About Me

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North Lawrence, New York, United States
I can be described as lover of life, an animal lover, and lover of education. I am constantly striving for knowledge and learning opportunities. I've been around horses my entire life. I enjoy working with horses and their human partners through natural horsemanship philosophies, natural balance bare foot hoof care, reiki, red-light therapy, essential oils, aromatherapy, crystal healing, chromotherapy, flower essences, and more. I am a Usui Shiki Ryoho Reiki Master Teacher who offers treatments for people, horses, dogs, cats, and other creatures great and small. I also teach Reiki classes for those interested in learning how to treat themselves, their loved ones, and even their animals! Natural Horse Lover Farm is located in Northern New York between the St. Lawrence River and Adirondack Mountains. Heaven on Earth. naturalhorseloverfarm.com

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Lest We Forget Prior and Proper Preparation of Zone 3

Click on the image to see it full-size!

Quick post tonight but an important topic!

When I played with Fosse on Sunday, I noticed that Zone 3 was a trouble spot. He seemed a bit unconfident with me driving from this position as well as unconfident even when I was just playing friendly game and rubbing him. I was surprised but then started wondering if I had taken this for granted just because I could win the 7 games with him. It occurred to me that this could be an alpha horse response, a prey animal tendency, something ingrained deep in his brain. After talking to my good friend Clare about this, and reflecting about many past experiences (even as far back as when I first acquired him) we concluded that perhaps with the alpha horse (and in this case left-brained extrovert) that this zone is a place of vulnerability--something he'd be reluctant to expose to not only predators but to fellow horses in the herd. His reactions may be innate to his character. What I find interesting is that when I ride him, he seems (or seemed perhaps) okay with this zone and my leg--but now I really wonder. I do believe this response can be overcome but potentially could be something that will need to be addressed periodically as he and I continually determine the herd dynamic and as I continually assert my leadership role. Anyone have any thoughts on this?

Whiskey on the other hand (right-brained introvert, low horse in the herd), who on the ground is fine with me in zone 3, most of the time, is very sensitive in zone 3 when I am riding and in fact, perhaps this is why he sometimes tries to bite my foot (maybe this is just one reason but a reason nonetheless). If I use the "My Horse Won't Go" techniques, I often skip the squeeze part as to Whiskey, it is rude and like I am yelling. This is not to say that I cannot apply pressure in zone three with my leg, I can and do. Does this make any sense? How very intriguing are the differences in horsenalities, responses to tasks, and potential innate characteristics.

What this brings me to is the importance of preparing your horse for what you want no matter what your level is. Let's not forget that just because you can ride your horse does not mean that you should. You should always play on the ground first, preparing him for the day's tasks (this playing is only as long as necessary and could be a few minutes, it could be an hour--it really depends on which side of the corral your horse woke up on). Be thinking about the horse that showed up and how you might connect with him not only for safety sake but for the sake of your relationship, for the sake of having fun, and because it is the natural thing to do!

This evening, I decided to work on the ground with both horses on using an indirect rein for hindquarter maneuvers from the ground (a great preparation exercise for riding and a great test for zone 3). Fosse was quite sensitive and a bit right-brained about it. I used a great deal of friendly game on zone 3. He did finally relax and we practiced only a until I saw even the tiniest change, I stopped and we did something else (played with the direct rein game--he was a bit concerned about my position in zone 3 but was responsive, played at liberty--all went great, played with the car wash obstacle--excellent progress here. Whiskey was also a bit right-brained at first but not too bad with the indirect rein exercise. Within 30 seconds, he was on task and finding success. Once he understood, it was a light phase one and movement, no biting, no emotional reactions. He and I also worked on the one-rein backing exercise--went extremely well and friendly at liberty--a way to keep the pressure off.

Overall a short but sweet play time this evening. Everything in my mind was useful and important preparatory exercises for riding in the proper position. I look forward to future exercises and preparation of zone 3 (among other things). So how are you preparing your horse's zone 3?

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Growing Your Relationship - There's No Room for Frustration

This image is from The Kate Esplen Gallery http://www.kateesplen.com/Horse.htm/

I played with Whiskey last night and it was challenging, fun, scary, and overall a great example of keeping your principles before goals, not getting frustrated, and growing the relationship.I brought him out of the paddock near the barn using the halter, 22 foot rope, carrot stick with savvy string attached. My initial plan was to drive him from zone three over to the small field and use the cones to work on the figure-8 pattern. Nothing major, just trying to fix our broken pattern!

Well, when we got there, I decided that playing the touch-it pattern first might be a better idea idea. So, I changed our initial plan. I tried to play the game and he did okay but seemed very distracted, and a bit right-brained. We hadn't really been over here that much since fall, the neighbor's dog barked in the distance, you could hear atvs down the street, Fosse was calling now and again, and Morgan was at the barn in her outdoor kennel (this is just for when I take her to the barn and need to anchor her), and who knows, she may have been whining or something.

