 line comfortably. Planning to build the 12' line to up to, say 30-50 laps (currently comfortable at about 15-18), then get the 22' line to that level, etc, and hopefully by the time we're to the 45' line, someone will be fit enough to handle lots of cantering.

Lateral Flexibility

I'm going to find a copy of Karen Rohlf's book/video, and start using her flexibility exericises. Farrah introduced me to just a taste of that at her clinic in June, and it seemed to make sense. I'd love to see how Prin does and builds in her movement with consistant use. So...with that out there, anyone have a copy they'd like to part with?

Longitudinal flexibility

Prin and I have been playing a lot with longitudinal flexion all summer, but I never realized how vital it was to my horse's ability to collect until earlier this fall. Getting Princess to do it in the walk and trot, and even some in the canter (PLEASE email or leave a comment if you're wondering about this) and having her STAY IN IT long enough to build muscle will really help Prin's topline strengthen and grow.


Long trots/canters to build rhythm and stamina will really help her I think. My plan is to take her for trots/canters 2-3 times a week, starting for 15 minutes and building up. I know it sounds like a lot, but to put it in perspective for you, Farrah was telling me that when she was training for her 2* in eventing, she was CANTERING AND GALLOPING (not walking and trotting) but CANTERING AND GALLOPING up to 2 hours A DAY. Yeah, that was one fit horse. I don't need Prin to be THAT athletic, necessarily, but I want her to be fit and comfortable enough to be able to do the kind of high level manuvers I want to complete.


This is the one area that I'm still a little iffy about. I've heard so many different opinions, and I'm not finding ANY consistancies. Prin is getting fed with 14 other horses about 8 small square bales a day. Probably gets about 1/2 a bale for herself. Right now I have her supplemented with a 5 pint scoop of soaked alfalfa cubes and a half scoop of oats and sunflower seeds for fiber and oils once daily. I feel like this might be off. She's turning her nose up to the hay cubes pretty badly, which makes me think that that might not be what she needs. Anyone have any ideas? She needs to GAIN WEIGHT as well as keep it on. I'd like to avoid anything high in sugars, and unhelpful fats, and really focus on proteins, fiber and healthy oils. Thoughts are appreciated right now, and I've got a bit of a budget to play with, but not too much.

That's what I've got in the works right now for Prin. It's really sad to look at Crest and think "That horse could do this already...argh Prin!" Oh well, such is the life of a LBE vs an LBI. Please let me know your thoughts :)

Savvy out!


PS, YAY OBAMA!!! Talk about a change we can believe in, check out that LANDSLIDE of a win :)

Saturday, November 1, 2008

A Lovely Fall Day

I started this post on the 1st, and promptly forgot about it...I'll write one for today after I finish this one :)
~Fran, 11/4/08

*Sigh* Such a lovely fall day. I got lots of horsey time, and it was just a NICE day...So anyway here's a quick recap :)

Morning--Went to Sherri's to help pull shoes. Poor Chy clipped a heel yesterday and yanked one shoe off in the process, so we decided to take the other off instead of having the farrier out on an emergency call on the weekend. That turned into an hour long drama, so to speak, because farriers have tools that us girls don't, and so Sherri and i took turns yanking and prying until we got the clip shoe off. We both successfully sliced our hands open though...gotta love those little surface slits that sting (a bit like having an inch-long paper cut on your palm)

Afternoon--FARMAGE! I had 3 lovely sessions with my horses, I started out with Knightly, who surprised me pleasantly with perhaps the most lovely session I've ever had with him. We started playing with patterns, which this clever little guy picked up on IMMEDIATELY. We even took a dive into some L3 stuff and did canter figure 8's. He just GETS it! Next, we went for a little jaunt around the chopped corn fields. He was just PERFECT in there, he settled into the most perfect easy lope I've EVER had out of him. His downhill body makes riding his gaits a bit difficult bareback, usually, but today, that was far from the case. He did simple changes even, and just had a grip and was using his hind quarters. I was SO PROUD of him.

