Friday, August 10, 2012

Sweet, Kind, Gentle MICROMANAGER

For two weeks I have been in an Externship lead by Kristi Smith. Today, I put my foot down and raised my hand. Even though I wasn't sure which mediocre on line or liberty task I would ask for help with, I knew that if I did not take action today and get direct coaching right away, I would continue down a path to nowhere.


Kristi is an amazing teacher; every demo is filled with something to help us reach a higher quality with how we converse with our horses. I was incorporating many of those ideas into my horse development time with Blu, but it seemed like we weren't making any head way toward any of our goals. So, when Kristi asked us who needed help solving an on line or liberty puzzle, I shot my hand up along with eight other students. All my puzzles I was afraid the answer would be to just make a program and give it time to improve little by little. It seems like that is always the answer. But I did not care. I hoped and prayed that Kristi would tell me there was something I was doing to get the results we were getting, something I could immediately change in myself so I could begin getting different results.

Blu and I were second to last, so we sat through seven horses. Kristi played with each horse and changed as necessary for each horse and I waited in anticipation for what she would do when she had Blu. I kind of didn't want her to take him from me because I was sure there was something I was doing and I wanted her to see it. By the time she got to us, she let the other students go and get their own horses, so it was just one on one with no audience.

I decided to ask Kristi about our draw because it would seem that was the root of all of our issues. When Blu has been leaving me on line or at liberty, he does so like silly putty being pulled apart slowly. It just gets pulled further and further apart, the connection between each slowly getting more and more tenuous. Then, it just stretches out to nothing and Blu walks or jogs off very slowly. He is easy to catch again and if he is on line, he is easy to reconnect with, but I could not figure out what was triggering his decision to leave because it would happen at the strangest times. The specific example I used was with the Yo-yo game. Blu would cut himself off from me at a certain distance one day and another distance at another day. It was difficult to make 1% improvements when the starting point changed each day. Kristi told me that the starting point will change from day to day, week to week. The idea is to make a 1% improvement from the last time you played with that particular maneuver by the end of your session. This was a HUGE B.F.O. for me because even though it makes perfect sense and I am sure that is how I consciously understood it, what I practiced with Blu was not that.

Kristi had me send Blu out on the Yo-yo and I stopped before I felt him leave, and waited for a question. Next, Kristi helped me with the next big B.F.O. for the night. Once Blu asked a question, I drew him in, drew him in, drew him in, drew him in...Blu did not have to even think for himself because I left a light feel on the rope! So, Kristi was able to diagnose his very gentle leaving--he was leaving because I was very politely and gently micromanaging his every step. Since he was not needed to participate in a conversation, he left "I see you don't need me for this, so I will be over here."

Under Kristi's auspices, I played a new game. Send in the Yo-yo with a micro release after each step, wait for a question, draw in, put the belly of the rope on the ground and let him come in. If he stopped to eat grass, I started over with the draw. It was amazing how different this game was for us!

I am excited to put this into practice with all of the games and all of the savvies. It is such a small change and speaks (I think) to Kristi's observation skills. Such a small change that will make a HUGE difference. Onward and upward.

Natural Horsewoman Out.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Our Old Stomping Grounds with a Facelift

LeAnn Thacker picked me up from the apartment complex to take me to the barn, per my request. I was going to Durango and knew the only time I would be able to play with Blu would be prior to that trip.

As we pull in, LeAnn asks if I have seen what she did in the arena. The previous weekend, we had thrown all sorts of fun things in the arena. They came from her trip to Washington, where her home is. It looked like a some kind of battle ground where the barrels were trying to put down a revolution of logs, posts, and a sturdy corregated drain pipe. Judging by the exploded innards of log (it did not fair too well when LeAnn backed over the slightly rotted wood with her horse trailer), the barrels have the upperhand.

Now, LeAnn is quite pleased with herself because she spent hours at the barn yesterday cleaning up and setting up the arena. I follow her down and see what looks like what I have always dreamed of in playground: is one corner posts lay on the ground like sleeping soldiers, rhythmically set apart from one another; a square outlined by four logs awaits spins and bounces next to Norman the roping dummy; in the center of the arena, four standing barrels mark the corners of the Question Box; next to the Question Box, a pile of logs squeezes between two upright barrels like so many books between orderly bookends; off in another corner, the corrugated pipe shoots out from the base of a lone standing barrel, waiting for symmetry or completion; adjacent to the pipe's corner, three barrel musketeers lay head to foot, a happy trio supported by rocks that keep them from rolling off into the pile of logs; marking the midpoints of each of the sides of the arena, four barrels act as sentries to all the excitement going on in the various quadrants. The insides are, in fact, quadrants because this arena is set up to accommodate the Cloverleaf pattern and follow the rail, LeAnn explains. It is lovely. I am momentarily worried that there is no empty place to play the Circling Game on the 45' line, but the feeling withers away next to my excitement about this transformed space.

Blu has been standing between LeAnn and me this whole time; he puts his nose on LeAnn's neck or nuzzles my hand, seeming quite put out by our attention on something else. He follows me to the barn and reluctant goes inside as his eyes adjust to the dark. I get the 45, his halter, and stick and string from the tack room and we head off to try out the arena in all its splendor.

