Winston Churchill

"There is something about the outside of a horse that is good for the inside of a man"

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Celebrating Life

I wrote this blog after Westy passed away, on my birthday!

This is a very personal story, which I seldom share but over the last year or so, the Parelli community has become my extended cyber family.
Like most people of my generation, I was brought up on fairy tales with happy ending and a belief that life was fair and if you were a good person, you would be immune to disasters and tragedy. Looking back, I can’t quite believe that I had such a na├»ve worldview, but there you go!
After 30 years of blissful ignorance tragedy struck my family twice. We lost 2 sons in 2 years and my world fell apart. My reaction was, why me? It’s not fair!
It was a slow climb back from the abyss of depression and despair. I just didn’t know how to be happy anymore. Whenever the phone rang I expected tragedy, whenever one of the children had a cold I thought it might be leukaemia. I was totally paralysed by fear.  Eventually, I learnt to live again, to smile and laugh but I was never truly engaged in the moment. In my search for peace, I read the great philosophers, looked into Buddhism, meditation, yoga…By then, I knew what I needed, I needed to be able to live in the moment instead of always worrying about what might happen. Sounds pretty easy!
Now, I bet you have all guess where all this is leading us! This particular garden path had a horse paddock tucked at end.  When I discovered Parelli, I saw immediately a brilliant way to be with horses.  As a LBE cusp RBE, I threw myself heart and soul in the program, bought my first horse, studied every night, determined to become if not a great horsewoman, at least a good one.
Little did I know that the answer I had been seeking for the last 15 years was just in front of me in the form of the most honest magnificent creature: The Horse.  Parelli principle number 7: “Horses teach humans, and humans teach horses” and so my horses have taught me to what no yoga teacher or meditation guru could, to live in the moment and enjoy the gift of life. They have heal my soul!
So, even when sad things happen, let’s not loose sight of how truly and incredibly fortunate we are, as individual and as a community, to have horses in our lives and to have each other for support.
I want to dedicate this blog to Pat and Linda Parelli who share so much of themselves, endlessly and patiently teach us and have made this incredible journey possible.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Level 3/4 Clinic with Rob McAuliffe DAY 4

Thoughts of the day:  
  1. Can't do too much friendly. Take it to another level.
  2. Get to your horses' mind. Where their mind is, their feel will follow. 
  3. Pay attention to what you can do: for instance don't go saying my horse can't do 8 circles. Say instead, my horse can do 2 circles, how can I help him build on this.
  4. Once you start riding in a bridle, ride in a bridle even free style to teach your horse self carriage. 
  5. When you stand still, sitting on your horse, you are doing nothing else that follow the rail at a stand still. If you feel your horse's mind going somewhere else like to the grass, do something before it's gone. Like shift your weight or ask for 1 step back. Pat does it all the time when he sit on his horse talking. Hanging out like this in the saddle is good for the relationship.
I can't expect my horse's mind to be with me I my mind is not with him! This should be second nature and applied to everything not just when we are playing. As my horse's leader, he is my responsibility so I need to be aware of what's going on at all time. That's what Pat means when he says: " think like a horse". I need to be as aware as a horse would be. Again it comes to getting their mind. Do what it takes to get that connection going before you do anything with your horse. This may mean to just ask him to back up a few step or disengage his HQ before rugging or  grooming.
Debrief at the end of the day

I applied this in our last online session. Started as soon as we made eye contact and search for the mental connection b4 I groom him. This meant moving him around his yard till he was happy to stand still. This changed the quality of everything we did. When playing online we had a few teenage moments where he said: I can't then I won't so I held his hand (so to speak) and showed him the way to straightness and mental connection. Then we had some lovely moments of softness. Finished the session by teaching Cisco to take the contact when doing 2 reins driving from zone 5. You take the contact with 1 rein to ask your horse to move one of his front feet, on the side where you have taken the contact. Very similar to the game of contact. It took a while for Cisco to understand this concept and not to barge through the pressure.

My big lesson for today is not to stop too soon, and make sure my horse understand the task properly, not just the physical result. 
I need to start building a clear picture in my mind of what I want my horse to do because if I don't understand it then my horse wont' either!

