Thursday, December 31, 2009

Audition Warm-Up...Lessons Learned

Michael helped me film the first practice video for my Level 1/2 audition!

Today was the first time I filmed myself with Jayden on the ground. I've seen video of us riding but seeing myself on the ground was REAL eye opener. Suddenly I was able to see most of what Linda has been working with me and talking to me about. I always felt confidant about my body language but I could see my horse wondering about me a bit and THAT was a total eye opener.

It was great fun and we learned about where the camera needs to be to provide the best view. I was a bit nervous and left out a few things I wanted to show so we are planning to film it again tomorrow.

On a positive note, Jayden backed up from 22 feet away with a Phase 1 ask. Incredible!

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Groundwork Improves Impulsion!

Today's lesson with Linda was 3 hours long. It flew by as we played with ground work, Jayden's confidence in my body language, my skills as a leader and then transitioned to riding. Every time I think I'm getting "good" at being a leader Linda show me ways to improve that I hadn't even thought of. Ways to be lighter and more effective with even less pressure. It's amazing! Jayden and I learned a lot of new things and his impulsion is improving every day!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

When To Step Back

This last six months has been an interesting period for me. I saw many advances in my horsemansip and I had many failures as well. I think you learn more from the failures almost than you do from success. Well...usually.

Two months ago I had my first lesson with a Parelli professional. It was amazing. Life-altering in fact. I've been studying natural horsemanship via Parelli Natural Horsemanship for the last few years and I'd gotten pretty good with horses on the ground. I can't remember the last time a horse scared me or made me nervous on the ground. All my confidance has come from moving through their Levels Pathway.

Having a lesson with one of their professionals was inspiring in a way I can't even begin to describe. I thought I had taught my horse to handle pressure....NOT in their book! If you want your horse to be a sconfidant as possible, NOT be a robot but still work for you, this is definately a program to look at!

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Squeeze Game...It's Everywhere!

Today's ride saw a few breakthrough "aha" moments. Yesterday I blogged about my cues needing to be lighter and lighter for my horse to really be happy. After rolling around Pat & Linda's helpful hints on motivating introverts and how they can be offended by how loudly we ask for something, it dawned on me that perhaps some of the behaviours I see in my horse under saddle are because I'm asking too loudly for what I want.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not up on top of my horse yelling, at least I don't think I am - but it's what he thinks of what I'm doing that really matters.

Many things that we expect horses to do (calmly) involve squeezes of a sort: walk through gates, load in the trailer, walk underneath an overhang, oh yes...and go quietly while I sit on you with my legs wrapped around you too. Yep, this one is a BIG squeeze game. I've known a few horses in my time that the more leg you gave them, the faster they would seem to squirt forward. I didn't have a label for it back then (this was 15 years ago and wayyyy before I know who Pat Parelli was) but you just knew they were uncomfortable with it and more sensitive was probably how I would describe it. Stick with me here for a moment....

While riding today I was walking around on my horse while talking to my instructor about my theory of how loudly I'm asking Jayden to canter off and how that might be why he seems to want to lift up his head and overbend his head and neck to the right (when going to the right) which bows out his outside shoulder. In summary, I think he's giving me feedback on HOW I'm asking. So perhaps what should be a Phase 1 request is actually is being interpreted as a Phase 2 or 3 and the result is that his feet slow down rather than going forward.

We thought on this for a moment and then decided to experiment with it. I focused on sitting up a bit straighter but relaxing all the pressure in my whole leg, well both legs. I use my voice a lot with this horse and my tone plays a huge part in his relaxation levels. In preparation for his transition I asked hin with my voice to canter, barely asked with my leg while playing very gently with the rein - the result was a much better transition. There were less steps needed to get collection.

While cantering we practice circles if he becomes anxious or quick underneath which pulls his brain back into gear and allows us to compose ourselves. Today I noticed that when he would pick up speed rather than coming more round, through his back and collected, if I relaxed my leg to drape around him we might not need to do the smaller circle to achieve balance and collection.
When I drapped my leg, I noticed that he eased up, didn't grind the bit AT ALL and suddenly we had collection - mental, physical and emotional collection.

My theory for this horse proved correct...although he has gotten better with his issues with squeeze game, it's the mastery of my own body and fluidity that will help him inch that dot for claustrophobia more to the mild side.


Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Finding that Perfect Harmony (in your horse and your tack)

Have you ever noticed that all of us horse people seem to recycle our tack, clothes and even horses amongst each other? I was thinking today how small a world it really is and how many things I've acquired from people that no longer had need of the item.

Last week I hauled Jayden over to trail ride with my friend Beth at her barn in North Phoenix. That trip I rode in a friend's barrel saddle (I know zilch about those saddles) and happily gave my synthetic dura-leather western training saddle to Beth to ride and try. She recently sold her show saddle and was looking for something comfortable to ride that was also affordable - my training saddle is both (well, at least I think it is).

That training saddle marked my first western saddle purchase in 2007. I had $1,000 to spend and it had to provide for both a training and show saddle with some silver. Yikes! I think about that now and I don't know how I managed to get both saddles for that amount of money, but somehow I did.

Well, 3 years later that same synthetic dura-leather saddle is in fantastic condition and was with me every step of the way as I helped me learn to ride Western after 15 solid years or riding hunt seat in an english saddle. I remember that I liked that I could feel the motion or the horse underneath me (thanks to the close contact skirts) - much the way I could in an english saddle. If I'm lucky, Beth will decide to keep the saddle and I now have the task of finding a new partner to ride in.

So here's where I need your help (and opinions) but sick with me because this might be a tad long winded.

At the Pinto World show last year I was lucky enough to come across a Blue Ribbon show saddle owned by a nice guy who didn't need the money for it. That saddle was purhased for me as a gift for my birthday (thank you Mom & Dad!). I'm not at all embarassed to say my parents chipped in together and purchased this saddle. Each time I ride in it, I'll remember them and how they've always supported my horse activities either pitching in to help me afford things, or standing by the rail taking pictures and providing support.

I would like to find a saddle that rides similarly and makes the transition from training to showing very easy for me and not such a big jump. I have had friends recommend both the Royal King and Royal Silver saddles with positive comments on each. I've also heard some comments on the Royal Kings that they are wider in through the seat and can be difficult for people with short inseams (that's me) to ride in and that the Silver Royal is narrower.

Do any of you ride either of these saddles? If so, what can you tell me about them? What do you like/not like? What makes one any better than the other?

Both saddles are relatively affordable to buy and I'm looking to purchase in the next month. Your feedback is greatly appreciated!

I am test riding a Royal Silver tomorrow and hoping that I like it and that it fits Jayden well too. Harmony within your tack creates harmony with your horse and there's no substitute for great tack.

We're prepping for the Prescott show in September, and getting down to the minutia in our corrections. I'm finding that my aids have to be even lighter than ever - Jayden is usually a left brain introvert but under saddle when aids become too strong he can turn into an extrovert pretty quickly and can get rattled. I've seen such HUGE changes in him within the last 4 weeks that I'm hopeful we will be well prepared for whatever we encounter. I'm also excited as heck to put on that new Western Show outfit I purchased form Show Me Again and go down the rail in it. There's nothing like a great outfit to help you look and feel the part.

Until next time, keep it natural!

Monday, May 25, 2009

Happiness Comes In Many Forms

Happy Memorial Day!

It seems like once you turn 30 the days (and years) just fly right on by. Once again time has gotten away from me and it's been a month since the last show and since I posted about my journey with Jayden my 5 year old paint gelding.

Although he had the opportunity to attend the May show in Tucson, many changes had taken place in April right before the Spring Fling horse show and I decided against going....I felt I needed a breather. In April I made the very difficult decision to move away from the trainer I had been working with. Although I enjoyed my time with her immensly and learned many good things from her, I felt that I need a shift (and so did Jayden) if we were going to start tackling some of the emotional signs I had begun to see in my horse.

Although Jayden was still doing his work (and to the traditional horseman you may not notice that anything had changed) I noticed that his feedback when asked to do things had begun to turn negative. I also noticed that he was much more emotional and reactive than he should be.

The April show was our first ever together as a team where we showed without the assistance of a "trainer." I watched him carefully for reactions to his environment and we showed only what I felt he was mentally, emotionally and physically read to handle. The result was success with the classes we did show.

In the last 8 weeks I've noticed some BIG changes emotionally and mentally in my horse. His relaxation has improved, he is offering to do more and more, the negative feedback is nearly gone and on the whole he is simply happier.

