Photo by Margaret Chant and edited by Jessica Metropulos

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Mirror, Mirror...

"Mirror, mirror, tell me true. I see me when I see you. Am I patient? Am I kind? You'll tell me, 'cause you don't lie...Horses don't lie!"
~Mary Ann Kennedy in "Mirror, Mirror"

In Parelli, we are all taught early on that our horse is our mirror. Most of the time (at least in a lot of cases) we hear it, we say we understand, and we probably do, to a point. But usually we really realize it when some experience comes and slaps us in the face, and we go "Oh my GOD, reflection of myself much?". I've had several big experiences like that, and a lot of little ones, and they're sometimes exciting, and other times a little bitter to swallow. Today, I had a really blinding one. A "how-the-hell-could-I-have-missed-it?!" type of experience. But before I explain, I need to give some background information.

My mom and I do not get along. It's not something I'm going to whine about, I've accepted it. But it's important to know that, and also to know why for this story. I am a very strong-willed person. I don't take no for an answer, I'm stubborn as a mule, I am overly-sensitive and easily offended, and am often viewed as arrogant, defiant and self-centered. My mom is very structured and has a very clear image of what she wants in life. She's quieter, and a lot of times, is motivated to do things out of the fear of losing that structure. She comes off a lot of times as judgmental, and especially around me, has extremely high standards and sometimes overlooks everything that is well done, because she gets tunnel vision toward a goal (gee, she doesn't sound human, does she?). I don't blame her for it at all, but I end up very frustrated, unmotivated and asking "Why should I?" around her a lot of the time, particularly recently, for reasons that I won't get into.

Anyway, today I set out to play with Prin. I pulled out my 45' line, and we went off into the slop (yay for 50 and sunny!) to play with some things. The session started out okay, but not nearly what I had hoped for. She was a bit unresponsive, but ever more so, she lacked draw entirely. Now, being that I've totally adjusted my focus to the relationship, I stopped as soon as the backward S pattern wasn't effective, and went "Why isn't she wanting to draw?"...the obvious answer is "I'm doing something that makes her not want to be around me." But WHAT?! Hmmm...

So I decided to play a bit more, and examine my behavior while I did it. I sent her out on a circle, with my goal to just have her trot loosely toward the end of the 45' line. Now, by all standards, my horse did it. But she wasn't trotting with biomechanical correctness, so I asked her ribs over. She swished her tail and leaned into the halter. "How RUDE!" I I asked her to go sideways "Fine, go sideways then!" More tail swishing, and then she SHOT sideways away from me, and about pulled me off my feet. My exact thought process was laughable: "MY GOD, Prin, don't take that so PERSONALLY, I merely suggested that you might be more comfortable if...OH MY GOD...PRIN IS REACTING LIKE ME AND I AM ACTING JUST LIKE MY MOTHER!" How about THAT for a self-imposed knife in the gut?! Could I get any more nit-picky?! I mean, Prin and I are at a point where it's okay for me to focus on the physical, but to not even acknowledge the try first and let her settle in? That couldn't be more like my mother's relationship with me!

I stopped, brought my horse in, and proceeded to burst out laughing. I couldn't be mad at that! It was so simple! My horse is my mirror. Of course. How could I have missed it? Even the defiant looks she was giving ME were ones I was familiar with from doing them myself! (Talk about an interesting attitude shift on the thought "WIPE THAT LOOK OFF YOUR FACE!") I had been nit-picking the ENTIRE session, not allowing and recognizing a try, and certainly not thinking about what would make her feel good and excited about performing for me. And the more I thought, the more I realized why prior sessions had gone well or not. All my good sessions in recent times have been when I've sacrificed my leadership and given Prin "The 51%" so to speak, and let her choose what she wanted to do, and then I had just slipped in and molded it a little. All the ones that had gone poorly were like this one; my critic persona and I had taken over the session. No wonder Prin's feedback had gotten more outspoken. You should hear the things I've said to my mother recently! OH BOY!

I had been talking to one of my instructors last night, and she suggested (since my mom and I have been fighting) that I stick close to my horse, because her feedback could be trusted to be honest and unbiased. Honest and unbiased indeed (and slice of humble pie too, while you're at it!). While it was alarming, and a bit amusing, I know it was the key I needed, because of course, it worked! Immediately that I realized what I was doing, and consciously went "Wow, I'm not fond of that image, how do I change?", Prin said "THANK YOU!" and let all the tension and brace out of her mind and body. We proceeded to finish up with some of the best long-line driving we've ever had, both with smiles on our faces.

