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

Sunday, June 27, 2010

♫♫ Just Riding in the Rain ♫♫

Just a quick post because I wanted to share this evening's fun. It was raining but I decided to ride my horse Lola anyway. I put a natural rope hackamore on her but that was it. I stood on my mounting block (it is stump that was cut high to use as a seat or mounting block) and could not get her to line up straight so she was at a 45 degree angle away from me. Rather than belabor the mounting or get too critical (this was just going to be a quick, informal, bareback ride), I didn't try to get her to line up any better. Anyhow, I was able to just grab the rein and her mane and fling my leg up and over, lowering myself on her gently. Before losing this weight, I truly think that I had lost my mounting savvy...well it is back and I am SO HAPPY! I feel like a teenager again...Riding like the wind! We rode all around the play ground and she had impulsion and moved forward quite nicely. We went from here to there using patterns, obstacles, and lots of friendly game while riding. I'd have to say that we really connected tonight! Perhaps it also has a bit to do with all of the scratches I've been giving her all day! Get this, she was on the ground and I swear she was having a seizure that way she was contorting her head and neck (and I've seen this once before). Well, Rick and I took a better look at what she was up to and she was not having a seizure but was rubbing her belly on the ground! I've never seen a horse do this quite the was she...very strange. I walked up to her and was able to pet and scratch her while she was laying down and she even started eating grass while I scratched and rubbed her (we are bonding). LOL While standing, now that I found these new spots (all underneath her), she contorts her heal, pierces her lips, and even tried to groom me back...I love her, what a cutie!

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Hit Another Milestone!

Fosse and I had a great evening last night riding all around bareback (no bb pad) just after a rain and before the sun went down. There is noting more wonderful than feeling your horse's energy beneath you, enjoying the quiet of nature, and having fun together challenging each other. I thought about all these months that have passed and how my athleticism has grown and changed (all for the better). What I believe to be true, but have no evidence except my own experience, is that there is a difference between, for example, an athletic 200 lbs and a non athletic 200 pounds. My point is that there is way more to it than just weight. Now, after losing quite a bit, when standing on a block (or rock, or log) to mount bareback, I can easily fling my leg up and over my horse and sit quietly on their back, I never hit my horse's hindquarters. I have even just put my hands on their withers, lifted myself up and over all in one fell swoop easing my body down quietly and with savvy. I exercise all of time and am quite athletic (and studies show fat people can be athletic too). At a heavier weight, when I was not working out (months ago and before WW), I could not do that and know my horses were less than appreciative with my mounting abilities.

OK, I am going to brag...This was a great week! I lost 8.6 lbs, was able to run 20 min straight on my C25K program (got in 41 activity points-exercised 7 days and sometimes twice a day), was this week's Biggest Loser at my Weight Watchers Meeting (it sounds so funny to be happy to be a loser-lol), and met the 50lb milestone (Total loss to date, since Jan 9th, 2010 is 51 lbs! - a bag of grain or 204 sticks of butter! LOL). I am really looking forward to another successful week, have my shopping done, and menu plan is in the works. I would be remiss if I didn't give credit to my husband, Rick for being my biggest supporter and strength, my mom and sister who are equally supportive and remind me that I am on the right track, Clare a strong and supportive friend who "gets it", and of course to my WW group and Plus Sized Riders Group, you all ROCK and are helping me make this happen. I would NOT be here without you! HUGS and BIG THANKS.

My next two goals: 20% target by next Sat, July 3rd (only one pound to go) and to be in Onderland by the end of July (12.6 pounds down will get me to 199).

So, if you are contemplating eating healthier, losing weight, and or exercising, what are you waiting for? You are not getting any younger and you only live once, why not enjoy it to its fullest? JUST DO IT! If I can, you can!

My Loss Weight Chart:
Weight Chart

Friday, June 25, 2010

My Homework Assignment

Since last Saturday's blog post, I've been working on my homework assignment, "play approach and retreat with being perfect, being particular not critical." I can tell you (and mentioned a few days ago), that I did find myself feeling a bit concerned if I knew how to complete my task, if I really understood it, and so forth. I can also say that I've thought deeply about the idea of perfectionism. I have come to the conclusion that I am not crazy or damaged but am a perfectionist. As such, I have to better understand how to use this to my benefit. I also have come to grips with the idea that I unconsciously (but now with awareness) equate love with perfection and success. What I didn't realize until now is that success does not equal perfection. That you have to find success in everything you do, and that you must remember that everything is not always under your control, that there are outside factors always pressuring the situation, and thus, 100% perfection is probably unrealistic (but 99.99%, now that is attainable! LOL) I also know that love is given usually not because of perfection but because one is trying so darned hard to succeed.

In any event, this exercise in self-reflection has actually helped me focus that much more on my goals, trying even when I thought I might fail, and planning for more! (I ran 20 minutes while doing my C25K training yesterday---I never thought I could do that, in fact, when I started running back in May, I could barely run for one minute). My race is July 8th and rather than not going because I may not be able to run the entire thing, I am going, plan to run for as long as I can, and will walk the rest, to the finish line. The same goes for my horsemanship. I am going to continue to make progress but have fun with it, I'll continue to assess and will tape the videos even if I am not at my goal weight. I am riding more than ever (when it is not raining) and finding that our ground activities are becoing more and more dynamic. And, my weight loss journey continues, I am dedicated to the lifestyle in perpetuity because my health is the fabric of my entire life and affects it all! I am working on being proud of my accomplishments thus far and not dwelling on the fact hat I have to go down this road in the first place.

A man who I went to high school with (I only knew him as a boy), recently killed himself with a fire arm. I found myself thinking very hard about what made him feel that his life was so bad that he needed to end it all. He was young and had two successful children. It made me realize how short life is, how valuable our relationships are, but more importantly for the purpose of this post, it made me remember that I need to love myself before I can love others and that if it means giving myself some latitude (while still striving to be on the top), so be it.

In closing, love yourself, hug your loved ones, hug your pets, hug your horses, and revel in all the good things in life (our time is short-don't waste it). Good things come with hard work and determination, they come with planning, by being particular, and with extreme perseverance. Being overly critical (which differs from being particular) is a form of self-sabbotage and will get you nothing but stress, feelings of defeat, and failure.

"The beginning of love is to let those we love be perfectly themselves, and not to twist them to fit our own image. Otherwise we love only the reflection of ourselves we find in them.” - Thomas Merton

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Earthquakes: How prepared are you? What about the horses?

If you live in the east coast, you already know that a 5.5 mag earthquake hit near Ottawa Canada today and was felt across southern Canada and down into the US in New York, Vermont, Ohio, and more. I was in Potsdam, NY on a business call in my office and the room and everything in it was shaking. I had to interrupt the person on the line who was in the building across the street and ask if his building was shaking because I thought we were having an earthquake. It was an unsettling feeling to say the least.

In 1944, there was a historic earthquake in our region called the Cornwall-Massena Earthquake(the largest recorded in NY). Not only were the citizens extremely upset (some thought the Germans were bombing the town), their wells dried up, their property was damaged, and the infrastructure was affected. We live, apparently, and unknown to me until today, in a region that is considered a seismically active zone called the St. Lawrence Rift System.

So, today, after the shock and excitement wore off, I started to wonder how things were at my house, did my husband feel it, what about the dogs, my kitty, and of course, the horses? What do the horse feel when the Earth starts shaking? Does a flight response kick in? Are they fearful or do they have some other understanding about nature that we cannot understand? It seems to me that they may be even more sensitive to the planet and what is happening that we humans are but I'd really like to know what is going on in their minds. In my mind, my first response was to want to get home (I am leaving for home soon.) Everything is fine at home by the way, Rick didn't feel anything...not sure about the critters... Rick thinks the horses may have as they bolted out of the barn abd were looking all around at about the time of the quake.