Next, Lady and I ripped around for about an hour. That little horse is such a fun little partner to play with. We have about the same fitness level and attention span, so we really have fun inventing games together. We played a bit with the lie-down and sit task, which she's getting really good at...I'm enjoying this confident little thing so much. Pix to come soon :)

Last, did a little riding on Crest. He was buzzed and hyper, but we had a good time overall. Played a lot with snappy downward transitions, and he did really well, but I did realize I was using my reins too much. Must play with that a bit more.

Anyway, I finished the day out with a nice lesson with a new student, and we had a good time. It was a very nice day :)

Thursday, October 30, 2008

QUICK!! I have a COOKIE!!

So today was one of those interesting reminders for what exactly WORKS for an LBI.

My dear darling friend Jessica is coming to visit in a couple weeks, and the main goal of her visit is to film the majority of my L3 assessment, because for the LOVE OF GOD, it's time for me to finish the dang thing! Anyway, in times past, I've had a hard time filming because I just tried to film without practicing first...well DUH, no wonder I'd get frustrated. I woke up at about 5:00 this morning thinking about it (you know you're obsessed with PNH when you actually DREAM the L3/L4 online patterns)and decided that from now until Jess gets here on the 11th, we're going to PRACTICE. Not in the task oriented sense of the phrase, like "We're going to work on these tasks until we can do them in our sleep." but more along the lines of we're just going to play around and do those tasks in with our playing every day.

Anyway, back to the interesting session. SO, we set out on the 45' line, I set up some barrels, a jump, and some cavalettis, and we started. And instantly, Prin started in with her old trick...she'd stick her nose to the outside of the circle and PULL. A constant, annoying contact, that said "You know, if I were at liberty, I'dve left already, you boring, stupid, rediculous person. You call yourself a leader?"

One of my faults as a person is that I have a huge dignity complex. I cannot STAND to have anyone be downright RUDE to me, human, OR equine, especially if it's unprovoked, so this behavior out of Prin just ANNOYED me. Score one for Spotty. I could only think of one solution/idea off the top of my head, so I tried it. Every time she'd pull off, I would send her off harder/sideways, until she'd turn and ask me a question, then I'd bring her in and give her a rub. This is a friendly warning to all of you. DON'T DO THAT! It makes the situation WORSE. After trying this for a couple minutes, Prin was literally WHIPPING away from me, and trying to escape pressure. ARGH...time to reassess the situation.

I knew I wasn't getting anywhere continuing at that point, so I unsnapped the line, wound it up, put Prin loose in the west paddock and walked back to my car to have a good think. I got back to the car, sat down in my back seat, and remembered back to June, when I was having a similar problem, but it was only at 10 and 2 oclock on the circle. I was trying to remember what I had done then, and remembered what Linda had suggested; to bring Prin in when she drifted off and give her a cookie and some scratches...My thought was "That worked to a mediocre level...obviously the problem is reoccuring it wasn't solved" or I did something to spark it again. So I'm thinking "What is not clicking here? She comes in, she gets a cookie. I'm the comfort spot..."

And then it hit me. I'm not making it UNCOMFORTABLE to pull off. I went back to the pasture, all excited to try my new idea. Prin, surprisingly enough, came RIGHT up to me, and allowed me to put the line back on her (she had this look on her face of "you gonna get it right this time?")

I sent her back out, and got the same drill, except, this time every time she'd pull off, I'd disengage her *almost* rudely, and DEMAND that she at least trot, maybe canter to me...with an "COME HERE! QUICK! I HAVE TO TELL YOU SOMETHING!!!" and then, as soon as she got in to me, I'd drop my energy, give her a scratch, and pull out a cookie and give it to her.