Now, what's interesting to me about this discovery is that I've always called myself an LBE. Prin is an LBI with Extroverted traits, and now that I read back on this, I'm realizing I've got a lot more Introverted traits than I had originally charted. "Defiant, stubborn, unmotivated"? That's not LBE! And the more I study this realization, the more I realize we're more alike than I thought, my horse and I. It's almost comforting, and that's why I've taken this feedback so well, because I now realize just how easy it'll be for me to communicate. All I have to do is think about how I'd want my mother to motivate me, and then translate it into equine terms! Maybe easier said than done, but it's a skeleton for progress at least!

So. I'd like to firstly thank Kristi Smith for reminding me that my horse will give me the feedback I need and can trust. Secondly, I'd like to thank Linda, who's little voice in my head totally motivated me to see the humor in this experience. (Not to mention, inspired me to write about it!) and thirdly, I'd like to thank my large, spotted mirror. How I managed to miss it for so long, I do not know. This will be an interesting transformation to go through. I'll keep posting as we go along here.

Savvy on!

Friday, February 20, 2009

Upholding Responsibilities

Principle #4 of the Eight Parelli Principles is "Horses and Humans have mutual responsibilities." Mutual Responsibilities? Yeah. That. This is broken down even farther into the Eight Responsibilities-four for each horse and human. I had a fascinating session with Crest yesterday, in which our problem was deeply rooted in the Eight Responsibilities. I'll list them below so you know what I'm referring to as I go along here.

1. Act like a partner, not like a predator
2. Develop an independent seat and independent feet
3. Use the Natural power of FOCUS*
4. Think Like a Horse*

*These two responsibilities have been printed by Parelli now in reverse order. In Pat's book, published in 1993, 3 and 4 are reversed. In my course pack, they're in the order they are now.

1. Act like a Partner, not like a prey animal.
2. Don't Change Gait
3. Don't Change Direction
4. Look where you're going.

Refer back to these if you need to at any point while reading this entry :)

So, I decided yesterday to play with Crest. It was gorgeous, 27 and sunny with no wind, and Prin was busying herself with a bucket of hay cubes anyway. We haltered up and I decided to be a kind leader and play with him in his paddock with the other horses. So I set out, and my first error was to set out with no plan, really. Crest is really out of shape, so I had no expectations of him, but my first problem was that I really had NO expectations at all. So after 5 minutes of a session of Crest saying "No" to every suggestion I made, I realized that as his partner, I've done a very poor job of holding him to his responsibilities, both in this session, and in times passed. Okay, I accept that, so WHY? I think probably because he's got an RBE side, I've been babying him and really cherishing the fact that he wants to do anything for me at all. But now this is turning into a pattern, and I need to do a better job of holding him to his responsibilities, but particularly #2.

This makes me sound like a horrible partner in that it sounds like I don't REALLY care how tired or of shape he is. But what I figured out was this. Crest is not asking a question before he slows and breaks gait. He just does it. "I'm tired, I'm stopping." Regardless of how out of shape a horse is, he should not be so tired as to not be able to trot 3 or 4 laps on a 22' line. Or, if he is too tired, he needs to ask me if he can stop/slow. So, with that in mind, I started playing with being more insistent for the trot. I was more intent with my send and kept my energy up more as I allowed. If he went to break gait, I'd check and see if he asked a question.

The first time, he didn't even ask, he trotted 1/2 a lap and came in. Because he came in so quickly and I wasn't anticipating it, I got totally tangled in my rope, felt anger rising, and I totally lost my patience, before realizing that I was being a hypocrite. If I expected him to uphold his responsibilities as a horse, then I sure as heck better uphold my responsibilities as a human. I had totally just plowed through #1 and #2 (Independent feet/Independent seat include having the ability to manager your equipment with savvy) and was getting mad and blaming him for it. As SOON as I realized all this (took about 5 seconds, roughly), I allowed him to come in, played some truly genuine friendly game, adjusted my attitude, and then decided to start over.

The second I sent him out with my new thoughts and attitude in mind, the change was instantaneous. He started trotting more willingly and consistently in a good rhythm, if he got tired, he turned and ear to me and asked before he slowed down. It suddenly became light and fun to trot around online, and I turned it into a traveling circling game, with the goal being "All that we do will be done in the trot." We had a BLAST! He took me over obstacles, and into the 60' round pen, then out of the pen, down through the ditch (I HAVE MY LBE BACK!), and then I settled at the flat spot at the bottom of the hill. That's when the neatest change occurred. Crest trotted a lap, then blew some adrenaline off, which isn't unusual, but then he blew it off again, and this time kept his head stretched down. He trotted 3 laps with his nose on the ground, exhaling and blowing as he went. I was mind boggled, and so I brought him in, gave him a good scratch on his itchy spot, and unhaltered.

