Photo by Margaret Chant and edited by Jessica Metropulos

Friday, December 11, 2009

Savvy String Saves the Day!

People have asked me why I carry multiple savvy strings on me...this is why:

I live in the currently-snowy state of Wisconsin. We had a blizzard this week, and my region of the state is covered in 12-15 inches of snow. I drive a Ford Taurus station wagon with two-wheel drive. I've been essentially home-bound for the past 3 days, first waiting for the snow to stop falling, then because the roads were so bad. Today is my first day REALLY out and about since Monday.

Today, I went to visit some friends of mine who live about an hour away. As I pulled into their driveway, I cringed a bit to see it hadn't been fully plowed, but figured if worse came to worse, I could probably crawl my way out--I've lived here long enough to know how to get myself out of smaller snow "situations"

Ugh, Principle #2 comes to bite my butt--make or teach no assumptions?

The snow was packed down in the tire tracks, but not so much that it didn't cave a little when I turned my wheels. Both front wheels fell neatly into a rut, and dropped the front of my car practically into the snow. Peachy.

My friends, fortunately, are horse people, so they have a truck and offered to pull me out. The only problem: Connecting a tow strap to the frame involves either reaching a hand through the mechanics under the hood (learned the hard way never to try that again) or getting underneath my car--something I could not do with front of the car almost in the snow. So, conundrum, right? My friend said sarcastically that a coat hanger would be useful. And then it hit me...Why use a coat hanger when I could use...MY SAVVY STRING! So...slightly reluctantly, and with a "Please don't fail me now, baby!", I pulled my green string off my belt and handed it to my friend, who stuck it through the mechanics under my hood. I hooked the strap to the loop in the string, and my friend pulled it up and through with ease and dropped it on the other side of the bar, where I connected the hook to the strap. My friend was able to pull me out, and I was able to get home in time to play with my horse.

Savvy strings...such simple little things...SO MANY USES...I'm so glad I carry mine with me :)

Monday, December 7, 2009


Yeah, I don't even know how to talk about my session with Prin today. I'm honestly at a loss for words for how INCREDIBLE it was. You ever have those days where everything you've been playing towards just suddenly drops into place? That was today.

I took Prin out, vowing that I wouldn't get hung up or obsessed with the big picture, the goal, the task, whatever, that I was going to focus on the pieces and reward the slightest try. Interesting how motivating that strategy is for an LBI...Isn't it fun? I can have the same BFO on a half a dozen times on different levels...all in one year!

Anyway, everything sort of just fell into place. I've been playing for the past week or so in isolating porcupine games and getting different parts of her body super light and responsive to a feel. Isolate, separate, and recombine, and all that. I'd been focusing particularly on zones one and 3/4, because this is pretty much where my Prin's biggest physical blocks are. I started using cookies as incentives in her zone 1, simply because I could, coupled with some lift and driving game in circles, really close in until she relaxed and REALLY flexed around me. I saw some big changes there, but the biggest surprises came when I decided to play with some zone 5 driving. After some small isolations in her hind end, she offered amazingness: QUALITY haunches in/half pass from zone 5 with ONE LINE! Um...COOL?! I'm really excited for this, because it's going to help our finesse SO MUCH. I'm really loving how my online is turning into my finesse!

When it comes to zone 1 with Prin, one scenario has always stayed true in my head--I feel like the ultimate zone 1 accomplishment with her (and maybe this is because of how..DULL Prin used to be!)is to achieve quality and correct vertical flexion in the halter, and be able to perform collected maneuvers as such. Farrah and Caesar are a great example, and I once asked her if it were as simple as a broken porcupine game, or if there was more to it than that. Farrah responded that yes, it was a broken porcupine game, but the reason probably wasn't disrespect so much as a lack of strength/flexibility, and that she's just telling me by resisting that she isn't strong enough to do it. That's been a journey in and of itself--helping her find that strength! But recently, I've felt that we're on the edge of a breakthrough.

Well...ladies and gentlemen. Today. I isolated, separated, and recombined. I showed Prin what it was I wanted, helped her find comfort in it, and she got it! Prin, for the first time in our partnership, was prancing around like a dressage pony with her head all in and a HALTER! This is I mentioned, can't really find words for it! It shows me that my horse has developed physically in a way I had truthfully seen as only wishful thinking, and is starting to offer it as her own ideas. It also shows me how much EASIER my finesse journey is going to be if I continue to develop this on the ground, then apply it to my riding.

So. That's what's going on here. Yeah, Prin is pretty much awesome. I'm SO proud of her!

And now I'm off for bed. The forecast is promising a blizzard tomorrow (6-12 inches of snow), so I may be home-bound tomorrow...or I may be riding in the snow. Either way, I'm tired now! Savvy on!

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Three LBEs in the Snow

Yeah, that's what happened at Brown Coulee Farm today. It was chilly again, though not nearly as cutting as it was yesterday. I was going to play with Prin, but one look told me she was not in an active mood, which is never pleasant when it's chilly outside. But I knew who would be in the mood to move...

I have a little project visiting me for several weeks right now--my friend Micky's horse, Shadow, is here to have some foundation time put on him. It's a nice swap, Hart is living with Micky for a while to get some extra feeding and provide her with some confidence.

Anyway, Shadow is a character, I blogged a little about him when she first got him last summer, but here's a little refresher. Shadow is a 3 yr old bay roan AQHA gelding. Totally a LBE, very dominant, (I must be drawing these horses to me, subconsciously!)and so far, hasn't really done a whole lot just with schedules being the way they are. So he's pretty fresh.

I've had a couple sessions with him already, but figured I wouldn't blog until there was actually something to talk about. Shadow, being extremely dominant, is not the type of horse that I'm going to be playing with on my own on the ground at first. It's really difficult, and not safe for me to try to build rapport with a horse that wants to be on top of me, and even more unsafe for me to try to establish boundaries with him, because of his punk tendencies (that include rearing and striking--I've watched him extensively in the herd). So with that in mind, I've decided that until I can safely, lightly, and effectively play all 7 games with him from the back of another horse, I'm not going to attempt to talk to him on my own.

Today was my second day of playing with that, and I used Crest as my back-up, because he is Mr. Amazing when it comes to colt starting...something about the responsibility that it gives him really works well. Anyway, it was quite interesting, it was really a good-natured battle of wills between the three of us (all LBEs, yikes!), but the fortunate thing was that I had Crest on my side. We played with only very basic things--friendly games (He has the same over-sensitivity to high energy that Crest does), and learning to yield HQ and FQ, which wouldn't have gone nearly as well, had it not been for Crest's awesome assistance. He was not only solid and confident for me, but he also helped out applying pressure when it was needed, and reinforcing my phases when Shadow got sassy. He's turning into such a fabulous partner.

Shadow learned the basics of yielding his forehand and hind-quarters, follows a feel, and plays stick-to-me pretty well. We need to keep playing with desensitizing him to high energy, but sensitizing him to driving games (in other words, creating more of a defining line between the two), and all around developing more respect. I'll keep blogging as we go, and I'll try to get some pictures of our upcoming sessions--perhaps even tomorrow, since Micky's going to spend the day with me.

Savvy on, I'm going to bed early!

Friday, December 4, 2009


Ack! Winter is upon us all of a sudden. It took two days, the temperature dropped from high 40's to low 20's, and we got our first noticeable snowfall last night. I'm not opposed to winter weather, but today was uncomfortably chilly--with highs only reaching 21 and gusty arctic winds blowing on us.

Regardless, I managed to get motivated to go play with Prinny this afternoon (please don't ask what possessed me, I froze my tail off!). We practiced some things online, which went alright. I'm fairly certain both Prin and I are getting more clear in our communication, because she's gotten very accurate at showing me EXACTLY what is broken when I lack something, and I have less and less trouble interpreting it, which is fun.

Anyway, she exposed some holes in our communication, namely in our porcupine/driving games from zones 4/5 that I think will have a big impact on our liberty. I apparently cannot communicate my ideas effectively to the break between zones 3 and 4, FROM zone 5, or from zone 4, if that makes sense. We played with it a bit and started to get some really nice soft results, but there's definitely a lot to do yet.

So that's pretty much it. I'll keep blogging as I learn and develop in it. It's always something new to learn in this. Neat stuff :)

Savvy on!

Monday, November 30, 2009

Oh, Heavenly Day

Oh goodness, I could not have asked for a more marvelous day with my horses, today!

So that blog I wrote a couple days ago about partial disengagement? Yeah, I was definitely onto something. Today, though it took a bit of time for her to find that sweet spot, Prin was a stretching MACHINE, online. It was absolutely amazing to see her truly come through and over in her body--this is something we've been struggling with for a year! I can feel major changes in our online coming, very VERY soon--this is the key that we've been missing to flexion on the 45' line, quality in close range circling at liberty, and a happier horse on the circle in general. This is the key to better finesse. I cannot believe that it finally clicked. I'm SO proud of her! I'll try to get some pix ASAP.