First, I let him trot around me in a moving circling game so he can see all the new fixtures. He is looking at Norman, playing with Koda (LeAnn's dog), offering the canter, and generally accepting this environment. So, we begin to play. His canter is there for me and we go around the arena, sometimes over a jump, sometimes around barrels. His canter is energetic, but not panicked, and he does not lean on the end of the rope or go along like he could break gait any moment. Instead, I completely trust that he will keep going. He has gone around me at least ten times without stopping (length of the rope varies due to obstacles, but we have had a full range from 12' to 45'). I ask him for a change of direction and he does a simple lead change with propper flexion, so I aim him to a little pile of hay that I don't know anything about in the way of how it got there. We go off again and the next time I ask for a change of direction, he does a clean flying lead change and that is when we end, once again, at the pile of hay.

I take off the 45' line to play with it while munches and catches his breath. I practice throwing it out with both hands and recoiling it, then I practice throwing it out behind me. It works out so well, I am quite surprised. Satisfied with my results, I touch Blu's forehead and climb over the fence to get my riding equipment.

I come back and climb the fence again. I ask Blu to step to me and he does. When I get on, he does not toss his head up, and as we leave the hay, he does not flick his tail. I sort of repeated the wandering practice to make sure he is not worried about the new toys with me on his back. When we begin the Question Box, he is offering the canter. I am riding with two Kidz sticks and quite pleased that he is so eager to go forward.

After the beginning, Blu is attentive and does not need any prompting from the Kidz sticks to stop, go, or turn. He was so great! He was stopping nicely with his weight on his haunches from the canter in the question box (and his canter transitions were effortless and I just had to look up to get them); he walked to, jumped over, and walked away from the logs jump; we did spins without sticks; he did straight lines to leg yields to sidepass to leg yield to straight to sidepass etc. without too much trouble; he trotted over the cavalettis without knocking them, floating himself over nicely with only a few knocks; he held neutral lateral flexion without any sticks for 10 seconds. I was pleased with his performance and after a stop with a deep seat and little 3 foot slide marks (imagine if he has sliders on!), I dismounted, by sliding off  his rump and onto the ground. He followed me to the gate with a couple wistful attempts to go to the little hay pile, which I negated by lifting a Kidz Stick. He squeezed through the gate, turned, faced, and waited while I locked it, and followed me up to the little pen he would spend the day in.

I helped LeAnn clean up the paddock, cleaned and filled the water troughs, and dumped the wheel barrow out. It was such a nice time with Blu, I kept running it all through my head. I considered what we could do to progress. What could we do to improve on what I had today? Here is what I have come up with, now:

  • Spins at liberty in close circles
  • Refine (count strides, get particular) the sidepass, leg yield, straight exercise, maybe add half pass
  • Bullseye pattern with the canter
  • Be particular about the size and shape of the circles in the Question Box pattern
  • Ask for a change of direction from further away and without hay
What fun it is to have an inspiring playground. Our old stomping grounds, but with a much needed facelift and a little surgery for the gutted log!

Natural Horsewoman Out.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Tonight was my first session with Blu since Thursday. I have been working on a moving project that has taken considerable time and effort. Now it was back to the arena.

Blu did 2 very solid laps in both directions at the canter. It was just there. I set up a barrel squeeze for him to jump over, then I set up two with one on top. He went straight to it and changed his mind at the last minute. I don't remember how the barrels got knocked down, but they did and he went around a few times before he did a huge jump over the mess of the three barrels. Next time, I would like to focus on being more in control of his feet by sending him out to the barrels to jump them then turn, face, and wait to do it again.

I played with Blu at liberty for a bit. He did spins and ended up at one point running around and around the arena. I let him and waited for him to look at me. It was interesting because he was suddenly running around, seemingly unprovoked. In the end, though, he followed me around the whole arena while I picked up rocks and threw them out.

He was really stuck to me the rest of the night and I was actually really happy. His runabout the arena was just interesting.

Natural Horsewoman Out.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Today we did just what I said we should move on to when I posted yesterday--we did more transitions to encourage the canter.

On the way down to the arena where the halter and line were, I could tell that whatever keeps Blu stuck to me was kind of weak, so I stopped every 5 to 10 steps and gave him a cookie. By the time we got to the gate, he was connected really well and ready to go. I asked him to do a spin and then we put on his halter.

I asked for a little sideways using just my energy and hip. He could go away and come back without the stick and he stayed sideways. We got to about 6 feet.

Today, I found it really easy to know what it meant to be effective. When Blu was slow to leave the barrel, I spanked the spot after he had begun to slowly leave and the next time he went right off and didn't flick his tail.

The game tonight was as long as you are not cantering, you are going to be making lots of walk, trot, stop, and back up transitions and I will be micro managing those transitions all the way around the circle with no neutral. When I asked him to canter, I would immediately go to neutral. If he broke gait, which he only did twice, I went back to micromanaging. It worked superbly! He completed two laps in both directions.

Tomorrow, I would like to start thinking about asking for a change of direction at the canter applying the same principle of lots of transitions if he doesn't maintain the gait through the change.

