Tuesday, December 30, 2008

2009 off with a BANG!


My head is still spinning that 2008 is over, BUT I know I was ready for 2009. Usually I have difficulty dfor the first month or so of the new year and will continue to write the old year on checks and any lists that I keep.

Well move over 2008 because surprisingly, I haven't done it once! Now before you chuckle, I realize that it's only the second day of 2009, but what the heck, I can be optimistic right?

So in the midst of all of our end of the year madness, I just realized that I never posted for December. It seems I am falling down on the job.

Latelly I feel as though my heart and mind want to go in about a hundred different directions as I sift thrugh all I want to accomplish in 2009. In addition to managing two businesses, I also have to manage myself and my horse activities in a way that leaves me feeling satisfied. Have you ever felt so overwhelmed that suddenly things started to slip? I looked up at the beginning of this week and realized that I haven't ridden or really worked with Jayden in about 3 weeks. That feels like forever to me!

Horsemanship (just like anything) is an every day thing. Even if you're not at the barn....if you're a horse lover you're probably thinking about being there, what you'll do when you're there, how to make the most of the time with your horse (and you know the rest). For me it gets worse when I'm competing because I am always nervous that perhaps I haven't done enough to prepare mentally, emotionally and physically and that I'll push my horse past thresholds. Even though my whole goal is NOT to push past anything but to get him so comfortable that he wants to go show with me.

So even though I was so busy in December that I couldn't really squeeze physical time in with Jayden, my mind was nearly always with him (horses are an obsession! if you don't believe me, buy one and you'll be hooked :).

I'm going to jump ahead but stick with me....

I'm just returned yesterday (New Year's day) from Tucson and the Copper Country Paint-o-Rama. I showed in 2006 there and the weather was awful so I was a bit hesitant about going this year.

I had a blast!!!

I spent some quality time with my friends (thanks Stacy for just giving me a shove!) and laughed and spent time with my horse. What could be better than 24 uninterrupted hours at the barn?!

The result?

All my reservations were moot: the ones where I imagined that it would be cold (it was 70 degrees), the one where I imagined my horse wasn't ready and then the biggie....that I wasn't up to the challenge of being a good leader for him.

I've made no secret of the fact that Showmanship is easily my favorite activity in the show ring. I guess it's because I can really display the results of the ground work and relationship building I have done with my horse.

Watch the video below if you would like to see our performance in the Novice Amatuer Showmanship class on New Year's day.

My biggest mistake in 2008 was doubting the time I had spent with my horse; that somehow because I had been inconsistent these last few weeks, that I hadn't been effective when I was with him.

I think the point to all of this is that everything we do today with our horses is for tomorrow. I've heard Linda say this over and over but it finally sank in these past few days.

Happy horsing around!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Showmanship...can you drive AND be a porcupine?

That's me there on the right with Abbey, my 2008 super horse show partner. See that HUGE cheesy grin on my face?

Abbey and I finished the weekend as High Point Green Rider/Handler and overall Green High Point for the year with the Arizona Paint Horse Club!

I'm smiling because we just finished a great showmanship pattern at the Harvest of Color Paint Show in Buckeye Arizona this past weekend. Next to Trail, Showmanship is my FAVORITE class. Abbey is a showmanship queen - this horse can litterally dig a hole in the ground pivoting on her back right foot (when we pivote to the right) or on her left foot when we complete a pull turn and pivot to the left.

It was always fun to go into a class and show the judge how clean we can complete the maneuvers. I showed this horse at the Pinto World Show this year and if my nerves hadn't gotten to me (oh and that starting cone had been on my opposite side) I think we would have placed Top 10, if not snagged a championship.

I've been watching some of the other girls in the barn work showmanship with their horses recently and seeing how frustrated they can get when trying to teach their horses to pivot. At any given time we are asked to do 90, 180, 270, 360 or 720 degree pivots during a pattern either from a standstill or just after we've walked, trotted and come to a halt.

