Photo by Margaret Chant and edited by Jessica Metropulos

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!

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Many Fine Learning Opportunities's the second blog post of the month...I made it past my June record...GO ME!

Anyway, this month is flying by. I can't believe it's already early the morning of the...8th?! WHAT?! Okay, anyway. The month of July thus far can only be described as a series of many fine learning opportunities :) I've been playing and riding for hours on end every day, with so many horses it's hard to keep track of! So, let me see what I can say about it.

The 5th of July was a day filled with horses. Micky and I took several rounds of rides, starting with Prin and Clue, Dawnelle's big QH gelding. I rode him and he did fantastic, that's the happiest all of us have seen him in months. He's very out of shape, but Micky and I are shooting to start playing with him 2-3 days a week at least. He's a wonderful gelding, he falls into that category that everyone loves--10-12 years old, quiet, reliable, friendly, etc. Makes for a nice trail ride, and he'll feel better being used more.

Next ride was Crest and Prin, and boy did I have fun! I rode Crest, and played with slowing his walk down. Crest is a power-walker, and often causes people who don't know him well to ask me if he's got gaited in him. The answer is absolutely not, he is just...super impulsive, and will running walk and fox trot if he's feeling particularly peppy. So, I focused on slowing that. Using a combination of lateral flexion, hind quarter disengagement, fore-quarter disengagement, and very very particular back-up, we established some communication. See, Crest is an extremely intelligent, observant horse, and one pattern that he discovered in me is that I'm not very particular with what he does with his hind legs.

He'll "run off" so to speak, at the walk, because I'm not asking his hind end to listen to me. (I discovered this after about dying, asking for a HQ yield about 3 weeks ago with Farrah). So, the way it would work was this: Crest would get braced in the walk, so I'd bend his head, ask for lateral flexion/disengagement UNTIL HE LOOKED AT ME, (respect/attention thing) and then allow his front end to move around in a direct rein, and ask him to continue forward. Rinse and repeat as necessary as he showed signs of rudeness, braciness (I think I just made that word up!). Once he got that pattern, and understood that I would take control of his hind end if necessary, all it really took was my asking him to stop and back up several steps at my speed (another thing he used to RUN through with no respect or control) and he'd settle down. By the end of the ride, he was walking slower than Prin, and actually taking time to eat some grass and enjoy his walk :)

Later on that evening, Prin and I played with some of our finesse stuff. It's going pretty well, but I found some holes in myself and my experience that I need to play with before trying to advance Prin, because unfortunately, I'm not entirely sure what I'm feeling for, and Prin doesn't particularly care to have her body be the grounds for that sort of experimentation, and I can't say as I blame her. Fortunately, I have both Farrah and Michelle coming in 3 days, and so I'll have the resources to research and improve with! It should be a lot of fun!

Yesterday was another long riding day--Micky, Sarah and I played with Prin, Crest, Clue, and Micky's horse Shadow. All was successful, and we had a very good time. Shadow is a quick learner with a stubborn, naughty streak, and so he's been a fun challenge for me to play with.

Yesterday I also played with a friend's horses. These two ponies are neat characters, but are also challenging for me. One (previously mentioned on here--Luna, a Quarab) is a LBI with a dislike of the canter or actually being polite in her responsibilities. Last night I spent 45 minutes playing with JUST her circling game, demanding instead of just doing the circle, that she do it at the trot, with rhythm, relaxation, and contact, something I hadn't been a stickler on in the past. She found it in the walk almost immediately, which was neat, But the trot took the entire session, and by the end she was sweating and panting, (and she was only being asked to TROT!) but she finally found half a lap of obedience and contact. I realized right then that I would NOT be riding that until it could happen at all 3 gaits on the ground. I'm really beginning to learn the value behind that. It's amazing what repetition will teach in my brain.

The other horse I played with is Fig, a National Show Horse gelding, a LBE, who doesn't care much for maintaining the same responsibilities as Luna, but for him, it's in the slower, downward gaits. He's quite impulsive, and doesn't read energy and body language AT ALL, so we played for 45 minutes with sensitizing him to that. By the end of that session, he was doing walk/trot/walk/halt transitions on the circle without my even having to lift the stick. Too cool :)

Today was just downright weird. I won't get into details, but lets just say it didn't flow very well. Anyway, Micky and I trailed Prin, Crest, and Shadow to Hay Creek recreational area near Red Wing, MN, to do some trail riding. Hay Creek is a beautiful area with MILES of groomed trails up and down hills, etc. Lots of fun. The idea was of course to enjoy a nice ride around the area, but also to socialize Shadow and get him doing things with a herd of obedient, seasoned ponies. We started out with me riding Crest, ponying Shadow, and Micky on Prin. Crest was FANTASTIC, being totally collected and relaxed in his new environment, not impulsive (our lessons from recent times are sticking!), and an excellent leader for Shadow to follow.

