Saturday, April 12, 2008

Awhile back, I snagged the Parelli Liberty & Horse Behavior Course-In-A-Box as solace for missing the Six-Week Intensive I was supposed to participate in during the Spring of 2006. (I'd had to cancel due to Dad's fall and being needed at home.)

The blurb from the website describes it better than I ever could:

This high powered course was based on an effective program taught at the Parelli Centers. It was produced for home study due to the overwhelming response. Liberty & Horse Behavior teaches you one of the greatest skills a horseman can have, "being able to read horses." This course delves deep into the equine mind and teaches people to understand how to interact more effectively thus gaining greater perceptions around how and why communication via the Seven Games works. This course teaches the skills of Liberty through excellent On Line preparation leading to very high levels of execution.

Since Life settled down a bit, I resumed my studies during the winter months. I watched L&HB almost all the way through. There are 10 DVDs: six of them are the L&HB coursework; the other four include problem solving and expanding the Seven Games. (There is a really detailed outline HERE.)

For those who've picked up the Success Series DVD on "Horseanality", the L&HB Course goes FAR MORE DEEPLY into the concept. In brief, there are four distinct Horseanalities. Horses can have a mixture of horseanality traits but most tend to lean towards one of the quadrants. They are:
  • LBE (Left-Brain Extrovert)

  • LBI (Left-Brain Introvert)

  • RBE (Right-Brain Extrovert)

  • RBI (Right-Brain Extrovert)

How one handles each of these horseanalities is the subject of the course. Horses can move very quickly from Left-Brained (confident, dominant, playful, exuberant) to Right-Brained (unconfident, submissive, shy, quiet) and from Extroverted to Introverted. Flexibility is the key, as is understanding how to read what shows up at any given moment. The process can be subtle shifts or it can swing wide across the extremes, depending on the horse.

Some horses can become unconfident when they are learning new things. Depending on the horse, he might be OK with a lot of variety (Extroverts) or he might prefer consistency (Introverts). If you use the wrong approach, you can unwittingly send your horse into an unconfident state pretty easily. Their response to this can range from becoming fractious ("misbehaving") to shutting down.

The extreme manifestation of unconfident and introverted is when a horse goes catatonic. He completely shuts down and, as Linda Parelli puts it, "goes to his Happy Place". It's often a response to stress. Linda has a horse (Allure) who will go cataonic when he eats a cookie. In one segment, she feeds him a cookie to demonstrate for the students what this state looks like (without having to create a negative situation to put a horse under stress).

It's bizarre.

Head drops. Eyes half-shut. Horse looks like he just smoked a fatty. Totally checks out. Lower lip goes all floppy. Stands perfectly still. Doesn't respond to anything. He's far, far away. I mean, he LOOKS like what you'd think catatonic would look like. Linda just has to wait it out until he decides to return to Planet Earth. It's like sleepwalking—the worst thing you can do is wake them up suddenly—you have to kind of let them be.

I've been out with my horse Cheerios before and I've seen him act "weird". I thought I was boring him because he'd just seem to lose interest and take a nap in the middle of my trying to teach him something. For years, I've thought I had a definite LBE—pushy, friendly, domineering, assertive, exuberant, smart, curious, playful. I thought he was full of confidence, sometimes misbehaved, and treated him as such.

I've been misreading him.

He's half LBE and half LBI. That's right. He switches. He'll be extroverted, then introverted. I've just recently figured out that his "misbehavior" is actually a lack of confidence!

Wednesday I played with him. Because I'm now so goal-oriented (I know, principles before goals) due to the upcoming clinic, I decided to get him "up to speed". Let's see how much we can get through today. Let's try transitions (changing gaits) while Circling, and changing direction, and get that Sideways working, and maybe we can do a bit of Seven Games With An Obstacle. Then I'll ride. Yup. Big day planned, big checklist.

Circling sucked. He snorted off at the slightest suggestion. Became fractious when I asked for transitions or change of direction. Pulled back, tried to pull the rope from my hands. General snottiness. I thought, "OH BOY". Then suddenly, he became very quiet and refused to move. He couldn't look at me at all, and he appeared to be going to sleep. I tried to wake him up. He ignored me. I looked at him a little closer.

That's when it hit me—


I felt SO bad.

I thought, "what does he need right now?" and remembered he needed safety... or maybe comfort, I couldn't remember which. I had a 50-50 chance, so I opted for comfort. What gives a horse comfort?