I realized some of the girls can DO showmanship with a finished horse - that is, one who already knows what to do - but not all of them can TEACH the various parts of it to their horse.

When you break it down, a pivot is really nothing more than the horse moving away from the pressure of you walking into his (or her) space while keeping a hind foot planted - in other words, driving game.

Your horse walking and trotting in sync with you when you walk and trot is really the "stick to me" game combined with the Porcupine game - follow the feel. Although a pivot can make or break your routine as far as the judges are concerned what's really thrilling is what comes before and after the pivot.

Great showman make it look effortless and easy...you can't even see that they are signaling or cuing their horse in any way. In fact, if you look again at the picture, you'll see that my hand is actually quite far down the lead. I almost never have to engage the chain for any reason - my horses know they need to follow my lead when I'm walking, jogging or backing; in other words they stick to me!

When I work with my gelding Jayden (who was TOTALLY wet behind the ears with this stuff when I got him), our showmanship time together is not a drilling session! It's a mix of fun Parelli games to help deepen our relationship, build his trust in me as a leader and to to have fun. I did enlist some assistance from my good friend and showmanship queen Stacy when I got stuck trying to get him to plant that right hind foot but for the most part, it's just me and my horse :)

Bottom line...anyone who does Parelli can easily teach their horse Showmanship. When Pat says there is litterally nothing you can do with a horse that isn't games 1-3 - he's TOTALLY RIGHT!

Next Up: I'm starting Trail (in hand) with Jayden to teach him to follow the feel and meaneuver through objects.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

A "Boo"tiful Halloween!!

Tomorrow I'm off to the Harvest of Color horse show in Buckeye which runs October 31st -November 2nd!! The trailer is loaded, the preparations done and now all of my savvy will be tested this weekend.

It's the last show of the 2008 season (for me) and the last show for me and my 2008 show partner Abbey - so graciously on loan to me from my good friend Stacy. Abbey is one of those amazing horses that everyone wishes for...patient, kind, forgiving and willing. Thank You Abbey for an outstanding 2008 season; I have learned so much from you!

Last month I talked about finding success for my four year old gelding in the show ring (his first time out) via the big green ball. What an AMAZING tool that has become for me to help my horses overcome fear and build confidance and I have to admit, there is something soothing about bouncing a ball that takes me back to my childhood. I am always happily reminded that my horses are confidant and do look to me for love, language and leadership in equal doses at the show. Thanks to what I've learned from Parelli, I am able to keep the relationship with my horses FIRST and have a great time showing and doing what I love to do...ride!

But on to what I really meant to talk to you about.....
Did you catch my last Post on the abandoned horses? If not, you can read it here. You'll want to read the story of the rescued paint horses before reading on....

As we excited the clinic from the Body Condition & Nutrition talk last night with Josie (the 22 year old rescued paint mare), it was dark and we began to wonder whether she would want to load in the trailer to go home. Since learning so many great things from the Parelli program, I no longer am fearful of how or how long it will take to get something done...I always take the time it takes and it takes less time. The program has given me enormous confidance that I can communicate effectively with any horse and help them to trust me.

I was thinking all of these things and imagining how I would inspire her trust and confidance as we approached the trailer. My friend opened the door to the trailer and turned on the light. Josie pricked up her ears and once she saw the light turn on, she stepped up the pace and jumped into the trailer herself as if to say "I got it from here!"

Despite being thin, lame from thrush and shaggy looking - she is a confidant horse with clear, bright eyes and a willing spirit. Horses like these absolutely amaze me! They have been mistreated, neglected and left alone and still they look to us for leadership and display confidance and a willingness that I personally could not display (were I a horse) in that same situation.

The first time I saw Josie there was something about her that made my heart catch in my throat. Has that ever happened to you? You felt a connection you couldn't explain? Since that time, my mom has worked at some of the local horse show hot spots collecting donations to care for and feed these animals.

How Can YOU Help?

