Thursday, May 29, 2008

Day Nine, L&HB

I was tired this morning and not much in the mood for the simulations. Some of the simulations have been very enlightening, but some have really stretched me outside of my comfort zone. Sometimes the feedback from other students is not helpful because they are just beginning the program. Sometimes the feedback is riddled with assumptions made during the exercise. However, sometimes I've made amazing realizations from them. And today was the best simulation of them all.

All of the faculty members here are fantastic. They are different, yet each has a special thing about them and they create a well-rounded team of mentors. I don't know if the Parelli org could put together a better team if they tried. Today, I was in remuda with Trevor and was very impressed. He decided to have all 14 of us be his horse and he was the human in the middle. Imagine it - 14 different personalities and getting them to all do something in unison without talking... using only body language and a swim noodle. I was so engaged and fascinated by the way he communcated to us all. I was able to truly reflect on how I talk to my horse and the body suggestions I make. Trevor made me want to see what he'd ask next. I was trying hard to do the right thing and felt like I wanted to please him. I barely know Trevor; it was just the energy he gave off and the suggestions he made.

The first game he was in the middle and he asked us to make a circle around him. Then, lucky me, he stared me in the eyes. His eyes got large and full of intent. I actually took a step back! He was asking me for something, but I didn't know what. I was trying to figure it out and feeling intimated and I actually got worried! Can my horse infer that much from my body language and my ask? I figured out that he wanted me to turn to the side and start walking. He had all 14 of us doing the circle game around him. However (and this is big), he played the part of the human just beginning to find savvy. So, sometimes he'd be hard with his ask and sometimes soft. Sometimes he made no sense. Sometimes he ask for one thing then another at the same time. And sometimes he just got plain old scary. He never moved his feet really. Very cool. We all talked after about how we felt as the horse. Most felt intimidation, some were frustrated, some felt like shutting down, some were fearful. That's how our horses feel, especially when we're just learning. Ahhh, interesting.

The next circle he was much more savvy, more consistent, he figured out which human needed reassurance and which he could ask for more from. He got the circle to do a lead change. He got us to go fast and slow on our circles. He got us to make a huge circle while we walked and then a closer-in circle (smaller). I was fascinated! When we all shared feedback afterwards, people expressed a comforting feeling, a trust in him to be consistent, and a willingness that wasn't there previously. This is the way we WANT our horses to feel.

I was amazed the communication he could have with us using only his eyes. I need to step it up a notch with my horses. We then went to do simulation games with COD and the spin. The spin requires a box step (back, side, forward, then side). It takes a little coordination and I've never done it before. You also change hands at the 2nd step so you're ready to push zone 1 back around. Fancy! But I need to lick and chew on it.

I got some interesting feedback on my change of direction in simulation. I have to say, simulations are the least comfortable thing for me. I find it so hard to treat 3 people like I'd treat my horse. It's very calculated and not natural and I'm not very good at it. Still, it's a great way to practice and I will definitely keep trying.

Today was all about SQUEEZE and SIDEWAYS. Tara showed us those games with a student's hores - a really nice sorrel QH that had enough try for all the horses in the class. It was great to watch. Then, Megan showed us all 3 levels of the 2 games with her paint gelding. They had some great communication together but he was pretty lackluster in the beginning. We played simulation games, which were probably some of the less useful we'd done (for me, at least). I'm sure after the simulation with Trevor, I will be disappointed every time. We did squeeze and sideways simulations.

I had some more pics done with Coco, which was really fun. Z loves going into the water so she shot a bunch of Z in nearly up to her back and my horse was having fun!! I loved that. Her welts are much smaller, but she stocked up in her legs. A swim was probably feeling real good to her with her belly and legs needing some attention (the welts and the fluid build-up). We got some more intimate shots, too. Intimate shots with a horse... hmmm... :-)

I went out with Z thinking we would do nothing. I was feeling low energy and she was stocked up and sluggish. But after a while, we were starting to get into things. I had 2 separate students actually comment on how we looked very connected and fluid together! Hmmm...

L&HB, In General

On the first day (I think), we were asked to write our goals for the class. Mine were:

1) The ability to better read and understand my horse.
2) The ability to look at my L3 Liberty tape and see better where I've misread my horse.
3) Have my horse want to be with me even more.
4) Clearly identify her horseanility (huge)

On the last day, we were asked to reflect on our goals and whether we felt successful. I would say emphatically, YES!

1) I am absolutely better at reading and understanding my horse.
2) I watched my L3 Liberty video on day 7 and saw some interesting things. I will try to video tape me and my horses more often.
3) Z was nickering for me by the 6th day and our liberty was better than ever.
4) I believe she's RBE, but I decided to stop trying to solve that mystery and just deal with the horse that shows up. They told us some students don't know for sure until they finish L3. That might be Z and I, too.

I built such a bond with some of the students. I was very sad to leave and I cried some on the drive. I've grown and done a lot of self-reflection in 2 weeks and now I'm committed to carrying all that I learned with me into the future. I promise myself to go back and read my blog entries and continue to practice the new things I learned.

