Photo by Margaret Chant and edited by Jessica Metropulos

Monday, November 30, 2009

Oh, Heavenly Day

Oh goodness, I could not have asked for a more marvelous day with my horses, today!

So that blog I wrote a couple days ago about partial disengagement? Yeah, I was definitely onto something. Today, though it took a bit of time for her to find that sweet spot, Prin was a stretching MACHINE, online. It was absolutely amazing to see her truly come through and over in her body--this is something we've been struggling with for a year! I can feel major changes in our online coming, very VERY soon--this is the key that we've been missing to flexion on the 45' line, quality in close range circling at liberty, and a happier horse on the circle in general. This is the key to better finesse. I cannot believe that it finally clicked. I'm SO proud of her! I'll try to get some pix ASAP.

In other news--I taught LB the beginnings of driving today--just started out in zones 3/4/5 with long lines. She was a little unconfident with it at first, she was downright confused as to how I was communicating with both sides of her at once, but she got the hang of it, and picked up on some basics right away--she now knows "Whoa", "Step", and "Back" all verbally, and ground drives walk/halt/reverse fairly well. I'm trying to convince my dad to get me a harness for her for Xmas, so we shall see where this goes. Little horse LOVES having a purpose, and honestly, she needs to start pulling some weight around...chubby little booger!

So that's where it's at tonight. Feeling VERY happy with how things are going out there, and SO proud of my girls!

Savvy on!

Sunday, November 29, 2009

A Note on Tying

A short, unrelated note tonight, as a blog of today's events would, I'm confident, bore you to tears.

Recently, a lively discussion has come up on the Parelli Forum about the subject of tying horses. There seems to be a bit of rift--most Parelli students have been taught the benefits of tying. Pat encourages everyone to teach their horses to tie for up to 6 hours at a time. Reasoning being it's a builder of patience, emotional fitness, a high level porcupine game, and sometimes is a convenience, too. But, on the other side, someone actually went so far as to suggest I was condoning animal cruelty for stating that I've tied Prin and Crest for 4+ hours at a time.

So, for tonight's blog, I thought I'd just share with you what I wrote in response to the person who said I was being cruel. I don't take it to heart, by any means. I know that my horses are happy. This is meant to be purely informational.

A Note on Tying:

Pat's definition of respect is "the appropriate application of pressure, and the appropriate response to the application of that pressure"... it seems to me that teaching a horse naturally to stand tied for an indefinite amount of time is just that. I'm not going to FORCE my horse to stand there for hours right off the bat (That IS unfair, and goes against all things Parelli, not to mention sets the situation up for complete failure)...I am, however, going to help my horse learn and understand how to respond appropriately to both the porcupine game and extreme friendly game, and slowly and gradually increase both the amounts of time he/she can stand, as well as the level of commotion he/she can tolerate while being tied. There's a process, just like with everything else we teach our partners to do. To me, that indicates high levels of communication in both porcupine and friendly game. That's all it breaks down to.

There is no malice, no cruel intent in asking my horse to stand still on my terms. As long as my horse knows his/her responsibilities in the partnership (mine do), and I understand mine (I do), and the situation has been set up for success, then it's not unfair or wrong.

My horses stand tied willingly because they never learned tying to be something UNCOMFORTABLE. They get fed off and on to keep them busy, almost ALWAYS have access a bucket of water. And it's not like I just up and leave, either...most of the tying situations they've been in have been at clinics in which I was assisting and/or hosting, or some other situation in which I could not physically be there with them all the time, but was close enough that I could keep an eye on them They're usually tied near, or, in some circumstances, even IN the arena that the event is being presented.

I hope that provided some insight on what I think is an interesting topic. Questions, requests for clarification and/or specification, and feedback are, as always, very welcome. Let me know your thoughts!

Saturday, November 28, 2009

BFO leading to Breakthrough (I Hope!)

