Wednesday, November 26, 2008

That'll be me. I'll always be a student of Parelli, but my dreams of becoming a paid professional? I think that's over now. Parelli just released the prospectus for the new Apprenticeship program, including pricing. My first impression is, unattainable unless I win the lottery. I know—that goes against my belief in the LOA and that with God all things are possible, but... let's be realistic. If one must become a Protégé before they qualify for 4-Star status and higher, and the cost to be a Protégé is $50,000 per year for TWO years, which is $100,000, which is more than a college education...

It's out of reach for me. I know... they say you don't need to see the whole staircase, just the first step, but... that's $100,000 on top of the previous levels, plus the mandatory two weeks at Ocala courses, plus travel, plus clinics up to Level Two...

It's for the most dedicated of students. I'm dedicated, but honestly? I'm not sure I'm dedicated to the level where I'd be willing to sell my house and a few body parts and live off of Ramen until I'm 60 in order to do that.

But to those who are, I admire you, I commend you, and I wish you every bit of luck you will ever need. And I hope you learn well, because you'll likely have me and my horse in a clinic of yours one day.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Read this blog here. No further explanation needed. Mrs. Pickens, you are a wonderful human being. Thank you.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

I went out to the barn—surprising how you think, "Oh, I only have two hours of daylight left, is it worth going?" Then you get there, and it’s like time... slows down. Expands. It stretches to accommodate all you want to do so you cram in six hours’ worth of stuff in two. I don’t know HOW that happens—it’s like the barn is in a reverse Bermuda Triangle. I love it. We had fun today. We established leadership in the pasture then went and got saddled up.

We did some of our patterns for a bit, then I dropped the reins around the saddle horn,

and let him go where he wanted to go, at whatever speed he wanted—passenger lesson—and for the first time, no fear. I wasn’t worried he might bolt because I knew I could ride it and I knew he’d listen if I said hey buddy slow down.

So... I rode with him, and... I allowed him to canter... and I threw my hands up in the air like I was on a roller coaster going down the first hill, and...

I rode it. And it was amazing. I felt... free. Free in a way I've never felt on a horse before. Now I understand. Now I know why it brings tears to my eyes to watch the more accomplished PNH graduates riding their horses in perfect harmony, bareback and bridleless—it's because some part of me knew what that freedom feels like, and yearns to have it for myself.

Sure, he was saddled, and I had the reins right there within reach in case I needed them, but seven years ago, the idea that one day I might be able to ride any horse, let alone Cheerios, bareback and bridleless (and stay alive) seemed unimaginable.

Today, we moved one step closer. It’s within reach. That I can canter him without holding onto ANYTHING... blows my mind. This might have been a tough year financially and such, but it’s been amazing horse-wise. He looks different, too. Softer. Friendlier. He looks more like Wildflower to me (expression, countenance) than the snorty devil horse.

I know... it’s really me that’s changed. But he’s changed, because of it.

I'd end on that note, but I have to post that after the clinic, life distracted me for a couple weeks to take care of estate business (good), and I just got out to the barn yesterday and today; and we've added BowTie to our repertoire. The oddest thing is, all of a sudden, since the clinic, I feel like I can really RIDE him now. His transitions are smoother, his gaits are slower, he's more relaxed, his trot—I keep looking around for the alien space ship that must've sucked up my horse and replaced him with this one because the jackhammer on a pogo stick trot is GONE! I dunno.

Something major has changed and it's wonderful. I hate to say it, but... could shortening my stirrups one hole really have made that much difference? If so, then, great. Thanks, Jesse, for fixing that.

BowTie went really well! He figured out really fast to change leads and canter after circling. We're doing simple lead changes already! Whoo-hoo!

I can't wait til spring. (Really. I can't. So I guess I'll have to keep riding through winter.) Have I mentioned that I love my horse? :-D

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

I wonder why. :-)

Monday, October 13, 2008

Home from the PNH Clinic
The clinic with PNH 2-Star Endorsed Instructor Jesse Peters last weekend in Columbus, MI, was AMAZING. I had some enormous insights about the holes in myself that needed improvement and I thank my horse for pointing them out so loudly, LOL! My horse had a megaphone with him, and on Day One I returned to the hotel feeling utterly incompetent because of it. (That was what my brain was telling me, despite the positive feedback I got from Jesse.)

Day Two was far better after a night of rumination and relaxation. Having time to dwell on the insights prepared me, and the simulations we did prior to playing with our horses helped immensely.

I'll write up the details later. At present, it's 4 AM. I'm only awake because I slept late, then had another migraine (second in two days, had one Friday after Clinic Day One) which resulted in a nap, then... well, that'll do it. More later...

Hey, I said I'd post the details later...

Friday, October 03, 2008

Yesterday went much better than the previous two sessions. Although he gave me the butt when I went to collect him and Shaveya for feet trims, he quickly sighed and allowed me to halter him when he realized I wasn't going away anytime soon.

After trimming, I took him to the round pen for a bit of Liberty. No goals, no agenda—just see what happens. My only "goal" was to be far more polite, watch for his try, reward more, be softer, and if I get what I want, stop there—don't push for more.

The improvements were startling. (More after the jump.)

I played all 7 games with him at Liberty. He is still turning to the right when I yo-yo him back. I tried to remember what I'd viewed on a L2 or Savvy Club DVD (been watching a lot lately) from teaching Sideways—fix each part separately. So, I can't back him up AND correct position. Better to get him into position and ask for the yo-yo. If he starts to angle, stop, reposition, wait. Try again. Did that a few times and it began to click.

The segment I was watching in my head was Linda teaching Sideways Mounted without a fence. Horses will try to go forward, backward, left, right—anything but Sideways. So it's a case of "not there, not there, not there—there" in response to a step forward, a step back, a step turned—sideways.

I used this method all day and my goodness. Success is back. OK, so my problem is sometimes I get distracted by life or my own brain and get too quick, too pushy, too impatient. Got it. Slow down, be more step-by-step, be patient.

Big successes:
  • my riding felt better
  • he did Sideways Mounted without a fence
  • Fig 8's Mounted are better
  • transitions are better
I was being more precise in asking for transitions to the point where I wanted to see if he was listening to me or just reacting. I boiled it down to things like walk one step, stop, backup one step, stop, walk three, stop, trot five, stop, back up two. At first he was just on auto-pilot but pretty soon he was waiting to see what I wanted. Cool.

Worked on picking up leads. I practiced at the walk taking away one lead by bending, positioning for the next. Then at the trot. Then just getting the lead—not changing yet. Then when that was working okay, I tried Bowtie at the trot. Just bend to a walk, change direction, resume. That got to be automatic for him so we stopped.

Lots of FTR, a quick Cloverleaf, some random riding and PPL and a lot of sitting and meditating. It was a good day.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Euchh. Another bad horse day, the kind where you wonder, "can I really do this or am I just kidding myself?" To be fair, it's been a tough weekend due to reaching the two-year mark on Mother's death, so... maybe now that it's over (today's the day), I can finally move on, out of my mourning period and into a life of my choosing.

That life includes plenty of happy horse days, great friends, and a multimillion-dollar bank account.

I suppose two out of three ain't bad. ;-)

(Nothing after the break, so don't bother looking.)

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Progressing exponentially. Relationship rockin'. Things developing beautifully.

And then you have a day like Friday, and you wonder why the heck you even bother.

Yep, I had one of those days, where things regress, where old issues resurface, where you feel frustrated and revert to predator, when you get extremely sore from trying to deliver a truly effective Phase 4 Yo-Yo when someone insists on crowding you but he responds with the bat of an eye and "is that all ya got?", when you wind up crying because it's not working, crying because the sunset is SOOOO heartbreakingly beautiful and that's capitalized by viewing it from the back of a horse, crying because you realize it's been exactly 104 weeks to the date (two years in weeks) since you last saw your Mother alive and coherent and you then realize that you haven't been present at all during this session, you've been back in ICU watching your Mother decline...

Yep. It was one of those days.

Maybe tomorrow will be better.

Friday, September 26, 2008

This will be a quick post (I hope) because I want to head out to the barn again. Two days in a row, woot! I've been managing every other day, which is GREAT for my riding and play. My riding is the thing that has needed the most focus.

I dug out my Savvy Club DVD collection for inspiration since September's hadn't shown up yet (their new mailing system, uh...) and found, can you believe it, one that was UNOPENED. The shame! (Well, it was one from my Mom's last few weeks of life, so, it's forgiveable. PNH was the last thing on my mind.) Haven't watched it yet because I have about 15 to rewatch dealing with lead changes and Finesse.

One of them was from Savvy Conference. Linda was demonstrating how to swing the shoulders over along the rail, as prep for lead changes and Finesse. It's kind of a Sideways movement. I watched, paid careful attention, and...

