Right vs. Righteous, Inclusive vs. Exclusive

2015 was a year of big change and big growth.  In my personal experience, it was a time in my horsemanship to dive into a “new” realm; the recoginized/regional competition world.  I showed some throughout high school. I did a fair number of local and 4H shows in everything from 3-Day Eventing to Western Pleasure. I gained a little knowledge about A LOT of disciplines, and created a very well-rounded and versatile horse in my mare, Prin. But I only just dove into the universe of recognized eventing through the USEA, and experienced the world that goes with it in 2014.

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Prin and me in our element “Parelli-Style”

Parelli is a weird (in a good way!) world. Those of us who are particularly devoted refer to it as a “bubble”, and being a member of the Parelli family is a very unique, intimate experience. We’re a close-knit bunch, often brought together by a desire to save a fizzling relationship with our horses. We’re driven by positive motion and truly embody putting the relationship first. The resulting energy is infectious. And leaving that, to go, say to the show world, can be a little…daunting.

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Len, Prin, and me in a lesson last summer

I was tremendously fortunate when I decided to head in the direction of being a serious event rider. I had started showing again at monthly hunter schooling shows at an English Performance barn just west of the Twin Cities Metro area, and the barn owner (also instructor) had come to recognize me and we had developed a good rapport. He has a keen eye for developing talent in a horse as well as rider, and he very delicately convinced me that I should try taking a couple of lessons just to see what it was all about. Long story short is Len is EXCELLENT. In principle, he is quite in line with a relationship-first mentality of horse training, and he knows A LOT about how to bring out the best in both horse and rider. It has been a remarkable experience, and as a result of having a relationship-first mindset in his training, Len and his wife, Jacki, have also created a “bubble”, a place to pursue excellence in English sport, be it dressage, jumpers, hunters, or eventers.

So how does this pertain to the attitude of “right” vs an attitude of “righteous”?  First, let’s talk about what “righteous” means in this context.  For the sake of argument, to be righteous is to be right at the wrong time. There are times when it is ABSOLUTELY appropriate to stick to your guns; some examples would be if you’re asked to do something you know you or your horse are incapable of doing, if you’re asked to do something you’re not in line with, morally, or if there is a matter of safety or well-being in question. But then, there are times when it’s not appropriate. And what’s worse, it can actually turn people off from doing the right thing.

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All smiles, celebrating staying IN the ring at Lucy’s first Horse Trial. Otter Creek Fall, 2015

The goal for Parelli, and by extension those of us involved, is to create a better world for horses and humans across the board. It’s a lofty goal, and the ONLY way we can get there is by being inclusive, not by being exclusive.  One of the major things I’ve had to learn is how to look for good in a pressure cooker.  So for example, at a big recognized show, where there are 200 horse/rider pairs competing at 5-7 different levels of difficulty and experience, you’re apt to have hundreds of horsemanship outcomes.  It’s really easy to get fixated on the things that make you uncomfortable, and I’m not unaware of some of the scary stuff that happens in the warm-up rings and behind the barn. I choose, however, and encourage you, as well, to look at anything-at a show, an internet post, a youtube video, the same way. I have yet to go to a show where at least one ride didn’t make me say “wow”.   And within that, there are parts of nearly every round that deserve a positive focus. My game at the in gate for the stadium jumping run at a 3-day event, for example, is to complement every rider’s round somehow. Even “I love that color on your horse” can make a tense rider feel better! My goal at the start box for Cross-Country is to wish everyone a good ride. And when I finish a round, no matter the outcome, I make a HUGE effort to smile and reward my horse.

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A Horse Trial friend. We met because we had paints in the same colors at the stadium in-gate!

My goal in writing this is not to have anyone come out feeling wrong. It is really easy to criticize when you don’t fully understand what you’re seeing. It’s really easy to assume that people aren’t on the same page as you are when things aren’t going well. Rather than bristling when you see something uncomfortable, ask yourself some questions; “What about this is making me uncomfortable? What would I do differently if that happened to me?  IS THIS ANY OF MY BUSINESS? How would I feel if someone said what I want to say to this person, to me? Do I know the full story?”

