Saturday, August 16, 2003

SUCCESS!!! 08.02.03
WE DID IT!!! Wildflower and I achieved Official Level One Certification tonight, following Carol Coppinger's Advanced Level One/Intro to Level Two clinic in Toledo this weekend. Oh, what a glorious day!

If you can discount all the bullshit that's happened on the road to it, that is.

I will state here and now that I believe that if you lead by positive example, others will follow. I also believe that one's actions will ultimately override any negative or slanderous words or rumors that others might put forth into the world. Eventually, the truth shall be revealed, and the liar's masks will come off.

You might wonder why I am writing in such a vein this evening. Note that although I have added new entries dating from 05.23.03, it has been a good month or so since I last blogged. A great deal has happened around our barn in that time. People have revealed colors that I'd never thought possible. I have literally been yanked through the wringer by some individuals, had my worst fears and suspicions confirmed by others, and have been forced to re-examine each relationship with my horse-oriented "friends" to determine who can be trusted and who is a bald-faced, backstabbing liar.

Our victory celebration was shattered by one person's dismissal of our success, coupled by their outright mean attempts to have my horse's ride leave me stranded at the clinic. I have since discovered, as information has come to light with verifiable proof to support it, that there is one person associated with the PNH program as a student whose motivations are purely self-serving and who will literally do anything, no matter how wicked, cruel or heinous, to achieve their goals. No matter who it hurts in the process. Oh, yes, you may have heard their name mentioned. But b/c I refuse to participate in their games of slander and finger-pointing, I will just divulge enough details to tell the story. If they read this, they and others who know them will know exactly who the subject is.

There is a rumor floating around our barn that I contacted PNH to tattletale on someone who was purportedly passing themselves off as a horse trainer/endorsed PNH instructor. There are two parts to this rumor: the truth, and the lie attached later. In situations like this, people who aren't on the inside of the circle tend to only hear the parts they want to, and the lies get believed while the truths are only half-answered. Case in point: YES I contacted PNH. That's the only part of the rumor that is TRUE.

As a member of our local savvy Play Group, I was scheduled to participate in a free demonstration of PNH to the public. Now, you would think that if this is a group effort, then the group will certainly have several meetings to discuss the format and details of this demo. This did not occur. Instead, one person assumed leadership, arranged everything, and basically told everyone else when and where to show up. Very little information was provided. Questions were asked, answers were either not provided or glossed over. I began to feel uneasy about participating in the demo b/c of the grey areas; there are distinct differences between a clinic and a demo and I was concerned about anyone of us inadvertently doing something that might cross the line and be problematic for those of us with serious intentions of pursuing a career as an instructor.

Following several failed attempts to get satisfactory answers from the Person In Charge Of the Demo, heretofore known as FF for Former Friend, I decided to take matters into my own hands. I called PNH Corporate and asked to speak with a customer service rep. Karen came on and was very pleasant. The following is the exact conversation, practically verbatim, that we had:

ME: "Hello, I'm a Level One (L1) student and a bunch of us at our barn are studying L1 and L2 and we were wondering if it was appropriate or even acceptable at our levels to give some sort of free demo to people to show them what we've accomplished with our horses; and if so, then are there some established guidelines you could share so that we'll know what we can and cannot do?"

PNH: "Sure! Yes, it's fine for you to do a demo. There aren't any formal guidelines in place because we really don't encourage it because of the fine line between teaching and demonstrating, but what we tell all of our students interested in doing this is that you should treat it like a play day, not a clinic, make sure it's clear that it isn't a clinic; make sure there is no confusion about your being students, not endorsed instructors; don't take money or charge admission; avoid using the PNH logo on any flyers; use your own levels horses and stick to the partnership packs for your current level and most of all, just try to have fun. Call it a play day and invite people to come and watch. Let them know that they are free to ask questions about what you're doing, but don't try to teach the program as that is the territory of the instructors. Answer them to the best of your ability within the framework of the level you're studying. You can certainly mention any upcoming clinics being presented by endorsed instructors."

ME: "What about doing a green horse demo, teaching a new horse the games?"

PNH: "Absolutely not at this level. Mostly because of the safety factor. Once you have your L3, then you are perfectly capable of doing this, but because there are so many unknowns with a new horse, at L1 and L2, we just don't have enough savvy yet to be prepared for all of the possibilities. Sometimes we can think we know all the issues a horse has, then we get them in front of a crowd and things go wrong. Say you had a former show horse and you were teaching him the games and everything was going right; then he responds to something exceptionally well and makes a big change and the audience applauds, and you discover that he has a big issue with applause and goes off! It could be disastrous, someone or the horse could get hurt. It could also have the opposite effect and turn people off to the program if that happened, because the doubters would take it as proof that the program doesn't work. So no, we do stress that this should be avoided until after you're official L3."