Anyhow, at one point, we mosied over to retrieve a small barrel that had blown into the woods which by the nature of its location, had us squeezing between tightly grown trees, kind of like a trail ride but not really, and this was a good exercise, he did very well, he loves the woods. I carried the barrel and he followed me to the field. I placed the barrel in an open area in the field and asked him to touch it but, he was more interested in trying to eat dead grass, was looking around, here and there, very alert, very right-brained. I decided to ask for a circle and did walking circling pattern until he just exploded, he reared, bucked, tried to run off, was definitely in a dangerous place in his mind. My decision was that we needed some time in the round pen for both our sakes. So, I decided that since he kicks at times when right-brained and emotional, that I did not want him near me. I cannot play with the horses or work for that matter if I get hurt so safety is always foremost in my mind. I positioned him about 12 feet away (and thinking at the time that I was so glad I was using my 22 foot rope) and drove from zone three at a distance to the round pen.

When we got to the round pen which is nothing more than plastic push-in posts and electric fence tape (one strand) not electrified, ever. I wanted him to back through the gate (it is gust tape with a handle so I place it on the one side and the space is wide open, (something he knows how to do). Well, he was unable to concentrate, unable to stand still at all, was overly emotional, was unable to look at me or focus at all, this horse was emotionally scattered to the extreme. So, I asked him through the gate forwards, asked for him to turn and face, then for a flex, took the halter off, and he was tearing around like a lunatic. However, he was also being defiant, rude, disrespectful, and kicked back towards me a few times. He was out of his mind and I felt that he was acting dangerously and too erratic (right-brained) and therefore, I exited the round pen and asked for things from outside of the pen. Interestingly enough, after a few minutes, he realized I was not in there with him and was really curious why I had left and walked to me calmly asking for me to come back! I guess he as more left-brained now. What a character! I gave him a nibble of grain (which I had been giving now and again throughout the session). Then, I went back in the round pen. LOL I love this horse--he is so interesting and challenging (but definitely not for the faint at heart).

I played circling and change of direction at liberty in the round pen a bit and then wanted him to yo-yo back to the rail. He was not doing well at this task at liberty so I haltered him and we worked on it. Then, halter off, try again, nope, so I went to put the halter on and he looked at me, got into position and tried to yo-yo back without the halter, but got distracted so back on with the halter. Anyhow, this went on for some time. Once I was satisfied that he was more left-brained than right-brained, I opened the round pen gate and asked him for a squeeze out which was fine. Then for a back through the gate. I barely asked and he just did it, as if he read my mind and knew that this was something I wanted. Our time in the pen paid off (this is the whole taking the time it takes thing).

So, I then took him back into the field. I drove him from a distance in zone three back to the barrel, we played touch it and moved on to the cones. There were a few more little right-brained outbursts but nothing major like before. We then worked on the weave pattern (aka slalom) and then, figure-8 with two cones. Once we got into the groove, it went smoothly, like a dance between partners.

Now, off towards the barn because it was getting dark. This time, driving in zone three with me very close to him, I felt my partner was back and that I could trust him again (and perhaps he felt he could also trust me and my leadership now). I let him munch a little grass and we walked around the driveway a bit and I felt him get tense at one moment--Rick was coming down the driveway in the car. So, I used it as an opportunity to play with Whiskey and "traffic." I was calm, he calmed, looked at the car, Rick drove around the driveway past us a few times and all was fine. Rick had come down to check on me because he thought he heard the horses running through the woods and got worried. What he probably heard, because there are no leaves on the trees, was the commotion in the round pen! Anyhow, he wanted to be sure I hadn't been killed or something. What a guy! LOL

Next, Whiskey and I headed to the horse trailer. I asked for sideways around the trailer and on the one side, squeeze forward and backwards between the trailer and trees with me in zone 5. He did very well. I then unlocked the trailer and decided that I'd try asking for him to load while I was on the side of the trailer rather than me standing at the end or just inside of it. (Now, just an FYI--the inside is open at the moment (as in the dividers are all against the inside wall) but at the end, Rick has some large tools stored and under a tarp. So, for all intents and purposes, there is a four foot tall, trailer width wide blue tarp monster in the trailer at the end, and if he loads, he can touch the tarp with his mouth.) Now isn't that a scary obstacle! (It is all safe through, no worried about injuries if you were wondering.) Anyhow, Whiskey put two feet in and I let him just stand in there. Then, while still standing outside the trailer still on the side of it, I wiggled the rope and he backed out. He then loaded again, just two feet, stand, then back at the suggestion of the rope. The third time he totally loaded in and just stood there. I walked forward a bit just to I could rub his rump with the carrot stick to give a little friendly game reassurance and then wiggled the rope to ask for him to exit back. What fun and a first for us. I have to say that this trailer loading had no emotional outbursts (small or large) at all. I wonder if my position put less pressure on him and therefore he loaded more comfortably and on his own terms. Very interesting indeed.