I was so happy with where we left off. We did some liberty--two spins in a row and a clean cantering stick to me. Unfortunately, the clean canter was followed by a not clean one when Blu left. However, on the up side, we got it back together and when we went back through the gate, he waited for me to shut it and he cantered with me to the top of the corral.

It feels good to have something work like this.

Natural Horsewoman Out.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Contentedly Cantering

What a beautiful day it is when you can end it with a settled heart and quiet mind. I believe that everything is just fine and will continue to improve. Blu is doing so well with his cookies and transitions and sideways maneuvers that I can tell he is ready to go to the next step with it. He is increasing his positive reflexes to opposition reflexes ratio and he is getting stickier to me--usually.

Tonight after work I played with Birdy for an hour. She is such a hoot. I built her a little fort and played with the kitty toys with her. She really enjoyed herself. Playing with Birdy helped me feel so happy. I wanted to get right back to her as I was leaving for the barns.

At the barn, I walked down to the arena with my equipment--right past all the horses. Blu was watching intently--somewhat surprised, I think. I put the cookies on the three barrels and waited for Blu. He came down from the top of the paddock, followed by Faith and Cheyenne. He put his head in his halter better than yesterday--still stretching toward it, first, but quickly deciding to put it all the way on.

Blu did circles at the walk, trot, and canter in both directions. I did a few transitions. I decided that tomorrow I will do more transitions to get things more exciting because tonight Blu was a little sticky sometimes. He did maintain the canter at 40' for a lap and a half. Tonight I also kicked one of the barrels out after a while. Time to get more for less!

We also played with sideways, but as I told myself yesterday, tonight we started close and then expanded to the full length of the rope rather than using the whole rope and halving as necessary. We got to 45' away and to with evenness and only a little forward stepping! Another thing, when Blu did not look at me from the barrel, I did not tug or pull--I just got a little closer. By the time we got to 45' he was giving me his attention just by the hinging of the carabiner clip. Oh, it was exciting!

I played with him at liberty for a while and enjoyed some Spanish walk lessons then we did some spins and stick to me. He did 2 spins in a row. It really started to click (we are kind of reminding him on those) with the spins.

He ran off during a stick to me when I asked him to canter. Then I ran with him and when I skidded to a halt, so did he. He then walked off, but it was  better connection he kept with me for a while. I trotted behind him until he began circling me at the trot. He even kept going while I sat down.

You would think that I would end it there, but I took him off and asked for a canter again, then the girls got all worked up and so did he. He gallopped and gallopped all over the place, even after the girls stopped. I just kept on going until he looked at me and trotted to me calmly. Then we went for a walk around the paddock to get him cooled down since he was so winded. I played with laying him down by crouching and tapping his hocks--I think we are on to something there. 

Everything ended so well--I can't wait to get back there. As Birdy sits on my legs, I think it is funny because just this afternoon, that's what I was thinking about her. How contented I must be to have to animal friends I am so ecstatic to be around.

Natural Horsewoman Out.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Maintain Gait and Maintain Direction: Simple

Learning when to do what and why you are doing that and how to deliver the message is much more complex a puzzle that one might think. The reason it is complex is that I made it so; the reason it is so complex is that it is so simple that I must come up with a convoluted wormhole of logic. I imagine the reason I do this is that I find it initially impossible to believe that it could be so stupidly simple. It would seem that life really is what you perceive it to be--and so are the puzzles that come along. How much more we could enjoy life--how much further we could go--if we allowed it to be simple and beautiful.

I am doing my thinking tonight. I did some yesterday, I believe, too. Blu is such a good teacher for me to learn about the simplicities of life and to learn how to have confidence in my decision making. When I stop believing in myself, things begin to slide a bit. I must have abruptly stopped believing in myself last summer. Looking back, I recall feeling that suspension of self-confidence. Quite simply put, that is when the web of complexities began. I no longer knew up from down or right from left. The good news is, that is also when I embarked (unknowingly) on my journey toward this understanding of allowing simplicity to rule.

Blu has not been too keen on holding up his end of the responsibilities of maintaining gait since we came to Colorado.  On Saturday, I was playing with Blu on a 45' line and my friend Maree was watching while waiting for her severely introverted horse to relax (Maree is an amazing horsewoman and does a phenomenal job with all the horses I see her with). I was feeling torn about what route to take with Blu because I projected complexity onto him. I didn't know how to get to the answer to the puzzle "How do I cause maintaining the canter at the end of the 45' line to be Blu's idea?" because there were so many ways to get there that I didn't know whether or not were working answers. Never mind the scientific process or even the very elementary process of elimination. Then Maree suggested I just put food on some barrels.

Putting food on barrels is what I did with Blu to help him decide that jumping things was fun and a great idea. Of course. The worst thing that could happen is it didn't work.

The next morning was Sunday and I took some honey dew rinds and put them on the barrels while Blu stood obediently in the center. When I started out, it looked promising, but then Blu got to a barrel and shut right down. I wasn't sure if he was going introverted or if he was just something else.

Later that morning, I asked a Parelli Professional named Molly Sanders about what Blu had done that morning. Molly suggested being more provocative by doing lots of transitions. "But he tends to get worried when I do that." Simple. The answer is: ADJUST TO FIT THE SITUATION. Be provocative, then, if it gets too much for him, ADJUST to being more consistent.