The other thought I had was our preparedness for a natural disaster. Are we really prepared? We have a generator but no gasoline stored and that would run out. We have wood, canned food, a garden, some first-aid stuff, I can never seem to find a flash light and they never have batteries although I do have two gas camp lanterns. My vehicles never seem to have full tanks of gas...what if we had to leave? Then what about water and food for the animals, especially the horses? I have extra halters, ropes, buckets, but to get everything together in a disaster may be a challenge. My trailer at the moment is housing wood planks for our shed...what if I needed it? Oh wow, what a list of problems!

I cannot profess to say that I even know how to get started or how to be successfully prepared (and for how long) but know that a few things could easily be addressed. The first-aid items and flash lights are an easy fix. The trailer will be emptied soon and Ill try to keep hubby from using it for anything other than horses. The food and water seems much more problematic, especially for the animals. This is a topic that I'll continue to consider as I think it is an important one. I'd love feedback from you all regarding how you prepare or perhaps problems you know you have! Please share and comment.

And, to my Canadian friends (and everyone else in the earthquake zone), I hope you and yours are all doing well. My thoughts are with you. (Click here for another article on the quake.)

Weekly Task Challenge: Friendly in the Delicate Zones!

If you don't know what to do, have little time, or just feeling stuck, try the weekly task as a way to at least do something with your horse! (It just may motivate you to do more.)

So, my question is, how often do you touch your horse in those areas know as delicate zones? Is you horse really okay with your friendly game, everywhere---he should be!

This week's task is to play friendly game in the delicate zones or other trouble spots on your horse. Some of the areas may include but are not limited to the delicate region on the face, ears, in the mouth, between the back legs, those touchy private parts that may need a little scratch and cleaning thanks to the flies and mud, under the tail, you get the picture! You want your horse to accept your touch everywhere, and be relaxed about it. Don't force it, don't forget your phases and use the game of approach and retreat, be kind, be courteous, be savvy. Your horse will thank you!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

What's going on?

So what is going on? Well, I have been trying to reconcile in my mind my assignment from Lauren about celebrating being human which means not being perfect all of the time and being precise but not critical. I have to say that I've spent much time thinking about this and worrying that I'll do the assignment right or that I understand how to follow-through, etc.! I know, I am nuts.

I've gotten in some non-demanding horse time yesterday after work and today, I had about 30 minutes of working on small things like (but not limited to) leading all three horses together from here to there, yo-yo all three, send one at a time out or in the gate, etc. I was particular with each horse on my expectations and about when it was their turn but not overly critical if they tried.

I can also report that I've been doing great this week on my WW journey, totally on plan (eating, journaling, planning, exercising, etc.) and feeling great. This morning I went to the gym and did the C25K week 5, run #1 (intervals of 5 min fast walk, 5 min run, 3 min fast walk, 5 min run, 3 min fast 5 min run, 5 min walk with cool down)on the treadmill. This time I felt like I probably looked pretty good doing it and if not, I was not concerned because I knew that what other people thought was irrelevant, that I was not perfect at this but, that I am sure trying hard!

Then, this evening, Morgan (my Great Dane) and I ran again, the C25K week 5, run#2 (intervals of 5 min fast walk, 8 min run, 5 min fast walk, 8 min run, 5 min walk with cool down) and I added an additional 10 minutes of low-intensity walking. I am so excited and proud that we survived and did it! Weeks ago, I could barely run for 1 minute without feeling really fatigued.And, this new fitness level has directly accepted my horsemanship! The third workout for this week consists of 5 min fast walk, 20 min run, 5 min cool down - I am SCARED but, I will give it a try. I am thinking on Thursday.

Well, that is it! Oh, and check out the picture with this post, just a few new before and current pic of me! (Click the pic to enlarge.)

Saturday, June 19, 2010

It's not about the saddle...Life Coaching...Stepping Outside My Comfort Zone Was Well Worth The Trip!

Image from: http://www.womensu.com/EmotionalFitnessandHorsesCoaching.htm

On Friday, I experienced something I'd never done before. A deep, self-reflection and exploration about my belief system related to being perfect and what that means, where it comes from, and how it may be getting in the way, using a Life Coach, Lauren Lee, President and Owner of Women's U. She specializes in women entrepreneurs and now, has a specialty is working with Parelli students on emotional fitness (plus, she is also a Parelli student and one of my blog readers). Life coaching, by the way, is a way to encourage and help people achieve their goals, it goes along the lines of leadership training (I am certain Lauren could tell you all much more about that.) As posted on her website:

"As a Parelli student, you are dedicated to learning and improving, and being a better leader for your horse. Your learnings can't help but spill over into your life and other relationships. And as your horse learns and grows through thresholds, you can't help but uncover some of your own.

Often you can clear a threshold easily. But sometimes, a threshold can run deep. You can use support to help you move through those thresholds that are no longer serving you.

I create a safe, confidential space for you to explore your threshold - it's origins, how it's served you, how it manifests in your life, etc. And if you're ready, I can help you release it, move through it, and create a new vision without that threshold present."

This exercise was well outside of my comfort zone and my body reacted to that...I my heart started racing just before I called her and felt my mind racing and feeling worried, not sure why exactly...I can talk to anyone! But, I made the call and afterwards, not only was I relaxed but, I was laughing, learned a great deal, and made a major breakthrough.

So, without getting into all of the nitty-gritty details, our interaction stemmed from my post on June 10, 2010 about a sneaky threshold that I thought was about the saddle. It was a strange and unsettling experience and Lauren thought that there must have been something else going on, thus our conversation. In simple terms, it seems that I have created for myself, since childhood, and in all facets of my life, the idea that perfection is equated with being loved or accepted and that being less than perfect with being dismissed and devalued. I am often and almost always very critical of myself, I push myself very hard, work very hard all of the time, and take on way more than most people. Nothing is ever good enough and I never give myself any latitude. I am my own worst enemy being particularly critical at all times no matter how well I've done something. I am the one who looks in the mirror and only sees faults, that no matter how many things I achieve, I think I should be doing more (it must be why my schedule is so busy with all types of different activities, projects, meetings, etc.) Now, this strive for perfection has allowed me to become very successful in life and gives me a strong drive and strong work ethic. I am independent, intelligent, and able to work under very difficult circumstances, great under pressure and deadlines (you get the picture). I've got a great, successful career, wonderful long-term marriage, lovely home and land living where I want to be, beautiful animals, am part of the Parelli world, etc. but some of my goals or potential experiences (short term and long term) in life have been interrupted because of my willingness to let perfectionism interfere and derail me.

This can manifest itself in many ways but one has been to slow my Parelli journey because things were not perfect and thus, I might fail. For instance, I waited to tape my level 1, not because I could not do the tasks but, because I hated how I looked on video (and frankly, I dislike all of my videos and tend to avoid taping even though I know how important it is for assessment whether personal of official). Now, I realize logically this is ridiculous and that being perfect all of the time is not possible. No one is perfect in everything in their lives (except maybe in the movies...lol). However, thinking from the emotional side of my brain is something altogether different. (Is this a right-brained left-brained thing? HMMMM) Being able to let go and allow myself to be vulnerable, to allow myself to try even if I may be less than perfect, can be very difficult, especially if other people are around to "catch me" being less than the image of perfection. I think this has played a huge part in my riding or playing with horses in public, going to events, despite the things I did with the play groups. I am comfortable with the Parelli people, just not the others (normals). I don't want to defend what I am doing and certainly cannot make a mistake in front of them! I can do it but sometimes feel inept, concerned, and was certainly this way when Clare visited, all I could focus on was trying to be perfect and what it got me was nothing. I wanted to show her all the good stuff we had going on but that is not what happened at all. I became direct line with my horses to the point they didn't recognize or interact with me like usual, and I found myself feeling unusually nervous and worried because I didn't recognize them either. (Sorry Clare.)

