Saturday, July 25, 2015

Two Years

Time flies. Good Lord, it's been over two years since my last post.

Well, there isn't much in the way of horse activity to report. I've moved barns (again). Cheerios moved in order to be leased by a 4H-er, but the girl graduated high school, moved out, got a boyfriend, and forgot all about the horse she'd fallen madly in love with in February. So his lease is up in the air pending being given to a different 4H-er to use, and I haven't been on him since last summer sometime, and I haven't had the time, energy or motivation to do anything with horses in quite awhile.

Part of it is that I moved into a full-time position last summer, and then I took three Philosophy classes at night in the fall (do not recommend that). Putting in 13-hour days four nights a week then having three classes' worth of reading (and academic paper writing) to do does not leave much time for horses.

Another part is vertigo. And weight gain. I get out of breath when I move too much, and I have intermittent vertigo now that throws off my balance. I've probably had it awhile. I noticed I was having trouble balancing and finding my balance point a couple of years ago, but chalked it up to the saddle being shimmed wrong, or just the heat or something.

Now, I'd be uncertain about getting up on a horse and trying to stay put. I mean, I get dizzy in the shower, and it feels like the tub is falling out from under me. I thought the house was collapsing until I had it happen when I was out of the shower on very solid non-mushy floor, and realized it's me.

Shaveya stayed behind and is a happy little broodmare. She's had two fillies so far. One came out a mini-me and got sold within the year. This year's is a palomino solid. Well, I got her so I could have a broodmare. What I didn't count on was that the babies and the pleasure of watching them grow up would not be mine to have.

It may well be that my time with horses is over. If it is, I've been unwilling to accept it, because that was my main connection to my late father, as well as my childhood dream. 

I guess, though, that once a childhood dream is fulfilled, doesn't mean it will go on. Maybe the fulfillment of it was the main part.

Maybe it's time to let go.

Sunday, July 07, 2013

Feed Reader Switch

<a href="">Follow my blog with Bloglovin</a>

Switching feed readers, claiming my blog. (Google Reader is going away; I'm using Bloglovin now.)

Saturday, September 01, 2012

It's September Again

I have to fix this template.  

Because Blogger changed things and now it is confusing.

One of these days, Cheerios and I WILL tape our Audition for Level Two Freestyle and we WILL send it in and get that blue string.

First, I need a job. Then I need to restore my Savvy Club membership. Then I can do it.

(Poverty has been tough. But it's getting better. That was just a phase. I had things to learn. I've learned them. At least by the Grace of God I still HAVE my horse.)

So I discovered something the other day while I was out at the barn. I like teaching HUMANS. This comes as a shock to me. I knew I liked teaching horses, but I didn't think I'd enjoy the human part. Well, a mom and her 10-year-old son came out to look at a couple of horses for lease (mine being one of them) and I wound up giving the kid his first impromptu riding lesson. He'd been in 4-H this summer, learned basic horse care but hadn't really rode yet (things they tell you AFTER they get on...)

He did pretty well but he lost confidence when Cheerios went faster than he wanted and he didn't know how to stop him (pulled back). The kid kept saying he wanted to go faster (cowboy thoughts) and I said "let's get you comfortable at a walk first". Cheerios doesn't go unless you ask. Well, he kept asking and Cheerios finally listened. I knew they were OK, though. His habit is to speed up then stop at the gate. He did that. Poor kid freaked out, though. Apparently he'd never cantered (even though it was a slow lope for Cheerios).

To my deficit, I should have known better than to take a kid's word for it about his riding ability. Everyone boasts; everyone thinks it's easy. To his credit, I'll admit that when I first started riding in 2000, I had to fill out a form at the trail barn and it asked if I had 10 hours or more of riding. Well, if you count the vacation nose-to-tails and a few weeks on my niece's horses when I was a teenager, and a couple of lessons in my college gym course, yeah... I think it should have read 100 hours because both me and the owner of the Palomino realized AFTER I'd mounted that I didn't have the expertise to handle him.

How soon we forget.

Well, the kid stayed on, but he was rattled. To my credit, what I did next was savvy. I know how fast confidence can go. I know how hard it is to get back. I know that the way you leave it is how you'll find it next time. I know that once you dismount, you have a lot of time to replay the horrendous incident in your mind and revisit the fear over and over until you can't remember anything BUT fear. 

I knew if he got off shaken, he might not get back on again.

So I kept him on, took the reins away, gave him instruction in the difference between pulling the saddle horn versus pushing (finding the balance point). I promised him I wouldn't go any faster than he was comfortable with, then I had him shut his eyes and just feel the horse beneath him while I led Cheerios around at a walk, backed him up, pulled him forward. When I saw relaxation returning, we went for a slow trot. The kid got off with restored confidence and a big smile.

