Photo by Margaret Chant and edited by Jessica Metropulos

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Slow and Right...

"Slow and right beats fast and wrong, and slow and right BUILDS fast and right, and NOTHING beats fast and right!" ~Pat Parelli

Over the past few days, I've gained a new appreciation for that Parelli-ism. You see, I've been hitting a new level of incompetence with Crest. It seems to happen more often with him than with my other projects, which is not all-together to shocking, but this particular bout of incompetence has been a bit more extreme, in that I couldn't simply step back and research my way out of it.

To be honest, this all started with my realizing that I'm unconfident enough that I cannot canter on Crest and feel safe, and I feel like that's really holding us back from progressing into L3 freestyle.

It's cause by different things for both of us. For me, it's fear. I've never been hurt cantering on him, but I've had too many near misses and little hits to my confidence that have built up over time, as well as not recognizing fear and plowing my own thresholds. That's an easy enough problem to solve with approach and retreat mentally--but then actually fixing my fear on his back is really hard, especially since it's not a worry about my ABILITY to canter (put me on any other horse and I'll canter standing up, backwards, forwards, you name it, all with confidence), but in my ability to canter ON HIM.

For Crest, it's an emotional issue. He comes unglued really fast and really easily with a rider. You've probably heard me elude to that fact in prior posts. It used to be that he had a hard time controlling his body--he'd get very emotional even cantering online, but after spending the early summer with Farrah, and spending the majority of the fall developing his online to L4, that's not much of an issue anymore. When I get on his back, though, he falls apart. I'm sure I'm not helping. I tend to want to canter, but only a little bit, so to speak. That trust isn't there 100% a lot of the time.

The issue I was faced with was how one builds confidence as a rider, while helping the horse become a less-emotional individual WITH a rider. To me, it seemed like the kind of thing that shouldn't be solved at the same time, but the problem was, I couldn't seem to find another way to do it.

I sent emails to 3 friends of mine who are Parelli professionals, seeking their thoughts and feedback. Two of the three gave me really really good philosophical thoughts to with these thoughts now line the frame on my monitor as I type this. The third came back with "hands-on" information, and this is where "Slow and right" comes in.

We often generalize that extroverts need to move their feet. They are, after-all, extroverts. What I seem to forget, apparently too often, is that confident, Left-Brained horses are not always confident left-brained learners. In fact, in Crest's case, he's not a confident learner at all.

The FIRST thing my friend said in her email was this thought-provoking paragraph:

"You have to make your horse's confidence primary. When you get him calm, confident and trusting, it will be easier for you to trust him. I think that you're not paying enough attention to his emotional state and pushing him over thresholds that you are probably not even aware of. Slow down, make it easier for him. Break things down in to little chunks. And where necessary, get off for HIS confidence - which probably goes before yours. And when I talk about his confidence, it may not be that he's afraid, as in prey animal afraid, but that he's lost confidence in your leadership."

...Naturally. We've been through this before. I think there's a blog entry from early 2008 with nearly the same advice with regard to a different subject.

So for the past week, Crest and I have been taking it SLOWLY. When I say slowly, I mean observing MICROSCOPIC behaviors. I've re-watched some key demos in the Liberty and Horse Behavior pack, and have actually incorporated some things Pat has done with Casper into our liberty play, here, as well as lots of short pattern-oriented rides. Haven't seen any huge effect yet, but again, "slow and right..." We'll get there, it's been a great lesson in dropping the time-line (which I hadn't even realized I had on him!)

Interestingly enough, the effect that this has had on Prin is for the better, too--I think my introvert is feeling a little resentful--"Sure, you'll finally slow down if it's HIM?" ...nah, kidding! But seriously, she's doing really well as a result, too--the giddyup and go that she's got in her draw, flying changes, and circling game are pretty impressive. It's only taken me 7 years and another horse to teach me the lesson, but hey!

So anyway, with that said, I'm off to go play with a couple ponies.

Friday, February 19, 2010

...and Fun Was Had by All

Today has been an absolutely remarkable day. I had two awesome plays with Prin and Cricket, and they're soooo worth sharing about.