...yesterday, after playing at Liberty in the round pen and doing a little FTR in the hackamore to warm up and make sure he was listening, I put on the bridle for a little Finesse. (I tried to bridle from the saddle, but that was NOT working. To Cheerios' credit, he behaved admirably once the hackamore came off. He didn't take off and he listened to my requests from the savvy string tied around his neck.)

Well, we tried the Shoulders In swing thing.


I let him drift from the rail, then I moved my shoulders over and barely guided him with the direct/suspension rein, and OMG HE DID IT. Perfectly. Blow me away. We played with that at the walk, then the trot, then I spied a cone and decided to attempt the next exercise she'd done on the DVD, which is to trot diagonally toward the cone using the Shoulders In to achieve a forward/sideways at the same time feel. I am not a Dressage Rider, so forgive me for not yet knowing what this is called—half pass, maybe?

Anyway... that worked, too! It's like Cheerios has been waiting for ME to catch up to all of the amazing things HE can do, and he's excited to show me.

Oh, and Tuesday?

We jumped.

You read that right. Just a low jump, nothing more than two beams crossed over a pair of barrels on their sides, but it was a jump, it was on purpose, and it felt great.

We seem to be progressing exponentially all of a sudden. I'm feeling like we're in L3 in some spots. So, the time has come. I am headed to the L2 clinic October 10th, then I'm taping my L2 October 15th. I'm sending it in and assessing before 2009 so that I can keep moving forward. It's OK if I begin to assess L3 next year in savvies and find I'm still L2 in some. I'll have my blue string, and we'll be on our way. One string closer to Parelli Professional Time.

OK, I'm off to the barn...

OH—Shaveya is coming to me willingly again. I might play with her a little today.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Recently, I've been comparing the L2 Assessments with the brand-new 2009 draft of the self-assessments, task-wise and for difficulty. I've also been comparing them to where Cheerios and I are at present.

We're looking pretty good so far. There are things we do so well already that it surprises me. There are things I thought would be "easy" that aren't. Here's the rundown:

The original L2 Assessment contained tasks that would prove daunting to anyone, mostly under the riding section. FreeStyle had you riding in the bridle (like most do), bridled but directing with one Carrot Stick, saddled for those, then there was a section that was done bareback with the Cherokee Bridle.

Bridling a horse from your knees is no biggie. We can do that already. He drops his head without my even asking.

But CS riding, trot a Figure 8 and do a Follow the Rail (FTR) at the canter with downward transitions? That's pretty advanced from what was in L1. Then, bridled, the rider had to trot Fig 8s, show changes of diagonal, show three drop to trot (simple) lead changes at the canter, then ease the horse into a gallop for 30 seconds and return to the canter in order to prove the horse is "settled" (as in, LB rather than RB). THEN the rider did FOUR flying lead changes through a series of S-bends with their wrists under the reins.

As if that isn't daunting enough, the first five FreeStyle tasks were to mount, trot a Figure 8, backup 10 feet, canter for 60 seconds, then do an emergency dismount. No problem, right?

Right. Except when you are riding BAREBACK and all you have for communication is having the savvy string looped over your horse's lower jaw. Yes, my friends, THAT is the Cherokee "Bridle".


You can see why so many people got trapped in L1 back in the "old days", and that isn't even including the Finesse section. So many people come to this program with profound fear issues that getting through L2 took years if it ever even happened. The Parellis listened, and revised the program to help students understand the horse by focusing more on psychology and equine behavior, and by addressing learning and fear issues. They've done a great job. The DVD versions of the program were better suited to the bulk of the clientele.

However, there were complaints from those who had successfully passed the "old" L2 and L3 that the new versions had been "dumbed down". My issue with the current L2 Assessment is that much of it appeared in the old L1 Assessment, which I've already passed. So yes, it's a bit redundant. But the option to pass the "old" L2 expired years ago, and I didn't have the horse to do it with anyway.

Now, the program is transforming again. In 2009, the Assessments will become more of an "Audition" to demonstrate savvy and will allow the student (as I understand so far) to be assessed at the level each task is at the time rather than just assessing the level as a whole. To get the string for the level, however, all of the tasks for all four savvies in that level must be passed, but one can be L4 in some stuff, L3 in others, and be official L2 overall.

I kind of like that. It gives credit where due.

But I'm not sure about the audition. Looking at the new assessment draft, which now includes L4, it seems that all of the levels have been adjusted to be somewhere between where they were originally and where they are now. L1 is "harder" than the current version; L2 is closer to the old version; some L2 stuff has moved (rightly so) into L3; and L4 seems like it's the advanced portion of L3 with some higher-level tasks.

And it is EXTENSIVE. That puppy is nine pages long with small print. They are raising their expectations of us, but it still looks accessible. I doubt anyone will complain about it being dumbed down; nor should they complain that it is too hard. Riding a horse is a skill. I think it's just fine.

For FreeStyle, I like that they've isolated the tools and re-introduced carrot stick riding. L1 is in the hackamore. L2 is in the hackamore, the snaffle bridle, and one carrot stick. L3 is bridled with two carrot sticks. L4 is neck string/bridleless, one carrot stick. The transitions have been adjusted to a more appropriate level. Most people can trot in L1. I'd say by L2, you should be able to canter. I'd say galloping is advanced because of the adrenalin kicking—it's been put into L4, and I agree with that.

Trailer loading is simulated in L1, actual in L2, from the fender in L3, and from the vehicle in L4.

These are just a sampling of the tasks. There are SO MANY. In addition to tasks, the new Patterns program has been incorporated in every savvy at every level, with each pattern being advanced through the levels. In Liberty and Finesse, there are no patterns at L1. At Liberty, there is only Circling in L2. By L4, five patterns should be do-able at Liberty. There are a lot of patterns in FreeStyle, all designed to develop the horse AND rider to a high level of competency.

The reason I'm comparing these is to see where we are now, and where we might be in the next couple of months. We have the option to assess L2 as is, or wait and do it the new way. That's my debate—do it now, or wait? On the one hand, if I do it now, that's one more level down, one more level closer to my goal. BUT it's the "watered down" version. Will I have more faith in my horsemanship if I wait? Will the wait delay our progress?

If I assess and pass L2 this year, will there be another kind of "new L2/old L3" gap as there is now? (The L3 assessment hasn't changed, because they didn't release a New L3, and the old L3 is a DOOZY. Everything in the old L2 prepared the way for L3; without the old L2 preparation, L3 is far more inaccessible.)

I suppose these are questions for my instructor. I'll just keep progressing, and ask in October. Time to go play...

Friday, September 19, 2008

Walk. Canter. Walk.

Trot. Canter. Trot. Halt. Backup. Walk. Trot.

Indirect rein, direct rein. Sideways. Follow the Rail. Bowtie. Walk. Canter, left lead. Trot. Canter, right lead. Trot. Canter...

And so it goes. I hope I change it up enough that my LBI stays interested. Because we spent so much time on the ground for the past few years, my riding had suffered. Well, not anymore. That's all we've been doing, it seems. Oh, we're doing a bit online—transitions (surprise) on the 22', Sideways with a fence.

We haven't abandoned the Patterns (FTR and Bowtie are patterns), we're just focusing on Finesse and FreeStyle for a change.

I shimmed his saddle starting about a month ago. First it took three half-inch shims. Then it took two. Today, two made the saddle too high in front. I removed one. Level. He must be changing. I am really looking forward to the day I can order the Natural Performer saddle because there will be even more change.

I have no highlights—we're just plugging away, progressing day by day, and OH is it fun to be able to canter freely now. We've played and rode about four times this week. The weather is stellar, and life is good. :-)

Oh, and there are two new yearlings at the barn, and one of them has absolutely glommed onto me. *sigh* Someday...

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Cuz until you do, I can't go out and play. No big long post today. It has been raining non-stop for three whole days. Not just a sprinkle, we're talking full on downpours. I'm having horse withdrawal. Of course, I should thank my lucky stars we're up north in Ohio, not in Texas. But still. Thankfully, the prediction is seven straight days of sunshine and mid-70s starting tomorrow. I'll deal.

PS: There is no "rest of this post" so don't click over. This is all I had to say. Later...

I thought I told you there wasn't any more post. Hmph.

Friday, September 12, 2008

I've made it to the barn three times already this week—Monday, Wednesday and Thursday. It just keeps getting better and better with Cheerios. I LOVE CANTERING!!! It has moved from fear and trepidation to fun and anticipation. How can this be? Since I made the complete commitment to a life as a Parelli Instructor, everything is shifting. What amazes me is how fast things are progressing now. It is speeding up. We went from L1 Purgatory to full-speed ahead and we now LOOK like intermediate L2 on most things—even L3 on a couple of things! (OK so Figure 8 Online still bites it at L1, but it will come).