Part of the great thing I have learned is that it's important to NEVER stop learning. After a careful re-examination of my goals as a horsewoman and competitor, I have shifted my own mentality which I think has been key to some of our breakthroughs.

I have also been working with someone who has reminded me of some very important key points, brought out the best in me, the best in my horse and suddenly I am so excited about being around my horse that I catch myself going outside to the barn as many as 5 times per day (it's on my property) just to sit and be with the horses. Perhaps to some it would sound corny, but I am already reaping the benefits. My horse is healthy and happy and runs in from the pasture to see me!

What am I doing differently? I am incorporating A LOT of trail riding for both physical and mental fitness. Sometimes we haul out and sometimes just ride out to see the neighborhood sites. We see everythign now from cars and heavy traffic to rocks, bushes, paths up the mountain and natural washes.

Since adding regular trail riding to our program, I am also seeing Jayden's Horsenality Chart results changing. Whereas we would need preparation prior to hauling out and trail riding (to bring some of those dots to the mild side), he is now eager to get in the trailer, backs out calmly and with confidance, ground ties for saddleing and walks down the trail like a champ - curious but focused.

Although my Parelli journey is probably not "traditional" in the natural sense of the word (I came to Parelli after riding what is probably a Level 3-4 equivalent - hunter/jumper, dressage in competition), it's been a valuable and wonderful experience for me. Part of what also has me so excited are the new Savvy Club formats. I can't decide which one I want to be part of?!

Our new goal....we will debut again on the Paint Circuit in September after 5 months on our new program. I am so excited to see how we will do with newfound relaxation, confidance and better timing.

Aee you on a journey with your horse? If so, I'd love to hear your story. Drop me an email to

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Mental + Emotional + Physical = Success!

This last weekend I arrived at Westworld with Jayden to compete at the Spring Fling horse show. I was excited to be there and test out some of what I'd been working on at home with him. Latelly we had really been addressing his physical fitness and I could feel the difference in his collection when I would ride him.

Friday was an amazing day! I felt our communication was superb...everything I asked he was right there for me. When I'd ask for more drive and push with his hind end (for the BIG trot) he would engage and up his RPM's (as I call it) without increasing his speed. He was so good in fact we quit after only 20 minutes under saddle - that's the reward as I don't believe in drilling something so much that the horse gets frustrated and then you can't quit on a good note. Knowing when to quit is half the battle.

Saturday dawned dark and rainy. Although we were showing undercover, it was cold and windy/rainy and downright unpleasant. Becuase we were all compressed into one arena for warm-up and showing, I had a hard time finding a place to do some on-line pattern work with him. Our favorite warm-up at the shows is the Falling Leaf. Usually when he starts he's licking his lips and his tongue comes way out of his mouth - by the time we are done he's relaxed, confidant and doesn't want to move his feet much.

That day however I was only able to play with him for about 20 minutes and although his feet were moving slower (than when we started), his brain was still quite active - he struck me then as more of a Left Extrovert than the Introvert he is at home.

I made a mental note of that and decided he was acting like a partner and it was time to get on and warm him up. The warm up went well...if I felt him brace or tense AT ALL up I just went right back to what I know relaxes him mentally and the physical brace would disappear.

Just before our turn to do the pattern I mentally ran through each thing I would ask of him and how I was going to do it. I call it riding the pattern in my head. It helps me focus so that when I actually do it, it's like I've already done it. Jayden was WONDERFUL! His transitions were great, he stayed with me mentally, emotionally and physcially right through the pattern. The end result was a 6th place placing out of 14 horses. I was so proud of him!

In case you haven't already seen it, I just recently watched the April Savvy Club DVD where Linda shows an extrovert how to get the most from her introverted horse. On Sunday when I warmed him up with Falling Leaf pattern I changed my energy to match some of what I saw on the DVD and suddenly I had Jayden offering to do more than he usually does. THAT WAS GREAT!

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Year End Success!

Abbey and I finished up the 2008 year as Overall Green Rider Champions on the Arizona Paint Horse Circuit! Although the year ended nearly three months ago, we don't have our awards ceremony until nearly April. It's a long time to wait to pick up awards and I was really looking forward to it.

