Monday, August 30, 2010

Appreciate the small stuff

(just noticed this was unfinished in the drafts, so its a bit more hindsight perspective lol! but still important)

We got two new horses boarding here. Very traditionally trained, rather large, ridden English and used to show jumping. One is the spittin image of Remmer, built just like him, same color, pretty similar horsenality! He seems more LBE though. His buddy is a LBI Appaloosa. They are 23 and 30, but they don't look OR act it! They are so sweet and cute. But since getting my own place I've only dealt with my own Parelli horses, and my friend's gelding to whom I have full creative licence to play with lol.

We left them in the arena all night together until we could get the pasture fixed. The first morning after, I had to bring them into the barn to give them their breakfast before rotating them to the other pasture. By myself. My friend had helped me all weekend. I can't take one at a time out of the arena, because they are sooo attached to each other that they go totally right brain, and the 23 year old freaks out and screams. Whether there is a person connected to him or not. (1 month later, 23 year old still acts like this, he has separation issues haha.) The 30 year old isn't as worried, but he has next to no respect for my space and will shamelessly barge right past me to get somewhere. So that morning...

I haltered the older one first, shoved my way past him, and haltered the other one. He's prefected the art of using his head as a weapon, and it took me a few tries of blocking to not move my feet. Finally got the halters one them, now to get them both through the gate separately. They had other ideas. I opened the gate as far as the sand would allow, and tried to send one out. Riiiiight, normal horses don't get being sent. They both went the other direction. Just dandy. Take two. I walk out with one next to me, hoping the other would stay behind. Nooooope. They both were quite convinced that the world would crumble if they couldn't come out at the same exact moment in time. I I got sandwiched between two big horsey shoulders and scrambled to keep up with them. There's about 50 feet between the barn and the arena. It took me an embarrassing amount of time to take them just into the barn. They were ripping me in two directions as they each tried grass diving in opposite ways. Then one would get too far away, and the other would freak out and jump on top of me again. Finally we got in the barn. I tried to send one into his stall. Right, that doesn't work. Okay maybe I'll tie one up and come back to it.... 5 feet away and they both go right brained, brilliant. Ugh! So I decide to shut the one barn door that I can reach, let the 30 year old stand there, and escort the other into his stall. The moment he gets all the way in his stall, he feaks out, screams for his buddy, and dart right back out the door! Just as I'm wondering how many repititions of approach and retreat this will take, I turn around to see the 30 year old waltzing right out the barn!!! GAHHH!!!! The one I'm holding absolutely loses it, and it takes my whole body strength to back him up off of me to relieve my squashed self from between the door and him. Yeah, that was fun. Slam the door, leave him there dragging his rope, chasing after the other one "HORSIEEEEEE, please come baccckkkk!!!!!!!!!!!!!" Comedy of errors! I just need a video camera following me, I could be tv hit lol! So I cought him, dragged his reluctant butt back inside, and showed him his room. I had to remove the other one's halter while he was eating his grain so he would hold still.

I escaped with only minor bruising, a sore foot, and strained something or other lol. And a new appreciation for all that Parelli has done for the smallest things with my horses. I can lead 5 minis at the same time perfectly fine from the arena to their barn, send each one under my arm between me and the gate I'm holding, separately, and they are perfect little angels. They respect my space when I'm haltering another horse, and they each happily put their noses in the halter for me. And even though they live together, I can take any one of them out and tehy behave just fine. +3 points for the squeeze game, it really does make life easier! Oh, and the porcupine game, if they accidentally step on my foot or I've had a savvy bypass and cornered myself somewhere, the slightest reminder gets them away... as opposed to having to go all sumo wrestler jedi on them lol!

Some people will argue that there's no diffference between a "parelli horse" and a traditional one, as they all understand the same langueage. I beg to differ only because... although they will all understand savvy... Parelli horses are used to being handled naturally, and responding as such. Traditionals, in varying degress, are not. The next day, just because I could, I played with Mesa with just a bale string. Got her out of her stall, she stood perfectly in the barn aisle. I brushed her, fly sprayed her, cleaned her feet, cleaned her eyes, and she stood there while I was darting in and out of the tackroom for different thigs. Then she followed me just like that into the arena. I read in one of the Savvy Times' something Linda experienced with the Savvy Team while on tour. She was asking them if they could do anything really cool or interesting with their horse. Nobody seemed to think so. She asked... can anyone back their horse by the tail? They said of course they could do that. What about mounting from the ground bareback? They nodded. She had to remind them how COOL that is, and how many people can't do that!! Sometimes we do get too critical I think, on trying to do fancy things. But really, the small things that slowly integrate into our daily lives are so important. I love my Parelli horses. <3

Friday, August 27, 2010

Popsicles and carrots

It is HOT!!! It's fun to stay cool in the barn with the horses though!