I realized, it felt really good to give him that gift. It sat in the back of my mind for hours, and I thought about the profound effect Parelli has had on me. It's changed my whole life. It's teaching me how to "train" horses, how to ride, and how to be a more evolved person. Parelli has given me the greatest gift; I would be honored to share that gift with others. Human AND horse alike.

Thursday, June 14, 2012


I have been a lousy blogger. I've also been off my feed for a long time. (Little horse pun there.) After a hiatus that lasted far too long, I finally returned to the barn yesterday. I'm almost mortified to admit that I'm on hiatus from Savvy Club, too (though that can be reinstated when I'm ready).

Why the hiatus? Well, there is always a break for winter; though ours was mild for Ohio. OK, the honest truth is, money. Money owed, money spent, money I couldn't put in the gas tank, then during the few months money was being made again, the issue reverted from money to time. The irony is, I feel like one of those "bi-annual horse owners" I used to criticize: they never go out to ride or even see their horse, just to meet the vet on Vax Day or when the horse needs a trim or is in trouble.

I now understand that sometimes, Life Happens.

For me, it has happened too often in the past 10 years. I seem to be gung-ho with my horsemanship for a couple years, closing in on my goals, then just as I'm about to ascend to the next Parelli Level or take a major step (like doing the six-week intensive that I'd scheduled for January 2006 in Ocala—delayed indefinitely), Life Happens, and I go on hiatus.

As it happens, I've been on the verge of delving into Level Three and amping up my professional goals again, once I've passed L2 Freestyle, so of course. Is it coincidence... or fear?

Not sure.

But I finally got out there and remembered how to be a horsewoman again and it was FANTASTIC.

Fine. I'll admit it. The reason I went out, despite warily eyeballing my bank account (during yet another "hiatus" from working, thank you Temp Agencies) and my gas tank, was because I've been leasing out Cheerios during my hiatus. But the gal who'd been leasing him had two things happen (got her horse back, then fell off and broke ribs) so she's no longer leasing him. Another girl was half-leasing and wanted to discuss the possibility of moving him to another barn next door to her home.

Now, I knew the other lady already, so there were no qualms about the lease. This other girl, I've never even met—the barn manager hooked us up. I figured I'd best go meet her before agreeing to something that quite frankly raised about 100 red flags.

The outcome of that? No details necessary. She's a perfectly nice girl, seems to ride well, seems somewhat in line with a method of horsemanship similar to mine. But no decision has been made due to Life Happening on her end, so I get a hiatus (there's that word again) from worrying about visiting the "new" barn and meeting the barn owner, and having to consider the ramifications of leasing my Parelli Partner to someone who wants to "train" him to do contesting. (Not real keen on that; the ONLY reason it was up for consideration was, again, for financial reasons.)

So that's a non-issue at the moment. What I did get to do was play with Cheerios a bit (since it's been so long, I tested the seven games the way Linda did on the Savvy Club DVD) then I actually got on and rode him. Bareback. Trotting.

Why is this significant? Well, as you recall, I'm still getting used to riding him bareback, let alone at the trot. In addition...

I didn't even RIDE last summer. I saddled him up once, but he was so irritated by the saddle that I didn't even ride. I spent the summer doing groundwork and liberty, and playing with other horses at the barn (training in exchange for board decrease). Because his saddle no longer seems to fit him and he'd laid down during the last Carol Coppinger clinic (oh, hello fear—forgot you existed), I felt leery about riding.

Yes. It's been that long. What is WRONG with me.

But it felt so natural yesterday, and he was in such a calm, quiet mood I knew he was rideable. It was amazing. I didn't really DO much beyond getting reacquainted, but it was so good just to do that.

Then I helped with barn chores, feeding, turn in/turn back out, and then the barn manager asked if I felt like playing with one of her new horses.

I said "sure", even though the sun was halfway set and it was getting darker. (There is a little light from exteriors on the barn but not much.) 

And so I played with the Yellow Mare. Of course she has a story (they all do). The important point is that she was shown in halter classes, then ignored and left to live in a stall 24/7 for a couple years until the owner had to sell and the barn manager bought her for a brood mare. Pretty but really skinny Palomino with a blaze and a ligament issue up front.

It would seem nobody taught her much more than how to lead and stand still, and she didn't even know how to live outside. 

