Photo by Margaret Chant and edited by Jessica Metropulos

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 :)