At the end of the day, we are all doing the best we can with the resources we have available. It’s not my job to change you, it’s not your job to change me. We can only take responsibility for how we dictate our own actions. And if we direct them positively, pretty soon, people take notice.

 

 

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After our double-clear stadium round at Otter Creek Fall. I was smiling so big even the announcer mentioned it!

 

 

 

A Few Notes on the Horse Business

I’ve had this blog percolating for several months, now, and my frustr–er…FASCINATION is mounting to the point that I need to write this down, to keep me safe, to keep you safe, and to be clear with everyone who has intentions to have horses trained, to train horses, to sell horses and to be safe around horses.

All too often, I see poor matches in my line of work. Let’s face it, Parelli is often someone’s last ditch effort in their poorly matched relationship before they give up. And it can change lives. It does change lives. I won’t for a second say that it doesn’t.  But another huge piece and principle of the program is to “set yourself up for success” in the choice of your horse, and in some cases, how your horse is trained by someone else.

Piece #1: AGE. Horses are born full faculty learners at birth, which means from the second they hit the ground, they are taking in information, and their experiences are shaping their horsenalities. From birth to about age 4, the equine mind is TREMENDOUSLY malleable.  It’s why trainers so often start a horse in it’s ridden education young, some would argue, too young, physically, but the MIND is the most sensitive to molding and shaping. A major secret in starting a young horse correctly is that if they’re started young, and brought along slowly, they don’t have to be ridden a lot, or very hard, to teach tremendously valuable, lasting lessons.  We often hear “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.” and this isn’t true. But the more age a horse has, the more potential there is for patterns to become habit. So, when an 8, 9, 10 year old horse is sent to the trainer for the first time, there is far greater potential for challenge, because a fully mature adult horse has had more time, simply put, to decide the way the world works in his or her perception.  Couple that with the amounts of time trainers are often given; 30, 60, even 90 days is often just the tip of the iceberg.

Piece #2: TIME. As I briefly touched on in the previous paragraph, trainers are often given short timelines and held to unrealistic expectations. I recently participated in a colt starting course in which we took untame colts raised on the ranges of Texas, tamed them, started them on the ground, and put 6-9 rides on them in just 3 weeks. At the end of those 3 weeks, those horses, started by 1, 2, and 3-Star Parelli Professionals under the guidance by some of the best trainers in the industry, were at best, guideable and ready to accept human leadership from their backs. That DOES NOT mean they were “broke”….actually far from it. We were warned that it wasn’t rides 1, 2, or 3 that would get you. It was ride 6, 7 or 8 or 20, when you had started to let your guard down a little and were taking for granted how well the horse was doing. My point is, learning to be a riding horse takes TIME. Often we, as trainers, charge by week or month, because that is what the market can handle. And for the most part, most of us are honest people. I am very upfront with my clients–outcomes may vary by horse. But it seems like full disclosure included, the underlying expectation is still that we can produce a seasoned horse in a short amount of time.  Simply put, there is NO substitute for time and experience.  When was the last time you mastered a skill in a month? Two months? A YEAR??? To send your horse to the trainer for 90 days, at best, means that the horse is 50 or 60 hours into it’s education as a riding partner. And that’s a great step. But it’s a step. True blue is 10,000 hours. Many horses don’t see that in their lifetimes.

In shopping and/or selling horses, honesty and understanding who you’re marketing to, or who a horse is suited for is a critical step.  One of my favorite expressions to repeat, almost maniacally to my students who are horse shopping is “60 days does not a broke horse make…”, horses marketed as fresh from the trainer are NOT beginner friendly. They are NOT confidence builders. They are likely NOT trail safe, bomb proof, or grandkid material. The phrase “Needs Experienced Rider” is not only fodder for a chuckle for those experienced in the business, it’s an honest-to-God warning label.  It’s not a time to get your ego involved; if you’re not comfortable riding unexpected, bucking, rearing, or inexperience, this isn’t your horse.

