Photo by Margaret Chant and edited by Jessica Metropulos

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 :)