In other news--I taught LB the beginnings of driving today--just started out in zones 3/4/5 with long lines. She was a little unconfident with it at first, she was downright confused as to how I was communicating with both sides of her at once, but she got the hang of it, and picked up on some basics right away--she now knows "Whoa", "Step", and "Back" all verbally, and ground drives walk/halt/reverse fairly well. I'm trying to convince my dad to get me a harness for her for Xmas, so we shall see where this goes. Little horse LOVES having a purpose, and honestly, she needs to start pulling some weight around...chubby little booger!

So that's where it's at tonight. Feeling VERY happy with how things are going out there, and SO proud of my girls!

Savvy on!

Sunday, November 29, 2009

A Note on Tying

A short, unrelated note tonight, as a blog of today's events would, I'm confident, bore you to tears.

Recently, a lively discussion has come up on the Parelli Forum about the subject of tying horses. There seems to be a bit of rift--most Parelli students have been taught the benefits of tying. Pat encourages everyone to teach their horses to tie for up to 6 hours at a time. Reasoning being it's a builder of patience, emotional fitness, a high level porcupine game, and sometimes is a convenience, too. But, on the other side, someone actually went so far as to suggest I was condoning animal cruelty for stating that I've tied Prin and Crest for 4+ hours at a time.

So, for tonight's blog, I thought I'd just share with you what I wrote in response to the person who said I was being cruel. I don't take it to heart, by any means. I know that my horses are happy. This is meant to be purely informational.

A Note on Tying:

Pat's definition of respect is "the appropriate application of pressure, and the appropriate response to the application of that pressure"... it seems to me that teaching a horse naturally to stand tied for an indefinite amount of time is just that. I'm not going to FORCE my horse to stand there for hours right off the bat (That IS unfair, and goes against all things Parelli, not to mention sets the situation up for complete failure)...I am, however, going to help my horse learn and understand how to respond appropriately to both the porcupine game and extreme friendly game, and slowly and gradually increase both the amounts of time he/she can stand, as well as the level of commotion he/she can tolerate while being tied. There's a process, just like with everything else we teach our partners to do. To me, that indicates high levels of communication in both porcupine and friendly game. That's all it breaks down to.

There is no malice, no cruel intent in asking my horse to stand still on my terms. As long as my horse knows his/her responsibilities in the partnership (mine do), and I understand mine (I do), and the situation has been set up for success, then it's not unfair or wrong.

My horses stand tied willingly because they never learned tying to be something UNCOMFORTABLE. They get fed off and on to keep them busy, almost ALWAYS have access a bucket of water. And it's not like I just up and leave, either...most of the tying situations they've been in have been at clinics in which I was assisting and/or hosting, or some other situation in which I could not physically be there with them all the time, but was close enough that I could keep an eye on them They're usually tied near, or, in some circumstances, even IN the arena that the event is being presented.

I hope that provided some insight on what I think is an interesting topic. Questions, requests for clarification and/or specification, and feedback are, as always, very welcome. Let me know your thoughts!

Saturday, November 28, 2009

BFO leading to Breakthrough (I Hope!)

Short post tonight, I had a very nifty BFO today with Prin. In developing our L4 online stuff, Prin struggles to keep good flexion in canter out at longer distances. Her rhythm and relaxation are good, and she keeps contact in the mental aspect of the word, but has a hard time maintaining true physical contact, i.e being straight on the circle, and it's not her fault--she's just been physically incapable of it.

I had lunch with my friend Michelle, a fellow L4 student and also a 2* Parelli professional, this week, and we had an opportunity to talk strategies, as her little horse, Connor, also struggled with this.

I've been told, time and again, that the solution (or at least part of it!) is longitudinal flexion at the trot online. That this will build Prin's ability to bend and flex her body independently. I've been given lots of instruction on how to achieve this--I've tried it all, but never seemed to be able to achieve satisfactory results. I've used porcupine games as well as driving games to try to get my horse's ribs and body flexing, and it just never happened.

Michelle, again, made this as a suggestion, but she, unlike everyone else, gave me the key that was missing--she said "If you're walking with her while she trots, you can actually use your driving game and communicate with her inside hind foot. Linda calls it a 'partial disengagement', and if you push it under, she has to use her HQ more, and her natural instinct will be to stretch and breath more."

EUREKA!! Prin and I found it today, almost immediately! I was just playing on the 12' line, and switched my focus to that inside hind, instead of her ribs. Instantly, Her head sank lower, her eyes softened, and she started to stretch and blow. I quit pretty much on that note--no need to overload. But how COOL! I'll continue playing with it over the next few days, and I have a feeling she's going to make HUGE changes. Shall keep you posted!

Okay, to bed with me!

Friday, November 27, 2009

Oh, My Extroverts!

Today's play was an interesting wake-up call to me with regard to two of my little herd. I am innately a Left-Brain Extrovert, and though I'm pretty adequate at handling all the horsenalities, I've always been partial to my left-brain horses, particularly the extroverts, recently (though it used to be LBIs, hands down! Thanks Prin!). Today's events revolved around two fascinating (and perplexing, in some cases) sessions with two of my horses--and involved my digging deep into my savvy quiver at points.

I started my afternoon out with a half an hour long session with little LB. It's been a long time since I've put any effort into LB's development, simply for time's sake. LB is QUITE the little extrovert, and what little time I've put on her has been centered around developing obedience--something, she taught me right off the bat, that doesn't last unless she's played with consistently. Note to self...

LB's version of disobedience--she was supposed to be trotting a circle!

We played with developing obedience and smoothness on the 22' line. LB's circling game particularly has lots to improve upon, the little rascal likes to circle with her nose IN THE AIR, tilted away from me. My usual strategy for dealing with this is actually to just hold my hand closed and firm with as little rope as possible, and then release on the slightest try, but LB wanted none of it. I have NEVER had that strategy not work, most horses get tired of carrying themselves incorrectly within a couple laps and start to relax--not her! I isolated it as a broken porcupine, and inspected some other areas--broken draw in yo-yo, broken bring-back on the circle, and decided I needed to focus on porcupining the front end.

We started with basic L1 porcupine games, and moved on to other things while in motion--I used the figure-8 pattern to my advantage, looking to continue the pattern until she showed signs of obedience. I was very impressed with her persistence, I must say--she came up with about 28 ways NOT to do the figure 8 pattern, but all of a sudden, she just fell into a rhythm. I got several repetitions of very soft, pretty, obedient pattern, and brought her in. I unhaltered her, and she started offering to do some things at liberty on her own, which I thought was pretty darn neat! We played for another couple of minutes before I put her back and went for my next playmate.

I played with Crest, next. Crest was VERY emotional today--whether it was the weather, the fact that I was still a bit mentally bound up over my session with LB, or just because that's how he was meant to be today, I don't know. But he started out by telling me quite plainly that he NEEDED to move his feet. I obliged, and let him move about at the end of my 45' line. That was not probably the best move on my part--had I been more on my game, I might have put him on a pattern or something, so as to keep his mind occupied. Anyway, it ended fine, he just took a little longer to focus.

We played a lot online, focusing on walk/canter/walk transitions (hoping this'll transfer to our riding), and then moving to long-line driving--which he is now the champion of. I'm still a bit clumsy when it comes to changing bend/flow from side to side on circles, and it bothers him a little, I think. I'm pretty sure it just breaks down to a communication slip--my timing isn't perfect yet, and Crest is so sensitive that we're just missing something by a hair. I'll keep playing with it and let you know how it goes--I think I'll probably use the figure 8 pattern here, too. It's a pattern he knows well (he's playing in L4) so that buys me some opportunity to work on myself without worrying about him. We shall see how it goes.

I got on his back for a few minutes and just focused on isolations again--my GOODNESS he's getting light! I got several GORGEOUS 180 degree rollbacks using practically nothing, and he's getting this super speedy, but super controlled backup going, too. What a neato horse!

So, that's pretty much it for today. I'm so tired I can hardly keep my eyes open right now. Again, I'm very wordy, but I hope I gave you at least a little insight into my day--again, feedback is welcome if you wish :)

Savvy on, I'm off for BED!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Principle #7...In So Many Ways!

Here it is, as promised, the beginnings of what I hope can actually be an account of my sessions again. Bear with me, awkwardness may ensue, I've really taken up the life of an introvert in the world of my ponies--really focusing on learning for me.

Today, my friend Jessy, a very driven and enthusiastic L2 student, came down to spend a day learning and playing with me. She was partnered with Prin, and I chose to play with Crest, since he's had almost 3 weeks off.

Jessy has a LBI of her own, and so her focus in playing with Prin is to learn to motivate an LBI that already knows her responsibilities (Principle #7: Horses teach people and people teach horses), as well as to just plain ol' advance her horsemanship. Prin proved to be an excellent teacher today. Jessy learned immediately that being slow and particular (and slower, and slower and slower) is a valuable tool in motivating Prin. We showed her some things, too, the difference between Prin's just doing the task, and putting effort into it. Jessy hopped on later, and discovered, much to her dismay, that she and Prin had a communication breakdown.