So I played a little game. I watched him as I retreated. Slowly. First I leaned back slightly. His head moved ever so slightly towards me. I leaned forward. His head moved away from me. It was like his head was attached to my body with an invisible string. I stepped backwards, quietly and so subtly you could barely see it, one step—pause—one step—pause and watched as his head swung back towards facing me with two eyes in the tiniest of increments. With every step, he was looking at me a little more.

But he wasn't SEEING me. His eyes were still Stoner Bud glassy. He was looking at me with his spidey sense but not with his eyes. It was strange.

I backed all the way out to the end of the 22' line before he could give me two very glassy half-shut non-focused eyes.

I waited and watched for a bit. Then I thought, maybe I can unhinge him gently and bring him back. I took a step sideways, planning to make an arc to one side in much the same manner as I'd backed up. I stepped. His head raised slightly. OK, I'm on the right track, because his head is down too low so if it comes up he'll wake up, I think.

I was right. I took just a few sideways step in my arc when his eyes opened a bit as his head raised. He followed. As we walked, he woke up.

Needless to say, I apologized profusely. I changed tactics and became as clear as possible in my communication, and gave him more time to dwell and stopped expecting too much. He improved. We ended on a good note but I didn't ride (he wasn't rideable yet).

All this time, I've been treating him like a LBE horse, and forgetting about the LBI part I wasn't aware of.

No wonder so many people had trouble with him "misbehaving". We need help, that's for sure. I need more arrows in my quiver to deal with his bi-polar LB horseanality.


Yesterday, we had 70-degree temps but very strong winds. Tornado watches and thunderstorm warnings. When the horses don't want to go out, it's too windy. So I mucked and that was about it. The horses stayed inside.

But maybe that was a good thing. After Wednesday's venture into the World of Catatonia, maybe not playing was the best thing. Instead, after finishing the barn, I hung out with my horses in their stalls. They are right next to each other and Shaveya's stall is technically in the corner but her gate is adjacent to his. So I stood in the corner with my back to the stalls, Shaveya's head on my right shoulder and Cheerios' head on my left, both of them blissed out as I scratched their cheeks.

I was blissed out, too. Those quiet moments of horsey love are better than anything on this planet.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

So much has happened in the past week! My parents' estate is about to close! FINALLY! Two out of the three lots from the subdividing of Grandma's property have sold, meaning there is enough money to satisfy the terms of the Will. Good news all around. I am about to be FREE.

The stall cleaning is going well. My personal best is 8 stalls in one day. But I overdid it. The day after doing 8 stalls, I consolidated my storage units (from one big and one small down to one big) which included moving (by myself) a rolltop desk, a stove, and a small recliner. Something feels funny—as in, very sore and stiff—in my left shoulder. Yesterday I managed 7 stalls and today I am paying for it. *sigh* Please pass the Tylenol™.

The most exciting news of all: I'M GOING TO A PNH CLINIC IN MAY!!!

I'm SO excited.

The past two and a half years have been tough. Caring for my parents, putting all my horsemanship goals on the backburner, losing my parents, then the year of fog that followed... I've just begun to emerge into life again. But the months since my parents died have been like my "mountaintop". I always wanted to escape to a cabin in the woods on top of a mountain for months in isolation so I could just think, away from the maddening crowds, away from external influences, and really get in touch with ME and with what I want for ME. Living alone in this quiet suburban neighborhood has been that mountaintop. Seriously. I can go days without the phone ringing. It's quiet.

In that time, I've been able to re-examine my goals. I discovered the Law of Attraction and have been studying it seriously since May 2007. All of this has come together to allow my limiting beliefs to surface. I've had a multitude of breakthroughs on a personal level and I understand myself better than I ever did. I am learning to accept myself. I am learning to stand up for my life. I am discovering my principles, my strengths, my talents, my loves, and my own truths. This is the silver lining to the tragedies.

One thing I've realized is that I am not driven by money. My Mother was, but I am not. Our conflicts revolved around my life choices and related to money in many ways. I remember when I was a child, she asked what I wanted to be when I grew up.

I replied enthusiastically, "I'm going to live on a farm and train horses!"

Mother snorted. "Well, you'd better have a really good job somewhere then, because horses take a lot of money!"

Well, then.

