Tuesday, December 22, 2009

All Things In Moderation
I'm referring to the comments, which are now being moderated due to sp@mmers. As this is a family-friendly horsemanship blog, we do not welcome offers from well-end*wed females looking for l*ve, nor does my horse require any sort of products to extend him in any way. Those who leave a comment to this effect on this blog will be given a Phase 4 they won't soon forget. Thank you, though, for reading, and for caring enough to make us aware of your presence.

The horse and I are on vacay until next year. Have a Merry and a Happy, and I'll see you in 2010.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The post I wish I could have written. A bit of background: I've been nosing around online for a used Natural Performer saddle (size Large 17", medium fenders, chestnut or medium oil is my dream) for an affordable price. In the process, I came across several postings on other forums about Parelli.

One of them almost made me lose my Emotional Fitness.

I just really get frustrated sometimes with the ignorance that abounds, and it irks me when people speak authoritatively about Parelli when they actually (as evidenced by their misinformation) know nothing about Parelli or the program! These are the people responsible for the spreading of misinformation and the bad press that sometimes follows us Parelli folks around (not to mention the Parelli-trained horses that some people think need to be "fixed" and "un-Parellied" because they don't understand that it's not the horse, it's the PERSON who isn't responding correctly).

If it upsets me this much, I can't imagine what it must be like to actually BE Parelli and know what is being said.

Which is why I'm not a Parelli, I'm just a student of theirs. :-) Then again, their EF must be well-developed by now.

Anyway. The forum thread I was reading had to do with a girl who had just bought a horse from someone who had Parelli'd it, and it had behaved perfectly for the owner, but now she had it home with her and was having problems. So she came to a random horse forum seeking help from a Parelli person because she can't afford the DVDs.

Of course, she unwittingly started the typical "natural vs normal" war that seems to occur on these forums, and generated several pro-Parelli endorsements along with the usual venomous anti-NP trashing and Parelli-bashing. I was happy to read the Parelli respondees and their patient polite responses, but I blew a gasket when I saw a post that lumped Parelli in with the other NP trainers, calling it a generic training method that only works with some horses but would never work for an Arab, and saying Parelli and Clinton Anderson are pretty much the same if you can just ignore the philosophy stuff.

(Why, I ask, would you want to ignore the philosophy?)

This is what I wish I could have posted, had I wanted to bother to join a forum so obviously out of alignment with my own principles (and I might have a bit of my own data about Horsenalities wrong--it was written in passion; were I to post it, I'd research to make sure I had it right!):

Responding to the comment that CA and PP are generic:

Please exclude Parelli from this list, as Parelli is not generic. A huge part of the Parelli method involves isolating the individual horsenalities to help the student understand how to teach the horse. This is in reference to the comment that "Parelli won't work for some horses"—meaning the spookier ones or the ones with more energy like Arabs. This is not true. The other natural methods may be less effective than Parelli only because they tend to use one technique for every horse, whereas Parelli insists on determining the horsenality first—RBI, RBE, LBI, LBE—then adjusting the techniques accordingly in order to be as effective as possible.

For example, an LBI is motivated by food and "what's in it for me". Treats used as incentives—NOT BRIBES and there is a difference—will work with an LBI and encourage him to respond. The use of subtlety in cues, raising the horse's curiosity, and keeping him on his toes with a lot of variety will engage the horse's brain and keep him focused on and interested in you. They need quickness in the questions we ask of them, and they get bored easily. When they get bored, they act up. They can be a challenge because the human must be thinking one step ahead and have a plan in place, otherwise the horse will take over and recreate a new plan.

An RBE, however, is an entirely different animal. This is a high-energy horse very geared towards a flight response. This horse seeks safety and strong leadership. The human must match the horse's energy and go four ounces further. RBI's, on the other hand, need gentleness, softness, slower requests and a LOT of time to dwell in between. Patience is paramount with these horses, because they have serious trust issues and a lot of fear. I've worked with an RBE Arab who would be completely focused on me for quite awhile, then suddenly just lose focus. The moment she lost focus, she was a mess again.

All of this is found in the very in-depth Liberty & Horse Behavior study materials.

The philosophy and psychology Parelli's methods teach are what makes the program so effective! Until you understand WHY pressure motivates and release teaches, or WHY a RBI will react differently to a scary situation than an LBI (for example), you cannot fully understand the horse. Until one understands the horse, one will not be effective with him. No matter how well the person can keep their balance in the saddle, or how many Olympic/Rolex jumps and obstacles the person can get the horse over.

There was a post I saw on a blog today that claimed 90% of Parelli followers only do groundwork and never get in the saddle, and wondered why. I did respond to that one.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

I did the honors today of giving Mona her fourth ride. This is a BIG bay Arabian two-year-old filly—she's probably already 15.1 hh with legs for miles. She's a beautiful horse with a lot of exuberance, and a sweet personality. It's hard not to fall for her.

But as she is not mine, and will be going home as soon as she is "ready", I have to keep some perspective.

Today, we learned that blue tarps blowing in the wind are nothing to worry about. We also learned that if a wagon goes by with a flat tire, it sounds like fluggedy flump, fluggedy flump, fluggedy flump, and even though it sounds scary, it isn't. We learned to pay attention to the leader during (un)controlled catastrophes. (Any "old-timers" remember that task from the earlier Level One assessment?)

I did the usual warm up, with emphasis on the Extreme Friendly Game (Lite version). Because of the wind and everything flapping around us, I wanted to be sure flappy flying things didn't bother her before I got on.

Nothing of note to report. Accepted the saddle like an old pro. I rode in my own Circle Y today with one shim because she is narrow in the withers and a bit downhill. It fit her quite well and solved the slippage issue I'd had with the BM's saddle. (The scary thing is, the Circle Y is the saddle I've been riding Cheerios in, and he's much wider—as soon as my inheritance comes through and I find one slightly used, I'm buying a Parelli Natural Performer or the earlier version; perhaps this is why he has trouble cantering?).

I played with her mouth a lot to prepare her for bridling. She's been bitted once. Not by me. The girl who did first ride tromped up to her, shoved the bit into her mouth, THEN asked me if she'd ever worn a bridle. When I went to bridle her the other day, she wasn't having any of it. So, I worked on trust, touching her tongue, rubbing her gums, rubbing the noseband of the hackamore on her mouth, and holding the hackamore like I'd hold the bridle so she gets used to the method.

I waited until the BM was done giving a lesson before mounting, and had the BM nearby to help. Like before, I had the BM lead Mona while I did a passenger lesson. Youngsters are so wobbly! They don't know how to balance a rider yet, and it's disconcerting. But she did well. We walked and trotted. Once she learns how to carry me, she'll have a beautiful trot with those long legs.

Then I tested rein positions, and I was IMPRESSED. She picked up Direct, Indirect and Lateral Flexion LIKE THAT. With NO encouragement from the BM on the ground! She also figured out Back Up pretty fast. Just a step or two was all I asked. She's getting it.

I think what surprises me is that I'm really good enough to teach her that, and have her respond to my focus, my leg/body, and my soft rein guidance.

You mean... maybe I really can do this?

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

My apologies in the post delay; busy lately! Lots of barn visits; lots of phone calls to settle the last bits of Mom's Estate; and I got a part-time job FINALLY. It starts tomorrow. Evenings, telephone research. Plenty of daylight horse hours left wide open for me. It's a start, and I'm thankful for it.

So the update. Kat had a third saddle desensitization session only I went back to the BB pad because I wanted to begin preparing her to have me in Zone 3 above her eye, and see if she was ready to accept my weight. I don't ride English, I ride Western, so I'm doing it all bareback at first. (Just like Pat and Jake did on the SC DVD.)

Not much to say about it. Same stuff, different day. Although it took a LOT less time for her to allow me to blanket and pad her—minutes rather than hours. That is progress. We were done with the games/warm-up and ready to get tacked up when another rider wanted to borrow the round pen. It was a good time for a break, so I allowed it. I let Kat graze, hung out with her, bonded; then I decided to test out her Sideways down the fenceline. And this is where I learned the real reason why I "bother" doing Parelli.

She went Sideways beautifully then began to go very RB. Then I realized my foot was snagged.

Then I realized that one of the electric fence wires (the grey kind) was down, and had been curled up beside the fence—hidden in the grass, neither of us saw it, and I unwittingly sent my horse right into it!!!

Kat wasn't caught, but she thought she was. Basically she'd snagged a bit of it, dragged it sideways with her, and pulled out the coils into a big mess, which I'd gotten my own foot tangled in.

I took leadership, and she turned and faced. She was breathing hard, but waiting. I looked carefully at the wire, assessed the situation. Kat just waited. I calmly detached the wire from around my leg, then told her I was going to pull the wire out from under her, just stand still and you'll be fine.

I extracted the wire, moved her back a step off of a piece of it, and then got rid of all of it. We both heaved a huge sigh of relief. It could have been a disaster. But it wasn't—because thanks to PNH, I had a young RB horse who LISTENED and overrode her instincts, and I knew what to do.

I've also learned that just because the ground was clear during the past 364 days, it doesn't mean it's clear on day 365—always check to make sure it's clear before sending your horse that way (or yourself).

After distracting her with a few more games, I took her back to the round pen and although the other rider was still riding, I just went ahead and did my blanket/pad anyway. Yep. Outside of the pen, without a net. Then, tacked up, I let Kat graze until the rider was done.

Then I got the mounting stool and just did approach and retreat in Zone 3 on both sides, stepping up and down and rubbing her until she figured it out. The last thing I did was rest my upper body on her back and rub her thoroughly. She handled it well and let out a huge sigh. End of session.

Mona had her first ride with another rider. Then she had an unscheduled vacation while other horses were played with. It was suggested I have a different girl ride her, with me assisting. Since I'm doing this for the BM, I have tended to let her decide the procedures, figuring she knows her boarders' riding and training abilities better than I do.

