Photo by Margaret Chant and edited by Jessica Metropulos

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Lameness, Lessons, and Learning

HA! Do you know HOW LONG it took me to come up with that third "L" word to finish the alliterative (I think I just made that word up!) title? HUZZAH!! Anyway, back on topic, while I can still hold my eyes open.

Lameness: POOR CRICKET! She is still unbelievably sore. I have NEVER seen a limp this bad in a horse before other than a founder case in all 4 feet, but this is only one leg. We poked and prodded and wrenched her poor leg around today, TRYING to find the source of the pain, and we're having little luck. Her foot isn't hot, it's not cracked, she's not swollen anywhere, and there's no evidence of abraision. We did find a little hot pocket in what would be considered her "armpit", but it's not tender to the touch, so we have no clue what happened. I'm hoping it's not a fracture or something more serious, although I would guess that would be more than a little tender to the touch if it were the case. Anyway, she's gimping around, we let her into the north paddock to fill her belly in peace (she's low on the totem pole and they push her around on that leg) and also, we tried to get some bute into her as well, to at least make the pain more tolerable. She's pretty sore, but man did she fight the syringe going into her mouth. For having a bad leg, she did surprisingly well.

Lessons: Gave 2 lessons today, both of which were very successful. First came Phoebe. Such a talented rider in such a little package. She rode Princess in my Wintec Wide ("It's actually pretty comfortable" she says!) and had her first (That I know of) cross country gallop, completed in two point, with her whooping and hollering, and Princess looking sheepishly proud (she loves to teach kids, whether she'll admit it or not). I was impressed with the pair of them!

Next came Cynde and Shashi. They had a HUGE breakthrough, and it made me feel wonderful as a teacher. The breakthrough was fairly simple, and that was that Cynde interrupted a RBE blasting circle VERY assertively (but neutrally), then brought Shash in and stroked him with a friendly look. For Cynde, this is HUGE because she's got a fear of being firm with Shash. For me, it was a wonderful breakthrough, because I was the one shouting "INTERRUPT THE PATTERN!" and she listened and acted on it. Makes me feel effective and VERY proud of my students.

Also had some good effects with "Breathing while you act"...Something Farrah REALLY emphasized in the clinic was how important breathing was as you played with a horse, especially with a tense person/pair. From the second she mentioned it last weekend, I realized that breathing, as well as possibly singing (LOL... Farrah, if you ever read this, Cynde was ready to stab me after singing the ABC's 3 times!) while she played would greatly benefit Cynde, because of how tense and nervous she is. So whenver I saw her get tense, I'd just lightly say "Breath while you do that..." and she'd exhale and say "Thank you, HOW can you see that?!" and then she'd get WAY more confident. Interesting, eh?

As far as learning goes, I'm referring to Princess, here. We did some learning of new actions in 3 separate short sessions today. First we played with lifting and placing a single leg (Prep for Spanish Walk and bowing/lying down) and then we worked on getting more energy underneath us in the back up, and then we played with "How SMALL can we canter?" when we went on a trail ride. Prin's doing really well with the bowing, backing, and tiny cantering (Richard was teasing Amigo, saying "Why can't you just copy her?" as he jogged along beside us as we loped like seasoned pleasure riders) but we're still sort of struggling with the concept of picking up a foot and holding with the driving game, though I'm sure it'll come, since she's sort of getting it.

Her bows were probably the high point for me, she REALLY got down low today, on her knees twice (and NOT because I pushed her, either) and completely LB andconfidently. So proud!

Anyway, off to bed. Pray for Cricket please!

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Ahhhh...So cute

I had very limited time with my ponies today, unfortunately. Anyway, I got out there with the full intent to play with Cricket, only to find her limping obviously on her left front leg! EEK! Not entirely sure what happened to her, but I'm keeping an eye on it. If it's not much better by Monday, I'll call the vet, but for now, I'll keep her on bute and hope it gets better. Keep her in your thoughts please!

I couldn't decide who I wanted to play with at this point. I know that whoever I choose to spend time with, I always end up going longer than I should, so I wanted to play with someone who NEEDED the time. And thats when the answer nuzzled me on the shoulder. There stood little Knighters. So we haltered up.

Okay, let me just take the time to say that Knight is adorable. Really. He is. I managed to keep myself to a time frame, and honestly we didn't do anything too notable, but knight is just SO DANG CUTE that everything he did was wonderful. We did some circling, some yoyo, and some sideways without a fence (he's GETTING IT...such a smart little guy, it's only the second time we've tried it :)) Also did some stick to me, he got the canter today, and he does it all with this adorable "I'm cute and wonderful, and I know you just want to snuggle me" on his face. So after he did that, we quit. Pix to come soon of his cuteness.

This concludes another Knightly News update. And I'll keep posted on Cricket.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Fear, Frustration, Fluidity issues, and oh, some FUN!

Interesting day today. First let me start out by asking everyone to tell me to GET SOME SLEEP when I complain about being cranky. It's been almost 2 weeks since I've gotten more than 9 hours of sleep, and it's reflecting in my patience and tolerance for silly things.

First of all, my frustration. My theraflex pad has decided that it needs to slip forward when it's being used under my fluidity saddle. Fortunately, as wonderful as the the saddle is, it doesn't follow the pad, but it results in a mess on the back of the saddle when it actually slides OFF. GRR! Here are some of the options I've gone over in my head:

*At first I thought that I might have been driving with my seat without knowing it (I noticed this after playing with the collected canter).

