Photo by Margaret Chant and edited by Jessica Metropulos

Friday, May 29, 2009

Trusting the Process...

One of those things we're taught in PNH is to trust the process, and it's something I've struggled with in waves since developing myself as a horsewoman. While I was in FL, I was totally receptive to whatever was said to me, and I totally trusted everyone I was with. Since, it's been in waves, as usual.

Today, I had a reminder about trusting the process that I wanted to share. I just found out last weekend that I was selected for a savvy spotlight, as I had blogged earlier. I hadn't choreographed much of anything other than my savvy, what I wanted in the arena, and my music, since I wanted to consult with Farrah about it. Today, we finally got a chance to play with it for the first time.

Well...long story short, it didn't go very well. Prin was wild and a bit distracted (first time in this particular arena, brand spanking new, with rubber shaved footing, to add weirdness to the whole situation.), and honestly, I couldn't get a whole lot accomplished. I came out feeling like I had a knot of tension in my stomach, and though I wasn't upset, angry, or frustrated, I didn't feel...good. I felt like I wasn't going to do very well if sessions kept up like that.

Then, as I was walking out, Farrah said something in response to my declaration of the above feelings. She said "Fran...I don't care what she does right now, this is about YOU. YOU need to understand, and YOU need to go through and get a feel for it. Don't stress, today is a terrible day to play with this anyway." (They're prepping for grand opening here tomorrow).

Wait. Stop. I need to learn this. Right. Duh. Process. Memorization doesn't happen all at once. Of course. So. With that in mind, take two on Sunday. Woohoo!

Also, my friend Olivia wrote something to me a couple days ago that really hit home with me that I'd like to share, too. I have a tendency to be in director mode when I ride, which is great as long as I can keep my head on straight, and not turn into a dictator. What Olivia said made me realize just how much I need to support Prin, but not push, now more than ever.

"Remember, you're never alone in front of thousands of've got Prin."

~Olivia Mayer

I cried. I will not lie.

So, anyway, we'll keep going and see what happens. It WILL be a good experience.

Savvy on, off to go feed, shower, wipe tables, and get ready for dinner--sushi :D

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Ioway? Iowa? Whatever...

Hi all,

So happy to announce that the venue where the first clinic was has internet. Thank goodness, too. I never realize how much I miss my computer until I come back to it after being away.

Anyway, keeping pretty busy. We're in Hampton, IA for one more day before moving on to Madison, WI for almost 2 weeks. The clinic here went very well, we had a full group, with 6 enthusiastic participants plus the hostess and me, as well as several lovely auditors. The focus of the clinic was building excellence in all 4 savvys. We covered a ton of information in 3 days, playing with many patterns, games, and simulations. It was very neat to watch everyone's transformations with their horses. There were some genuinely FASCINATING partnerships and things going on, and it was really fun to watch.

Also, I have to say, this clinic I think holds the record for the largest number of absolutely STUNNING horses. We had a golden palomino, a red dun, two TALL auburn-y sorrels, a jet black morgan, a 6 yr old Dapple gray who looks like she'll stay dappled with no fading until the day she dies, and then a deep dark liver chestnut. And then of course Farrah's cuties, and then Prin. Stay tuned for photos. I need to dump them onto the computer later today, and I'll hopefully get a few up on here tonight.

Let's see...what else...I played with Prin in Farrah's Natural Performer last night, and I have to say, I'm thinking I might have to have one for myself. She actually moves better in it than in the Fluidity, I *think*. I'd have to see it to know for sure, but judging by how excellent our finesse play was last night, I think I have a keeper on my find the $3200 I need to get one of my own-haha.

Today, we finish up private lessons, we'll play, I'll have a lesson, and we'll maybe go out dinner, and then pack up and head out bright and early tomorrow. I'm not sure what opportunities I'll have to blog, but stay tuned anyway, because I could pop up at any moment ;)

Now, off to watch the lesson Farrah's giving to that GORGEOUS gray mare.

Savvy on!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Spotlight Acceptance

Hey all,

Quick post, wanting to let you all know that I have been accepted to perform in the Savvy Spotlight at the Madison, WI, Celebration coming up here in a couple weeks. Prin and I will be performing a spotlight in Level 3/4 Freestyle, which is our best savvy, by far.

It's funny because I've run the gamut of emotions already. I was totally excited (very much like I was when I found out about the savvy team two years ago), and then of course I went through the "Oh shit...I'm not comfortable doing this in front of 1000 people...alone!", and now I've settled into the "It's okay, you'll have 2 weeks with Farrah before the event, she'll be able to cure you of any pre-show jitters!" Not to mention, think of how much fun this is going to be, spending 4 days in the equivalent of a Savvy Conference...WITH MY HORSE!

