Monday, February 22, 2010

What It Means to Have That String

I had a day last week that was so confusing that I ended up in tears - well let's be honest, it was a full scale meltdown. I love my horse but sometimes he confuses and frustrates me! I'm sure many of you will understand how that feels, especially if you're not new to horsemanship. I didn't say horse ownership since some work with but perhaps don't own horses.

I would say that in the last 3 months I've probably easily spent 180 hours with Jayden working on our relationship and building our skills together. I've seen MANY things improve in fact so many that I don't think I could list them here. I'm talking about improving skills in the area of lateral thinking and confidance that most people may not even consider or have land on their radar. Some are so minutia that no one would ever notice them while others are very visible.

This day however it seemed like not only was my confidant solid Level 2 (moving to Level 3) horse not there...the horse I had was the one I started with 3 months ago! WOW. That was an eye opener of sorts. It seemed like no matter what I did I was losing control of my emotions and perspective and it was going to hell in a handbasket pretty fast.

One thing Parelli has defnately taught me was how to be particular without being critical. I remember the first time Linda Green was out however and said this needed to be part of my aim in my sessions. I think I responded with "huh?" What it all boiled down to was not to get greedy.

Latelly I had been uping the ante on Jayden; really asking the most of him and myself that I ever had on the ground. I received a 45 foot line just after Christmas and kept looking at it and thinking when will I be good eough for that?

I think I was pushing so hard for perfection on the 22 foot line that he came out that day, thought I was being greedy - to which he resonately said "talk to the hoof!" - that's the polite way of putting it anyhow. At first I was so frustrated that I couldn't even hear what he was saying to me. I perceived him as emotional, overreactive and complety out of control on the ground. No matter what I did I could not bring the change through to my satisfaction.

Thankfully my good friend was present during my meltdown and pointed me to an article in this month's Savvy Times that really helped me get some perspective. It's written by Teri Sprague and it's called The Joy of Conscious Incompetence - what an eye opener! Her article mentions the Steps of Change: Denial, Blame, Anger, Chaos.

On this day I whizzed past blame and anger and went straight to chaos! As I sat melting down in my wash rack all I could think of was the hours spent with my horse and what I had possibly done to ruin the respect and rapport I had worked so hard for. I overanalyzed it until my brain hurt.

Terri's article was something that really opened my eyes. I swear she wrote that article just for me! She talked about a session she had with her mare and Linda Parelli that started her out on a steep learning curve journey. Terri wrote..."the challenge was not so much what was happening with me and my horse, but what going on in my mind. My thoughts kept getting in my way. Instead of feeling for my horse when she presented confusing behavior, I got wrapped up in blaming myself for her past and doubting my future."

The learning curve is represented on the graphic chart that Terri believes shows the Horseman's Journey. A journey that rather than being puntuated by peaks and valley (which is what it FEELS like) is really punctuated by a slighly upward line and steep climbs that eventually level off.

It TOTALLY blew me away. At the times when we feel the lowest of the low, we are on the steep climb to the top and making the most progress.

After calming down and letting go of some of the pent up frustration I had, I went to my overflowing mailbox and brought in a ton of mail. After sifting through the pile a package was revealed and my heart started to pound. I opened it to find my Level 1 Red Savvy String and Certificate from Pat. Official recognition of the hard work, love and patience that I had put into my journey with my horse.

In that moment, my eyes moved to the collage that I'm putting together of many of my horse moments that are precious to me. Amongst them is the Level 2 Online Certificate Pat emailed me after passing Level 2 Online in January of this year. I remembered then how far I've really come and heard my friend Beth's supportive words from earlier that day... "you inspire me" in the back of my mind.

What it means to have that string is that I have learned, loved, climbed, grown, had success, experienced defeat and failure and that I am firmly in a place of Conscious Incompetence - always seeking that which I know I do not know. I will never give up.

"Failure is only the opportunity to more intelligently begin again."

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Sideways from 12 feet!

This week has been crazy and to say the least I haven't been able to spend time with Jayden as I had planned. I've turned him out, fed him lunchto keep him busy and had to satisfy myself with simply a passing nod and pet to him as I went about my outside chores. Yesterday he was somewhat grumpy with me when I approached the stall and I admit, I deserve it. I haven't been able to participate in our horsemanship journey this week the way I would like to.