Finally, know that breeding and bloodlines matter in temperament determination, but don’t make a horse more or less valuable unless you intent to BREED. If an un-breedable horse (read: GELDING) is priced high for his lineage…consider why the owner felt the need to highlight lineage. Certain lines grant certain athletic tendencies, and if you’re shopping for a performance horse, some of these things are good to know–I know, for example, that my warmblood comes from a line of tremendously well-rounded, athletic horses, and thus is well suited to my English performance goals, but also he is from a line of hot, temperamental animals that have a reputation for being hard to train. To get mad when my horse shows the traits he was bred to possess is simply not fair.

I say these things not because I want to discourage those of you who are buying and selling horses. But all too often, I get caught in the middle–be it the horse’s trainer, advocate, or concerned for the well-being of a student, either buying or selling. There is a person out there for every type of horse, and horse out there for almost every type of person. But we need to have enough self-discipline to be safe in our decision making, gather appropriate information, and take the time it takes, so that it ultimately takes less time.

Thanks for the read, and if you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to ask.

 

 

 

 

 

Physical Fitness–I’m Going There!

Alright, I’m going there.  I think physical fitness is an incredibly touchy subject (it shouldn’t be!) and I think it’s imperative that riders have an understanding of the expectations we put on our horses and how our fitness influences that.

First, let me start with this:  I am totally guilty here.  I was a high-level athlete in high school.  I played softball at the varsity level starting at the end of my freshman year. I rode, I trained horses for people in the summer, I rode English performances horses competitively, I trimmed 13 horses on a 6 week rotating schedule, I was a lifeguard and maintained the ability to dive competitively until I decided not to go to college. I wore size 2, I was 130lbs of muscle. I was FIT. And silly me, I thought I would stay that way after all those things went away.

Two things happened in 2012. First, I fell off my horse and dislocated my shoulder badly. At the time, doctors threw phrases around like “multiple surgeries”, “frozen shoulder”, and “never be the same again”. Then, 8 months later, my horse died.  It didn’t happen fast. I put on the weight slowly. I didn’t notice it appearing around my midsection. All of my clothes still fit. And then…they didn’t. I noticed it in the spring of 2014.

I am a diet gimmick and exercise program skeptic. Make no mistake, I believe those things are important. But I was active. I ate relatively well. And those things had served me fine in the past. I did not seriously believe that making changes to those areas was what was key. Plus, I’m 24…aren’t these supposed to be my best years where weight still just falls right off?  But after a painful couple of weeks of hating how I looked in pictures, the mirror, on my horse, you name it, I finally caved. A friend of mine had suggested I try Couch-to-5k, an iPhone app that works as a personal trainer, and does as it sounds. Gets you 5k ready in 9 weeks. I have always been a lover of cardio, used to run 4-5 miles, 5 days a week, and so decided that would be a good place to start.  And it was. I got fit, accomplished a goal, and actually, won my division in a 5k.  But I lost zero inches.  I lost 3 pounds in 9 weeks.  Cool, but certainly not what my goal was. I wanted my jeans to fit again!

One of my student’s mothers is a Beach Body fitness coach, and throughout just being around their family, I had heard snippets about different programs. I had excuses for all of them: P90X involves a whole slough of equipment that I didn’t want to pay for, and required way too much time per day. Hip-Hop Abs? I can’t dance. The list went on.  But then Josh, my significant other, bought Insanity from her, and she encouraged me to try it. 45 minutes a day on average, and no equipment but my own body weight? I have plenty of that right now, plus it’s high-intensity cardio interval training which is right up my alley.

So, where am I going with this? I swear it’s not a Beach Body testimonial, although I know it sounds like it could be.  Here’s the deal, equestrian friends.  Horses and humans have mutual responsibilities. That’s Principle #4 for you Parelli folk.  Responsibility #1) for both horse and human is “Act like a PARTNER, not like a PREY ANIMAL (horse)/PREDATOR (human), become more mentally, emotionally, and PHYSICALLY fit.” Parelli talks A LOT about the mental and emotional fitness aspect. And it’s important. There’s a reason that mental and emotional come first. It’s because 99% of communication error hangs out in that domain.  But when it comes down to it, unless you don’t plan to ask your horse to do more than walk or trot around a flat, perfect arena once a week, you’re asking it to become an athlete for you. And more often than not, you’re asking for more athlete than the horse is ready to be.