I did this maybe a dozen or so times (I really should invest in Winnies Cookie stock...) and within 10 minutes, she was offering canter on a loose rope. So...ya think I might have done the right thing? Maybe? Score one for Franny. I'm VERY proud of myself, and I'm REALLY excited to see how this evolves and progresses...although I will need to get some more cookies...blah!

Savvy on!

A Decisive Conversation

I'm going to end my poll 11 days early, because I've made my decision. I talked to Farrah yesterday, and it came up in conversation how excited we both were about FL, but how I couldn't decide which horse to bring. Farrah laughed and said "Yeah, that one's always tough, what are your thoughts?" So I explained to her that each horse would benefit me in different ways; Prin would take me higher, and into another level with my horsemanship, whereas Crest would expand my knowledge and excellence where I'm already at in L3. Farrah, didn't even lick and chew on that, she answered me right away. She said "Fran, I think that if you've got professional goals, you should probably work on going UP then branching out."

Now, explain to me, how is it SO SIMPLE for her to say that and have it make sense?! And furthermore, why can't I ever remember that long term goal when I need to? Anyway, whatever the case may be, I'll be bringing Prin. My hope is that later on in the summer, money and time allowing, I'd like to take Crest down to a 1 week Moving in Harmony (Riding L2/L3) course in Pagosa. That's what he'd benefit from most, and although I'd LOVE to do a longer one with him, it's just not in the works for us at the moment. So...

Other than that, I'm off to go play. I'm enjoying this lovely fall weather as much as anyone, despite having a cold that makes me feel like my nose is going to fall off. So, catch you later!

Monday, October 27, 2008

New Poll

Hey all,

Just pointing out a new poll on my blog. I'm trying to decide which horse I'm going to take with me to the ISC in January. I was thinking about this pretty intensively today as I was at the farm today, and I seriously could NOT make a decision.

I have Prin, who is OBVIOUSLY my super horse, diving into L4 stuff, and is really ready for the Masterclass, and has been for quite some time. I always learn so much with her, and I want to deepen my relationship with her to a whole new level, but at the same time, she's not my complicated horse.

...or, I could bring Crest. Crest has had a HUGE year this year, and is now what I'd call solid L2, beginning L3. He fits the prerequisites of the Masterclass by a long shot, and would definitely make my course much more "eventful", but he has never traveled long distances before. I don't really know how he'd be in a new environment. Now granted, we'll be there a month, I doubt he'll be a basket case, but I'm weighing my options.

If everyone would be so kind as to cast a vote, and either leave me a comment ON THIS POST or email me ( and give me your reasons why I should bring the horse you chose, it'd be greatly appreciated.

Also, the option of bringing both is out of the question. Farrah has a 4-horse trailer, and she's bringing all 3 of her horses.

Thanks guys!

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Lessons in Teaching, and a CRAP Homecoming

"The real skill in teaching comes when you don't cause chaos... that goes for teaching horses or humans. So setting it up for success and knowing what to teach when and in what environment is the key."
~Linda Parelli, 10/25/08

It's quotes like these that make a profound difference in how I look at my actions and how I plan to better myself. Advice taken and VERY appreciated.

I recieved an email (actually two) back about the situation portrayed in my last post. While I won't go into great detail (they were long emails), lets just say that the big thing I was missing was the environment in which I needed to teach. Just because I *think* I may be setting a situation up for success doesn't mean I necessarily did. Success, at that point, would have been away from the horse, perhaps in a simualation or just sitting down and discussing. Time with the horse is reserved strictly for feel, experimentation, and play. I type that out now, and all I'd really love to say is "Of COURSE...I KNEW THAT!" And probably to some degree, I did, but you never know how much you know, or don't know, until it throws itself in your face as a dirty, ugly reminder. So. Duely noted, and I will be a better person because of it.

Anyway, with that update covered, lets talk a little bit about the beautiful letdown my home state of WI has given me since returning. First off. Snow. Let's discuss this form of precipitation. Common usually from mid-late November onward, and present in our lives until late March (or later!). Notice firstly that there was NO MENTION of snow in October in that statement. And yet, here I sit, on October 26th, 2008, watching gray, icy flakes fall out of the sky. While they aren't sticking, there will be no denying it, SNOW has officially fallen for the first time this year.