That's about to change. I've learned something valuable. While one girl has been a working student with a prominent cross-country eventer (who has won the Rolex and a World Championship before) and spent the summer breaking two-year-olds, the riding ability is there, but the actual horsemanship is lacking. (I was told by her that the Eventer, who shall remain nameless, gives all the youngsters Ace before they are saddled the first time. I'm sorry. To me, that is the equivalent of giving them a roofie and date raping them. I am thoroughly unimpressed, and if it were me, I would not want to listen to a single thing the man said. Ribbons and championships aside).

Another girl has been riding for 11 years, but knows very little about how to teach a horse new things. Yet another spent two years in a very prestigious Equine program near here, but changed majors because the program directors not only belittled Parelli, but after inviting another well-known NH trainer to give a demonstration, they laughed at HIM. While he was demo-ing to their students!

These girls all have paper credentials and associated prestige; so they should know their manure, you'd think.

Well, this is what I've learned. Their horsemanship will tell you a lot more about their true knowledge than their mouths will.

And that's true for me, as well. I'm not saying I'm exempt. Or perfect. But I know my horsemanship, even in its growing stages, speaks for itself. And the funny thing is, the others are starting to look to ME for information. (Except for Ms Rolex Student. But her goals are different from mine.)

On Sunday, the 11-year rider (J) and I were to work with Mona on riding. I collected Mona in my usual manner. I played with her in the pen to see where she was mentally and emotionally. J watched, asked intelligent questions about why I was doing what I was doing, which I answered. Mona got to the ready point, and we proceeded to saddle her English. I circled her a bit, following PNH procedure.

Because she'd been bridled before by Ms. Rolex, I thought to test and see if Rolex had done the job well.

Nope. Mona didn't want anything to do with the bridle. I realized that bridling would have to be a separate session and left her in the halter. I tied up the 12-foot into reins, attached the 22, and J mounted up. It went fine. I held the end of the lead line as a safety net, and to help Mona find the answers when J asked her to respond to rein guidance. She rode Mona around a little bit, then we found a good stopping place.

The next day, J and I repeated the procedure for Mona's third ride.

Instead of bridling her, I
opted for the hackamore instead. It makes sense: she's used to the Parelli halter and lead rope—it's the same thing with reins added. J mounted up, and we walked and trotted. Well, they walked and trotted—I stood in the center at neutral holding the popper. After a bit, J felt confident enough to take her around without my holding on. Mona was OK with that, but wasn't really responding to J's attempts to get her to go or turn.

I had one of those moments: you watch, you suggest, and you stand there getting antsy because you're just SURE if it were you up there, you'd be able to get her to do it.

So we switched. We swapped out English for Western. Mona saddled like an old pro. And I got on.

And yes, Virginia, I was right. Kicking her wasn't working (of course not). I did the PNH procedure. Sit up, energy up, squeeze gently but with increasing pressure, cluck, swing rope around myself... Mona leaned forward, I released and rubbed. Repeat: Mona leans forward, lifts leg, release and rub. Within about four of these, Mona understood to walk off when I did that. And we're walkin'...

Next, I tested Direct Rein. Of course, I used focus with the eyes, then my body, and reins last.

Mona TURNED. A little wobbly, but she did it. Pretty soon, I had her doing slow, wobbly S-curves across the round pen.

J watched the whole time. Suddenly she's full of questions for me. (I like that.)

We found a good stopping point when Mona sighed. I dismounted, and stood there with Mona resting her chin on my shoulder as I softly scratched her. I wish this was my horse. I wish they were ALL my horses, because I truly love them all.

I've realized that 11 years of being able to ride doesn't mean you know how to use your body to ride. Like most, J adopts The Position, and expects the horse to know what to do, or to be able to steer with the reins or legs while staring forward. The concept of looking where you want to go, not just with your eyes but your whole body, is new to her.

Parelli is amazing. From it, I have learned more about horses, horsemanship, riding, and myself (and other people) than I ever thought I could from a "video-driven horse training method".

J told me she'd been Googling horse methods, but there were so many out there, she was confused, it was hard to know which ones worked. I admitted that when I first heard of Parelli, I was skeptical—I thought it was a pyramid scheme, or one of those things that promised more than it delivered. Thankfully, my skepticism was quickly dismissed; seven years of being an obsessed PNH student proves it's not a pyramid scheme, it's a Godsend.

Perhaps we have a new convert in J? I can only hope.

Rode him and worked on everything. My main objective was to get us to L3 standard—we've been lazy. I've been letting him get away with being sloppy, with easing into a trot, easing out of it. I want smooth transitions and snappy departures. I want him to RESPOND when I ask for Sideways. I mean, snap to attention, Yes Ma'am, and go Sideways, straight and smooth, and don't stop until I ask.

It's been more like "Sigh...." one reluctant step or two Sideways, then angle out so he's walking at a diagonal.

I fixed that.

He was a bit miffed because I actually dared to get firm with him. He got firm with me and ran my knee into the electric wire and fence post on the way out the gate. The bruise is pretty huge and ugly, but it missed my knee cap.

He's used to being in charge. He's LBI. He's not used to me taking leadership. But we tightened up a lot of things in that session.

So the next session I played at Liberty with him, and taught small new things. Like lead from the mane, tail, lip, ear. Just the beginnings. I switched gears. Nothing huge to report—it's all preliminary right now. But I think, pending the next week, we'll be taping on the 30th.

Saturday, September 05, 2009

The last three sessions with Kat have been focused on saddling. During the first session, the barn manager started out working with her. I observed. I kept track of the many things I might have approached differently and made mental notes. When she got to the saddling part, I watched some more. I could see that the BM was becoming frustrated, because Kat moved away when the saddle approached.

So I stepped in to assist.

The first thing to change was the saddle approach. My BM is a believer of natural ways and resistance-free training; however, she hasn't had the benefit yet of the details the Parelli program has taught me. Such as, a less-threatening way to carry a saddle when approaching a horse, and allowing the horse ample time to investigate it before tossing it on the horse's back. My BM was still in full-on "grizzly bear" approach, and working with a pretty moderate RBE.

I stepped in and did my thing with it. Eventually, we got the saddle ON her. Then we called it a day.

The next two sessions, I worked exclusively with Kat. During the first session, I used the saddle pad and m bareback pad, because it's light, and it has a cinch, so perhaps I could get her used to having something around her without the added weight. During the second session, she "graduated" to a light English saddle. The girth on the lowest holes was two inches too short, so we stopped there. Both sessions took three hours of extreme patience and approach and retreat to get the saddle pad on a calm horse, then the BB pad on a calm horse, then the saddle on a calm horse. (All after playing the seven games with lots of Friendly beforehand.)

Despite the owner's urgency in getting this done, the BM and I both agree that it might take longer for Kat to be ready to ride than Mona.

Because there was nobody around Wednesday evening, I opted to play with my own horse for a change (because I can predict him better than the others). I've had two amazing sessions with him in the past two weeks. During the first one, we rode in the bridle (old PNH kind) for the first time in ages, and worked on Finesse. I was thrilled when he offered a lovely collected half-pass (I think that's the term, trotting forward on the diagonal) with barely a suggestion, and moved sideways easily.

The second session started with a short Liberty session in the round pen. Change of direction is still iffy, need more work online for that. But he went Sideways without a fence!!!! YESSSS!!!!

After Liberty, into the arena we went. I'd planned to try out the 45' line, but there were novice riders in the arena, so change of plans. Ride instead. I warmed him up on the 22' before saddling. Now, this is what I love, and yes I'll admit it's an ego-boost. I dropped the line, and he stood perfectly still while I saddled him in the arena. I was hoping the novices were watching. They are new to having their own horses, and asking me all sorts of questions for advice on how to catch their uncatchable mare, why does the gelding move backwards when I kick him to go, that sort of thing.

I'm hoping that witnessing rather than being instructed will inspire them to want more knowledge. So having Cheerios be all blasé about being saddled, proving you don't need cross-ties or a chokehold when you have a good relationship, well... it makes me proud and it's a good example. He behaved beautifully, and we "showed off" our graceful communication with carrot stick riding, finesse, etc. I hope they watched closely.

I hope they ask LOTS more questions next time.

I think we are just about ready to tape FreeStyle L2 Audition.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Had a training session with Mona a week ago; today, I played with my own horse for a change. The barn manager was at work, there was a new horse in the paddock, and Mona and Kat were out with the herd. I need to find out the new logistics before proceeding this week.

Mona's session last week was interesting. She did the first five games pretty well, but then she got scared during Circling, pulled free, and ran off with the 22' line trailing between her legs. If Cheerios had done that, he'd have ignored the rope. It freaked out Mona. So after she cantered all RBE around the paddock a few times bucking at the rope while I prayed silently for her to sloooooow down, she stopped and froze.

Poor thing was terrified. I felt so bad. But it was let go or I would be a nine-finger today. Every time she shifted, the rope touched her legs, and she freaked. It took two bolt and runs before she settled down and let me collect the rope from her legs. The funny thing was, once I had it in my hands, she relaxed.

From there, of course, the plan changed.

Instead of teaching the last three games, the new plan was "desensitize her to the rope" aka LOTS of Friendly Game. I taught her to give to the pressure on her front legs. The rears weren't happening. She kicked out when the rope barely touched her. Probably not in the right mindset at that moment. At first she panicked when she felt the rope, and tried to bolt, but I disengaged her and had her stop.

I know I did the right thing. A bit later, she lost confidence and bolted off with the rope again—but this time, she got about 30 feet away, slammed to a stop, and turned, faced and waited.


She needs a lot of work to be less sensitive to that.

Didn't even get to Kat that day.