I played with that concept, mixing it together with food rewards. It worked because I adjusted when I had to--I did whatever Blu needed. If he needed a rest, I let him rest. If he needed me to become more of a sweet spot, I became more of a sweet spot. If he needed me to be more provocative--get the picture.

It is difficult to explain the kind of helplessness I got caught in by projecting complications onto situations that were simple by nature. The feeling I had froze me up and made me think that it was better to do nothing than to try something new.

Tonight, I got to feel softness with Blu. We even broached that is quite difficult for him to get near--change of direction at the canter! I will tell you:

I was on the phone with my gramma when I walked into the paddock with Blu's halter, 45' line and carrot stick. He came up to me and stood by me. Then, after I kept talking and sort of ignored him, he turned around and backed his butt up to my back. When I hung up with Gramma, I turned and was surprised to see his butt. He looked back at me when I scratched his butt and brought his head back to me. I offered the halter and he stretched toward it. I clucked and he stepped toward it, but not all the way. We played that game a little bit--it was fun.

He is much more responsive now on the circle and I had him jog a small circle around me on our way to the arena. I tried something different by asking him to change from circling to driving from zone 5. It actually worked well and I think it is something I want to pursue with him.

The circling game is going really well. I am careful to the right at the canter because it is weaker side and I don't want it to become sore. We don't ignore it completely and tonight we worked that side more than any of the nights so far and he did not get upset about that. He is so agreeable when I ask him to canter! I love it. In the beginning, he offered a canter and I asked him to come in.

Later, I was wanting him to maintain the gait on a longer line. First, I aimed for the canter from a stand still. Every time he left at a jog or a walk, I immediately yielded him and started over--no pets, no cookies, no rest, just straight back and out again. He got it on the 4th time and that time I asked him to come in, but I gave him a cookie and let him rest. The went out and was cantering around. The circle got bigger and bigger and then he took off--as in started charging around. I let him slide then power positioned him to a stop and we got into interesting thing about the whole charging deal. I was completely clearminded and consistent. We did changes of direction until he could do it calmly. Then he cantered around calmly. I grew the circle and asked him to stop at the barrel.

It felt like the right place to end the circling game so we played the sideways game to the barrel. The first one was sloppy, but the second was better. The first one we did 45'. The second, I halved the distance. On that, I think what I learned was to prepare him for that distance better. Start out with it being halved--don't even allow the sloppy to happen. Yes, that would be a wise decision for next time.

We did some more with his Spanish walk--wouldn't you know Maree can take credit for our growth on that fun trick.

We spent the rest of our time together at liberty. He circled me in the paddock and the arena. It was a nice circling at the walk.

May your day be simple and thoughtful.

Natural Horsewoman Out.

Friday, March 30, 2012


I miss Misty and Mao and my family in Michigan. I was hoping that they would all come here this summer, but it sounds like Mao is going to stay in Michigan. For a while, thought it would be wiser to leave Misty there, too. Now I see that I must follow my heart in this matter and bring her here. It is the way that I am choosing to go with this and I know my family will support me in this decision.

I have also decided to give Misty a job this summer--she is going to help student's on their journeys as a lease horse for Parelli courses. She is almost to level 4 with me--she has flying lead changes on the ground and in the saddle, we just need her to say "yes" more often. I think she will make a great lease horse for students because she knows her stuff, she just needs the right approach to give it all to you. She is a sensitive mare with a lot of dignity. Yes, a good lease horse, I think.

I learned about the some of the ins and outs to leasing a horse by speaking with people who had leased their horses out in the past. One of those people is someone I am pet sitting for and I am so excited to do that. I love taking care of animals. On that note...

Birdy came into my life as a companion on Thursday evening. The Humane Society here in Pagosa approved me as her adopter and she came home with me. It was so special to me to have a new kitty in my life that is my very own. The last fuzzy critter I dragged home was Tinkerbell, a gray orange and white calico who was abandoned on the hiway behind our back pasture. That was many years ago, so I was due for a new pet in my life.

It is funny because over the years, I have been spending so much time taking care of other people's animals; I had a job as a kennel worker and since I have been in Pagosa Springs; I make extra money taking care of pets for folks leaving town; my friends got me hooked on visiting the local Humane Society to play with the cats and dogs there. All are such happy experiences for me because I really enjoy interacting with animals. With all of those cases, however, I go home and it is really just me and Blu.

So now the team is Blu and Birdy. Slowly, I am getting used to the fact that I get to keep Birdy; she is going to go home with me, wherever home may be; home changes a lot, lately. If I ever have to leave town for stint, I get to have a trusted friend take care of my own cat. What a concept.

Mao and Misty stay in Michigan. Soon, Misty will come out to join us, and the nice alliteration I am enjoying will be no more. I think I would rather lose the alliteration than spend any more time out here without Misty, though.

Natural Horsewoman Out.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

All Good Things Must Come to an End

Don't worry, the title is not implying that this blog is over. In fact, it might be more appropriate to say "All good things must come to an end eventually--and that eventuality is not yet" as far as this blog is concerned. No, no, as far as I can see, the world will suffer these babblings for some time to come. In fact, the title may or may not have been a way for me to begin by affirming that we are not at an end.