But I ruled that out, because I sat on my thumb, and it came out in one piece and pain free. Also, when I took the saddle off, there was very little ruffling on her back.

*So, is it simply because the pad is dirty?

*Is my horse just getting that uphill?

*Or am I over shimmed?

I'm perplexed. Fortunately, I emailed LP about the problem, so I'll post what she says when she responds.

The FUN in this came in when I decided to eliminate the "dirty" option for the pad, and cleaned it. It was about 85 and humid today. Humidity (and sweat-ICK!) makes my grouchy, and I know from experience that a theraflex pad is best cleaned a tub of water. So, see these photos of what happened next. It's GREAT fun, and it does a surprisingly thorough job of cleaning it!

Feet are better than ANY scrub brush, and you get a good massage while doing it...Win-Win situation!

Do the twist!
Doin' the twist-that's the best motion to loosen all that stubborn dirt and hair.

That water has been changed 3 times, and it's still scuzzy.

And of course, finish with a rinse :)

Okay. Now. Fear and fluidity issues. Bear with me, this may be a bit scattered. I have come to the conclusion (temporary or not, hopefully the former) that I CANNOT ride Crest. Or actually no, let me rephrase that, I cannot ride Crest WELL. It is disgusting and sad for me to say, but I'm terrified of him. He's getting more and more LBE every day with a rider,(yay?) but has a tendency to get scared when I'm not fluid with his antics, which is a cataclysmic situation. See, Crest has HUGE bouncy gaits (particularly in trot), and likes to crow hop in the canter. I'm a very naturally balanced rider, and am fairly fluid too. I come from the hunter/jumper realm where the horses have big strides, so I'm used to that a bit too. But this is just...strange. I SOLIDLY refuse to ride Crest in a saddle until I'm somewhat fluid on him bareback. The reason I'm being so stubborn here, is because I don't want to use my stirrups as an excuse to not become a stronger, better rider. But the problem comes in when Crest breaks the trot. I have a really healthy respect for what this horse is capable of since my accident (shouldn't even THINK of that, but it did do some damage) and so when he gets going big, I get tense, whether I want to or not. Now riding in a bareback pad recently has helped IMMENSELY, but still...I KNOW Crest is not offering a nice easy trot for me either. I've seen it on the ground, and experienced it when he's in a good state of mind, and for some reason (probably due to my recent developing fear) I can't get it. So anyway. That's my fear issue. I'm hating it, today we went for a solid HOUR, were both dripping with sweat, and I was almost in tears because I was so mad at myself. I just need to learn to trust him again, and I just kept thinking "What would Linda Do? What would Farrah say?" and that made it worse, because I KNEW I was ACK... I know it's me, and of course that's a step in the right direction, but GAH! Mental development in it's finest. I WILL get this eventually!

Savvy out, wish me luck!

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Clinic Recap, Part II

Continued recap of the clinic with Farrah Green I attended.


Beginning of the Level 2 clinic. I had talked to the clinic hostess early that morning, and we had discussed the possibility of my bringing her young mare, Charm in the L2 clinic. She had two horses there in the clinic. She had taken Charm in the L1 clinic and had some difficulty, being that she was young, LBE and dominant, and a bit concerned about her buddy who was 100 yds away in his corral. Not to mention, her poor owner wasn't entirely sure how to handle Charm's antics, so anyway. I offered to play with her in level 2 because she looked like a fun horse, and Princess had sort of indicated (the look in her eye said it all) that she was in need of a day off.

So, we haltered up miss Charm, and away we went. For the first 20 minutes or so, there was a bit of LBE vs LBE mischief going on, because Charm clearly wanted to test my leadership abilities, and I wanted her to just stand still long enough for me to take a breath. So we just fooled around, I established my personal space, boundaries, made clear that "Yes, Charm, I am bigger and quicker than you...can we play together?"

The rest of the clinic basically ZOOMED by, Charm and I had a BLAST. Farrah would walk by and tease me, saying "You're not having fun, are you Fran?" because I don't honestly think I quit smiling and giggling the entire day. Charm is very mouthy, and towards the end of the day, she was literally picking me up by my pants and silly things like that.

One of the highlights of that day, however, came in the afternoon session, when we played with the friendly game on the fence in preparation for mounting. Charm had never been ridden before, being only 4 years old. I was really looking forward to this, because I had been given permission to give her her first ride. Farrah was patient and talked the group through the steps, getting a horse to sidepass up to the fence, the friendly game with legs and arms all over, and then, very carefully, Farrah directed her attention to Charm and me, (Charm was doing AMAZINGLY, by the way) and talked me through sliding on, then off, then back on, asking her to bend, then sliding off, then asking her to back up, then getting off, then riding a little passenger lesson around, and then giving her a treat, sliding off, and calling it. I've given about 20 first rides in my life, and each one has been special. Well that one meant a lot to me, because I was coached through it, it went perfectly, and to top it off, Charm's owner was almost in tears, she was so thrilled. I felt very proud of both myself, and of course of the horse.

We ended the evening by going out to a nice Mexican restaurant. It was a lovely time, Farrah and I now officially have crossed the line into oddness, with the "I just can't get over how GOOD you look in my shirt, Fran" joke...please ask if you're confused.