I also spent some time thinking about some demos I could do with my horses. I would like to think of some cool maneuvers and start isolating the actions to build a great demo. With Z, things I could do with her athleticism. With Gemini and Rain, things I can do to show their feet action (Spanish Walk, lay down and bow, synchronized stepping). I will do some youtube searches and get other ideas for things to teach my horses. They are my feedback. They tell me and others how I'm doing. I'd like to develop my web site and have some good demo videos out there. Maybe I'll put together a youtube page as well.

For now, I'm going to make L3 completion my top priority. If Dennis gets well, I could probably spend 6 months focusing on the riding and a little time on the side finishing whatever ground work is necessary. I feel pretty good about the ground work.

Some ideas: demo with Z using a neck rope only from the ground. Rain and something specific to her gating capabilities. Gemini and jumping!!! I have 3 cool horses - I want to show their talents off! I liked the Canadian's feeding demo - syncronized feeding with 4 horses. I liked the European trainers demo with her horse on the ground doing lots of close circles and backwards circles! All 3 of my horses should be able to do circle game backwards - especially Z (hardest for her). Gemini or Rain rearing? All horses bowing and laying down. Nice mounted lead changes on G and Z. My mind is overrun with ideas. I have to remember all of this and stay creative. Thank you, Parelli!


Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Day Eight, L&HB

Wow, it's going by FAST! I have only 2 days left. I've spent the last couple of days trying to figure out if I could manipulate my life somehow and stay here for the first riding course. This afternoon, we were very fortunate to have Pat come talk to us and during his talk, he mentioned balance. Balance in life, family, work, pleasure... It was very poignant for me. Balance. I have to get back to my "real" life and I can't stay here, no matter how much I'd love to. I will drive my life in this direction, but I can't dive into it without regard for the most important people in my life. So, I'm at peace with this adventure coming to a close. It's been amazing.

OK, back to the day. Remuda this morning was with Avery only. We talked about the previous day and any questions (like every day). We then discussed a situation with Kristin's horse where she tried to porcupine her horse over a large log with Trevor watching and coaching. It did not go well for Kristin and Trevor took the horse and finished the session for her. Kristin was emotional just discussing it and apparently there was rearing and fear and some dings on the horses legs when it was all said and done. Soooo, we all agreed we'd love to see Avery play with her horse and show porcupine game with him. It turned out to be a great demo! Avery has much to teach!

Avery holds the rope a certain way, over her wrist and she says it allows her to have more feel. I've never seen anyone handle the rope that way and I may give it a try. She mentioned that she believes in never tying a horse unless you can bring him to you at the canter with a porcupine game on the poll. I thought to myself, uhhh, that's a small handful of horses that could be tied then. But her point was well made - make sure a horse is damn ready to be tied before you tie it.

Teach, control, reinforce, refine.

Avery also showed us how to apply 3 concurrent phase 4's. This was effective for Kristin's horse who was only slightly impressed with 1 phase 4. I'd never seen this technique and I was thinking of times I could use it. It could be a good way to get Z to back up faster and make it to the end of the 45. She can make it now, but it's got to be snappier and it will be hard up the hill.

The game to learn today was Circle. We covered the send, allow and bring back. The they showed us transitions and change of direction. Finally, Kristie demo'ed spins for us. Z and I have never tried spins, but it's time! I'm getting great lead changes at Liberty with her and I think she could manage the pressure of a spin. Kristie demo'ed with Ole and he's just an amazing athlete. He' s a RBI and it's interesting to watch a classic RBI work.

Jon also took in 3 student horses for the next demoes. He had a supposedly LBI, a quad-polar horse, and an extrovert (R and L). Corrinn's little 1 yr old paint was the LBI and very cute. Jackie brought the extrovert, a Morgan/Freisian cross. Ohhh - he was nice! and the quad-polar horse was Charity's. All 3 were very interesting to watch.

"Positional Truth" - make sure your change of direction ask does NOT look like your bring back ask. Promise your horse that one will always mean one thing and the other means something else. I like this.

For up transitions, wait for the horse to reach your leading shoulder, then ask and turn with them.

It's ok to smooch or kiss for transitions up. I've been taught to stay quiet always. Interesting.

For a good send, send the horse then start the allow with 3 slaps to the ground in 3 different spots following the horse. Another use of 3 phase 4's. This is very useful for horses that don't maintain gait on the circle - builds a stronger "allow". It also helps you from getting emotional with an unmotivated horse.

John talked about playing games with your horse and ask them to leave at different speeds. I would like to play with this game.

I've been taught to practice 9 times of turning and drawing your horse for the change of direction for every 1 time you actually perform the full change. Otherwise, I was told it would possibly have a negative effect on your draw. I asked that question today and was told that was not really true. Interesting.

About my play time with Z... our bond is stronger every day and I'm getting more and more try from her all the time. We had pics with Coco after the instructor sessions and demos. Wow - this was a fantastic day with Z and I got the best flying changes at Liberty than ever. We also got a great sideways at Liberty off the rail. Coco shot pics of all of that - can't wait to see them! More pics tomorrow with Coco.

I watched Trevor in the round pen with his horse. He was obviously not that into it and we talked some. However, I did get to see him give a phase 4 and wow. I've never given a phase 4 like that before. He definitely gets 2 eyes and 2 ears, though. He also can drive down the road and have his horse trot next to the truck with no line attached. So...