Then on Wednesday, I had ANOTHER breakthrough. MAJOR MAJOR MAJOR, after the break...

We cantered...


It was my first time EVER cantering bareback on any horse. I almost did it with Wildflower once. I wanted to. My friend had her online and we were in the round pen. I think perhaps we needed to be on the 22' line because she wouldn't pick up the canter at all, just trotted faster and faster and faster.

But this time, ON CHEERIOS, we cantered bareback. Not online—nope. I was riding for real. It was the most amazing experience. We were doing Follow The Rail/Million Transitions. I'd decided to ride bareback for a change and again, told myself I do not have to canter unless I want to. Trotting toward the gate. I'm debating about trying it. Cheerios must have "heard" me. He lifted into three beautiful cantering steps, then transitioned back to the trot nice as you please.

I was over the moon.

It took a few tries before I could do it again "on purpose". At first I was nervous. I'd ask, then tense up, pull back, and grab the handle on the bareback pad. Finally, with the barn manager as my witness, we did it. Probably 12 whole steps of a luscious canter.

No bucks. No problems. Smooth as silk.

It's as if Cheerios has been waiting for me to move past this issue and trust him. Now that I do, we're doing all sorts of things.

Yesterday, saddled, I got a Sideways! That was after doing it with the fence on the 22' several times. Going around to my left then Sideways right is great. Going the other way... argh. I think it's because I'm right-handed, so the stick is in my right hand going to the right and is more natural. In my left hand it feels very... awkward. My new goal, then, would be to switch hands and be more left-sided for awhile until it evens out, right?

Posting is getting easier. So is collecting his trot. FTR is going well. Million Transitions is going REALLY well. The transitions part is L3; what I'm using to communicate is still L1 (casual rein). When I can do it with one stick or two, that's what moves us up. But yes, we have a lovely communication now with walk-canter, canter-halt, canter-walk, walk-trot, trot-canter, trot-walk, halt-backup—all the transitions are getting there. I'm also developing a much lighter feel and using my legs better. Amazing how well he understands me when MY body does what I want HIM to do. :-)

What I'm having trouble with is Figure 8 online. It's drive and draw. But he'll do the next pattern, Weave, just fine. Head scratching, because the Weave is just an expansion on Figure 8... right? Hmmm. Well, now that I've conquered cantering saddled and bareback, I guess I do need something to get help with in the clinic in a month—so I'm thinking right now it's looking like drive and draw, and my own energy. Or maybe we can do a little finesse? I haven't gotten near that yet.

I swear I am almost ready to start cantering the Question Box. We're trotting it better. I'm grasping the concepts of what I need to do. He's getting more relaxed in the pattern. Since I've figured out that he'll pick up the lead I want, I think we can do it.

Flying Lead Changes, here we come!

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Not much to this one—I have a lot to say but no energy to type it all just yet. This is a reminder.

Wednesday: Big lesson for me about bossiness (from others), whether to listen to my agenda or that of another's, and how putting the relationship and PNH principles first should ALWAYS be my priority no matter how big the amount of peer pressure, and when I void that, things don't go as well.

Also learned that no matter how well someone rides or if they've dabbled in PNH, they may not understand Horseanalities and the intricacies of communication as well as one who has been studying L&HB seriously like I have, and that when I'm riding him through a challenging new task, the
look on my horse's face that YOU feel the need to warn me means he wants to lay down might really be my horse entering the Land of Catatonia and you're misinterpreting it. So thank you for your opinion.

Finally got around to making my shims and trying them. BIG DIFFERENCE!

Saturday: FANTASTIC! Now that we can canter, we're cantering all over the place and IT IS AWESOME!!! I'm already comfortable enough that I can start a canter from a dead stop, not just work up to it from a trot. It's actually easier to start from a walk or stop. Who knew?

I marked his scapula with the L2 Equine crayon before and after riding. It does move.
Amazing. I also took away one of the three shims because I'd over-leveled and was tilting myself backwards. Ooops.

Can't wait for tomorrow. :-)

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

More news! Dismounts and clinics!

First I am embarrassed proud unsure of whether I should admit to it and to report that I performed a very smooth flying dismount the other day. First time in a long time I used the bareback pad rather than just going native. First day after freshly laundering my Boinks. Guided the horse up to the mounting block (because I am still developing the muscleage and trim figure necessary to be able to do it from the ground). All is good.

Swing the leg a few times, up and over... and... whoops! Off. Yep. I'm a gymnast now. I vaulted over my horse. My right leg went up to fork over, I flew over, and then my right foot landed on the other side of the horse. Because I had rein and mane in hand, I landed upright on two feet, none the worse for wear, but OMG. You should have seen the expression on Cheerios' face. "What are you doing?!?" Then when I recovered from my laughing fit, I tried again, and he looked back as if to ask, "Are you sure you made it this time?"


Now for the second piece of big news. R offered us a trailer ride, so Cheerios and I are off to PNH Clinic #2 for 2008 in October!!!

Silly me. In a fit of enthusiasm over the then-pending sale of one of the properties in Mother's estate and the (pending) resulting cash influx, I was truck shopping and planning out a summer filled with clinics. I sent off inquiries about open rider spots to as many clinics as I could.

As it happened, I made it to the one that was most local in May. But I'd forgotten about the one in Michigan in October until I received word that payment was due.

Oh. Oops. Well, I thought in light of the lack of trailer, I should back out. That's when I found out about the cancellation policy and that unless I found a replacement, I'd be out a few bucks and not at a clinic. Whoops. I'm sure I saw that policy at the time of sign-up, I just never thought to pay attention because I was certain I'd have my rig by now.

Then the house thing all fell through, money wasn't as plentiful for awhile as I would have liked, and I couldn't see asking S to trailer us north of Detroit for a two-day clinic involving two overnight stays when she has a baby and a job to consider, nor could I even think of having her come all the way up there, then go back to Ohio, then up two days later to get us.

First, I explained my predicament to the clinic host. There was a ride offered from the host barn's owner, but the cost was prohibitive for my budget. My only hope was to locate one originating from close to home from someone who was either going my way with their horse or willing to audit for two days.

I wound up my courage and asked S anyway, prefacing my request with the words "I know it's a lot to ask and it might not be possible, but..." I said think about it and let me know.

Then I sent out a very big intention that I would indeed be at that clinic with my horse and that I'd have an affordable ride originating near my barn. I checked in with the clinic host with my update. I asked for a URL for the host farm if there were photos so I'd have a visualization tool handy. I got the photos, did a little visualization, and...

The very next day, R strolled up and said "I hear you need a horsey ride".

She's planning to take her horse along, find a public cross-country course somewhere in the area, and spend the weekend jumping. We'll share lodging, but she'll do her thing and I'll do mine. It happens to be fall break for her from college, and works out perfectly.

The clinic is a solid Level Two with Jesse Peters, same instructor as the last clinic. I am SO excited. Of course, now that I've conquered the canter, I'm not sure what to work on in the private lesson. LOL! Maybe galloping? Jumping? Cantering bareback? I'm sure Cheerios will come up with some challenge for us to solve.

I'm just SO EXCITED!

Now, to attract a winning MegaMillions jackpot, a rig of my own, and a spot in the four-week courses at Ocala next spring!

Sunday, August 31, 2008

OMG, it was amazing!

The day before, I let R ride him.
She’s been riding hunter-jumpers for years—she can ride anything with hair and she's dabbled in PNH. I wanted her to see what I meant about his behavior in the canter and so I could see it from a different POV.

She said he has a lot of loft, which is great for HJ and Dressage. He has a lot of vertical motion, up and down, moreso than forward horizontal motion. That’s why his trot is like a pogo stick. But his canter is like butter, once he rolls into it, and the more we canter the better his trot will be.

What I observed was that when he transitions from the trot to the canter, he lifts up his forequarters with more emphasis than I've seen in other horses, then he launches into the canter. If he’s blocked in any way, via the reins or my tension or an obstacle like a fence, he snakes his head down and his butt elevates slightly, but it’s not a full-on bronc buck. R said he wants to go, he’s bored at the trot and he’s tired of being held back.

(Odd. That sounds just like ME. As in, life. Well, they do say your horse is your mirror.)

R cantered him awhile, jumped a couple low jumps (was very impressed with his jumping), and demonstrated a few dressage movements.

My little red roping horse can do dressage. Who knew?

I just learned that all I have to do is learn how to ask, and he’ll do. I realized, my God, I’ve been holding him back AND myself back, because we really ARE ready to do this stuff. He knows it. I just have to ask. I don’t have to spend hours perfecting the games, or making sure he’s in the right frame of mind before riding. He already IS. I get him OUT of it by boring him to death repeating the old stuff.