I attended a Body Condition and Nutrition talk last night at The Chaparral Veterinary Medical Center in Cave Creek Arizona with a good friend of mine who lives katty-korner to me. Chaparral has recently moved into their new multi-million dollar facility and the talk was held there. Typically these talks are held at Mike's Hay Barn, but last night we were to see up close and personal the effects the economy is having on horses all over.

My friend Marnie recently rescued three starving and emaciated horses from some folks whose home was being forclosed on who live behind her. She remembers the horses arriving to the neighbor about six months previous - they were in good health and were a good weight and body condition. After peeking over the fence last weekend, she found them nearly starved to death - no food, no water! Marnie is our neighborhood saint; a nurse herself, she loves all animals and can always be counted on to step in when needed.

Chaparral had come out to attend to the animals last week when she brought them home. The rescues were a 22 year old paint mare and a 10 year old paint mare with a 30-day old filly at her side. The prognosis was grim...they would be lucky to survive another 24-hours in the condition they were in. The vet scored the 22 year old mare (who has now been named "Josie") with a Body Condition of 2 and the 10 year old mare (who has been named "Joanie") with a Body Condition of 1.

What's a normal Body Condition score? Try 5-7....depending on the breed.

Marnie graciously loaned Josie to Chaparral for their Nutrition talk and they did a work-up on the mare yesterday. The *NEW* prognosis....12-18 month recovery time to bring her back to good health. This was a mare that 6 months ago was purchased for a child to ride and was in great health.

As we toured the hospital and saw Josie, there were gasps of outrage from the 35 people who had attended the talk. There was an outpouring of offerings.... to help, donate food, to find Josie a home.

Because most horsey people love their animals like family, I think it continues to shock all of us at the treatment these animals are made to suffer: both mental and physical. It's far easier to take these beautiful creatures and turn their world into a nightmare than people think. With the economy in its present state, horses are being abandoned in the desert (here in Arizona) as well as all over the country. ALL horse owners, whether believers of natural horsemanship or not need to come together to become advocates for horses without hope - for those who have been left behind.

Donate to your local shelter, watch in your neighborhood for horses that appear to be thin, suffering from a lack of care, or left behind (in the case of foreclosure or abandonement). Get to know your neighbors! If we all keep in touch it may be possible to prevent situations like these as homes can be found for these loving animals.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Success With The Big Green Ball!

After returning home from the 2-day Parelli event I was all fired up to help Jayden, my four year old left brain introvert (with a couple right brain tendancies) learn to deal with stimulus in Zones 4 & 5. Jayden is my new Parelli partner but he is also my new all-around show partner on the Paint circuit. Having come from a non-natural backgroud and now a Parelli convert, it is so important to me that he feel comfortable with everything I will ask of him: standing still to saddle, clipping, loading, shoeing, going new places etc. I definately want showing and traveling to be fun and I always try to put the relationship first.

We had a big show coming up (his first) and he tends to want to scoot forward if something comes up behind zone 5 or from either side of zone 4 that he hasn't already had a good look at. Because th warm-up arenas can be PACKED with horses coming and going, this can be a problem and un-nerving for a "green" horse (one that hasn't had a whole lot of experience). To help him, I decided that I would do a 7-day course of playing with the big green Parelli ball (focusing on all zones) really with the intent to help him overcome his fear of anything coming up behind him in zones 4 & 5.

Each day I worked would start boucing the ball while walking away from him...always ecstatic to see that although at first weary, he would quickly become curious and begin to want to follow me and the bouncing ball. Once he realized he could touch it and roll it for himself he couldn't get enough of it! He would try to bite it and push down on it.

I decided to let out the 22 foot line and play driving game, and to see if he would walk into the ball on purpose on his way to whereever we were going. It was great to see his confidance soar and his curiosity peak as to what he could do with the ball and YES, he did choose to seek out the ball on our way.