So yay! Just had to share my exciting news! There will be pix and video, of COURSE!

Standing proud on the pedestal
Prin after the ball
Flashback to the last time Prin and I were presented in Madison :)

Sunday, May 17, 2009

While I've Been Gone...

Hi all,

Okay, so it's been approximately forever since I last blogged. My apologies, but if it makes you feel any better, my parents have heard about the same amount from me as you have. Life is insane!

So what have I been doing? Playing with horses, teaching lessons, trimming feet, going to playdays, giving first rides. All kinds of crazy stuff.

So, I guess the last time I thought about blogging, but didn't, was last weekend. My darling friend Jessica came down from Mosinee to spend the weekend horsin' around with the Pepin crowd. We played ponies, trimmed feet, and all around had a great time.

Next I went out to her place for a day, where we did her horse's feet, and then I went over to Anne's, trimmed Blixen, who proceeded to prance around like the little stud muffin he is. Anne says she's never seen him trot or canter after a trim before...we got an entire rodeo show! Amazing what can happen when heels are level and bars kept in check ;)

Last week was the week of insaneness. I had lessons every day except for Thursday, with Tuesday being my craziest, with 4 in one day. I'm really enjoying teaching these days, it's getting more and more fun as my ability to see things, especially tiny little subtleties (that make all the difference) improves.

Yesterday, I went to a demo/playday with one of my students. Since my student lives a distance from me (over an hour), I didn't bring Prin, but I took her little AraAppaloosa gelding, Elvis, to play with. Elvis is s a trip, because he's basically a Mini-Crest. At any rate, everyone played, and enjoyed connecting and hanging out with other savvy folks. Pics:
Me with Elvis

Matador/Mirror games-Me on Elvis, Jenifer on Mamma

Photobucket good is YOUR squeeze game?

Jenifer and Mamma

About to backflip off. I landed on my knees, because El is so small, (14.2ish) it doesn't allow for much time for my feet to unfold--I'm used to Prin, who's 16.1-lol

This guy gave a Reining Demo and talk

And he wonders why his horse is on the forehand?


Spinning--I had to chuckle, he was struggling to get a good plant in the hind, but kept leaning forward as the horse spun.

My personal favorite.


Other than that, I've been at home, improving myself and my horses. I'm in the process of doing some intensive fluidity/saddle fit study, that I'll report on when I finish up.

Last night I had an...erm...interesting...session with both my girls. I took them out to start playing with some double stuff with them (the entire reason I got LB in the first place), only to find that number one, Prin is not thrilled about playing side by side with something 1/4 her size, number 2, Prin can sense "tired and cranky" a mile away, number 3, so can LB, and number 4, that DOES NOT END WELL! Hehehe. But, I did get some pictures, none-the-less.

First with Prin, Liberty in the big field (My mom's timing was about as awake as I was-lol):
Playing the Cutting game

About to do a spin, actually.

Not entirely the looks of what my legs are doing, sideways?

Both of us on our HQ...cute.

And Now LB, in the Round pen, showing off her stuff-hehe

If it were any other horse, there'd be panic...

Lying down :)

Sit! Farrah has seen this now, too, so I am officially a member of the Sitting Horse Tribe--yay!

She's learned to roll over and do this on command...SO FUNNY

And...a kiss?

This week is shaping up to be about as crazy as last week, too. I have a lesson today, a couple tomorrow, at least 3, maybe 4 or 5 on Tuesday (schedule pending), one on Wednesday, and then on Thursday, Prin and I leave with Farrah again. We'll be with Farrah for about 5 weeks, and we'll be "touring the upper mid-west" so to speak. She's got clinics in IA, MN, and WI, as well as the Madison celebration and The Horse First grand opening, and I'll be tagging along in the role of assistant, which is always a grand time, a fantastic learning experience, and overall lotsa fun!

So, that's all for now, I'm not sure when I'll update again. Could be this week, or it could be into June. I'll be in touch, though!

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

I CANNOT Believe...

...the difference ONE TRIM can make in a horse.

WARNING: VERY roundabout post ahead!

For those of you who have been following me for more of an extended period of time, you'll recall that Crest has had some very annoying, border-line serious bio-mechanical issues going on in his body that were caused by a nasty accident we had a couple years ago. Results of these issues are things like a block in his ribcage on the right, a stiff stifle on his right, and a tight hip on his right.

About a year ago, after viewing some of our issues, Linda saw how largely Crest's uneven body played a role in his reactions, and suggested that maybe I look into having him shod using Jim Crew's method, a method that focuses largely on lateral balance and causing the horse's body to be symmetrical through shimming and padding of shoes. Instead of jumping on the shoes (I won't even get into that), I decided I wanted to do some research on bio-mechanics to better understand what was or wasn't happening in my horse's body. Since, I've done about a 180 in knowledge on the subject, and have developed a pretty keen eye for it.