One thing to note about the saddle issue. Although it is not about the saddle, it kind of is. What I mean is, I feel most comfortable bareback. The real reason is that I feel more one with my horse, I can feel their emotions and body language. I tend to use only nonverbal cues with them and body language with them and it is no different while riding, not really (no voice commands, no clicker work, as Parelli always said to communicate through my body so I do and it works for us--but I recognize others do what works for them and it may be different--I have to remember that it is okay that we are all different). Anyhow, having a saddle that properly fits will help with the saddle issue when I need to use one (as explored with the fitting exercise) and, Lauren also suggested my trying a treeless saddle as a potential compromise and option. I also understand that even though many people say I need a saddle, that it is also okay for me to be riding bareback if I want to (like on a trail ride) even when they cannot, and that is does not make me the weird one or the imperfect one, that I am doing what works for me and my horses and that it is really okay. I have alternatives and just needed to remember that. I felt like I was stuck with riding because I didn't have a saddle that fit when I can still ride, just without, as I've always have done! Why was I letting other people interfere with my belief system and process? The only answer I can come up with is because I was trying to be what I thought they saw as perfect. What it got me was not riding my horses at all (or very little).

So, this week, my assignment, one that Lauren and I came up with, is to play approach and retreat with being perfect, being particular not critical (as Pat Parelli has told us time and time again to do with our horses), celebrating that I am human and thus, cannot achieve 100% perfection, and being okay with that. This does not mean for me to not strive to do my ultimate best, to always look to improve, but what it does mean is to give myself a little respect and breathing room, to treat myself like I treat others, and learn to accept myself with open arms and not a scowl and a reprimand. Does this sound strange? I think I am really happy about this. I think it is the love yourself and you can love others thing in a way.

Another part of my life (and I am sure there are many more) that is full of perfectionist thoughts, that I face daily, is Weight Watchers. Although I've lost a great deal of weight so far (42.4 lbs), and receive many compliments about how great I am looking...one person even said she didn't recognize me from afar, I often have berated myself for not loosing enough, for not being on track all of the time, not starting WW sooner, allowing myself to get heavy in the first place, etc., you get the idea. And, for any of you trying to be healthy, you know it is difficult to be perfect all of the time (at least for me) and that can be maddening. If I let it get to me (like I did so many years ago when I lost 50 lbs on WW---but gained it all back because I quit when I could not be perfect and plateaued), I'd just quit again (which would do me no good at all not my horses for that matter). I don't want to quit, and won't quit, I am dedicated for life. So anyhow, this morning, I had a small gain at WW weekly weigh-in, it was expected because I was off track towards the end of last week, struggling, not exercising, but I am okay with the gain because it is a life-long journey, a lifestyle, and not something that can be perfect every minute. I have made huge progress since January and am looking forward to the rest of this journey towards goal. I enjoyed my meeting and found a renewed energy. My new week started today and I am on track, feeling great, and feeling human (not like a nutsy perfectionist).

I can also happily report that today I played with and rode all three horses (more riding than anything) for two hours, all over the place (up and down the driveway, near our camping area, in the playground) I had fun and success, we did new things, I felt great, felt liberated, felt safe, felt competent and confident...I rode in sandals, bareback, (with a helmet) all over the place and they were not stressed about anything (nor was I), not the tacking up, not the things I asked for, nothing (except maybe the deer and horse flies--ouch they bite). I know it has something to do with the non verbal communication we have and my emotional fitness. I know that my discussion with Lauren helped me to loosen up, give myself a break, and finally allow myself to have fun again. No worries, no concerns about what tack, what other people thought, what I "should" be doing. Just freedom and fun.

To end my day (besides being on my computer and watching TV tonight), I ran my C25K run with my dog Morgan to kick off this week's exercise. We are doing great and planning to do week 5 starting tomorrow which makes us on track for the July 8th race. I had run behind on our workouts and cut a few repetitions of week 3 and 4 workouts out but am able to keep up so, here I am, pushing myself to week 5 tomorrow and I know I can do it! Should we hit a point where it becomes too difficult,I won't give up, I'll just keep pushing until I can do it. :)

Well, this is a lot to think about and I've barely scuffed the surface here. There is so much more scrambling around in my head and I think I've written this post many times over in my head but, the more eloquent language seems to still be up in there somewhere! LOL I hope that this was interesting and enlightening. In closing, I feel empowered by the work (play) Lauren and I did and feel compelled to move forward, especially in my horsemanship, and ready to not worry about taping and trying to do other things without worry of ridicule and persecution (especially from myself). I'll report back at the end of this week and let you know how things are going!

Just a note that my husband has been telling me for years, but especially recently, to be happy with myself, to love myself, and to give myself a break and celebrate my life. He encourages me to spend time with the horses, to run with Morgan and have fun, to go to WW and enjoy it, etc. He is a great guy and wonderful supporter. I often have felt guilty about spending time with the horses or doing other things without him and he has told me time and time again that there is no reason to feel that way. Today I felt no guilt, just had a great day (and found time to be with Rick too).

If you have any concerns about your emotional fitness and your PNH journey, PLEASE contact Lauren, she is wonderful, kind, thoughtful, and caring! I plan to have another conversation with her in the near future and may continue the life coaching relationship, it was fascinating!

Here is her information (she approved me passing it along on the blog).

Lauren Lee
Emotional Fitness Coaching for Parelli Natural Horsemanship Students

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Getting Our Groove Back

This evening was beautiful. The sun was shining, the sky blue with white puffy clouds, no wind, cool temperatures, and best of all, I was with my horses. We are truly starting to get our groove back, it is not taking long but it is taking prior preparation, planning, proper position, patience, among other things.

Fosse was a gem tonight. Being a left-brained extrovert, I find him to be a delight and a great match to my extroverted personality. He is fun, spunky, and always pushing my buttons, forces me to think, laugh, and not take myself so seriously (all in a good way).

To begin with, when I arrived home, I went to the house, said hello to the dogs and Rick, got changed into my riding clothes, and walked to the barn. The horses were out in the big field. I whistled from the barn just once and Fosse appeared through the trees and brush, galloped down the trail, and came right to me, talking away and looking really happy to see me. (Lola and Whiskey were still out grazing.)

I tacked him up (bareback pad and hackamore). He was very good, stood still like and angel, and was not cinchy or concerned. This made me really happy because in the past he was very nervous about the cinch but no longer. Apparently all of the preparation work I've done with him really helped (lots of approach and retreat with the cinch, lots of friendly, lots of patience and time). After he was tacked up and had a few treats, I took him to the playground. We played with the tire obstacles (squeeze, backing, circling), with cones (weave pattern), mosied around grazing on the grass, looked in the mailbox and found some treats, and much more.

Then I mounted up and just sat there. I do this with all of the horses as I believe it is important for them to stand still when mounted and stand still until asked to move forward, no matter how ling that may be. I rode him all over the play ground playing the games, using the obstacles, and munching grass and treats. He and I were really connected. Good thing too because several Amish buggies with horses going clippity-clop went by us down the road, tractor trailers, cars, and other major distractions rushed past my place. The Amish buggies go by often and the horses usually run around like lunatics when they do (seemingly having fun though). Fosse was alert but, didn't panic and neither did I. I put myself in the pushing position, had one rein in hand in the case that I needed to flex him, rubbed his neck, head, and withers, and offered a few treats for a few flexes. I mounted and dismounted several times during our play working it from both sides, someday I am going to slide off his rump! We also proceeded out of the playground, down the driveway, and explored other areas around the property. What a wonderful session.