Started out early with a private lesson on finesse. What a blasty blast that was. We started out on the ground. Farrah pointed out to me that when Prin travels on a circle, she doesn't really bend with the circle (hence why I might be having trouble getting her to maintain gait for very long) and that it was more than likely caused by a block somewhere in her ribs, which wasn't aggravated when I rode because my fluidity helped her body do what it needed. Farrah messed around a bit, and found she was really good except for one spot about where the girth came around. So we started with an exercise where I would drive Prin in a circle, and then porcupine that part of her ribs over until she softened, her legs crossed over in back, (while still traveling forward) and her head and neck relaxed and came down. I never would have expected Princess to respond so quickly to a new concept, but she did in a matter of minutes, and the I got on.

Now don't kill me here, but since it was so early in the morning, I don't remember a whole lot beyond a couple of exercises we did here. We played a little with good transitions, and I learned something/had a really big BFO here. Any good transition, up, down, or inbetween, has to start in zone 5. So instead of keeping zone 1 up, I focused on keeping zone 5 DOWN...and MAN did my transitions get better!

Next we also worked on something somewhat similar to what we did on the ground, but we used kind of a shoulder in maneuver along the fence to accomplish the same goal. Princess did really super well with that, Farrah told me she was very impressed with our sideways. And she also paid me a HUGE compliment, that has kind of kept me fueled for the past few days. She told me that Prin and I were well to the point in our finesse (and particularly our circles) that I could get really particular, and start asking for Level 3 and 4 quality in it. I was really flattered, and it's been interesting trying to live up to that.

I'll have pictures from the lesson next week. The guy who took them forgot his camera at the barn and will get it back on July 1st. So stay tuned, he got some GREAT shots.

The rest of the clinic was fun for sure, I had a good giggle in the afternoon riding session because Farrah asked me to demonstrate the 21 minute pushing passenger lesson. Well...lets just say I've never done the full 21 minutes before! I graduated both the old levels, so I never HAD TO. Alls I can say is THANK GOODNESS I had a fluidity saddle to ride in. Prin stepped into trot and maintained it without a single reminder, which was a little shocking, but very cool.

To wrap this whole thing up, I also want to share my little piece of excitement. Farrah harassed me all weekend about assessing Level 3. She REALLY thinks I need to start. So anyway, she kept buggin' me (in an encouraging way) and finally she said, "Fran, I want to, and am GOING to help you film it. Let's get this thing done sometime!" So, um...WOW...I have a PNH instructor wanting to help me finish my L3 assessment. Hell, I'll take it. and Farrah's such an excellent coach and instructor, that I'll get through it fairly stress-free, I'm sure! She also told me that I HAD to come visit her sometime this year. There wasn't an out, I HAD to. And again, I say, hell, I'd be HAPPY to!

So overall, a wonderful weekend. I'll look forward to seeing Farrah again in 2 weeks at the tour stop in Madison, WI, where she'll be on the savvy team.

Thanks for reading, I promise I'll have some pictures sooner or later!

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Clinic Recap, Part I

Okay, so I think the best way to do this is going to be to just go day by day, and try not to be too detailed, or I'll fall asleep at the computer. So. I was there for 5 days, Thursday, June 19th thru Monday the 23rd. This entry is going to be REALLY LONG...I'll try to break up the text with some pix, but no promises, this won't be for the faint of heart to read-haha. This is Part 1, (Thursday-Saturday) I'll write Part 2 tomorrow.


We arrived a little later that anticipated, because lord knows I can't get my life together and into the tack room of a trailer on time. It was a relatively stress free trailer ride, although Princess wasn't exactly confident about the clattery dividers of the 3 horse slant. If I end up with that trailer (saving for one now that the saddle's reality, and the one we used is for sale) it'll take some play, but hopefully that works out...and no one get all excited, this is all just speculation, I'm not about to jump into buying a trailer just yet...

This day was a private lesson day, so basically all that happened was I set up and got Prin in her stall (herinafter referred to as the dark pit of doom...she HATED that thing, it was about a foot lower than the level of the aisle, and really stuffy, etc)and caught up with Farrah. Renee also met me down there, she wanted to try out my lovely new fluidity saddle, which I *think* was a hit, though I didn't get a whole lot of feedback because she rode in it while I helped out and played "Carrot stick wall" for Farrah's amazing demo.

Thursday ended with a little trail ride. Farrah rode Caesar, her gigantic QH gelding, and ponied Wesley (WES-WES!!!!) her little Arabian gelding, Farrah's mom, Echo, took her STUNNING Friesian gelding Napoleon, I rode Prin, and another participant, Dana, rode her little Paint mare, Shasta. I was very intregued by how just playing with the order and placement of the horses on the ride can make such a difference in the smoothness (and not so much) of the ride. We experimented with things, and had a pretty good time.

Farrah invited Dana and me to camp out in the back of her horse trailer which was cause for a hoot, here's some photos of our little "house":

Dana getting breakfast ready

And in case you were wondering, no, we did NOT drink all that soda.


Beginning of the level 1 clinic. Nothing too notable, I experiemented with photography, I'm a little embarassed to say that not much turned out, the lighting was actually really bad, BRIGHT reflective sand and panels, I just couldn't find a good angle. I got a few that I could probably photoshop into being good, but I'm too lazy to do that for the blog anyway.