I did some undemanding time and let my horse eat grass. We drove from zone 4/5 at a jog up to her pen. Just a great day and my horse and I had some very nice and harmonious moments.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Day Seven, L&HB

Today was the best day yet. I was blown away. My horse felt it too and at the end of our play time, she did not want to go into her pen. I was astonished. I can feel our bond changing and I'm absolutely ecstatic about it. This crap really works! :0

Today, we did some interesting simulations. First, we had a conga horse and we drove it from zone 3/4. That was interesting and I got some good feedback. Then, we drove that same horse with 2 reins from zone 5. That was much harder and I got some feedback about giving my horse too many signals and/or not releasing. That feedback was interesting and I really think human assumptions were coming into play. I believe she assumed that when I asked her to come back, I wanted her to stop only. I actually wanted her to back up. She felt that I wasn't rewarding her when she stopped. I found that very interesting.

Things I learned: They highly recommend driving with two 22's before using the 45' looped. This was interesting and I'll be doing that for sure. This made great sense to me. They recommend getting really good at driving with 1 rope in zone 5 before driving with 2. Also, we saw a demo that showed how to lay the rope over the horse's back so you can have a little more of a discussion with the horse. Very cool - I'll be playing with that.

I asked a question about my horse dropping her head when I drive her and Julia recommend that I think of drawing her towards me before asking her with the reins. She thought it could help get the message across to my horse better. I'll be playing with that, too. Great suggestion!

We saw 2 student horse demo's. One was Julie's thoroughbred who had problems with Friendly game. The other was Kim's horse who had problems with dominance and respect. Of course, within 20 mins, the problems were significantly better. The instructors are all very impressive.

Today was mainly about the Yo-yo game. They put great emphasis on getting the horse good at straight lines BEFORE circles. Hmmm... never heard that before (I don't think...). That is why the yo-yo game comes before the circle game.

We talked about the Falling Leaf pattern and the backwards "S". Falling leaf is for driving a horse who needs more respect and the "S" is for creating more draw.

Tara did a yo-yo demo with a student's Percheron. The horse was cool, but did not know much at all. Tara did a great job of teaching the horse something while managing it's busy feet.

We also had a fairly long Q&A session with John and Kathy Barr about the Parelli organization and becoming a professional. That was enlightening. Danielle and I talked quite a bit as we both have professional goals. We are both concerned about the new level paks and potentially new assessments. The program changes a lot and I don't want the bar to get raised just as I'm reaching for it. We'll see...

OK - play session with Z was amazing. She was calm and relaxed at the start. She wasn't worried about leaving her buddy or other horses. She also has some large welts on her belly and I'm assuming she's developed some sort of allergic reaction to something. Strange. It's not spreading anywhere else, so I'm watching and observing for now.

We were out on the playground today. Coco was supposed to be taking pictures, but I didn't see her. I played with a lot of things with Z and it was our most successful play session yet. I was amazed. We continued to work on stepping on the pedestal. Z has wanted to jump it and today I finally got her to understand that I wanted her to put a hoof on it. That was awesome. Today was also the first day I asked for help. I went to Julia and got some great feedback from her. I wasn't frustrated so much as I wanted to have someone watch me and see if they thought I could do something differently. It seemed like we were stuck at the stage where Z lifts her leg but doesn't actually rest a hoof on the pedestal. I was being a little too gentle probably and not asking her to try harder. Julia also reminded me to start measuring our progress - to get more analytical about her tries. She suggested to try and measure in inches how far over the pedestal her neck goes or how high her leg lifts, set a goal of distance and get off it once we reach it. Great advice. I never had to break it down that far because within 10 mins, we got it. Funny how that works. We were very close when I went to Julia and I think I needed the support.

I backed Z up a hill on the 45 today. We've done that before, but today it was quicker and more responsive than usual. She also trotted into me with no issues! We played with the falling leaf and the backwards "S". We played circle game with obstacles and she did start to get emotional but also very exhuberant! She kicked and bucked and farted on the 45 around the obstacles. It was great to watch. We practiced loading into the tiny 2 horse straight load trailer. That's quite an obstacle and Z doesn't think its such a great idea. I realize my large trailer makes it very easy for her and the small trailer is a great squeeze game. She'll get in to her shoulder/wither area. Another threshold for us to play with... We also played with driving from zone 5 quite a bit. That was a little tough because of all the grass. When I'm not leading her or driving her from zone 3 or 4, she can get her own ideas very easily. That was one of the big things I learned from simulation - a horse being driven has to be listening intently for your suggestions and it's incredibly easy for them to feel like their ideas are better.

Truly a great day - this program is so great. My professional goals are solidified by being here and taking this course.

Day Six, L&HB

This was a great day. I'm now using only my 45'. I realized I need to start using it all the time if it's ever going to feel natural to me. So, damn it, that's what I'm doing.

We worked some more on the pedestal - one of the obstacles that continues to elude us. Z is great at leaping over thresholds, I've learned. She's not so great at slowing down and doing things one foot at a time.

Saw Pat at the restaurant at night with Kara, Corrinn and Renee. Played volleyball!

I have to catch up on my blogs!!

