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...

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