We then mosied over to my canoe and dump trailer. They are several feet apart, a nice large squeeze opportunity. Whiskey saw the canoe and immediately backed up. I asked again for forward and he reluctantly did it. Then, the third time, he went through. I let him sniff the canoe and work on his confidence (you know, "nose, neck, maybe feet"). Then he offered to go between them again and again. Then, sideways around the dump trailer. Then touch-it on both the canoe and dump trailer, a little squeeze between the dump trailer and me and off we went, back to the barn.

Overall, the evening session lasted over an hour and a half and was riddled with many issues, many horsenalities, and lots of creative fun. We definitely made progress, found many successes, and in the end, were partners.

One final thought (I had to log back in to add this-LOL). I always waited for the lick, waited for him to process things, this is so important for all horses but especially the introvert. I also was sure to use the principle of justice with him, I was clear, and deployed leadership and good sense when it came to safety. I learned so much. (And am sure I will talk more about all this and other adventures in the future!)

Friday, March 27, 2009

Meeting In the Middle - Making Compromises for Your Horse

Photo from: http://i272.photobucket.com/albums/jj184/makielmeguel/rp%20males/horse_by_heise.jpg

A really close friend of mine read yesterday's blog post and commented to me, "Just read your Whiskey blog. It was very informative. (And such a pretty photo!) One thought, it has been *really* useful for you to have realized that you yourself are a Left Brained Extrovert (extreme?!). You’ve consciously modified your natural behavior/responses to accommodate his Horsenality. ;-) Versus Fosse, who is naturally much more like you!" Which brings me to the reason for this post. Her comments have evoked some thoughts I'd like to share about humans, about horses, and about compromise.

As humans, we tend to desire our counterparts (professional or personal) to adjust their behaviors, their thoughts, their outlook on life in general, we desire and sometimes expect them to "change" to suit our needs when they don't meet our expectations. Yes, we will say things like, "I don't want you to change" but, in reality, we would love for everyone to agree with us, think and act the way we do, we view it as peace, we view ourselves as right, and we are, as a matter of fact and biologically, human.

Do you recall hearing this famous quote by American Theologist Karl Paul Reinhold Niebuhr? “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” This is SO TRUE and SO NECESSARY!

Although human, I am the extreme left-brain extrovert of horsenalities. So, my left-brain extrovert, Fosse and I get along great, test each other, communicate very well, with little effort, and are always testing each other's leadership and herd status. It is fun and not work, not really. It all comes naturally.

Now, perhaps you can imagine me trying to communicate with a horse like Whiskey (right-brain introvert) without making any changes to my tendencies? Oh, my gosh, no way, not unless I change for him, period! Well, I have to admit, in the beginning, not knowing better, I kind of did this, tried to communicate without adjusting my tendencies, thought I was just being me and he being him (and I wonder why we had issues). LOL We are naturally, exact opposites! Check out this chart I created based on the Parelli Horsenality Chart.
Remember, the four main influences that make up the horsenality are innate characteristics, learned behavior, environment, and spirit. So, the next thing to do is to strategize how I take my natural tendencies and adjust them for Whiskey, to keep our relationship in tact and to improve upon it, I must compromise. I posted about this and me making the shift to a larger extreme than in the past, in a sense, on Wednesday with my Online Parelli Patterns and Play Time discussion. And, for the record, I do this and have done this for some time but now, I am becoming even more aware of it, aware of the need for it, and aware of the results (no matter how subtle). We found middle ground, we found success, we had fun the other day, on days in the past, and should see even more in the future (and hopefully more frequently). This all translates to our riding too! Remembering that he and I are different, and that it is okay, that is key.

What I take from all of this is that whether you are dealing with people or horses, you need to find middle ground, we all need to compromise, that being different is okay and diversity really is a desired reality for a fun and complex life.

Pat Parelli's 8 Principles spell it out, don't you think? Read them again (with my commentary in italics for fun...)

The Eight Principles

1. Horsemanship is natural. - It is natural to bond with life's creatures, especially the horse, isn't it? I cannot imagine life without the horse.

2. Don’t make or teach assumptions. - Don't assume you have to be the same, don't assume being different is wrong or bad, be creative, be focused, invite the concept of life-long learning for both horse and human, invite diversity.

3. Communication is two or more individuals sharing and understanding an idea. - How can you have a relationship without this sharing of brain power and desire? How can you learn without the exchange of ideas? You can't.

4. Horses and humans have mutual responsibilities. - We all have responsibilities, this is how the universe works. Why not have each partner in the relationship have responsibilities to each other? It is matter of accountability and trust.

5. The attitude of justice is effective. - Justice means impartiality, conforming to a principle or idea, to be fair. Both partners need to be just towards the other for the relationship to work (this gets back to the 8 responsibilities of horse and human).