While all this play time was going on Lola and Whiskey made their way up to the barn and they were watching. Lola even called out a few times. When I put Fosse back, Lola approached as the next horse in line to play. I tacked her up just like Fosse. However, I really took time to go slow and use approach and retreat with the cinch, lots of treats, friendly scratches, and made the experience a non-issue. She was emotional to start but quickly relaxed with my techniques. This to me is called taking the time it takes. :)

I lead Lola down the driveway through the woods to the house. Once there, I played point-to-point with her from vehicle to vehicle, to the porch, garbage can, fire pit, etc. There were treats on these targets and she was thrilled to find them. Rick had the radio playing and the rotisserie squeaking with a nice big turkey smoking on the grill but Lola was okay with it all. I allowed her to eat grass and mosey around. Then, I walked her into the woods down the trail. I thought that since she is a left-brained extrovert/introvert (and leans towards the introverted quadrant) that the different change of scenery would make her happy and not bored but engaged and thinking. She did very well in the dry and wet areas. At one point we had to "off-road" and blaze out own trail as we headed back to the house another way. We walked up and down hills, through trees, under trees and branches, through brush, all kinds of log obstacles of all sizes too. She'd walk through, under, or over anything I asked! Lola didn't balk about any of it and followed me intently. When I'd stop, she'd stop, when I walked, she walked. We ended up behind the house in a large patch of grass which she really loved eating. After a few minutes, we went back to the front of the house. I let her mosey around again checking things out and grazing.

Rick and I enjoyed talking and spending time with Lola. I really wanted to mount up and ride her back to the barn down the driveway. The only thing I could use as a mounting block was an upside down cooler. Lola was not concerned baout this huge blue plastic object that was plopped next to her, she just stood there. Fortunately I was able to mount with ease despite her only having a bareback pad on (the positive consequence of exercise and weight loss). Once aboard, we just sat there, breathing and hurrying up to do nothing. When I asked her to move forward she gave me a look that I intrepreted as ammoyed, I felt a little tense as Lola was a little tense I had decided. So, I asked Rick to lead us using the lead line on the hackamore, down the driveway. He is not exactly a horse person per se, he loves the horses, builds things for us, but is not a hands on horse person--do you know what I mean? But, nonetheless, he agreed and remarked that he'd do anything I asked because he loves me. He lead Lola and I was the passenger. He gave her treats, talked to both of us, and walked all the way to the playground. Then, he lead us around obstacles, between trees, and at one point, almost got me scrubbed off her as he ran me into a bunch of low tree limbs. She lazed through but I was faced with huge limbs at my waist! I had to push them all out of the way, I got a little tense anticipating falling off, Lola lurched forward a bit quickly but not too bad and really didn't go right-brained at all, and I did not fall off (hmmmshe isn't going to try to kill me...another realization that I needed to make). Then, he took us through a few more obstacles, handed me the line and said I was on my own. I rode her all over the playground having a great time, practicing focused riding (eyes, belly button, legs, rein---I think I have this right) and we did very well doing much of the same patterns as I did with Fosse. I dismounted feeling a true sense of success and well being. I thanked Rick for helping out and realized he did way more than he or I expected. I was so busy micromanaging him and telling him what to do and not to do that I was riding Lola freestyle and relaxed, not micromanaging her at all! I know this was a boost of confidence for the both of us.

After returning Lola to the barn, Whiskey, my right-brained introvert approached as if to say, okay, it is now my turn. I tacked him up like the other two, paying attention to his emotions and he was not emotional or worried at all this evening. He was actually fairly talkative when I first approached him. I played with his for a few minutes and mounted up. We waited a few minutes and then I asked him to move forward. I worked very hard at focused riding, watched my phases, and found myself saying out loud, "eyes, belly button, leg, rein, wait, wait, wait." Whiskey was fabulous and a great deal of fun. Since it was getting dark, I didn't bother to ride him too long or out of the play ground but, we certainly found ourselves in a session full of fun, treats, patterns, and no negative or reactionary emotional outbursts.

I am feeling better each time I play with the horses, a clear reminder that if I just play and ride, we can make progress and have fun! I have also noticed they are all talking more and more and seem to be more engaged with me. My comfort zone is moving back to where it was and I suspect will move farther as we progress. It is supposed to be a nice weekend and so I plan to get in lots of horse time as well as boating time! I would like to trail walk and then trail ride each horse down the driveway and on the trail near the house bu the end of the weekend.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Weekly Task Challenge: Hide and Seek!

If you don't know what to do, have little time, or just feeling stuck, try the weekly task as a way to at least do something with your horse! (It just may motivate you to do more.)

Have you ever played the game of hide and seek? Well of course you have! This week's challenge is to play it with your horse! Put on your fanny pack, fill it with your horse's favorite goodies, and head out to see your horse! The more interesting location the better of course but do the best you can. Make sure your horse sees you at first and then run and hide behind a tree, a barrel, or something else. Your horse should come seek you out, once found, reward with a goody and a quick scratch. However, don't stay too long, run off and hide again. You should find, if your horse is engaged and has a good play drive, that she will run and find you, each time seemingly more excited and eager to find you! Give it a try at liberty first and if your horse is confused, revert to online (22 foot line should do) until you know he/she understands, then go back to liberty.

I tried this with Lola the other day and it was a hoot...she was running, bucking, and squealing just trying to find me and get the treat! This is a great experience for both of you offering a lot of friendly, some yummy treats, and undemanding but creative and fun time! A definite plus for the relationship! Keep it simple, safe, savvy, and of course, natural!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Mini WW Update and PSRG Reminder

My weight loss journey is going well despite having company, business lunches, and the like. I won't say it has been easy but, I am pushing onward towards my goal (which is a long way off but well worth the trip). (So far, as of 6/12/10 I've lost 44.2 lbs.) I also wanted to share this before/after pic above (before on the left, after on the right) and let you know about the Plus Sized Riders group!
Image from: http://wellness-perspectives.com/img/smalljackypersonhorsedog.jpg

The Plus Sized Riders Group (PSRG) was established to help bring together horse lovers of all shapes, sizes and backgrounds who desire a healthier lifestyle and are looking for support through their journey. Topics include general health, weight loss, healthier living, medical issues, and more. These topics are coupled with the added joy of horses and how our health affects our experiences with them. It has been designed to be a group that enables support through learning and sharing. Any weight loss program or exercise program is open for discussion. Any horse-related topics are welcomed. We also play a weekly game called Healthy Living and Horses! It starts on Saturday! The object is to get moving and stay motivated by playing this silly game...compete against fellow PSRG members and earn as many carrots as you can each week while living healthy and having fun with your horse! Come join us! http://health.groups.yahoo.com/group/plus_sized_riders/

Lastly, here is the latest log of my weight loss progress: (The next meeting is this Sat!)

Week 1: 1/9/10, Started Weight Watchers
Week 2: 1/16/10, Lost 6.2 lbs, Total Lost 6.2 lbs
Week 3: 1/23/10, Lost 1.6 lbs, *Started Exercising Regularly, Total Lost 7.8 lbs
Week 4: 1/30/10, Lost 3.8 lbs, Total Lost 11.6 lbs
Week 5: 2/6/20, Lost 3 lbs *Celebrating 5% Weight-loss Target!, Total Lost 14.6 lbs
Week 6: 2/13/10, Lost 2.4 lbs, Total Lost 17 lbs
Week 7: 2/20/10, Gained .2 lbs, Total Lost 16.8 lbs
Week 8: 2/27/10, Lost 1.6 lbs, Total Lost 18.4 lbs
Week 9: 3/6/10, Lost 5.6 lbs, *Biggest Loser at the Meeting!, Total Lost 24 lbs
Week 10: 3/13/10, Lost .8 lbs, Total Lost 24.8 lbs
Week 11: 3/20/10, Lost .2 lbs *Celebrating 25 lbs Lost Milestone!, Total Lost 25 lbs
Week 12: 3/27/10, Lost 3.4 lbs *Celebrating 10% Weight-loss Target!, Total Lost 28.4 lbs
Week 13: 4/3/10, Lost 2.6 lbs, Total Lost 31 lbs
Week 14: 4/10/10, Lost .8 lbs, Total Lost 31.8 lbs
Week 15: 4/17/10, Gained 1.0 lb, Total Lost 30.8 lbs
Week 16: 4/24/10, Lost 1.6 lbs, *Celebrating 16 Weeks on Program!, Total Lost 32.4 lbs
Week 17: 5/1/10, Lost 5.8 lbs, *Biggest Loser at Meeting, Total Lost 38.2 lbs
Week 18: 5/8/10, Gained 1.6 lbs, Total Lost 36.6 lbs
Week 19: 5/15/10, Lost 2.8 lbs, *Celebrating 15% Weight-loss Target!, Total Lost 39.4 lbs
Week 20: 5/22/10, Missed Meeting
Week 21: 5/29/10, Lost 1.0 lbs, Total Lost 40.4 lbs
Week 22: 6/5/10, Lost 3.2 lbs, Total Lost 43.6 lbs
Week 23: 6/12/10, Lost .6 lbs, Total Lost 44.2 lbs

Monday, June 14, 2010

May your horse reveal herself to you...PLAYTIME!

