My last post was nearly over two months ago. So much has happened since then with Amara that I'm not sure where to begin...in fact this may just turn into a bunch of babbling. It's taken me nearly four weeks to decide to post this but somehow I just feel better sharing my experiences, failures and successes with other Parelli folk - somehow we're all in this together!
I just went back and re-read my initial posts about Amara...it was a delight to see how much I obviously enjoyed her right from the start...perhaps we were meant to be together. Shortly after that post I watched my great pal and one of my mentors have an interesting ride on my horse. That ride would first be looked at as "how interesting!" and would quickly shift into a pattern of behavior Amara displayed when she felt (what I realize now) somehow blocked.
I recently purchased the Parelli Humanlity/Horsenality Match Report (what a fabulous purchase and treat that was!! More on this below). There was hours of material to sift through, and I'll never forget coming to one section that said you may never necessarily know why something happened but what is important is to know how to read the situation and decide what to do about it. To be flexible enough in your mind and body to be what the horse needs rat the moment that they need it. Boy that stayed with me for a while!
I'd spent the last 45 days wondering how my quiet, unassuming, friendly, extroverted horse who seemed confidant most of the time could suddenly start rearing under saddle. Yes, you read correctly, I wrote rearing.
When I purchased her she going well under saddle, had been under saddle for over a year but without "concentrated" riding other than the last 90 days. She was being ridden with contact and in a dressage frame that to describe it I would say is appropriate for Training Level. What this means is that she wasn't being asked for much other than to go forward, turn right and left, bend somewhat in her body and follow the feel. She appeared to be pretty well started and confidant. What I didn't know (and neither did anyone else watching her) was that deep down she had begun backing off under saddle. The more she was asked to go forward "into the contact" the more she backed off. One afternoon she executed a very slow left brained buck which when she was then asked go immediately pick up her head and go forward then turned into a right brained rear to escape.
WOW. What looked like an "all of the sudden" moment was actually the culmination of events that now placed us at the point that even the slightest request to go forward meant that she would rear to get away from the rider.
I'd spent the first 6 weeks playing the 7 games with her before each ride and learned that she was more right brained than I originally suspected. I also learned that she could be very challenging to read. I learned over the course of last four weeks how deep that fear really went.
She is much farther down the road to accepting the human when motion is involved, has accepted the saddle, and the rider when they stay in a "passenger" fashion, but had reached a place where she didn't accept the human as a leader under saddle.
I also learned how limited her exposure to simple things under saddle like disengaging the hind quarters, turning, stopping (she really had no stop, all of it was forward). At some point my wonderful horse had decided she was deathly afraid and although I could read her better and better on the ground each day, I realized that I was NOT really listening to her feedback under saddle. By the time she reared the first time she had already melted down internally and then exploded to get away from the rider.
So you're probably wondering who I had riding her and why...one of my dearest friends who is an accomplished rider of many disciplines, a complete advocate for horses and one of the most talented and "natural" people I know around horses. If Parelli is a brand name that is something we practice/study and actually have goals centered around, then she doesn't practice Parelli (although she has some of the tools). She has a healthy appreciation for those of us who do (that is so nice!!) and for seeing how much Parelli can do for a horse. When I say she is "natural" what I mean is that she does many things that us natural folk do just by instinct alone.
So how then was this wonderful person, one of the only people I would ever trust my horses with after being in this program, a part of the meltdown my horse was having? I'm not sure we'll ever really know to be honest. What I am coming to know is that this behavior was developing long before I purchased Amara. It was developing in subtle ways like head shaking (left to right) that I recall noticing on her purchase video but overlooked as feedback (BIG mistake!). When she came to me and I began to do Parelli with her and open that door to tell her I cared about her opinion, she REALLY told me what she thought of people riding her - NOT MUCH.