Anyway, for the past 6 years (the first 4, inadvertently), I've been playing with Natural Barefoot trimming. I say the first 4 years inadvertently simply because I just trimmed by what looked like needed trimming, and hoped it worked. For the past two years, I've been seriously researching and playing with methods, most effectively being that of Pete Ramey, and more recently, KC La Pierre. I'd put some of these trims to the test on Crest. A lot of times, I'd see a little effect, but nothing dramatic or helpful, and it would gradually go away over the course of the next trim cycle.

Now, obviously I just got done spending 2 weeks with Farrah, who is also very interested and playing with Natural Barefoot. This time around, I needed to do Prin's feet, anyway, and so asked if Farrah would be interested in watching and giving me some feedback. A long story short, Farrah had been investigating La Pierre's stuff, introduced me to it, and we did his HPT (High Performance Trim) on her this time. The results were PHENOMENAL. We discussed it afterward, and she gave me her thoughts on Crest's feet, as well, and what might help him, too.

The high performance trim is based upon the principle of lateral balance, and subtle changes in the angles and planes of the hoof. Most of the trim is done on the file side (the fine-toothed side) of the rasp. It's all in the subtle changes, and overall balancing. I won't go into the serious details here, but let's just say the subtleties were just what Crest's feet needed.

I started out on his back feet, picked them up, cleaned them out, and now knowing what I know, realized just how unbalanced his feet were. He had worn the insides of his feet down, but the outsides were high. The hoof wall was worn practically to the white line on the inside, and was nearly 1/2 an inch thick on the outside. The plane of his hoof was literally tilted inward. There were thick, angular flares on his heels and quarters on the outsides, and the insides were practically vertical. did I miss that?! I should mention, this was all developed since last trim, done sometime in March.

I immediately set to work. Please note that these are not in order, nor are they the correct order of steps in the HPT, I'm just listing what I found. I exfoliated the frog, trimmed it back, and found a ton of bruising. Yikes. I exfoliated the sole. Same thing. Yikes again. I took his bars back, (That was a CHORE!). I took a great deal of time balancing the wall to itself (Heels to themselves, heels to quarters, heels to toe, etc), and made sure it was all even. I took his outer wall back so it was relatively uniform. I used a guillotine stroke to address the outer wall flare, and then rolled only slightly.

After I finished, I only had a short time to play before I had to leave for a meeting. I had a great deal I wanted to examine and observe--I wanted to see how Crest stood, how he tracked at the walk and trot, if he could pick up his bad lead (right) at the canter without cross-firing, if he could do a flying change without a slip in the back. Wow...okay. First thing I did was tie him so I could go get my 45' line. He stood quietly...and square...Wait...square?! Yes. Crest's hind legs were solidly under him, and he stood evenly. Wow...there's a change. I grabbed my 45' line and snapped him up. I yo-yo'd him back, and sent him out on a circle at a medium trot.

Not that Crest has ever had a problem tracking up (he's got a pretty big stride), but the track in his trot was unbelievable. He was actually OVER-TRACKING in his medium trot, and all with his head low and using his back! Usually when he gets moving, his back hollows and head comes up. Next, I asked him to canter out on his tough lead...and...IMMEDIATELY he got it. There was no hesitation, no break in stride, he got it IMMEDIATELY, and maintained it, on a hill, for a lap and a half, before doing a snotty change of direction, squeal, buck, and lead change on his own.

Needless to say, I'm thrilled. Not only did I see a little bit of improvement, I saw 2 years of issues melt away before my eyes! I'm totally sold on this trim. Totally sold. I cannot wait to see how Crest's body and posture changes as I keep this up. He's always been a hunka horse, can you imagine how he'll look one his body is totally correct?

I'll post pictures, for sure.

That's all for now, but if you're at all curious about anything, want more description, photos, explanation, anything, please let me know, I'll be happy to share.

Savvy on, and leave me a comment :)


Monday, May 4, 2009

A Lesson in Herd Dynamics

In studying with Farrah, one of the things that she really emphasizes is to examine herd dynamics, and how the horses have to communicate with each other to get a message across, and then compare the similarities with how your communication is going. For example, with Prin, I've struggled recently with her taking what I say (no matter what it is) very personally. In watching her interact with Caesar and Wesley, Farrah's two horses, they'll be very polite to her, and she'll act pissy and offended. intersting.

Anyway, recently, I've really tried to tune in to how horses will interact, and have really started to try to mimic those discussions, and read the super-subtleties that could be the difference in a polite or a rude response. The results have been fantastic, and my levels of communication and awareness with my horses have deepened 10-fold since returning home from Madison.