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Day Five, L&HB

Each day is better than the last. It rained and snowed all day, so I only took Z out of the paddock at the end of the day for about 45 minutes. I used the 45', which I haven't done much lately. We walked to the large pasture where the honeycomb is and I played a little on line. I got some fantastic lead changes from her! Better than I've ever seen. I was trying to be very particular about where her body was in relation to mine while we walked and it seemed to make a difference. I'm realizing more and more how strong of a leader she wants me to be. To her, it seems partnership means "lead me". She appreciates when I'm clear and direct her energy. We practiced sideways and she was feeling very forward. How interesting. The most important thing I learned while we were together: when I took her to a round pen, thinking she could eat grass on her own while having undemanding time with me, as soon as I took off her halter she became VERY unconfident! She called within 15 seconds of her halter coming off. I was amazed - how have I missed that before? She wants her hand held and she wants to feel safe. When I stopped holding her hand, she felt scared and alone. Wow.

When I actively started to participate and engage with her in the round, she settled down very quickly. I started to walk and she stuck to me w/o me asking. At one point the day before, another horse pinned it's ears at her. I moved him away and I think that type of thing makes a big impression on Z.

Also, our game of asking her to follow my body and do transitions (walk when I walk, back when I back, etc...) has gotten very soft and light extremely quickly. Cool.

I will write on all the things I learned from the sessions later...

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Day Four, L&HB

Rain, rain and more rain. It rained on and off all day but luckily when it was time for us to play with our horses, the rain stopped. I had an amazing liberty session with my horse.

Today was about the 7 games. We talked about how the horseanalities should help decide which games to play; which help the horse's needs.

Things I found worth noting:

Frustration begins where knowledge ends.

The Power of Observation is the most powerful tool.

Three systems of a horse: respect, impulsion, flexion.

3 rules of horsemanship: 1. Always put the relationship first! 2. Develop all 4 savvy's! 3. Accept that you are on a journey of never-ending self-improvement.

The relationship:
In Level 1: Coexist
In Level 2: Tit for Tat (I'll take care of your needs when you take care of mine)
In Level 3: Your needs are my needs

Attitude of Scarcity can hinder you. Take an attitude of abundance!!

Never "should" on yourself! (I love that one)

Observe, remember, compare

Forgiveness. For ourselves and for our horses.

Principal games:
1. Friendly - AKA Confidence Game. Unconditional Deposit.
2. Porcupine - Follow a feel, always touching your horse.
3. Driving - Follow a suggestion

Purpose games:
4. Yo-Yo - north = south, transitions, straight lines
5. Circle - act like a partner, don't change gait, don't change direction, watch your feet
6. Sideways
7. Squeeze - shorten flight line

I need to ask myself more often, "Why did Z do that??"
I will start practicing more porcupine.

We did the "wax on, wax off" simulation, where two people face each other and one follows the other's feel in the wax on, wax off motion. Then, from farther and farther away. Kinda neat.

Then, the hot and cold game. This was cool. One person left the room, then 3 people stayed and were told to play the role of someone giving helpful directions, someone giving the total opposite directions and someone giving conflicting messages. When the person came back in the room, the 3 of them would tell her "hot" or "cold" trying to get her to perform an action. It was interesting how quickly the person would decide who to listen to.

Games to practice and play with the horseanalities:

LBE: circle (the send), driving zone 1, backing, stand still
LBI: circle, driving zone 1, draw, move (at all!), liberty
RBI: sqeeze, sideways, yoyo, disengage the hind, draw(no trust), circle (allow), liberty (best dressage horses!)
RBE: sqeeze, disengage hind, backing, friendly, stand still

RB's fear loss of life. LB's fear loss of dignity

Had a great liberty session with Z today. It was the first day I brought her from her pen and she never once called for her pen neighbor. I was very relieved - the horse from home is starting to appear again. It took 4 days!

There were a couple of good demos where the human sat on a barrel and played the games with an obstacle. Cool! Then, Kristi did a demo at liberty with her paint. Her Paint is an LBI, so she has to walk a fine line to keep her motivated. It was interesting and fun to watch.

I had the best day with Z since our arrival. I'm really looking forward to what I'll get from her in the coming days.

Day Three, L&HB

This was the best day yet. The morning Remuda was very good and I enjoy hearing other people's stories of their events with their horse. I had some things I wanted to mention, but others seemed to have a more burning desire to share so I held mine in. I partnered with Charity and we simulated horse and human and were given 3 things for the human to get the horse to do. That was very, very interesting - especially when I was the horse. She was great to reassuring me that I was ok and to keep trying. I never felt "wrong". Charity was an easy horse, she did whatever I asked and we got our 3 things done fairly quickly.

We talked more about the 4 horseanalities and about how to handle each one. I'm still not sure what I have in Z.

LBE: PLAY! dominance, exhuberance, provocative, creative, do something, GO! Need OBEDIENCE
LBI: INCENTIVE! food, scratches, somewhere to go, reverse psychology. Need MOTIVATION.
RBI: COMFORT! discomfort, cause your idea to become their idea, but understand first, pressure motivates, release teaches, WAIT! Need MORE TRUST!
RBE: SAFETY! leadership, confidence, patterns, particular but not critical, rhythm, relaxation and retreat, matching and mirroring, followed by a plan. Need MORE CALMNESS

Z still has not stepped on a pedestal. Today I finally recognized that it's OK! She was pretty willing about going into the water, that was cool. She went about belly deep.