When the rearing began to be part of every ride regardless of my online session with her and how much of a "thinking" or left brained state she was in I began to become afraid. My mind goes back to reading an article in a Savvy Times issue on Unconscious Incompetence by Terri Sprague. Terri wrote..."the challenge was not so much what was happening with me and my horse, but what's 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."
I didn't blame myself for Amara's past since I hadn't hard her very long (2 weeks at this point) but I was certainly doubting her future. When I purchased her my thought was always that I would do Parelli with her on the ground, and perhaps explore the freestyle riding and definitely liberty. After all, Parelli is great for any horse and handler team. I just never realized that a behavior Amara exhibited would suddenly open the Parelli door for my in a way that I'd never really done before.
I hit the Parelli website and searched for rearing. I actually came into a section of the website that I'd never seen before. New videos of Pat discussing specific horse problems...tada! There was a video for rearing. I think I've watched that video about 10 times by now at least. I've been a Parelli student for 5 years but although I have tons of confidence on the ground, my confidence isn't as strong in the saddle. This was not a problem I thought I could solve on my own.
It hit me however when I watched that video that I am not alone! Somehow, somewhere in the back of my mind and heart, the knowledge, patience, timing, skills, understanding, and psychology of horses I've learned through Parelli has been with me every day, every time I interact with any horse.
I bounced around the Parelli site for hours, reading blog posts from Linda and other Parelli Central members and came to one that discussed Pat & Linda's latest event in Europe. It talked about their opening ceremony and that Pat & Linda came out into the arena accompanied to Katty Perry's "Firework." I like the song, I've listened to it many times, but I'm not sure I ever really heard it until later that morning driving to a friend's stable to work with their horse.
"...Maybe the reason why all the doors are closed
So you could open one that leads you to the perfect road
Like a lightening bolt, your heart will glow
And when it's time you know
You just gotta ignite the light, and let it shine,
Just own the night like the Fourth of July..."
For a long time I had yearned to really try and follow Parelli as a method of developing my horse, but for some reason I held back. Driving down the freeway that day listening to that song I realized I was staring at this exact situation. The doors I had originally thought I would walk through were not open to me right now.
I decided right then to give myself and my horse over to Parelli completely. When I heard the next part of the song it really sealed the deal:
"Boom, boom, boom,
Even brighter than the moon, moon, moon
It's always been inside of you, you, you
And now it's time you let it through-ooh-ooh..."
It was true! Parelli had always been inside of me...wanting to come through. It was the strangest sensation but all in one moment I felt like I had Pat and Linda in the car saying to me it was time to really let what I had learned from Parelli be the light that would shine through. I was crying so hard by the end of the song I nearly had to pull over off the freeway!
That was the moment I decided, really decided that the best way to help Amara and myself was to give both of us over entirely to the Parelli program. To go beyond using what I'd learned to fix issues I had with horses along the way and to live it. From that moment on, my confidence SOARED. The self doubt disappeared and even though I'm taking it day by day, suddenly the pressure of having to "fix" something disappeared and what was left in its place was an opportunity to take my horsemanship to the next level. I'd always had it but somehow I had just never really let it through.
That day I drove home and completed the Horsenality/Humanality Match Report on myself and Amara. It was amazing how answering some questions about myself and my horse could unlock so much personalized information! I felt very empowered.
At the end of the post is a snapshot of Amara's horsenality profile (as of April 23rd) as shown to me in the Horsenality report based on the questions that I answered. WOW. Thankfully, what also came with it was a TON of information including what type she is primarily (RBE/LBE cusp). If you haven't yet purchased this report for yourself and your horse, I HIGHLY URGE YOU to do so. It's like having Pat & Linda sit with you and decode you and your horse together. You get answers to questions like, how you fit? What are the great things you'll bring out in your horse? What are the pitfalls to watch out for? Check it out here and choose from the Printed or the Digital report. I purchased the digital for $99 and had mine within minutes. OUTSTANDING!
So as my friend and I are driving in the car the other day she turns and says to me "today is the first day of the rest of your life..." I have to remember to tell her just how right she was!