ME: "So would we have an MC, or someone explaining the games as we do them? Or do we avoid talking as much as possible?

PNH: "Since it's just like a playday only with spectators, you wouldn't talk much except to answer any questions they may have, keeping within the information in the partnership pack."

ME: "So basically if someone says 'what are you doing with your horse', you can answer; but if they say 'I have a horse at home that does this, what can I do to fix it?..."

PNH: "If they ask about your horse, you answer within your level. If they have more specific questions, you just tell them that you don't know enough yet to answer that, but they can contact one of our instructors via phone or email or attend a clinic where they will know better how to help you."

ME: "Great—thank you!"

PNH: "You're welcome! Keep it Natural!"

Armed with this knowledge, I contacted FF and relayed the information. FF was not happy. The reaction was dammit, now I can't do it my way and blow it off as ignorance when they come after me later, although that was never specifically said, yet implied and apparent from the attitude. I was asked to step down from the demo b/c I didn't seem comfortable participating. I was relieved, especially when I was told that this did not negatively affect our friendship in anyway, which had been a concern. I didn't want to unintentionally piss off FF b/c #1) I still at that point believed that we were genuinely friends and genuinely wanted the best for each other, and #2) I had approached this as speaking on behalf of a group of friends who were curious and excited about sharing our love for PNH with others. Not once did I say anything accusatory or defamatory towards anyone. Not once did I use any names, except for MY OWN. That someone could take this information and twist it evilly to suit their own devices is mind-boggling to me.

I attended the demo; it was photographed in glorious color for the newspaper and upcoming interview. Observing it from a purely objective viewpoint, I'd have to say that it was 85% a low-rent clinic, 10% glorification of FF's abilities, and 5% legitimate student demo/clinic promotion. In fact, it nearly ended disastrously when FF's horse changed his mind about Circling at Liberty, headed for the unprotected seating area after nearly jumping the barrier between the arena and the stalling area, and tromped up onto the boards into the horrified audience. There was only ONE PERSON in the entire place with the savvy to know that this was a bad thing AND that had the savvy to know what to do.


Everyone else, even the big-shot horse trainer who'd come to watch, backed up away from the runaway horse. Except for me. I saw him coming before he made up his mind to come, and was up off my stool, Driving him with my hands, carefully gaining his focus without activating his adrenaline further. He stopped, backed a couple steps, waited. The audience was dead silent. I changed my posture to indicate "go over there" and he obeyed and turned quietly around 180 degrees. Then I drove him from behind until he stepped off the seating boards. By this time, his owner had regained what little sense remained, and collected him. That was the end of the Liberty demo. The comment from FF was,"Oh, that's so cool, that he's not afraid to go up there and explore!" Absolutely stupidly tickled.

Anyone with real horse sense would know how potentially dangerous that situation was, even with a dead broke horse! Inside of every tame horse is a wild one waiting to come out, and on rare occasions, for no apparent reason, the wild horse will come out. That horse, however calmly, was in the process of escaping. He was quietly panicking. He was looking for a way to leave, go home, get out of there. Quiet, yes, but he had shifted instantly to right brain thinking, which is instinctual and adrenaline-driven, and at that point could very well have had his wild side triggered by ANYTHING. Someone scratching their nose, for instance, could invoke a long-buried memory that we would know nothing about: the cruel trainer who scratched his nose before beating the crap out of him, for example. Hypothetically speaking, of course. Or someone could have made a motion that they were unaware would say to him, come here NOW.

He could have become frightened, kicked, bitten, bucked, anything. ANYTHING. Anytime you are with a horse, there is a chance. If he's deadbroke, it's 99% chance he'll behave, 1% he'll explode. Anything less than deadbroke and your percentages for explosion go up. But 1% is still a definite possibility, and we do not know what could trigger it!

I left that demo shaking my head over the amazingly large egos and the grandiosity of the delusions held within some of the brains of my fellow PNHers. But yet, I thought it was blown over, that life around the barn would now resume some semblance of normalcy, and I could return to hanging out with my PNH friends, enjoy playing with our horses together, and move on.


The things that came to light following Carol Coppinger's clinic made the demo discussion seem like nothing.

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