So today, I focused on my horse, and it was awesome. My feel and timing HAS changed as a result of playing with these other horses. I saddled up and bridled him—first time bridled in ages—and we went out and played a little with Finesse, Carrot Stick riding, point-to-point, and OMG HIS SIDEWAYS IS FINALLY KICKING IN.

In fact... I was so excited. I thought as we were trotting along in a nice, collected little jog, I wonder if I can trot him sideways on a diagonal like all those fancy dressage ponies.

I thought it, I did it in my body, and...

So did he.

WOWWWW. I mean, WOW. My roping horse just did a beautiful little whatever it's called!

Level Three, here we come.

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Two horses on the docket today: Mona and Kat. Since these are the horses with deadlines, they get priority sessions. First up was Kat.

My initial challenge was getting her from the pasture with Mona to the round pen on the other side of the barn. Sounds simple, right? Not with a RBE with separation anxiety. A whinny duet commenced, complete with panicked left-behind Arabian tearing around the pasture, and panicked Pintabian trying to run over me.

Oh, yes, I was being very mindful of the thresholds. But for Kat, her threshold is five feet away from Mona on the other side of the fence.

Actually, let me rethink that. It just occurred to me that it's really away from Mona with a human on the end of the line.

I had a plan, though. We'd successfully gotten Mona to the round pen in the same condition the first day; and since our round pen session, she was much better. I think I made a mistake with Kat the previous day, and went in with a new plan.

Instead of being firm, I'd try mirroring her.

It started with her being so upset she was half-rearing at the round pen fence trying to get out. I just ignored that and kept mirroring her behavior like Linda did on the Dec 2004 (I think) SC DVD.

Guess what.

It worked.

Pretty soon she tuned into me, and both stopped whinnying. When it was "safe", I entered the corral and continued mirroring. At some point it changed to becoming leader. I don't know how to describe it. It was more of a knowing. I got her through games 1-4. She is having major trouble with friendly stick and string. This is why I think she might be a difficult horse, not ready to ride in a week or so. She cannot tolerate string on back; how will she tolerate a saddle let alone a rider?

The last thing we did once she'd sighed hugely and put her head in my lap was to work on gate entrances. She rushed the gate. I sent her back and forth until she went in calmly, stopped, waited, and came out calmly. Then I released her to the pasture.

Mona was up next. She whinnied a bit, but was much more manageable on the trip to the pen. I mirrored her, too. They need work to get over the separation thing. Eventually, she forgot about Kat, hooked onto me, and we made it to Circling. She became curious. She was very light and responsive. She got the concept of circling. I hung out with her, even squatted to remove pressure.

She tolerates things better. I think she'll be rideable much sooner than Kat.

That was the day.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Title change from Mustang Chronicles to Training Log, since the Mustang is only one of the nine horses (besides my own) that I'm playing with.

Second day in a row. Started with a long-overdue set of trims for my two, coupled with guidance from my NHCP on how to maintain the trims every four weeks (to offset the costs of trimming for the moment). Learned: the White Line isn't white, it's yellowish, and the Water Line, which is the trimming/rolling guideline, IS white. Confusing? Of course. LOL! Learned about false sole growth. Cheerios had quite a bit. It's bizarre! But now I feel more confident that I can maintain their hooves without fear of hurting them.

After a PB&J break, it was time to go to work. I'll say this: the lesson for the day was what happens when Goals precede Principles.

First up: Kat the Paint.

Kat (LBE) was up for threshhold work. She and Mona both have huge ones about leaving each other and the pasture. Mona got over hers, and now she's my best bud. Kat is another story. Kat and Mona both need to be "rideable" soon, as the owner is putting pressure on the barn manager about getting a saddle on them this week.

I played with Kat for two straight hours. Friendly Game only, with the stick and string. It was more about determining which of us was in control of the situation than having a conversation. When she got too RB and I tried to snap her out of it by yo-yoing, she popped up her FQ and reared. (Oh boy! OK, that didn't work...) She was a sweaty mess by the time we finished, but she did eventually settle down and decide that she wasn't going to die if the string touched her back.

Now. If she won't tolerate a delicate little string lightly caressing her back, what do you suppose she'll do with a blanket? Or a saddle? Or, God forbid, a human?

Right. She'll explode. Which means, right now, she is absolutely un-rideable, and will be until she has moved past the Friendly Game threshold. So let me ask you, Mr. Owner—are you willing to take that risk? Because I'm not. (And you shouldn't be, either.)

I was about to call it a day and go play with my long-forgotten horse, but BM called me over to help with another boarder's horse she is tweaking for the boarder. The boarder just bought her. The horse has been ridden a lot before, but spent the last year or so in the pasture. She needed a "tune-up". BM was attempting to longe her in the next pasture, but gave up in frustration. She asked me to see if there was anything I could do. Key goals: respect, listening, not crowding.

Sounds like an LBI to me. This is Laney. She is a BIG solid paint mare. Built like a tank. Needs to shed a few pounds. I strolled in. She was friendly enough. Tested her boundaries. Not bothered by much of anything.

Also not willing to budge out of my space.

My best Phase Four was met with a blink. Not even a flinch. The more energy I threw at her, the more keyed up she got, until her FQ popped up. Second horse today that I sent into a rear! Coincidence?

I played with her a bit and discovered when she gets confused, she either charges into you or shoulders you hard. Since Phase Four wasn't working and I wound up getting out of her way more than vice versa, I had to come up with another tactic. I decided Yo-Yo was the primary interest. But I had to combine methods. Push back on the rope while tapping.

The lightbulb went off.

OK. Wiggle finger, tap tap tap WHACK.

Another lightbulb went off.

Within minutes, she "said" "Oh. OK. When you do that, it means back up. Got it." and she did it, no questions asked.

Disengagement was faulty. She'd bring her FQ to me instead of pivoting the HQ away. It's the shoulder thing. Her Lateral Flexion was not there, either. Tip her nose, here comes the shoulder. Everything meant shoulder to her.

OK. Strategy: brace my fist against her shoulder, and work it like a clutch and gas pedal. Guide the nose to me, push the shoulder away. Guide, push. Guide, push.

There's another lightbulb. Once she got that on her own, I added the butt. VOILA now we're cookin' with fire.

Pretty soon, she was trotting nicely around the circle, stopping and disengaging, etc.

No problems here. Just, she hears flailing as noise and gets confused, then resorts to her old tricks. I communicated clearly, and she was AWESOME. I'd like to ride her next.

FINALLY I got to ride Cheerios. But I almost didn't. He wasn't all that interested in being saddled, and I admit, I made him do it. Because I haven't done much with him since his feet got too long, and after all these not-mine horses, I needed desperately to play with and ride something familiar. Easy. Hop on and go.

Cheerios' "hop on and go" feature was disabled, unfortunately. Even HE popped up into a rear because he was pissy about cantering on the 22! Wow. What is up with me, I thought? But after playing with the untamed crew, I had more tricks up my sleeve, and quickly quelled any nonsense. He settled into his former LBI self, and he felt rideable.

So we rode. It was fine. He was fine. In fact, it was one of our better sessions with Sideways, rein positions, and focus in general.

Later, I thought about it and realized, the whole day, I'd geared around goals:
  • get Kat to the rideable point fast, so disable her threshold issues pronto (never mind the consequences)
  • fix the other mare so she'd be usable for her owner's first lesson the next day
  • ride my own horse, darn it!
In each instance, it must've changed my energy, because I tuned out what I was reading and became focused on making it work. I got lucky with Laney, because she's a good old LBI at heart and merely needed clear instruction, but Kat?

Geez. I hope I can undo whatever I might have done.

I'm going to have to be frank with the BM so she can pass it on to the owner: do you want this horse to be barely but somewhat rideable by a deadline (and questionable ever after)? Or do you want this to be a good partner for life? Because I can go either way. I can push thresholds, focus on goals instead of the relationship and principles, and force her to tolerate it and comply (and cross my fingers that her next owner has the savvy to manage the negative consequences it'll create). Or, I can take the time it takes, develop her into a solid citizen, and provide you with a partner you'll be proud of and enjoy SAFELY for the rest of her (and your) life.

Your choice.

If you opt with B, it might take a little longer, it might take a lot longer. But really—is your life and safety worth it? Do you really want to ride a boxcar full of TNT while smoking a lit cigarette?

Tomorrow's mission: no goals. Do what is best for whichever horse needs me most.


Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Let's see if we can make this quick, cuz I'm starved.

Today, I played with four horses. All had major breakthroughs. All are two years old or under. Details follow after the jump.

And here's the jump.

My mission today: get Mona and Kat over their herd sweetness and thresholds going from pasture to round pen. If I could get one into the round pen calmly, great! If all we did was play halfway there, great. I also wanted to take Magic the opposite way—from the round pen where he's living to the arena/pasture to give him room to stretch his legs and see if he's truly catchable yet. Once he is, he can live with the rest of the herd.

Note: Mona and Kat are pastured together. Everyone else is on the big pasture. Except Magic, who lives in the round pen for now.

Mona was more catchable. Played with her a bit in the pasture. Made sure she was listening. Did the threshold thing. Took the time. Let her graze along the way. Approach, retreat. Kat was more bothered being left behind than Mona was. Made it all the way to the round pen, and in. (Yes Magic was in there. He just drifted over to the opposite side.)

Returned. Switched horses. (Mona took about 45-60 minutes). Kat wasn't so easy. Played catching game with both in pasture as BM was preparing boarder's horse in next paddock. Very interesting playing at Liberty with both Mona and Kat. They knew when I was talking to one and not the other.