The reason that was so huge is that Crest has had lots of trouble learning about longitudinal flexion. He's had lots of biomechanical issues, and so to have him find a rhythm and discover the "Sweet spot" in a downward stretch is great, and really reassuring. Hopefully as he gets back in shape I'll be able to focus on and develop that more, but for now, I'm thrilled he's offering, and will keep playing with upholding our responsibilities.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Behold the Powers of an Attitude Adjustment!

I want to just comment on this:

This girl is probably the most talented young PNHer I know. Every time she puts a video out, I watch and my jaw drops. She's more consistent in drawing that effect in me than Pat and Linda are.

Anyway, more than being an awesome girl (She's 14, and that little chestnut with the star is a 2 year old!) with awesome relationship-building skills, Hannah's also a fantastic reminder of what I need to do for myself. She put up a post a couple days ago on her blog in which she talked about a question I had asked her. She had been struggling with her horse Blaze's attitude, even in undemanding sessions, and I asked her "Are you doing the undemanding time for him, or are you doing it because you feel like it's necessary to change him?" This is a question they asked us OVER AND OVER AND OVER at the center. Not specifically that, but more "Are you doing it for the horse, or TO the horse?". By the same token, we're constantly reminded that "It's not about the ___, it's about the relationship."

I suppose this is the first "growth" from the seeds planted in my head at the center, but this video, combined with that blog post, combined with what's happened at our farm the past few days REALLY got me thinking. I apologize if you have trouble following--I'm thinking in segues tonight, and have A LOT on my mind.

I digress (I promise I'll get back to it in a minute) I've been to the farm every day for hours at a time since I've been home, and I've been really hesitant to DO anything. Not entirely sure why, I'm still trying to figure it out, but I think it's because I'm honestly trying to acclimate and introduce my little piece of "Parelli bubble" to my "home bubble". I have all these thoughts and things I did at the center with my horse that I want to do at home, but I don't know HOW to do it. The Parelli Center is magical like that. People ask me "What'd you learn?", and I don't know! Or rather, I don't know how to express it! But it shows in the relationship with my horses. Prin has left the herd and whatever she was doing and come trotting and whinnying to me every day since I've been home. She's been BEGGING for me to play with her. And this behavior is starting to catch on Crest, too.

So, how does this connect with Hannah? I've seen a lot of task-orientedness since I've gotten home. Auditions being submitted only for a string, a list of tasks being checked off, a person asking what new "Things" I learned to "DO" with my horse, hell, even a fantastic young horse woman asking me "What can I do to make my horse do this?" Hannah's stuff represents to me someone making a conscious effort to be with her horse for the sake of a relationship (and from something I SAID!) and since being home, I'm seeing how much MY attitude has changed in the same way. My horse NEVER used to RUN to me (she's an LBI!) and talk like that! I want that so much more and appreciate that so much more. I'm really learning what it's like to truly "walk my talk", as the faculty would phrase it, and it feels so good!

I've been asked a dozen times "When are you submitting your audition?"...Audition? Oh yeah, that. Um...whenever I guess? Make no mistake, I'm still intent on passing my L3, and L4, but more important than that right now is establishing that relationship right now. I've realized that I don't want to look back on my L3 journey and go "My God, where did it go? I put my horse through hell for the sake of a string, and WHY?!"

Tying in a little, Kristi Smith, an instructor on the faculty, and a newly-found personal mentor of mine, gave me some fantastic advice in one of a couple really great conversations we had. She said (and this is the gist, not verbatim) "Fran, I look at you and I see a huge drive, talent, and lots of dedication, but you've got to slow down and just LIVE YOUR LIFE, lady! You have MAYBE 2 years of your 'childhood' left, if you STRETCH it. The fact that you are who you are is awesome, you've found your passion, but slow down and appreciate it a little! Go play with your horse! Have some fun!" Have some fu---WHAT?! No, no time for that! It's about my goals and my future! It's about the stri--NO IT'S NOT!

So. Fran is no longer going to be on a quest for a damn green string. Farrah made her point quite clearly "I have two, want to borrow one?" No, I don't, I want to earn my own. The string represents a great relationship, not a bunch of well-performed tasks. That's the green string I want.

And this is not to say I'm not concerned with my future anymore. No, that's still really important to me. But I have a much renewed faith in that if I build a strong relationship base now (and not just with horses, but with the people surrounding and influencing me too!) when I'm 21 years old, I won't have to work my tail off to get where i need to, because it will have falling into place as I went along.