So, put yourself in what you’re requesting of your horse, for a minute.

I’m an eventer. That’s a bit of an extreme sport to be using to compare, but it will certainly get my point across. 3-Day eventing is the triathalon of the horse world. There is a dressage portion, a cross-country/endurance portion, and a stadium jumping portion, all which ask the horse to be athletic in different ways. It is a contest of pure horse power, the horse needs to be able to collect and be supple, pour everything it has into a long distance gallop and jump contest, and then gather itself up to jump a technical course with speed and accuracy. Let me tell you, that’s a fit horse. So…what kind of rider does that horse need?

How about a dressage horse? The muscles used to collect are largely abdominal and core.  The rider needs to be just as fit, flexible and collectable.

How about trail riding? Yes, even trail horses need some kind of fitness. That’s actually what gets a lot of trail riders into trouble. You get a horse in varied terrain that isn’t athletic enough to handle it and resistance happens. Resistance causes a horse to act like a prey animal and often will spiral into a lack of emotional fitness which then leads to wrecks.

Here’s how my physical fitness was limiting my horse; I’m kind of excited, I didn’t expect this to be a side-effect of doing Insanity; Prin, my paint mare, is a left-brain introvert, and is very lacking in forward innately.  Finesse, dressage, and collection have, frankly, been a battle for us; in fact, our finesse fights were a primary reason I bought Inny–I was tired of feeling like a failure all the time!  Prin is also very high dignity, and so unless you can fight a logic fight, and have every exit closed, she will find a reason why what you say is invalid. And interestingly enough, for me, that was my ability to put my body where she needed it to be in order to truly round beneath me, and come up through her back.  My hip flexors were stuck at a really tightly closed angle (too tight even for jumping) and were really blocking her shoulder apparatus. We have had 3 of the best, most relaxed, forward finesse rides we’ve ever had this week, complete with lots of walk-to-canter and laterals because I could get my legs OUT of there.

How about this? With Inny, one of my hugest fears is not being an athletic enough rider to ride him when he gets…big. Emotionally, or physically. He’s a 17hand warmblood with lots of presence and charisma, and brute force when he gets wound up. He tends to spook suddenly sideways and then buck into the twist when he gets scared, and previously, not being physically fit enough, my mind would shut off and get focused on getting me out of there, usually resulting in an injury because of the scramble I put myself through to get away from him.  Please realize I don’t recommend you TRY to ride this stuff out. But I CAN now. I have the ability TO survive it!

And most valuable to me as an Eventer, I think is the stability I’ve developed in my low leg over fences. I have before and after photos of my posture in the same saddle 6 weeks apart (insanity is a 9-week program) and my leg looks completely different in the saddle.  Thinner, sure, but way more secure. I had a rocky lesson the other day, and though the performance between my horse and I wasn’t stellar, my instructor commented on how tight my leg stayed throughout. Previously, my legs would lose contact with the horse and I’d end up in all kinds of crazy, confidence shaking situations.

So as I wrap up this article, I really want you to think about what your expectations are for your horse, physically, and be honest. Do your expectations for your horse match the ones you have for your own fitness? What is your ultimate goal? Does your fitness level match? Are you willing to take steps to get there?

Please let me know! I’d love to hear from you, and if you need resources, I’m no expert, but I know people that are, and can get you started in the right direction.

I’ll leave you with the following meme. I pulled it off the fitness support group I’m in on FaceBook. I loved it, and it really gives good perspective. I think often, we get caught up with physicality being a part of our character. It’s not. And I think that’s also super important when it comes to taking the plunge into being better, for both ourselves and our horses 🙂

Fitness Meme

Resurrected By Force…Kind Of…

Greetings, everyone!

My my, what a journey life is.  I’ve been away from this for ages. It’s been the worst writers block I’ve ever had.

Writing has been, and likely will always be one of the best ways I have to organize my thoughts.  The past two years? Well, they’ve brought a flood of thoughts. And with them, a flood of emotional growth and change.  I had a pattern. I’d sit down to write, I’d feel a negative emotion about what it was I was writing–be it the quality, content, or audience to whom it was directed, and I’d stop.