6. Body language is the universal language. - This is true for humans to humans as well as horses to horses so why not horses and humans? It makes total sense, we can "speak" the same language, in many dialects of course, but this body language allows for the most important part of the relationship, the communication part.

7. Horses teach humans and humans teach horses. - Partners of all types must learn from each other. This is how we grow, how we learn, how we find success.

8. Principles, purpose, and time are the tools of teaching. - Our comprehensive and basically, fundamental doctrine we follow with Parelli, having a purpose to do so, and a purpose for having horses, having a purpose (or plan when we go play with our horses), taking the time to make progress, taking time to develop a relationship, and everything else that goes with it is crucial for success.

I hope that this was interesting to read. Be flexible, have fun, as Pat Parelli says, "Put your heart in your hand, then rub your horse with your heart." Enjoy your weekend, enjoy your horses!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

The Introverted Horse, My Wilting Flower, Whiskey

This photo is a few years old but doesn't Whiskey look pretty?! LOL

The introverted horse, or as I like to call him, Whiskey, my wilting flower. His horsenality tends to lean towards the attributes of a right-brained introvert. This horse has been a tremendous challenge for me and to that, I thank him because I have learned and am learning so much more all of the time.

So, let's take a moment to talk about an introverted horse and in particular, the right-brained (reactionary, thinking like a prey animal) introverted horse. This horse tends to be quiet and obedient, they freeze then explode, and they act shy and timid, are truly unpredictable, kick out of fear or frustration, are very emotional, and unfortunately also can go catatonic. They have a tendency to stop, have more whoa than go, they are defensive, spooky, and unconfident. I have seen all of this in Whiskey and have even been told he should be euthanized because of it (no way, he is a great horse). The goal of course is to help him become more left-brained (logical and thinking). The left-brained introvert is clever, responsive, argumentative, food oriented, stubborn, but confident, curious, tolerant and unconcerned. Isn't this interesting because I have seen all of this in him too.

So, after yesterday's fun, I started thinking about the times I have had fun and success with Whiskey in an attempt to further plan and move forward not only in our relationship but in our skill level. I have ridden Whiskey on trail rides, in the arena, have dome amazing things with obstacles, and have also faced times where he was totally out of his mind, unable to do anything and where he's gone totally catatonic and becomes an emotional basket case. It seems to me that this all comes down to my leadership and how I am communicating with him.

Here are the things I have done when we were successful and what I think it achieved:

  • Lots of Studying -- I believe to be successful in an endeavor, you must study and learn. Never assume you know everything, be able to think outside the box, be willing to be wrong, and be willing to try something new. Building my Parelli Library and studying the materials in it (and practicing what I've learned) makes a tremendous impact on my success. I am a perpetual Parelli Student on the journey of life-long learning.
  • Horsenality Assessment -- Knowing what I am dealing with helps me strategize how I can find success. So, knowing who my horse is, every day, helps. I chart my horses' horsnalities often and play with the horse that shows up.
  • Planning -- Having a plan before going outside has been really helpful in achieving success. I find that if I just go outside, without a plan, I have no way to gauge success or measure accomplishment. I usually mental prepare and even sometimes write things down to help me have a plan.
  • Principles before Goals, Always -- I never compromise my principles to achieve my goals. Sure, I could force my horse to do something but why? For my own satisfaction? I am not satisfied unless I am happy and my horse is equally happy. So, principles before goals, always, always, always.
  • Pre-flight Checks using the Seven Games -- Safety is so very important. If I am not safe and get hurt, or my horse gets hurt, all of this effort is worthless. So, I always play with my horse on the ground before any riding. If I am not riding, then I play with him but am creative, not boring, use many obstacles and patterns. I watch for issues to arise and deal with them as necessary.
  • Lots of Friendly Game -- I make sure, especially with an introvert that he is safe and that everything is good for him. Friendly is probably one of the most important games for him and for the relationship. It can be played a number of ways and you can be very creative with it.
  • Long Phase 1 -- This is vital for an introvert. If you progress through your phases this is akin to yelling at your horse. The introvert needs patience and time to process his thoughts, let him!
  • Treats -- These are not to be used as bribes and if your horse gets pushy about it, then you need to work on your communication skills and be clear about your expectations about your horse's behavior. I have used treats with my introverted horse as a way to encourage and help him understand he is doing well, kind of a friendly game I suppose. He is never pushy about them and seems to enjoy it making what we are doing worth it for him.
  • Remember the Horse's Hierarchy of Needs (in this order) -- Safety = Confidence + Leadership, Comfort = Release, Play = Fun + Creativity, Food = Incentive
  • Patience -- There is no room for frustration in your relationship with horses. You have to each learn to meet in the middle and come to an understanding. I never feel frustrated with my horses anymore, I always take a step back, breathe, and think about why something is occurring, I don't get angry. (This is not easy but you can do it.)