This evening I am happy to report that I had 1 1/2 hours of horse time after work and it was not raining! I started play time with Whiskey. He was a bit emotional making his gulping noises a bit and, cow kicking at times. But, I stuck to my principles and plans, using long phase one, lots of friendly, and had him finally thinking, not reacting, and offering to do all kinds of fun stuff on the ground. One particular task was to side pass with a large log underneath him, he offered to do it and looked fabulous! Then, I mounted and he moved forward very nicely expanding on what we did yesterday. I opted to not trot though because it had rained earlier and the grass was quite slick and muddy in places and I didn't want him to slip and loose his confidence (it took time to build it up today). In any event, we made more progress, had fun, and I am looking forward to another playtime (I think he is too).

What I really am excited to tell you all about it Lola! She was really revealing her play drive tonight, more than ever before! We started in the barn, I haltered her with the hackamore and started to saddle her with the bareback pad and she was a bit emotional but, the boys were crowding us. I moved them out of our space and she was still a bit out of sorts. I decided to walk her out to one of the logs and see how she felt. I feel as if there was tension and so, I decided to take the tack off and see what I had with her at liberty. I walked from barrel to barrel playing point to point with treats like we did yesterday (although yesterday was on line). She loved it and picked up on it immediately. Once I knew that she was with me, I started trotting to the different barrels and over the jumps, she came with me and was animated and having fun! We played chase around the trees, canter, here and there, total play drive! She was squealing, bucking (for fun) and I swear, smiling (and I was getting exercise)! At one of the logs, I stopped, she did too, Then I put one foot over the log, paused, put the other foot over. Then, I turned and looked at her as if to ask, what about you? She put one foot over, stopped, then the other foot. She waited, I gave her a treat, then ran off, she gladly pursued me! At one point, she saw the Fosse and Whiskey leave to the field and she left me, got worried about them, paced the fence but didn't call out, they ignored her. I just waited to see what she'd do and let her work it out in her head. She looked back at me (I was sitting on the log just waiting), and she perked up her ears and ran, full speed, sliding to a stop in front of me! I ran off towards one of the barrels and she came along. I was so satisfied with this play time that I decided to just go to a few more barrels to reinforce our time and send her to the field with the boys rather than ride as I wanted and end on a good, fun note to help with her confidence, and make sure she didn't have any expectations or preconceived notions. To my surprise, she didn't run away from me but stood there. I finally said goodbye and walked out of the area, she then ran out to the field.

Fosse and I played just a little out in the big field, at liberty. I worked on my phases and allow, used a lot of approach, retreat, and the catching game. He responded quite well and we had some undemanding fun. Throughout, Whiskey and Lola were checking things out and I intermingled play with them. When I started to walk away, Lola initiated more play! We mirrored each other out in the field, played the 7 games, went from here to there through the field, in the sand pit, up the little hills, leaving the boys. I even started running and she followed with the boys in tow! What a hoot! We were all running around together! I am so glad to be back to my old self, feeling playful, creative, and really having a ton of fun! Lola is totally revealing a new side I have only seen when she is playing with the horses...I guess she is finally seeing me as a fun partner to play with...YEAH!

My RBI Gave Me My Play Drive and Confidence Back

“The greatest barrier to success is the fear of failure.” - Sven Goran Eriksson.

This is going to sound strange but, My right-brained introvert, wilting flower, emotional horse, the most complicated horse I have, Whiskey, has given me my play drive and confidence back...HOW INTERESTING!

Since Clare's departure, I truly did some introspection about myself, the horses, and my seemingly lack of play drive, lack of confidence, and willingness to give up. It seems so strange to me to be in this situation but, I do believe that being in the lonely barn plays a great part in this story. That said, I have had to come to not only the realization but the acceptance that my new position (the reason why I moved) has had a tremendous impact on the time I've been able to spend with the horses thus far and that, it may continue but, I need to fit the horses in, even if it is not the same amount of time, otherwise, what is the point of building a horse park on the property! LOL

In thinking about Stephanie Burns' book, Move Closer, Stay Longer (which I've read several times), I think that the lack of time with the horses has caused a strange rift in confidence. I am not convinced that past experiences have played all that great a part in it. Something is comfortable if you are doing it regularily. Take away the frequency and things become foreign and thus, uncomfortable.

So, I made a plan for myself to get back to having fun and making progress. I looked at how I was interacting with the horses and found that I was being very presumptive, too direct-lined, was not fully appreciating and utilizing phase 1, and frankly, my horses were not happy about it. I starting thinking about the catching game and how lately, they were not running to the driveway every time I drove up, that Fosse was less vocal, that Whiskey was ignoring me for the most part, and the fact that Lola walked away when I brought out the halter. This was a tough realization but, it was timely and important...and I think it may have been going on for awhile. What I didn't realize is that changing just a few things would quickly change everything for the better...in no time at all!

Starting this past Friday (June 11), I made sure that all interaction with the horses was simple and light. I incorporated three major things, being light as a feather phase one at all times, waiting for the horses to have time to respond, and when I approached their space, I would make sure I was polite. I was not able to play with them per se but, would see them multiple times throughout the say as most of it was spent finishing up the veggie garden. The way the property is set up, that meant we'd see each other constantly and I'd have several opportunities to interact, at liberty, on their terms. It was interesting because the lighter I was (and each time I'd say to myself, light as a feather, wait for it), they would be more and more responsive and started coming to me rather then me to them each time I'd pass through their area. At one point, I decided to turn each out in a different grassy area which meant haltering them. I allowed each horse to catch me, groomed them, picked feet, fly spray, and then mosied to their respective areas. As the day went on and as I passed by, I found them talking to me, even Whiskey who traditionally is fairly quite and reserved. It felt great and I knew I was on to something wonderful.

Saturday was another day full of other things to do besides horse time. I had my Weight Watchers Meeting in the morning (lost .6- bringing my total to 44.2lbs gone - while Clare visited...I am pleased as in the past I'd have gained 10 lbs), went plant and grocery shopping, and then had a great deal of gardening to do including but not limited to putting in a 50 foot x 3 foot flower garden along part of the front and side of the barn--looks great. Anyhow, it was going to be another day where the horses would wander between the field, play ground, arena, paddock, and alley way munching hay, grass, drinking water, and hanging out. They would see Rick and I all day and we'd pass in each others space but, we'd have no "official" time together. I decided that I'd make this day another opportunity to get my relationship back on track with the three horses in a undemanding, fun manner. I groomed them in the morning when I fed them and they seemed to enjoy it. Throughout the day, if they passed nearby and if I was in the area, I'd stop what I was doing and give that a good scratch, especially in the really itchy places the bugs like to bite where horses don't have a good reach! Well, the horses were ecstatic to the point that if they saw me, they'd come asking for a good scratch! They made funny faces, tried to groom me, and truly seemed to be very happy. All in all, a good day.