Yesterday I got on Xena with my friend's saddle. It actually fits her rather well, so I'll borrow it till I get the shimming on mine figured out. We warmed up hard so we could ride soft. Even though it was hot. We played with a plastic bag, which I tied to the end of the savvy string. She hasn't seen one of those in a while. She was skeptical at first, but lots of approach and retreat later and I played extreme friendly game with it! She let me swing it above her head and over her back into the saddle. :D I got on and for the first time asked for some steering while playing point to point with carrots on buckets. She was.... well she was a little sticky. I wasn't surprised though. Turning before she was mine never was her strong point. But we've done loads of porcupine and following a feel on other parts of her body.... tail, legs, neck, etc. Just not from on top of zone 3. Insert proverbial to-do list!

I had two buckets out there, and a pocket of carrots. And for those of you who read how I nearly lost my finger from feeding her a carrot in April, I still don't feed her from on top of her. So I was chucking carrots on to the buckets hoping that she'd find them. She got most of them. Her back up was still incredibly light, so I stopped her by lifting my one rein after she had eaten all the carrots to be found. She enjoyed that game for a while. Then we both got a little too hot so I brought her back into the barn.

She wasn't perfectly light on the lateral flexion rein, so after this ride I decided that because sh'es so good with her driving game, I'd start riding her with the carrot stick to back up my ideas.

The rest of the day I gave her some carrots in the barn aisle while I sat on her back and ate popsicles to cool off. It was a pretty nice bonding experience.

Thursday, August 26, 2010


Dad called the Parelli office yesterday. WE'RE SENDING IN MY FAST TRACK APPLICATION TOMORROW!!!!!!!

We weren't sure if the flex pay option had to be 4 months in a row, or if you could pay whenever, and they said whenever you're ready as long as it's payed in full 30 days prior to start of class. How exciting!

Pictures came in the mail of the new horse! It's so funny how these things work out ya know, these gift horses. And not knowing what she looked like before agreeing to take her. I think I lucked out and got one good trail horse here! I'll be able to go exploring with her before having to teach Xena the ropes.




Her sire is a Doc O'lena grandson. She's so pretty!! She gets here next Friday, I won't sleep for a week!!!

Oh speaking of riding Xena, I got on her the other day and after a short passenger ride, gave her my first attempt at any communcation from on top of zone 3... I asked her to back up. She responded at phase 1!!! I asked a few more times, and just by slightly lifting my pinky finger, she backed right up for me. What a sensitive horse. She really is my perfect partner! I can just tell, if I take the time at takes she'll be the perfect calm, curious, sensitive, dignified partner for me. And now with the new girl on the way, I don't need to rush it.

Bouncing off the walls!! Life is just too exciting!

Monday, August 23, 2010

Importance of details

Just got back in from another breakthrough session with Xena!

She teaches me something new every day. I love her so much!!
It was raining all day today, up until about 7. Nasty rain with thunder too, not the kind you go outside to play in. So I was stuck inside most of the day, answering every topic on the SC forum and looking at some Quarter Horse pics, trying to look up the new mare's lineage. (Wait, new horse!?! Bottom half of my last post, there's a story!) It's such an exciting feeling, you know that bounce of the walls anticipation! Hard to get anything done anyway. So I was looking through the SC vault videos for direction on what to do with Xena first. I've seen every single one of them on there, many multiple times. But there's always things I forget, so even the fifth time they are still fascinating lol!
The one that took me a few views to sink in was actually a seemingly simple tv episode called "Go Get Your Horse." It was centered on respecting thresholds, and not just taking your horse from a to b. Which, in a stalling situation, I can get pretty bad about. Side note: the next project is getting the back pasture living-safe with a shelter so the big horses can stay out there all the time; confinement sucks. I have/had a bad habit of just haltering the horse and dragging it out, there wasn't much communication/catching game to do in a stall right? Or so I thought. ;) Tonight it hit me when I went out to put Xena in the round pen - planning to leave her there and let her entertain herself while I went back inside - but her head was out her back window, her butt towards me, and she didn't come over when I called. How interesting! Outside was more interesting than me, how to fix that? Okay I'll stand here with the door open for a while. No response. *Close door, run into tackroom, return* ...Correction, I'll stand here with a cookie! So I held my cookie hand out and she did a bit of a double take and then came over. She ate the cookie quite happily, and when I went to halter her she put her nose in it. YES i did the right thing!