Secondly, let's discuss WIND. While I don't mind a little here and there, cutting up to 40 mph in nasty gusts is anything but what I'd call pleasant. I'm not pleased with it.

Other than that though, I'm THRILLED to be home. Got to see my fuzzies today, and they were, *shocker* FUZZY! Prin was a spanish walking MACHINE (SEE MOM?! I STILL CAN DO IT!! I PRACTICED WHILE YOU WERE AWAY!!) Crest just a love bug, and Lady She whinnied for me when I got there (AWWW!!) and then proceeded to chase me around, etc. I'll be going back out soon, after I change into my fuzz-butts (winter riding pants)...first ride in them this season! WOW!

Savvy on!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Confessions of a Slightly Frustrated Instructor

Today, I come to you as a frustrated instructor-to-be, and yes, I am fully aware that I am TOTALLY out of my comfort zone. Teaching a student like myself with her complex horse is NOT easy. And yes, by the way, Katie is well aware that i'm posting this...she actually helped me write it! This entry is actually taken from an email to a higher-up, in request for help. I will, for sure, post my BFOs after recieving response.

So, a bit of background, Lady (Katie's mare) is an off-track TB mare, who is pretty similar to Allure, very LBE, but with the tell tale signs of race track emotional damage, that sends her explosively RBI if she gets stressed enough, which really doesn't take much sometimes.

Today's session started out with Lady acting very bi-polar, swinging from hard-to-keep-on-the-ground playful to grinding her teeth in stress, and it really wasn't a pleasant situation (was VERY glad I was the one doing the playing). I did a lot (that's ANOTHER whole email, by the way, but I can ask Farrah those questions) and was pretty challenged, but, after about 45 minutes, she was LB and doing great, and I asked Katie to come in and play, since Lady was doing well. Mind you, Katie had been watching me play with her bi-polar, goof ball of a horse for the past 45 min, and she was anything but in the state of mind that her horse was in, but I didn't realize/read that (blooper number one). Katie's like me in the sense that she internalizes her fears until they become obvious without intention.

Anyway, she started to play around with Lady, and long story short, horse goes ballistic, (feeding off of Katie's lack of confidence/emotions) and of course, I can't figure out why (blooper number two) until Katie finally turns to me after one particularly large explosion and says "Fran...WHAT THE HELL AM I DOING WITH THIS HORSE?!" Of course her mind wasn't on the horse I had passed off to her, it was on the horse she had seen me start with! (Cue the flinging of large, heavy objects in my general direction) UGH!!

So, we essentially put the action part of the session on hold, and broke the mental aspect down step by step; what is scaring her (specifically), what she's worried will happen, what she feels she can or cannot do, and how to be in the moment, and do her thinking afterward. And thats when I hit a problem.

Blooper number 3. I have NO IDEA how to convey HOW to do that! Or why the hell she SHOULD do it for that matter! I feel like I'm back in Intro to Psychology and am giving an example of what "Tip of the Tongue" syndrome is! Anyway, I garbled something that sounded like an intelligent answer out (GOD I'm too good at BSing stuff like that!) and walked off to the barrel I had been sitting on, to pout...and DO MY THINKING WHILE WITH MY STUDENT! ARGH!

One of the things that has always bothered me about watching Pat teach, (and please forgive me for this) is how he repeats himself so much. I realize that chances are, the reason for that is because he's SO GOOD and SO ENTHUSIASTIC, and he wants EVERYONE to GET IT, that he may not even realize how hard it is mentally to have someone repeating what you're already trying to do at you. So, how does this tie into my dilemma? Well, I don't want to do that! And I KNOW that i have a tendency to do it at the worst possible time when my student's brain is ALREADY jammed. This mare is LEAPING in the air, running through the meager Phase 2/Phase 3 that's thrown at her, and all I can keep saying is "Shake the rope! Shake the rope! Shake the rope! HARDER! INTERRUPT THE PATTERN!" over and over and over. Which is the LAST thing someone who's already confused and scared needs. Talk about instigating RB behavior on my part!