I suppose the point to this post is simple. If you have an introvert, you may have the best horse in your barn who is simply waiting for you to be intelligent enough, patient enough, and creative enough to be his partner. You both need to remember the 8 responsibilities, act on them, and work together to achieve harmony.

For more on horsenalities and other information pieces about Parelli Natural Horsemanship, please visit their website http://www.parelli.com/

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Online Parelli Patterns and Play Time

Image from the Parelli Patterns Website Information Page http://www.parelli.com/product.faces?productId=487

Oh gosh, so where do I start? Well, it was in the sixties today, sunny, blue skies, and I decided to leave work early to enjoy it. Without getting into all the details of my day I'll just keep this post down to the horse stuff.

I have been reviewing the self-assessment information on the Savvy Club site and printed a copy to take to the barn. I started out by sitting on the mounting block reading it while the horses sniffed and licked me (undemanding time) . It was pretty cute. I happened to have some grain in my pocket so I decided to share it. They were thrilled! I decided to clear some tree limbs and other stuff in the area before play time and the horses hung out and watched (sometimes getting in the way). After making a plan, I haltered Whiskey and attached the 22 foot line. I had my carrot stick and savvy string (with bell attached--see the Level 2 pack for more on this). The order of things is a bit fuzzy so I'll just talk about the highlights.

We attempted the figure-8 pattern around small barrels. I did this with Fosse last fall using large barrels and a 12 foot line but was never successful with Whiskey. Today, Whiskey and I tried but were not very good at it. I blame myself for this, not being clear, being a bit clumsy, and not confident that I knew what I was doing. Rather that belabor it, we moved on to other things. We played with a pedestal and for the first time he offered to stand on it. He then offered to straddle it (the pedestal was under his belly). I decided to take what he was offering and use it. I asked him, rather than move forward, to go sideways to leave the pedestal and then forward and he did it with ease. This was quite fun. He also moved sideways around some trees, down the middle of the play area, and along a fence-line. I played extreme friendly game with him and he seems quite comfortable and confident. A few of the cooler things were really at liberty. I folded the 22 foot line and laid it over his back. Then while standing in zone 3, I asked him to walk forward, then I lifted the life in my body and trotted and he trotted next to me, I stopped, he stopped, I walked, he walked, so this is the stick to me game, at liberty, walk and trot--very fun and he was really responsive, showed impulsion, seemed to be having fun. We did this all over the place in straight lines and circles, between trees, around barrels, and at one point, I was near the car wash obstacle and he went through it, at liberty, a first (he does it online very well). I was very careful to use a long phase one (being polite to him and giving him time to process and think). This really works well for introverts like Whiskey. I was patient, persistent and put the relationship first. I did offer grain as reward for a try many times throughout our session. Whiskey, being an introvert, seems to find comfort in this and it was not used as a bribe.

I played with Fosse a bit too. He was a little overbearing and trying to rule things. LOL That is my extrovert! We did figure-8 some but, once again, I believe that I needed to review this pattern. I played with him all over with obstacles but he was leaning in the right-brained universe! I tried stick to me exercise with him. Although I folded the line, I did hold part of it and asked for the transitions like I did with Whiskey. Once he understood what I was asking, he did it but, had pinned ears, an interesting and defensive response I look forward to exploring further.

When I went back to the house, I decided that I really needed to review the Parelli Patterns Online materials. I hadn't really had time to review this in depth, without interruption until this evening. I read and watched everything and some things more than once. I was able to clarify many questions I had and get some really good ideas. I am confident that with some practice, we can pass L1/2 and L3/4 this year before summer. By the way, the weave pattern (slalom) is figure-8 but with more barrels--Whiskey and I can do that which means we can do the figure-8. It is just drive and draw--how interesting and how nice to have a resource like the Parelli Patterns to help remind me of how things work--Thanks Pat and Linda!

So, what my thoughts are is that we truly have rekindled our relationship and that I feel way more connected to Whiskey in particular (I always feel a connection with Fosse). I really look forward to riding tasks because, of course, our relationship on the ground is truly connected to our relationship under saddle. How wonderful.

By the way, if you have not purchased the Parelli Patterns, I do recommend them, highly. They really are good.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Ready, Set, Go...Getting Ready to Officially Assess (Audition) Again!

Image from the Parelli Awards page: http://www.parelli.com/parelliawards.faces

Ok, I am feeling ready, willing, and able to finally get back to regular horsey stuff and official assessment, the official Parelli Audition. As you may already be aware, back in September of 2006, I finally taped and submitted my level 1 assessment video to Carol Coppinger, 5 Star Parelli Professional. I was thrilled to learn on September 12, 2006 that I had passed the Parelli Official Level 1 criteria! CLICK HERE to view my assessment video (no laughing please). LOL Actually, Carol gave me a few tips and said that my video was a real pleasure to watch. Please do note that there are two tasks after the 21 min ppl section. If you need a copy of the assessment criteria used when I assessed, just send me an email and I'll get it to you!