I took her to the round pen after some grazing detours. She still had a RBI unconfident expression, so I didn't want to leave her and abandon her with her fears. Played all the games online, trying to keep her attention and focus and get her to think down to her feet. I really love when she's more RBI because I understand her thought process so much better, and when her emotional changes happen it means a lot to me. So I took the line off when she asked a question going over the pole, rather than blindly bursting through it, and she stopped with one leg over it. I had some cookies in my pocket so I played some more with getting her used to noises she can't see outside of our solid round pen. I banged on the side with a stick, only up to the point that she froze, but not explode. Then I made myself visible, and when she came over I gave her the cookie. I did this first on either side of the gate, then made my way around it like I have been doing on this pattern. It's been helping so much, she rarely cares about noises she can't see anymore. Once I ran out of cookies, I went to go back into the barn and clean up before puttin her back. I looked back out the barn door and saw her doing something she'd never done before - she was walking around the edge, eating the tops of some branches that had grown over the side of the round pen! It wasn't that she had been particularly scared of the round pen walls, but now she knew she could reach over them and investigate and get food, she was munching away.

It shows how she's not an innately curious horse. She is usually just kind of complacent within her environment. The wallflower. But thanks to Parelli, I can inspire that confidence and curiousity in her, to where she can feel like she can explore even when I'm not around. Like the Katie Drake song goes, "With my hand in yours I can take on the world." Since she has both LBI and RBI days... and is pretty food motivated when she is comfortable enough to take food, my next plan of approach is to routinely take her into new and trying situations, and give her cookies any time she chooses staying LB, and getting curious, over having a RB moment. If I use her LBI side to my advantage and reward her being brave, I'm gonna have one confident horse!

New Quarter Horse gets here in 10 days. Oh boy oh boy! Another partnership in the making.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Insane weekend! Addition!!

Okay so if I wasn't so tired that I probably look narcoleptic right now, I would think I'm lucid dreaming and need to wake up.

Enjoying level 3 liberty with Xena. She is so smart! On friday, I played with Ghost and some zone 5 driving. I read Linda's "Ambassador of Yes" article and it was SOO inspiring. I took Ghost's ideas wherever she wanted to take them, and we ended up doing some finesse type stuff from the long lines! She loves sideways and halfpassing, this time she offered completely on her own to go sideways over a log with me in zone 5. It was really one of our greatest play sessions ever. Ghost looks SO good right now, shiney, slick, calm, confident. I'm just going to tape my audition this weekend while she looks so amazing, and if it takes me months to figure out how to upload it, then so be it!!! LOL! I'd love to get assessed before I turn 18 though, sheesh its been long enough.

Saturday, had a fun time at the shelter I volunteer at. It's right next to a fairgrounds that holds lots of horseshows. As I was walking the dogs, I was being a fly on the wall into the trailer/warm-up area, like I tend to do. I can pick out the good, the bad, and the ugly of the way people handle their show horses. This weekend, I don't know what was going on, but every single person there except 1 had a rope halter on. One girl as I walked by, I noticed had her horse outfitted in a parelli halter and rope. I watched as she played each of the seven games with him, changed direction on the circles to get his focus, stopped when he got left brain, and made sure he was calm before he got on. It made me SOOO happy to see that... as opposed to the lounging with whips and chains that usually takes place there. It gave me hope for the future, maybe we really can change the world. Wait, no. Maybe we really ARE changing it!!!! :D

Today, I don't even know where to start. I can hardly keep my eyes open. Got up at some ungodly hour to go to the shelter. Had an awesome time spying both at the horse show and a dog behavior class. I just love working with the problem dogs there. Anything for a cookie! Came home, played with Mesa and my friend's gelding. Then I get a basically life changing phone call. Not the first time I have gotten one of these, but I certainly didn't expect anything to become of it.

Well.... my family from Iowa called, dad's cousins, too tired to know what that makes them to me. They have been big into horses since before I was born I'm sure. I used to love to go riding at their ranch when I was little, before I even got Mesa (she was my first). I have pics of me in 5th grade going through a parade with them. They brought their horses out to CO this year to go riding/camping actually. Anyway, they are gettin older and started downsizing their horsey involvement. Earlier this year she fell off a horse, and had a concussion, which nobody wants to get, let alone at their age. So after some speculation, they are getting out of horses 100%. Said its time to enjoy retirement. When they came out earlier, they just loved our barn and our facilities. So in case you couldn't tell where this exposition was going, the phone call I got this morning was that they want me to have the one horse they have left. They love her and just want her to go to a good home, and boy is that ever an offer I can't refuse!! It's how I got the last 2 minis we got, my dog, and of course Xena!