Bottom row: Ashleigh Rowland, Elle Byers, Doll, Christine, Helen Adam, Louise' dog, Me. Top row: Lisa, Sarah Pitcher, Natalie Jones, Jane Bennet, Peter Jones, Louise Attkison, Natalie Warnes, Marylin Souther.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           

Level 3/4 Clinic with Rob McAuliffe DAY 3

Question: Particular versus Critical?
Doesn't mean correct everything necessarily, it depends where your horse is at, what is his horsenality, and whether it's an obedience/dominance issue!
If you know your horse can do a certain task correctly and he chooses to do it badly then don't move onto the next task till you get obedience. Sometime when you insist on getting your horse to do a task well, the rest of the session goes well because he knows you are onto him.
Subtle use of phases

When starting a session: Match your horse energy to start with, then slowly challenge your horse. If you don't challenge your horse both physically, mentally and emotionally then you are not making true progress.
When playing with your horse, keep the flow of energy going, for instance in the turns or the change of direction keep the tempo. If you are in front of your horse movement or behind, then you interrupt the flow and your horse may stop or rush.
Getting the hang of jumping!

Liberty: Better not to start till you are a solid level 3 online or at least, only do what you can do really well online.

If you teach things too soon when your horse is not mentally and emotionally ready and have strong basis you can create real problems. For instance Cisco doing sideway towards all the time! Same goes for teaching spins, backing towards, trotting backward, rearing. Rob has seen a horse that once taught to load in a trailer backward would not load forward!
There is a reason why certain tasks are in level 4 and not 2 and 3. Stick to the program!

The bow tie is a very powerful pattern. Pat uses it often to test a horse whoa and go, his straightness...
  • downward transition at the beginning of the circle
  • Upward transition when exiting the circle and going onto the straight line along the rail. 
  • Start at the walk and trot. 
  • Be careful not to loose the arc of the circle till you are ready to go into an upward transition. This is what will lead to flying lead change.
  • Prepare in your body to ask for a transition just before you actually want it to happen so that you get snappy departures.
  • You must have good circles first. If your horse think of leaving the circle go into a spiral inwards then go back out in a outward spiral. It's a pattern within a pattern. Study the pattern booklet!

Key points for today:
RAPPORT, RESPECT, IMPULSION, FLEXION: for each level you need to take each of those to a new level
CONFIDENCE, UNDERSTANDING, ACCEPTANCE, RESULTS. This is the learning process for a horse in this order. If you horse has confidence issue you must continue with the task till at least the beginning of understanding. It's knowing when to quit. Too soon and learning does not take place, Too late and you have pushed your horse over the edge. Learn to operate close to the fulcrum point. The more experience you become the closer to the tipping point you are able to play at. 

Monday, August 22, 2011

Level 3/4 Clinic with Rob McAuliffe DAY 2

 Saturday 13th August

What is the difference between direct line thinking and focus? .....Flexibility! 

It's important to build on the positive so always finish a session on a good note and start the next session where you left the day before.
Start and finish on the pattern. So for instance if you are going to play in the arena, don't fart around, go straight to the rail. Then when you have finish soak up on the rail, just hang there for a while.
What a beautiful bum! Cisco's off course!

                      Simulation for day 2:

Circle with change of direction:
 When your horse pass y our shoulder, turn in the direction of the movement and adjust your belly button so that it is just behind your horse in z5. If you want to do a change of direction at 12 o clock on the circle, start drawing at 11 o'clock. When your horse thinks forward towards you then re send in the other direction. Start at the walk.
Falling leaf:
At the walk and stationary. Disengage just b4 9 o'clock and 3 o' clock, pause, then send in the other direction.  Once this pattern is establish, do it at the walk, walking in a straight line.

Reflection of day 2:
I learn where to put my weight when doing HQ disengagement. On the fore leg that is going to pivot!
When you pick up your reins, even in a hackamore, use the same as on line: Feel for, feel with, feel together.

Key point: You can't do too much follow the rail. USE THE RAIL TO BE YOUR HANDS SO THAT YOUR HANDS CAN BECOME THE RAIL! 

Level 3/4 Clinic with Rob McAuliffe DAY 1

This is the notes from the clinic. Mostly valuable for me but might be useful for others.
Thursday 11th. Settling in.