Long story short is that I quickly put two and two together, however illogically, and determined that since we (meaning my parents) couldn't afford to buy me a pony (which was what they always told me), and since Dad had a REALLY good job (we lived in an upper-middle-class suburban neighborhood surrounded by fellow professors), I must need to be a millionaire to afford a horse, so I have to do something that will make me millions. I had a good voice, everyone said I was a talented musician, and since all the people who sang on TV (Hee Haw, Lawrence Welk, etc and yes, I realize I'm dating myself) had fur coats, jewelry, lots of houses and limos, they must be rich, so... I'll just become a famous singing star, make my millions but save it rather than "waste" it on fur coats and limos, then I can retire around the ancient age of 40 (remember, I was about 8 at the time) and live on my horse farm THEN.

So I set out on the path to stardom. In my teen years, I discovered rock bands, and the plan morphed into my becoming a rock star. From the age of 15 until my late 30s, I focused on becoming a rock star. NOT on writing great songs and loving the music, mind you—becoming a rock star. Needless to say, my focus was wrong, and because my counter intentions were that I really didn't want to be a rock star, I just wanted the "easy" millions I could get from exploiting my talent so I could go play with horses, the rock star thing never happened.

Yet, here I am, three months shy of 45, and I'm a retired musician who is "training" horses. Interesting.

(The truth about why we didn't get a horse when I was a kid was because we lived in the suburbs, my Dad was the horse person but he was also the main wage earner and housekeeper and Mother was highly allergic to horses, dust, pollen, and hay—therefore it would have been up to Dad to handle the horse activities such as 4H, shows, lessons, and so on... too much for him to do on top of caring for us. It was just easier for them to relate it to money, though they could not afford it on other levels. Couldn't afford to risk Mother's health, couldn't afford wearing out Dad, and so on. Understandable.)

During my stay on the mountaintop, I've come to realize that music is NOT my first love. Horses are, were and always will be. Horses were the reason for my forays into rock superstardom. All I've ever wanted was to live on a farm and be a cowgirl. Train horses. Have that Black Stallion communication and relationship. Jump onto my spotted horse bareback and bridleless like a wild Indian and gallop off into the sunset.

Well, I can DO that.

PNH makes it possible.

PNH has already allowed me to begin to manifest that relationship with my horses.

PNH teaches people to be Instructors and Horse Developers as a profession.

I'm more interested in doing what I love and allowing it to support me than to chase money and hate the hunt (which is what I was doing before). I've come to the realization that when one pursues their passion, they infuse every action and activity with enthusiasm, love and other positive emotions, which transmits positive energy to the Universe—and that activates positive energy into all aspects of their lives which is WHY people who LOVE what they do tend to have the most MONEY. People who hate their jobs do not tend to make a lot of money and they feel like they are underpaid (because no amount of money is enough to make this job worth it). It's rare that someone who hates their job can actually become wealthy through it.

Well, I LOVE TO PLAY WITH HORSES. I love to ride. I love just BEING with them. When the day ends and I'm at the barn, I hate to leave. I don't want to leave. I don't want the day to end. On days "off", I can't figure out what to do with myself. Oh, there are plenty of chores to do around my house—just no motivation. All I want to do is be at the barn with my horses. With ANY horses.

So, I'm going for it.

Parelli Instructorship, here I come. (Actually I'm more interested in developing horses, but both are fine.)

To get there, I need to:
  • Pass L2

  • Pass L3

  • Get accepted into the program

  • Do well in the program and follow the requirements

So we'll start with the first step: Pass L2. That means clinics. That means getting Cheerios up and running. There is an Advancing L1/L2 clinic being held in May, right around the corner from my old barn. There was one spot left.

I got it.

Cheerios is going to his first clinic ever.

I'm going to my first clinic since the L2 in Fall 2004. With a "new" horse. Ironically the instructor of the May clinic was a RIDER in the last L2 clinic I went to. In that short amount of time, he passed L2, L3, and made it as an Instructor.

Here's the fun part.
  • May 12, 2001: The day Cheerios ejected me on the trail, which lead to my back injury and the fear issues that lead me to PNH.

  • May 12, 2002: The day I ordered my L1 kit.

  • May 24, 2002: The day the L1 kit arrived—it was waiting for me when I returned home from my last day on the job, having been laid off at 4:30 PM—precisely the time the L1 kit was being delivered to my doorstep.

  • May 9-11, 2008: The dates of the first clinic with CHEERIOS, the horse responsible for launching this journey. Almost to the date.

If you'd have told me it would be SEVEN YEARS before we'd be ready to attend a clinic together, let alone to have gotten this far, I would have given up in disgust and sold my horse.

But here we are. And the dream, once thought lost, has been born again.