Finally Kat hooked on. Haltered, played games. Did not get to thresholds. For her, because she was too "up", I sent her sideways first. Whoo! Got her thinking. Then games. Huh. Fuzzy now. Oh. Food aggression. BM put Mona in adjacent paddock after lesson was finished. Then she fed their hay and grain. Worked on having Kat listen to me as leader instead of diving for food. Went pretty well, actually. She has a tendency to rear when asked to back. Is that LBE? Must look that up.

That was another hour done.

Next up: Magic the Mustang. He's easy to catch now. Did not do pasture because of feeding time. Will do tomorrow. Reinforced Seven Games in round pen. He is ONE SMART COOKIE and a fast learner. Had a little bit of a blowup when he got confused when I increased pressure, but it was over and done with and forgotten quickly.

One more hour down.

Collected Aries from the big pasture. Games along the way in. He's more like Cheerios—LBI. Had to get ahold of him, disengage firmly to get his attention. After that, he listened. He needs to learn to maintain responsibility for circling and not stop behind me. Saddled, rode for about 15 minutes, just walk trot. Has NO lateral flexion on right side—stiff as a board. Worked on that. Worked on Direct/Indirect Rein. He is very good at lifting into the trot off of energy, and he follows focus pretty well. A little confused about bend to a stop. But he stood still for mounting this time.

All in all, a great session. Five hours—4:00 PM to 9:20 PM—of just horse play. Sigh. I really COULD do this for a living.

According to Pat, on the SC DVD Sept 06, Colt Starting is just Level One with Excellence. Whew! That means I should be able to do this.

Saturday, August 01, 2009

The Law of Attraction works.

I'd played with the Mustang twice. It got me thinking, "I cannot wait until I finally pass L3, get through the Parelli Professional Program, and get certification as a licensed PNH Instructor so I can start developing horses!"

Yes, my dream was coming true. When I was six years old, I told my mother, "when I grow up, I'm living on a big farm, and I'm raising and training HORSES!!!" Her first question was, "How are you going to do that? You don't know anything about training horses. You'd have to grow up on a farm to learn that, and we don't live on a farm."

True. And it stumped me for years. Until I found Parelli, and found the program that is indeed teaching me how to "train" a horse (even if this is "self-mastery disguised as horsemanship" and not a horse-training method). Once I found PNH, I knew I could indeed become a horse trainer. Only better.

SOMEDAY. After passing all the home-study courses, of course, and being granted the stamp of approval from the PNH organization that says, "Yes. You qualify. You're licensed. Go forth and train/teach/develop."

The other day, it occurred to me that I might be inadvertently postponing my dream—because of the language of my thought pattern. I kept thinking, "Someday... off in the future... when the stars align... and I'm officially a horse trainer..."


As in, "far off in the future".

Well, what's wrong with that, you ask?

Keep reading and I'll explain.

The future never arrives. That's the problem. It continues to exist out there, somewhere, far far away in the distance.

We only have NOW.

So if my thoughts were focusing on someday far away... then... my dream would CONTINUE to be someday far away. Meaning, it would never begin to occur NOW. Today.

Hmm. How interesting!

I thought about it for a long time, and decided to revise my thought. I decided last week, darn it, there are lots of PNH students out there who were already training horses and giving riding lessons before they found Parelli—they didn't stop what they were doing just because they were in the levels. They kept doing it, but adapted their training/teaching styles to align with their newfound philosophies.

True, I came into horse development through Parelli with no prior knowledge... but... pre-Parelli knowledge of horses isn't necessarily "right", or the best way to do things. Just because someone was doing it before doesn't mean they did it right. Which is worse—doing it "wrong" for a really long time; or being new and learning as you go?

I don't know if that makes much sense. But I couldn't come up with a GOOD reason why I couldn't start developing horses NOW. Most horses out there aren't bad, or dangerous or extreme challenges—they're just misunderstood by their owners and haven't had the right kind of instruction yet. Anyone who watches Savvy Club DVDs knows the range of difficulty amongst student-owned horses is very wide. Yet, somehow, they manage to handle them and pass the Levels with them.

I decided that day that from that moment forward, I am already a horse developer. I'm on the path to becoming a PNH Instructor, but I'm developing horses and teaching riding lessons NOW.

The next day, I was out at the barn to help the BM with the Mustang, as it was his first trim appointment. I wanted to be there to show him support and help in case he got nervous about it. (The farrier wound up postponing due to having been misinformed by a new client about the real number of horses he would be trimming and got stuck at the barn.) While we were still waiting for him, the BM asked if I'd be interested in helping her out with another horse on the property. She explained that there is an Arabian mare, a two-year-old, who has no ground manners, and is extremely "herd sweet" for her buddy (also there for training), to the point where leading her to the round pen (which is out of sight of the paddock where the buddy is) becomes a terrifying nightmare.

In other words, she's a little hard to handle. And she's BIG. Already.

I said, "Sure..."

BM said to all of us to move out of the way and stay very quiet until she got the mare in the round pen.

I'm thinking, "OK. RBE?"

You betcha.

I was a little nervous about it. But... I just followed my instincts, and before long, she was much calmer. Not calm, not completely LB, but manageable. She was trying very hard to listen to me, and she was trying to stay off adrenaline. She'd go in and out a lot. She'd be OK, then realize she couldn't see her buddy and go RB. (Didn't help that a storm was brewing on the horizon.) I played with her until I got her as calm as I could and was able to communicate with her—then I led her back to the pasture, perfect timing before the storm hit.

She did remarkably well on the way back. She walked beside me and was about as LB as she'd managed to be all day. You can bet one of the first things I taught her was how to back out of my space (Funky chicken) so I wouldn't get run over if she flipped and shot forward as I led her. Good instinct. It came in handy—but she responded instantly and respectfully.

She was calm at turnout, too. Left it on a good note.

My initial instinct after watching her caromb around the round pen was, maybe I should put her on the 22 and play in the paddock with her buddy or the one next to it. (It probably would have gone BETTER had I done that. But it went all right.)

When I later watched one of the SC DVDs where Linda coaches a girl with her RBE horse over the log, Linda said "always play with RBEs in a place they feel safe because of their thresholds". Yup. My instinct HAD been correct. Next time...

The Arab and I had an audience during our session. A lady and her grandkids bought one of the other two-year-olds (Dakota) and it's their first horse. They were watching the progress. I commend them from having the presence of mind to sit about 20 feet away from the pen. Close enough to see, not so close as to put pressure on. Well, when we were done, the lady came up and told me how impressed she was, "nicely done". I was surprised. It was really cool to have demonstrated that this works with any horse. She admitted she wouldn't know what to do in that situation and it was wonderful to watch.

I said, "Well, I learned it all from the Parelli program—and you can learn to do this, too."

She was surprised by that. I hope we have a new convert.

Hee hee hee. Drink the Kool-Aid. Go on. (just kidding)

The BM was impressed, too, I think. Maybe. Doesn't matter if she was or not. What matters is that she said "I have another horse that needs help if you're interested". So... after watching a riding lesson, getting rained on, and finding out the farrier wasn't coming until next week, I collected another two-year-old, played the games with him, then rode him for a few minutes.

Yes. I know. He's two. I personally feel the first ride should wait until they are four, and if it were my horse, I would have waited. But the BM is preparing them to be sold, and unfortunately, that's how it is. So, the best thing I can do is to put my personal feelings at the door, and do my best to make his first rides pleasant.

Oh, don't worry. I didn't get on a never-ridden horse. He'd been ridden about 10 times already, so he had some idea of what saddling and mounting was all about. And maybe the other person who rode him just got on really quickly and went with it. Me, I did it Parelli-style. Colt-start style. SLOWWWWWWWLLLLLY. Testing every step before I did it to make sure he was really OK with it. Making sure he was OK with me above him in Zone 3, that the movement of my leg didn't bug him, that the stirrup was OK, that he was OK with weight in it, etc. Making sure brakes worked, that he understood lateral flexion. Laying across him first in case I had to get off quickly. (I did, a couple times.)

Finally, I got my leg over and he stood still. Somewhere between LB and RB. That's fine. I got on and off a couple times, then we rode a bit.

OMG. I'd forgotten what it was like. When I first got Cheerios, he was four, and basically green broke. He had no idea how to balance my weight, and riding him was like riding a listing ship. And he tipped forward.

Well. Same here with Aries. The saddle felt like it was sitting on his shoulders (and I am the one who put it on so I know it was in the right spot—shims, anyone?). He listed and wobbled around like a drunk for a bit before he got situated (he's a pretty big boy, BTW). I wasn't on very long—just long enough to walk him around a little, trot a little, stop, do Direct/Indirect Rein (which he caught onto REALLY fast), Lateral Flexion—I even got him to go Sideways! ALREADY! Just a few steps. But it was SOLID.


Either my 12-year-old is a lot duller than I thought, or... I'm a lot better at this than he lets me know I am. (No, this is not ego talking. It's a sort of realization that maybe I don't suck.) Because it sure seems a lot easier to get every horse BUT mine to do stuff that I have difficulty getting my horse to do.

So today. I get an email from BM. She has a plan, if I'm interested. She has a list of the horses that need some work, and she'll trade board for training. Meaning, I train, I get a lower rate.

I said, "SURE!!!!"

When I got to the barn, she handed me the list of horses needing work.

Basically, all of them. Except mine. LOL!

The overall plan is to bring them all through L1 Online first, then move into L2 Online while delving into L1/L2 Freestyle. The bulk of these are two-year-olds needing their first ride. In other words, I am Colt Starting. Like eight horses. (I only brought five Horsenality™ charts!!!) I'm to take my time, do it the way I'd do it, (except for the waiting until four to ride part) and get them all saddle broke by winter.


Which means...



There was a great session with the Arab's buddy Cat (the Arab is Mona). Cat is a gorgeous Paint mare and she is also BIG already. As big as Cheerios. And she is only two. I separated her from Mona but they were in adjoining paddocks so they could see one another. Less hassle.