Yesterday was totally different. :-)

First of all, I got him from the pasture and started the games on the way to the gate. Here, CIRCLE! Pick it up! Trot! Now circle left no right no left (Falling Leaf). Now SIDEWAYS! FASTER! Stop. Scritch the itchy spots for a few minutes and swat a few flies. Back up! Wake up! Yep, he’s listening now. Put your nose on this. Step on that. Step over that. DON’T step over that.

Out of the pasture. Straight to the barn, where we... hung out for awhile. It was hot. I found a lawn chair in the barn in the shade, sat down, had a Gatorade, watched him standing there hovering over me watching me wondering “what the heck?” because we never did it this way. New routine.

Offered him a little Gatorade. He licked it up but seemed unimpressed. I saddled him up in the barn. To me, that equated as “right away”. He was fine with it. Grabbed the 22’, the bridle (for a change), and off we went.

Immediately on the 22’, circled him over a couple of oddly placed beams (watch where you’re going but keep going) then stopped him right on the beams and experimented with seeing how little it took to ask him to put one foot over and stop... two, stop.... back up with one rear foot over... he was thinking hard. He had one ear on me the entire time and seemed riveted.

I tried to do a very complex Sideways over the beams but it fell apart and I realized I was asking for something a bit too advanced, stopped, praised the effort, moved on. Circle a little.

Try Figure 8 around the barrels—SUCCESS—the send is fixed, the pattern is there, yes thank you for putting your nose on it and offering to stand on it, but that’s not today, today we’re going around them. Got that working well but not elegant yet, but that was good enough.

Traded up to the bridle. Rode around a bit. Was not getting quite the level of communication I desired, but it’s better than it’s been. My hands are lighter, but I’m still a little yanky and not as confident that he’s really listening. Swapped the bridle for the hackamore because I’m obviously not quite ready for the bridle. But we’re getting closer. I have to work on my body language a bit more. It was a good litmus test, like Liberty is for the Online stuff.

So, we’re doing Follow The Rail. I’m observing that I seem a bit tense, unable to really relax and get in harmony with him. As a result, his trot is choppy. He senses I’m thinking about the canter, but he senses my hesitation. He wants to go, but doesn’t, and that’s what his trot told me.

I decided to drop the reins completely (I know, counterintuitive, right?) so I wasn’t relying on them and yanking on them and just ride around communicating with my body. I relaxed and his trot improved. Bizarre, eh? You would not think, “I feel out of control, I’ll just let go”, would you? I had to stop thinking in terms of steering and start thinking in terms of riding and becoming one with him. Dropping the reins did that. I also relaxed when I told myself, “I don’t have to canter today unless I want to. It’s OK not to”.

R and S were in the arena at the same time doing their own thing. R was coaching S over the jumps. S jumped the barrels (laid down) for the first time ever! That was cool to watch.

The gate to the pasture was open. S’s other horse came strolling in. Jealous. He wanted to play. Shaveya and the young one (Aries) came in for a bit, then left. Then two of the mini’s came trotting in.

It might well have been me that said, “Hey, let’s herd mini’s!”, to which the others agreed. So we herded mini’s as if they were cows (poor things). But slowly. I was herding at a trot. Cheerios wasn’t tuned in at first until he realized I was focusing on the mini and he remembered he used to herd cows, and he perked up and became more responsive to my focus. It was cool.

We herded them into the next arena. I herded them by myself back through the gate successfully. R and S herded them back. I tried cutting one out separate. I was doing pretty well keeping one away from the other then the other squeezed in and I was herding them both.

By now, I’m really focused on the activity of herding, really focused on the mini’s, and not even conscious anymore that I’m separate from my horse. We’re a unit. I’m fired up. We’re trotting along. The mini’s, feeling the pressure, try to escape and pick up speed. They’re cantering.

I’m thinking, crap, we’re losing them! And all of a sudden...

I’m floating.

We’re catching up to them and his trot has smoothed out and I’m rolling along and I’m so focused on the fact that the mini’s are getting away that it takes a minute before my awareness checks in and it isn’t until R yells, “You’re DOING it!!!!” that I realize he’s transitioned so smoothly into the canter I didn’t even notice the change except for the relaxed smoothness of the ride.

At the very moment the big bold exclamation point


formed in my head (which is all I was capable of thinking at the time), Cheerios dropped politely to a trot and then a walk as we reached the edge of the paddock.

No bucks. No head tossing. No big lurch. Just trot, gearshift canter.... downshift trot... downshift walk.

Utterly gobsmacked.

The day was pretty much over by then, so after a little bit more gallavanting around the arena, the other two dismounted and went in. I decided I had to prove it wasn’t a fluke. I had to canter consciously. I rode him around for a few more minutes, transitioning from walk to trot to canter to trot to walk to stop and back up, and the canter was graceful. Amazing. Easy to ride. I was relaxed. He was relaxed. It was magic.

It felt like it used to with Wildflower. I can trust you. You take care of me.

We went back to the barn. He got cookies and a bath. It was HOT. I saw the sweat after I untacked him. So I hosed him down. He loved it. Then, as I knew he would once I set him free, he rolled joyfully in the sand, coating himself like a drumstick, groaning in pleasure.

What an awesome day.

I’m so sore today I took the day off. Tomorrow, though, I'll be back out there.

What worked was taking my focus off of the canter and putting it on the mini’s. I was so focused on them that I forgot to be afraid. When that happened, I trusted myself and my horse, and gee. It worked.

Here’s the funniest thing. As I was focusing on the cantering after the girls left, he kept heading for the jumps. I thought, “OH no, I’m not ready for that”.

Or, maybe I am.

And maybe he’s trying to tell me that I’m ready for way more than I think I am. But I’m not doing a jump until I am ready, and I will only do it with a helmet on, and with at least one person right there to call 911! (Those are the rules for learning to jump anyway.)

After watching the Level THREE DVD last night, I’m realizing that I’m probably more advanced than I’ve been believing myself to be. I don’t say that in a cocky way, mind you! :-) Caution still rules. But I think I can start moving forward more rapidly and stop holding myself (and my horse) back, and fill in the holes when I find them. I think we can stop trying to get L1 perfect (in him, because I've already passed it) and learn the upper level stuff. It’ll smooth out as we go.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Three-Horse Riding
I tried it. I think rhythmically, I have the tendency to want to rise on the wrong diagonal. Or maybe not. I couldn't tell. Cheerios kept veering off the circle the minute I tried to sense which leg I was rising with, which threw off the circular pattern. *sigh*

Our last session wasn't anything like the first attempt with Patterns. In hindsight, I know why. On Patterns Day One, I was focused on the PROCESS. On Day Two, I was focused on the RESULT. Having recommitted to my long-term PNH goals, I found myself too goal-oriented. Not good. Plus, it didn't help that I was tired by the time I got to Cheerios.

First, I finally got Shaveya to catch me. She has developed terrible sunburn on her nose. I promised to be very careful to avoid letting the halter scrape the sore area as I put it on. Yes, we got haltered. Then she got a dose of salve all over her nose like a lifeguard. Then we played.

If she could just be 100% sound, if I could trust that, she'd make a perfect partner. Once she calms down out of RBE, she's LB and obedient all the way. I tested to make sure she was responding rather than escaping.

Responding. Good.

I even got a L2 Sideways out of HER. Cool.

Because I'm trying to get her leased out, I had to make sure she was still a rideable beastie. Yes. She has lameness. But the consensus is that she'd be all right for light riding and a lighter (than me) rider. I've got a line on someone whose 10-year-old daughter needs a new partner and only walks and trots, and only weighs about 100 lbs. I also have a very skinny friend who I might cajole into a part-lease, muwahahaha.

But I had to test her. So, I gently mounted bareback after laying on her a few times. I'd say we walked about 12 feet total. Yes, she's rideable. She's responsive. But she doesn't want to walk. I was afraid to push and I had nothing to use to apply rhythmic pressure other than my hands because duh I left the carrot stick on the ground and duh I was riding with my 12' line tied into reins. No tail.

Oh, well. I was only on for a few minutes, but she wasn't too bothered.

Cheerios was just blah. Though I did get a nice canter on the 22' going left, he balked at the right. I did it this time w/o any saddle on in case it was a saddling issue. Nope. He just doesn't want to canter to the right. He is getting much better at reading my energy, though. I must be getting better at projecting it.

It's a challenge! My energy is low-level but always "on", or so I'm told from simulations at the last clinic. My challenge is to learn to raise it appropriately, then shut it COMPLETELY off when needed.

We played with:
  • Cantering on the 22' (OL)

  • Figure 8 around barrels (OL)

  • Change of direction 22' (OL)

  • Jumping a 6-inch high pole (OL)

  • Question Box (FS)

  • Follow the Rail (FS)

Follow the Rail went surprisingly well, given that he actually STAYED on the rail and listened, rather than diverting and heading towards the gate as usual. But the trot on QBox? Choppy, out of balance, bouncy—welcome back, Pogo Stick! Like I said, I was feeling pretty direct-line about then, and maybe I was being too critical. Oh, well, there is always tomorrow.