Friday 12th of August:
Rob McAuliffe 4* instructor
Louise Atkinson 3* instructor
Marylin Southern 1* instructor
Natalie Warnes 1* instructor
Ashleigh Rowland (Esperance)
Elle Byer
Helen Adam
Peter and Nat Jones
Doll (from South Africa)
Sarah Pitcher
Lisa (Polo cross)
Christine (Lake Grace)

                                   Session 1: Review of the 7 Games 

key point: In level 3/4 use subtle phase.
  • Phase 1 is mental connection. Have a clear picture in your mind of what you  are asking your horse. INTENT ( Phase 1 is never driving)
  • Phase 2: Life up
                                               THE SUPPORTING GAMES
Game 1: Friendly- Confidence Game, at the standstill and in motion.
What affects a horse confidence:
  • Innate Characteristics 
  • Learn behaviour
  • Environment
  • Spirit
Everything should be done with the Friendly in mind.

Game 2: Porcupine. It's a teaching game. Horse gain understanding. Most underused
  • Follow a feel
  • Yield to pressure
  • Steady pressure
  • Mental game. (mental, emotional and physical)
Game 3: Driving. Rhythmic pressure. Overused
  • Yield From Pressure
  • Phase 1 is never driving, rhythmic pressure is supporting
  • Not to be used as no 1
                                         THE PURPOSE GAMES
Game 4: yoyo Whoa = Go, Straightness
  • personal space, early yoyo with foals
  • later on used in up and down transition. If problems in saddle with transition, Improve yoyo on the ground!
Game 5: Circles
  • Find rhythm and relaxation
  • Maintain arc in body
  • Anytime you do an arc, even little ie 90 degrees
Game 6: Sideways
  • Help horse think down to their feet. 
  • Mental engagement: Great with extrovert horses
  • Physical engagement: Use of core muscles. 
Game 7: Squeeze. Identify where claustrophobia is coming from. 
  • horses are afraid of shadows because they do not have depth of perception
  • Trailor floors are black, that's why Pat often have saw dust on them, easier for horse.
                                               SIMULATION OF DAY 1: 
Phase 1 is intent. Bring your life up. Give the mother in law look!
Yoyo Game: your horse (human congo horse) should be able to see the difference between "At ease" and "life up"
Exaggerate to start with! Then up your phase quickly if you know that your horse understand.
Bring back. Put a feel on the rope, much like picking the reins for contact.
Practice being sexy with your rope handling!
Take the contact: Feel your horse, Move your weight back and take up the rope, much like a sliding rein. Initially you may need to walk backward, then you should just rock you weight back.
Feel for your horse
Feel with your horse
Feel together.  

Circle game:
  1. The send is a form of porcupine game, you need to take up the contact. Yield your horse forward and open the door, at 4 or 8 o'clock, much like a direct rein. Depending on how much life you pout in your send, should tell your horse how fast to go. In the send you need to extend your bubble to where you want your circle to be. You may need to move your feet to push your horse away. Cause him to find the end of the rope. Use your CS to reinforce at 9 o'clock or 3 o'clock not just behind your horse otherwise is mind will go behind him rather than forward. You want to take your horse mind forward. If he is not arc on the circle then his mind is elsewhere
  2. Allow: Your horse should find the end of the rope, then it's his job to put the belly of the rope on the ground. Use a sliding movement with the rope, don't just drop it! Neutral must be neutral.
  3. Bring back: It's an indirect rein. Look at the HQ but practice taking a feel and doing an indirect rein. Make sure it's the HQ that move most not the FH! 
Key Points:  The most underused game is the porcupine. Must do it more. Mental contact is part of the porcupine game and leads to liberty.

Reflection about Cisco: When Cisco doesn't want to change direction it's a leadership issue.
  • What should I do to cause him to ask more questions? This is what I need to find out. When he is on the circle wait till he ask a question then ask him for a change of direction or a bring back or whatever. Get mental engagement. Get the conversation going and get my leadership up. 
  • need to start paying attention to everything. Everything means something. Cisco is talking to me all the time and basically being subtly dominant by moving his shoulder towards me or shifting sideways when he is meant to be straight.  Kind of like a teenager giving me the finger behind my back! I need to be particular without being critical to let him know that I know what he is up to when he plays his little dominance games!