The participants were too cool, the horses were beautiful, and everyone learned a lot.

Funniest part of the day I think came probably in the afternoon session. Farrah asked if she could borrow my halter and lead to demonstrate an effective phase 4. She tied my halter to the door of a stall, and went about explaining. Well, she SNAPPED a phase 4 down the line, and the snap cracked against the door, and we heard a "tinkle tinkle tinkle"...Farrah effectively phase 4'd the set-screw right out of my snap on my lead rope and broke it...GOOFY GIRL! Anyway, got a couple cool pix of the entire group "Phase 4-ing" the stalls, SO FUNNY:

That evening, I had a REALLY emotional session. I put Prin loose in the arena to play at liberty. Things went REALLY well for the first 10 minutes or so, then she broke away from me, and I just could NOT get her to come back. I was already on edge because I hadn't gotten enough sleep, and then was being reminded of some holes I had in my little things here and there. So when Farrah came over and told me that the reason she wasn't coming back was because I had broken the connection, the thought did NOT sit well. I got a little teary eyed, and looked away, feeling absolutely rotten, thinking "How could I do that to my horse?"...

For those who know me well (and now for those who don't) when I get into deep thought, and then get upset, I go straight RBI...and pretty extremely too. So I walked away, sat down at the far end of the arena and made a pretty poor attempt at hiding my emotions so I could stay in my own head. Farrah, without knowing me at all, did EXACTLY what she should have, she followed me at a distance, stood about 5 feet away, and rubbed my back with the Carrot Stick, until I apparently relaxed (Was a little preoccupied at the time to notice), and then she came and sat down next to me and put a hand on my knee. At this point, I looked up, and to my surprise, Farrah was also crying...If there's one thing I can't stand, it's when someone matches my emotions, because then they get even more, I started bawling.

I will spare the details of that for a while, it was erm...kinda touching, but anyway, once I started to collect myself, we actually carried out a really great conversation about self-doubt, and goals, and materialism in humans, stuff like that. Moral of the story, Farrah Green is an AMAZING person. The way she handled that gave me a whole new respect for her, and I really love her for it.


Princess and I participated in this day of the clinic. It was a real eye opener for me, and I found some holes in my Principle games that were preventing me from getting a couple of L3 tasks (Hmm...forhand porcupine game...Prin moves zone 1 really lightly, but zone 2 is sticky...and I wondered why my spins/pivots were poor. Once I adjusted that, it was like someone flipped a switch) Farrah did a good job of adjusting the games to fit our level of refinement though...for example, getting a horse to stop with hind legs crossed in HQ porcupine...haha, EASIER SAID THAN DONE!

I'm not going to lie, I got bored after a while, and so did Prin. We finished on kind of a bad note because she and I were both zoning out, and so I just put her back afterwards feeling kind of disgusted with myself for having such a short attention span (Silly LBE, I am) and went out to situate myself to watch Farrah's scheduled inspirational demo.

Well, right after I had put my horse away, I got a really pleasent surprise. Farrah came over and said "Hey, I had a cool idea. Want to get your horse back out? I thought it would be really fun for you and my mom to ride too, and we could do the demo together."

Being that I've been so dissapointed about Savvy Team, I almost cried when she invited me to do that. I of course jumped on the chance, and so we did the demo together. I started out on the 12' line, did some circling and stuff and then I moved to the 45' line and did zone 5 driving, which was a HIT! Prin and I did zig-zag half passes up and down the ring at the trot and canter (she even did 2 lead changes for me!!!) and then I hopped back on with the halter and 12' line reins, and did some transitions, lots of flying changes, and some dressage maneuvers, then I took the halter off and went bridless, with just my dressage whip, not even a carrot stick (BIG LEAP OF FAITH!!) and that's when the REALLY amazing stuff happened. We were riding to some sort of Techno/Dance track, and i started to kind of prance to the beat in my body (LOL..makes me think of Madison last year...anyway)and then Prin's stride started to feel odd and different. I looked down at my shadow, and abotu fell off when I saw what I did...Prin was elevating her stride in trot. While her head wasn't in or down, her back was coming up and her stride was higher...Prin was offering the best she could in an attempt at Passage!!! WOW!

We ended the demo by all 3 standing up on our horses, then I backflipped off, and Farrah laid Caesar down. It was GREAT!

Demo photos:
CUTE--Farrah and Wesley
Farrah and Wesley

Farrah and Caesar
Farrah and Caesar

Farrah and Caesar 2
Farrah and Caesar BB and B

Wesley sitting.

Goin' in the canter...we did some gait within the gait for people, and I think they found that cool.

This is gawky and awkward, but this is actually one of our passage strides. You can see me staring down at the shadow-lol

trottin' around

TADA! What's funny here is that Prin actually looks SMALL in this picture. But let me assure she's still 16.1hh, its just that Napoleon is 17.3 and Caesar is probably 16.3 or 17hh.

Talk about awesome timing with the backflip!

Also got a little chance to talk about our story and why I did PNH, etc. That was fun, because I'm just dying to share everything I can, of course.

So, end Part I of my clinic adventure. Sunday and Monday held plenty of GREAT STUFF too, but it's now approaching 2:00 am and I promised Mickey I'd ride with her tomorrow morning, so I've gotta hit the hay. Rest of the recap tomorrow, including my opportunity to be coached through giving a young horse her first ride, and also my private finesse lesson, and the huge compliment Farrah paid me, and exciting plans for the rest of the summer.