I also learned something truly disgusting about horse flies. If one lands on the horse's back along the spine, and you tap (not whack) it with the handle end of the carrot stick to kill it, not only does it die, but it severs in half.

And it's hollow inside.

Scuse me whilst I hurleth.

So. Onward. That was Tuesday when I rode two horses in one day. Wednesday, I took said skinny friend who might work for Shaveya up to the old barn where I first started riding eight years ago and we went on a trail ride. Yes. I have two horses of my own, yet I shelled out $35 for a nose-to-tail/group lesson. I had my reasons.

  1. secretly assess said friend's horse savvy and riding ability

  2. get out on an actual trail for a change

  3. ride a horse as a confidence builder at the canter

It was awesome. I had my choice of two horses chosen for my purpose (I'd called ahead and explained my needs). Ranger, a black & white Paint, and Spot, a sorrel Appaloosa. I did the sniff test with each to choose. Ranger sniffed, laid his ears back (unconfidently, not aggressively), turned his head away and would not look at me. Spot sniffed politely, pricked up his ears, and let me pet him.

I chose Spot. All 16.1 hands of him.

He was just right. Listened well, decent trot, easygoing, felt very safe with him. My friend rode Ranger. They had a few minor issues. But they did all right. She's got some natural savvy and she listens to me, which is good. We trotted a lot, and then we tried the canter. Spot eased into a beautiful canter. But Ranger, ahead of him, didn't want to go. Spot decided to Porcupine his butt as encouragement (bite), which invoked Ranger to Porcupine back (kick) which lead to my friend thinking he was bucking. She freaked, pulled up short, and that was the end of the cantering for the day.

Oh, well. I got in a few strides, it felt natural, and we're going to do it again soon. I might just go up on my own and do a private "lesson" which basically means I'd be leasing Spot for an hour or so to practice on. It's that or try it with one of the barn manager's horses. Thing is, horses are horses, but those trail string rent-a-horses tend to be quiet enough for stuff like this moreso than "real" horses.

All I want to do is KNOW that I can still ride a canter before I attempt to ride Cheerios and work out his issues and since it's been oh, three years since I last cantered—I need help.

Spot's for sale, too. $1,200. WHEN I win the lottery...

Monday, August 18, 2008

Perhaps this is redundant. And, it's possible I heard this somewhere and it just now registered... or it might be my very own insight.

Having never taken many formal equitation lessons, and being a wearer of the Western costume, the concept of posting to the trot is rather foreign to me. Posting to the correct diagonal? Big head scratcher. Many people have tried to explain it. The least confusing explanation I've heard was to "rise with the outside leg when it is fully extended".

Well, that's a lot of thinkity-think to be doing during a ride.

I did recall that during one PNH clinic, we "rehearsed" riding in circles without our horses on the ground for the canter to learn how to pick up leads and what those meant. I decided to take that approach with trotting and "trotted" a circle in my kitchen. I "rose" with my outside leg when I picked it up.

But... what was my other leg doing?

It was the one carrying my weight. It was firmly planted. I was pivoting on it.


A circle is just a very wide pivot. If the circle is narrowed to a smaller and smaller diameter, eventually it turns into a spin. You—or the horse—will pivot on the INSIDE leg. For a horse, if he is moving FORWARD (this is very important because he has two legs per side), his FRONT leg is his pivot leg for the turns. (If we're talking reining spins, that's pivoting on the hind foot which doesn't apply here.)

It makes absolute sense to POST TO THE PIVOT, does it not?

Especially if you're riding with Fluidity, which means you are actively riding, not just sitting like a sack of potatoes. When you're actively riding, your feet are pedaling in harmony with him. You're trotting (or walking or cantering) in your body. When you do this, the posting occurs almost naturally.

I played with the concepts in my kitchen. PLEASE TRY THIS AT HOME! :-) You'll see what I saw—that it is uncomfortable to rise when the outside leg is planted because it causes you to want to turn in that direction. Try it.

I "trotted" (in slo-mo) a circle going to the left. My left foot is the pivot. Going left, left foot pivots, rise when he plants his left front hoof which you'll sense if you're pedaling and actively riding with him. When I rose with the pivoting foot, it felt fine.

When I tried to rise with the outside leg planted, it felt "off".

Left circle, left leg. Right circle, right leg.

OK, NOW the concept of "inside leg" makes sense.

But I like mine better. POST TO THE PIVOT. Think I'll go give it a whirl.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Right. So I've been Official Level One for awhile now, playing in L2 first with Wildflower, now with Cheerios, and I've been boring my horse. Since I'm not beginning at the beginning, and since I've played around with some of the FreeStyle patterns in previous clinics, I decided to delve right into one of my favorites. (Can I just say, driving with two reins in Zone 5—that's Level FOUR?!? Wildflower and I experimented with that at our last clinic together. Blimey!)

I went to the barn. We have toys. LOTS of toys. We have loads of barrels (marked for Dressage patterns with letters), cones, poles, log-like poles, jumps, and a tarp. The only things "missing" are a proper pedestal, a carwash, a bridge, the Big Green Ball, and the two tires buried in the sand. All of those I'm planning to make/acquire in the coming months because I'm not the only one who likes to play with stuff.

I set up two barrels for Figure 8 and then I set up the Question Box. (This is the diagram I drew after the clinic in 2004, NOT the official PNH Patterns version.)

Corners QBox Diagram REV

I also laid out the tarp. Well, this took me a good half hour or so, then I loaded up the gear—22' line, hackamore, saddle, saddle pad, bareback pad (depending on how I felt)—and wheelbarrowed it out to the paddock. Then I went to collect my horse.

First, I chased Shaveya around for awhile. I say "chase" but I mean play the Catching Game. She's being evasive again, probably because I haven't been out much this summer. She finally caught me and let me pet her. We had a nice calm thing going on. The thought crossed my mind, "Now would be a good time to walk away and prove to her you won't always ensnare her". I thought, "Sure, just a sec" because I wanted to enjoy it a little longer.


Or, another horse bit her on the butt.

Either way, in the next moment, she'd thrown up her head and bolted, convinced that I was the source of it.


So I caught Cheerios. Played online. Skipped the whole preflight the seven games in order routine so I wouldn't bore him. Well, that may not have been the best idea. Nothing happened. Not nothing bad, just—nothing. Apparently the routine is his cue that playtime is about to begin. Otherwise, he was unfocused, wandering around, not really paying attention. Needless to say, the online stuff wasn't stellar. The Figure 8 went well going left, badly going right. Huh.

Because of the heat and all the physical effort of setting up stuff, and because I didn't eat a big enough breakfast, I was feeling off by then. A slight headache was forming and I felt worn out, hot, thirsty, hungry, and whiny. But I stuck with it. He was relaxed, so I saddled up.

The QBox was AMAZING. The objective is, the center of the box is where the horse asks the question, “what do I do next”. Do I stop? Go right? Go left? Do I go out at a walk, trot, or canter? Do we go near or wide? Do I stop this time or go through and do another circle and stop next time?

It was FUN. It got his brain working. He’s responding to my energy and focus better now. I realized something huge. If it works online... it works riding. If he can pick up a nice trot online and balance it, he can do it while I’m riding. His trot yesterday was UNBELIEVABLE. He responded to my lifting my energy, he lifted into exactly the level of speed I wanted, it was smooth, I could ride it, and he slowed down better, too. Wow. This, from the horse I’d nicknamed the pogo stick. It almost felt like I was riding Wildflower. So cool. I can’t believe we’ve made it this far. There was a time I wasn’t sure we’d ever get it together.

Towards the end, he must've sensed that I was ready to be done (mentally) because he started flying off the circle when trotting to the left and heading towards the gate. I missed it the first time and had to break pattern. Next time, I was ready. Hackamore lead in my right hand, I trotted him out of the box off to the left wide circle on a casual rein. He tried to break pattern. I jiggled the lead in his Zone 2. He kept to pattern. Rode through the center, still trotting. Same thing—break, correct, ride through. Third time—trotting along... get to the break... his attitude changes to one of determination—as if he said "I'm doing it this time!" and he completed the circle without a correction. I slowed to a stop and praised him.

Then I noticed the reason his breathing had sped up. Kudos to Cheerios—he'd kept his head AND stayed on task despite an enormous horsefly sucking on his butt! SWAT! Dead. Rub rub rub. Good boy.