After he got comfortable with touching it with his nose, I started boucning it around all zones on his body. I made sure to let out the line if he got nervous and retreat to build his confidance. Not too long after, I could bounce it directly behind zone 5 as hard as I could and he didn't budge. Not only that, but I could simulate saddling (swinging the saddle side to side) with the ball and resting it on his back. Once that was no longer an issue, we moved to me actually bouncing the ball off him, he LOVES IT!

The end result...he was not nearly as sensitive with zones 4 and 5 this weekend as he used to be. His relaxation in the arena was apparent and he did wonderful!

Out of all the things that make me smile at the shows, I saw two people with Parelli equipment patiently working with their horses in the warm-up arena's this weekend! It's wonderful to see that the message of being natural is finally making it's way into the show ring.

Thanks to Pat & Linda for teaching us how to be at one with our horses!

Until next time...happy trails!

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Parelli World Tour Comes to Prescott, AZ!

WOW! AMAZING! LIFE CHANGING! AWE INSPIRING! All words I'd use to describe what I was doing on my birthday last Saturday, July 19th. I just returned home from the Parelli USA World Tour event in Prescott, Arizona!

That's me..the one on the far left smiling for all I'm worth! Sitting next to me is (my idol) Linda Parelli, and my good friends Tyler and Macy (whom I ride with).

For anyone not familiar with Parelli, Pat & Linda Parelli are working to change the lives of horses and owners all over the globe by teaching people how to be more natural with their horses. I know you're probably getting an image of granola bars and sing-alongs...but to put it into perspective..."It's way more than riding!"

Our journey began Saturday morning, Michael and I headed for Prescott which is about 80 miles Northwest of our home. I have been studying Parelli for 3 years and seen tons of hours of footage of Pat & Linda so I was looking forward to seeing them in action. Boy did we get WAAAAY more than we bargained for. After a heart pounding performance of the Savvy Team, they took a break and we headed down to the Pavillion to shop. Linda was out and greeting people but in my wildest dreams, I never thought I would have a chance to meet her.

She must have seen how much I was shaking because my teeth were rattling around inside my head and as we approached her, she got up out of her chair and HUGGED ME. She was wonderful...warm, friendly and welcoming and also...calming. Go figure, no wonder her horses love her so much.

Just when I thought it couldn't get any better the performances continued, I was inspired beyond belief and because our group consisted of more than 5 people, Pat invited us personally down to meet him and take pictures. Spot me again...the one with the huge cheesy grin? That's Michael in the back on the right in the yellow shirt. He's not even really into horses and he had a great time too :)

What I learned I cannot explain, and what I felt I could never describe, except to say...if you haven't discovered Parelli yet, you have doors just waiting to be opened in your horsemanship journey! Thank you Linda (Tyler's Grandma, pictured above far right) for the pictures with Pat...without your camera these memories wouldn't exist in print!

So here we are again with Pat, day two of the event....can you tell I'm flustered? Just before going up to see him again, Tyler began laughing hysterically at a joke I told her...(she's the one on the right of Pat) and boy...none of us could keep a straight face for this photo.

I returned on Sunday night after two exhilerating days of fun and learning just chomping at the bit (tee hee) to play with my horse. We blew up our big green Parelli ball and the next day I set out to help Jayden (my horse -->) become more confident with things rolling and moving around him. One session and 30 minutes later, I could bounce the ball OFF him and he was confident and curious.

The next day he began to try and play with the ball during our freestyle riding session. He kicked it and when it rolled away from him quickly he trotted after it. This afternoon I went out to check all the horses living here at my ranch and he RAN to the sall door to see me. This was amazing! It's also a first :) Even though Jayden is what I'd call friendly, he's never RUN to see me before. Hmmm....

So thanks to everyone who joined me on this wonderful 33rd birthday weekend of mine....Tyler, Macy, Linda, Michael...you guys are the best!

If you're interested in really developing a relationship with your horse and finding out how Parelli can apply to any part of your horsemanship journey, click here to jump to their website.

Until next time....keep it natural :)