She's a solid bay, 7 year old papered AQHA mare. She's one they trailered out to go riding in the mountains this year. She's perfectly trained, SOUND, young, well bred, experienced trail horse. You know it's funny, I never thought I'd own an already perfect plain brown quarter horse. But right now, with so many projects and animals with baggage (physical or mental), she's actually exactly what I need right now. I need to keep myself in riding shape, with a horse who I don't have to worry about sane or soundness with. She couldn't have come at a better time... this way I can explore trails, get my confidence back in the saddle, but not have to pressure Xena into being that perfect trail horse yet. I've been doing bareback passenger lessons with her and she's doing great, but now I can quit giving myself a headahce over "I have 8 horses in the barn and can't ride!!!!" (For those that don't know, 6 are minis cuz minis are addictive lol.) OH and best part, she'll be here a week from Friday. :D :D :D

Xena is of course still my main girl, and the one I'll be taking to Fast Track (fingers crossed it works out) next year. But the assurance of a good calm, YOUNG AND SOUND trail horse takes all the pressure out of Xena's timeline. Now I can take the time it takes to get her good and confident in riding so she'll have a perfect foundation for next year. Yahoo!!!!!!

Okay I'm sure I have more thoughts on this but I'm going to go sleep for 4 days now. Good night everyone! Hug your horses!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Bursting at the seams!

Wow was yesterday ever the best day!

So I'll admit I had been feeling STUCKER than STUCK with Xena these past few weeks. Knowing that I won't be able to do much this winter when we're inevitable snowed in without an indoor arena. And even now I've been focusing on present-day limitations: our fences suck. The round pen is the only place I can play with her that she won't jump the fence just because she can. Our footing in the round pen and arena is COVERED in goat heads (terrible little stickers with sharp spines ALL around them, when picked up by hands will rip up your skin), and it makes rope savvy absolutely IMPOSSIBLE!!!! You try being athletic with a rope that has 5 goat heads per square inch. And then every other place on our property is grass grass grass. Xena loves grass. Not easy to play with her on it. Then there was the big scary subject of riding.... which I feel comfortable doing with her, but didn't really know how to go about it with her. Oh and then there's the fact that our place is occupied by some BIG DOGGIES that are suspected coyote-wolf hybrids, that live behind the round pen. So all playing must be done before they come out at sunset. That's hardly enough time to do chores let alone enjoy the horses. Anyway....

Yesterday my friend who is going to college at CSU came to visit me and talked me into going trail riding with her near Estes Park. Usually I don't like taking that much time away from our place with so much work to do. But I agreed, figuring I needed to get back in the saddle on something calm like a rental trail horse. Considering this time last year I was galloping windy nearly vertical slopes on an OTTB, and had only plodded around bareback since, I needed it!!!

The drive up there was absolutely stunning. It looked just like Pat's place in Pagosa Springs. BOY OH BOY I can't wait till next summer. The horse I was assigned was absolutely perfect for me - a short, fat, little dark buckskin that reminded me of Xena. Even a little shorter than her. Her name was Cisco, which I found absolutely perfect because it's the name of the buckskin from my favorite movie Dances With Wolves, and I've always wanted a buckskin named Cisco. I'm thinking years in the future when Xena is L4+ I'll get a BLM buckskin gelding and that's what I'll name him. My friend got a spunky little Arab. She likes spunk.

Our ride was up and down steeeep mountains, by beautiful lakes, and through the forest. The trail was just narrow enough for one horse, and 90% of it was rocky terrain. Sometimes huge bouldrs blocking most of the path, sometimes just smaller stones, and other times huge flat rocks going up/down the hill just like a staircase, where the horse had to navigate exactly where to place her feet. I had never ridden anything other than the smooth manicured trails of L.A., so I really had no idea what to do. I gave Cisco a loose rein, sat in passenger position, and let her figure it out herself. I thought... you know, this is a smart animal that knows her job, she's going to know where to place her feet better than I do. And, being able to tell she was a Left Brain Introvert, I knew that she'd pick the path of least resistance wherever possible, as opposed to the Arab behind us that was enjoying playing with trees we passed and I heard slip multiple times.

