Saturday, August 01, 2009
MORE THAN MUSTANGS
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?"
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.
I AM A HORSE TRAINER (DEVELOPER).
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.