Talked about a future with Parelli with Kristie for a while. That was great. I'll write on that later.

I tried to ask Trevor a question about Z not being willing to jump the larger jumps, but willing to jump the smaller jumps. It was a dumb question - I already knew the answer. I have to build her up to confidently jump the larger jump. About an hour later I asked her and she did. I'm learning a lot about myself as well as horsemanship.

We crossed the bridge with no issues. I started asking her to stand her front hooves on other things. That is much harder for her. We'll keep building on it.

In the end, I took her into the 75' round pen and played with her at liberty. Her back up by the tail has gotten very soft!! Nice. I realize I've been sending her too firmly at times. I played with sending her softer. I know her enough to know that if I send her softly today, she won't send at all tomorrow. It's a balance I have to keep walking.

Another observation - there are more L3 students here than I originally thought. Also, there are many, many brand new to Parelli and flying kite horses everyday. That's very interesting to watch (both the advanced and the brand new). I stood by one student who couldn't get her horse to walk on the bridge. I had to work very hard to not coach her. We are not allowed to coach and the faculty make that very clear. I bit my tongue well.

Kristie thinks I'd make a great instructor - that I have all the right "stuff". Very happy to hear it.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Day Two, L&HB

Another great day. We started exploring Horseanalities on a deeper level and in the afternoon did more observing. My horse likes me again. I have a camping chair and I've been sitting in her pen with her every day. Today she finally started to hang out with me again. My shirt was covered with hay mash snot and it was a good sign. At the end of the day, when I sat in the chair in the corner, she came immediately over to me and stood over me. It was so interesting that the first day and a half, she was aloof and distant from me. I have taken note of that and realize that she probably was too out of sorts to think of me as a partner. Interesting that she felt that way in a time of lots of stress.

Pat Parelli showed up today with Caton!! It was a great surprise to see him. He only stayed about 5 mins and talked briefly about the history of the property. Apparently, they now have leased 12oo acres so the ranch is growing by leaps and bounds.

Z is so comforted by the other horses, especially a bay Missouri Foxtrotter mare next to her. That mare is nowhere near as interested in Z's whereabouts, however. Z will call for the horses when I take her out of her pen and I can't take her very far without her being racked with worry. It's amazing to me that at home, I can ride this horse for miles and miles alone and here she is absolutely not a "go alone" horse. Not yet, at least. It's like we have to rebuild that confidence from the ground up in this new place. I also think I realize that instinctively, she's RBE. At home, she can be RBI and often LBI. She's complicated.

They gave us cards, similar to the cards that come in the L2 pack, but they cover in detail how to handle the horse that shows up. These cards are very useful. They tell me not to block zone 1 on an RBE and the best strategy is to take control of her feet, one by one if possible. I've kinda figured that out with Z, but I was glad to see that on the cards.

In her most worried state, she moves her feet a ton and she will try to take the rope from my hands by writhing her neck around. The faculty says that is a more left brained maneuver, often from a dominant horse. Z is a dominant horse. It seems dominance is not typically an RBE behavior. She's not being very respectful of me when I let her graze.

It's surprising the things that Z can't do here that she can do at home. She can't stand on a pedestal. She won't go through hanging vinyl strips. She bonks into me. At one point, I walked over the tarp and she was fine. An instructor praised us and I turned around to smile at him. At that point, my horse decided to bonk into me with her shoulder (a very RBE thing to do). Great! Perfect! The instructor laughed and said, "Watch that now!". Doh! Z loves to keep me humble. :-)

We talked about lots - "J-tails", prey animals frozen with fear, RB horses and Pat and Linda handling them at a tour stop. There was a horse that had created such a perversion with people, he had to be muzzled to be led around. He had taken people's fingers off and thrown men across stalls. Pat was called in to help and left some of his best to handle and help the horse.

Another thing I've known but haven't used... a horses ears are soft when they are relaxed and confident and hard and tight when they are worried and unconfident. I will try to start checking Z's ears sometimes to see if I'm reading her correctly.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Day One, L&HB

I completely overslept. I woke up at 7:30. I told another student I'd meet her for breakfast at 8am. Doh! It's a 10 minute walk to the lodge and my horse is probably wondering where the heck I am and when she's getting fed. Not a great way to start the day.

I felt tired today. I felt a little brain-dead, too. I was rushing around all morning trying to catch up with the things I thought I'd get done before the morning session.

Anyway... It was another great day. We started off the day hearing about the nature of the horse and watching some videos showing the differences between prey and predator. This was good for me to watch and I definitely got something out of it. We also got a basic introduction into horseanalities. After the lecture, we went out to watch Kristi play with her partner - a great-looking Appy. Then, each faculty member brought their partners into the round pen, one by one, and played with their horses to music followed by an explanation of that horse's past, innate characteristics, spirit level, environment.

We also heard about driving our horses around from zone 3 and "moseying" with them. We simulated it with other students in pairs. We were told that our horse had to be willing to leave their pens that some may not be able to leave the pens because their horse won't be ready. When we ended the session and were set free to practice this lesson with them, my horse was wayyy happy to leave the pen and go eat grass! The soaked hay cube diet is strange for her and although she's eating, I think the need for her to chew and forage is strong and not met by the hay mash.