Mona lost interest and went off to try to dominate the rest of the herd over the other fence. I basically played Catching Game in the pasture/paddock/arena. Some would say, why in such a large area? Because it was either go through another Mona experience and have the horse all RB in the round pen, or sacrifice close quarters for a horse I might be able to communicate with. She caught me, eventually. That was the majority of the session, from 6:30 to almost 9:00. I observed her to be very athletic (jumps barrels at liberty by choice), curious (walked up to where the 12-foot was laying on the ground, picked it up, chewed on it, tried to swallow it, dragged it along for about 20 feet before dropping it), and not really RB. But very Extroverted. She wasn't so much panicking as she just didn't want to be with me yet. And she moves.

So here are my initial diagnoses:
Mona=RBE but when confident, becomes aggressively LB
Magic (Mustang)=LBI innately; mild RBE when uncertain (he drifts away rather than blasting away, but always returns)
Aries (the one I rode)=LBI so far (BM says he changes day to day, unpredictable, so he might be RBI or it might depend on the circumstances)

The other four I haven't begun to sort out yet. Except from casual observation:
Dakota=LBI like Cheerios (reminds me of him)
Apollo=LBI (he's older)
Laney=LBE with aggressive dominance (she's brand new, just met her, and she tried to shove me over)

I realize this is A LOT to be doing at this stage of the game (yeah, play with one horse or two if you must until you've passed L3—nobody said anything about playing with NINE), but there's something else I've noticed.

Despite the admonition to take one horse through L3 before playing with others, it seems that the people who become really good really fast and fly through the levels are NOT the ones playing with just one horse. It's the ones who were already training and giving lessons BEFORE finding Parelli, who have had exposure to multiple horses and Horsenalities.

I have already had major breakthroughs just this past week. My patience has deepened. My sensitivity to the horse's needs and mindset has improved dramatically. My focus, feel and timing are picking up pace. I'm getting better at managing my energy, because I have to adjust it depending on the horse I'm with at the time.

I actually think that this is a blessing, and it is accelerating my progress through the Levels already. It's filling in the gaps that Cheerios isn't able to fill. I think that playing with eight other horses and bringing them through L1 and into L2 before delving into the L2 Freestyle Audition or L3 Online with Cheerios is going to cause us to blast into outer space and progress at unheard-of speed. It's not going to delay our progress (because I'm focusing on other horses than my own)—it's going to speed it up.

And if I am going to do this for a living, I'd best get used to adapting to different horses now, rather than waiting until I'm in the 1-Star program.

I still can't quite believe it. :-) And I really wish my Dad was alive, so I could run into the house yelling "Dad! Dad! Guess what?!?" and share with him all the wonderful experiences I'm having.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Mustang Chronicles, Day Two

Hooked On
This is what I noticed when the barn manager's hubby approached Mustang and proceeded to pick up all four feet from one side, tapping them to prep him for his first farrier visit this week:

Mustang goes RBI when humans approach. He's being misread as "calm" and "obedient" and I hope he will be, but I saw the shift in stance and thought, HMMMMmmmm.

But he's more RBE when he's on his own. Mildly RBE. He's not a spookaholic, but like on the last Savvy Club DVD, he is liable to drift away when pressure is applied.

I went back and watched that DVD again, to spot the Horseanality. I also watched the National Geographic Mustang special (from PNH, Pat gentling a wild herd to their blood could be collected for DNA typing) and some of L3. But that was last night.

At this point, I still wasn't completely sure whether Mustang is LBE or RBE. He's quiet. But that doesn't mean he's NOT RB.

Still, I apparently did the right thing last time. I learned one new thing from my watchings, though. No eyes, pressure. Two eyes, no pressure. That I knew. But I'd missed one eye, a little pressure.


So when he was trotting around me with one eye on me, I shouldn't have just stood there. I should have been lightly tapping my leg. It's a gradiated scale.

Got it.

All in all, we had a nice session. He's less wary, more accepting. I haltered him, introduced him to the carrot stick and the lead rope. No biggie. He has learned to face me and does very well with that. But when he's unsure, he drifts away. (I prefer that to buck n snort.) Then he comes right back.

He's very light and responsive. I realize this could be escape, too, so I'm working on making sure he understands when I'm asking. He understood me on the first three games. He didn't understand—or didn't want to—yo-yo. Backing up didn't come easily. I tried driving him back—he turned and drifted off.

It took a combination of driving and porcupine to clear it up. Lots of licking and chewing.

He disengages well.

He crosses in front nicely when he moves his FQ away.

He learned to lower his head.

I mean, from my request. He already knows how.

I turned him loose and played at Liberty with him. Same thing—disengage, disengage, approach retreat... until finally, OMG. He hooked on and followed me. He trailed behind me about two feet in Stick To Me. When he drifted, all it took was a look at his HQ and he hooked on.

Cannot describe the feeling.

I brought him to center and rubbed him all over, then I crouched. I didn't squat because of my knees—wanted to make sure I could get up in a hurry! But he seemed OK, so I sat.

That did it.

He lowered his head and looked at me like he'd never had a human do that before. I just waited. He crept over to me really slowly until he was within reach. Then he just sniffed at me curiously.


After a bit of that, I slowly got up, stroked him again, then left.

Then I went to see Cheerios.

When I went past the round corral on my way back in, Mustang saw me, and walked TOWARD me, meeting me at the panel.

I extended my hand. He extended his nose. He greeted me and stood there.

Tears filled my eyes.

This is amazing.

Monday, July 20, 2009

The Mustang Chronicles, Day One
I have a new project. It happened very fast, and it's amazing.

I'm playing with a Mustang yearling (in addition to finishing up Level Two with Cheerios)!

My barn manager found a Mustang nearby that was up for adoption. Fresh from the range, BLM, Nevada, only in civilization since January. He's a yearling. The barn manager said he was black—he's really a dark brown with almost bay markings. He has a small star on his forehead and a snip on his muzzle:

The Little Mustang

Photo taken while he was living at the Foster Home. He can be haltered and lead, and is gentle enough that a child can pet him—but he's still a wild animal.

And he is perfection in motion. It's unusual to see what a horse should look like—we have bred a lot into and out of our domestic horses. This one looks like what God intended—pure, unmessed with, bred to be the survivor. His legs are straight and beautiful. His hooves—wow. His conformation is pristine.

He arrived three days ago from this writing. He's been gentled enough that he is calm around people, and accepts confinement. But he's still "wild" in the sense that he is Horse and we are Predators and he doesn't realize he lives in our world yet.

On hay loading day, we'd been talking about the horse, and I'd mentioned how I'd always wanted to train a wild one. Someday... in that far off sense of the word. Someday, when I'm solvent again, when I have my own farm, when I'm official Level Three.

Yesterday, a friend from back in high school days came out to photograph horses. This is a photo he took of Cheerios' blue eye. Isn't it amazing? WOW!

Cheerios' Eye by Mike Ridgway

After he left, I went in to chat with my barn manager about life for a bit before playing with Cheerios. I asked how she was getting along with the Mustang (no name yet) and what she had planned for him.

She said she hadn't done much with him yet, and probably wouldn't be able to train him until spring because she is training a bunch of other horses and giving lessons (and working full-time and raising a small child). I thought to myself, he might be a lot to handle by then if nobody is doing anything with him, and wished I could train him. But, of course, that's someday. I'm only just L2 Online. And it's not my horse.

The next moment, she looked at me and said, "You can train him if you'd like to."

Wait—WHAT?!? I'm hearing things.

I said in disbelief, "Really?"

She said, "Yeah. It would really help me out. And I know you aren't going to ruin him. I trust you with him."

Let me gather my jaw from the floor.

She asked that I keep her updated with status reports, and said the farrier is due out in two weeks for his first appointment and he hasn't had his feet handled.

Um... well, Pat says it never takes more than two days, so...

I accepted the challenge.

I played with Cheerios a bit first, to warm up. It went well. Rode a little. Carrot stick riding went well. I think knowing I'm L2 Online and L3 is in sight elevated my self-esteem and helped me relax.

I turned Cheerios out and went to the round pen where the Mustang lives. All I took in with me was a mounting block to sit on and my 22' line in case I needed it.

I started out by sitting on the mounting block to play the Quiet Time game. But I soon realized, this is not a domestic horse. This is a wild creature. I could be here for a week and he'd stay on the opposite end of the pen, grazing and watching me with one wary eye.

Time to change tactics.

I stood up, 22' coiled in hand, and moseyed toward him to see what he'd do. The entire time I was with him, I kept my energy low, my movements fluid and deliberate, and used as little as possible to see how much it would take to get a response from him. I moseyed. I stayed casual and neutral.

In other words, I was different with him than I am with Cheerios. I know Cheerios knows me. I don't worry about "messing him up". But with this one... he's... pristine. My challenge is to be very careful with how I go about this. Because I realized early on that this little wild horse embodies the spirit of Horse Itself, and he has a vibrant, "alive" energy that I want him to maintain for the rest of his life. It's more than try. It's an untouched spirit, undamaged by humans, simply unmessed with.

It's important to preserve that.

It didn't take much to get a response from him. He wasn't bothered by anything I did—he just decided to move away from me. I touched his bubble, and he left. No big deal. He just... turned matter-of-factly and left in the other direction. I tossed the rope coils at Zone 4-5 (holding the metal end) and he trotted around the perimeter.

I observed.

It became apparent that 1) he wasn't afraid of me, just wary; 2) he was totally thinking the entire time; 3) he would be quite happy trotting nicely around the pen for the rest of the day as long as it kept distance between us.

First impression? LBE.

(The barn manager said he seems curious about things that would scare most horses, like when the kids were kicking a ball around and it shot into his pen. He went up and sniffed it, rather than spooking away from it.)