I've got to segue here for a moment: Even though Prin is playing late into L4, she's still my horse--she doesn't ride the way she does for me with anyone else, and for that, I'm extremely grateful. She's by no means dangerous, but she will expose holes in communication effectively. I'm so grateful to have her as my partner in teaching, as well as my personal horsemanship journey! Anyway!

Jessy was a little upset, I think at having my horse test her. She felt there was a BIG roadblock in front of her. Something to prevent her from progressing. At this point, I introduced her to the concept of Isolate, Separate, and Recombine. Through this, Jessy figured out that she and Prin had not established a strong enough driving or porcupine game on the ground. This gave Jessy the ideas she needed, and she got off, and set to establishing that communication with more refinement. I'll be interested to see how their relationship develops from this knowledge and new set of tools.

Meanwhile, I had one HECK of a session with Crest. He's had about 3 weeks off now, 3 weeks in which he must have sat and come up with a zillion ways to make me laugh. I put him on the 45' line today, and though he was wild and crazy, he just wanted to play with ME! We spent the better part of 20 minutes just running around being sassy. Crest was jumping, kicking, rearing, bucking, striking at the air, tossing his head, and overall just showing off and feelin' fine. Throughout this magnificent display of athleticism, however, Crest maintained contact with me, and eventually, I was able to take his energy and "Shwung" and put it to something productive--using two lines in driving reins, we were able to achieve several strides of passage (which were STUNNING...I wouldn't have believed it, except that two other people saw it as well), as well as a couple of lovely flying changes (complete with head toss and body flail), as well as just some beautiful round, Andalusian-looking movement, transitions, etc.

I also got on his back briefly, and we played with HQ/FQ isolations (He's learning to SPIN, too cool!) and also being particular with all things walk. He's getting his pleasure-horse walk down so nicely, even with the time off. Hooray for emotional fitness development in the world's most emotional horse!

So...That's it for today's session. Fun was had by all, I think everyone learned a ton. In reading back on this, I think my personal homework I'm going to take from all this is that I should how to express what I learned in half the text--jeepers, I'm wordy!

Anyway, stay savvy, play often, have fun, and let me know what you think! I'm off for bed!

Back to It!

Hey there, all!

I'm home now, yay! I arrived home late on the afternoon of the 20th, and since, have pretty much hit the ground running in my own personal journey (not so much elsewhere, unfortunately, which I'm trying to change). Florida was definitely a learning experience in more ways than one, and so mentally, I've been wild and crazy since before returning home. I apologize to any of you who have been following me on Facebook/twitter, and have been worried, I promise it wasn't as bad as an experience as it apparently came across!

On the equine front, my ponies were actually thrilled for my homecoming, it's been one of the best in that pasture so far. The day after I got home, I went out and called like I usually do, and 3 heads popped up, and all 3 of my riding horses upped and left the feeders, two of the three nickering as they came. Love my little herd :D

Unfortunately, I haven't had a whole lot of time to play with my guys since being home. I've had one short session just with Prin, and then I had a double session on Prin, with Hart, which was day before yesterday. I'm not entirely sure why I hadn't thought of this before, but Hart likes to play the "I'm really tall, you can't reach me!" card, and I had been struggling with refining all things forehand with him--even with the Carrot Stick, he's just tall enough that my phases cannot be totally fair to him. So duh--put myself on my 16.1hh partner, and we most likely can communicate with the tall one! It was a really fun session, I LOVE having Prin as my assistant--she's very good at backing up my phases and being in the proper position even when I'm not, sometimes ;) We got quite a bit accomplished, too. Prin was successful in teaching Hart the sideways game to the right (something he and I have struggled with a bit because of his height), and we also got some really nice stick-to-me stuff going. Very cool!

Other than that, our herd has been reduced a bit--two of our horses left for new homes, which is sad, but also a Godsend, since our corrals were getting pretty crowded. We're down to 12 now, which is a pretty good number for the space we've got.

So that's the update--I think I'm going to try to get back to a regular schedule of blogging, even if the sessions are short. It benefits me to organize my thoughts after each session, and I've gotten a few "hey, would you start sharing about your sessions again?" types of inquiries. So there we have it.

I'll try to get back into it!

Off to go play with a wet horse.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Re-inflating the Bubble

This is an excerpt from a journal entry I wrote earlier today. For the record, I'm now sitting in the computer lab at the Parelli Center, surrounded by cinder-block walls ;)

It's a little past 7:00am. I"m sitting here in a green plastic chair, watching the sun rise over the hill playground at the Parelli Center in Ocala, FL. Kristi's horse, Maxi, grazes on some hay in a pen about 20 yds in front of me, and around me, the last of the externs finish up their morning routines and head up the hill to Pat's barn.

A typical day at the Parelli center, for sure. Yet as I sit here, I feel something else. I was here in January/February, and it was a life-changing experience. I returned home to Wisconsin with a new attitude, a sense of renewal and happiness, and a place to go with my journey.

Fall was a very hectic time for me this year, and yet, through it all, I felt like I did alright. My dream was (and is) still alive, though perhaps a bit duller...or...distracted (Yes, I like that, better word choice!). I hadn't lost sight of it, I just couldn't remember quite how to get there.

Sitting here now, I feel a great sense of renewal. There is nothing quite like the feel of being here, in this beautiful place. Pat and LInda have worked hard to create an environment of positive, progressive, and natural, and that truly IS here. For me, it's a refresher of my goals and dreams as a Parelli student, and a swift kick in the butt to remind me to STOP MAKING EXCUSES and just do it! I strive to be this happy all the time, and this is the starting point. So think of this as a home-coming for me. It feels good to be back, to the place (and mental attitude!) where I belong. I'm ever so happy to be here :)

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Neat Online Stuff

It's been raining like mad here again, go figure, so The past 3 days, again, have kept my playtime to a minimum and it's making me sad. Fortunately, the forecast seems to be looking clear and sunny for the next week or so, so the lake that is our farm should start to try up, FINALLY!

Had a beautifully progressive online day with Prin today. Started out feeling REALLY unmotivated, it was chilly, despite the sunshine, and I had a hard time getting going, which I'm sure my LBI appreciated ;)

Prin and I started out playing with improving draw. That was not my original plan, but Prin actually showed me that that is what we needed to play with. We spent about 10 minutes being really particular with our yoyo to the end of the 45' line, and I spent some time teaching Prin to REALLLY put effort into her draw. I've been able to draw her to me at the walk, trot, and on a good day, at the canter, but she's never put effort into it, and I've always maintained drag on the rope to bring her energy up. Kind of an obnoxious BFO for me, realizing that part of the reason her draw at liberty is so sticky is because I use my rope in drawing her online any faster than a walk. Anyway, she and I spent a little time at it, and by the end found that we could play a little game of dance and anticipation, one step forward, one step back, etc, without my having to touch the rope. A ton of fun, really, and got her energy up in a playful way, not in a "just cuz mom asked" sort of way.

Next, we moved onto a little circling game--that's our most broken game in L4, maintaining rhythm, relaxation, and contact, at 35-45 feet out, usually at the upper gaits. I opted to look for quantity, instead of quality this time, seeing how many laps of canter she'd give me, build it, and see what kind things I could help through improving quality as well (Biomechanics, etc)--I was quit surprised not only to get 4 laps at the VERY END of the 45' line in each direction RIGHT AWAY, but also to find that other than a little stickiness in the first half lap each way, that she also maintained realllllyyy nice rhythm, relaxation, and contact, throughout. I think she would have given me more, too, but I brought her in before she realized she wanted to come in. Totally cool to see the improvements from being more particular up close--I'm anticipating a BIG breakthrough any day with it!

Next, we played a bit with quality of circle--Prin's flexion has improved a ton even since we passed L3, but I know the standard Pat is looking for in a L4 audition, and she's just a little shy, yet. Not her fault, either, more mine for not being more particular in the earlier stages of development! Anyway, something Farrah's really emphasized (and I've stubbornly ignored, for whatever the reason) is the importance of longitudinal flexion on the ground. If you've ever watched her play with Caesar, you'll see him CONSTANTLY flexed over the top on his circles at trot, especially. I've started to teach Prin this several times, lost faith in humanity because it requires so much quiet persistence, and quit. I'm so not a LBI when it comes to teaching details! Anyway, today, for whatever reason, I felt emotionally fit enough to play with it, and the results were PHENOMENAL. By the end, going to the right (her difficult side!) she was stretching down at least a foot (goal is nose essentially on the ground), and breathing rhythmically at about 12' of line. That, for her, is remarkable! I was so proud, and I know she felt brilliant--she sent me the feeling too! We were both probably thinking "Why didn't we try this before?!"

Finally, I did a little one-rein long lining, but with the rein on the opposite side to me. This makes her essentially at liberty, since I physically cannot micromanage where her head goes and when from that position. My goal is eventually to be able to play with her like that on the circle w/t/c at the end of the 45' line with no brace, as well as do sideways to and from, and draw various zones to me--that'll be my "given" to go to large-area liberty, when we can do all that with slack. As it is now, we've got really great connection at walk/trot circles, sideways to and from, as well as drawing zone 5 at a max of 15-20 feet away. Not a bad start, but something we'll need to continue building on before we go playing at liberty in any big fields.