Okay, so since then, I was supposed to submit my PNH Level 2 and hopefully Level 3 videos by now. But, life sometimes gets in the way! So, what happened? Well, one big obstacle was having to retire my horse Wilbur (the one I was assessing with), a huge obstacle was moving out of state, taking on a new career position, and having to start all over (in a variety of ways), and finally, lacking a video camera, perhaps even the lack of motivation, feeling alone in the lonely barn, the gumption to get back on video (not my favorite activity--I don't look like I did when I was 18), and taking the time to take my relationship with my horses to a new level were standing in the way (isn't this the comfort zone challenge I gave you all? How interesting). Anyhow, so here I am and ready to get back at it, feeling supremely motivated and excited. (And, still going to the gym by the way...remember that pledge, my step in the right direction?)

To prepare, I will be purchasing a new video camera, I am reviewing my many resources (see my library below at the end of the blog), I am back managing the NCPPG--which gives me motivation and purpose, I have started playing with the horses again, on a regular basis, and am truly connecting with them again--maybe even more than before! I am also going to do a self assessment using the checklist Parelli has created for their new Parelli Assessment Pathway. I need to see where we really are, not where I "think" we are. I am fairly confident that pasing the L1/2 auditions in all savvys should go really well and without a hitch (and I plan to be done before May 1, 2009). Then, to pass L3/4, I am going to have to really work hard. Online should be no problem but the other savvys will be challenging. I am ready for it. No more excuses, no more delays, just be happy for what I have, use my time wisely, and go for it. (I'll be assessing with Whiskey if you were wondering.)

By the way, the horses being more engaged with me, just a brief report, I promise. They are truly really showing interest, impulsion, and seem to be trying to initiate play! I've been playing on the ground (online and liberty), trimming hooves, and just having fun giving treats, playing friendly, and getting to know them again. I am looking forward to riding again and hopefully will be by the weekend (weather and time permitting).

So, wish me luck, go play with your horses, and check back in the next few weeks to get an update! Hopefully, with a new video camera on board, I'll even make little videos of our progress to share.

For more information about Parelli Auditions, visit their Savvy Club website!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Lonely Barn No More? The North Country Parelli Play Group is Being Revived!

I've been thinking a great deal about the North Country Parelli Play Group (NCPPG) (and Rick and I have been talking about it) over the past several months and it seems that many of you have been too (the "you" as in the people who were part of it originally). The sentiment is that there is a desire to be a group and perhaps we can revive the NCPPG but change a few things to attempt accomodate everyone and their busy lives. The major obstacles that we seemed to have in being a club/group were very busy schedules, distance between members, lack of horse trailers, and proper farm insurance for our activities aka hands-on play dates.

Well, back by popular demand, the NCPPG is being revived (with modifications). It was was created to bring together like-minded horse people studying Parelli Natural Horsemanship. So, if you were a member and want to rejoin, or if you live in St. Lawrence County, New York (see map below) or close neighboring areas and would like to join, please go to the website and submit your request! http://sports.groups.yahoo.com/group/northcountryparelliplaygroup/

We plan to meet monthly for a video or article meeting and have one play date a month (weather permitting). To become a member, you must be able to attend play group events as this is not an online only group. You will be asked where you live and if you plan to join us before your membership is approved. Thank you for your anticipated understanding in this matter. For more information about Parelli, this group, or other horse-related information, please send an e-mail to: northcountryparelliplaygroup-owner@yahoogroups.com (which is me).

The North Country Parelli Play Group Disclaimer: We are not Parelli Professionals nor are we endorsed by Pat and Linda Parelli as an official entity. We are simply PNH students interested in spreading the message, sharing our journey, and networking with others in St. Lawrence County in the State of New York and close neighboring regions. Parelli Natural Horsemanship™ is a trademark of PARELLI NATURAL HORSEMANSHIP, INC. which does not sponsor, authorize, or endorse this Yahoo Group.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Rebuilding Relationships - A Good Horse Day

The photos are of the horses yesterday. I did not have my camera when they were in the big field today or while we were playing in the mud and water.

I wanted to take a moment to write an update on today's horse adventures. Truly nothing spectacular to most of you but for me, and them, it was a wonderful day.

This morning, Rick and I went out to the barn to clean up. I turned the horses out on the big field for the first time since the early part of the winter. The beauty of this field is that it is actually dry! It is sandy and drains well. Anyhow, wow, they were galloping like thunder, you could hear their hooves beat on the ground, heads high, kicking, bucking, rearing, snorting, having a wonderful time, like an explosion of joy, I have not seen this is awhile. It is not to say that they don't run around in their turnout, they do, but this was different, this was exhilarating. Then, they rolled, and rolled, and rolled some more. After they were done, I decided to leave them out for a few hours so I went to the barn, got their grain, hay, and water, fed them. While they were eating, I went back to do chores with Rick.