Recently, I’ve taken on several life-changing endeavors. I’ve started taking jumping lessons again for the first time since I was a teenager.  I’ve started a full-time workout program with some strong personal fitness goals. And finally, I’ve got a pure, confident handle on what my mission is in life and exploring a number of supplementary avenues to embody that mission. And the writers block has lifted to the point that I almost cannot write enough.

So we’re back here. All these new endeavors parallel, of course. Isn’t that how any self-improvement project goes? And I can’t wait to share my discoveries with you, readers!

Cheers, and here’s to the resurrection of the writing portion of this journey!

 

 

Be Careful of Your Thoughts

“Be careful of your thoughts. For your thoughts become your words; and your words become your actions, and your actions become your character.”

Most of you have probably heard this said in Parelli-Land from time to time, and usually with regard to personal development. After all, this program is all about never-ending self-improvement, right? Well, I had it come about in a slightly different context than usual today.

I am under a bit of a time crunch on my Level 4 now. Through complete fault of my own, I am a world-class procrastinator with a camera phobia. But now the pressure is on, and I’ve had the completely calm realization that I don’t want it unless my horse is with me on the journey. Pretty cool, we’ll see how that holds out in front of a camera, but that is my promise to her.

So, that said, Prin and I have put our partnership to the test this week to ready ourselves to film the first part: Freestyle.  Prin’s best savvy is freestyle and I’m a better horsewoman with no bridle and saddle, so other than refining things a bit, it’s required relatively little preparation. Except today when we came to play with our flying lead changes.

Last fall, when I originally set into this, I got pretty aggressive about “getting it done”. My horse and I were pretty disharmonious and all in all, I’m really glad we didn’t film. But something I had come to obsession with was flying changes. God only knows why, Prin is an athlete and if I could just get out of her way, she’d do them every time! But we had set sail into a really nasty pattern; we were doing them a lot on the figure 8 and question box patterns, and having to really get revved up to hit the change in the back end. Far from the collected, effortless flying changes a person wants to show in a L4 audition.

Fortunately over the winter, I’ve had some outstanding teachers, both horse and human, who have really helped me level my leadership out. Recently, my greatest instructor has been Innuendo, a 17hh Dutch Warmblood and my soon-to-be dressage partner, who, whether I like it or not, knows more than I do when it comes to self-carriage and natural movement. He’s really helped me learn to take a step back and really say “YES!” to encourage the most possible talent at any given moment.

With that in mind, today, I saddled Prin up and ran down the compulsories of the the L4 freestyle audition one by one. This mare is wonderful, she hit every single one with ease. But the flying changes of course. And after a quick run through, I could feel the problem. The second my horse felt what pattern we were on, she flipped the chart and went totally RBE and forgot where her hind end was. Rare is the day I get to say Prin is out of control, but she pretty much is at that point. So today, I spent a lot of time slowing the pattern down. Rather than blasting through the question box and sloppily changing leads, we’d do s-l-o-w canter circles with a simple change in the box. If she hit the change smoothly, we’d drop to walk, and walk the tension out over her back. We quit when she got a nice flying change from left to right and was able to  drop to walk right away. Then we walked to the box to decompress and think.

As my horse and I stood in the box, she blew and licked and shook her head multiple times, then yawned. I often times will say that you don’t realize this horse is on adrenaline until she’s coming off it, but today it was obvious. I realized, as we sat there, just how much I had jazzed her up about these changes, and realized even more deeply upon reflection, just how wrong I had made her feel when she didn’t get them right. 

The huge lesson that I took from this is that even the most strong, stable horses can feel judged. As Prin released her tension, I looked at her, and reassured her that she was okay, and that she was my perfect partner now and forever. That she couldn’t be wrong, and I didn’t want a black string unless she wanted it with me. And when I put her away, she stayed with me. The mark of a true partnership.

Moral of the story is simply that horses are sensitive beings. They can feel every feeling you have, and are as in tune to judgment as anyone else. As you proceed in a partnership with your horse, it is important to recognize the mutual responsibilities involved. Ask yourself first and foremost: “Am I acting like a partner for my horse today?”. Partners are, in a phrase “Careful of their thoughts.”.