Finally, Sunday (yesterday), I had a better chance of so-called "official" horse time. (I don't think I am going to categorize horse time any more. Any time with my horses is horse time and it should always be of quality no matter how long or short the time is.) In the early morning, I prepped dinner, cleaned the house, did laundry, and planned my day. Mid afternoon, I took two walks, the first with Morgan and Annie (2.5 miles) and then a short walk (.5 miles) with my older dogs, Daisy, Sahlen, and Sid. I checked in with Rick and he really didn't need help with the garden and so, it was horsey play time!

My plan was rather simple. Each horse would have at least 15 minutes of play time (what happened is each horse had about an hour), I'd play with the horse that showed up, I would be mindful of my phases, and we'd focus on a point to point game using treats, I'd tack up with the Parelli Natural Hackamore and Parelli Bareback Pad, I'd ride if the horse looked rideable.

Fosse (LBE) was first. I played with him on the 22 foot line (tacked up as described). I allows my rope to drag and let him step on it and let it wrap around his legs which allowed him to work through any issues he may have with a rope, weeds, sticks, or other things that could tangle on his legs. For the most part, it did not bother him. We played point to point as I mentioned. Before playing, I set up the arena with barrels in the corners, black rubber feeding pans atop each. When we would reach a barrel, a treat would miraculously appear! We also worked on follow the feel where the 22 foot rope was placed around him and he needed to follow my feel to turn around, he did well but seemed a bit nervous in zone 5. So, we played ground driving in zone 5 and although not picture perfect, he worked out his hesitations and concerns. We also played with the log obstacles jumping and walking through them, circling game using transitions between the walk, trot, and canter gaits, and finally, played sidle up to me as I stood on one of the large logs to mount. He did fantastic. I mounted up and we stood there, doing nothing but hanging out. Then, I asked for forward using focus and he moved out. We explored the barrels playing point to point mounted and he had a blast including picking up the black pans and tossing them! At one point, I decided that we should try to trot. I've never trotted him because of his heart condition but, the veterinarian said it should be okay and so, why not I thought. I asked for a trot and he was a bit confused about what I was asking. At one point however, he did offer the trot but, unfortunately, I choked up on him a bit and he stopped (and was probably a bit confused). I asked again but, to no avail. I decided we'd end on a good note and visited a few more barrels, played squeeze between these huge pine trees, and called it a day. I took his tack off and rather than running off, he walked with me at liberty to the other horses who were at the end of the arena over the fence.

After a quick break and a bottle of cool water, I went back to visit the horses. Whiskey (RBI) caught me and so, I decided that he and I were to play. We did much of what Fosse and I did on the ground but also added in a bit more jumping (he loves to jump) and some stick to me at liberty (walk and trot). Whiskey and I seemed to be very in tune with each other. At the mounting log, he sidled right up without me asking too much I mounted and we stood still. He did not have any of his emotional mannerisms (gulping, biting, head popping). He was a perfect angel. Then, when I asked him to move forward, I used phase one and waited until he felt ready to go, no pressure. Whiskey was okay with the point to point game while mounted but, was not interested in leaving the two barrels closest to the barn and one barrel in particular seemed to make him the most comfortable. I used approach and retreat, making our distance away from the barrel greater each time and each time, he did better. He loved the magically appearing treats too! I decided to ask for a trot. It had been a long time since we've trotted (heck, I had not ridden him in ages I think). Anyhow, feeling really confident with him, especially because he never tried to bite and didn't seem to mind the ride, I asked for the trot. The first trot was a bit rambunctious but, I one-reined him to stop. I was not nervous but, alert. We continued walking away from the barrel, trotting to the barrel and each time, both of us relaxed a bit more and it got better. By the last time, I exhaled to stop instead of using my rein, it was lovely and fun (all sitting trot by the way). After this time with Whiskey, I felt like it was the good old times again, like I was back to my old, confident self, having fun again. Wow, not a reaction I expected at all and not the experience I had expected either. I think our success has a lot to do with the last couple of days, the fact that I was cognisant of how much pressure I was not putting on him, and I am certain my weight loss has helped both of us on many levels.

Finally, I played with Lola (LBE/LBI). On line, we did much of what I did with the boys and I tried to keep it interesting for her. When doing transitions during the circling game, she became a bit emotional when asked to canter. I am not certain why at this point but perhaps I put the pressure on too quickly for her. I am going to try to be more patient and aware next time and see how it goes. When I asked her to sidle up at the log, she was not quite as good as usual but, eventually did sidle up. I mounted and we sat. She continuously offered to flex and so, I gave her some treats. When I asked her to move forward, she backed up. I decided to play passenger rather than micromanage her. She backed and realized she did not get a reaction. Then, she walked a bit and started eating, I said OK, me too (just like Linda instructed us to do in the blue level 2 pack). I continued the "me too" attitude for some time and then she decided we could go check the barrels for snacks. We primarily played between the two barrels near the barn and eventually ventured our farther and farther away. By the end, it was a good ride but, I decided to not ask for a trot as I was glad she was at least walking forward! We ended on a good note and I have some ideas for next time including but not limited to limiting treats to the barrels, longer phase one, and more passenger time!

I plan to spend time with the horses every day, at least 15 minutes per horse (more when possible) as a good continuation and a way to continue forwward. It is a goal that is easily met on a daily basis. This could mean undemanding time, it could mean hands on, but, each horse will be one-on-one with me so that we make it quality time.

In closing, I am thankful for my horses' patience and love. They seem to realize very quickly that I am fallible but, that I can change and be back to my old, patient, fun self and they hold no grudges. I look forward to progressing through our journey together and feel like my emotional fitness has been realigned and that my priorities are straight. I was asked what purpose I wanted to put my Parelli studies to (as in what horse sport). Right now, my purpose is to progress through the levels, develop our relationship, and see what comes of it, see where each horse seems to be suited, and go from there. For now, I am not going to say we will be eventing, showing, trail riding, etc. We are just going to be together, learn, grow, and let the future present itself when the time is right, no pressure, no preconceived notions, just horse play time and fun (with some progress for good measure). :)

A horse doesn't care how much you know until he knows how much you care.
- Pat Parelli

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Saddle Fitting: Where success and failure equals learning opportunity for both horse and human

Clare and I took the time to evaluate my three saddles today. I know what I think I need but wanted to confirm and what better time then when I have Clare here to give me a second opinion. Therefore, we took the time to download and print the saddle fitting materials on the Parelli Saddles website, got out the ruler, flexible wire, paper, notebook, and pencils, and got to work. It was an interesting exercise, loosely scientific, and very revealing.

My assumption going into this exercise was that my Wintec All-Purpose Saddle (16 1/2") would not fit any of my horses and was destined to become part my log home decor or would be sold, that my generic, all-purpose brown leather English saddle (18") was okay for Fosse and Whiskey (maybe Lola) when used with the Theraflex Pad, that is was okay for Fosse and Whiskey, questionable for Lola but in a pinch would probably be okay, and that my Marathon Endurance Saddle (20 1/2" seat, total saddle size 22") may work for Lola but was probably too big and most likely would also be sold. My assumption for Lola is that a Wintec Ultra Wide or Parelli Super Wide were going to be the proper saddle for her.

While Clare was reviewing the Parelli Saddles materials, I made our wire measuring tool, got the measuring tape, a broom (to use as a stick to check the horse's back angle), situated our work space, and haltered Lola. Okay, so our work was not entirely scientifically accurate but, I do believe we did the best job we could with the tools we had. Here is the diagram drawn based on Lola's measurements.

We also took the time to measure the saddles several components to confirm our findings. This was quite an interesting exercise as we were able to see how gullet measurements from the outside of the saddle differed greatly from gullet measurements at the stirrup bars point underneath, padding differed, and overall design was quite varied. Here are a few images of the saddles.