OK. Obviously circling won't help. Change tactics. Have him change direction. All I did was walk a couple of steps toward where he was headed, slowly raise my arm, and he neatly changed directions. (Hello, Level Three? Can I use this horse for Liberty?)

Did that for a bit, and every time he changed direction, I took one step closer to him. I didn't encroach too closely—not wanting him to feel trapped. When he stopped, I stopped and relaxed. All pressure off. Since I was purposely keeping my energy low, this wasn't hard. To get him to move, I merely needed to raise my energy slightly—that's how attuned he was to me.

It was SO COOL.

I figured out fast where the edge of his tolerance bubble was—he stopped, and put his head up over the pen, looking for a way out. I backed up one step and he relaxed.

His attitude was so fascinating. All I keep thinking is how matter-of-fact it was, how aware and attuned he was to the slightest thing, but how quietly he responded. No silly RB panic. He seemed to say, "Oh, OK. So you're doing that, I'll do this. OK. You changed. Now I'll do this. OK. That isn't working, I'll do this." He wasn't getting frustrated, nor was I. We were simply trying to establish a conversation.

(Which is how I should be with EVERY horse, right? Just because Cheerios is "tame" doesn't mean he should be treated differently. Oh, what I've learned already; how much I take for granted.)

I didn't need to throw the rope constantly, either. It was body-to-body dance.

In the middle of all this, I remembered the latest Savvy Club DVD, where Pat plays with four horseanalities. He pointed out that everything means something and nothing means nothing, and how just swapping the rope from one hand to the other matters to the horse. I noticed I was holding the rope coiled in the hand closest to the Mustang, and switched hands. Then I became mindful of which hand was closest and adjusted accordingly.

It made a difference.

He kept trotting, but he slowed down and relaxed more.

He'd get to the point where he would stop trotting and stand still. Then he'd look at me. I'd turn away. He'd stand still a minute... and trot off again. But he'd go around once, then circle closer and feel like he was thinking of coming to me (politely, even), then at the last minute he'd veer away. Without changing his rhythm, gait, or attitude.

We repeated the change of direction exercise several times until finally, he stopped and turned a quarter-turn toward me.

Whoa. I tried to see if he'd Stick To Me, but he wouldn't. When I got three steps away, he'd trot off again.

When we stopped and he faced again, he wouldn't come in. He maintained the distance between us. If I stepped forward, he stepped back and vice versa.

OK. After a few rounds of that, time for a new tactic. He'd been doing a bit of blowing, licking, chewing and his head had dropped, so I knew I was getting through. Let's try... disengaging the HQ.

Interesting. He senses it, I see the HQ muscles twitch, but he doesn't disengage right away. He turns his head to me, though. So it's a dance. I dip, he turns, I take off pressure, he looks away, I stand up. Repeat. Then trot off again.

I did notice the hind leg closest to me was cocked. NOw if it were Cheerios, I'd likely think he was relaxed. But... with this one, it could mean that—or it could mean, Hmm. I might need to kick. So I'll cock my leg in preparation. I cautioned myself on that. :-)

I decided to just mirror him and see what he'd do. When he left, I left. I stayed parallel to him and walked when he walked, trotted when he trotted, turned when he turned. THIS was fascinating, too. I had to stay right in tune with him. It got to where my brain totally shut off and I was just in the moment, dancing with the horse. There was no thinking. Not on my part anyway. I was now simply responding.

Eventually, the mirroring got through to him. He not only stopped, but he faced up. We stood there a LONG time, with the Mustang standing there neatly, ears forward, pleasant expression, looking at me.

You'd think, OK, now turn away, take off pressure, he'll stick.

Nope. Finally, I realized, just stand there. Don't move. Just hang out. Let him look. Have the agreement that we both know we're here, but we're cool with it.

He relaxed.

I waited.

It seemed like the right time to try to connect.

So I slowly—not sneakily, but gently and gradually lifted my hand and extended it to him to sniff.

The first time, nothing. I retreated. I waited. He waited.

The second time, I took one step closer. He stayed put. I repeated. Step. Wait. Step. Wait. I was close enough that he could reach out if he wanted to. So I waited.

And waited. Every now and then, retreat, approach.

And then it happened.

His little nose reached over cautiously and sniffed my hand.

When he retreated, so did I.

Now. I probably should have walked away and called it a day at that point. But I had that goal thing—touch him.

We repeated the greeting a couple times. He was more relaxed about me. The last time, I greeted, then casually reached up to stroke his forehead. Not realizing until I had my hand on his forehead that duh, I'm supposed to go to the withers first. Well, 50-50 chance, right? He wasn't too bothered by it. His head went up about a half inch, but he accepted my hand. I retreated and tried again, this time going toward his withers as he eyed me a bit warily like "Um, where do you think you're going with that?"

But he didn't move.

It occurred to me that I might be dealing with an RBI now. LBE when the human is a safe distance away; RBI when the predator is too close. I listened to his breathing. It was a little shallow. But he wasn't all hard and stary, just wary. He seemed a tad tense. So I went easy. I stroked the front part of him. When I sensed a "yeah but" I retreated.

I was probably stomping all over his thresholds, I realize now, but he behaved admirably.

When I returned to pet his head, he left. Again. Quietly, no big to-do. He just ambled off.

Well, that's not a good note. I repeated the whole process to get him to face up, which happened very quickly, then avoided his face, stroked his withers briefly, then walked away. He stood still and watched me go.

All right. Much better. He didn't leave until I opened the gate.

Yes, he is completely different from a domestic horse. Playing with him yesterday, I realized he is going to teach me everything I'll ever need to know about feel and timing and harmonizing with a horse, because he is so AWARE. He is alive and attuned and present in every single moment. He takes nothing for granted.

He has much to teach me.

It also made me realize how much we humans have dulled out even the most sensitive domestic horses. We have horses that are so bored with us that they don't even react. A bulldozer could drive over them and they'd barely look up from the grass. The spooky ones got that way because humans built it into them. We go "BOO!" and send them up over the round pen gates, out of their minds to get away from the human torturers who cause them so much panic.

But this wild one, he's special. He's Spirit Embodied. I am blessed with such a gift to be able to play with him.

And the weirdest thing I noticed. You know how all horses smell unique? Cheerios and Shaveya don't smell the same, nor do they smell like other horses I've been around.

When I got close enough to Mustang to touch and smell him, I realized he smelled familiar.

He smells like Wildflower.

Friday, July 17, 2009

WHOO-HOO!!! I just got confirmation via email that I've passed Level Two Online.

Only one more savvy to go (FreeStyle), and that BLUE STRING is MINE!!!

*happy dancing all over the place, can't wait to tell my horse*

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

SAVVY UPDATE, 07.08.09
Let's get back to using this as my Log Book, shall we? That was my original intention for this blog. Whenever you see "Savvy Update, 00.00.00", it's savvy session notes.

This is actually for yesterday. I went out in the evening after watching the Michael Jackson Memorial on TV (not a huge fan, but, I just had to, ya know? Like with Princess Di or President Reagan. It's a requirement.)

My goal was to continue working on straightening out Cheerios' feet after reading up in my Jaime Jackson book.

I collected him from the pasture and we set to it. Hmm. My energy level wasn't as high as it was Saturday. I managed to balance his left front a bit more than it had been, but then I was sweating and feeling it from leaning over. It's HARD WORK rasping and trimming. Please—appreciate your farrier. They make it look easy.

His front feet looked more normal and he was no longer turning his left foot outward, so I figured I'd done the trick. I saddled him up. Yup. Before playing. He was calm and relaxed. I figured, saddle then play then ride. He just "felt" OK to do that, so I did.

We went out to the arena and ran through the games a bit on the 12' then the 22'. He was listening well, responding to very little. Good. Played a bit with Touch It (nose) with the big orange cone. He likes to stand on everything and touch with feet rather than his nose. Had a tender moment where he just stood there with his nose on my midsection, blowing on me while I petted him. I felt really connected to him for the first time in ages.

He was pretty much in tune, so I lead him to the fence to practice mounting from there. Didn't need much practice—I clambored on up, and he moved into position like he's been doing it for years.


Now, WHY didn't he do that when we were taping?

(Because we were TAPING, right? LOL!)

I mounted, checked the brakes, and off we went. Carrot stick riding. Went really well. Dropped the reins, trotted and cantered a little without "holding on". Took my feet out of the stirrups and just sat there reveling in the moment for a bit. It was a gorgeous day. I had no real plan, just get out there and ride for a change. So we did. I left my feet out of the stirrups and did a bit more trotting and cantering that way—close to being bareback, nothing to brace against—but then my little fear rose up so I had to stop. (It was just a small bit of fear.)

Did some Figure 8s around the cones—first at a walk, so I could rehearse the focus and position, then at the trot, loose rein. Went pretty well.

Sideways was brilliant.

We bopped around the arena a bit more, cantered beautifully to the gate, and he sidled up to it for me to open it on a thought. Opened, rode through, shut it. Dismount, untack. Pet him a lot in the barn. Then... I played with his mouth, and he licked me, so I tried for the tongue.

He let me hold his tongue.

I figured out that if I feed a little grain from my hand after he lets me hold it, he's more inclined to dangle his tongue out the side of his mouth.

Return to pasture.

I've noticed that when I am relaxed, and even if I have goals, I remain relaxed and just do stuff in a slow but relaxed manner, it goes better. It's when I get tense and feel "on a schedule" that stuff goes badly. I don't hurry up and saddle, I just do it with intent but with relaxation. Not hesitantly, not hurried. When my entire attitude is neither hesitant nor hurried, just "so", we have a great time. Especially when I pause and take time to appreciate just being with him in between.

I guess that is the definition of "take the time it takes, so it takes less time".