I almost went for a canter on the way to the saddle drop off ponit... but I’m not quite ready yet. I'd circled him on the 22’ line at the canter and he’s still a bit punky. I think, though, if I make a program of transitions to canter (walk-trot-canter, trot-canter-trot, walk-canter-walk) for a week or so, that’ll go away. Once he loses the jerky launch and the need to put his head down like he wants to buck, THEN I can ride him with confidence.

It looks like I’m going to another clinic in October, it’s a solid L2 with Jesse. I had forgotten I’d signed up for it—it’s 2.5 hours away, just above Detroit—and just got reminded that fees are due. If I drop out, I have to pay half the fee! (Not every clinic does that. Oops. Next time I’ll read the fine print.) Unless I find a replacement. Or use it as a deposit for a clinic next year. Trouble is, trailering him. I don’t know that I can ask my current barn manager for that kind of a favor, unless she’d be willing to take the weekend off and audit it (I’d pay her auditing fees). I’m the only Ohioan going, everyone else lives in Michigan. I’m working on attracting a ride, since that would be less expensive than paying for a clinic I wouldn’t be at. OY! Does God want me to go into PNH? Gee. What do YOU think?

Friday, August 15, 2008

It's HERE! My Parelli Patterns kit just arrived!

They have done it again. This is magnificent! Looking at it from a designer's perspective, it will definitely win awards. It's breathtakingly beautiful in art and design.

Then there is the content. I haven't watched the DVDs yet, but the ingenuity of the flip books and wall charts with icons for everything—brilliant! It's truly international. No language barriers. Once you're familiar with the iconography for walk, trot, canter, etc., just look at the diagrams and follow the... patterns.

My only "complaints":

  • I wish the flip book pages were made of sturdy cardstock rather than 60# matte. It would hold up better at the barn (horse snot, chewing, dust, etc)
  • The four individual pizza boxes for "storage" is cute... but bulky. I can fit all four coffee table books in one box. Did it really need to be that big? I keep everything. These boxes are bad for clutteraholics.
  • I wish they'd included the Savvy Sessions breakdowns in the backs of the flip books like they included the Horseanalities; helpful for those of us who take the flip books to the barn but leave the charts at home.
  • This is overkill, but there are a couple of Obstacle icons that weren't identified and maybe should have been, though I think I can figure out what they are.

So far, I LOVE IT. I was going to go play today, but I think I'll stay in and absorb and go out tomorrow. It's late, anyway.

Way to go, Parelli!

OH—PS—Manny, the horse I'd been playing with? He's found a new home. I'll miss him. Cute horse.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

These are my notes from the PNH clinic Cheerios and I participated in this year.

MAY 10-11, 2008
Jesse Peters, 2-star PNH Instructor Trainee
Advancing L1/Intro L2 Clinic
Evergreen Lake Stables, Whitehouse, OH


We lived!

Cheerios and I made it through our first ever clinic together. I almost didn't go because of the tentative money situation, but I'm so glad we did. Then we almost didn't make it because Cheerios didn't want to go into the smaller bumper-pull trailer my barn manager originally wanted to use. Tough decision. Skip it, or have her hook up the bigger trailer. (It is heavier, so more gas is used, so my hauling costs are higher now.)

He hopped right in.

My concern was that Cheerios would freak in the clinic setting. We didn't bring in the horses until the middle of the afternoon—plenty of time for it to gnaw at me. We started with lecture on horseanalities, strategies, solutions, etc. We had lunch. Then we did simulations with each other (Conga Horse—three people make a "horse", and one person plays with them to get feedback).

Then we brought in the horses.

Instead of being a Right Brained Extrovert like I anticipated he'd be (kite on a string in a high wind storm), Cheerios went Left-Brained Introvert, which was easier to manage. He was looking around like "Uh... OK... this is different... I'll just stand over here quietly and look around"...

Jesse's a great instructor. He had us hang out with our horses and just scratch them all over to relax them (and us) before we did anything. I patched up a lot of my "holes", fixed a lot of issues, learned a bunch of stuff, and was surprised in a good way with Cheerios.

Cheerios was REALLY intrigued by all the obstacles we were playing with. Cones, barrels, platforms, tarps, stuff to go over, around, between—the challenge was to be imaginative and play the Seven Games with the obstacle at hand for a bit then switch obstacles with another student. Jesse made it more interesting by having us stand on these white things (I think they're bases for jumps) so we couldn't move from our spot. Makes you figure out how to be more effective without moving your feet.

I'm thrilled with our progress.

Cheerios also was not the "worst" horse there. A mare who could be his twin was a nightmare (behaving like I was expecting Cheerios to behave). Cheerios got a little freaked out at spots, but not for long. He did great.

Jesse's policy is that each student gets a free 20-minute private session to work on whatever they want to or need help with. Mine took place at the end of Day One.

My private lesson was mostly Extreme Friendly Game (EFG—flogging the ground with the string on the end of my carrot stick, which makes a whip-like noise) with a bit of assertiveness training. I learned that I can be assertive without fearing for my life. Cheerios just needs me to be a STRONG leader.

  • We made headway in EFG—Cheerios' job is to read ME and see when I'm asking something versus when I'm just relaxed. Turns out, it's MY energy. It never went totally off, I was carrying tension in my body. Big change.

  • we fixed Sideways and it was AMAZING

  • He got his FQ on the platform (see below—it was fascinating)

  • He backed around a barrel

  • He got the first half of the Figure 8 around a barrel (Driving game)

  • We learned new strategies for Driving game (short range)

  • I fixed my Send on Circling. Hard to explain, but the simulations fixed it

Jesse, like Bruce Logan, goes about it a lot tougher than I do. I don't know that it needs to be THAT tough. But then, once Jesse did it, Cheerios listened up.

One of our many fun tasks is to teach the horse to put all four feet on a platform (like a circus horse). We had a platform at the clinic. Most people have trouble getting one foot up there, let alone two or more. While waiting for my turn with Jesse, I was playing with the platform, teaching Cheerios what I wanted. Very quiet. Very gently. Very subtly. Cheerios was riveted, trying to understand what I wanted. I was riveted to see him so riveted.

The platform taught me a lot about the learning process for Cheerios. I was soft—very very soft—while teaching him what I wanted. He was curious and engaged for quite a while. He seemed to figure out that I wanted his foot on the pedestal. He did put one foot up there a couple times. But not both. Then suddenly he lost interest. He wasn't being a butt, he just stopped responding, standing there like "hey, I put my foot on it, I'm done". We had ended the teaching phase and were ready for the reinforcement phase (you know it, now DO it) but I wasn't seeing it yet.

I kept trying to coax him gently while wondering if I should get more firm with him.

Lesson here: trust my instincts.

Cheerios' balking timed perfectly with my lesson time, and Jesse came over and showed me NOW is the time to be firmer. He's got the concept, now let him be aware that when you ask, he responds, please. Jesse got firm. Cheerios got a little upset but then he put the foot up there. Voila. Two feet on the platform, then off. Jesse handed him to me with instructions to play with that for a minute while he took a moment. I did as instructed.

I was a little more insistent about what I wanted (not nearly like Jess though) and...

OMG he got onto the pedestal! TWO FEET!!!


I immediately released and stood there petting and petting and petting him to let him know that was the best place to be. I was still doing that when Jesse returned. (He probably knew that's what would happen if he left.)

Then we worked on EFG. I'm tense. That's the problem. And uncoordinated! I had to, simultaneously, keep the string going and keep him out of my space and breathe and relax and smile. By keep the string going, I mean Friendly and light on the horse, strong on the ground. We made it. Took it out of me keeping track of the blocks and where he was, but we made it.

My send issue? I stand there and point my finger like John Travolta in Saturday Night Fever.

I need to keep my arm no higher than shoulder height, elbow bent, palm down, and guide his nose. Slowly. Jesse demonstrated the difference between guide... yank! and guide gentle. Oops. Well, now I get it. Changed it, and boom. Horse responds. Amazing. I don't even have to pick up the carrot stick.

Sideways: More energy!!! TAP TAP TAP TAP TAP!!! Make it MEAN something! Yes, I've heard this before but it didn't sink in last time. Well, he was trotting down the side of the wall for me once I really asked.

Might've helped that the wall was STRAIGHT, too.

Anyway, great day. Eye opening.

These clinics, they are like... personal growth on 11.


Horses tend to have moments of near meltdowns right before they make a breakthrough...

I think it's the same with people.

The clinic was AWESOME. What most people outside of Parelli have trouble grasping is that it's only partly about the horse/riding/groundwork. It's really more about the person. I swear, it is group therapy with horses. Seriously. Because the horse is our mirror.

What's meant by that is that how you are with your horse tends to be how you are in life (as I rediscovered), and your horse SHOWS you who you are. It's bizarre, I know. But I learned a lot about myself this weekend. Fixed some bigger issues—well, not fixed just yet, but got enlightenment on them, and received strategies that I can now use to overcome them.

