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

Monday, June 14, 2010

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


Kerrin Koetsier said...

Great post!

Its interesting that undemanding time is a lot broader than sitting around with your horse for hours and hours! Its about making the most of the 5 minutes here are there, and putting the relationship first.

Kerrin Koetsier
Parelli Central

Michelle AKA arabhorselover1 said...

I totally agree, Kerrin! - especially about putting the relationship first. Thanks for reading and posting. :)