Prin was all smiles during this session--we played with transitions and building a faster, longer zone 5 draw, and she kept reminding me again and again of how clever she is. I love her so much when she's in a mood like that--she gets adorably cocky, and we just tease back and forth. Very fun.

So...that's pretty much what we've been up to--we'll be ready to audition L4 online shortly, I'm sure, but just taking things at the speed she needs to at this point.

We'll keep ya posted!


Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Learning How to Bend

I've been waiting forever to use that as my blog title! It's a great song by Gary Allen that I totally love, but the moment never seemed appropriate...anyway, today it seemed to be the theme! I had two awesome sessions with two awesome horses, both focused in some way on flexibility and bending.

First, I played with Prin. She's a bit out of shape from lack of attention, so a few times a week, I'm going to try to start taking her out for long trots, much like I did last fall, except this time she's in better condition to handle it, and will benefit from it more. Anyway, I digress.

Today, our focus was on finesse, specifically in bringing the shoulders up. Prin, being a stock horse, built essentially level and made for getting INTO the ground quickly, is not naturally made to come up in the front end and be flexible throughout her shoulders and rib-cage. Using an exaggerated suspension rein as my active rein, and a solid fixed rein, as well as the shoulder-in maneuver, Prin learned VERY quickly (I was actually very impressed at how much effort she put into learning this, today!) how to move in a much more tall, elevated posture. It felt lovely to ride, I'm impressed at how quickly she's picking up on it!

We also played with all manner of trot. I would bring it down to a slow little collected thing that was starting to get some elevation to it (baby-steps to passage perhaps?), and then we'd bust out of it into as big a working trot as she'd offer on a concentrated rein. Very cool stuff, she's really starting to USE herself through her transitions nicely.

To aid the process of developing finesse, I've been playing with my own riding posture, as well. In my last lesson with Kristi, she told me fluidity was beautiful, but in order to advance to where I want to go in Level 4/5 finesse stuff, I was going to need to do a few things:
A)Open my hip angle, engage my own HQ, and really stretch my legs DOWN (Prin, being an LBI, will use it as an excuse not to move out if I don't)
B)Lengthen my stirrups a hole or two to aid that
C) Develop a more side-to-side flow in my sitting trot.

I've been playing with all of that, but mostly really focusing on lengthening my leg and engaging my OWN body for finesse. Long legs are definitely NOT what I'm known for, so that's been an adventure, but it's REALLY come along nicely now, and the more flexibility I gain, the more I realize it affects my horse! Great journey, and definitely learning how to bend!!

After finishing up my session with Prin, I took Hart out to play. He's been pretty much put on the back burner since I've owned him, which I feel awful for, but fortunately now, (going into winter, ew) I've got the time to spend on him. As of right now, he's just thin, and horrifically out of shape. Everything will come at once with him I think--both being more proactively used (as opposed to lounging around the pasture), coupled with more...caloric...feeding (my poor holistic care friends would be horrified at the CRAP I'm pouring into this horse to get weight on him!), will help him get back on track.

So today, we started out just trying to work the kinks out. He's a very one-sided horse. Years of being ridden to the left has done a number on his right side, and he has a noticeable strength problem with his right side. He's very inflexible throughout his ribs, has trouble picking up his right lead, and carries and almost constant brace in his neck going to the right.

Rule #1 when playing with a horse as lopsided as this: Slow and right beats fast and wrong, and slow and right BUILDS fast and right. Hart needs a lot of focus on flexibility throughout his right side, and so I chose to use small, but slow walk circles to build this. Cue the bracy, upside-down movement. Ew! Is that the gorgeous English sport horse I bought? Really?

Rule #2: Never release on a brace. Though it's hard to watch and horrible to consider, the easiest way to discourage this kind of movement is to hold the rope firmly (his nose is tilted to the outside, zone 3 closest to me at this point) until the horse makes an offer at correct movement, and then to release, LIGHTNING fast. That way, he finds comfort in correctness. It didn't take me more than 3 repeats of this before Hart's head came down, he licked his lips, and he switched his bend on the circle, and maintained it.

Next, I pulled out some ground poles and set them up.

Horse's Responsibility #4: Watch where you're going! Oh my...this horse doesn't know where his feet are! I set the poles out in a cavalletti pattern, and sent him through at a walk. Clunk, clack, clunk, CRASH. interesting! I continued this pattern, and he did get progressively better--I stopped when he made it through without knocking any poles out of position.

Finally, I taught Hart the figure 8 pattern. Again with the whole "slow and right beats fast and wrong", except this time, I had created my own impulsive behavior. Often, once a horse finds comfort/a new way of moving, they'll beg for more--Hart had found it in walk and trot, and all he wanted to do was trot! I had to interrupt the pattern rather vigorously a couple of times, but he finally found himself. At that point, I guided him through the pattern, and he got this wise-ass look on his face. He totally understood it, and dang it, he was GOING to trot before we were done! We ended by trotting the pattern twice, and then circling 3 gorgeous circles to the right on the 22' line. I put him back, and he stood there rather regally for several minutes, regarding me with mild interest, licking and chewing, before heading back to his hay. He's such an interesting horse. Definitely a LBI at heart. Very great lessons for both of us!

Anyway, it's bedtime for me, I have lessons tomorrow at 9:30 am! Feedback on the post is always appreciated. Thanks folks!

Savvy on!

Monday, October 26, 2009

Here, There, and Everywhere!

Hi guys!!

I just went through, found, read, edited, and ultimately deleted literally 4 posts that I have started to you since my last one, and then got sidetracked on before finishing. What an awful blogger I am! So sorry!

Per usual, life has been insane around here. This month has been a particularly busy month, coupling horses with really cruddy weather has not done nice things for me. I've had two trainee horses come and go (Sunny and Gunner), and practically no time for my own ponies, mainly because every waking moment at the barn NOT in the pouring rain (and/or snow!) was being spent putting time on the horses I was being paid to play with. It's a wonderful concept for an LBE, being so busy you don't have time for relaxation, but it got a bit overwhelming toward the end. Fortunately things have calmed down here, and I can now relax and breath a little. I'm looking forward to having the rest of the fall to develop and advance my own horsemanship and focus on my students as well.

I have some exciting upcoming events around here--I have a lesson weekend in Mosinee (Near Wausau, WI) planned weekend after next (if Anyone is near or around Wausau, and would like a lesson, please contact me (, I'd be happy to swing by Friday, Saturday, Sunday, or Monday, November 6th-9th.)

On November 12th, I'll be heading down to FL for a week. As of right now, my plans are to ride down with a friend who's going to the Parelli Center for a month, (that'll be an adventure in and of itself--the two of us in a truck for 26 hours is a hilarious thought!) and I'll stay with my friend Susan, in Orlando. I'll be teaching, riding, and just re-connecting with friends and enjoying the nice warm weather :)

Finally, schedule pending, Farrah Green may be in the area teaching in late November. Hopefully that happens--it's been discussed. If that is the case, I will be filming part of my Level 4 that weekend. Won't THAT be neat? Freestyle for sure, hopefully my online, as well. If not then, I'll do it sometime before FL--our freestyle especially is just SPECTACULAR, I'm so proud of Prinny!

Anyway, I think that's all for now--I'll leave you with some fall photos from the Brown Coulee Farm Paddock! Enjoy!

Prin came trotting to me when she heard me call this afternoon--it warmed my heart to see that eager expression, had to snap a photo :)

What a pretty face, despite the mud! Such an exceptional girl!

I've been lusting over Crest since I downloaded this photo. Isn't he just GORGEOUS?! And check out those leaves!!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Fran and Crest--"The Story"

Introducing Fran and Crest's new video! Finally! Please give me some feedback :)

When it Rains, it POURS!

It's amazing how when life picks up, and a horse person needs all the nice weather in the world, it just POURS rain. We're on day 6 in a row without a day's break (We had about 3 hours of sun yesterday, which was then ousted by MORE rain), the ground is totally saturated, and it's affecting everyone's moods. I personally have been a big ball of emotions recently, and for no particular reason, either. Just the weather, I think, coupled with some big decisions that need making soon. Anyway...

I mentioned on a facebook a couple days ago (and then failed to follow through) that I would blog about an awesome opportunity that has presented itself to me. Well here's the update: My vet, who treats 300 some odd horses around the area, (including several professional training facilities, as well!) has asked me to start a colt for him this month! Not only is this a huge compliment to my horse handling and to Parelli Natural Horsemanship, (He's not the most tolerant of horses that don't stand for treatment), but can you IMAGINE the word of mouth this can and will do for my business, should this go well? Now, the catch is that Tom wants to sell the horse at a sale at the end of the month, so I'm kind of on a time line, here. I'm seeing it as a challenge to stick to my principles on a timeline. I think it'll be a wonderful experience.