I had to get something from my trailer so I was one of the last to get my horse out for the free time. What I discovered was that later, when I took her out for more free time and lots of horses were still in their pens, she got worried. That was interesting. I'm sure there's a lot of comfort being surrounded by so many horses all day and night. Then, the third time I took her out, I actually played with her on the playground. They have some great stuff to play with!! She was worried but would settle, then get worried again. I believe tomorrow they will be giving us strategies to become more interesting. I had some ideas and we had some good moments, but I would love to hear them talk about this topic.

I'm really looking forward to discussions about the games. I have lots of notes to blog about, but I'm just too tired right now!!

Exercise - definitely off my running program however I'm getting some serious exercise walking from my trailer to the lodge to my horse. Wow! I think I'm getting shin splints!! This is like horsemanship/fat camp. No complaints.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Arrival Day, Pagosa Springs L&HB

Wow. I'm here! I'm amazed, excited, exhausted, overloaded, concerned, etc... I woke up at 2:45am to get my suitcases and horse loaded. To add insult to injury, I didn't get to bed until midnight. I just felt that I had so much to get done before disappearing for 2 wks. So, after 2.5 hours of sleep, 7.5 hours of driving, 5 long walks up and down the Parelli ranch incline, and 2 pretty darn good Parelli ranch meals, I'm finally tucked into my little trailer space for some rest.

I promised myself I'd blog it all. I'm too tired to type, but I know if I wait I'll lose some of the details worth remembering. I agreed about a month ago to drive a friends horse down to the ranch along with the woman from Norway who was leasing the horse for 6 wks at the ISC (damn, I'm jealous!). I was hoping she would speak English and wouldn't be an annoying dweeb to ride with for 7 hours. Her name is Anne and we got along very well. We actually had lots in common and plenty to talk about. It was a nice drive down.

Anne and I have kind of stuck together for the first day. She isn't quite sure about taking care of her lease horse since she's always boarded. I'm giving her tips and helping her along. We have a good time together so it's easy. But everyone is sooo incredibly nice here that I wouldn't doubt it if Anne and I ended up buddying with multiple different people over the 2 wks I'm here. People are very smiley, very friendly and it was a fun day of hearing about other's journeys to this Parelli-land.

The woman next to me is from Hawaii. I ate dinner with a woman from Sweden. I met 3 of the funniest women from England. It appears that maybe 25% of the students are from overseas. I'm sure the weak dollar makes it a great time for them to travel to the states. It's like trips to America are on sale! I've only met 1 other person from Colorado so far - kind of surprising. I've met 3 from California. They drive some 20 hours to get here. I'm amazed! This place is truly special.

All of the horses are in pens, about 30x30 with dirt footing. Horse feed is supplied and consists of timothy/alfalfa hay cubes that must be soaked and the Parelli grain mixture. They also supply molasses water to help make sure the horses drink plenty. They recommend that you don't leave water in your horse's pen. Instead, they suggest you bring water to your house 2-3 times/day. The horse quickly learns to depend on you and look to you for comfort. We're in this 100% so Z has no water until the morning.

Funny, with the hay cube mash all the horses are eating, you can walk around and see 65 horses with mash all over the muzzles. Pretty cute. People are walking by with buckets for their horses all the time so the horses have quickly learned that any one of the buckets might be for them. It will be interesting to see if after a few days only MY horse looks for me.

So, about 65 horses. You've got nearly every color, size, shape and age. Some look not so loved, some look like they can enter a show immediately. There are many young horses surprisingly. You are not allowed to ride your horse, so maybe I shouldn't be surprised. I repeat, you are not allowed to ride your horse! The premise is that you honor your horse by submerging yourself in understanding them and letting your bad habits atrophy during the class. So, I'm not riding my horse. Geesh! :-)

The reception is very warm. They help you unload, put your horse in it's pen, get your stuff to your designated cubby, tack area. There are multiple places designated to each individual to put their belongings. There are port-o-potties everywhere and a shower available to those of us staying on the ranch. One shower. It'll be fine...

After getting settled in, checked in, fed and feeding our horses, it was time to meet for orientation. It was pretty cool. They started by having us do this silly dance around the room. I was tired and hesitant, but they don't let you skip it. Then, we went over the guidelines for the ranch and what to expect. That's when I started to get super motivated. There are not many level 3 students. There seem to be many L1 and L2 students. There is at least 1 instructor in the class.

The 2 faculty members presenting the orientation told us their stories and how they started in the Parelli program. That was very interesting. We played a little game and I was the lucky winner of 1 coupon entitling me to have a faculty clean my horse's pen one time. Only 4 winners, so luck was on my side. It was a good orientation and I already learned some things. I'm truly hoping for some hugely eye-opening experiences that help me understand how I can be better for my horses.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Gemini and Molly

May 12, Monday. Gemini was not very cooperative at the start of his trim today. He wanted to take his leg back. He's usually just fine. He's bored in the brain, I'm guessing. :-) I took him outside and played some games with him. He surprised me because he got a little worried. I was putting too much pressure on him. I toned it down a bit and played a little more. When I took him back in for his trim, he was much better. He tried his game once, taking his foot away, but didn't do it again after that. Good boy.

Mothers Day!