Just before going outside to see Jayden I had a rather emotional phone call to a company who is designing a logo for me. I'm an affiliate for them and I send them lots of business. Finally today I called in complete frustration as I realized they had AGAIN ignored my instructions to them on the current project. I took a deep breath before going outside and I realized that moving through the groundwork exercises and games with Jayden was going to feel really good. I work really hard to keep it fresh and interesting; to have a consistent pattern in what I do just a variance in how I do it.

Maybe it was how I looked at him or the energy from my belly button but Jayden's expression was totally different when he saw me. He seemed to be melting towards me in a "hey, I'm ready to play today!" kind of way. His ears were forward, his eyes bright. Our friendly game in the stall consisted of me taking off his blanket and hood and then currying every inch of him. He LOVES it!

He shoved his head in the halter and off we went toward the arena. We backed in, then turned sideways (me in zone 3) and sideways we went. I then turned him again and he backed up in a continuous rhythm. Linda wanted us to get this game really good and I struggled a bit with my tools the last time I tried. We were also very sticky and couldn't go very fast. Today Jayden through in A LOT of effort and it came together nicely. After sideways to back to sideways a few more times I ended up in front of zone 1 about 12 feet away. I had just started thinking "I wonder if he'll go sideways (with no help from me) when I'm up here and not holding the rope" when I moved sideways and motioned with the carrot stick for him to move and SIDEWAYS HE WENT for about 20 feet!

I felt like jumping up and down. Although it's a small movement, it's respect and rapport from a distance and boy did that feel great. :)

Monday, January 18, 2010

Natural Horsemanship = Balanced Horse

On January 5th I received notification from Parelli that I passed my Level 2 online!! I'm awaiting my red savvy string and certificate from Parelli for my official Level 1 pass (I skipped straight over this) and then for my certificate for my Level 2 pass online! I passed two levels at once online but until I pass my L2 freestyle I won't receive my blue savvy string. This was a HUGE moment for me!!!

Natural horsemanship has transformed my previously grumpy, sometimes frozen and slightly unconfidant horse into a horse that is equal on both his right and left sides, can be clipped without a twitch, will put his feed on ANYTHING, will trot out when I ask and will follow and stick to me where ever I go....with or without the halter. Last week he came to me while running with two other horses with just a small indicator of body language. He just put the brakes on did a sharp 90 degree turn and zoomed over to me. I almost cried. If you've never had your horse come running to you, it's a feeling you can get addicted to fast.

It's raining here in Glendale and it looks like it might drop 3-5 inches on us before it's all done this week. Probably no riding for me :( I am awaiting my new Parelli Finesse reins, Level 4 materials and 45 foot line. We're working most things at 22 feet and ready to start heading father down the line. I can't wait for it to stop raining and we've got 4 days of storms to go!

Friday, January 1, 2010

Busy Arenas Help Horses Relax

Today was a blast!

Since we stopped boarding horses, I mostly ride alone in my arena. Today however was a blast from the past.

Beth, Marnie and Stacy were all riding while I was doing my warm-up and audition footage. I'd forgotten what fun a busy arena can be and it's great for the horses. Not only do they become accustomed to traffic and other horses moving in and out of their space, they learn to focus on their human and not necessarily what everyone else is doing.

In my video you can see Stacy practicing the Follow the Rail exercise in a halter and lead rope. Watch for her to ride by flipping the rope over Abby's head in the background. This simple exercise alone can help your fluidity and the power of your focus on riding with an independant seat.

Marnie was giving Beth a high-level Dressage demonstration and doing some incredible movements; basically dancing with Spice! Beth was watching but also perfecting her trot and canter with Kolby and I think I was on my own planet!

Today marked my 5th session with Jayden this week and I think I spent about 10 hours total playing with him. We filmed my audition video today, you can see it here. What I loved about this video was watching the level of relaxation my horse has. When I first started out playing with him 3 months ago he was nervous with me in zone 4 (his hip) and zone 5 (behind the tail). Watch me as I move around him swatting the ground with the carrot stick and string. He is relaxed, I can lift his tail and his posture is one of confidance and maybe even a bit bored! Just 3 short months ago I couldn't do this exercise without him flying sideways. He is no longer bothered by things swinging in his hind zones and doesn't kick when tied and frightened at all.

Working this program has definately hightened my communication skills and our joint understanding of him. I can read him so much better, know when to retreat from something (whether an idea, a threshhold or simply pressure) and when to push farther. His confidance as a learner has skyrocketed!