So, we picked the horse up on Sunday. Gunner is his name, and he's a 3 yr old Quarter Horse colt. He's chestnut with a front sock and stripe on his nose (I'd have a picture for you, but it's been raining since he got here!). He appears, so far to be very Left-Brained. I initially had thought he was LBI, but he's shown me a fair share of LBE traits as well. I guess time will tell, I plan on playing with him for real for the first time tomorrow, because I guess it's supposed to be pretty nice outside, finally. I'll definitely keep you posted :)

Anyway, that's all for now! Savvy on!

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

My Sacrificial Lamb

"You can be so stubborn, there's times I think you just like to fight. And I hope and pray I live to see a day when you say I might be right. And there's times I'd rather kill you than listen to your honesty. But you've always been a friend to me."
~Garth Brooks, "A Friend to Me"

Pat Parelli has said that the first horse a person brings to level 3 (and now level 4) is a "Sacrificial lamb" of sorts. That horse is the one that is put up against all our personal flaws, teaching errors, emotional fitness (or lack there of), and they help us become who we need to be as we learn.

I've been thinking about this concept all day since it came up in the lesson I was teaching this morning--one of my students inquired about something, and I explained that sometimes, though we do our best, the horse we learn PNH with gets to suffer some blunders for the sake of learning.

I had a learning day with Prin today. A big one. It's been an off couple of months for us, and I'm FINALLY starting to get back into my routine of "normality"--that is to say, being able to go to the farm and be positive, progressive, and natural, all at once. Since our freestyle is pretty much ace, I've chosen to develop and focus a bit more energy on our online, while of course keeping the balance with our other savvys. So--to our online.

I made an observation while playing yesterday that really was spark for some thought last night and into my session today. With regard to the circling game, Prin, though very light and responsive in her send, is not biomechanically correct. Breaking down the movement, my horse is not *really* using herself. She falls onto her forehand, and actually does like a haunches-in out onto the circle--her weight falls inward and forward, and her ribs invert toward me. The overall lesson she taught me yesterday was to be more particular about her zone 3, something that I put into practice immediately, and have seen some nice changes with already.

Today, I started out playing with some review of what we did yesterday with zone 3, which went alright. I recognize it's a learning process, and so grant her (and myself!) some room for improvement. We also played with strengthening and stretching her haunches using more vigorous and particular sideways, coupled with circling and slow, flowing backward S pattern. Also played with finding more refined communication with long lines (When did I get so clumsy with 2 reins?!) Though this all went "okay", Prin was erm...kind enough (?) to show me some holes in our online communication that are key to the holes in our communication in large area liberty. These are answers I've been seeking for quite some time, so I was glad for them, but at the same time, it was a bit difficult to stomach. Accepting self-inadequacy is not always an easy go, especially when one is looking to make progress.

I took some of what she showed me, put together a slip-shod plan, played a little until we found a good place to stop for the day, and I packed up, and headed home to think. At first I felt VERY inadequate and frustrated, thinking how badly I wished I had found all this prior to the 6 week hiatus, and how I felt like I was right back to where I was about this time last year: non-progressive, annoyed, and lost as to where to go next. But as I thought further, I realized this is not the case at all. The trend here is simple, I'm not AT ALL where I was last year with regard to HORSEMANSHIP...mentally maybe, and here's why--when Prin gets brutally honest, it's usually because she's telling me I need to move on, that there's more to be learned, and I'm stalling (and by extension, boring the snot out of her). Last year, it was just before I made huge leaps into finishing up L3. I think the trend is the same here--she's asking me to "finish what I've started" so to speak.

In understanding this, I realized how grateful I am to have Prin as my partner, and how essential it is that I finish L4 with her. I had toyed with the idea of finishing my levels with Crest--the superior athlete and learner by far, but I realize it's totally not about that right now. Such a patient, kind, and tolerant horse is HARD to come by, and Prin has stuck it out with and for me all the way. I need that friend and that partner with me to help me learn the final stages. So, as sappy as it sounds, I'd just like to take a chance to thank Prin. Thank you for being my Sacrificial Lamb, girl. I need ya more than I sometimes realize!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Parellifying the Beast

I think the one of the most commonly asked questions I've gotten in recent times here has been "Hey, how's Hart?". Remember him? The big Gray Thoroughbred that I bought, and have since not mentioned at all? Well, for those of you who've been wondering, he's still around, and is now doing well. He got kicked in the hock after being here for 3 days, and he was lame for almost 6 weeks off and on, hence my lack of update, there really wasn't much to say. But now we're pretty much out of the woods with his leg, and now we're back to the plan.

So. Parellifying the beast...exactly what the blog title implies, Hart and I are FINALLY getting a chance to play together. He's a hoot, he knows he's magnificent, he moves beautifully, but beyond that, doesn't have a clue as to what to do with himself. I think he's pretty much lived in a field and not been told to do much all his life. So today was our first "official" lesson, though I'd taught him the motions of the 7 games the day I got him. It was a humorous experience tonight, he was very dramatic and prancy. We played with friendly game and porcupine game, and building positive reflexes. He was totally horrified that i wanted to throw my savvy string over his back, but once he got confident, fell asleep with his nose practically on the ground. Silly horse. His porcupine game was heavy, but it didn't take much before he understood what needed to be done. After we found a flow, I hopped on and we played with some transitions and lateral flexion. He's just such a dream to ride, it's like riding a cloud...albeit a cloud with a massive trot.

I'll keep you all posted as I continue to progress with him. I"m so thankful he's sound again, now we can focus on beefing him up and getting his mind stimulated ;)

Savvy on!

PS--had another great ride out on Sunny--we cantered at least 100 feet more than once, she's so brilliant! Carrot stick riding and transitions are getting super smooth too! She also stood tied for 30 minutes while I played with Hart. So proud of her!

Monday, September 14, 2009


Okay, so that title may be inspired by the mood I'm in now, by how I feel about my little horse in training, or it could just be inspired by the fact that I have Rascal Flatts blaring as loud as I (and my neighbors!) can stand it at nearly 1:00 am. I'll let you make the call.

Anyway, life has, in essence, been quite the roller-coaster. A bizarre schedule, coupled with burning the candle at both ends, a 19th birthday bash, and Laura Ingalls Wilder Days all were cause for what I can only describe as an off week that I did not plan for. I found myself floundering with organization a little, but fortunately, I've found my track again and things are back to positive, progressive, and natural in a big way :)

Today was a very full pony day--I played with Prin for almost 2 hours this morning. First we went on a LOVELY trail ride. I emphasize on the lovely, because I could not have asked for a more responsive, comfortable, biomechanically CORRECT horse on that ride with me. We did lots of trotting, trying to get back in shape (Prin's rockin' the beer gut a little these days!) and throughout the entire ride, she offered nothing but beautiful rhythm and awesome self-carriage. Too cool! Once we got home, Played with some 22' line stuff. Before her time off, Prin was able to canter between 10-20 laps on the thing without much by way of reminder of difficulty. She struggled to find rhythm in 2-3 today. It's amazing how body condition can degrade so quickly! We'll continue to develop it. We have a lesson with Kristi next week, so let's hope we'll have something to show her at least! I can say though that she was beautifully obedient, just not exactly fit ;)

Also had a lovely session with miss Sunny. I know I've said it in every single other post I've written about her, but this horse is brilliant. She's just BULLDOZING through her lessons, she's been her for 22 days now, and other than needing a bit of smoothing over in Carrot Stick riding, she could EASILY pass L2. We've even started to play with a little liberty. She's particularly talented at downward transitions--last night she gave me a canter/halt that left a cloud of dust hanging! Anyway, today I first rasped her a feet a little, then took her out for her first trail ride alone. She was HILARIOUS, it was by far the most backward trail ride I've had, I couldn't stop her leaving the farm, we trotted a quarter mile at least! We also cantered the first time, it was 3 strides, but it was great. Turning home was a different story, she zig-zagged at a tiny little walk, looking anywhere but up the road, and 3/4 of the way back, she just stopped and refused to go any farther. Her little horsenality reminds me of Micky's old horse Digger, truly a "barn-sour" horse, for once, what a hoot! I'm so proud of her, though. She's awesome! New pictures soon!

Other than that, I've got some big plans cookin' for the fall. Some wonderful opportunities have presented themselves in the teaching department, as well as horsemanship and horse development, and I look forward to seeing what happens. I'll keep ya posted!

Savvy on!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

"Mom, I Think We're Ready..."

That's what Prin told me today. I think we are ready to film our L4 freestyle. I've spent several weeks isolating and separating the components, just playing with being very particular, especially in her HQ/FQ yields. I've been playing with only a neck rope, and hardly touching it except to back up my body language, and it's just beautiful how subtle and in tune our communication has gotten. I figure that if I can essentially "ride naked" with low phases, that when I film the audition, and add a neck rope and carrot stick into the mix, she'll have it an then some. And oh boy, will she ever.