I started out this morning playing with Prin. Last night I got a round of inspiration to start playing with some Finesse again, for whatever the reason. I've been avoiding the savvy as much as possible because I tend to turn into a scary person when I ride with contact. I've been focusing my attention to the details and pieces of successful finesse since November, and it suddenly dawned on me that all of my primary pieces were in place at suggestion level. I also came up with some new ideas for ways to develop lateral maneuvers without a rail to follow (I felt brilliant!), and wanted to play a little with it, at the walk, just to see what we could get.

Prior to today, when I'd pick my reins up at the beginning of our session, Prin would be fairly heavy. I'd have to do a fair amount of suspension rein and duck-landing transitions before she would be light enough in her front end to even handle "coiling the spring" so to speak, and collecting up.

Today, I just lifted my reins and her head came in, when I picked up contact, I felt her ENTIRE FRONT END come up to meet my hands. Not that I didn't believe it was possible, but I've NEVER felt anything like that come out of Prin before. It was exhilarating and we hadn't even moved yet!

We rode some figure 8's, focusing on keeping zone 5 closest to the barrel (focusing on keeping weight back and HQs flexible), and she felt REALLY solid. Did several more figure 8's with leg yields through the middle, and then played with the weave pattern, doing haunches and shoulders in through the cones. This all went really well, the neatest thing I found was that she was actually a little TOO flexible in her lateral stuff--it used to be that she couldn't do haunches and shoulders because she was so braced and locked up. Though she's still not 100% correct, I consider over-flexibility to be a HUGE step in the right direction for her. And the best part was, neither one of us ever lost our patience or our confidence. HUGE HUGE HUGE. It was awesome, and a huge success!

Next, I played with Cricket. I'm in the process of developing her into my lesson horse troop for 2010, and so I've been playing on developing her knowledge for patterns in online/freestyle up to Level 3. She's doing really beautifully online, especially, but recently she's been getting a bit presumptuous about the circling game, and has lost a lot of her play drive. I'm sure I've just drilled her a bit, is all, so today, I set out to make it right and bring her curiosity back out.

I used the touch-it game as my motivator. Cricket is innately a very dominant LB horse, set into some very resentful, almost RB-esque patterns from poor previous handling. I chose touch it because it allows for a horse's dominance to come out through the nose, something Left-Brain extroverts especially have a tendency for.

At first, she wanted none of it. Though she would touch the cones, she would do it with a "Why would I WANT to do that?" expression on her face. But as the game progressed (cones, barrels, round corral panels, tree limbs, etc), her curiosity started to take over, until she was getting a bit playful. Below are a couple of photos I snapped as we played toward the end of our session. The photo with the barrel was taken right before we quit. She had knocked it over, and had pushed it about 10 feet, before settling in to bite it. The one with the cone was taken just before she knocked it over, and then picked it up. Isn't she just the cutest?


"I'll knock it over, then bite it!"

As you can see, we had fun :)

Alright, off to bed. Savvy on, folks!

Parelli's Newest 3* Professional

Hey all,

I just wanted to share some super exciting news. I talked to Farrah Green today, and she shared with me that she received her 3* PARELLI PROFESSIONAL RANKING yesterday!

If there's anyone I know who deserves that promotion, it's Farrah. She's been working hard to achieve that for 3 years, and it's so time for this. She's 3* and more in my book, and I'm SO PROUD AND HAPPY for her. She is amazing. I cannot wait to see what she continues to offer the horse world with this. Congrats, Girl!

Farrah and her two super horses, Caesar and Wesley.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Somewhere in Level 4, Precision is Born

Hey all,

Just wanted to share a few photos from today with you. I'm not usually one to be very pleased with the way things turn out with pictures, but I'm quite happy to see the results of these! My horse looks very happy and content in all of them, her physical posture is AMAZING, and I actually don't look too shabby either. I guess that's what L4 is all about--isn't that where mental, emotional, and physical come together to form a magnificent performance creature?

