Participating in a Parelli Demo

by pursuingsavvy on October 22nd, 2012

filed under Levels, Lovey, Parelli, Personal

It’s been a very long time! But rather than attempting to sum up the last several months, I’ll just give a quick update.

On Saturday, I participated in a Parelli demo at the Agribition Center. It was a pretty short demo, only about 25 minutes, but fun nonetheless. I honestly felt afterwards that I shouldn’t have been there, seeing as how I was the participant with the lowest Level. I felt like my mare and I weren’t quite up to snuff, as they say, compared with the other Parelli participants. But I suppose it’s not about comparisons. Overall, though, I had fun spending time with other Parelli students and friends, and having some good quality time with my mare. During the demo, I noticed that her circling wasn’t consistent and as snappy as usual, but perhaps she was getting a bit bored and unmotivated. She was also crowding me a good deal, probably more than normal. But she was under some unusual stress, and was actually spooking a bit while we waited for our time to start the demo. There were lots of people, horses, and noises going on in the aisle: plenty of things to draw her attention away. I realized while observing the other Parelli participants play with their horses that I have a lot to work on! As far as our online skills, we need some practice with Zone driving, to encourage her to move out and do some things for herself.

On a different note, here’s a wonderful poem I discovered and really like, not least because of the black and white mare mentioned in it.

“A Blessing”

Just off the highway to Rochester, Minnesota,
Twilight bounds softly forth on the grass.
And the eyes of those two Indian ponies
Darken with kindness.
They have come gladly out of the willows
To welcome my friend and me.
We step over the barbed wire into the pasture
Where they have been grazing all day, alone.
They ripple tensely, they can hardly contain their happiness
That we have come.
They bow shyly as wet swans. They love each other.
There is no loneliness like theirs.
At home once more,
They begin munching the young tufts of spring in the
I would like to hold the slenderer one in my arms,
For she has walked over to me
And nuzzled my left hand.
She is black and white,
Her mane falls wild on her forehead,
And the light breeze moves me to caress her long ear
That is delicate as the skin over a girl’s wrist.
Suddenly I realize
That if I stepped out of my body I would break
Into blossom.

– James Wright, from The Vintage Book of Contemporary American Poetry

Preparing for Level 2 Freestyle

by pursuingsavvy on March 8th, 2012

filed under Freestyle, Horse Man Ship, Lovey, Parelli

Lovey and I have been having some great freestyle time together! We are almost ready to film our Level 2 freestyle audition. We’ve been playing with Follow the Rail, Figure 8, Circling, and some Cloverleaf. She’s gotten so much better at maintaining gait and not arguing so much about direction. Occasionally playing with the carrot stick, working through the phases: eyes, bellybutton, leg, stick/rein. Today, we had a nice lesson focusing on improving Sideways along the fence (needs work!) and zero brace on the Follow the Rail. When we first started playing with freestyle, she was extremely bracy and very persistent about it: I ask one way, and she immediately turns the other. Now we’ve improved, but she still slightly leans against the feel on the rein. So today we focused on staying on the rail, but not releasing with the rein until I felt softness in her neck. She’s gotten into the habit of moving in the direction I ask, but still turning her head away and still bracing. So we practiced some at the walk maintaining gait and direction, but with no brace! This meant the occasional circle, waiting for the softness. But she did really well maintaining her gait. I think we’ve come a long way… :) So excited to see what’s to come, and to film our Level 2!


by pursuingsavvy on February 13th, 2012

filed under Uncategorized

So, today was probably the sixth session of working on the Corners Game with Lovey, aiming for her gait and getting consistency. This was the first time that I felt like she understood what was expected and understood the pattern (or at least she’s beginning to!). Of course, she still loved arguing and couldn’t resist, always wanting to be right where the rest of the herd was, but it was less difficult to regain her focus. I’m finding that its easier to get her focused on a pattern if she’s in a smaller area (and where the herd is closer) as opposed to a large area where she’s prone to anxiety about being away from the other horses. I think I’m going to use this to my advantage, and avoid as much frustration as possible ;) I generally have good amount of patience naturally (I’m an RBI), but when almost every freestyle session I’m having with my mare turns to an argument, it can wear on the nerves! I think I may try to stick with a smaller area at first, until she learns and accepts her responsibilities, then move to the larger area and hopefully stay somewhat with the herd, gradually moving away as she becomes more and more confident with me as her leader. We’ve gotten past the initial hurdle of her not wanting to move forward — now she pretty consistently moves forward from a phase two. In the beginning of our relationship, it was hard work just to ask her to move forward at all!