Since joining Parelli as an employee, my life has been turned upside down. I have been to a mountain and ridden half way down it with no plan of ever doing so; Blu has been through his first of no more to come big wound with big vet bills for me experience; my Colorado family has moved twice, and so have I; many other big deals for me, including my Dad's birthday, which entailed surprising him with my presence--something I don't think anyone in my family forsaw being a surprise in previous years.

Being away from home is

I will leave it at that.

Blu is doing much better now and I am ready to begin tracking that. We have some things to accomplish together and it is a full intention of ours to get to it--Blu probably just doesn't know it yet.

So, in lieu of a lengthy post about horsemanship, Blu and I leave you with the above text and hope to have an exciting report for the world, tomorrow.

Natural Horsewoman Out.

Monday, January 16, 2012

War Horse

The only reason for this title is that I saw the movie tonight and it was moving. I always get fidgety during the training parts of movies like that, but I am trying to learn to just enjoy the gift of suspension of disbelief.

These movies are most enjoyable for me because I often see in the horse the marvelous characteristics of my horses. I think it is a horse person disease that when we see horses--at a show, a clinic, in a movie--we wish ours were with us. It made me wish Blu and Misty were with me. Sometimes you wish they were there so you could patch things up with them. Other times you wish they were there because you know that the great things inspiring you in that moment are within a stone's throw and you only need your horses there to complete the puzzle.

After Sunday and Monday play sessions with Blu, I was definitely feeling the latter of the two.

Yesterday, I was a little tardy to the barn and ended up with a lot of time with Blu by myself as the rest of the people were done and leaving.

Apparently, before I arrived, he was quite excitable. Looking back, I think it was because he could sense the snow coming. I am telling you, that horse gets so excited about snow, it is not an unlikely hypothesis.

We played some more with the telescopic pole. He had sideways to and away going well without fear!

When we were doing a circling game, he took off and was bucking and tossing his head. This was not quite the same kind of "eeee, I can't do that" leaving from before. I ran with him and we ended up back at the barn. I asked for zone 5 driving and we haphazardly wove through the columns.

When we were done, I put him on line; this was an entirely different animal leaving for entirely different reasons. He was flipping me the bird!

On the 22 foot line, we played the circling game. I only asked for the trot. He had nice flexion and slack in the line. I played with his change of direction at the halt before I put on his bridle and played the game of contact with him.

The game of contact was really exciting. It was so cool to watch him figure out that reins meant go. I ended when he took a step forward from a halt into the contact.

Blu is superb at stretching into the contact. He is also quick to relax. He did a lot of blowing out. We are going to have so much fun with this!

Today, I almost missed my window to play with Blu today. We had a blizzard dumping on us all morning and most of the afternoon, so I was waiting it out, hoping it would slow down before the day was over.

My neighbor is the one who prodded me about it and when I looked outside and saw it was quiet (finally!), I hopped on out.

All the horses were in the arena when I got to the barn. I called to Blu and he perked up. The next time I called him, he headed up. The other horses followed.

I wanted to play on the 22' line instead of at liberty because the snow tends to give Blu a bug up his butt and I knew that it would be better to have him on line if that happened.

We played the circling game for the first time since that weekend with all the huffing and puffing and would be dust (if it weren't for the snow and ice). Well, it was the first time on line since that weekend.

At first, when I asked for the canter, Blu got really tight and kept trotting. I learned something here, because where before I would have said "Aha, I am not being effective, let me get closer," I recognized that he was already under enough pressure. What he needed, was for me to wait. So I kept on with the swinging of the stick and came out of neutral with a cantering body. As soon as he cantered, I went to neutral and asked him to walk. The next time, he did not need me to canter, but I did have to keep swinging for a while. Next time, he did not need me to keep swinging so long. Then, he did not even need the stick.

Granted, I was asking for the walk as soon as he gave me a canter. The first time I accepted a sort of harumph little leap of the canter. I noticed that he was shaking his head at first--a sign of confidence. I think that is interesting with all of the tension. I think that it means that he was not worried that I was going to go stronger with my phases, but I think he was expecting I would and daring me to do it. "Make my day" sort of. Instead, I did just the opposite. And the moment he gave me what I was asking for, I quit.

Even better, I was finished before he spiraled. He was great when we were done with the circling game.

I took his halter off and began to play with the Spanish walk a bit. We have the pawing bit down, now we need suspension. He learned so quickly to hold his leg up and suspend it. Next will be to stretch it out.

It was so nice to be quiet with him after that. There is great satisfaction to be had when you end on a good note. Ryan's advice to keep the sessions very short popped into my mind.

Natural Horsewoman Out.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Progress with Experiment

This week did not really work out the way I had hoped because lunch never found me playing with Blu. However, it did deliver some great experiences, though. I answer the horsemanship questions and learn a lot through that. I was very excited to hear back from Kristi Smith about last weekend's discovery of following Blu when he left me during liberty and turning it into  zone five driving. Her response made me feel affirmed in what I was doing and excited to keep going.