Indian Creek with Jen! It was a great, long slow ride. We were in the woods on the trail for about 4 hours. I had a great time. I rode Cowboy out for Jen because she was a little worried. He seemed just a tad "up" so it wouldn't have been a good combo for the two of them. Rain was fine as always and helped Jen relax. It was a beautiful day and I could have done that for 4 more... no make that 8 more hours. Easily. It's my favorite thing to do.

We switched on the way back and she rode Cowboy. I had worked a little on his grass-eating habit so Jen was playing around with ways to keep him from forcing her to let him eat grass. I would say that's the only hole he has and he just needs someone on his back who can consistently tell him it's better to be more polite.

Jen had some problems loading him and it caused her some delay and added to her tension at the beginning of the trailhead. In the month I had him, he never seemed to have any trouble getting into the trailer. We're wondering if it's because her trailer is smaller than mine and he's too claustrophobic. He was pretty sweaty when she unloaded him at the trailhead start.

I forgot to ask her if he was as worried on the ride home and if he looked sweaty when she unloaded him. I imagine he might have been too tired to be stressed on the trailer ride home, but who knows. Bigger trailers are definitely easier on the horse.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Dressage Filly in my barn!

Saturday, May 10th - Today, I picked up a new horse for boarding. She's a fantastic coming 2 yr old. She was being boarded in a small dry lot with 5 other horses and not faring too well. She's very underweight, looks sullen and depressed and has many bite marks. From talking to the owner, I was expecting a horse with lots of attitude problems. Apparently, she'd learned how to move humans around from the boarding experience prior and she has a dominant nature. I wouldn't even agree to take in the horse without a meeting with it first. I was pleasantly surprised.

Had a little trouble trailer loading her. She'd only been in the trailer twice (I believe). I used the John Lyons method and it worked well. I tapped her back end and taught her to move forward from that. Then, it was just a matter of rewarding the smallest try and getting her to feel comfortable to make some effort and that I wasn't going to force her.

She's a very, very nice filly.

Z, Canter Departs and Circles

Yesterday, I rode Z in the arena for a long time. I was surprised to stay interested that long, but we were doing good things! I wanted to spend some time practicing our canter depart and also our transition down with little to no reins. I watched the Savvy Club DVD of April 2008 where Linda gives a lesson on collection and teaching a horse to use it's back and I wanted to try some of her techniques and see how Z responded.

We started with snaky bends, more along the lines of how Josh Lyons teaches them. Z was pretty energetic and that exercise was very useful. Then we started to ride the rail and work on transitions. I didn't feel like we were getting together very well, so I decided to change the game. I asked her to walk then back up, then walk and back up repeatedly. That was working much better and obviously where we needed to be. We practiced canter departs and staying on the rail. She really wants to leave the rail when we canter and I don't understand why. She was much better towards the end and I was trying to be very precise with my asks.

We practiced circles and going over cavalettis. In the circles, I gather the reins she gave me and tried to imagine holding her hand with the reins. I generally ride with a loose rein, so this was new to both of us. We were using the cradle bridle, which we havent' used in a while. There is definitely more feel in the cradle bridle and I have to be careful to have a light touch and soft hands even more than in the snaffle.

In the end, we looked better than when we started but we have a ways to go for finesse. Also, it seems using the wool pad under the theraflex is really working. Z's back looked great after this session.

Rain and Liberty

Thursday, May 8th... This was my first time playing with Rain in ages. I've been getting her exercise with riding, but I haven't done any ground work in probably 6 months. Wow - I forgot how great she is and how beautiful she looks when she's moving. Her trot has become quite consistent and she really stretches out in it. She'll also change and gait sometimes while moving on line or at liberty - just like when riding. :-) She remembers everything I taught her and her sidepass is better than Z or Gemini. Her circle game is light and she reminds me of how hard we worked for that L2 assessment. We played on the obstacles and bit and she let me know they were no big deal.

I took her into the roundpen and played the stick to me game. She had reverted with this game. Sometime in our L2 days, she learned to leave me very well. As soon as I turned my back she would bolt. We got past it and finished our L2 Liberty but she reminded me that it was still in there. I know a lot more now, so I decided it was best to work on getting past that behavior.

I simply added pressure to Zone 5 until she thought about looking at me and asking a question. As soon as she did, I'd ask her in. Every time she left, I added pressure. We played this game for about an hour. We made huge progress and I was so glad to see her coming back within a lap or less and finally, just before we quit, I turned me back to her to walk away and she didn't leave. Ahhhh... A perfect place to stop.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

On the ground with Gemini

I played with him for about an hour yesterday evening. I'm realizing that I don't know him like I thought I did. He displays LBE behaviors but once in a while, he'll go RBE. Yesterday, at one point, he all of a sudden leaped in the air and started tearing around. I'm assuming something startled him as he was intently looking off into the neighbors acreage just prior. I giggled but then I thought I had to promise myself to take notice because I really believe that's similar to the types of things he'll do under saddle. Just all of a sudden, he'll act out. So, is he introverted and all of a sudden checking back in with reality? Or is it playful? Or is he having moments of defiance? How interesting...