Savvy on. I'm going to do something with my horses tomorrow, I think. Lord knows they've been begging!

Thanks for reading, and again, sorry to be so scattered. As I said earlier, one of the planted seeds in my head just burst into full growth.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Oh Cresty...

I say this in the most loving, adoring possible way, by my GOD he is FAT AND OUT OF SHAPE! Of course, lying almost completely dormant for 6 weeks *might* have something to do with it, but seriously-lol.

So, that being said, it's probably obvious I played with da boy today. It's the first time since my being home that I've done anything with him other than feed him cookies and give him kisses. Anyway, he's totally obese and out of shape. He's got a huge hay belly, and virtually no topline. His neck is short and bunchy, and he's tight in his stifles and HQ, surprise, surprise. Seeing this, I decided that I'd be nice and not ask him for anything vigorous at all, but opted for lazy-boy hill therapy to at least get his body loosened up and hind-quarters going again. I headed out for our hill, which is a very lovely sloping corn field. For those who have been to my place, it's the one out behind the West Paddock/Driveway that runs parallel to the road. It's a pretty steep hill, but it's a good walking/trotting hill therapy hill, and fun for a good gallop on Prin occasionally.

Anyway, I headed out there with Crest on the 22' line (45'? are you kidding, he'd die!) asked him out on a circle. What I got from him was the most embarrassing thing I have EVER seen. He sent out at the trot, and within 10 seconds, was panting. He offered a downward transition, which was fine, I didn't want to push. He walked several laps before giving me this "Can I PLEASE come in?! I'm DYING out here!" look. I let him come in, gave him a cookie, and sent him out the other direction. Same thing. We repeated this for 15 minutes, and by then,I was seeing a bit of change, his walk stride (that is SO embarrassing) was lengthening and he started to show signs of his handsomeness again. But I'm not going to delude myself, this is going to be one heck of a journey to get him back in shape. Cavaletti and more hills tomorrow, Cresty. I'm not riding him again until he's got some muscle. Oy...

I also trimmed Clue's feet. He's got nice, hard, well shaped feet, I did some minor adjustments (His bars were a little long) and gave them a nip and rasped them down and they look pretty nice :) Have to do Cadence's tomorrow, and I should probably do Crest and Silver too. One thing at a time though.

I'm off to finish my dishes now.

Savvy on,

Saturday, February 14, 2009

A Business Idea

Things have been pretty slow around here, and the weather is pretty unpleasant so I'm not inclined to want to be outside much. I had this idea for a little side business.

My dad is an ornamental metalsmith (I'd say blacksmith, but he doesn't work in only iron) and he's taught me a lot of what he knows over the years. For my 18th birthday, he made me a nameplate for my saddle that was really fancy and pretty. I've gotten dozens of compliments about it, and a lot of "where can I get one of those?", which got me thinking: I'd like to start making them to sell. The picture below is of the one he made me, but I assure you that I'm pretty handy with metal, too.



My dad would ask about $75-$100 for one of these guys (he's a perfectionist and enjoys detail work far too much ) but I think I'd be confident asking about $25-$40, depending on how ornate they are. Would this be something there'd be any demand for around here? Let me know, there's a pretty wide variety of things I can do, different metals, shapes, and designs, etc. Feedback is welcome, and if you're interested in a nameplate, please either email me ( or leave me a comment!

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Home Again

Hey all!

Back to this blog now! I'll keep the other one around, because I may be doing another course this year (more details on that LATER, as the emerge), but for now, let's focus on what's going on back in Pepin.

I got home Yesterday around 1:00 pm, totally exhausted. I flew out of Orlando at 7:25 am (keep in mind, I'm an hour ahead of here, so it would be like 6:25 for me) so I'd been up since 4:30. But anyway, I got a good 10 hour night of sleep last night, and I'm pretty well back to normal. A couple more wouldn't hurt though.

Brown Coulee Farm (this is the official name of Richard's by the way) is literally very brown. The way I understand it, it's been above freezing for about 5 days now, and so everything has gone from snowy to muddy and soupy. My poor ponies, LB looked like a ball of mud yesterday. I didn't get a chance to play with anyone much, it was just too rainy and nasty, but I plan on heading up to play with what I anticipate to be a VERY wild Crest. I've missed him!

So anyway, that's all for now folks. And if you want, I've uploaded about 50 pics from the trip onto an album on my facebook. I may or may not put them on photobucket, I hate uploading photos. But if you want them and don't have facebook, shoot me an email, or leave a comment and I'll start putting them up slowly but surely.

Savvy on, ya'll!