Short post tonight, I had a very nifty BFO today with Prin. In developing our L4 online stuff, Prin struggles to keep good flexion in canter out at longer distances. Her rhythm and relaxation are good, and she keeps contact in the mental aspect of the word, but has a hard time maintaining true physical contact, i.e being straight on the circle, and it's not her fault--she's just been physically incapable of it.

I had lunch with my friend Michelle, a fellow L4 student and also a 2* Parelli professional, this week, and we had an opportunity to talk strategies, as her little horse, Connor, also struggled with this.

I've been told, time and again, that the solution (or at least part of it!) is longitudinal flexion at the trot online. That this will build Prin's ability to bend and flex her body independently. I've been given lots of instruction on how to achieve this--I've tried it all, but never seemed to be able to achieve satisfactory results. I've used porcupine games as well as driving games to try to get my horse's ribs and body flexing, and it just never happened.

Michelle, again, made this as a suggestion, but she, unlike everyone else, gave me the key that was missing--she said "If you're walking with her while she trots, you can actually use your driving game and communicate with her inside hind foot. Linda calls it a 'partial disengagement', and if you push it under, she has to use her HQ more, and her natural instinct will be to stretch and breath more."

EUREKA!! Prin and I found it today, almost immediately! I was just playing on the 12' line, and switched my focus to that inside hind, instead of her ribs. Instantly, Her head sank lower, her eyes softened, and she started to stretch and blow. I quit pretty much on that note--no need to overload. But how COOL! I'll continue playing with it over the next few days, and I have a feeling she's going to make HUGE changes. Shall keep you posted!

Okay, to bed with me!

Friday, November 27, 2009

Oh, My Extroverts!

Today's play was an interesting wake-up call to me with regard to two of my little herd. I am innately a Left-Brain Extrovert, and though I'm pretty adequate at handling all the horsenalities, I've always been partial to my left-brain horses, particularly the extroverts, recently (though it used to be LBIs, hands down! Thanks Prin!). Today's events revolved around two fascinating (and perplexing, in some cases) sessions with two of my horses--and involved my digging deep into my savvy quiver at points.

I started my afternoon out with a half an hour long session with little LB. It's been a long time since I've put any effort into LB's development, simply for time's sake. LB is QUITE the little extrovert, and what little time I've put on her has been centered around developing obedience--something, she taught me right off the bat, that doesn't last unless she's played with consistently. Note to self...

LB's version of disobedience--she was supposed to be trotting a circle!

We played with developing obedience and smoothness on the 22' line. LB's circling game particularly has lots to improve upon, the little rascal likes to circle with her nose IN THE AIR, tilted away from me. My usual strategy for dealing with this is actually to just hold my hand closed and firm with as little rope as possible, and then release on the slightest try, but LB wanted none of it. I have NEVER had that strategy not work, most horses get tired of carrying themselves incorrectly within a couple laps and start to relax--not her! I isolated it as a broken porcupine, and inspected some other areas--broken draw in yo-yo, broken bring-back on the circle, and decided I needed to focus on porcupining the front end.

We started with basic L1 porcupine games, and moved on to other things while in motion--I used the figure-8 pattern to my advantage, looking to continue the pattern until she showed signs of obedience. I was very impressed with her persistence, I must say--she came up with about 28 ways NOT to do the figure 8 pattern, but all of a sudden, she just fell into a rhythm. I got several repetitions of very soft, pretty, obedient pattern, and brought her in. I unhaltered her, and she started offering to do some things at liberty on her own, which I thought was pretty darn neat! We played for another couple of minutes before I put her back and went for my next playmate.

I played with Crest, next. Crest was VERY emotional today--whether it was the weather, the fact that I was still a bit mentally bound up over my session with LB, or just because that's how he was meant to be today, I don't know. But he started out by telling me quite plainly that he NEEDED to move his feet. I obliged, and let him move about at the end of my 45' line. That was not probably the best move on my part--had I been more on my game, I might have put him on a pattern or something, so as to keep his mind occupied. Anyway, it ended fine, he just took a little longer to focus.