Stay tuned!

Monday, June 23, 2008

Clinic Exhaustion

Okay...Just got home from a 5 day L1/L2 clinic with Farrah Green, my dear friend and 2 star PNH instructor.

I'm wiped out, and have hardly any energy left to type. So, I'm writing this blog only as a reminder that I still exist. A complete recap of the clinic day-by-day, as well as some photos and revised list of goals will come tomorrow, as soon as I've regained the ability to think and comprehend complete sentences.

For now, all you get to know is that I learned a lot and have a new found motivation and ideas in lots of places in my horsemanship.

More tomorrow.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008



It is SO EFFING PERFECT! It is beautiful, very erm...wide, wonderful craftsmanship, smells delicious (YUMMY NEW LEATHER!), and best of all, my ponies LOVE IT!

Prin was UNBELIEVABLE in it, unquestionably better than she was when I rode in Linda's last year. She was light, easy to get collected, and best of all, we were both comfortable doing it!

Crest, well...lets just say any issues I'm having with him are caused by me. I could see the physical change in him on the ground as I played with him, his movement was more relaxed, round, etc, which is not typical for him undersaddle, he's usually pretty bracy and nervous. However, I still cannot ride his trot to save my life, so we've got some fluidity work to do I think. That'll come in time though, and now with the saddle, I've got the means to at least post the trot and do a Pushing Passenger if necessary.

I'm having a hell of a time shimming it though, because Prin's muscling has changed so much since last year. Last year I had a fairly dramatic downhill configuration going on, and this year, I take it Prin's gotten much more uphill, because I felt pitched forward using that pattern. 2 thick and a thin shim up front was a bit too much, saddle ended up sliding backwards and I had some major rough, dry spots, so I think tomorrow I'll try just two thick in the front, and it should be good.

So, completely and totally thrilled with it 100%. I'm having a blast, even with frustrating shim patterns!

Delivery...the UPS man was a little scared of the crazy lady and her camera...

Ripping open the box...My mom was like "Frances...LOOK UP!"

It is beautimous...could my smile get any bigger?

Joggin' on a loose rein...all smiles from both of us

Even cooler
Some more trotting, for those who know Prin, she's not usually the ROUND self-carrying type...and yet, check 'er out!!

I'm absolutely in LOVE with this thing. More pictures to come as I ride in it more and get a better feel for it!

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Leading by the Lip

Oooh my, did Prinny and I have a good laugh in our session tonight...I decided to attempt leading her by the lip, which is a L3 task, I admit, I haven't done a whole lot with. I made the disgusting assumption that my horse would probably just follow me, and I wouldn't really have to teach her anything once I got my fingers on her lips. Princess is a pretty easy-going horse, how hard could it be, right? Ah HA! There is a REASON Pat Parelli put that task in the level three criteria. It's NOT that simple. Because your horse may follow, but if he stops, you CANNOT LET GO to encourage him to keep moving. The horse must be capable of following a feel!

A long story short, Princess kept taking a step, (for which I'd stop, reward, etc) and then she'd THROW her head up and curl her lip. It would have been frustrating had the look on my poor horse's face not been so hysterical. I would take her lip in my fingers, and then ask for a step lightly, and Prin would just stand there, ears perked forward, a very befuddled look on her face, with the unmistakable expression of "You want me lead by my WHAT?! Why my LIP?! HUH?!" and then she'd do the above head toss. I actually ended up quitting without any progress because I was laughing too hard. She such a clown when she wants to be.

We did a little bit with leading by the ear too, which she got much quicker, and actually performed really well. Could use a little refining, but she did really well for the second or third time I'd done it, so yay!

It's time for bed for me. I'm zonked.

PS, I was looking at a couple of pictures of Princess from this time last year, and thinking about how she's changed looks-wise. Last year, she had a pretty flat, QHy topline, not a bad banana perse, but just not built or made for collection. Then I looked at some photos taken a couple weeks ago. HOLY horse has bulked. She's getting GOOD BANANA (like REMMER) qualities in her neck, back, and rump that she definitely didn't have last year, especially her nice convex shaped neck. I think my all winter regime of finesse in the 66 acre alfalfa field did my horsey some good! My saddle comes Wednesday, imagine what it'll become THEN! Pix that day for sure!!

Friday, June 13, 2008

Knightly News Update

Haha, like my play on words?

It's been a busy one around here today. I played with all 3 of my horses for over an hour a piece. A short wrap-up, Cricket's using herself better and better, Crest is hyper and needs work on transitions, and Prin's circling game just keeps getting better and better. We also staked out the arena, which, by the way, will be huge since we decided on the new area, more like 210' x 150' WOW!! Talk about room to do anything and everything, Prin and I even practiced some lead changes in there to make sure there was space!

But most excitingly, I played with little Knighters today! He needed his feet trimmed really badly, so that's what I did first. That was SO easy, it was almost gross. Got all 4 done in almost record time, I think probably only 10-15 minutes or so, and then we played around.

Now those of you who have followed Knight closely since I got him (His groupies or fan club as he calls you-haha)know that recently he's been pulling a lot of "You can't catch me!" games. It's been really frustrating to me until today, and then I realized that he didn't want to be with me for the same reason that Prin didn't on the circle. After finishing his feet, I walked him over to the fluffiest patch of clover I could find, and I sat down and let him graze for about 20 minutes or so.

