Saturday, September 3, 2011

Transcendence: Sea World

I have often read or heard stories of people in the Parelli program and thought, "What would I give to be in his or her shoes?" Over the past 9 weeks, I have had some amazing experiences: a lesson with Kristi on taking the next step with finesse; a lesson with Ryan on the lead change ladder; yoga with Theresa Zenner; moving to the ranch--but not much that truly set me apart. Today, I had a moment--rather 45 minutes--of transcendence into a pair of shoes that I would say "What I would give to be in her shoes!" about. 

We had a special tour scheduled for a beluga whale trainer from San Antonio, Texas' Sea World this morning. I had given a tour to a man from Iowa in the morning, so I now had an idea of what was about to transpire--or at least I thought I did. Shirlee was so nice and very thoughtful--she came to observe the parallels between what she does with the whales and what we do with the horses. So, what she really wanted to see was a session with a horse. The trouble was, Pat is in New Mexico for a cutting show and all of the instructors are in Linda's course doing simulations with barrels. When Genna asked me if I would be willing to do a demo for her, I was calm only on the outside.

Genna drove the golf cart, Shirlee sat shot gun and I sat in the back in the bucket thing. We showed Shirlee Arena Grande and the Savvy Park then went up to Pat's area. There, Kalley Krickeberg was giving a demo on Champ to potential buyers, so Shirlee got to see some basic Seven Games while ridden. Next, we drove down to the Lower Barn to see what Linda's course was up to. They were doing simulations, so we told Shirlee about how we like to learn through simulations before doing it with the horse(s).

The last stop for Shirlee was to see someone in session with a horse. Faith had just gone into town, so it was just Blu and me. I had really hoped Faith would be there so we could show Shirlee the property game and so Shirlee could see the super cool advanced things Faith had going with Judge.

I took Blu to water and walked him to the small coverall at liberty then put the halter on to go into the coverall. Then the transcendence happened. I realized I was about to give my first demo. It was a teaching experience! I got really calm and from that point on, everything that came out of my mouth just fell out like the words knew what to do and where to go. I read Shirlee as we went along to make sure I was not going too deep into the psychology of it. During Blu's soak time, Shirlee shared her experiences with the same concept, so I felt comfortable sharing what I was sharing.

I went through the Seven Games in order, sharing the purpose of each game and any theory concept that came up. During friendly game, I showed her the zones and then did extreme friendly game in zone 5. I talked about knowing when to approach and retreat and when it is okay to move on to a new activity as well as understanding the comfort zone. Shirlee shared a story about a beluga whale who was wary of having someone swim with her but could handle humans in the wading shelf, now after expanding her comfort zone and using approach and retreat.

Next, with the porcupine game, I showed her how I used different phases, which could be refined over time, getting body awareness before asking a body part to move, the two spots horses move each other with, supporting with the driving game to refine the phases, and the release that teaches. Driving game (yield from rhythmic pressure) went similarly, but I showed her a draw, stick to me, and a close range spin as well. When I showed her the variation of the driving game called stick to me, I explained how connection is priority. I explained drive vs draw, which lead us into the yoyo game and the equalization of to and fro movement. I showed her how I could use just my energy and intention to drive and draw Blu and shared with her the experience I had of him making assumptions with this game in the past. I explained to her how in Parelli, by not teaching assumptions, we were creating a language with which to have a conversation rather than creating tricks with cues.

Circling close went slow at first, which was perfect for me to explain ending on a good note and being particular about what I wanted whenever I came out of neutral. I also told her that draw was important for close circling, so I did not want to shut him down for checking in with me so often--rather, I just encouraged and returned to neutral. We ended when he made a lap without stopping and asking a question. Then I put Blu on the savvy string, telling her then that we had 9', 12', 22', and 45' lines as well. Then we showed her a circling game of Blu maintaining his 4 responsibilities.

