Photo by Margaret Chant and edited by Jessica Metropulos

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!