1st - Green Handler Showmanship
1st - Green Rider Trail
1st - Green Rider Horsemanship
1st - Green Rider Hunt Seat Eq

Thanks to Abbey and Stacy good friend who so graciously loaned me one of the best horses I'll ever get the pleasure to handle who has won a spot in my heart for all time :)

Friday, March 27, 2009

Fun With Horses & Dogs!

If you're a Parelli follower than you probably already know that Dog Whisperer Cesar Millan and celebrated Horse Whisperer Pat Parelli are teaming up to help rebuild troubled relationships between dogs and horses.

Cesar and Pat will be appearing together for the first time on an upcoming episode of Cesar's Dog Whisperer which will air on the NatGeo channel Friday, April 3rd at 8pm ET. This episode is intended to help horses with "dog problems" and dogs with "horse problems." Cesar and Pat ride in to help a shepherd mix Chloe and Tibetan spaniel mix Hobo (who chase after the working horses), and 22-year old mare Cupcake (who is frightening the riders). Make sure you tune in to see this exciting team up of horse and dog expertise!

If you want to Let National Geographic Channelknow that you want to see more of Pat and Cesar together WRITE an e-mail to and say "PRETTY PLEASE CAN WE HAVE MORE PAT!?".

Speaking of dog and horse relationships, I recently happened to have my camera with me in the arena and took video of Riley (my friend Jessica's dog), who is attempting to lead her two year old paint gelding Tater Tot to the gate of the arena. Both Riley and Tater have been spending a lot of time together lately and have become friends. If you look you'll also see Draco, my German Shepard/Husky mix running around with Riley. Click the Play button below to see Riley and Tater in action. You'll have to forgive my initial comments as I was yelling at my camera (and called it stupid) as I hurried to get the footage. I wanted to edit this out but thought it was more important to share it with you...hopefully it brightens your day!

For more information on dogs, horses and their relationships, please see the following links: - Read all about the upcoming Dog Whisperer episode with Pat and Cesar, see pictures, videos and an overview. - March 27th edition of the Parelli enews celebrates Horseman Ray Hunt and talks about the upcoming Dog Whisperer episode with Pat Parelli.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Winter Wonderland...well not really!

My post title this week is a joke because while there are people in this country just freezing their behinds off we had the most wonderful weather (70's) over the weekend for our horse show.

That's me and Jayden on the left getting ready for showmanship. I have to thank my mom for some of the wonderful photos from this weekend and she hasn't even gotten her new camera yet! She did however use mine for the weekend which I'm thrilled to say I just purchased on Thursday in time to use it for photos and miscellaneous video. I did get to see myself riding Jayden for the first time thanks to this wonderful little device. :)

This weekend was such a learning experience and full of surprises (good ones!) too. For starters, this was my first away show with Jayden - we arrived on Friday to the grounds and stayed until Sunday evening. The away shows work a bit different than the day shows because the horses have more time to settle in, only 3 classes (usually per day) rather than the standard 8-10 for a day show.

I moved up a level from Green Rider since showing last year and I'm now in the Novice Amateur category. This is a larger group (about twice as big) as the Green so I was a bit nervous about how I would do.

We kicked off our weekend with a bit of sleeping in (lol) since I didn't show Trail and I arrived Saturday morning at the show grounds around 8:15. The order of classes is all mixed around from last year so nothing really felt like it flowed the way I was used to all day. Jayden did really well though and handled it like a champ. We took 5th place in our Western Horsemanship under one judge (horesmanship is judged on the rider) which was a surprise because there were 18 people in the class and it was his first time ever executing a pattern under pressure.

He is so comfortable to ride that for the Western Pleasure class (judged on the horse's gaits and tempermant) I was able to mostly sit up there and just show it off; that's such a GREAT feeling! We pulled a 2nd place out of our hat in the pleasure under the same judge that gave us the 5th place.

Sunday starts with Showmanship which is my favorite class. Showmanship gives you a chance to really shine one-on-one for the judge. Typically you execute a combination of maneuvers such as walking, trotting, stopping, backing, backing around objects and pivoting (90, 180, 270, 360, 540, 720 degrees) and then stop in front of the judge and set up for inspection. All 4 of your horses legs must be square and even. The judge will walk around the horse and you must move back and forth at your horse's head at the appropriate time to "present" your horse. The skill comes in as the movements must all be succinct, they must flow and must not be awkward. You must also execute each one with the smallest degree of error possible. Have I mentioned this is my favorite class yet?!