So really, it all breaks down to this: I'm not sure how to explain how to stay in the moment (when I have trouble doing it myself!), and also, how to HELP a student in a situation where all I really want to do is scream the same directions repeatedly.

And see, Linda is BRILLIANT in situations like this. I NEVER get frustrated learning with her because she knows HOW to read people, and how to respond appropriately.

I would call myself an L3ish people reader, and i respond fairly well to about 90% of the teaching situations that are thrown at me. But that's not good enough for me. More and more, I'm getting people and horses, and situations in that 10% that I'm not sure how to handle,(guess that's a reflection of myself somehow) and instead of being discouraged, of course I want to know what to do (How's THAT for a change since last year?!) I need to gain that savvy, because honestly, what's scary to me is that I've built this reputation as an EXCELLENT instructor, and more and more I'm being challenged in that image, and want to help EVERYONE.

So, with all that mind, I will be anxiously awaiting a response to that email. I've had some thoughts and BFOs already, but will definitely be writing a follow up post in a few days. I just LOVE this never-ending journey of self-improvement...

Off to go try again :)

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Lady Bug!!!

My Bug is home! :D

She couldn't have been any cooler about everything, she unloaded, sniffed about, then settled into her munching.

Introductions were interesting, she met Crest, Prin, Amigo, and Silver. All but Prin went well. Prin seriously seemed like she would love to kill the little thing if she had the chance. Photo:


Crest and Silver were both totally smitten, they both carried the air of "Oh my GOD...she's so FREAKING CUTE!" and Amigo was mildly amused, I think. Picture of meeting Crest:

Meet Crest

Other than that, um...she's hell on four hooves, VERY LBE, snotty, and is the most adorable thing to play with. Unfortunately (PLEASE try to understand why-lol!) it's *almost* impossible to dish out discipline to something that cute, so I have a bad feeling that she's going to get away with murder.

I taught her to lie down this evening, and believe it or not, there was no force involved, I used her offering once to my advantage, and now it's a consistant thing, I sit down, she lies down, and then she gets a cookie...muahaha! I have a picture on my friend's phone that will come as soon as it decides it can send to me. SO CUTE.

Off to FL tomorrow. Excited, but will miss my fuzzies mucho! Toodles!


Now You See Me...

*Poof* and now you don't. This has GOT to be how my family feels right now. Here it is, October 16th, and my family has seen me a grand total of 4 days this month! I'm gone for a week in a row, come home for several days, leave for another week, come home for a couple days, and tomorrow will be no different. I'm a-leavin' on a jet plane...destined for Jacksonville, FL, and then back up to NC.

Things I've learned in this crazy month:

*I love to travel, but I'd better be with my horses!

*The feeling of complete and total panic when your car dies and refuses to restart in a parking lot in a tiny town in the middle of nowhere is NOT one I care to relive.

*Fall is the WRONG TIME to have a working student from the south come to study with you. Who KNEW someone could be UNCOMFORTABLE the 55* temps and crisp, cool air that is WI in October. Ah well...middle of July it is.

*My horse was a biomechanical problem child...but thanks to some really insistant yo-yo game, a Figure-8 pattern, and the quote "Fran, you look like you're trying to push the Titanic around!", we've changed that, and someone has a whole new topline!

*I have my life together way more than I give myself credit for...

*I am far more LB about handling what I previously would have considered a "crisis"

Anyway, here's to gorgeous weather and lovely horses. Little Lady Bug comes home in an hour (YAY!) and I'm super pumped to get to play with her! Pics will come for sure! Savvy on, and oodles of poodles to the lot of you!