We played a lot online, focusing on walk/canter/walk transitions (hoping this'll transfer to our riding), and then moving to long-line driving--which he is now the champion of. I'm still a bit clumsy when it comes to changing bend/flow from side to side on circles, and it bothers him a little, I think. I'm pretty sure it just breaks down to a communication slip--my timing isn't perfect yet, and Crest is so sensitive that we're just missing something by a hair. I'll keep playing with it and let you know how it goes--I think I'll probably use the figure 8 pattern here, too. It's a pattern he knows well (he's playing in L4) so that buys me some opportunity to work on myself without worrying about him. We shall see how it goes.

I got on his back for a few minutes and just focused on isolations again--my GOODNESS he's getting light! I got several GORGEOUS 180 degree rollbacks using practically nothing, and he's getting this super speedy, but super controlled backup going, too. What a neato horse!

So, that's pretty much it for today. I'm so tired I can hardly keep my eyes open right now. Again, I'm very wordy, but I hope I gave you at least a little insight into my day--again, feedback is welcome if you wish :)

Savvy on, I'm off for BED!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Principle #7...In So Many Ways!

Here it is, as promised, the beginnings of what I hope can actually be an account of my sessions again. Bear with me, awkwardness may ensue, I've really taken up the life of an introvert in the world of my ponies--really focusing on learning for me.

Today, my friend Jessy, a very driven and enthusiastic L2 student, came down to spend a day learning and playing with me. She was partnered with Prin, and I chose to play with Crest, since he's had almost 3 weeks off.

Jessy has a LBI of her own, and so her focus in playing with Prin is to learn to motivate an LBI that already knows her responsibilities (Principle #7: Horses teach people and people teach horses), as well as to just plain ol' advance her horsemanship. Prin proved to be an excellent teacher today. Jessy learned immediately that being slow and particular (and slower, and slower and slower) is a valuable tool in motivating Prin. We showed her some things, too, the difference between Prin's just doing the task, and putting effort into it. Jessy hopped on later, and discovered, much to her dismay, that she and Prin had a communication breakdown.

I've got to segue here for a moment: Even though Prin is playing late into L4, she's still my horse--she doesn't ride the way she does for me with anyone else, and for that, I'm extremely grateful. She's by no means dangerous, but she will expose holes in communication effectively. I'm so grateful to have her as my partner in teaching, as well as my personal horsemanship journey! Anyway!

Jessy was a little upset, I think at having my horse test her. She felt there was a BIG roadblock in front of her. Something to prevent her from progressing. At this point, I introduced her to the concept of Isolate, Separate, and Recombine. Through this, Jessy figured out that she and Prin had not established a strong enough driving or porcupine game on the ground. This gave Jessy the ideas she needed, and she got off, and set to establishing that communication with more refinement. I'll be interested to see how their relationship develops from this knowledge and new set of tools.

Meanwhile, I had one HECK of a session with Crest. He's had about 3 weeks off now, 3 weeks in which he must have sat and come up with a zillion ways to make me laugh. I put him on the 45' line today, and though he was wild and crazy, he just wanted to play with ME! We spent the better part of 20 minutes just running around being sassy. Crest was jumping, kicking, rearing, bucking, striking at the air, tossing his head, and overall just showing off and feelin' fine. Throughout this magnificent display of athleticism, however, Crest maintained contact with me, and eventually, I was able to take his energy and "Shwung" and put it to something productive--using two lines in driving reins, we were able to achieve several strides of passage (which were STUNNING...I wouldn't have believed it, except that two other people saw it as well), as well as a couple of lovely flying changes (complete with head toss and body flail), as well as just some beautiful round, Andalusian-looking movement, transitions, etc.

I also got on his back briefly, and we played with HQ/FQ isolations (He's learning to SPIN, too cool!) and also being particular with all things walk. He's getting his pleasure-horse walk down so nicely, even with the time off. Hooray for emotional fitness development in the world's most emotional horse!