 

Savvy on 🙂

 

(And stay tuned for the development of our Level 4 freestyle audition!)

Its in the Little Things

In writing a blog that I know is in there, but won’t come out, I often turn to the advice of one of my mentors: “Just be honest. If it’s hard to say, say so! People get it!” So this is one of those blogs. I knew it had to be written the second I started experiencing this particular experience last night, but it doesn’t come easily being this fresh. After sleeping on it and continuing to giggle over it this morning for a while, I came here to write anyway.

I have a friend who is an artist. We had a great chat last night, she and I got into a fabulous discussion about perfectionism and the mentality that most artists hold. (I use “artist” loosely here, I consider horsemanship, peoplemanship, etc to be an art form as well as ceramics or graphic design)  We seem believe, even PRIDE ourselves to be emotionally damaged beings, tortured by our arts and melodramatic enough to believe that we actually possess some sort of un-diagnosable ailment that really should hold a chapter in the DSM-IV.  Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love did a great youtube segment on this a while back (See it HERE) but that’s not really the point of the blog. It’s just the tinder for the real conversational fire we’re about to light, here.

We got to talking about happiness. “What are the little things make you happy, Fran?” she asked me. Little things? I don’t do little things. I like extremes. Was my gut reaction. But that’s so not true. So she suggested I make a list. “Be careful,” she warned “You will probably see a pattern emerge. It’s important to allow that, to cater to it, but it may just make you laugh; I learned from doing this that I like realllly girly frivolous things. And that was important to allow myself that.”

Oh boy, did I EVER see a pattern.

Here’s a portion of my list:

~A hot shower at the end of a long day

~A nice clean truck, outside and in

~Doing laundry

~Eating Carrots and hummus; it feels clean and healthy

~A good plate of sushi (same as above)

~ A hot cup of coffee on a cold, crisp, clear morning

~Seeing someone smile at the end of something intense

~Simple things done well.

~The content feeling of “I have nothing left of fix. It’s all good”

For those of you who have not shared the coveted position of living with me for an extended period of time (said oozing with sarcasm, I assure you), I am by no stretch of the imagination a neat-freak. In fact, my bedroom could legit hold a segment on Extreme Hoarders. Never being home doesn’t help, but I am often surrounded by chaos and disorder anyway. And yet; structure and clean is a priority in my “little things”. A big priority.

For the obsessive study of humanality/personality/Parelli, something you should know is that that is characteristic of my opposite. I am, by nature a Right-Brain Extrovert, cusping on Left-Brain Extrovert. I tend to be spontaneous and playful, sometimes seemingly random,  and not prompt or organized.

Now the unfortunate part for you is that I have not reached any conclusions on this yet, other than I need to allow these things and this pa

ttern to become priority.  But what I want to do here is set the ball rolling for all of you as readers. I challenge you to write YOUR list. If you’d like to share it with me, you’re welcome to. But it is personal, and I understand that too

. Think of what little things take priority in your life. Allow yourself one of them today,  and smile. Because in the end, it’s all in the little things.

Keep it natural!

Prior and Proper Preparation: Pat’s 12 Things

Life is full of surprises. Some good, some not so great. Last week provided a surprise in a not-so-great form.  I have had blessedly few accidents with horses in the last 15 years. Only 3 have been serious enough to merit a trip to the ER, and one of them came last week. To make a long story short, I took an unscheduled dismount off my partner Crest, and managed to dislocate my left shoulder during the fall, and then to add insult to injury, Crest stepped on the same arm scrambling to get away from my flying body. I have a high threshold for pain, and I’ve never experienced something quite to that degree, in that universe. Fortunately the consequences have been pretty kind, just a few bruises and a week of being immobilized in a brace, but during that immobilization period, I managed even then to learn some valuable lessons from my horses and horsemanship, which I hope to share with you here.