Monday, July 06, 2009

In the interest of saving moolah, I'm performing my own hoof maintenance for now. You may recall back in '06 I was on the path to becoming an AANHCP trimmer but got derailed because of the parental illnesses. I'd already invested in the equipment and two clinics plus reading material. I know enough, and I had a bit of hands-on practice with a bit of professional guidance before being turned loose to do maintenance on my own beasts.

But I'm nowhere near an expert. However, this weekend...

I took a stab at it. I've been a naughty horse owner because I lost track of time and didn't have the trimmer out recently. When I went out Saturday, I discovered that while Shaveya's hooves are longer than they should be, they look all right; but Cheerios' looked bad. I mean BAD. Bigtime flare on the fronts, and the persistent quarter crack he's always had on his right front was worse. (It looks like he blew an abcess on the right hind about two months ago, too.)

I'd brought my trimming tools on instinct. Good thing. I collected him and for my own sake, put him in cross-ties. He was a good boy. I managed to get the flare knocked off and trimmed him down a little. I still have a ways to go to get him to the right length, but it's a MAJOR improvement. He was eternally patient with me. I went slow to avoid cutting anything I shouldn't, so it took longer. Just the fronts, though. I couldn't do the rear hooves after all the bending and squatting. But the rear hooves look OK (albeit too long).

Since I'm recuperating from my end of putting up nearly 300 bales of hay yesterday (helping the barn manager, working off board), I'm holding off on further trimming until tomorrow at the earliest. Gotta read my Jaime Jackson and Pete Ramey books a bit first, and remind myself how this is done.

Maybe I will do this after all. Maybe I should start out with the hoof trimming, make money while I study into L3, THEN apply to the Parelli Pro Program.

You know what? For all the pain I'm in today after the intense labor (I'm out of shape, am I?), I must say I really love farm work. I love doing it. It's good honest work and the rewards are solid. The pace of the farm works for me, too. You do it when it's time to do it, and that's that. I love seeing the horses' expressions as they watch us loading hay.

Speaking of, it's time for dinner.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Sometimes, life just interrupts itself. After a very hectic spring preparing for then taping the Online portion of my L2 Assessment, life interrupted my horsemanship efforts. Oh, it wasn't anything major; just... stuff.

I mean, there was the sudden death of my old riding buddy. But then June flew by without so much as a visit to the barn. We had a spate of freakishly hot weather, followed by a new spate of unseasonably cool weather. It's July, but it feels like October.

I've been wrestling with my goals again. The eternal struggle for me has been horses versus music: which is the right career path for me?

Much of it has to do with age. I realize that mid-40s is young nowadays, but it still feels like the window for rock superstardom (only half kidding there) is about to close, at least for those trying to resume dormant careers like I would be. Though I'm a good age for Parelli Instructorship—just about right, matter of fact.

But the news release regarding the program changes was long to arrive.

So, I applied to graduate school. Out of state. To a music-related program that is only offered in that one state. I have no idea if I'll be accepted, or if I'll have the funds to attend if I am. But it seemed like the perfect compromise between prudence and passion, so I went for it.

Then, the revisions to the Professionals Program emerged—and for the first time ever, it looks POSSIBLE for me. It used to be that to achieve 3-Star (full instructor status, able to hold 12-person clinics) was a long, expensive process: after passing L3, the student would do 14 weeks of study (four week boot camp plus 10 weeks of training), become 1-Star; teach 1-2 students at a time for a year (no pay); then do another 10 weeks, become 2-Star, teach up to 6 at a time for a year (with pay); then do another 10 weeks to become 3-Star. The cost was prohibitive, and it was a three-year plan, with the first being without pay.

I've heard legends of instructors who sold their homes and all of their possessions to be able to afford it.

That terrified me.

Now, there are two options: one week of study to become a 1-Star, followed by the option to do a second week a year later to become a 2-Star (for a total of $15,000); or, the 12-week Extern program for $12,000 that grants 1-Star status automatically, 2-Star if the student graduates with honors and if not, the student can come back in a year, do the week-long course to become 2-star and it's already included in the tuition.

The other change is that 1-Stars can teach all three levels—four if the instructor is Official L4—but the caveat is that 1-Stars can only teach Online. 2-Stars can also teach FreeStyle. To be able to teach Liberty and Finesse requires 3-Star status. To achieve 3-Star, the student completes the Mastery program. The details of that have yet to be released.

It seems do-able now. Twelve weeks (once I pass L3), and I could be teaching Online skills to students. Maybe Online and FreeStyle. For pay. I could be an EMPLOYED PNH Instructor.

Or, for the same cost but three years of study, I could have an MFA. In music technology. And be able to work in the music industry, or teach.

So what's the question? Why is there a debate?

When I was very small, my Mother asked what I wanted to be when I grew up.

I stated quite boldly, "I'm going to live on a farm, and raise and train horses."

My Mother snorted in disbelief (or amusement—or both). "How are you going to do that? You haven't grown up on a farm around horses—how will you know how to train them?"

I had no answer at the time. (I now know the answer was, "through Parelli, that's how!")

She continued: "And what are you going to do for a job? Because horses are expensive, and you'll have to have a really good job to make enough money to have a horse."

Well, I couldn't answer that, either, and my dad, a college professor with a PhD, didn't make enough that we could afford ONE horse (or so they said whenever I asked, "we can't afford a horse"), so they must be goshawfully expensive, and I want to breed them, which means I'll need at least two, so... good grief, I'm going to have to be a millionaire to be able to pursue my dream.

Ah, the logic of a six-year-old.

So I looked around to see what people did for a living, and it occurred to me that entertainers, especially the ones on TV, seemed to make a LOT of money. But they spent it on silly stuff like furs, cars and jewelry. I knew I could sing, and play guitar, so I thought, "if I become a TV star, or a musician, and I save my money instead of spending it on junk, I should be able to make enough to retire in 5-10 years, then I can do my horse thing."

So, I decided then and there to become a rich and famous rock star, and retire at 40 to live on my farm and raise and train horses.

The rich, famous and star part didn't work out, though the rock musician thing carried me through my 20s and most of my 30s. And I did become a horse owner right on schedule, along with discovering Parelli.

The truth is, my dream of rock superstardom ONLY originated because I thought it would finance my REAL dream. I just got too caught up in the musical lifestyle and forgot about the horses for awhile. But the belief that music is my ticket to horse dreams is still dominant.

Either that belief needs to go so I can go after the REAL dream (including PNH Instructor training); or I need to really make it in music this time.

I think I'll go to the barn tomorrow. And maybe win the lottery. Then I can ride without the guilt shadow hovering over me (since I'm behind on board due to no job yet, hardly any savings left, and no interviews recently). Wish me luck.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Jenny Update
The newspaper finally posted service information for my friend Jenny. I've also found out some information about her passing.

The initial report is that Jenny knew she was dying. She wasn't on her way to the barn; she was on her way to the hospital. Ever stubborn, driving herself to help because she thought she was having a heart attack. The autopsy results aren't back yet, but they seem to believe that the cause of death may have been massive heart failure rather than from the crash.

In a way, I find that comforting, knowing she may have been spared the horrific part at the end. I also find it sad, to think that she had an idea this was "it". I'm not sure which is better—knowing it's coming, or not.

In about an hour, I'm headed to the visitation. It will be a gathering of old friends from the barn as well as her bereaved family. I never know what to expect at these things; but I'm an old pro now after my parents' services.

If you have a minute, spare a good thought for Jenny's family, and for her mare.

Good news coming in the days ahead, I promise.

Monday, May 04, 2009

I now know a riderless horse. Her name is Redbird. She's a beautiful chestnut QH mare, said to be Foundation. She's probably in her mid-20s by now. Because of her, I regained my pre-Parelli confidence after the fall from Cheerios that first year. Because of her owner, Jenny, I held onto my dream in the face of fear.

And as of 4:00 PM Sunday, May 3rd, Redbird is a Riderless horse.

Because Jenny was killed in a terrible car crash yesterday. It was a horrendous event. According to the news report, she hit a mailbox, a ditch, a pole, a tree, then rolled and landed overturned. It was instantaneous.

Jenny was 47 years old. Our birthdays were a few days apart. She was the first person who gravitated towards me when I joined the herd at the old barn. She was one of the first to welcome me into this brand new world of horses.

She was there for my first trail ride.

She was there for the Poker Run, when it rained. We'd tied our horses' reins to the rail after completing the ride so we could eat barbecued hamburgers before heading back. Cheerios got impatient being tied up, and gave a good yank—breaking the new leather and leaving me with the terrifying quandry (for a neophyte rider) of having to steer my horse all the way back home with only one steering device! (Another rider cobbled it together for me and Jenny and he flanked me to ensure my horse wouldn't run off with me. Ah, those pre-Savvy days...)

Jenny was there for the Big Jump, the day Cheerios carried us unexpectedly over the creek with such grace and dexterity that Jenny and the other rider sat there with their jaws to the floor. Jenny said "I wish I'd had a videocamera for that!"

Jenny was there in the days after Cheerios dumped me, encouraging me to get back on the horse as soon as I felt able. She was the one who saddled him up for me and helped me mount up on my first day back after the fall. She was the one who "rescued" us from "certain death" as he escaped at a slow walk to the mare's pasture (where the gate was open).

Jenny was there for me when the fear was so great I couldn't even lead him to the pasture by myself.

Jenny is the one who offered to temporarily trade horses with me that summer, so I could regain my confidence riding her good old mare while she "straightened out Cheerios" for me (though I know now it was me who needed straightening out). Jenny is the one who trusted me with her beloved mare enough to let me take her out solo on the trails.

Redbird was her whole life—Jenny worried that Red was getting older; she said she didn't know what she'd do if anything ever happened to Red, that she probably wouldn't be able to live without her. She worried about how she'd deal with it when "the inevitable" happened. Losing Red was probably her worst fear.

