About Me

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

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Earning leadership currency with Lola

"A chain is only as strong as its weakest link." –Author Unknown

Not sure I like the title of this post (I had a really good one in the car when I was thinking about the post but it disappeared). Anyhow, I wanted to take a few minutes to talk about what to me, was a huge step with my relationship with Lola and a few realizations about my horsemanship.

As you all are aware, I have a full-time career and don't always have enough time with the horses despite them living here. Additionally, I've been on the road to physical fitness losing quite a lot of weight since January (and working to lose much more) which certainly has been a positive aspect not only in my life but to my horsemanship. Losing the weight and being more fit due to extreme amounts of regular exercise has made me feel confident and athletic, like in the old days (sometimes I think I'm a kid again, fearless and ready to take on the world).

Anyhow, that all aside, here I have this lovely mare, Lola and I've not quite tackled leadership while mounted (making her believe it and feeling comfortable that I am safe without question). So why is this the case? I think it stems, of course, with me. Her previous owner said to me (and she is a Parelli person like myself) that with Lola, you, "need to get the buck out and then she is fine." Well, language means a lot to me and the term buck was not welcomed. It made me worry I think and this surely translated into my mounted interactions. On the ground, she can be quite a pistol and a defiant, fun critter! The problem is, I think it (the buck notion) has been stunting our progress (even though seeing her buck on the ground was laughable and certainly looks rideable). I was continually making sure I officially played with her before mounting and triple checking at the mounting block and this could mean no Lola horse time if I only had, for instance, 10 minutes available.

Well, the other day, after doing a major evaluation of my life as a whole and trying to get myself totally on track with all aspects (horses, career, exercise, Weight Watchers, etc.). I recently had a meltdown due to extreme stress, lol and wanted to run away! And, as part of this, I felt like my horses were falling by the wayside. I was probably just on overload but, it was hitting home, hard.

Back to the horses, frankly, I miss them! So, I decided that I needed to trust in our relationship [Lola's and mine] and forget about that "buck" comment and just go spend some time with her. Why was I letting someone else's terminology or ideas influence me and make me feel so worried when I am an excellent horsewoman (not a novice)? Was it an excuse or something real? Remember, only you can let people make you feel a certain way if you let them, you control how you feel, act, and think. (And, this is in all aspects of your life...never let the negativity in, it is poison.)

And, so, this week (and my week starts on a Saturday by nature of my Weight Watchers meeting), I planned everything out, on paper. My work obligations, horse time, meals, exercise, you name it, I planned it and wrote it down to ensure that it would happen. When horse time came, I changed tactics and treated her [Lola] just like the boys [Fosse and Whiskey]. If I had time to officially play first (on the ground) I would and if not, I would politely mount, bareback, just a halter and lead, and practice chilling out on her, sitting, waiting, letting her graze, petting the boys (because you know they were checking us out), then directing her to go around the arena area, over logs, around trees, disengagement of hindquarters, and flexion. Yesterday I decided that we were going to walk between these two huge trees that provide a wonderful squeeze opportunity. Fosse was standing in between them (oh, I guess I should mention, I am riding Lola and Fosse and Whiskey are loose in the area with us). Anyhow, several times, Lola and I went up to him but she was reluctant to move him back as we proceeded forward and he was not moving for her. To solve this puzzle and help Lola, as well as assert my leadership with both horses, I held part of the rope in my right hand (the Lola side) and used my left hand to take the bulk of the rope to drive Fosse backwards. (I love riding with a halter and leadline, one reined...it is fun! He immediately knew his game was up and that his position was about to change, and moved backwards, with impulsion, completely out of our way as requested, at liberty. Lola turned her head, looked at me as if to say wow, we can do that? Then walked forward through the trees (I swear she was smiling). Then, she initiated driving him around a bit more and I agreed, he was not pleased but complied, LOL. I believe that this exercise really bought me a lot of currency with her as the leader. I also believe me letting go and just trusting our relationship has bought me a lot of currency with myself and my confidence in our relationship.

Tonight, I mounted her having only a few minutes so again, no tack. At one point I dropped the rope and was for all intents and purposes, riding without benefit of anything and felt totally secure (I did retrieve the rope though). Anyhow, a few times she tried to test my leadership but, I persisted (I wanted disengagement of hindquarters and pivot turns). She did what I asked and I really felt that although I had to up the phases a little, it was all really good and I was really the leader in our herd of two. We ended on a good note (and everyone got watermelon and apples). (By the way, she offered to go between the trees several times tonight despite Fosse hanging around.)

So, maybe not Earth shattering but, a reminder that everything we do takes time, trust, and creativity. Once I decided to trust in myself and not listen to others, decided to trust my horse, and of course, set us up for success, it all worked. I see only huge success in the future, we truly broke through a barrier.


PeterC said...

Excellent story, makes me itchy to get up on Cayleigh's back.

Work has eliminated some of the time I've been spending with the horses. Of course that means I need to do just what you did to get back on track, again....


Michelle AKA arabhorselover1 said...

Thanks, Peter. I totally understand, as you can see, not having enough time. I've decided if I only have a few minutes, so be it but, I'll make the best of them. :)

horsegirlonajourney.com said...

I commented on your more recent post before seeing this one, and now I see that you do all that you do the same way I do all that I do -- by melting down once in a while. LOL

I remember having the epiphany this year that I wanted Rocky to trust me but I wasn't trusting him. I was afraid to get on him because I thought it might hurt his feet (he has "physical issues") or his back or whatever. Finally it hit me that I had to trust that he would let me know at a phase 1, and then a phase 2, if he was hurting and needed me to dismount. And that I have progressed enough in horsemanship to hear and understand his phase 2 even if I miss the phase 1, so he'd never have to get to a phase 3 (hump up back, small bites at my feet), much less a phase 4 (buck me off).

Once I accepted this and began mounting more often, I discovered that when he's too sore to be ridden, he swings his haunches away from the fence or mounting block.

These days, if he swings away, I bring him back a time or two and give us both practice in patience and being still, but I don't mount. Most of the time, he lines himself up and waits for me to board.

Mutual trust. Go figure.

Michelle AKA arabhorselover1 said...

We are so alike and have had similiar experiences. Thank you for sharing with me! It makes me feel like I am on the same and correct path! :)