Even through the tight up and down rocky slopes, I was confident in giving Cisco literally 100% responsibilty for carrying me where we needed to go. It was such an AWESOME feeling, being carried up the rock steps by a calm, confident, willing horse that new her pattern. The entire last half of the trail I was speculating on how honestly, this ride gave me the push I needed to find with Xena. And the others, too, actually. RESPONSIBILITY!!!!! Even though that's a key of PNH I try so hard to focus on... there was this traditionally trained horse taking full responsibilty for her every move. I noticed how much I've been mocromanaging my horses while trying to teach them to act like Cisco. I think when I played with them, I knew in the back of my mind that they wouldn't maintin that gait, or keep that direction, or look where they were going, or stay on the circle. I had truly lost my neutral while trying to improve it! After that ride, I think I have a new inderstanding of the "Trust that they'll respond" part rather than just being "ready to correct."

When the ride was over, and I was probably so introverted in thought that I looked catatonic, I got off of little Cisco and thanked her for being such a good horse, and showing me what I want for Xena to be. I haven't known where to keep going with her, I was really stabbing in the dark. Now I have a clear image of the partner I know she can be, and I'm just bursting at the seams with inspiration! My new goal is for Xena to have that degree of responsibility, for her to be that solid of a partner, to where maybe next summer I can trailer her up to some trails and be confident exploring the Colorado mountains with her. While my friend was talking to the guide, I was staring at the rest of the horses in the pens. They were all so colorful, and pretty, and I loved watching them play and interact with each other, trying to see if I could guess a horsenality. I haven't been around that many big horses (owner of 6 minis here remember lol) in quite a long time. Friend came over and was pointing out conformation flaws of this and that horse, guessing at the mixed breeds' lineage, contemplating genetics. I just looked at every single one and thought... Oh what a beautiful horse! I love them all. Breeds, colors, age, sizes, horsenalities. I'll need a thousand acre ranch one day, because I just love every single horse I see, I want one of everything!!! For now I've just got a Bryer collection of every breed/color imaginable in my room. Hey we're all entitled to be 4 years old on the inside, right? :P
Overall it was a wonderful experience to keep me on track with my goals of being a Parelli Professional, and awaken that serious love of all things equine that my roadblocks had been hiding from me.

As soon as I got back home, I took Xena to the round pen for some liberty. Focusing on RESPONSIBILTY! For the first time ever, I got one full lap of calm, cool, collected canter from her, without getting all emotional. She was asking tons of questions! And a bunch of trot laps, with me totally neutral. AND an exhuberant, happy trot draw! And best of all, when it started getting dark and I disengaged her to bring her in, she threw in a few playful bucks in on her way to me, and came to me with her ears forward. This was huge for her RBI self. I couldn't be happier! I just LOVE my horse!

:) Savvy on everyone! And hug your horses for me!

Thursday, August 5, 2010

2 new successful rides!

One with Xena, one with Charm!
So yesterday, I had Charm ground drive a little, played some maintaining gait games in the round pen, then I hitched him up and ground drove him all around with the cart attached. He was doing SO well (okay, once he realized that running into the shafts didn't turn it lol). Once he mastered bending around the turn the proper way, I drove him through the barn aisle, picked up a shavings bag, and chucked it in! He did wonderful with his little passenger, he didn't mind the extra weight at all. Even when it got stuck on some long weeds, he just pivotted out of it and thought his way through it. Now THAT's my prior and proper preparation paying off! I'm so proud of him. Here's the only pic I got yesterday, of his shavings bag passenger. It's somewhat hard to steer a green horse with one hand, take a pic with the other, and make sure you get his face on camera LOL.... but you can see the important stuff.


His voice cues are really awesome! I wasn't sure how he'd take weight in the cart on the breeching with his first downward transition, but I asked him to trot... off he went, said woah, and he slammed on the brakes AND backed up a step like we practiced with me pulling on the breeching. Sure beats a horse that wasn't introduced to it jumping away from it. Been there done that!

Another awesome "first" of today was I got on Xena in the new saddle this morning! She didn't mind at all, and she let me fiddle with shims before I got everything right. We pretty much just grazed and walked around, but it was fun. Nice to know I have something that fits her.

Got lots more horseys to play with before I'm outta daylight!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Look who's driving!

This is Charm, my 31" tall mini boy. He turned 4 this year and met the harness. He has been doing amazingly well!! We've been playing with lots of prep work, standing still, zone 5 driving, voice cues, friendly game with the cart, and pushin into the traces.

Today he pulled it around the outside of the round pen, around the barn, and to the front pasture. At first he was confused that he could push into the shafts to move it, but before I hitched him, I connected him to a drag I made of 2 carrot sticks and some small wood pieces, he got the concept much quicker.

Tomorrow our next step is to start adding weight to the cart, and then me getting in!!