Sunday, October 12, 2008

Finding a Rhythm

Okay, so this phrase "No rest for the weary." ? Yeah, definitely true and then some. I'm never going to give up on that conviction. I just cannot seem to get a good night's sleep in my life. Today, I played with horses for 3 hours, and went shopping for 3 hours, and since have done nothing, but yet, am TOTALLY exausted. So, I'm writing this post as the cream of mushroom soup simmers on the stove, and after I consume said delicacy, I'm effing GOING TO BED!

Anyway, to the horsey part of my day. Firstly, Anne and I went out on a trail ride. Which, on a normal day, wouldn't be a BIG thing, but first of all, it was a freaking GORGEOUS day, and secondly, it was Anne's FIRST TRAIL RIDE on her property! How EXCITING, right? It went GREAT, we rode all over the place, we both rode Clearwater and Bailey, and everyone was happy and enjoying themselves.

Later on in the afternoon, (well, evening actually) I went back out with Anne to do a low-key session with Blixen. I've been using Blix as a guinea pig of sorts this visit, since I'm so fascinated with his horsenality, and so I've been playing with every single possibility as to what he could be, plotting charts for every imaginable situation, trying to get a grasp for this horse's pattern.

Anyway, we got out there, and this session, I decided that I wanted to play with keeping my energy low, but requesting things, regardless, and seeing how Blixen would respond. Blix started out totally RBE reactive, just totally could NOT collect himself mentally. He'd over react at a tiny movement, and would seriously try to escape pressure so violently that it scared me a couple of times. I brought my energy up a little bit to take care of that, but more kept my intention up, and in director/leader mode. Eventually he came to the point that he was actually doing things with his brain, and then I passed him off to Anne, with the instruction to keep her energy low, but make firm requests, as well.

Things started out really well, I directed Anne through a series of little challenges, and then decided to up the ante in the sideways game, and introduce an element (PVC pole) under Zone 3. Blixen went almost instantly RB again, being a very claustrophobic horse, and I took him back to play with zone 3 confidence. We started out squeezing between the pole and me, then between the fence and the pole, then over a log, then over a log stopping straddling with it under zone 3 and friendly-ing, then finally putting it all together. Blixen actually OFFERED his zone 3 and went sideways both directions beautifully.

Next, I started to play with finding a rhythm over an obstacle. We played with an exercise from "Jumping with Confidence" where I sent Blix over a log in a circle 10 laps, switched direction, did 10 the other direction (or until he found the rhythm. At any point, if he lost his rhythm, or got RB, I would send him in a squeeze so that he would have to collect himself mentally. He did GREAT there, took two rounds of 10 each direction, and he was totally level, even, and relaxed. Even offered a trotting change of direction which, for the horse who had no draw whatsoever 2 days ago, is great. Then, we moved to the same concept but moving through a narrow space and not getting claustrophobic or bracy. That took a bit more, since Blixen would just tense and speed up a little within gait. But again, just a few repeats, and he got it.

We unhaltered on that note, and he just hung out with us, which is HUGE for Blix, who is usually straight back to his herd after a session. I realized just how important it is for a RB horse to find that rhythm. The change in Blixen, while subtle, was profound. Definitely a wonderful note to end on, can't wait to play with him more tomorrow!

Bedtime now.

My soup is long since gone, and I want some ZZZZZZZZZ's!

Savvy out!

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Clinic Break-Thrus

Okay, so I think instead of writing a full clinic recap (too much happens in a week to retell and give justice to in print), I'll just write about my BIG break-thrus that I personally had with Prin at the clinic Katie and I attended last week, and if I have time, I'll fill in with a broad recap.

I'm just going to start off by saying that this is just NOT my year for car care! Guess what happened today! My car broke down driving to Kris Fulwiler's place to audit a Karen Rohlf clinic! Not only did I miss the clinic, but my fuel pump may need replacing. YARGH! (more on that later) Anyway, with that out of my system...