Rick and I cleaned out the barn. Two people taking care of things makes the work fairly easy. The mud is everywhere and the turnout is yucky--ah the joys of winter turning into mud season. We have a lot of work to do--I think I need gravel, everywhere! Anyhow, we got the job done and felt very happy about it.

I am looking forward to the video get-together tomorrow night. I have yet to review the Parelli Patterns so this will be new for all of us. I worked on the Parelli-New Yorkers member map today too. Anyhow, OK, back to the horses, I went back out after a much needed nap and decided rather than lead them together, I'd take them separately working on not only herd-bound tendencies but, partnering with them on an individual basis. Since the pathway from the big field to the barn is muddy full of puddles and goo, I decided that today was a perfect day to work on water obstacles. Isn't' it funny how horses will walk through water on their own but if you ask, sometimes their answer is no? How interesting.

Fosse was first because when I arrived at the field, he came to me first. His flexion when I put on his halter, was tight, but he finally relaxed a little. We walked towards the barn playing with all of the fun mud and water obstacles. At first, he was barely paying any attention to me and was trying to walk all over me. I felt a bit clumsy with my tools (I felt surprised and embarrassed with myself - these tools used to feel second nature.) He was a bit hesitant but, eventually walked calmly and started paying better attention - I was also using the tools properly and communicating with him better. Once I felt he was okay about the water, and he walked through a good puddle calmly, I took him back to the barn (stopped while we were ahead). There was plenty more water and mud on our way and overall, he did well. When I removed his halter, he was more relaxed than before, success for today I believe. It was like trying to get to know my best friend all over again. Fosse was not looking for Whiskey at all but was testing our relationship and my leadership.

To my surprise, Whiskey was not acting herd-bound while Fosse and I were away. He called only one time, no running around like a lunatic, no right-brained behavior was evident. He probably could sort-of see us because there are no leaves on the trees but, he was clearly left alone for sometime and was okay with it. When I went back to the field for Whiskey, he was waiting at the gate, patiently. I haltered him, he was fairly relaxed but not totally, he did one of his gulping noises but quickly decided all was okay. (The gulping thing is something he does when he is feeling insecure.) I walked him towards the barn, and he was eager to try the water obstacles and walk through the mud without giving me the impression of him feeling nervous. I was now using my tools properly and with ease too. This was new for us as truly, neither horse has been too eager to go through water obstacles (and I have never put enough time into it to help them find success). OK, so every water obstacles we encountered, he walked right through, he looked at me, I asked for him to go through, and he did it! We mosied around the barn and surrounding area, spending time together, and it was fun, really fun. He was with me and not looking for Fosse. How refreshing. After I felt like we had many successes, I decided to take him back to the barn. I fed the horses and left for the evening. (And yes, they got some candy canes as treats. LOL)

I did not trim hooves today as planned but, I decided to take a half day off from work tomorrow. I have been working too much and want some more horse time. I am going to trim hooves and groom them tomorrow before my horse friends come over to watch videos. I am feeling happy about the horses, myself, and the future. Thanks for reading my posts--now go visit your horses!

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Huh, It's Not About the Candy Canes!

It has been some time since I've written a blog post. I have been swamped at work putting in extraordinary amounts of time, missing the horses (and they live here), and am feeling like a member of the Lonely Barn Club. Anyhow, so here goes, my thoughts for the day.

The time I have been spending with the horses lately, I am feeling more like a waitress than partner, just cleaning and feeding them, grooming a bit, and giving out candy canes as treats (they love them). About two weeks ago, I played with Whiskey on-line and he was really quiet, no energy, did what I asked but seemed bored or indifferent, he had his attention more on Fosse than me. (Just so you know, I have not even considered riding becuase we've had a lot of ice everywhere all winter. ) He even acted like walking on the crunchy snow was too difficult and maybe painful. But, when I decided to stop for his sake, I took his halter off, he blasted away at a full gallop, happy to be free, and I know, I should not think/feel this way but, I was totally destroyed, hurt feelings, felt like a failure, depressed, and gave up for the day. I went back to the house feeling horrible (perhaps one reason why I have not posted lately). Anyhow, last weekend, I went out in the turnout and had candy canes, no halter, and played at liberty with the horses, both Fosse and Whiskey at the same time. I'd ask for something but not the usual stuff, and then, give a piece of candy cane as the reward (or incentive to try more perhaps). I was really trying to work within the horses' hierarchy of needs. I would ask for something else, they'd do it, candy cane. I played for about 20 minutes and went back to the house. I started thinking about this experience and although I had feelings of happiness, I started to doubt our relationship and what had actually happened. Was I just their vending machine? Do they actually hate me? (I know, totally irrational.) I have decided that our relationship does have a void and the void is my presence. It is like I expected them to be "normal" even though I have not been. I have not been doing anything that resembles normalcy for us in a long time. It was not the candy canes, not really, it was me. They loved the candy canes, and me, but, I've been absent and they are not looking to me for leadership. Wow, a total reality check,. Now the guilt sets in!