Today, I introduced Blu to the telescoping pole. At first, after an initial meeting, when I put it under his head to go from one side to the other he shot back and turned and ran. I reestablished connection and began the friendly game again. He became curious and started to push on the stick and nibble on the bag on the end. It took us a while, but when I closed the stick, I could put it over his head without it bothering him and shake it about to the sides without it bothering him. Going over the head took a lot of approach and retreat. We did not get it to where he could handle it going under his chin; that includes by his front feet and at his chest.

I played with his spins and he was not leaving. I gave him long pauses to process. I used a lot of contact with the savvy string/carrot stick to maintain a connection at first, then I reduced the stick. By the end of the session, it got to be more of a suggestion and less of a tell. I could send him, spin around myself, and he would be facing me.

The first time he left was during a circling game after a change of direction. I went with him and turned it into driving from zone 5. Again, it was really nice zone 5 driving.

Unfortunately/fortunately, I did not get to practice the zone 5 driving as much today because he only left once. That's a huge improvement. Looks like it's time to start upping the ante. Tomorrow I am going aim at the trot on the circle a bit more and cantering stick to me.

An observation I made was the feeling of the velcro NOT ripping apart, even though Blu wasn't moving. I was surprised at the solidarity of that feeling. Blu wasn't moving, but I could tell he was thinking and would respond once he decided what he should do in response. It's different from when he might just stand there and shut down/disconnect. This processing was super cool!

I asked Blu to go sideways away from me, which he did, but when I changed gears to sideways toward, he kept going away. I probably could have asked him to stop first and had more success, but I just drifted with him until he found the answer. We played with his responsiveness and he knowing if it was a draw or a send sideways. Once I had Blu going sideways to and away, I combined it with a spin. He did a spin and then I drew him in the opposite direction of the spin to me and sideways. It took the entire length of the paddock for him to even go with front and hind.

Then we ran/cantered to the top of the paddock, stopped and backed up.

It was a nice end, so I sat with Maree and we talked while Blu stood over us.

I am excited to see what tomorrow's session is like!
Natural Horsewoman Out.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

The Natural Power of You-Know-What

Staying focused on a goal is only difficult when you allow the rest of the world to dictate what you focus on. It is only in charging headlong into the fray of the world that you find the true path that will lead to the achievement of your heart's aspiration.

The meaning I hope to impart here is that goals set aside will not develop themselves. If you stop pushing toward it, remove the fibers of your focus from it, "it" will not happen. No matter how set on something you may have been at the onset of the goal, if you have allowed the world to steal away your attentions, you have allowed the world to steal away your dreams.

I took a giant leap of faith this summer when I left my parents in Iowa at the top of a very steep driveway with an empty horse trailer. That was me focused on my goals of taking another step--a big one--toward becoming a great horsewoman and a great teacher and professor of horsemanship.

The whole summer was filled with leaps of faith, sudden changes, and stepping up to the plate even when it was terrifying to do so. At the end of the summer came the greatest leap of faith I have ever taken; I took a job with Parelli Natural Horsemanship instead of returning home to Michigan.

At the time, I was still hoping to go to an externship, though not sure when because the course I had planned to take was cancelled that fall and I had no idea how I would come up with the money for the next summer's. I took the job knowing two things: this was a part of my own unique path toward my goal; and I could not let myself allow this to consume my original aspiration.

Having worked at Parelli for almost four months, I know that there was a great stretch of time where I struggled to take care that the origins of my reason for being here were not drown out by the very leap of faith I had taken to grow closer to the goal. Even now, I am balancing out reaching my dreams and giving Parelli the greatest service I am capable of.

Several weeks ago, I made another quantum leap of faith by deciding firmly in my heart that I will attend the July 2012 externship and become a 2-Star Parelli Professional. The path is still unclear, but every day I experience great clarity in where I am going. By having that unwavering focus, now, I see how fuzzy my vision was before. The world had taken over and caused me to slow down. I stopped the charge into the fray.

Now that my dream is more real to me than it has ever been, I am excited to share the concept of how your choices in position as a proponent or neutral state for the achievement of your dearest aspiration is critical to the realization of your dreams. If you make no choice, it is just as bad as making the choice to decide to relinquish the right to ever savor the taste of the success you once envisioned.

Keep driving and eventually, you will find yourself no longer in Iowa skidding down the steepest driveway you have ever witnessed with a bumper pull filled with two horses swinging behind you. Instead you will be in the mountains under the most glorious sky riding the beautiful horse who trusted you enough to follow you out there. . .

Natural Horsewoman Out.

Saturday, January 7, 2012


Horsemanship is cyclic in the path; you learn, you grow, you find incompetence at some level, learn, and grow. Hopefully, you don't have many runs of static amongst that cycle because static horsemanship is really just rotting horsemanship. When you stop learning, growing, changing, the journey suffers; it begins to slowly slip downhill because your horse and you need the presence of new challenges in order to thrive.

I am so glad when I feel the incompetence pop up in my awareness because then I know that my horsemanship journey is still kicking. It's even better when I feel us growing because of course that is the fruit of the struggle; the reason that you pushed on.

Today we were growing and I realized a level of incompetence. Weee!

Blu tagged along while I was picking the paddock. It was good that he was hanging out with me.