Today was the proof. she was going sideways with just a focus, trot leg yields, doing slow spins with me just lifting some mane hair and shifting my weight/focus, and doing biiiigggg stretchy trot figure 8's with me hardly asking anything. We also played with a squeeze game pattern Pat had shown at the Kansas City celebration--Canter to halt, rollback, canter to halt, etc. Though she was a bit confused at first (totally new pattern for us!) after several slow repetitions, she just got it, no questions. Pretty quality rollbacks off my body, beautiful canter departs. Just awesome stuff. I'm dreaming up ideas to show in our audition, I want it to be just mind-blowing. promises of when I'll have it (I'd like to film soon, but I'm going to prior and properly prepare big time) but know it's in the works. My horse gave me the go-ahead. Her attitude has never been so positive and progressive. So. That's what's going on for now.

Keep your eyes peeled for an update on both Crest and Sunny, too. They're pretty spectacular, too :)

Thursday, September 3, 2009

My Little Doppleganger

I wanted to share some more recent pictures of Sunny (taken last weekend)with ya. She's progressing faster than I could have every imagined or anticipated. She's BRILLIANT! She is totally me in horse form...little blonde firecracker! Loving every second of it! Tell me what you think of the pics!

We match ;)

Learning to maintain rhythm, relaxation, and contact at the walk on the 22' line

Trotting Weave
Learning the weave pattern--my focus is terrible-lol

Figure 8 Draw :)

Figure 8
Figure 8 Drive :)

First intentional canter on the 22' line. Looks pretty pleased with herself ;)

Little bit of liberty...

A good scratch...

Disengaging the HQ

Marveling over her awesomeness, I'm sure.

Playing "Follow Micky" is a fun game!

Anyway, that's all for now. She's really really awesome. She's got a solid L2 going online, and is very soon to follow on the Freestyle front--she's riding walk/trot/halt/back/sideways now, and also ponies from Prin's back beautifully. She's an awesome little learner! I'll try to take some video within the next couple of days.


Sunday, August 30, 2009

Oh, So THAT'S What Productive Feels Like!

Hi you guys!

It's been a very bizarre week, hence my slight drop off the face of the planet. Physical exhaustion, coupled with major disorganization, and a rather unkind man-made knock to my confidence have all taken a toll on my horsin' around these days. So anyway, I figured you all were due for a bit of an update!

As I mentioned, it's been slow here, and the tension within MY MIND has been building slowly, and got to the point last night that I COULD NOT ignore it anymore. So last night, I broke, and went "I'm going to LISTEN to my body for once! I want sleep, I want to get up early and enjoy the morning, I want to stay hydrated, I want to stop eating crap at random times, I want to read, I want to get back to my learning frame of mind, I want to spend all day at the barn and love it like I used to. I'm going to get organized, and I'm GOING to do this." So I did. I was up early this morning, actually ate breakfast, made coffee, drank 3 glasses of water before I left. I cleaned my car out, then headed to the farm and had my first round with the horses--an hour and a half long session with little Sunny.

That was an adventure. I had a wedding to go to yesterday, and so little Sunshine got the day off, which was fine, she had earned it, but she must have spent the day plotting her next playtime with me! Today's session revolved around all things porcupine. When she arrived here, she was very unconfident in zone one, and made up for it with confidence and dominance in zones 2 and 3. All last week revolved around getting zone 1 really nice and friendly, while keeping her ribs and shoulders where they belong--not on top of me ;)

Today was quite the opposite, she offered some of the most beautiful correct trotting circles she's given since she's been here, but she was very snotty and pushy with zone 1. Talk about swinging the pendulum! Anyway, We played with porcupine pressure on the poll, leading by the chin and ears, as well as by the legs. She was a little resistant at first, but really caught on quickly, and by the end of the session was leading all over the place by different parts of her body, and offering to put her head down, around, or up, depending on what the situation called for. Really cool stuff!

Afterward, I hopped on her back. I'd been on her twice before, and really focused on getting her to accept my existing there, lots of friendly games, etc, and she's been a champ, so today I started teaching her the beginnings of HQ and FQ yields. At first there was a little brace, which was more my not having my weight correctly distributed, so once I fixed myself, she picked right up on it. I think she's going to be just wonderful! Pictures and VIDEO to come, I promise!!!

I headed home, and ate a healthy lunch (I have developed some really unhealthy sporadic eating habits this summer, and that's something I am determined to correct now), caught up on some reading, and then headed back up to play with both Crest and Cricket.

I had a really fun and educational online to Freestyle session with Crest, involving lots of play with a flank rope--how interesting. I followed an interesting path of indicators to get there, and let's just say his take on the whole concept has changed a bit since I last played with it. But it ended well, and I really want to include some of that good stuff in a video of us. He's awesome ;) The Freestyle riding was an entirely different story (For me anyway!). I opted to ride bareback with a carrot stick today and really start developing and progressing towards L3 Patterns. This was interesting for two reasons. One, I haven't ridden Crest in almost 3 weeks, and two, I haven't carrot stick ridden on him in who-knows how long. The main lesson I took out of it was that I need to do it FAR more often, and that I use my reins to balance on him A LOT. Yikes! I'll be playing with that in the near future! Overall his response was great though--much more responsive than I anticipated, and I got gutzy and rode with just a savvy string for a while (hackamore for safety net), and I actually felt very connected with him, which is super cool. More to develop there soon, I'm sure.

My session on Cricket was very rewarding. First of all, I took the time and shimmed her up in my fluidity saddle, which is huge, because when she came here, my 32 cm Stubben Roxane (WAYYY narrow) was too wide for her. She uses less shims in the super-wide fluidity than Crest, now! Gotta love her for that little Arabian rib cage! Anyway, I had a really really nice freestyle ride on her. We played in the round pen first on isolations (HQ and FQ), and then playing with follow the rail and transitions which she did magnificently with. I can't wait to develop her futher, she's going to make someone a PERFECT partner, I just know it!

Anyway, that's all for now folks. It's now 11:00, and I'm going to pattern that whole "early to bed" thing this week! Savvy on!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Sunny Days

Two for one post day today, but I thought this deserved special introduction. I have a little gal in for training for 6 weeks. She arrive here on Sunday the 23rd, and she is really quite the character. Her name is Sunny, and she is a 3 yr old Palomino QH mare. She stands 14.2ish (haven't measured), and is a totally LBE. She's very interesting to watch because she is SO extroverted. You can tell this little girl HAS to move her feet. She was trotting/cantering around the pasture for the fun of it this evening, while her boys (Crest and Hart) stood and watched from the long clover.

And SMART, too! Her owner is a L1 graduate who is a student of mine from Minnesota. She'd already taught Sunny the 7 games before she came, but even so, I CANNOT believe how fast she's picked up on things. She's already playing on the 22' line with fairly high quality, considering she's only been here 4 days, and we're playing with developing some more particular and subtle things that I think will really help this little girl move to the height of her potential...and fast!

Anyway, more to come on this sassy little blonde, but for now, here's a picture ;)

Subtleties in Adrenaline

It's been an interesting couple of weeks around here, but I'm finally started to settle back into a routine of things with my ponies and the like. I had my second session with Crest since my accident, and like nothing had ever happened, he's back to being a miraculous teacher and partner for me.

Recently, it's become increasingly apparent to me that Crest's walk and canter (and the behaviors that surround them) are connected. He has a tendency to get very adrenalized and excited in the canter with me on his back, and of course, he power-walks like a fiend. I decided to examine his transitions online to see if I could get a feel for how things are transferring to his back.

I've found that Crest had a lot of trouble maintaining rhythm, relaxation, and contact in both canter and walk online. Now granted, I'm looking at this from a L4 standpoint. He's a shoo-in for L3. But he lacks that contact that I'd need to get the kind of ride I'd like out of him. Anyway, I've been playing a lot with getting his walk slow...and...rhythmic...and...not...adrenalized. Yes. At that pace. It is SO HARD for him, especially at the beginning of a session or after a downward transition. He gets very hyped up. Eventually what I'd like to see is for him to do canter-walk transitions online, and be able to find a nice relaxed walk almost immediately.

The key has been to recognize and release when he's truly found his relaxation, so that he knows that THAT is what I am looking for. The rest will come with repetition with him (once he figures out the pattern, he'll be great, he's so clever!). The subtle difference has to do with the tension in his body, as well as his breathing and I have to be VERY careful that I recognize it. I took a couple photos to show the subtleties I'm looking at. Thought you guys might be interested in them :) See if you can spot the difference. And yes, he's covered in mud, it poured all morning yesterday.

The "Adrenalized Walk"

Notice the tension he's carrying, particularly in his back, haunches, and withers. His topline is taught, stride long and deliberate. You can also see a flared nostril if you look carefully. His head is also above the vertical.

The "Calm Walk" (I tried to get it as close to the same place in stride as possible)

Here's his calm walk. Though it's not as evident through a photo as it would be in video, you can see that he's really using his whole body. He's reaching up and over the top, his head is lower, and his hind leg is REALLY reaching under him, indicating that he's actually focused on using his hind end. His head is also much closer to vertical. And finally, take a look at his tail. In the first photo, it's between his back legs. Not that it wasn't a bit sticky and humid, but it indicates that he was pretty braced. In the second photo, near the same place in stride, his tail is loose. Pretty interesting huh?

