Photo by Margaret Chant and edited by Jessica Metropulos

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.