We stayed in that configuration for about a half an hour, and then, I hopped on Shadow (who was being wonderfully obedient) and Micky rode Crest, and ponied Prin. Again, Crest wowed me by being perfect for Micky, too. What a superstar! We ended our ride (the last hour) by switching one more time--Micky finished the ride on her little man (HOW AWESOME WAS HE?! He was totally perfect for her!), and I rode Prin and ponied Crest. All in all, we had a fantastic time, and I think we all learned a ton. Good stuff, and I think my horses have earned a day off tomorrow, they've been playing hard!

Savvy on, I'm headed back up to bed. Remember my mentioning that today didn't flow very well? Well, the 4 hour nap between 7:30 and 11:30 pm was part of that off flow--I was wide awake for a while there, but now, back to bed!


Thursday, July 2, 2009

Where Has She BEEN?!

Some day, I swear, my life will slow down...maybe not in the foreseeable future, but ONE DAY! So...where have I been? What have I been doing? Why haven't I blogged? Where are my priorities? How are my horses? What are we playing with? All very good questions. I'll try my best to get things sorted out for ya ;)

I have been what seems like all over kingdom come and back in the past couple weeks. I got home from my travels with Farrah on the afternoon of the 23rd of June, and hit the ground running. Teaching, trimming, training, all of that good stuff. Mostly trimming, I must say though. I get home from 5 weeks off, and every single client I have has a horse with long toes, go figure. So needless to say, my hands have re-calloused, and my hoof jack feels far from neglected.

I'm in the process of tying up loose ends on the plans for another lesson...weekend with Farrah--July 11th-12th, Pepin Trailblazer's arena. I currently have 3 participant slots left, one on the 11th and two on the 12th, with several people pending. Cost is $120/90 minute lesson, auditors welcome at $10/day. PLEASE let me know if you're interested in coming, I'd love to see you there!

My horses are doing quite well, I returned home to find both Prin and LB fat and out of shape (My last 12 days with Farrah were completed with Crest). Prin had absolutely no topline, a half inch of extra hoof, and a pot belly. Okay so that whole body condition thing? It doesn't keep itself up. So, we're currently playing with..well..getting in decent condition again. I trimmed her 3 days ago, and now we've been going for long trots/canters to get the muscles moving again. We're also playing with stretching, and building more flexibility, especially in the hind end. Not that Prin's got problems, but being that she's build like a QH, and not for collection necessarily, I figure it can only help.

Yesterday a friend called just as I began my session with Prin, and so I needed something to play with that didn't involve a lot of use of my arms. I stood her up on the pedestal at first. Incidentally, standing with only the front feet on the pedestal is a great stretch and rotation that causes the shoulder apparatus to open up and lift. Great for the topline and movement ;) I had her stand for a couple minutes, and then had her hop off. She offered to sidepass over it, so I took it, wondering what I could play with from there. As we were doing it, I remembered Farrah mentioning that she had taught Caesar to sidepass over a pedestal and put one back leg on and hold it, and that it had helped the flexibility throughout his hind end, and ultimately aided in his ability to do flying lead changes.

Though Prin and I aren't nearly to the point of flying changes that Caesar and Farrah are, (don't I wish I could do 3 stride tempis in near-perfect rhythm-haha) I thought it might be a fun pattern to start building on, so that when she fully understands the concept, she'll be physically fit to do it. Neato, huh? So, with that in mind, that's what I taught her yesterday. Today she did it without question, and I'm going to slowly start building the amount of time I ask her to stand there. I've noticed small improvements already :)

Crest is learning to be a more reliable and respectful riding companion. During our time with Farrah, she caught some subtleties in Crest's behavior that have totally changed his attitude towards being with me and performing for me. He's learned (and practically mastered) a Level 4 porcupine game, that is learning to hobble. He has greatly improved his level of patience with long sits both tied and in a trailer, sees me as a provider and partner, and he's learned that I can indeed communicate with his hind quarters and dictate how fast he backs up. He's also figured out (after much hassle and giggles with a dressage whip and cookies) how to Spanish Walk, and now I have TWO Spanish-walking fools in my pasture ;) Very cool stuff, and I've really been enjoying his company.

I've also personally been playing with improving my own balance. I'm not going to sell myself short--I'm an excellent bareback rider, but beyond being able to stick to just about every antic a horse could throw at me, I'm useless. (Yes, I know, I'll stop, but this is MY goal for self-improvement, bear with me) So...what have I been doing? I've been teaching myself to Roman Ride. Yes, you read that correctly. I'm not screwing around, I'm really, genuinely, honestly learning to Roman ride. That, and I've been learning to ride standing up on one horse, too. The reactions Prin and Crest have had have been hilarious, I'm pretty sure they both think (as well as my students, and barn owner) that I'm totally insane. But they're tolerating it well, and helping me learn to balance on a new level. Oh what fun :D

So that's pretty much what I'm up to. I have an early morning tomorrow first cutting firewood with my dad then helping a friend/student film her L2 auditions, lesson at another student's place, and then 3 trimming jobs. Life is busy and insane, and I'm pretty happy :) I promise I'll be better about updating now. I can breath again :)

Savvy on, I sure have missed ya'll!