It’s definitely nice to see a little progress on a pattern. It’s taken me months of trying to focus her energy and direction in order for us to get anywhere! But then again, this is a learning process for both her and myself. :)

New Year, New Savvy!

by pursuingsavvy on February 8th, 2012

filed under Uncategorized

I figured it was definitely time for a new post, since I haven’t in quite some time! It’s 2012, a new year, filled with new and exciting opportunities: most importantly, new opportunities to learn. With the new year, I’ve also begun a new semester — so with new classes and trying to also stay focused on improving my savvy with the horses, it’s been fairly busy so far. I recently took a brief hiatus from playing (for about a week) so I could focus mainly on my classes, but now I’ve gotten back into it. My horses always surprise me with new and fun ideas! They will try just about anything — sometimes to do the opposite of what I ask (LB!) and sometimes just to experiment. I’m still struggling with freestyle with Lovey. She still tends to brace as her initial response to me asking her to do anything, but I’m hoping that with maintaining focus and adding in some consistency, we’ll continue to make progress. Basseet is of course as fun as ever. He challenges me every time we play. Recently his draw has been broken, and hence would rather not stay with me. Because of this I’ve been focusing on stick to me and rewarding him when he does stay with me and keeps his ‘good ears.’ (Above is a picture of him)

I’ll try to keep this blog as updated as possible! Next time I will hopefully blog a bit more specifically. :) Savvy on!

Fun with Rambling!

by pursuingsavvy on September 3rd, 2011

filed under Basseet, Horse Man Ship, Parelli

It’s late, and past my bedtime, yet here I am thinking about my horsemanship. This can’t be normal.

While my mare Lovey has been on a bit of a hiatus due to sore feet, I’ve had a lot more opportunity to play with and spend some good time with Basseet. I’ve actually been grateful for it, since usually my main focus is her and her progress — now I can focus on him! And he loves doing things, and thinking about things, so it’s been great for him. We’ve been working on consistent circles, and I think because of this focus we’ve found a new level of respect for each other. Granted, he still occasionally gives me those “bad” ears (dominance!), usually around grub time, and has his defensive, head-bobbing moments, but overall, he has a great attitude and is interested in what we’re doing together. Slowly I’m mustering up the courage in myself to get on his back by myself, while being polite, passive, and persistent in the proper position. It’s my (local) dream to one day feel freedom from both my horses’ backs, for them to feel confident and comfortable, and for us to have mutual enjoyment in our time together. Given my horses’ very different Horsenalities, the journey getting to that point for each is very different. And sometimes I truly feel as far away from that goal as I felt the day I bought each of them.

But alas, such is my pessimistic brain! I often wrestle back and forth with these thoughts of woe of not progressing like I want to, and with cheery thoughts that “It takes the time it takes!” Overall I’m giving myself over to the idea that this is a process and a journey, and things don’t happen instantly. Well, the mindset of the impatient predator, I suppose! Hmm… I’m always asking myself what it must look like from my horse’s point of view. Often I’m surprised at what looks back at me.

I’ve got a lot of excitement about the future, however. New opportunities and new challenges! I think I’ve gained enough confidence in myself and in my partner, Basseet, to take the next step and journeying into freestyle. Maybe it’s silly of me, but whenever I’m driving by an open field, I envision myself galloping through it with one of my horses, hair (and mane!) flowing in the breeze and feeling absolute harmony. My goal of becoming a Parelli Instructor is still in my vision of the near (or not-so-near) future; but most of all it’s to become so good with horses that things tend to flow… naturally!