So, the lesson in all of this is that life happens, things change but, it does not mean things cannot improve. Relationships take time, effort, and energy and it takes everyone to participate. (And, you can still give candy canes...)

In that vein, a few things are going on in the horse side of life which is good because I really need a good dose of motivation and Parelli spirit. (I cannot go to the Harrisburg Celebration becuase I am working and also have the funds allocated to farm improvements.) Anyhow, the things are: I am the new owner of Parelli-Yorkers Yahoo Group, I am reviving the North Country Parelli Play Group, and I have answered Norma's 20 questions from the Daily Parelli Blog as a way to think, plan, and move forward. (Oh, and yes, the horses had candy canes this morning. Tomorrow is slated as an all-horse day full of barn cleaning, hoof trimming, and play time--in the mud!--and more candy canes! LOL) Until next time...

Questions posted by Norma at Daily Parelli.

1. What is your Ultimate Goal with horses? This goal has changed since I was a kid playing and riding horses. Back then, I wanted to move to Arizona and work at the Al-Marah Arabian Horse Ranch http://www.al-marah.com/ . Then as I got older, an Olympic Rider or Endurance Rider seemed cool but my parents did not have the money to invest into something like that so, as I aged, just being with horses was enough. Once I discovered Parelli, I wanted to become a Parelli Professional but, my career as a Librarian and now, Academic Library Director, I realized that I could not give it up to work on a Parelli-centric career because truly that is what is means to be a Parelli Professional. I have simply too may responsibilities and a strong and stable income. I cannot make the career change; I cannot take the financial risk. So, my ultimate goal with horses as of now, is to find a complete harmony and a perfect partnership with my horses Fosse and Whiskey, to excel as far as we can, to always put my principles before my goals, to have fun, and be sure my horses are having fun too.

2. What is a step toward that goal that you could achieve within ten years? In ten years, I should already be there!

3. What is a step toward that goal that you could achieve within five years? I could easily go through level 4 within the next five years.

4. What is a step toward that goal or a lesser goal that you could achieve within two years? I could get through level 3 in the next 2 years.

5. What is a step toward that goal that you could achieve within one year? I could complete level two in the next year and perhaps even start level 3.

6. What is a step toward that goal or a lesser goal that you could achieve within six months? Get my facilities in order and find a regular amount of time to spend with the horses like I used to.

7. What is a step toward that goal that you could achieve within three months? Attend two play dates with friends for motivation.

8. What is a step toward that goal or a lesser goal that you could achieve within one month? Review the new Parelli Patterns and start employing them by setting up a time on my calendar to watch them (and other videos).

9. What is a step toward that goal that you could achieve within two weeks? Find a regular amount of time to spend with the horses even if facilities are less than perfect.

10. What is a step toward that goal or a lesser goal that you could achieve within one week? Get to the gym 4 times next week (and 3-5 times per week on a regular basis).

11. What action could you take toward that goal within three days? Watch the latest Savvy Club DVD (I tried to do this when it came but they had to send me a new DVD because mine did not work properly).

12. What action could you take toward that goal tomorrow? Spend the day with the horses cleaning the barn, trimming hooves, and finding play time with no excuses even though it is muddy, wet, and cold.

13. What action could you take toward that goal today? Finding a positive thought about my horses, about our new life, and to stop dwelling on what used to be. I have set up a video meeting for Monday night. I am also reviving the NCPPG with modifications, and have taken the lead on the Parelli New-Yorkers group.

14. What action could you take toward that goal right now? I have taken action by answering these questions.

15. What information could you acquire that would improve your chances of achieving your goal? I have tons of Parelli resources, am a Savvy Club member, and have a network of fellow PNHrs to help me.

16. What’s stopping you? Time and appropriate facilities.

17. Really? Yes, I have been working 60-70 hours a week at my new position, I also have no outdoor lighting or arena/round pen spaces at this time and no indoor arena either. But, I am working on it!

18. Do you see how easy it is to make a plan? This type of planning is not new to me at all.

19. Now, here’s the toughest question of all: Once you have a plan…Are you willing to change it if you need to? And yes, I know plans need modifications.

20. Did you count to see if there were actually 20 questions? Of course I did, I could not help myself, I am detail oriented. I copied the questions in MSWord to answer them and afterwards, paste into the blog. I used auto-numbering to check the numbers and number for the blog, where I discovered that this question was the 20th question. What can I say? I am meticulous (or just plain strange)!