My first guess would be RBI, based on her wariness at our approach and her stance. However, I'm reserving judgment on that. She's very calm. She leads well. She knows what she's supposed to do and she's very polite and quiet about it. You might think LBI just from that. But she has her ears back in a worried position, though her breathing is regular. Still reserving judgment. Her demeanor suggests she's a bit concerned, but she doesn't seem spring-loaded.

Took her to the round pen, ran the quick seven game test. She was unresponsive. Period. If she wasn't breathing, I'd say she was dead. 

Friendly game: not bothered by the helicopter, rope slap on the ground, savvy string around her neck, legs. Not catatonic, just not even paying attention. Not upset. No ears back. (Maybe they "sacked her out" well.)

Porcupine: no response. Didn't move, didn't even acknowledge me. I mean I went to Phase 4, and I went slowly. It's like her hide is made of Teflon.

Driving: turned toward the source of it when I used rhythmic pressure. I've yet to have a horse do that and I can't recall ever seeing any horse on the Parelli DVDs doing that. Puzzled by that one.

Yo-yo: no response. Will come toward, but no back up.

Circling: obviously she'd been longed, because she understood that. The send sucked. The bring back sucked. The allow was okay.

Sideways: wasn't even worth trying, because she didn't comprehend or pay attention to driving OR porcupine. (I tried. It wasn't worth it.)

Squeeze: she did that okay, between me and the fence on a Phase Two. 


Still not sure if she's RBI, LBI, or what she is. Calm and willing usually indicates LB, but as Linda says, "don't let 'quiet' fool you—an RBI can be calm on the outside but inside, ho-ho..." I decided since she seems wary of people but "trained", I'd assume RBI so as not to cause her to implode. Strategies can always change mid-stream.

I started with Porcupine on the nose. Following Linda's pattern/goal, which was to release when her head was in the position best for backing (so release when she brings it up slightly, even if her nose touches the ground; release only when her nose is straight; following her nose when she turns away and rubbing until it's pointed straight, etc), I was surprised at how quickly Yellow Mare grasped the concept of holding her head in the best position and backing up from a light Phase 2. Her expression (from what I could tell) was a little less worried, but still not sure.

I didn't want to stress her by pushing too hard, so when I got a couple of nice Phase 2 back up steps, which took only a few minutes, I moved on after giving her a good long think.

Yep. Took a long time for her to lick, and she kept her mouth clamped shut. That's RBI. But I'm still not labeling her AS just yet.

Tried the rope around the front leg. Good thing I'm patient. Took ages to get the slightest loosening of her kneecap that said she was thinking about releasing. I moved on. Briefly showed her how to yield FQ and HQ. From the speed at which she picked it up, and because she didn't seem bothered by moving through things rather than repeating them, I'm now thinking, maybe she's LBI, just wary. Still reserving judgment.

It was getting dark enough that I was glad she was a light-colored horse. Before I ended, I wanted to see if there was a bond yet. So far, she hadn't seemed motivated to leave, but she wasn't motivated to respond, either. Is that LB? Still confused.

I unhooked the lead line and walked off, checking to see if she was following. She immediately turned and ambled in another direction. Ah. So she was just being obedient because she was imprisoned on a leash, not responding or bonding. Time for a strategy change.

Let's play the Catching Game.

I must say, this was the slowest version of it I've ever played. Usually, the minute I slap the string hard on the ground once, they've wheeled out of there.

Not this mare. Three slaps, and a tag on the rear, and she wandered off around the circle in a slow trot like she'd done this a thousand times. She slowed to an amble, went about halfway, then stopped.  Didn't look at me. Just stood there. Her expression: tuned out, unconfident. Not catatonic, not wild-eyed, just... not present. Awake, but not present.

I did the thing where I arc around toward her then swoop in.


I tagged her.


It's like she was a robot, and she'd hit the off switch. What happened next was that we played at this for a good hour or so in almost complete darkness, with only the light from around the corner illuminating one third of the pen.

Well, I couldn't just stop, could I? I was invested. I'd committed to this game, I had to see it through until I got SOME kind of response.

The barn manager was sitting alongside the pen watching wordlessly (except to say "I tried doing a lot of this type of stuff with her, too, [catching game/chase her around the pen until she "joins up"] and got nowhere"). I wonder if she was about bored to death watching the paint dry?

Not me. I was absolutely fascinated. Riveted by this mare. She's such a puzzle. Somehow we got maneuvered over to the "light" side of the pen, where I could just make out her silhouette and the slight suggestion of her features.

This is where it got REALLY interesting for me, because I couldn't SEE her well enough to look for the small signs—I had to SENSE them.

Everything inside of me shut off. All my thoughts. Everything. I was just hooked into this line of energy connecting me with this horse, feeling for her, reaching out to her, trying to make the connection jumpstart something in her.