Jenny was there when so many things happened at the barn.

But something happened to our friendship when I discovered Parelli. I won't blame it all on that—there were more private issues that Jenny endured and personality conflicts that made friendship between us challenging at times. But it did seem the rift opened when I became a Parelli fanatic. Our horsemanship beliefs diverged at that point; after a time, even trail rides were uncomfortable for both of us.

Though we stopped riding together, we were still on friendly terms, and we often chatted when we met up at the barn. There was an incident with the caustic woman who later attacked me for my method of dealing with Shaveya's lameness—the same woman verbally attacked Jenny one day, right after Jenny's Dad died. I stood up to the woman on Jenny's behalf and intervened to stop the attack. It had been uncalled for—it was about nothing important, and nothing that was any of that woman's business anyway. But the day sticks out in my mind—it was probably the last time we bumped into each other at the barn, because I moved my horses not long after that.

Jenny even cared enough to skip her lunch break to appear at my Dad's funeral to give condolences. She'd met him all those times he'd accompanied me to the barn. It was a surprise—we hadn't been talking, I wasn't even aware she'd know—but she came. It meant a lot to me.

That was the last time I saw her. Almost three years ago. Two years, not quite 11 months, to be precise.

Now, I'm going to her funeral sometime this week (if they have one—hasn't been announced yet).

And the only bright spot I can find about this is that her horse outlived her, thus she never had to realize her worst fear.

Godspeed, Jenny. May you find a swift horse in Heaven and ride free.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

I'm allowed to change my mind. It's been an agonizing decision. But, I've decided that I AM still on the path to PNH Professional. Every time I turn away from it, my heart breaks. It's said that God can make a way where none exists... I'm choosing to have faith that He will help me get there.

That's why those widgets appear to the left of this post section. One is because I need immediate help keeping my horses safe from errant disease; the other is a savings fundraiser aimed toward my Parelli Professional training.

I have been and am still looking for a job, but even when I get one, I'm starting at zero. Saving that much money could be a challenge; someday, I'll be able to sell the house I'm living in, and likely net a good stash of cash, but I'd really rather not. This is my childhood home. It's my last connection to my dead parents. I grew up here. Though I don't imagine dying here, I'm still deeply attached to it and it seems like a heck of a sacrifice to make for a career.

But we'll cross that bridge when and if we get to it. My hope—no, my INTENTION—is that God will find another way to fund my career. So I've set my intention with the Universe and God by launching that Parelli Dreams widget to raise $100,000 by the end of the year. It will all go into an interest-bearing annuity until I'm admitted into the Professionals program.

I haven't decided what to do with it if I didn't get in, because... as they say, don't make a Plan B lest Plan B becomes THE Plan.

You know, God gave me an unmistakable sign back in 2002. And in 2001.

The day I bought Cheerios and brought him home to the barn, the first person I met was a Parelli student.

That night, a group of boarders were having a pizza/movie night in the caretaker's house. I was invited to join them. It was the one and only movie night they ever had in the five years I boarded there. The movie?

One Day With Pat Parelli.

I had no idea who he was; all I knew was, I watched what he and that little blonde gal were doing with their horses, and I said to myself, "that's what I am gonna be doing with my horse this summer", not realizing it wasn't as easy as The Black Stallion beach scene made it look.

But the clincher was 2002. May 24th, to be exact. A couple of weeks earlier, one year to the date of falling off Cheerios, injuring my back and becoming afraid, I'd finally hit Send and purchased the Level One kit (old VHS version). On May 24th, a Friday, right before Memorial Day Weekend, at precisely 4:30 PM, my boss called me into the office to let me know that 20% of the workforce was being laid off due to post-9/11 economic considerations. That was a whopping five people, me being one of them.

I wasn't upset. I qualified for unemployment—I saw it as a paid vacation for a few months while I decided whether or not to continue in my field, and the perfect opportunity to spend the summer like the kid I'd always wished I could have been—playing with my horse all summer long.

I cleaned out my space, finished my work, emailed everyone—it took a while. By the time I arrived home, it was dark. On my front porch I spotted something.

Oh, a FedEx box. Long and skinny. And another one.

It was my Level One kit. According to the label, it had been delivered to my house right around 4:30 PM—at the precise moment my boss was letting me go and freeing me forever from the graphic design world.

Now. You tell ME that wasn't a clear sign. "Here. You're meant to do this PNH thing. I'm clearing your schedule so you can focus on it. You're welcome."

I've had ups and downs, and I didn't grow up with horses which tested my self-confidence and made me doubt I could actually do this. But Neil Pye didn't grow up with them, either, and he became a 5-Star before handling the business end. And Pat didn't, either, though he started earlier than Neil or I did. Still—it's proof that one doesn't have to grow up on hroseback to be able to learn how to "train" horses (the Ultimate Way™) or ride them.

Anybody with the heart and desire, and the commitment to the program, can learn how to do this.

Even me.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

L2 Audition Dry Run
Yesterday’s dry run was interesting. Cheerios and I were having an off-day, which shouldn't be surprising after the last session and the super-cool discoveries. I should have realized breakdowns precede and follow breakthroughs. I was tense. I knew that. He knew that. I kind of regressed from where we were last time. I was kind of pissed that we couldn’t “perform”, and worried that I’d never be able to finish my L2 in time to make the free deadline May 1st, and because of “how things are” with my financial life right now, I worried whether I’d ever be able to afford the fees (which haven’t been published or alluded to yet).

And my friend the videographer, whose horse experience is limited to having seen them on TV or petted one once, asked me what the plan was. I said “the thing with horses is, whenever you have a plan, they come up with a different one, so I don’t know”. Ha ha.

Yep. I know.

I should not have said, thought, or even imagined all the things I did, because...

Of course they all came true. Dang, it’s easy to manifest the stuff I don’t want. (How? I think or say it once, then forget about it. Ha ha. I bet if I could do that with “house sale”, and not think about it for a day or three, stuff would budge. Of course.)

Turns out, it’s a good thing it was a dry run, because I need to educate my friend on what to film and how to do it. Had our performance had rocked, I would not have been able to send it in because the footage wasn't usable by Audition standards. The entire horse and human did not appear in all frames.

I think she misinterpreted what I needed. She was shooting footage trying to make it “interesting”. So sometimes it’s close-up on the horse only, or on me (and my Gawd I am large, either I need to be on a diet TODAY or I need to find more fitted clothes up top) or the horse veers off frame then back in, or I’m trying to move a part that isn’t on film... When I watched it at home, I was very frustrated.

But, I realize it’s my fault. I wasn’t clear. I wasn't a good leader for her.

What I need is a continuous shot, from beginning to end, of the 10-minute audition, and at all times every single hair or toenail on both parties must be visible within the frame with a bit of air space around the borders. The camera should remain motionless, and zooming should be limited to only when necessary. At no time should there be a zoom onto one or the other, or should parts of either be excluded.

The reason is, the Parelli Faculty is looking at the relationship and communication between the horse and human, and to do that they must be able to see the entire bodies of both at once, so that they can review who did what to result in the outcome. It doesn’t need to be that close up either, because the Parelli Faculty are so well-trained to read body language that they can spot a one-degree ear swivel on a horse that is 200 yards away. In the dark. (Just kidding on the dark part.)

And as for me, uh... I need to "forget" the camera and camera person is there. I caught myself looking AT them and interacting. Well, that's not the purpose. The purpose is, the camera(wo)man does not exist; they are invisible, and it is a fly-on-the-wall secret look into the relationship with the horse and human. Nobody should be aware that there is a person holding a camcorder. If that makes sense.

I’m going to tell her "good first attempt", then describe what I need in the footage, then point her in the direction of some other audition examples and Parelli vids so she can see what it should look like.

I’m also going out a few times this week in between (I hope) job interviews and applications to play solo and work out a PLAN so I’m not trying to come up with it on the fly, testing things during filming. (Flat out: I was prepared, but unprepared. I had the music ready, batteries charged, fresh tapes, tripod, boombox, and clean clothes... I just didn’t have a plan or any rehearsal before hand and this was our third visit after a long winter. And I could use a refresher course on the 22-foot line. We both could.)

On the upside, there is some cute stuff, like Cheerios’ expression when I scritch him good, and there is proof that I can canter, and dang it, I really look like I’m finally riding better. (All I wanna do is canter all over the place.) And when I removed the 22-foot line and played at Liberty, IN AN ARENA, he stuck to me and it went really nicely. Which is L3. Which doesn’t go on the tape (I don't think). But it’s cool.

So while I don’t feel confident about passing L2 anytime in the future, LOL, I’m happy to note my progress, and I guess it’s a blessing in disguise that it DIDN’T go perfectly yesterday. And I’m grateful that I HAVE a video camera to tape it with, and that I HAVE a friend willing to stand out there doing so. And she brought carrots. (And it'll probably go better when it's done "for real", and we'll have that blue string in hand before my birthday this summer as "planned"—because I have been IN L2 since August 2003. That is LONG enough. I have let far too much "life" get in the way of my progress.)

And I got to see Cheerios interact with the foal! Wish I had that on camera. I was untacking him in the barn, and the barn manager brought in the momma horses for the night (we have mare and foal and one mare due any second now), and the foal was following momma mare, and saw Cheerios and got confused. The foal approached Cheerios, and Cheerios took on the expression of a worried parent, turned, looked at the foal, and started NICKERING at him. Hoohoo hoo. Hoohoo hoo.

I was gobsmacked. Who knew he liked babies. Luckily the barn manager got a hold of the little colt before he tried to nurse my gelding. I doubt that would have gone over well. LOL!

And the weather was beautiful, the sunset on the ride home was spectacular, and I'm very grateful that I actually have horses, and that I get to experience all of the wonderful miracles that being a part of the PNH program has given us.