So...That's it for today's session. Fun was had by all, I think everyone learned a ton. In reading back on this, I think my personal homework I'm going to take from all this is that I should how to express what I learned in half the text--jeepers, I'm wordy!

Anyway, stay savvy, play often, have fun, and let me know what you think! I'm off for bed!

Back to It!

Hey there, all!

I'm home now, yay! I arrived home late on the afternoon of the 20th, and since, have pretty much hit the ground running in my own personal journey (not so much elsewhere, unfortunately, which I'm trying to change). Florida was definitely a learning experience in more ways than one, and so mentally, I've been wild and crazy since before returning home. I apologize to any of you who have been following me on Facebook/twitter, and have been worried, I promise it wasn't as bad as an experience as it apparently came across!

On the equine front, my ponies were actually thrilled for my homecoming, it's been one of the best in that pasture so far. The day after I got home, I went out and called like I usually do, and 3 heads popped up, and all 3 of my riding horses upped and left the feeders, two of the three nickering as they came. Love my little herd :D

Unfortunately, I haven't had a whole lot of time to play with my guys since being home. I've had one short session just with Prin, and then I had a double session on Prin, with Hart, which was day before yesterday. I'm not entirely sure why I hadn't thought of this before, but Hart likes to play the "I'm really tall, you can't reach me!" card, and I had been struggling with refining all things forehand with him--even with the Carrot Stick, he's just tall enough that my phases cannot be totally fair to him. So duh--put myself on my 16.1hh partner, and we most likely can communicate with the tall one! It was a really fun session, I LOVE having Prin as my assistant--she's very good at backing up my phases and being in the proper position even when I'm not, sometimes ;) We got quite a bit accomplished, too. Prin was successful in teaching Hart the sideways game to the right (something he and I have struggled with a bit because of his height), and we also got some really nice stick-to-me stuff going. Very cool!

Other than that, our herd has been reduced a bit--two of our horses left for new homes, which is sad, but also a Godsend, since our corrals were getting pretty crowded. We're down to 12 now, which is a pretty good number for the space we've got.

So that's the update--I think I'm going to try to get back to a regular schedule of blogging, even if the sessions are short. It benefits me to organize my thoughts after each session, and I've gotten a few "hey, would you start sharing about your sessions again?" types of inquiries. So there we have it.

I'll try to get back into it!

Off to go play with a wet horse.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Re-inflating the Bubble

This is an excerpt from a journal entry I wrote earlier today. For the record, I'm now sitting in the computer lab at the Parelli Center, surrounded by cinder-block walls ;)

It's a little past 7:00am. I"m sitting here in a green plastic chair, watching the sun rise over the hill playground at the Parelli Center in Ocala, FL. Kristi's horse, Maxi, grazes on some hay in a pen about 20 yds in front of me, and around me, the last of the externs finish up their morning routines and head up the hill to Pat's barn.

A typical day at the Parelli center, for sure. Yet as I sit here, I feel something else. I was here in January/February, and it was a life-changing experience. I returned home to Wisconsin with a new attitude, a sense of renewal and happiness, and a place to go with my journey.

Fall was a very hectic time for me this year, and yet, through it all, I felt like I did alright. My dream was (and is) still alive, though perhaps a bit duller...or...distracted (Yes, I like that, better word choice!). I hadn't lost sight of it, I just couldn't remember quite how to get there.

Sitting here now, I feel a great sense of renewal. There is nothing quite like the feel of being here, in this beautiful place. Pat and LInda have worked hard to create an environment of positive, progressive, and natural, and that truly IS here. For me, it's a refresher of my goals and dreams as a Parelli student, and a swift kick in the butt to remind me to STOP MAKING EXCUSES and just do it! I strive to be this happy all the time, and this is the starting point. So think of this as a home-coming for me. It feels good to be back, to the place (and mental attitude!) where I belong. I'm ever so happy to be here :)