So that's what I've been playing with in him for now. I'm really looking forward to seeing how this transfers to his back--I may start playing with this walk-trot style freestyle. Let me know what you think!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Awesome Videos

Short post this morning, ya'll, I'm running out the door on my way to a lesson, but I wanted to share these videos with you guys.

My awesomes friends Sarah and Hannah made them for me :) I love them, and I love these girls for it! (and for many other reasons too, of course-hehe) Take a look! They are BEAUTIFUL!

Saturday, August 15, 2009


Hey All,

Quick update. My internet has been down, I'm typing on a library computer right now. I'll have more for you probably on Monday when my mother gets home and can wrangle the turkeys at CenturyTel into giving us information as to WHY our computer isn't working. (That's another story)

So, Kristi Smith was here Wednesday evening through Friday early morning. She taught lessons all day Thursday and we had a TON of fun. I shared a 3 hour semi-private with my good friend Anna and her horse Piper. We had a ton of fun, and by the end, I was literally riding a spotted hovercraft with hooves. Prin was SO LIGHT and responsive to everything Kristi had us playing with, it was truly a pleasure. I'm loving the progress that comes with these monthly lessons--be it Kristi or Farrah.

Richard took a lesson on Amigo which was REALLY nice to watch. Richard hasn't done a whole lot of riding recently--injury coupled with lack of time I think has really gotten his motivation levels. Anyway, they played with freestyle, and the patterns that go with it. Amigo went through one HELL of a transformation. Not that he's a difficult horse, but he hasn't really been ridden at all in the past 6 months. He went from cutting corners and neglecting responsibilities to following the rail and doing figure 8's like a L2 pony should. It was just beautiful to watch, and Richard, Kristi, and Amigo were all smiles throughout :)

We finished with my friend Jessica taking a lesson on Prin, which was just AWESOME. Kristi read my mind on subject matter, put a bareback pad on Prin, and proceeded to blow our minds with the most magnificent freestyle/fluidity lesson and transformation I've ever seen, personally. More on that later, I need to compose my thoughts and actually write this out. It might even be a seperate post, it was that amazing. So cool.

Kristi's demo, though slightly less-attended due to the rain, was wonderful. I was particularly pleased and impressed with her long-line driving, they've come so far even since I was in FL this winter. And of course their liberty, Maxi is such a hoot. Kristi did a great job engaging our group for the Q&A too, there were the audience, and she definitely got them thinking. To see members of my local saddle club leaving with horsenality charts was priceless. YAY!

Anyway, there's my short update. There will be pictures as soon as my internet is back up. I have pix of everyones' lessons, as well as some of the demo, courtesy of Raven Flores and Richard Knopf (when they arrive).

Savvy on!

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Some Horses Are Like Playing With Fire

...and this time, I got burned.

I have had enough people requesting information on what happened to me (regarding my recent slightly vague facebook updates about a mystery injury), I figured I'd better write a blog about it.

I have been teaching lessons and visiting a friend in Green Bay, WI since Friday night. Yesterday I was giving a lesson (my last one of the day) with a difficult, and very dominant filly. She was just full of piss and vinegar, first scared, then dominant and very difficult to shut down. The hardest part was finding relaxation and obedience, and she wasn't wanting to give in, so finding a good note to stop on was tough. Anyway, toward the end of the session, things took an ugly turn. I had found a fairly decent stopping point. She was willingly doing some figure 8 pattern, and would lead behind me without trying to run me over. Anyway, We had a rough lead back to her paddock. There was a VERY strong draw back to the pasture, and she wanted no part in leading respectfully, or allowing me to walk ahead OR WITH HER for that matter. Anyway, we had finally gotten back to the pasture (another 10 minutes of extreme yoyo games, etc), and I was just beginning to take her halter off. She took advantage of my arm being near her head, and she reached over and bit me--and not lightly, mind you, probably just another dominance game. So I stopped what I was doing, and asked her to back up...rather vigorously, and of course, hind-sight being 20/20, probably a little too roughly. She took a few steps back, and I was just about to stop (she was being polite, or so I thought) and she reared up. What happened next is kind of a blur, but the fact that I can recall it demonstrates how damn lucky I was: She reared up, and very deliberately struck me in the head multiple times. She was (and accepting this is scary) trying to kill me. Of course I crumpled (maintained consciousness, fortunately) but knew it was bad, because as I scrambled out of there, I started bleeding heavily from somewhere on top of my head--down my face, into my eyes, etc. My friends told me I was not allowed to go into the bathroom to see myself--I must have looked awful!

Anyway, I was fairly certain I was dying for 10 minutes, simply because I was in lots of pain, didn't know what I looked like, where I had been hit, or where all the blood was coming from. They got me cleaned up and to the ER, and fortunately, it was not nearly as bad as I had expected. They told me before I was even admitted for examination that I was far too cognizant and "with it" to merit serious inspection for concussion, but that they'd see what the doctor said. Upon further examination, the source of the blood was found--a laceration about an inch or inch an a half long right on top of my head, cut fairly clean and down to my skull. I had to have 3 staples put in it (Just call me Frankenstein), and was told that though they didn't think I was "concussed", and that I could go home, that I should probably be woken up during the night.

Coming home from the hospital was another whole ordeal--the stress from the entire ordeal made me ill. I had to get two injections, one of novicane to numb for my staples and an update on my tetanus shot, which would have been fine if I weren't deathly afraid of needles. Then of course there was the shock of the accident, and the realization of what was happening...not to mention the fact that I wasn't allowed to get my head wet, and so was facing the prospect of having to sleep with bloody hair. Yeah...I was not happy. But I did end up taking a nice hot bath and rinsing my hair at least (I WOULD NOT have slept had I not), and I was back to feeling pretty normal mentally by 9:00pm

Anyway, I'm just REALLY SORE for now. Turning my head to the left is painful, I have scrapes and bruises down my arms, and of course my head is tender. My jaw must have gotten good and yanked around, too, because it's really sore and I bit my tongue up pretty good too, so that makes eating tough. But overall, I'm fine, healing, and now am focusing on staying mentally healthy--so far so good, too ;)

So, thank you all for your concern and well wishes. I'm just thankful to be alive at this point, and am focusing on not letting this hinder me--though a word to the wise, don't pat my head or feed me anything crunchy for the next few days ;)

Oh, and for some sick reason, my friend took pictures of my head. Anyone wanna see? LOL.

Savvy on!

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Like a Painted Wild Mustang...

"...flyin' out across the open range... Finally gets to live her life that way, no fear, no fences, nobody, NO REINS!"
~Rascal Flatts

That song is one I've claimed as Prin and my "signature" song, we love it for demos, and it seemed appropriate for tonight's excitement. Prin and I learned something new :)

Yep! It's there, it's consistent, we're rearing now! Like a painted wild mustang, indeed! Pretty neato, huh?

Monday, August 3, 2009

Cricket Update

Hey All,

Just some pix of Cricket from the other day, I wanted to show off how chubby and wonderful she's gotten :) We've been playing with solidifying our L2 ground stuff, as well as preparation for under-saddle. She's proved to be a horse that transfers every detail from ground to saddle, and so the catch is, I have to be careful about what I reward--for example, I used to just reward her circling because she had a huge mental block about it, and since I've realized that helping her find rhythm and relaxation is much more important than the actual circles (hence why I'm playing on about 6 feet of the 22 line at some points in these photos), because otherwise she gets very bracy undersaddle.


Building up on relaxation

this is how it transfers--more like 18 feet of line here, and much more soft and relaxed.

Stretchy circles are becoming a more commonly seen thing, which is super cool--fluid rein from the ground :)

So darn cute :)

Isolate, separate, and recombine--zone 1 porcupine games to eventually lead to less brace both online and undersaddle.


We really love this girl, she's proven to be such a wonderful student :)

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Green String and Some "Thank You's"

I am proud to announce, that after 6 years of playing and enjoying the journey, Prin and I received confirmation that we had passed our Liberty audition, the final leg of our level 3 journey. I received this fantastic news in person this Saturday at the Kansas City celebration, after Kristi Smith viewed our audition. We passed with a very solid L3+ (everything was L3+ or above--had things in L3++, L4 and one in L4+, too, YAY!)

Fortunately, I had a wonderful group of friends there to share this with. Starting with Kristi, at least a dozen people got a very happy and excited Fran flung at them. I cried for about 10 minutes, and went through the initiation process from Farrah in receiving my green string, which included having to unlock an EXTREMELY stubborn trailer door, being "knighted" with the string, and then being taught to follow a feel rather rudely by it (in the photo we took, I look like the LBI cartoon, and Farrah looks sadistic--she enjoyed strangling me I think!), and then trying to find enough greenery in a very sad, run down Kansas City parking lot to take a nice photo of the two of us together. All of those coming soon, as soon as I can get them from Farrah.

I'm in the process of making a video of Prin and me throughout the years to commemorate the accomplishment, which I hope to have done in a couple of weeks. In the mean time, I've got some thank yous to say to the people that have helped me on this journey:

Firstly, to Kristi Smith. Thank you so much for taking my audition as your last, and giving me honest, useful and positive feedback on it. Thanks for being there for both me and for Prin at the center, for the many times I couldn't find my positive attitude, and when I needed a good smack into reality. Thanks for helping guide and shape my LBEness into something positive, and for being a dose of similarity when I was overwhelmed by my LBI trailer-mates ;) I can't say enough for what your presence in my life means.