Fear was a big one. I still had a little left beneath the surface, and it was inhibiting me because it kept me from being as firm as I sometimes need to be with him in order to be clear about what I want. So I was backing off, being too wimpy (they say "less effective") and confusing my horse, which lead to his being frustrated, which lead to him having a meltdown and doing the things that scare me. It's a paradox, a catch-22, a vicious cycle. So I learned to be more firm when necessary (without getting mean or mad), to be clearer, and wow. Immediate change. Cheerios gained a lot of respect for me.

Then there was the whole life review part that I experienced. It was huge and personal and the full meaning of it didn't hit me until I was having coffee before Day Two. On Day One, Jesse (instructor) was helping me with the above issue and pointed out I was giving up too soon before getting the response I wanted.

Jesse looked me in the eye and said "Don't ever..." and waited for me to answer:


Don't ever quit. Keep going until you get the response you're asking for.

Well, the next morning, I realized, that's how I've been living my LIFE since my parents died (maybe before). Hit a roadblock, try a few things, get nowhere, give up. Try something else, give up. Viewing every roadblock as a sign that I'm on the wrong track rather than finding a solution to it. Nothing gets fixed, nothing gets done, I get nowhere except frustrated and depressed.

We had a remuda (debriefing session) in the morning before Day Two where we discussed what we'd learned the day before, and I was fine expressing it until I got to the part about Jesse telling me not to quit and I lost my composure explaining that I'd lost the two people in my life who'd always told me not to quit during those times when I was on the verge of giving up, but nobody had told me that since they died and I hadn't realized how much I needed to hear it until Jesse said it to me.

Jesse, God Bless Him, wasn't the least bit freaked out by this. He handled my blubbering quite well. I apologized for turning it into group therapy. He reassured me (as did the other sniffling students) that it was perfectly appropriate and how interesting it is that PNH is more about us than about the horse and that the growth we experience in clinics is more about us, too. Then he got up and gave me a big hug.

Day Two was phenomenal, we made ENORMOUS progress. Cheerios is doing stuff I didn't even know he could do—and FAST!

Next day, while warming up, I took Cheerios to the platform and... he promptly plopped both front feet on it nice as you please (receiving huge kudos from Jesse and the students). But now, every time I take Cheerios to an object he thinks "Oh, she must want me to step on it". It's funny. Now, my job is to teach him when to step on it, when not to step on it, when to step over it, etc. But it was huge, and he was REALLY intrigued with all the new things. He's so smart, he needs this. I had to get really creative with the obstacles in the arena.

Because of the trailer issue we'd had on the way to the clinic, I asked Jesse if he would load him for me. Cheerios went on but was a tad right-brained—my homework is to make a program of trailer loading for the next five weeks so that he loads up quietly from now on.

When we got home, Cheerios was a bit right-brained and whinnying. He could have bolted off in a clattering rush, but I had already decided that I was going to insist he respect me. I wanted him to wait until he was calm and I'd invited him off.

Well, that clinic must've made an impression on both of us. I attached the lead rope, and he anticipated being let loose so I gave him (as best as I could because he was still attached to the trailer) a little yo-yo reminder and he backed up a half step (as best as he could because he really couldn't move much) but he listened. He knew I was there and in charge. I detached the trailer line. He made a move like he might bolt and I yo'd him and relaxed exaggeratedly when he stopped moving. (I really have to exaggerate my YES! relax response right now.)

I waited a moment. I invited him to turn. When he bolted (ever so slightly) I yo'd him to back up. It only took a couple of these gentle reminders before he got it. He stopped shaking. I guided him one step at a time until he was lined up to walk off (big trailer, doesn't have to back off) and I waited. He looked at me. I stayed relaxed when he was relaxed, asked for a step backwards when he tried to lurch forward. He finally relaxed and waited. I backed up. He stayed put. I stepped off. He stayed put, watching me. I very gently invited him to step off.

He actually waited until he was sure I was leading him, then stepped off nice as you please, calm, quiet horse.

Big BIG changes.

He's listening better than ever. Now my job is to reinforce it. Consistently. Every time. And don't EVER quit.

The facility where the clinic was held is so Parelli-oriented that I'm considering moving him. The clinic host invited us to move there. She's at capacity right now... but there are boarders who may be leaving in time and she is very particular about who she lets in (because she's a Parelli student, too). What is surprising is that the price is about the same as where I am now (it would be a tad higher but not by much) but it is a stunning facility, well-kept, new, big stalls, they have a staff, they have opportunities to work off part or all of your board, there is a HUGE indoor arena full of "toys", half the boarders are Parelli students, there is the trail access, and Jesse comes in for lessons and clinics every few weeks.

It's very tempting. I'm happy where I am now, because it's Parelli-friendly and they're following Shaveya's treatment plan to the letter, but... winter is coming... indoor arena... and it's tempting. I miss the trails. I'd love to be around a group of PNH students all committed to the same goals.

But if I do, I will have to find Shaveya a new home. If I do this, it's because I'm prioritizing my PNH goals and if I do that, I want to focus on one horse—my partner, Cheerios.

Shaveya, God Bless her, is not a suitable partner for this program. It's unlikely that I'd get her to Level 3 because she's not physically capable. I think I've done as much for her as I can. I've gotten her on a great health program, I've brought her to as sound as I can get her—but her 100% is not sound enough for the physical demands of the program—maybe not even for trail riding.

Her ideal life would be primarily pasture buddy with a lot of grooming and loving on, and maybe a small child who just rides at a walk around the back yard and loves on her. No competition, no shows, no heavy duty rides. Retirement. And if my PNH goals become my priority, I need to focus on my partner and having a pasture puff is not possible anymore. I'll also eventually need to bring another horse to L3 and it'll have to be one that can actually DO L3 tasks.

It's a big decision. So I'm thinking on it.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Gee, I Never Post Anymore
I suppose it's because I'd fallen away from my PNH studies for awhile. There were issues... life and stuff. But I think it'll pick up again now. Oh, the estate? Still open. The middle lot sold right away. The lot with the house? Had a buyer... six weeks of runaround and it fell through when their bank wouldn't finance it (ridiculous terms, too). Then the fire... but it's all good. A very generous insurance settlement arrived, we lowered the price a bit, and there is a very interested buyer looking at it. So, my goal is to have this done and overwith before my Mother has been in the ground for two years—which gives us til the end of September. It'll be done by then. Mark my words. THEN I can finally say, "I'm free, my life is my own again".

I really wish I'd posted in May, because I took Cheerios to our first ever PNH clinic together and it was AMAZING. Jesse Peters, a 2-Star Instructor Trainee, was giving a L1 Advancing/L2 Intro clinic just around the corner from my old barn. It was the closest clinic that I could find all summer that didn't require overnight stays or hotels. My barn manager trailered us and we had a blast.

Jesse helped reveal the horse I always knew was in there. I do have notes somewhere on this computer, emails to my faraway friends exclaiming my astonishment. I'll cobble together a clinic experience in the next few days. Yes, there were tears... of gratitude and joy on my part. Cheerios and I had some major breakthroughs, and in the weeks following the clinic, we played together with more enthusiasm and fun than ever before.

Then I allowed life to drag me down for a bit when the fire happened (house for sale caught fire over the 4th, fixable damage but stressful nonetheless) and temporarily "forgot" I had horses.

But I am reinvigorated. Is it a coincidence that it coincides with the release of the new Patterns program? Is it because the assessments are changing in January and I have to decide whether to push to complete L2 before then, or hold off and do it the new way? Is it because I've had an epiphany?

Probably all three.

I'll keep you posted. Promise.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

WHINNY FIT (or, The Amazing Exploding Horse)
I had a major BFO (Blinding Flash of the Obvious) while playing with Cheerios Tuesday: my horse will not always be as I expect him to be.

We're headed to an Advanced L1/L2 clinic in—my goodness, ulp—ten days. Somebody needed to have his Coggins drawn and get some vax since he'll be playing with strange horses, so I arranged to meet the vet in the AM. The vet visit didn't happen until evening due to scheduling conflicts, so I changed my plans a bit and we played first before shoveling.

All the horses were inside because the barn manager was unsure of the weather predictions. She was at work. I had my instructions for the day. I left them in while playing because I didn't want Cheerios to be upset to see his buddies going out to play without him. He can get awfully right-brained about stuff like that still.

I thought we should get a program going to fix his objections to the Extreme Friendly Game. My plan was to warm up with some regular Friendly Game and ease into the Extreme version, just get him used to flopping it without it meaning anything.

Methinks that was the wrong plan. Perhaps I should have stuck to more familiar things a bit longer before introducing it. But hey, it's just Friendly Game, right?

Er, not to the horse, I guess.