It was down to the most minute little shifts. Where she angles her head about one degree toward me, and I retreat one degree away; then she angles away two degrees, I approach two degrees. A silent, slow, almost imperceptible dance of fractions of space and time.

I'm standing still, watching her head. It's... twitching. She's like a bobblehead. It seems to me like she's trying to get the neurons to rewire, debating whether to acknowledge this odd reality. She didn't seem to know how to process the concept of having a human/predator try to bond with her. I watched her head twitch up and down a few times, then side to side. I had the sense that I should just wait and see what happens next.

Then... she blew out.

Not a big huge one. It was like she'd never let out the tension before, and when it came out, it surprised her and she tried to suppress it. 

I removed pressure and arc'd away. I noticed when she looked at me. Her expression had changed. She was more present! She had two ears and two eyes.


I kept up this dance, with more of her head turning toward me each time I arc'd around, and my retreating more obviously when she did look at me. I could make out her features enough to see that when I backed off, her expression returned (she became present) and when I approached or put pressure on (even casually), she pulled inward and began to shut down.

I backed off and waited.

And waited.

Cue theme from Jeopardy.

And waited some more.

And wai—


She shifted her weight and cocked her leg. Her entire body let go of muscle tension.

I couldn't SEE this, other than the silhouette shifting, but I FELT it.

So I pivoted away from her a quarter turn. I looked back. She was looking at me, alert. Curious. I reached out my hand to invite her along, took a step forward, and waited a moment. I took one more step, and...

She turned. I took a few slow but deliberate steps, intending she'd follow, accepting if she didn't. I got about five steps further away, and I heard her trudging behind me. I stopped at the other end of the pen.

She stopped right beside me. Well, three feet away and just out of reach. I heard her lick her lips.

Most people at this point would run up and pat her now.

I didn't. I extended my hand. I wanted HER to reach for ME. I didn't want to grab for her.

Took a long time.

I'm patient.

Played that dance, you angle your nose toward my hand one iota, I pull it back one iota; you angle away, I move closer; repeat.

And then... she reached for me. She made contact.


Her expression had completely changed. In the moonlight, I could see she was relaxed. Not quite ready to be all over me, but confident about letting me be just out of grabbing distance, but most of all... she was PRESENT. And she stayed present.

A brief game of stick-to-me, just to confirm she was really "with" me, not just coming because she's supposed to. She mirrored my every move at just-out-of-reach three feet away, and I knew I'd had an impact. We ended there after a little love session. I pet her softly. She moved toward me, and put her head into my hands as I stroked her chin.

No fireworks, no big wahoo moments, no excitement. Sad to think how many people would have been so bored to come see a "horse trainer" at work, and wind up seeing "nothing happening", when EVERYTHING was happening.


I don't know if I always do it right—but I do my best. I'm still holding out judgment on her horsenality. But I'm still utterly fascinated by what transpired, and I know I made a friend... and I know I changed something in that horse. Something small but significant—and I can't wait to get back out there and do more.

I wish I understood why I keep going on hiatus and avoiding the barn, when it's clear to me that THIS is what I want to do with my life, for the rest of my life, even if it's crazy, unconventional, no guarantees, and a huge risk. It's what I LOVE. It's what fascinates me to the point that my entire train of THOUGHT stops. THIS IS MY PASSION. What must I do to PROVE it to the Universe, so it'll unblock the obstacles that put me on hiatus, and let me DO this?

Even though I woke up sore as hell from the hips down, after a restless night with feet that threatened to cramp every two seconds and an ache that went from my big toe up my leg to my back; even though I was utterly worn out today; I STILL WANT TO DO THIS.

I've nothing else left in my life with my parents gone—AT LEAST LET ME HAVE THIS.


Sunday, May 15, 2011


Huge epiphany brought to me today by Parelli. Ever hear the expression about "the lesser of two evils"? Culturally, everyone pretty much thinks that it's true:
There are downsides to every situation,
nothing you can do about it,
just choose the more tolerable option and live with it.
This is a belief I've carried, that you basically go with:
  • EITHER the option that has the least amount of downsides
  • OR the option that has a few more downsides but ones that are more tolerable
Like with horses. You have two horse owners, and each one has a horse that's essentially great, but with a few downsides. (The typical pronouncement heard by Parelli Event attendees is, "My horse is perfect, BUT he _______. How do I fix that so he stops _______?" We all just smile and sigh, because we know it takes more than a quick fix to one issue.)

Anyway. Back to the story of the two horses.