I don’t deal well with not being able to move. I am the most stubborn recovery patient ever, and often will tolerate ridiculous amounts of discomfort to carry on with my routine.  However, with the risk of reinjury being high after a dislocation, and given the physical demands of my means for income, I chose to stay in the brace I was given. But I didn’t choose to stay away from my horses, in fact 5 days after the incident, I left for a trip to Florida with horses in tow.

Usually I don’t get bracy about driving cross country with my horses, but there is a certain level of unease about handling horses, alone, with a sore arm, and frequently after dark. It didn’t actually occur to me until I was in the moment just how much of a challenge it was going to be to handle my horses with only one arm.

Think of all the things you might do with your horses on a day to day basis. As you think about it, take into consideration just how much mobility it actually requires. Not just physical strength, but even more-so in flexibility and the ability to lift, reach, and and bend. Two hands to halter, to trailer load, to tie, to bridle, to saddle, to pick feet…on and on the list goes.  Hard enough when your horse is compliant, even worse when you’ve got an argumentative 1200 lbs on the end of the rope!

But what if….your horse actually helped you in this process? There are not limits when your horse starts to think like your partner.

Pat Parelli has a list of 12 things. 12 Behaviors. 12 Tasks that EVERY horse should be able to complete. I’ve heard it said to a Level 4 standard, but one of my mentors takes it one step further and says these 12 things should be developed to be “as good as they possibly can be”.

Here is a list of the 12 Things:

1.  Haltering

2. Saddling

3. Bridling

4. Mounting

5. Lateral Flexion

6. Indirect rein

7. Direct Rein

8. Supporting Rein

9. Hands-free Farrier Prep

10. Trailer Loading

11. Soft feel at the halt

12. 9-Step Back-Up

**If you have any questions or confusions as to what any of these things are, or what they look like at a L4 standard, please feel free to contact me and I’d be happy to offer clarity**

I have a list of these things hanging in my bedroom, I have them listed in my phone, and on the inside of my trailer living quarters door.  I don’t profess to have them all mastered.  But you can sure bet they’re burned in my brain, and they will often prevent me from becoming frustrated as a learner if something isn’t up to par.

This list came back to me in a FLASH as I was driving down the interstate on my way to my first stop-over destination on my trip.  A little late to be doing any “Fixing”, I realized, and not about to leave the halters and leads on my horses overnight, I sure hoped I had prepared well enough to act like partners when it came to these simple tasks.

The test came the next morning. Up early, and ready to hit the road, packed into 5 layers (it was 5 below outside!), and one arm strapped to my side, I headed out to the barn to halter up my “kids”.  I walked into Prin’s stall first, knowing she would be most willing to help. I untied my halter and offered it to her.  Much to my appreciation, Prin lowered her head to my knees, and virtually haltered herself, then kept her head low while I fumbled to tie the halter with my hand tied to my side.  An even more pleasant surprise came when Crest did the same, and then when both horses loaded themselves into the trailer and waited patiently, not tied, while I got the dividers adjusted and set and the door closed.

Since then, it has been much of the same. I’ve been able to saddle, bridle, mount, and ride this week, and all with minimal use of my left arm (which, by the way, has healed remarkably well and isn’t too much of a hindrance anymore).

My point in sharing this is with the hopes that I have given you an accurate example of how these 12 things, if given the proper attention ahead of time, can aid you. What do you do when you don’t have the mobility? When you can’t do what you’ve always done? Though Pat’s alliteration about Prior and Proper Preparation Preventing P-Poor Performance is cute-cutesy, it’s also a very valuable lesson in disguise.

In closing, it is my hope that you are inspired to expect excellence from the simple things.  I can’t tell you how grateful I’ve been to my horses for their help as I heal and get back on track after this incident.  I wish that every one of you gets the opportunity to feel partnership that way.

Ponderings on the LBI Front

So here I am, risen from the dead, writing to you again finally, albeit from a new venue. If I could even begin to describe the incredible journey of growth and self-development and fun and, and, and… I’ve been on this year. MAN! So neat, but I digress. Another story for another time.

I write to you today because I’ve had a HUGE BFO with Prin that I think merits sharing.

I’ve been struggling for a couple weeks with Prin’s positive flexion,  particularly in canter. The standard for Level 4 and for performance is for “straight” on the circle latitudinally (arched in the direction of travel), and at least somewhat longitudinally flexible (vertically flexed).