Last night, all that newly-found stuff was put to the test. I have recently decided to start playing with Richard's Morgan mare, Belle. Belle is a very interesting case because in short, she's RUDE. She's like an 8 or 9 on the Body Condition index for equines, a poster child for laminitis, a LBE, the daughter of the lead mare, and hasn't been handled in a training scenario more more than 50 hours in her 8 years. See why she might be a little rude?

Anyway, I've basically decided that I don't even want to put a saddle on Belle's back until she's lost a substantial amount of weight. What I decided is to do a couple weeks of intensive hill therapy, coupled with ponying her on any trail rides I go on (up and down hills and long distance are sure to happen). Yesterday I started on the hill in the pasture. It's a pretty gentle slope, great for beginning both under-muscled and over-weight horses because it's not a huge challenge. Here are photos of how it started out:

Trot Resistance

More resistance

See how resistant she was? Even though her movement looks really nice, if I were to let go of the rope, she'd have taken off. She's got a VERY broken porcupine game. Unfortunately, it didn't take Belle long to figure out that I was on a bad foot (she's NOT dumb, just rude), and she also figured out that I couldn't stop her if she took off. So, she waited until LB distracted me (little horse was attacking my equipment), and she took advantage of it, and made a run for it. I had to let go.

What happened...
Look, fatty can run!

To make matters worse, she took our entire herd with her. So not only is one horse running around like a crazy loony, they all are! I followed at a distance for a while(they were only in a 3 acre paddock, so it's not like they could just have their way and leave), before I realized how badly my foot was hurting me. "Dang, I could REALLY USE another set of legs right now..." I thought, somewhat incredulously. As SOON as I thought it, I got a small taste of true unity. No sooner did I think the thought, Prin peeled off from the herd, and came RUNNING to me. Richard was there to see all this, and would later say that it was one of the most beautiful things he'd ever seen. Prin sidepassed up to me, almost begging for me to get on, and so I did.

What happened next was really neat. On her own, Prin cut Belle from the herd, cornered her, and then played approach and retreat until I could reach out and grab her lead rope. Once I got her, Prin set her up next to the fence so that she couldn't pull anything silly.

Prin to the Rescue!

We proceeded to play with some online things for the next 1/2 and hour. Belle had this great resistant behavior going on, she'd blast out on the circle, and say "I'm LEAVING!" and like a good girl, Prin would follow with just enough drift to stay out of her way, but enough closeness to keep from ripping my arm off. Soon, Belle was getting curious as to what this new game was, but she wasn't about to give up her leadership to me.

Her next attempt was to actually take Prin, "My herd", so to speak, away from me. If you'll notice in this next photo, Prin is resisting her leadership, and trying to stick with me.

Sorry Prin!

That behavior is a lot like walking up to a couple on the street, taking one half, flipping the other one off, and leaving. It's rude, mean, and NOT something a considerate individual does. So, two things, firstly, Belle's doing that is really not acceptable, and secondly, the fact that Prin resisted her and stuck with me says a ton for our partnership.

The session continued, and Belle began to realize she was running out of options. Oh no, it meant she might have to actually...give to my leadership? OH NO! She reluctantly started asking me questions. I could tell she wasn't thrilled with the idea, but asking a question is huge for a LB horse.

Circling cooperatively


I started giving her the option of coming in and checking in with me. However, she didn't want to come to me, she wanted to come in and hide behind Prin. How interesting!
If you think about how an interaction would go between two herds that are first meeting, the leaders of the herds would most likely go meet up with each-other, check in, introduce themselves, and have a conversation. By coming in and hiding behind Prin, Belle was sort of coming in and trying to sneak into my herd without having to talk to me, the leader.

I didn't take it personally, but started getting a bit more insistent. The game was now "If you want to be in this herd, you come in and talk to ME, or you get kicked out...hard..."


Here, she resists that idea. I've invited her to walk with us as a herd, and she says "No, don't touch me.".

I kept playing with it, getting firmer and faster, until finally, Belle let out a HUGE exhale, and asked a question. I allowed her to come in, and she came right to me, touched my hand. End of session.

Checking in

Thank goodness Richard was there to capture the entire thing on film, otherwise this story would sound far-fetched. It was a fantastic experience, and I came out of it with a TON of ideas on how I can more effectively communicate with Belle, and turn her development into a more positive thing.

I also came out feeling extremely touched and proud of my partnership with Prin. Not only has she proven herself as a friend, but she also showed that she upholds her responsibilities in the relationship. She went through this entire thing with me totally bridless. I didn't once have to ask her to do something, she just knew what I needed. That is what I call a partner!

I'll keep you posted as this time with Belle progresses. It should definitely be interesting!

Please leave me some comments, I'd love to hear what you think!