It was a very interesting session. He wasn't particularly upset about the light flogging, he just didn't know what to do and seemed convinced he HAD to move his feet. I allowed it. Praised when he stopped. Acted like it wasn't anything. You know the drill.

When he seemed to have "gotten it", meaning he stopped and relaxed, I decided the game was over and moved on, thinking, good, he's calm, now I can teach him.


Not calm.

Not confident.

But I didn't see it. Because I was focusing on his being "relaxed" but misreading it.

The darndest thing happened.

HE WHINNIED. He looked at the barn and let loose.

Why is this fascinating?

Because I've had this horse for seven years. In seven years, I have heard him nicker twice. I have NEVER, to my recollection, EVER heard him whinny. Not the day I brought him home, not the day we moved, never. Ever. I was convinced he didn't know how.

He whinnied more in ten minutes than I'd heard in seven years. My mares are the whinniers (were, in Wildflower's case). Shaveya is known to have whinny fits all the time. She's very vocal. Cheerios, on the other hand, is silent but very physically expressive. So it blew my mind.

He obviously wasn't focusing on ME, so I tried distracting him with the games.

That's when the fun REALLY began.

I observed for the first time something I'd never consciously noticed—maybe it was the first time he did this, or maybe it was the first time I was aware enough to see it. He seemed to cycle very quickly between all four of the Horseanalities then flip between RB and LB Introvert several times before finally shutting down and beginning to go catatonic.

I'd done Extreme Friendly. I ran through the Games in order—yeah, boring, but I didn't dwell, I just preflighted to make sure he was responding to Porcupine versus Driving, that his Yo-Yo was in order, that he was Circling all right. He exploded during Circling, complete with tossing out a kick on the Send (in mid-air, quite dramatic), bucking and galloping, crowding me then kicking out when I asked him to move further away.

What surprised me was that I was asking with VERY LITTLE ENERGY. He's normally a less responsive soul who rolls his eyes and plods out onto the Circle like a bored teenager. I always see how little it takes to get a response before getting firmer so he knows the drill—very soft Phase 1, up the Phases until he responds. He knows what I'm asking. But for some reason, the bored plodding teenager was absent and Mr. Road Rage was in the house. It shocked me. I felt like today he was super sensitive and all it would take to send him was to look with my eyes in the direction of travel—he was THAT sensitive. When he circled in closer, I kept my energy down—all I did was barely tick the carrot stick in his general direction—casually, like maybe a half inch's worth of change!—and with barely ANY energy at all. OMG, you'd have thought I'd insulted his Mother and inflicted a curse upon his entire breed the way he reacted.

It unnerved me a bit. But I didn't react to that. I acknowledged mentally and from a remote observational distance that I found his reaction a tad unnerving but I refused to allow the thought close enough to affect my emotions. (Yeah, that's a neat trick.)

It also nudged up against the last bits of my fears surrounding him. Any of you know somebody who is usually a decent person but every now and then, they're just "in a mood" and you could be having a casual chat about the weather and you might remark "oh, it's sunny today" and they explode? And you cannot for the life of you figure out what you said or did? And it must just be some deep-rooted issue from childhood or something that you inadvertently triggered that set them off?

Yeah. Just like that.

On rare occasions, Cheerios is unmanageable. RARE occasions. The days when I just have this feeling that I do not want to attempt anything with him because though he's friendly and he's woken up on the right side of the corral, just this day he seems fragile—like anything could set him off and there is no way to tell what it might be. Maybe he decided he doesn't like the color of the shirt I'm wearing even though it never bothered him before, or maybe I smell funny. I don't know. Could be what I ate the night before. It's that random, just like the human I was talking about.

This suddenly felt like one of those days.

Here I am seven years into having him as my horse and six years into PNH, a L1 graduate into L2 who has spent a week in Ocala, and I was suddenly wondering if I'd be OK leading him from the round pen back to the barn (about 45 feet) or if we'd get almost in and then he'd explode, rip the rope violently out of my hands, rear, wheel around and gallop off into the road. Like he did that one time. Back in 2001. A few months after the fall. The incident that made me so afraid of my horse that I could not lead him ten feet without a buffer person between us to protect me from him.

The thought flittered briefly across my mind as he bucked and snorted his way around the pen. But I just stood there, pretending like I was OK with it, saying "that's fine, I don't care what gait you're in as long as you're Circling and please stay out there, thank you". Yep, business as usual. Not rattled emotionally. It was like an out of body experience. I observed myself wondering but it was remote and outside of my emotional experience and it was the dangdest thing. I suppose it was self-preservation because if I'd allowed the thoughts to access my emotions I really would have been in trouble.

I remembered that going forward is bad for his current mindset and changing directions might help, so I initiated the change. OH MY. OH BOY. Nope. Didn't help. Made it worse. I sensed that the best place for me might be somewhere other than in the middle of the round pen, so I crossed to the gate. Danged if he didn't decide to follow me. It was weird. His body was airborne but his mind was following me. I think he was having an out of body experience, too.

I gracefully extracted myself from the pen. Again—neat trick. Do it in such a way as to avoid having horse escape and run over oneself while gently deflecting said horse away while also retaining casual unaffected attitude and NOT do it in a manner suggesting OMG I HAVE TO GET OUT OF HERE HELLLLLPPPPPP. Rather, it had to be, "Oh, ho hum, I think perhaps I'll try being on the outside of the pen while you, uh, do your thing, and yes, please stay inside, thank you, OK, carry on".


Interesting to note that even with me on the outside, I could just barely point my finger and he'd snort off and circle. So he's listening... but... hmm.

Every time he tried to stop at the gate with a bad attitude, I quietly suggested he continue. Oh, temper tantrum! But eventually he realized that he wasn't giving the right answer and it wasn't any fun anymore and he started blowing, dropping his head and slowing down. I stayed put, observing, waiting.

Finally I got the big sigh and the licks and the relaxation and Mr. Calm Horse returned.

I went back in and praised him. Lots of Friendly.

Now he was unresponsive. Now, bare suggestions were ignored. Hmm.

Without getting emotional, I upped my energy. I became very active and deliberate. When I drove his forequarters around, I didn't do it at a casual walk—I marched right up to him vigorously and kept going, move move move move move! Let's get EXCITED about pivoting! Good. A positive response. Same with the hinds. Same with backing up. I increased my intensity and he responded.

Suddenly we were getting somewhere. Suddenly, when I stood up and said "YES! Let's get EXCITED about Circling!" and sent him, he very politely and agreeably went out and circled at a pleasant walk. Great. Two rounds, nice attitude, questioning ears can I come in please and yes you can, and lots of rubs.

Finally in the right frame of mind.

Maybe I should have stopped right there. I didn't think that at the time. I thought, goody, let's try Sideways.

Blimey. He did it. The first time. Beautiful three or four steps sideways from a Phase one and a half. Much praise. Squeeze this way, squeeze that way... stop, hide your hiney, wait. Beautiful. Smooth as silk. Looks like a L2 horse now.


What's going on with his... eyes...

Oh, crap.

He'd stopped. He'd licked. He was standing there resting. Then his head dropped. Then it went a little too low. Then... the eyes began to glaze over. But—but—WHAT? I wasn't pressuring him.

Remembering last time, I turned away and stepped back an inch at a time until he emerged. He wasn't all the way under, he was just beginning to go catatonic. He was still with me, just thinking about going there.

I remembered too that I can't ask him out of it, I must wait for him to lick and chew. I resolved to wait, however long it took. I'd stepped off to where his head was aligned and his ears were forward but his eyes were wonky. I stayed put.

After only a few minutes, he decided to emerge on his own, licked, chewed, big sigh... oh, awareness. He remembered where we were. His eyes were focused again. He asked to come in. I said yes. I knew we were done for the day. I did plenty of Friendly Game. Then I asked him to do one thing I knew he was good at. He did, perfectly. More Friendly so we ended well.

Returned him to his stall. Turned out another horse to the round pen to commence stall cleaning. Decided maybe they should just all go out. Despite the slightest lack of confidence about managing them, I got all 12 of them safely out to the pasture without incident. Cleaned stalls, ended my day.

What I learned from this session is that you can have a horse for many years, think you know him, and find out you don't. It really drove home the concept of playing with the horse that showed up, because on this day, I had four different Horseanalities take turns being present AND he did something he'd never done around me before. Either he whinnied because he felt comfortable enough around me to finally speak, or he felt so uncomfortable with me that he had to call for help.

It also taught me that although I'm 97% over my fears, there are some remaining that may never go away. I have a ways to go. This horse, he might be more than I bargained for.

Then again... something else is tugging at my brain, a concept I learned ages ago and forgot... something from an old Savvy Club DVD or from one of the Levels about how horses react on the verge of a breakthrough when they first start the program... I have to go find that. Maybe this was a good sign and next time, I'll have Old Faithful back.