After grazing for a bit, we hopped up and did some ground work on the 12' line. Some circling, and jumping on an in and out pattern. Knight is SUCH an athletic little horse. The one thing that I made SURE to change, however, is that when he asked to come in, or just even asked me a question on the line, I'd let him come in, and we'd go crazy with the friendly game, and this is where I started to see subtle little changes. Knight was way less overreactive about things when I asked for them, and also was much lighter on his head than usual, and also was much more WILLING to yeild his hindquarters and come in and say hi. While it wasn't a HUGE drastic change (when is it ever, really?) I did read those subtle little things that kind of tell me that Knight will be MUCH EASIER to get hold of next time.

It's amazing to me just how much this friendly game has affected everything. But I'm certainly not surprised, I mean, go figure right? I'm too demanding and not rewarding enough, pretty typical of Fran. This is a big change in my self development here!

Savvy out!

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Even True Unity Begins With the Friendly Game

Had a very interesting session with Princess tonight, in the best possible way, hence the title of my entry.

First off, Richard and I paced off grounds for our arena. We actually ended up MOVING it beyond the north paddock, so it'll be easily twice the size it would have been (We're looking at 150' x 175' now!) and a lot flatter and easier to deal with. From the way it sounds, Richard's ready to start on it any time, so YAY! Anyway, what all this has to do with Prin is that I used her to stride out the sides and make sure it was going to be big enough. It'll be just fine for ring work, methinks, 10 canter strides down the short side, 16 down the long, and that's with her pretty opened up (in other words, someone didn't want to STOP!)

So, onward and to the real point of this blog. After figuring out just where the arena was going, Prin and I headed off to the north paddock to play on the 45' line. I haven't played with her in two days other than to trim her skis off yesterday (good lord her feet were long)and so I was curious to see where things had gone since our last session. Well, "good" would be an understatement. "Great" might even be selling it a bit short. First I asked her to do some small, probably 15' circles or so, just to get warmed up. She was totally light and responsive, no leaning on the halter at all, and she seemed just really tuned in. So I brought her in, gave her a scratch, and gave her a cookie, and asked her to yoyo back out.

We had a REALLY funny moment at this point. Prin was dragging her feet with this very obvious "Nahhh...I'll pass on the backing..." attitude, so I gave her about 5 seconds of phase 1, and then just POPPED her with a 4. I have NEVER seen my horse be so hysterically expressive before. She jerked her head up, put two eyes on me, ears sprang forward, zoomed backwards like 4 steps, and she actually SHOOK HER if to say "Whoa..thanks, I needed that!" I laughed out loud, then brought her in again. I love it when she expresses herself. It just makes me smile. And for the record, her next two yoyos were unbelievable!

So we played around on the 45' line for a bit, and I honestly had an entirely different horse. We were almost all the way out to the end, just playin' around, doing directional changes and transitions, etc, and she was light and responsive on the head, no leaning, and slack all the way around. I really love the enthusiasm and motivation she's getting, and that's what leads me into the meaning behind my title for tonight.

So, I unsnapped my line off her halter, thinking "Now here's a test. We're in a 4 acre paddock, with no reason what so ever for her to stay with me. She never has in the past, why should she now?" Well, the next 10 minutes of liberty inspired my title line. Princess was just absolutely GLUED to me. we did stick to me and close range circling and and sideways to and from, at a walk and trot. She did 30' yo-yos at a trot and backed by her tail. A week ago, that would have NEVER happened! I found myself thinking about how so many things are rooted in that simple game that is found on page one of level 1. How it is number one for a reason, and how just a little friendly game can go a long way in a relationship. Even true unity begins with the friendly game. Pictures to come tomorrow.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

A Day of Excitement

It's been a VERY exciting day for me today. The excitement started when Richard approached me about Cricket. Cricket is the APHA mare that belongs to a friend of ours, who's been staying with us for the past 8 weeks or so, fattening up on our nice pasture. Anyway, Richard said he'd talked to Cricket's owner, who's DESPARATELY trying to find her a home, and that it was mentioned that if I wanted her, I could HAVE her for FREE. So...exciting news. I have a new horse! I'll probably develop her up and try to find her a home with someone just starting PNH. She's a very nice horse with a huge heart, and I feel like someone could really go far with her. She's so quiet and sweet, she's SO deserving of that wonderful home, and I'd love to help her find it, and in the mean time (however long that takes, I really am not wearing a watch here) I'll provide it.

I would say her only big downfall right now is her horribly atrophied topline. She's been undereweight, and now she's just sadly undermuscled. We started a hill therapy program tonight, and got through the first 5 minutes of circling, and then I realized that she really had NO CLUE how to pick her feet up when she moved. She'd stumble over some tall grass, or a small stick, etc. So instead of the second round, I pulled out some cavalettis about 6" high, and set 4 in a row up along the fence line. She started out REALLY clumsy, as I expected, but as we kept going along, (I kept the same time scale as if we were using a hill) her eyes got brighter, he feet got higher, and she started to REALLY use herself. I've NEVER seen something have that drastic an impact in one session physically before. It was remarkable. The last 30 seconds or so, she was prancing over those cavalettis like she owned them, and she was rounding her topline even on the rest of the circle. At the rate she's going, she'll have a topline like Remmer before the month is out-haha!