Prin struggles a lot with that. And it’s not for a lack of cooperation.  She’s incredibly willing. But it has posed itself as a puzzle for me these past few weeks as I prepare to submit material for my level 4 auditions.

I was talking with someone last night about this, and was explaining how horses in nature usually sloth around on their forehands. It’s usually special circumstance when a horse powers up and engages itself. True dressage masters, and masters of Haute Ecole in particular KNOW that, and know how to tap into it. That’s the level of mastery I’m interested in some day.

So, in thinking about this, horses really only get round and engaged in their self-carriage in three instances; inter-herd dominance, breeding/courting, and play (exhuberance and “feel good” type stuff, to differentiate from dominance). And as I was talking about this, I was mentally ticking circumnstances off my list, and had a big realization about Prin.

Prin is incredibly dominant by nature, and also very hormonal. Postures a lot around geldings, and in the herd, she walks through and the Red Sea parts, so to speak. She postures and gets very engaged when she’s dominant. She however is not very playful (read exuberant) at all; not in the herd, not by herself, and not with other horses. In fact, she finds her herdmates’ attempts at play really offensive. And of course, by default, that goes for me too.

Don’t get me wrong, some of that comes with the package of interacting with an Left-Brain Introvert. The usual struggle starts with motivation to be willing, and earning that positive expression, and any sort of energy and effort.

On the other side of the coin, I know some Left-Brain Introverts with wicked play drives and senses of humor, the root of which being of course “How clever can I be without moving my feet?” I think it varies greatly from individual to individual and of course their surroundings and experience.
So what I’ve figured in our circumstance is that I’ve motivated Prin to be willing, and she does so with a really pleasant expression; it’s not resistance based or with ugly thoughts. She does lots of what I ask of her, and she does it because she wants to. But I have not motivated her to legitimately play with me to the point of engagement and full physical effort. And that’s not natural to her, which I think is what makes it so tough for us, especially since I’m just the opposite; very exuberant and playful by nature. It makes me think some of Pat’s stories of Casper, only instead of not being gregarious/inclined to attach to another individual, Prin’s not naturally inclined to engage playfully.

So with that in mind, knowing this isn’t natural to her in the slightest, I’ve come to two conclusions. #1) I cannot take it personally when she gets dominant about being engaged. and #2) I need to literally teach her how to play and enjoy it.

So that’s what I did today. I started with “Touch It” with zone 1, knowing this is #1) her least playful zone (more along the lines of defensive) and also because this is where the root of all play starts!

First we played touch it with all sorts of things, then narrowed down to a bucket, a grain dish, and her nose bag. Eventually, my goal is teaching her to fetch things for me so I can feed her. We started with her grain dish today–I taught her to walk out to it and flip it over for me, and then I’d put grain in it. She thought that was great fun. Beyond that, I need to continue formulating a plan. But eventually, I want to help her understand and find the fun in things, rather than just the dominance.

Hmmm… lickin’ and chewing as I head off to bed tonight 🙂

Because Blogger Was Making Me Want to Stab My Eyes with a Spoon…

New blog address. New focus. New, Improved Fran.

In earning my 2-Star Parelli Professional status,  I think I’ve taken the first steps into the next chapter of life story, so that merits a new blog. A little less emotional-student Fran, a little more Parelli Professional. A little less 17 years old, a little more adult. I hope you’ll understand 🙂

Plus, between you and I, Blogger was making my ancient PC have simultaneous anneurism/heart attack episodes. Not pretty. Be glad you didn’t have to witness that!

So here, I hope to share the next steps of my journey. Out of the fundamentals of peformance with my horses, into specialization. Into a deeper understanding and level of thought about psychology, emotions, and peoplemanship as well

As always, I welcome feedback and “audience participation”. If you have a question, ask it! If you have ideas for a blog, suggest it! If you have an experience, share it! I love to hear from you 🙂

Thank you, my readers. I look forward to continuing on this journey of never-ending self-improvement, and sharing my steps along the way with you!

As always,

Yours Naturally,

Fran