If you'd like to see a video example of a showmanship pattern click the Play button below. This is Jayden and I in action at the Copper Country POR show in January 2009.

Cool huh?

Later in the day on Sunday we ride English which is just as fun (well ALMOST) since we have to dress up in outfits that no one over the age of 16 should be required to wear....seriously! We have to wear skin tight pants that require an undergarment because they show every little flaw that all women of any age over 30 probably have. Don't get me started on this one, I'd love to rebell and wear something else!

I'm getting off track..sorry. We snagged a 5th & 6th in the English equitation pattern (judged on the rider) and then a 2nd & 3rd in the Hunter Under Saddle (judged on the horse). We finished up around 5:30 and I was exhausted; Jayden was practically asleep by the side of the arena. By the time we pulled into home it was after 7pm and I was relieved to see the home fires burning. April is now on my mind...lots of practicing to do and I know just where I'm going to start...Parelli Patterns!

If you would like to see some photos from the show of our whole gange, you can visit

Friday, March 6, 2009

Hi-Ho Hi-Ho, it's off to show I go!

We're getting packed and ready to leave for our Winter Horse Show today and as I write this there is excitement in the air. I spent some time last night with a barn buddy and I can't count the number of times she said "I'm so excited to go!"

They've completely changed the schedule of classes, order in which we ride them in and the flow of the show so this weekend should be VERY interesting.

This also marks my first *official* paint show with Jayden. We praciced last weekend at the Blue Ribbon Horse show (that's another story for later) and he did quite well winning under both judges in the 1st Year Green 5 & Under Western Pleasure class.

Gotta run, stay tuned for updates about the show, funny photos and some interesting video!

Friday, February 20, 2009

Learning Patience

Whew! Where has the time gone?! I looked up and realized it was almost 5 weeks since my last post - naughty me :)

Jayden and I are getting prepared to start showing together full-time. In preparation for that I've been hauling him to some schooling shows. I'm a firm believer in mental and emotional fitness in my horses because without it, it doesn't make a bit of difference how physically capable they are of doing something.

Last Sunday we hit a local show that is for beginners and a great place to school inexperienced horses. Needless to say, the horse I thought I would be taking never even showed up. Sure he loaded in the trailer, sure he warmed up great with the "falling leaf" Parelli pattern but then we did something we haven't had to do yet - WAIT.

If you've ever heard the expression "hurry up and wait" it's the most perfect definition for what we ended up doing. The show experienced some issues and what should have been a 15 minute wait, turned into over an hour. The longer my horse had to wait, the more unprepared he became. I watched my normally left brained introvert gelding turn into a borderline right brain extrovert. Was he acting "crazy?" No. But suddenly he couldn't stand still and he had to move his feet.

I decided to put this to good use and practiced backing, pivoting and maneauvering him around to try and re-engage his brain. As long as we were moving everything was fine. The second we stopped and stood still for a mock inspection it all fell apart again. I knew right then that we were in trouble so to speak.

We did make it through the class and he did perform well since only a short time during the pattern did he actually have to stand still. He tried hard, but he still moved during inspection. Lesson learned. This horse needs pretty involved mental and emotional warm up time when he's feeling unconfidant. Translation....for a day show there is A LOT more preparation involved than when we go to an away show where we have stable accomodations.

Later in the day I had him tied to the trailer while taking a short lunch break. Jayden stood still for all of 1 minute before pawing, striking the air and then turning to and fro trying to see the other horses in the arena. I decided to just observe him (that's probably not what I should have done) but I wanted to see just how upset he would get. For about 15 minutes he was constantly moving - I could see the emotional tension building in him. Finally after I couldn't stand to see him so far over a threshold, I untied him and put him back to work so to speak, moving his feat and re-engaging his brain. This worked well while I was on the ground but the calm we finally experienced on the ground did not translate to the saddle.

I won't bore you with the details and a blow by blow - but I do want to say that I've chaned my game plan again. We are working on retreating away from his buddies to the trailer (even when its at home) and when that's going well, tying to the trailer and learning to stand still. It's only been three days (the first day there was a BIG hole next to the trailer) but these last two he was much better.

All in all - we are both learning patience - with ourselves and with each other.