Next up was the sideways game. I took his halter and line back off and sent him sideways away and to me. My emphasis on this game for a good note ending was to end when he had equal movement of forequarters and hindquarters, which meant no lagging. Then I showed her sideways with me in zone 2 doing stick to me position and ended when he put effort in by crossing over. At that time, I shared the importance of the stick to us as an extension of our body since horses have long bodies but we have tall bodies--so I could use the stick to touch zone 4 to tell it to move over, too.

For squeeze game, Genna found a pedestal and I had Blu go stand on it. I talked about how the pedestal was a simulation for a bigger squeeze like the trailer, also explaining some of the funny looking things in the Savvy Park as trailer simulations. I told her about the idea of preparing a horse with a really difficult simulation so that when it came time to ask for a simple task, they were confident in their ability to do it, as is the case with the really tiny trailer in our Savvy Park compared to the larger trailers horses come with. Then I showed Shirlee a basic squeeze game with the wall and me. This is when I shared the send, neutral during allow, and the turn, face, & wait of the squeeze. I also discussed the concept of a flight line in the wild and how humans breed for different flight lines for different types of go in horses, i.e. racing. I retouched on assumptions and talked about making sure all the butterflies were landed before I asked him to go. Oh, and we talked about Blu having confidence to function at a distance from me and not crowd me. Shirlee's smile seemed to relate to that concept.

Then Genna stood 12' from the pedestal and we attempted the figure eight around the two. Blu presented me with an opportunity to talk about his puzzle solving and how even as he was confused, he was checking in and asking question. We ended on the note of Blu walking around Genna and back to me, not stopping at Genna (hehe).

I closed our session with two positive patterns. I explained how horses are pattern animals and we are the ones who have to choose which patterns to instill in them. So when I put the halter on, we have a pattern of him coming to the halter, chasing it really, and putting his nose in it. This also demonstrated another concept I shared about having permission--knowing that if he put his head in the halter, then I knew I had permission to move on--and that if he didn't, it would not be wise to move on, anyways. Both of these concepts resonated with her and the rules that MUST be followed for safety's sake when playing with a whale. I showed her the concepts as they apply to mounting by climbing on the fence and Blu following the pattern of getting into position with just a wave of my hand, explaining that the same idea applies there, too, that if he did not get into position, I did not have permission and the ride would probably not be a good one, possibly not a safe one.

After watering Blu and putting him to bed with his fly mask (by holding it up and him walking into it, no less), I came back and explained the property game to Shirlee since Faith and I couldn't show her.

On the way back to the office, Shirlee told us how they used target sticks for the whales to chase and the idea of taking what she knows the whale will be willing to do in a given moment. She also shared about how they understood that the whales are unique in their personalities, though the trainers did not necessarily have it down to such a refined science. Another interesting tidbit I think she took away was the idea of responsibilities, especially not to act like a prey animal, which belugas are, too. Hmm! I commented on how it was really cool for her to be in a community of people who can't force because there isn't really a way to force a whale--and also on the fact that everything they do has to be at liberty. It was such an engaging conversation--Genna and I just soaked it up!

We picked up another tourist before the liberty demo and she knew a graduated extern that Genna was fond of. We gave each of them a lovely tour packet of goodies to go home and enjoy. I also told Shirlee about our Summit coming up and the deal of it being shared on Parelli Connect--so she might join the Savvy Club for the free 30 day trial just to see some of that.

This was such an amazing experience--I wonderful way to start my day. I learned the value of sharing (in a demo) what I can do--not what I can't. I kept it all at the walk and basic and it looked nice and soft. No dust :) What an opportunity to share what I love. Shirlee left with the offer to contact her for an invite to Sea World next time we were in San Antonio. How cool is that?

Natural Horsewoman Out.

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About Me

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I am a young horsewoman with a million things on my mind. I have been a student of the horse all my life. As a little girl, I had a desire to understand horses on deeper levels. I believed that there was no such thing as a bad horse, and I believed that all horses were beautiful. One might say that I was a naive child, but I guess I don't have an excuse anymore, because I still believe all of that, and Parelli Natural Horsemanship is helping expand on this perspective.

What We Are Currently Playing With

  • Moving Close Circles at Liberty
  • Soft, Balanced Canter on 45' Line
  • Zone 5 Driving