End of day 1: Ready to crawl in my swag!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Kids workshop, July 2011

Today, I organised a play day for the kids at the riding school. Basically the owner/instructor wants all the kids to learn some Natural Horsemanship and she wants all the ponies to be trained so that they can be ridden in halters. She did some clinics with Pat in the eighties. She is a very knowledgeable lady who has a beautiful way with horses. I told her that I would come and give her a hand every school holiday for a couple of days each time.
We already did a couple of play days last school holiday so today was my third time. I felt a lot more confident and relaxed.
I started with a little talk on the basis of Natural horsemanship then did a demo. The kids did some simulations then a bit of ground work and finish by riding their ponies bare back and learn to bend them to stop.
Today everyone had an awesome day. It was one of the most rewarding things I have done in a long time. The smile on the little 9 years old girl's face when I showed her the pushing passenger position to stay at the sitting trot was priceless.  I helped a teenager girl find connection with her worried RBI. It was so beautiful! When she learnt to slow down and matched his energy, both his and her face softened.  At the end of the workshop I asked all the kids what have they learn. This particular girl said she had learnt how to connect with her horse. From the way she said it and from the chat we had afterwards I knew a fire had been lit! 
The little shred of doubt that lingered in my mind have been lifted. I will become a Parelli Professional and specialize in teaching kids. 

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Up and down, round and round! or a year with Cisco.

I have become very aware that my moods are a mirror of how happy I am with my horsemanship. The days I don't get to see the horses are a little miserable, the days where we have a wonderful connection, I am flying with eagles and the days where things don't gel, I am down!
It's not so much about what we achieve, it's about how we achieve it. How good is our relationship? how strong is our bond,? Am I the best leader I can be for them. The days we walk back to the paddock and they still want to hang around with me when I take their halter off, are the good days!
I remember reading John Baar's blog on Parelli Central: "Are you happy with your horsemanship? " and I guess it's a blog I need to read again and again and remind myself to be a little more gentle on myself.
I often ask myself what do I really want out this Parelli journey? The truth is that I am extremely ambitious: To become as good as Linda! To become a world class horseman! Stephanie Westall or someone like this.
The reason: Not the fame and not money! I want to be able to develop amazing relationship with horses. That connection is totally addictive. Do I want to become a Parelli Professional? Yes, of course.
Yet, I do enjoy the journey immensely. This is new to me. Usually, when I am driven by a goal, I totally forget to enjoy myself. Now it's the opposite. The goal is there but the little steps along the way bring me happiness.
Today, I bought a Lotto ticket. I only do this once a year. Then I thought what would I do if I won? I would do 3 things: I would invest the money and have a big long think. I love my life and I wouldn't want to turn it upside down overnight.  I would give a generous amount to the Parelli foundation. I would definitely aim to get myself to the Parelli Campus for as long as they would have me!
I got my first horse a year ago so it's a good time to do a little summary. I keep thinking I started Parelli in 2008 but I checked today and it was Christmas 2009. I played with a rescue horse for 6 months till she was a relax happy mare and the friend who had rescued her could find her a permanent home. This gave me the confidence to buy a horse. Cisco arrived in my life as a 2 and a half years old, green started, a real baby, on the 14th of July 2010! It was love at first sight. We did our first clinic, a level 2 clinic, with Louise Atkinson in September 2010. Since then, we have progressed to level 3 in the 3 savvys and are pretty much ready to audition. I have also started playing with yet another abused OTTB, Trigger and he has made dramatic changes. From being a tense sweaty mess, he has become a relax confident horse, nearly all the time, who can be ridden out on the trail safely.
So I guess, I should really feel proud of my achievements but the thing is, I'm not!
So what do I have to be unhappy about? When I watch myself on video, whether riding or online, I am nearly always disappointed! They are a few seconds here and there where it's perfect and then it's gone. Perhaps, it's normal, maybe there is no other way to become excellent than to be highly critical. I guess it's hard to remain objective on oneself. I live in Parelli land, at least virtually, thanks to social medias and Parelli Connect so it's seems normal to me to stand up on your horse or ride bridle less. As soon as Cisco and I achieve a new level of understanding and connection, I am ready to move on the next one.
Conclusion: The journey of never ending self improvement is not for the wimps or  the self-indulgent! The search for excellence is fun, exhilarating, rewarding and will take you up and down and round and round!