Marathon Endurance Saddle (Above)
Bars 22", Seat 20 1/2", Saddle 22", Gullet at Stirrup Bars 4", Gullet at Front 4 1/2"

Generic All Purpose Leather English Saddle (Above)
Bars 17", Seat 18", Gullet at Stirrup Bars 3 3/4", Gullet at Front 6 1/4"

Wintec All Purpose English Saddle (Above)
Bars, 16 1/2", Seat 16 1/2", Gullet at Stirrup Bars 3 1/2", Gullet at Front 5 1/2"

We also looked at Lola's body shape and angles. Our findings were right on target with my assumptions. The Wintec All-Purpose Saddle does not fit any of my horses and became part my log home decor (it looks great), my generic, all-purpose brown leather English saddle is okay for Fosse and Whiskey when used with the Theraflex Pad. I've been using this one for years and really like it despite it's lower quality---thanks to the Theraflex, has worked out okay. It is questionable for Lola but in a pinch would probably be okay. We decided that Lola indeed needs a Wintec Ultra Wide or Parelli Super Wide saddle. But, we thought we'd try the Marathon Endurance Saddle despite looking a bit big as a good alternative until such time that I could purchase a new saddle for her. We tacked her up and went to play in the round pen with the intention of test riding a little in the playground.

We proceeded to the round pen with a nice mosey and some grass eating along the way. Lola had been very patient and wonderful throughout our morning saddle assessment. I checked her girth and set her loose at liberty to allow her to move with the saddle (as I'd done with my brown English in the past). I asked for her to back with a yo-yo and then to circle at a walk. She decided that bucking and cantering around like a lunatic was better and she did so, jumping over barrels and circling. After a few laps, it was apparent that the saddle was slipping ans so, I asked her to disengage, she did. Unfortunately, before I could reach her, the saddle slide right around and as I am sure you will guess, things got bad. She bucked and kicked and freaked out, she was scared (and rightfully so). She went running full speed, blasted through the round pen fence tape, down the driveway, toward the field but could not get in and ran through another fence tape dragging it for a bit, headed down the driveway towards the road. Clare and I were heading down the driveway and I ducked into the barn at bout the same time that Lola had turned her head and she saw me. She came running into the barn, slide on the floor, looked at me, I took my carrot stick and savvy string and signaled her to make a transition as we would do online to slow down and stop, to calm down, she stopped moving, I tossed the string over her neck, Clare luckily came into the barn and we both immediately unbuckled the girth and the saddle was off. Lola was haltered and seemed okay. We fed her treats and then poured some grain and treats on the saddle that was laying on the floor. She munched away and caught her breath as we caught ours.

I assessed her injuries and they were minor cuts and scrapes. I wiped her off the best I could and Clare and I took Lola to the grass, back to the round pen, and played approach and retreat. She was okay with everything and enjoyed some fresh, tall, clover outside of the round pen. I also had an apple in my pocket and she was thrilled to eat it. I hosed her legs off and gave her some bute. I played a lot of friendly all over her body and she liked that. We went back in the barn to sniff the saddle and she was fine. I put a saddle pad on her and rubbed her belly and she was okay. Clare and I also simulated cinching and once again, she was fine. We let her loose with Fosse and Whiskey and sat out in the paddock. The three about mugged us for treats and hung out. Lola seemed no worse for wear despite this harrowing experience. Clare and I wonder if she did not associate us with the experience and perhaps maybe not even the saddle. We wonder if Lola made a connection with her bucking causing this incident? What is this horse thinking? HMMM, how interesting.

A few thoughts Clare and I came away with from this experience were the following:

-Lola was looking for help and came to me when she was no longer blinded by fear and is thus, primarily sensible.
-Lola is a short horse, she is a round horse, and her buck is not that big.
-English girths are easier to remove than western cinches in an emergency.
-Prior and proper preparation for such a catastrophe is a good idea---simulate this problem because saddles can slip at anytime, especially on round horses.
-Lola should be desensitized using the flank rope exercise, by dragging things underneath her (IE hay bags, bags with cans, the small barrels), play with more straddling over large logs and barrels,lots of friendly game under her belly.

During the evening, Clare and I reviewed Lola's horsenality report and identified several things to be aware of. A few important points are that I need to give her time to respond to phase one, be creative, and not to micromanage her. I believe that over the weekend when I was playing with her (with Clare here) I was more direct line than normal, pushy, and perhaps, this affected her ability to respond to me in the round pen prior to the saddle slipping. Had we been more in harmony, she may have reacted differently. That said, we should be prepared for this kind of issue and I need to help her be calm in a dire situation.

So, as you can see, Clare, Lola, and I had quite a day full of successes, failures, and learning opportunities. Be safe and savvy with your horse, prepare for the worst and hope for the best. I felt terribly guilty about this accident but Clare reminded me that Lola hadn't held any grudge and we all learned a great deal despite the circumstances. I learned what I need to work on, what saddles my horses need, and that my horse trusts me and asked for help once she was back to her thinking state of mind. Lola learned that measuring saddles was fun (she was really having a good time biting my pencil and stealing my hair scrunchy), that perhaps that bucking was not a good idea, and that I would help her if she was in danger.

There is a lot more to consider but frankly, I need more time to digest it all. I hope you never find yourself in this situation becuase it is terrifying for everyone, horse and human.

Look Out...Thresholds Can Sneak Up On You!

My best friend and fellow horse enthusiast/PNHr, Clare (Naturally Gaited) is visiting for the week. We've had a great deal of fun eating healthy, exercising, playing with the horses, watching movies, talking, and spending time on the St. Lawrence River on our pontoon boat! I miss her more than words can express and am sad that she will have to go home, 13+ hours away. This post however, is all about horse time, thresholds, and support.

As you all know, I am a recent Level 2 graduate and thus, a Level 3 PNH student. You would think (as did I) that this would be an open door to progress and fun. Well, for me, it seems to have opened a door to a threshold I didn't know was there (not only for me but, for Lola). I've been playing/riding the horses very little lately in part because of my busy work schedule, in part because of the weather, and in part, because I've been avoiding them. I didn't know what was causing this avoidance behavior until now. When I have spent time with the horses, I would play on the ground, play with patterns, obstacles, treats, etc. Then, I'd typically ride bareback with or without the bareback pad, hacking around the playground, paddock, round pen, or just around the property. I've been extremely concerned about my saddles and not having the right one for any of the horses and thus, have not been using them (nor have I taken the time to truly assess them). Clare was kind enough to bring her Abetta Saddle for me to test ride on Lola during this vacation as she really loves it and thinking it may be a good one for me to consider. (I still really want to purchase a Wintec Extra-Wide with CAIR Panels--well actually, I'd prefer a Parelli saddle but there is just no way I can afford one.)

Anyhow, Clare and I played with Lola. We had a great time on the ground playing in the play ground, taking photos of me with her and on her (bareback) and, on the ground in the round pen. Then, Clare brought out her saddle and Lola and I both got emotional. It snuck up on us I think as this was not an expected feeling during what had been a fun time. She was obsessed with eating grass (she was earlier too as she hadn't been turned out on the grass since the night before). Lola did give the saddle and pad a good sniff and looked it over but, would also walk away while being saddled. Clare's Abetta saddle, overall, was a good fit for Lola although we recognized that we could make some adjustments. It may be another good saddle to purchase in addition to the Wintec XW.

When we were satisfied with the saddle for what we had planned (not too much, just a little point to point, maybe a little walk/trot), I took her to the mounting block. Once there, I stepped up and started feeling overwhelmingly uptight and nervous and Clare could see the change. Lola didn't want to sidle up to me at the mounting block (which is unusual). We both just were not ourselves, not relaxed, and had apparently reached an unknown threshold. We were feeding off each other's energy and this was not good because we were both not emotionally fit, not really. Eventually, I mounted with savvy (and didn't kick her in the butt or anything...lol) and sat there, I gave her a treat. I felt out of sorts and I didn't like being in the saddle, I felt trapped and unsafe. Lola was also worried. Thankfully, Clare was there to help us through whatever had bubbled to the surface. She kindly walked over, talked to both of us in a kind,sweet voice, smiled a lot, tied a savvy string to the halter, reminded me of the passenger position, reminded me of my foot position, reminded me not to tightly gather my reins and to not micromanage (something left over from my English equitation days) and to just relax and enjoy my horse. She lead Lola and I around the round pen offering me words of comfort and Lola carrot cookies (I just had the halter and leadline on her, the lead tied into reins). It didn't take too long and we felt better with each other and I tried so hard to not be direct-line and micromanage Lola but needed Clare's reassurance and coaching to get through it. We ended on a very good note and took Lola to the grass for grazing afterwards.