My second piece of exciting news is slightly less heartfelt, but I'm still PSYCHED! Parelli Collection called me this afternoon to let me know that my saddle is READY TO SHIP, and will be going out either today or tomorrow. OMG! It'll be here in A WEEK! Maybe in time for Farrah's clinic? I HOPE SO! God that would be PERFECT. EEEEEKK! I can't wait to have it :D This'll be wonderful. I felt giddy today after I got the call, I actually drove down to Winona and pathetically invested in a saddle stand especially for it to sit on. I'm silly. Anyway, REALLY excited, it should be here by Tuesday or Wednesday next week!

Okay, bedtime, I have to get up and water flowers tomorrow, oh joy.

PS, trimmed feet today, Crest's are like BLACK GRANITE...Need like, robotic limbs to pull that off!

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

More Forward Motion

I played with Prinny again tonight, and we had a pretty nice session. It's like someone flipped a switch in our relationship, and I guess that might have been the case kind of.

Tonight I got out there kind of late, so I didn't have too much time. Anyway, Princess, Crest and Cricket all came up at once, which was cool, because earlier, Crest was leading the cavalry charge around the north paddock, and my thought was "Oh dear lord, I'm glad I'm busy clearing for the arena and not trying to catch them!"

Prin was eager enough to be haltered, we snapped up to the 45' line, and off we went. I didn't want to jump right into the circling things we've been playing with because that's another really great way to build resentment in a LB boring can I be, really? So, for the first 5 minutes or so, we played around with getting our yo-yo game really snappy, and BOY did that go well. I only went out about 30 or so feet, and after the first go only, Prin was almost drawing to me at the canter (hard to do that close, really it is) with just my energy. There's a L3 task I'm pretty sure we can get a pass on-haha.

Next, we did move to circling,and it was just a totally different feel. Her transitions were snappy, she had a bright look in her eye and was really tuned in, We goofed around and had a great time. This may have been the first time I've ever seen my horse actually truly ENJOY circling. And the only time she pulled on me at all was when I oh-so-gracefully went to draw her into me, and fell backwards...She just planted her feet and STARED at "You...FOOL! WOW!"

Also, just for fun, we're working on a super secret task. No one gets to know what it is, but lets just say it's going very well,and I might be able to unveil in Kansas City if I'm on the savvy team there. And also, Heidi, if you read this, the key was the savvy string! She totally gets it now!

Anyway, all's going really well, Prin and I are having a blasty blasty blast...thank you Dane Cook for that phrase. I'm just enjoying this so much, I can't believe how much of a L3 online breakthru we're having here (me especially, my attitude is a complete and total BFO!), I don't we've gone thru anything THIS BIG in a long time. I'll keep posting!

Saturday, June 7, 2008

It's not about the ____, it's about the relationship.

If I were equine right now, I imagine my lips would be licking EXTREMELY hard.

I had a bit of an...erm...session with Princess on Thursday night. Enough to get both of us pretty worked up and frustrated. I very rarely get frustrated with MYSELF anymore, let alone my horse, thanks to Parelli, and particularly Linda. But everything was working against that on Thursday and long story short, we were certainly having some issues. See Princess is a very LB confident horse. VERRRYYYY LB. So LB, in fact, that because a lot of people are used to confidence being the root of the problem in most cases, they're having trouble wrapping their brains around this issue that we're having being a LB thing. Here's what was up:

*Please note that I don't need advice anymore, I realize what's up now and a lot of this is outdated, I just thought it would make an interesting post*

I'm trying to tune up our Level 3 stuff so we can start filming for assessment (I'm facing my phobia, yay me!). Princess is anything but fond of online in general. She'd much rather be doing liberty, and since reading the aptitude article in the savvy times, it makes sense, she's ANYTHING but RBE, and is somewhat LBE. Anyway, as we get to our circling on the 45' line, and I'm paying attention to perfection, I've suddenly realized that Princess leans on the halter and pulls so there's not much slack in the rope. It's generally between 10:00-2:00 on a circle, doesn't matter where I'm facing.

The reason I'm so confused about this is because I'm not reading it as unconfident. If she were always pulling off towards the gate, or towards the pasture, or towards the barn, or towards the other horses, I'd think it was a pressure/unconfidence thing, and I'd know what to do, but its always at the one spot on the circle, no matter what direction I'm facing, so that seems less likely.

I thought at first it might be having the pressure of me facing her was too great, but if that was the case, what would I do about that, and why isn't it so at liberty?

I've been experimenting a little bit, but it's really tough to do for too long, because my LB horse HATES circling for long periods of time. Tonight we had a little success taking in the slack to about 20-25 feet, and putting the spot between 10:00 and 2:00 on a fence line so she literally COULDN'T pull off...and it seemed to translate a little when I took it away from the fence. But really, I'm still at a loss

The response I got when I emailed a friend:

UMMMM, I think I have some ideas.
1. Stop trying to be perfect.
2. Do a lot of transitions, preferably before 10 or 2.
3. Ask her to go real slow. Slower than slow. Slower and slower than slow. She'll get fascinated. And that's what you want. It sure is the opposite to bored or evasive.
4. Smile a lot. Exhibit glee when she does something kookie or different than what you expected... "hah! I didn't think you'd do that! Come here... let me give you some scratches, a cookie...." I can hear you now. WHAAAAA??? You are not rewarding the wrong thing. Remember, it's not about the.... What it is about is the relationship. She needs to know that you love her no matter what. Give her approval and she'll want to be with you more. Hmmm. No parallels anywhere ;)

5. How can you get her to feel successful on that circle? You can trick her, sure... shorten the rope as she comes through 4 or 8 for a couple of laps and she'll put more slack in there, but in the end it doesn't improve the relationship. And THAT'S WHERE IT'S AT! She's trying to teach you something Fran. What do you think it is?