When I came out with just a carrot stick, I decided to stay in the dry paddock with Blu instead of going to the arena. We proceeded to play at liberty. I tested his "velcro" and sometimes it ripped. We were playing with his spins and once when I encouraged him, it was too much and he shot off. Another time it ripped was when we I asked for the trot on his close circles.

Once things were getting more solid with the circles, sideways, and spins, I began to combine them. After each combination I gave him an appropriate amount of processing time. During the combinations, it felt so GOOD!

I ended the first session with me sitting on the fence for a while with Blu.

I came back and continued to play. We did sideways to and away in me and my shadow, played with forward and backward, trotting liberty circles, spins, pizazzy stuff with his mane as a "line" and more combining.

When it felt like it couldn't get any better, we stopped. It was during a cutting game that Blu was really digging into the dirt with. It was awesome.

I talked with my friend Maree and at one time Blu pawed. I sent him around in a circle and when he got to Maree, he got stuck and decided to leave. It took him quite a while to come back, but Maree and I just chatted away.

The incompetence was my velcro with Blu and knowing where the limit is so I can stretch it and retreat. Also, Blu's expression was sometimes tight, so I grew by using the quit on the exact expression I wanted and when he was moving through his body. This was really illustrated when Blu was trotting next to me and he was tight under the neck and mouth. I put my hand on his neck as we went along. When he put his head down, I quit.

So, we were growing today. It's good to be in such a state when I know the great heights that we are growing up toward.

Natural Horsewoman Out.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Poetic Interest

A plan in mind, I went down the hill
Blu was following but suddenly stood still

He turned around when he saw where we were going
So I followed him back up with a smile of knowing

It was that arena we had done so much work in;
The place I had calmly gone berserk in

Clarity came and I used very little assertion to say
"Don't worry brother, I'm okay and you'll be okay"

When we got to the threshold that had to dissolve
I gave him a carrot, a vegetable he loves

Now he had interest vested
And his skepticism was bested

To instill confidence the best pattern is touch it
And carrots made it better because such is

Blu's nature when we involve food
He recalled this game and the game got good

Blu touched a pan, a chain, and a ground pole
With zeal and glow that in turn touches my soul

To see him so vivid and vibrantly motivated
I knew it was time to stop before he was satiated

Because then we would find ourselves back at square one
No, this way tomorrow he won't start out ready to be done

Blu followed me back into the barn where I groomed him
To free him of all the dirt that has completely consumed him

What a good pony, Blu is truly sweet
I cannot wait till tomorrow when again we meet

I must be getting to sleep now, and so good night
Natural Horsewoman Out

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Snapshot of a Good Horse

Due to various circumstances, Blu has had two days of not seeing me during my lunch period. It is my belief that it was best that way, though. It gave Blu some time to recuperate from my crazy "horsemanship" this weekend.

Today I only had 15 minutes with him to brush him before I fed the horses and picked the paddock. Grooming is a fantastic therapy and I sometimes like to spend the time visualizing some great thing we will do together. However, I think it is better for my horse when I am present with him. Today I was there in the barn with him, mind, body, and soul.

I put love into getting him clean. Maybe it was also a little symbolic because I brushed dried all sweat off his chest as well. Now he has a lovely (kind of) coat--clean and fresh...

As Blu munched away, I knew that this was a beautiful snapshot of what a good horse Blu is. I bring him into the barn and let him eat and our communication is so soft; we have such a great language together, I think. It was my way of apologizing and his way of telling me that nothing has changed between us--we are still buddies.

I am glad I did not have time to "do" anything with him. We had a beautiful time enjoying one another's presence. When I look back on what I learned in the past week, I hope I always remember how it ended with what a good horse I have as a partner and the language we share.

Natural Horsewoman Out.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Metamorphosis Part One

Today we were all happy at work. I have a lot of work to do, but there was no overwhelming feeling. It just was and I was the best me that I could be. At the end of the day, I began a deep clean of my work space in effort of getting my best me better. We will see how it helps in the next week or so.

It felt like I was in the midst of a before the dawn moment. Everything feels like it is on the edge of something much greater than I ever anticipated could happen. The seams of my life are beginning to tear as a metamorphosis comes to a grand finale. Potential is almost tangible as the vision of what could be comes closer to what is in so many facets of my life.

Who knows how long the finale will last before the completed me is rendered. That is why this post is only part one. If my future self can remember, which I plan on it, I will be able to write a part two.

I would like to take a moment to revisit where I came from because my anniversary with Parelli came and went without notice. That's not the true beginning, but there is logic to starting there. I immediately wanted to become a Parelli Professional and I felt like with this program, I would do everything I ever dreamed of. Going through the homestudy courses, I felt the high every day of the new knowledge.

Fast forward a bit and I decided that I would go to a course. I overcame the financial wall in front of me then empowered myself by proving that I could do things by myself by going to the 2010 Performance Summit--that was significant to me as a college student living at home. I flew further from home than I had ever been by myself--actually further than I had ever been.

At the Summit, on the campus I would learn on in less than a year, I soaked in the feeling of it all. I pictured Blu in the pens, I pictured sending mind pictures to Misty when I got there with Blu.

The Summit also opened up the windows to the kind of people I could count on in this journey. Even as an independent person, the experience instilled in me the belief that beautiful people would come into my life and support me if I needed it.