Isn't it interesting that I feel safer on my horse without a saddle? That I had such strong emotions and a threshold about the saddle? And, that Lola did too? I walked away from this experience, rather than being happy that we made progress and lived through it, but I left feeling very confused, embarrassed, upset, disgusted with myself, and humiliated. I am very hard on myself and Clare asked me a great question, (paraphrasing), "Would I feel towards or treat/talk to anyone like I do to myself?" Of course the answer was of course not. I'd be compassionate, caring, and supportive. But, to myself, I find this to be a challenge, I find it hard to give myself any latitude in any aspect of my life. I feel as if I should be perfect, should not have any thresholds, and constantly challenge myself and hold myself up to the highest standard (at home, work, with the horses, etc.). Anyhow, wow, this is a major emotional fitness issue I really had not considered!

So, where was this all coming from? You are reading the writings of a horse girl from way back, one that can walk, trot, canter, gallop, and jump in a bareback pad (remember my huge TB Wilbur, I used to WTC him, jumped at lessons on another, and WTCG Whiskey of all horses in the mountains in Virginia--and have done the same with other people's horses...a friend's Arab,Charlie in particular--we rode a trail race once at a play date!) I am a balanced and good rider, I've ridden all kinds of horses, trail horses, hunter/jumper, endurance, race horses, etc...now, here I sit, afraid of my saddle and thus my horse's reaction to it? What the heck is that all about? In all fairness, I don't think any of my saddles are the perfect fit but I would have to say none of them should or would cause any of my horses to have a horrible reaction. Clare thinks that perhaps I have some emotional baggage from the St. Jude's Ride when Whiskey went bonkers and, my jumping accident so many years ago when I almost left the world of horses all together. She was thinking in terms of the saddle making riding an official sport whereas the bareback riding is more casual and less particular. Perhaps my mind is playing games with me. Whatever it is, it has to be dealt with, not avoided, and I must and desire to move forward--I will not give up.

OK, so where do we go from here? I am planning on doing some saddle fitting with Clare before she leaves to see how I can make what saddles I do have work (if I can), and we have written a plan for me to follow to start using my saddle and getting back at it once she leaves. I can say that after our exercises, I do feel more confident that the saddle is not an issue and think I can progress now, breaking through that comfort zone threshold that I truly didn't know was there. Let's hope! I also plan to take some private lessons with Kelly Sigler later this summer should the planets correctly align and let it happen! LOL

I guess the moral of this story is, thresholds can sneak up on you and pop up in the strangest places. Avoiding them get you stuck, dealing with them allows you to make progress. Let your ego go, get some help and support, and move forward, it will help you and your horse.

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Weekly Task Challenge: The Six P's

If you don't know what to do, have little time, or just feeling stuck, try the weekly task as a way to at least do something with your horse! (It just may motivate you to do more.)

This week's challenge is all about Pat Parelli's Priorities for Prior and Proper Preparation! Have you heard about this? It is all a buzz in the clinics these days! Here is the list of things that Pat passionately believes we all need to work on and be good at! This week's challenge is to take a look at your proficiency in these areas:





Lateral Flexion

Indirect Rein

Direct rein

Supporting Rein

Hands Frees Farrier Prep

Trailer Loading

Soft Feel at Halt

9 StepBack-up

As a bonus task, see how well you remember Pat Parelli's 41 P's!

"Pat Parelli proudly presents his programs and the proclamation that prior and proper preparation prevents P-poor performance particularly if polite and passive persistence is practiced in the proper position. This perspective takes patience, from process to product, from principle to purpose. The promise that Pat plans to prove is that practice does not make perfect, only perfect practice makes perfect, and it is peculiar how prey animals perceive people as predators and not partners."

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Savvy Times Interview...How cool is that?

Just a quick heads up on what should prove to be a useful, must-read article! I was recently interviewed by Regina Preciado for an article in the Savvy Times. Be looking for Lola and I in your August 2010 Issue (among several others interviewed for the article). We will be talking about our viewpoints on how to share our love of and the knowledge of Parelli Natural Horsemanship with newbies, normals, and quizzical on-lookers based on some wonderful questions posed by Regina! How cool is that?

So, what do you do when you are around non PNHrs? :)

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Weekly Task Challenge: So You're at Level %$#, Now What?

If you don't know what to do, have little time, or just feeling stuck, try the weekly task as a way to at least do something with your horse! (It just may motivate you to do more.)

So, you are at Level %$#, now what? No matter if you are officially assessing or unofficially assessing, you need to have a goal. Is your goal to move through the levels, compete in a sport, go to a fun show? This week's task is to assess where you are at and make a plan to move forward! What will it take to get you to the next level (or savvy)? What do you need to work on with your horse and what do you need to work on yourself? Check out the self-assessment criteria on the Savvy Club Website and run through the checklist. If you want to go to a show or perform in a sport, check out any criteria in addition to your savvy that may need attention. Then, make a list of action items for yourself with dates attached. Be sure your goals are specific and clear. If you don't set a deadline, things never get done! Consider following the SMART technique.

■ S = Specific
■ M = Measurable
■ A = Attainable
■ R = Realistic
■ T = Timely

Have fun, be realistic, and move forward! The summer is too short to do nothing! :)

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Moving Up and Moving Forward

On the horse front...

Nothing much going on at all. I have found myself very busy with anything but the horses, I am not riding, did play a little the other day, but overall, stagnant. My horse trailer is also temporarily out of commission (it is full of wood to build our new wood shed and there is a brake issue to be fixed--probably on the truck side), the weather has also been very hot and buggy lately---just another couple of excuses, I know...

Luckily, my friend Clare is coming up from Virginia to visit me (she arrives on Friday) and is planning to force me to spend time with the horses and leave everything else aside...no work, just fun! So, this jump start with her will get me back into the groove and much of what was interfering is now complete so, in actuality, I will have much more time to spend with them. After June 21st some local horse friends (previous members of the NCPPG) want to get together, possibly weekly to ride. I think I'll be available and more able to join them. This week, I have hooves to trim, hay to get in, and a barn to clean (maybe that should read tonight, not this week).

On the fitness front...

OKAY...what is the saying...'Fish or cut bait?' Well, with the prompting of my colleague yesterday at CU, the same person who got me into the C25K program, I've registered for my first 5K race! It is on July 8th and is called the Tour de Potsdam. It is sponsored by St. Lawrence County as a health initiative event. I registered for the race and hope to run it all but, plan to walk/run if need be. I am excited, nervous, and scared! I don't want to look like a fool or make a spectacle of myself! But, I am committed (or should be). LOL Wish me luck! (I am working on week 2 of C25K...should be on week 3 but last week, I missed all exercise--oye! However, I still think I can do it.)

This Saturday, I am walking in a 5K Walk Challenge with my Weight Watchers Group. Two of us started this event and have been doing 5K walk practice for the past 5 weeks and the walk is no problem for us (never was)--actually enjoyable and I suspect we will continue the walk after meeting ritual throughout the summer and fall. We truly support and motivate each other and, it is a great way to get in your activity! I suspect that for the event, it will be three of us from WW (one other woman signed up) and Clare on the "official" walk which is totally unofficial and just through town, no signs, no numbers, just WW walkers. I think that I may pick up a few goodies at the Dollar Store for the walkers, just for fun.

On the weight loss front...

I've lost 40.4 pounds since my last weigh in on May 29th, only 11.6lbs to go and it will be a 20% weight loss celebration! I am a long way from goal but getting closer every week! :)