We worked on sideways without a rail. I watched a Parelli student's video yesterday with a mule and she had a beautiful sideways away and towards her human. I was uber impressed. Gave me something to work towards for all my horses. I haven't done much sideways with Gemini, so we took it slow and he really started to catch on. We worked on circle game, but he was pretty sure he needed to canter and he was pretty silly. So, I tried to build his ability to slow down, be thoughtful, transition up and down softly, be soft on the rope and come into me in prep for change of direction. He had a ton of energy and I think he wasn't happy about being out of sight of his herd. At one point, the knot in the 22' to the halter came undone and he hauled butt back to the barn. See, my 22' is tied on the popper end to the halter - Dennis' advice as the joints in the carbiner slow the communication to the horse. I'm sure he's right, but I like the security of the carbiner keeping my horse attached.

Then, I took him into the roundpen and played some hide your hiney and stick to me. He's not sticking as well as last few times. He stays facing me, but doesn't stick so well. We practiced getting lighter and lighter responses to porcupine game with isolation on the ends, too. That's getting better. He's fairly dull to the leg when mounted and I'm hoping to get him going better with more porcupine. I want to ride him today. Weather looks good and work is light.

I saw Gemini more clearly than ever yesterday and I need to continue getting to really know him. That's how he and I can stay safe and grow. There's a scared horse in there behind a stoic exterior. He's a beauty and his shiny dark summer coat is coming in. He's stunning. And he's been misunderstood for long enough.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Z and I on the trail

Yesterday, after I did my zone 1 for 35 mins, I hopped on Z and did about 8 miles. We did a lot of walking and just relaxing. It's nice how she manages to stay in a walk on the steep declines. Some horses will fall into a trot downhill but Z controls herself and uses her hind end well. This is new for her. After a while, I started asking her for transitions. We worked on walk/trot transitions and they were getting better. They are not nearly as nice on the trail as in the arena. She has much, much more forward-ness on the trail. She wants to go fast always. She'll go slow when I ask, but she prefers fast! At one point, we came upon a log and she does NOT like to step over things if she can avoid them. So, I asked her to cross the log. Of course, she had to do this massive leap to get over this 6 inch high log. I laughed and asked her again. And again... until she could calmly and thoughtfully step over the log. I feel pretty certain that it will take several sessions to get her to calmly step over things like that.

It was a nice ride and I really enjoy riding Z without a pony-horse. It gives us a chance to get together and I can focus only on what we're doing. We got rained on on the way home! :-) Not complaining, it made me laugh.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Riding all three!

The weather was amazing yesterday. Kendall spent time with the neighbor and I was thinking as I rubbed my hands together furiously... HORSE TIME! I was able to get quite a bit started with all 3 of my horses. It was great!

Started with Gemini. We had a great ground-work session for 20 -30 mins and then I rode him while I gave a lesson to Rain and Delaney. I talked to D about riding the rail with Rain and asking her to maintain her direction on the rail. D really wants to go faster! So, we worked on transitioning into the trot and back to the walk for a while. Then, we started to transition into the canter and back into the trot. He was smiling ear-to-ear! Very cute. Rain has some attitude though. I really need to spend some time with her - she's annoyed to have to do this stuff. I don't want her to get too sour with so many beginners on her back.

Gemini just walked and trotted for me in the lesson. i worked on getting him lighter to the forward cue - he's a little dull. I worked on him backing better - he's not light at the backup. I found a good place and hopped off. He did pretty well.

Then, I rode Rain for a bit to see how she feels. She's very sensitive and very annoyed. Her tail was extremely swishy. I will spend more time with her over the coming weeks to get her calmed down and more compliant. I love that horse and don't want her hating to be used.

Next, I grabbed Z and worked on some ground work on line and then in the round pen at Liberty. She was awesome! Her attitude has really changed! I hopped on and did some bareback/bridleless trotting and walking and riding the rail. It wasn't enough time, but I had to go. She came and stood with me right away afterwards, so she obviously was ok with things.

It's never enough time, but I had a great day getting all 3 moving!

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Sharptail, kids and horses

Today, I took Kyle, Rain and Z to Sharptail for some trail riding. It was a really nice! We had to readjust Kyle often, he was having a hard time finding his comfort zone with stirrup length, his half-chaps, the positioning of his male parts, etc... Turned out he prefers to either canter or walk! Trotting is a rubbing, chafing exercise if you don't know what you're doing. So, no problem! Z and I practice our canter departs! We went about 7 miles - not real far by my standards, but nice to spend time with Kyle and the weather was great.

I worked with Z on more lightness and she did well. I practiced transitioning her down Dennis' way and asked her multiple times to let Rain get way far ahead. She got very vertically collected and then really was with me and listening and waiting for our time to move forward and catch back up to Rain. Initially, she felt the need to rush back to Rain but she quickly realized she would be fine letting Rain be far ahead and she was less in a hurry when I allowed forward again.

We worked some on haunches in and shoulder in. I find haunches in to be much easier! At one point, Kyle and I were cantering the horses up a hill and they really began to race. That was the fastest I've ever ridden Zarah. I was worried for Kyle and slowed us down - Kyle said, "We're going too fast!". However, it felt GOOD to ride Z that fast! I realize I often hold her back. I have to ride her as fast as she can run.

The little kids then took turns on Rain and Z and I got some exercise leading them back up the trail a few miles. It was closing night for Kyle's play so Steve got him back to Pondo and I took the little kids home with me. We had a fun time!