All I can say is DUH. Duh, duh, duh, duh, duh, duh, duh, and by the way, how about some more DUH!!!! Argh. Of course I realize all this after the fact. It makes perfect sense! My goals have been coming before my principles and relationship with my horse, and she's getting way resentful. OF COURSE! She's not RB, so she isn't frightened by it, she's LB and she's getting annoyed by it. She had absolutely no reason TO cooperate with me! You've gotta LOVE savvy. It's very humbling, always learning, always reading, always absorbing information. And sometimes a bit of a pain in the ass.

So, my first session applying this obvious brilliance went VERY well. I've come to a point as a budding horseman where I never expect things to instantly get better. And I wouldn't say that they did today necessarily. But there certainly was a marked improvement. Princess and I started putting things into practice in the pouring rain. Man was it wet.

Anyway, it's not about the _____, its about the relationship. Princess picked up on that shift in my attitude right away. She had a much larger "smile" on her face the entire time. That, and she really picked up quickly on the concept that the center of the circle is where Fran, goddess of cookies and scratches resides, and it is best to be close(r) to her than away. While the entire problem was not solved in one session (I certainly wasn't expecting it to be anyway) after about 15 or 20 minutes, instead of pulling out/leaning, she was pretty loose in her movements, and even though the belly of the rope wasn't totally dragging yet, there was great improvement. I'm absolutely thrilled with that! Yay progress :)

We also goofed around a little with slowing the circles way down and doing some transitions/getting them snappy, mainly just to keep her motivated and interested on the circle. Like I said, things weren't perfect, but I certainly saw a change. I'm over the moon about it!

Savvy on, and out! Will keep logging as progress continues, PLEASE comment and let me know what you thought of this!

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Home again, home again, Jiggity-jig

Ooooohhhh boy it's been a long week!

I've been in Mosinee, Wisconsin, visiting my friend Jessica, my friend Heidi, and giving lessons to another friend, Anne. It's been a wonderful week, we goofed around, played with horses and cameras, took one horrifyingly LONG road-trip to Green Bay to visit Heidi and her horse Charmer, and we all had a good time, and most of all, we all learned something.

It was a big week for Anne more than anyone I think. Anne has a bit of history with all her horses, and while I won't delve into why, she's got some very respectable (and justifiable!) confidence issues around them. Starting out on day one, I could tell even since last time I'd been out, that things had changed in her confidence level. The way she moved about and handled her horses was considerably more relaxed.

The first couple of days, we went about learning the seven games, and breaking them down into reasonable bits of information for Anne (and the horse for that matter) to digest. They did really well, and I was very impressed with their quick progress. I did spend a day and a half puzzling over Blixen's horsenality, before answering my own question by telling Anne that he needed to be calmer and more trusting. RBE with RBI...and then a little later, realized that innately he was totally different. I filled out about 7 horsenality charts for different he's an interesting horse, someone remind me and I'll post his charts in a couple days.

Day 3 was really interesting, because then the saddle came out. Blixen has always been reactive, but man, it was impressive, he bucked...and bucked, and bucked, and bucked...WOW. It was impressive. Again, remind me, I have pictures! Holy CRAP, I don't want to ride that horse in that state. We also played with Bailey that day, little miss sassypants. LBI classic, and oh so eager to charge through the gait to her yummy green grass. 2 hours of reverse psychology in the rain later, and she was doing all 7 games, going through the gate, and being ridden willingly enough. I LOVE my LBI horses-haha.

Day 4 we played with Blixen again, and he and Anne were looking really sharp. They got their sideways going pretty snazzily, and we took some videos. Fun! Also went to visit Heidi in Green Bay. The barn where she boards is possibly the most perfect place ever, and I loved Charmer, although I really have realized now just how EXTROVERTED Prin is. Charm rings true to the "real" LBI stuff, and Heidi's done a wonderful job in developing it. Got to try her out in the cradle bridle, and now that's on my "must have" list as am I spoiled!

Today was el finale for lessons in Mosinee. We first played with Bailey, then Anne casually asked me to ride her. I did. I got on, played around a little with walk, trot, halt transitions, and got miss LBI going pretty well. Then, the most remarkable, impressive, amazing testimant to my teaching came out of the woodwork. Anne, who has not ridden since last July, asked if I thought she could ride Bailey. I didn't show her then (Anne, if you read this, be GLAD you didn't see it!) but I teared up. I really did. I am SOOOOOO proud of Anne for coming as far as she has this week. I know how much emotional fitness and downright courage it must have taken to ask me that. She rode around the paddock for 10 minutes, and she LOOKED FANTASTIC! Not at all tense, sitting very naturally balanced and relaxed, I was just...ahhh! So PROUD!

Anyway, time for Fran to hit the hay. I've got a long weekend coming up, starting in about 5.5 hours, so yeah. Adios. Someone remind me about pix please!