One is prone to bucking and bolting on the trail; the other won't go no matter how hard you kick him but he doesn't buck. Bucky's owner would rather have the frustration of bucking than not moving (well, at least he goes when I ask, most of the time, and I'm a good rider, so I can hang on when he has a tantrum). Pokey's owner is a timid rider, and would rather have the frustration of a horse that won't go rather than one who goes too fast and too unpredictably (well, at least he doesn't buck or bolt, he's "safe", I'm not gonna fall off and die).

Both are choosing which set of evils they're willing to tolerate.

The Parelli program challenges this belief (one reason it's so controversial and people can't wrap their heads around it at first).

Parelli said,

"Why? Why put up with any evils at all, when you don't have to?"

("What? What do you mean, you don't have to put up with any evils? Huh?!? Isn't that just how horses 'are'?")

The Parelli Program has shown me that there's a third option—no evils. It taught me that I could have a relationship with my horse that is SO GOOD that it eliminates 85% of the "evil" entirely, and transforms the remaining evils from bane into benefit by redirecting the negative behaviors and energy in positive directions.

How? By changing my mindset about horses.

Of course, the first thing that had to change was... ME. Once my mindset shifted, I shifted, and when I shifted, everything else shifted into place.

I've had this head-scratcher of a thought ever since I got into horses: how come it's so easy to attract stuff related to horses and horsemanship, but it doesn't work elsewhere? This is why! Mindset! I've shifted my mindset successfully (I do not have to accept the lesser of two evils, I have a third option, I can eliminate entirely and/or transform evils into blessings) with relation to the area of horses—but I have not yet applied it to any of the OTHER areas of my life.

It was easier for me to do this with horses because the area was new to me, not a lot of mental baggage and beliefs to eradicate first, no big blocks in the way.

The point is, this "lesser evil" belief has permeated every area of my life, and it MANIFESTED. (We don't need to illustrate here all the many, many ways it has done so.)

Now that my eyes are wide open, I'm seeing things in a whole new light, seeing with sharp clarity how every situation I'm experiencing is a crystal clear manifestation of this old belief.

Parelli. WAY more than riding. Or horse training.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

All Still Alive

Wow. Really? Almost a year since my last post. I'll be brief. It's all good. Shaveya has found a new owner, bonus is that she didn't even have to change barns. She's being bred and there should be a Paint foal skittering around the barn next Spring.

Cheerios is absolutely fine, and still my partner, though I've been lax with my studies. Not giving up on PNH, just not as active. Life is happening. Temp jobs, estate closing, dealing with life in general.

I did take Cheerios to a Carol Coppinger Level 2/3 clinic last summer, that was interesting (did I post about that?)... Carol is always awesome. Cheerios was quite the character, though. And it was hot. OMG was it hot. Blazing sun, humidity—I thought I was gonna die, and apparently Cheerios did too, because he decided to lay down while I was on him.

One thing I've learned, clinics are not to be taken lightly. If you are planning to attend one, make sure you AND your horse are in shape for it. Oh, if it's a Level One clinic and you haven't done much with your horse prior to it, you'll probably be all right. But for upper level clinics? Make sure you've been out there playing with your horse steadily and getting BOTH of you some form of moderate, consistent aerobic exercise for at least six weeks beforehand. Make sure YOU are in decent shape. You don't have to be skinny, just have endurance and be as fit as you can because it is WORK. It's fun, but it is hard, sweaty, physically-demanding work, even if you spend the day in the saddle rather than on your feet.

Think of it this way: would you dare to run the Boston Marathon if you'd only started jogging around the block last week? I think not.

Lesson learned.

Friday, June 18, 2010


I'm still here! How do you like the new blog look?

So. Here's the update:
  • My beloved farrier Kelly went on hiatus due to impending birth. (Her daughter was born June 13th—congrats!)
  • I found a new farrier, AANHCP-friendly but not certified, who lives a mere 25 minutes from the barn
  • She also has an IR horse
  • Shaveya has gone to live with her and her IR horse on a small, private farm to be in a very controlled, IR-friendly environment where everything that might affect an IR horse is carefully monitored
  • Shaveya has been witnessed cantering in for food (so it's working!)
  • Cheerios and I rode in Carol Coppinger's L2/L3 course in nearby Port Clinton a month ago. It was fantastic.
  • We're working on learning the spin, perfecting our short range circling, and gearing up to finally tape that darned L2 FreeStyle Audition
  • I've been working intermittently for a phone survey company while seeking alternative sources of income
  • I changed the look of the blog
That's about all for now. This time, I wrote detailed clinic notes while it was still fresh. I'll post next time. Adios!