I took Prin along with me to a week long clinic series with Farrah, and just had a fantastic time. The break thrus we had were mainly physical (okay, so the mental changed and the physical followed, but STILL!) and were HUGE.

Starting off, Farrah asked to use Prin early on to demonstrate a figure-8 pattern. Prin did great, but then did something mildly rude (don't remember what) and Farrah asked her to back up in response. Well, Prin completely flipped her the finger, figuratively speaking, and wouldn't back off, so Farrah REALLY got after her, and that's when she met Prin's swishing tail habit. After much energetic play and observation, Farrah turned to me and says "Does she do this a lot?" and I said "Um, yeah? I'm fairly sure I've mentioned it several times." and Farrah says "Hmm...It's interesting, it's almost like she's unaware that she's doing it! I'd say it was negative attitude, but 99.9% of the time, her ears are forward, and she's asking questions, but her tail is going." I responded with "I've noticed that! I have had trouble reading into it for exactly that reason. The tail isn't fitting the rest of the picture. It's almost like a nervous twitch that she's unaware of."

So, Farrah suggested that instead of playing friendly up front after I finished a game, I go straight back and love on her TAIL, to help her be more aware of it. So I did, and realized after one try that her tail was TIGHT! Which didnt' make any sense at all. I checked, and her lips were loose, ears floppy, head down, and yet, for some reason she bottled all this physical tension in her tail. So after every time I did something, I'd go back and massage her tail until it was loose and "Jello-y" as Farrah put it. Later on in the afternoon when everyone else was doing 2 rein driving, I did 1 rein on her head, one rein (savvy string braided in) on her tail. The observation I made was toward the end of the day, she was hardly moving it at all, and if she did, it was really at an appropriate time (if my phases were too high, etc) Very interesting.

Later on in the afternoon, Farrah put us riding a Figure-8 pattern, but instead of keeping zone 1 closest to the barrel, we were supposed to keep zone 4 closest. That was TOUGH, because I discovered that Prin was HARDLY using her hind end, and falling on her forhand...A LOT. Once she figured it out though, it was like someone flipped a switch. We also played with alternating engagement with flexibility on the figure 8, and just had a lot of fun playing with the body. OH! and we straightened out a very resistant, forhand-based back-up from atop Zone 3.

So anyway, fast forward to the next morning. I went down to Prin's pen to clean up, feed, water, etc, and the first thing I noticed was the way Prin was standing. Taller, straighter, HQ farther underneath her, and generally looking more comfortable. Very odd, but kind of neat, I thought. I went around, cleaning up and filling buckets, and then something else dawned on me. Prin has had a block in her ribs on the left, and tension in her left stifle, and has had mane flips (majority of her mane lies on right) to mirror that for as long as I've owned her. That morning, the flip that had been there for 5.5 years at the base of her neck was GONE. THAT freaked me out. I flipped it back, thinking "Oh someone must have smoothed it out this morning saying hi." Nope. Looked all wrong. Like it had never been there.

As the week went on, Prin just got more and more uphill, to the point I took out two shims from her pad! Her ability to collect, flex, bend, and engage went THROUGH THE ROOF, and the final night we were there, she offered me about an arena's length of true extended trot, which previously wasn't even in her ability to do in the PASTURE, let alone with a rider, and she also jumped a 3'6" or 4' tall cross-country fence bareback for me. And what's really neat is that since being home (tomorrow will be 4 days) the mane and posture has stayed, and the tail swishing is definitely going down! YAY!

So...HOW COOL?! Oh, and I also had the opportunity to test ride a Balance Zenith for a couple hours one day. Definitely like my fluidity better, but the Balance was VERY lovely too. Might think about selling my Wintec Wide and finding an inexpensive (haha, RIGHT) Balance.

So anyway, thats just some things we picked up. VERY helpful, even with Crest in some areas. And now...*poofs* I go to bed. Thank you all for being so patient and waiting for me to write something :)