Anyway, check 'em out! If the computer screen formats the shots funny or cuts a piece off, click the image, it'll open the photobucket link they're taken from :)

FQ Isolations
FQ Isolations done with refinement (Mane hair and body language!). She's in mid-speed spin here, actually. I can't get over how blissful she looks!

Trotting Part 1
Trotting. She's looking VERY through and athletic in her movement. Very driven from her HQ, and looks very loose and light in front end, not to mention HAPPY! WOW! Plus--that trot is actually getting hard to sit!

Trotting Part 2
Just a hair more flexion, and she'd be vertical on her own volition! Wow. HUGE for this stock horse. Talk about developing self-carriage! I love her so much!

So that's all for now, let me know what you think if you feel so inclined :)

Savvy on!

Friday, February 12, 2010

Lemons to Lemonade

Hi Folks,

Gonna get a series of short blogs here over the next couple of days. The weather for the most part, is beautiful, but I've been kind of caught up in my head, so writing is essential. Anyway, today's topic is going to revolve around a segment of the January Savvy Club DVD with Dr. Robert Miller, entitled "Lemons to Lemonade".

Dr. Miller is a world-renowned veterinarian, writer, public speaker, the developer of foal imprinting, promoter of natural horsemanship, and also a long-time friend of Pat Parelli. (Click HERE to visit his website) This segment was filmed at a 4-week Masterclass course this summer in Pagosa Springs, where Dr. Miller was invited to give a talk, and told some stories about Pat to the class. He centers his talk around Pat's ability to take difficult situations, and turn them around and work them to his advantage (Hence Lemons to Lemonade). Some of the examples he gives are just befuddling--I knew Pat was good at that, but I didn't realize he was such a master at it. It got me thinking, that is for SURE.

The past couple days here have been kind of chock full of disappointments. In addition to several financial explosions, and bad experiences, I was supposed to be at Kristi Smith's today through Monday at a weekend set of workshops. The weather is looking rather unpredictable, so Kristi had to make a very difficult decision, and cancel the event, and reschedule for April. Yesterday was a very emotional day for the both of us--she more-so than I, probably, though I certainly did my fair share of crying.

In all of my frustration last night, that segment of the DVD kept haunting the back corner of my mind. I finally gave in to temptation and pulled it up on the Savvy Club Vault and watched it again. If nothing else, the lesson to learn from it is exactly the title of the segment. In hearing some of the situations that Pat managed to make good (And from another person's perspective--not his own!), I was reminded and inspired to do just that.

So--even though I'm very disappointed not to spend the weekend with Kristi, you know what? It's 27 degrees, sunny, and not windy. Our driveway is plowed and I started teaching both my horses some neat things yesterday--what a shame it would be to not finish what I started! So this weekend, my goals are to help Crest find rhythm and relaxation for two laps of canter, both directions at liberty, and to teach him to find connection better doing stick-to-me to the right. With Prin, I'm going to finish my externship audition tape, and develop more connection and energy in our large-area liberty.

Savvy on, folks!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Stickin' Out Like a Sore Thumb

Apologies on the hold up for Pt. II of my article/story, folks. I'm typing rather slowly as it is, as I had a bit of an accident on Monday.

A rather long story short, I was trimming my barn owner's mare, Izzy. It had gone really well, up until the last 3 rasp strokes on her last (left hind) foot. She lost her balance slightly, and her hoof slipped off the hoof jack. Would not have been a bad incident, except that has her foot fell, it caught my gloved hand between her un-rasped hoof wall and the hardened rubber topper of the hoof jack. At the time, it just hurt like the dickens, but a minute later when I took my glove off, I was greeted by an almost entirely-skinned thumb that was bleeding freely, and piebald bruised thumbnail.

I ended up getting 5 stitches put in, and honestly, the Novocaine needle experience has proved to have a longer-term effect than the actual stitches, it left a nice bruise at the base of my thumb that actually hurts more than the injury.

So anyway--doing my best to get that second part out to you. Just know that I'm typing with my hand wrapped like in the picture below ;)