Of course there were many other factors to my learning what I was capable of and many people who affirmed the beautiful people belief.  Credit to those, now. I am thanking you in this very moment.

I made a plan in my heart and it manifested itself as a plan in my mind that I would graduate my fast track, work in the corporate office, then take my Externship and become a two star Parelli Professional. Amazingly, that is what is happening, as unlikely as it may have seemed and even though things are not unfolding HOW I thought they would.

Fast forward to where I stand now, I still have the same heart plan and my mind is beginning to see a little of how we are going to get there. I did not know how much my heart's plan would be fulfilled. That's where the metamorphosis comes in.

My dream is to be an amazing leader in whatever I do. Somewhere along the way between the books I have read, the people I have met, and the animals I have touched, I became the strong person I am today. It looks like my dream is no dream at all; it is a full reality.

I would like to invite you to go after your dreams. I promise the only noun standing in your way is you. I am going to keep sharing here the metamorphosis that is happening in me as I run full tilt at achieving my dreams.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Drooling in His Sleep

Today was a very interesting realization day for me.

Before coming to the barn, I watched three parts of the circling game problem solving sections in the Liberty and Horse Behavior Parelli DVD course. They were on fixing draw due to confidence issues, using change of direction when the horse breaks gait as a means of using psychology to maintain gait, and sending him strong when he comes in with yucky expression. The third one does not really apply as an example of what Blu has been doing lately, but it was a BFO for me in the matter of quitting and an application of making when it comes to the horse coming to you.

My plan was to do some sideways from zone five with two line driving. Then I would ask for the circling game and improve it by one percent in less than five minutes, then QUIT!

When I got there, Blu seemed fatigued, though. He was also drooling. When I asked him to go from zone five it took him a few minutes to figure out what to do; I waited for the lick and chew, but after another minute, he had gone completely away and catatonic.

I waited but after fifteen minutes I took the lines off and sat on a barrel some twenty feet away. On the barrel I was thinking about Blu and Misty and wonderful things we had done together and would do in the future. Every now and then I would check on the Blu in front of me. His eyes were closed and his head was down.

It occurred to me that I might be too close so I went to the furthest corner of the arena and looked out into the woods. Five minutes later I heard Blu leaving. I was glad that he was moving and I didn't care where he was going, but he stopped and looked at me, wavered his line of direction toward me for a step then changed his mind and continued on toward the barn.

This was really significant because I could see how far he had been pushed the past two days and how much distance I had to put between us for him to feel it was okay to leave.

I will see him tomorrow to resume the conversation--or, as it were, to begin a new conversation.

Blu and I are going to have a great time during our next session because there has never been a time before today that I did not take his leaving personally. I realize where he is coming from and know what we need to do to continue on together as partners. I understand him!

I made a few check off lists for the future and know that we will journey through those lists admirably because of this milestone of emotional fitness in the face of a horse in catatonia.

Natural Horsewoman Out.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

New Year, New Resolutions

I learned today.

Blu taught me about how to be a better quitter.
The Thackers taught me about how I can reverse my train of thought and do whatever I do with love.
I taught myself that I can.

My resolutions, which I recorded last night--rather, early this morning--are as follows:

  1. feel happy every day
  2. be beautiful in all ways
  3. go to the externship in July
  4. get to level 4 before that externship
  5. spread my joy
  6. become a great leader
  7. Parelli Connect, Facebook, Blog, and Twitter
  8. become a 2* Parelli Professional
  9. walk with God
  10. make a difference in people's lives`inspire them to do the same
" I am going to go to sleep tonight [and every night] feeling as though I have already attained, accomplished, and mastered."

As I was making breakfast and cleaning the kitchen (straight of bed and into the kitchen) for the guests while everyone else went on as they wished, I thought gosh, right off the bat I am having trouble being happy. I have to change this right now. So I replaced my impending bitterness with love and appreciation. I appreciated that I was living in this house with this family and had these friends. I continued my work with love for those I was serving. It felt so good--and familiar. That's usually how I feel when I am cleaning and working. Having experience with both emotions, I would say it is much better to feel the love and appreciation instead of the bitterness (yuck!).

A hot air balloon landed in the yard. That was cool and kind of irrelevant to this post.

Blu is doing really well at zone 5 driving and he is a doll at liberty. Circling is where he is teaching me, right now. I thought I had a good strategy for quitting at the right time. Two days in a row, though, that has lead to Blu being very tired and sweaty.

What I envision is him cantering in balance, 45' away, for however many laps I ask. Instead, Blu is flying at the end of the line, trotting, hardly able to maintain the canter. I really need a round pen, but when he gives me what I want, I bring him right in. Game over. Except that I send him back out again after a rest to see if he can get the right answer faster.

Now that it has happened two days in a row, I am going to quit RIGHT AWAY, GAME OVER when he makes that little change tomorrow. We won't even go there.

I thought I was okay with continuing, even keeping quitting at the right time in mind. Now, I know better.

I said Blu is sweet at liberty because he really is. He is a real partner. I was honored that he was following me around even after my mistakes. There is most certainly so much hope for us yet!

Natural Horsewoman Out.

About Me

My photo
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