Next to Farrah Green. Where can I start there? Big sister, best friend, mentor, idol, wonderful companion, teacher, shoulder to cry on, supporter, voice of sanity and reason...any other role I'm missing that she plays in my life? Farrah is pretty much the reason I am where I am in my journey. She opened my eyes to a level of detail, subtlety and particular that i didn't even realize existed, and helped me find it in my relationships with horses and humans. She's offered me opportunities that I never would have had, had she not been there. She's stuck with me through thick and thin, good and bad, and one particular REALLY REALLY UGLY. She's pushed me (sometimes not so willingly) into doing things I'd never have done otherwise. Just ask our company the first time we ate sushi together ;) I never would have believed in myself or my horses enough to film my auditions or pass my level 2, but Farrah did, and so I learned to as well. She's encouraged my teaching and my learning, and gotten me to a level of confidence in both myself and in leaders (and as a LEARNER!) that I didn't know existed. I could keep gushing, but I'm on the point of sounding like a sap as it is. Words can't really describe what Farrah means to me in my life, and I'm so thankful that Julia Wooldridge was stubborn enough to drag me to that first clinic in April 2008. My life and journey would have have been very different had she not.

Next to Linda Parelli. I can honestly say I've never met someone who supports me as much as Linda does. Whether it's out of a maternal state of mind, or just someone who recognized a devoted above-and-beyond student, Linda has helped me through some of the toughest times of my life, both with and without horses. Linda truly "gets" me in a way that no one else does. Often when no one else can answer my questions or get into my head, Linda will break down the barrier with a list of brilliant questions and a mind full of advice. I can ALWAYS count on honest, productive feedback, a heart full of fantastic support and a hand to guide me when I fall off course. She's largely responsible for the learner I am today, and because of that, I give her a large portion of the credit for my accomplishing level 3.

Michelle Manshardt--My fellow tiny person in the Farrah camp! Michelle might not realize it, but her sense of humor and total ability to become 6 characters at once in a fantastic improv. show has gotten me to laugh when I needed it most. She's made seeing the humor in everything and every situation so much easier. Michelle is also truly a master at redirecting strong negative energy into something really productive, something that I've needed quite often. Overall, just a wonderful friend, someone I can always count on to have an interesting discussion and lots of fantastic information up her sleeve when I need it. Thanks for making our threesome a funsome :)

Next--the Savvy Sisters--you know who you are. This journey without friends is nothing. We've known each-other forever (Anna, Emily, this is year 8, can you believe it?!), we've laughed, cried, fought, made chocolate chip cookies (BOBS!),and grown up together. And through it all, we're still friends--how the hell? We were definitely brought together because of this wonderful program, but we stuck together through love and friendship. I appreciate everything you all have done for me, being there when I needed support, good or bad, always willing to hear me, answer the phone late at night or early in the morning, always there for me and my crazy escapades all over Parelli events (through swamps, flying lead changes in the warm-up arena that led to very suspicious boyfriends, signatures on foreheads, sleeping on newly purchased theraflex pads, and trying to pose seductively for photos while cracking up laughing, chucking bark out of trees at Linda and Remmer riding), and for all the other various great times--Starbucks with Sarah("Ma' you know where you are?"), Floating on inflatable alligators with Virge ("Yes...I do need to know that this thing is unsafe for children under 8...IN CHINESE!"), on the way to Karen Rohlf's clinic with Jessica and Katie ("Pronouns are for amateurs...Fran, Anne, Katie, and Jessica are NOT amateurs, Fran, Anne, Katie, and Jessica are PROFESSIONALS!"), Late-night conversations with Carissa ("Fran is totally 1/2 pornographic water buffalo."), Bobs with Anna ("We must name them...they shall be called Bob!")...and the list goes on and on, please feel free to add memories if you care to--the bottom line is, I love you girls, I'd never have made it here without ya!

To my parents--yes, we butt heads, fight, disagree about just about everything involved with my horsemanship journey, but in the end, I know and appreciate the undying support that is there. They have helped this journey of mine in any way that they can, and I appreciate it sometimes more than I remember to tell them. My mom's tears of happiness and pride when I told her about passing level 3 was all I needed as a reminder.

To my local group--Students and friends alike:

Richard for pointing me TO Parelli and giving this little girl the opportunity to ride all those years ago. Supporting, promoting, and allowing me to hijack his property for my own uses in more recent years. Thanks for hauling my butt everywhere I need to go, taking thousands of fantastic photos and always allowing me "just one more horse" ;)

Sherri for being a total guinea pig--bet you didn't know that, did you? :) Poor poor person has suffered most of my worst possible teaching and horsemanship moments. I may never forgive myself for almost getting killed on your property, allowing my silly LBE to eat your window, or putting your horse sore for 4 weeks. And yet here she stays--supportive and tolerant (when she can be, anyway, bless her)

All my students for allowing me to grow and become more well rounded as a horsewoman and teacher. Thank you for trusting me and putting your journeys in my hands, and allowing me to learn from you. I promise to keep improving upon everything I do, and to always put the relationship first :)

Finally--to you guys--my readers, friends, etc. It's been so much fun to go to tour stops and celebrations and be greeted with "Wait, are you Fran with Princess? And Crest? I follow your blog! I love it!" It makes me feel really good that people are interested and excited in sharing my journey with me. I really appreciate your feedback and support throughout.

Thank you! And now that I'm thoroughly emotionally drained, i think I'll go finish de-tangling Hart's mane. Savvy on :)

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

My *Potential* Audition

Hi all,

Here is the potential last leg to my L3 journey, my liberty audition. I think it turned out fairly well, but I did have one concern that I wanted some feedback on before I sent it in. We live a hop, skip, and a jump up from a river, and so during the summer months, we've got a horrific deer fly problem. We practically bathe our horses in flyspray and it hardly dents the issue. Anyway, in this video, my horse does a lot of tail-swishing and head-nodding. While it's evident through the video that it isn't directed at me, what I'd like feedback on is whether or not you think it detracts from the quality. Also, if there are any glaring horsemanship things that need fixing (like Pre-L3 things), feel free to point them out as well.

I'm not really looking forward to the prospect of filming it again, but if it needs to be done, it's done. I don't feel 100% confident about the quality in this audition, so please give me some feedback.



Friday, July 17, 2009

Audition Results!!!

EVERYONE got their auditions back today, it seems. First of all, I'd love to give a huge shout-out to two of my students, first to Arianna Halverson and her pony Princess, they passed their Level 1 audition today! These two are the most awesome students ever, very focused and determined. YAY! Red String here you come!

Secondly, congrats to Sherri Anderson and her mare Cerra. These two just passed their L1 AND L2 today! I did the filming on their auditions, and am pleased to say the results and feedback were positive and useful. Can't wait to see those pretty colored strings on your belt either, girl! How exciting!

VERY proud of you both!

I'd also like to announce that I received my results on my Level 3 Online and Freestyle (still pending on the Liberty). I passed both those auditions with L3+ and FANTASTIC feedback. I'm not entirely pleased with L3+ (perfectionist, I know!), but I take comfort in the fact that they're almost 3 months outdated, and I KNOW that Prin and I have improved far beyond that. I'm also really happy to say that we received L4 on our relationship, rapport, and Level 4+ on mounting, friendly game, and one other (don't have the specs sitting right in front of me)...not to mention tons of L3++'s and a few L3+'s. I hope to hear about liberty next week perhaps :) I'm REALLY proud of my girl, and am very happy to have finally heard back. The feedback received was useful and wonderful.
Fran and Prin Pretty Lighting


Congrats to everyone!

One of Those Impulse Buys

This is going to be a double-post Friday, since I'm cool like that, and I think each one of these stories deserves it's own title. So, me, being me, am always sort of semi-looking for nice horses for sale. Not that I can really afford to own more than what I've got right now, but anyway. So, quite often I find give-aways that, while being nice looking, aren't really what I'm looking for.

So anyway, I'm also a sucker for a big English sport horse. I've kind of turned Prin INTO that image because I'm such a sucker for it. Anyway, It's not often that a beautiful big English sport horse comes along at a price I can afford. Well... it did, at the least expected time ever.

There is a family that owned (until recently) a weekend home about 6 miles from me. They had a GORGEOUS facility, pool, rock climbing gym, prime horse facility, beautiful barn, and 3 gorgeous horses, one of which is this beautiful TB gelding.

He's a 12 yr old gelding, 16.3-17hh (haven't actually measured him yet, but he's at least as tall as Caesar, who's 16.3), Unraced thoroughbred who IMO, looks more like a warmblood. He moves more like one too, and I think he's an AMAZING dressage prospect off-hand, we'll have to see how he'd be as a jumper, too. I get a good feeling from this guy though, hes super fancy.

He'll be home on Tuesday, and after that, we'll play and see what happens. He's just too cool :) More later on him...pretty excited!