So, on a practical note: The next step is to feel confident and safe in climbing on Basseet’s back! Also, to pursue the continued healing of my mare and also further our riding future together!

Horsenality/Humanality Match Report

by pursuingsavvy on August 5th, 2011

filed under Horsenality, Parelli, Personal

I received my Humanality/Horsenality Match Report a couple of months ago, and while reading through all the spot-on information (which was very interesting and helpful to me), there was a statement in the report that I found particularly apt for me. The statement was, approximately, that since I am innately a Right-Brain Introvert, and my levels partner Lovey is innately a Left-Brain Introvert, I tend to worry that I am going to upset her, lose rapport, or cause her to be generally unhappy with me. But because I am constantly concerned with losing her rapport or her respect, Lovey senses this and will take advantage of it. After leaving the pasture and taking the time to think over our most recent play session, I find myself wondering if I did the right thing for her in that moment. While this is a wonderful natural approach to using psychology and studying behavior in horses, obsessing over this may lead me down too much of a detour in my horsemanship.

In the Match Report, that unnameable “thing” that I so often emphasize and stress and perhaps even worry over when I’m away from my horses was finally given a voice, given a name, a title, an identity. And for me, that was a major eye-opener. Rather than tip-toeing around my horses while playing, agonizing over whether or not my next move or request or thought will cause them to become angry, I should rather observe without judgement their behavior, their posture and body language, and assess the situation in order to determine what is right in that moment. It is crucial to stay as much “in the moment” as I can, and I’m learning this more and more. Being an introvert, however, means that doing this is naturally a challenge for me, because I tend to mull over details of events long after they’re over, rather than learning from my mistakes and successes, and moving on. While putting a purpose to principles, and principles over purpose, is vital to progressing naturally in horsemanship, one must also stay in the moment. Horses live in the moment constantly — they are not worried or consumed by what may have offended them ten minutes before. They don’t hold grudges. Of course, horses exposed to long-term abuse and damage will have baggage and negatively shaped behavior. But nevertheless, horses are amazingly forgiving creatures, and they take fear, anger, or any other heightened emotion in humans as simply information, often “mirroring” that same emotion in their own bodies and minds, sometimes to the befuddlement of their partners.

At any rate, I’ve been “licking and chewing” over the idea that my partners don’t worry so much about being offended, offending someone else, or otherwise stepping on any egos. They’re just “there” in the moment, as I should be.


by pursuingsavvy on July 14th, 2011

filed under Lovey, Parelli

I had a realization this morning after reading Linda’s new blog post, Expectations and Rewards. I realized that when it comes to riding, I’m always working a lot harder than my mare, Lovey. She offers continuous forward movement (which is what I’m ultimately striving for) only when we are out of the pasture going on a trail ride, where things are constantly new and interesting for her. Otherwise, in her usual environment, she simply refuses to move. And as Linda has pointed out, it’s not that she doesn’t feel it, she just doesn’t respond to that amount of pressure.

I must be honest in this journey and admit something: I find myself avoiding getting on her back often because I now have an idea and an expectation of how the session is going to go. Once I’m on her back, I ask lightly with my seat, engage my legs, then either use a savvy string and create commotion around me or tap her hind end with a carrot stick. She doesn’t respond to any of it until I get to phase 4, when I’m nearly tapping as hard as I can. Meanwhile, during these phases, she decides to kick out when I begin tapping her rump, first lightly, then steadily getting firmer. Finally she will offer a small step forward, and I release the pressure. But doing this with this timing isn’t improving things. I don’t understand if I’m missing a piece of the puzzle, or doing something wrong, or just not expecting her to respond appropriately. And this is all just trying to get a walk! Nevermind a trot, canter, and eventually gallop.

Perhaps I am giving too big of a rest after just a small try. Big tries, big rewards; small tries, small rewards. My mare and I have dealt with this problem undersaddle for several months now, and using different strategies, I simply don’t see things improving. At least not at the moment. So I’ll be licking and chewing over this, always appreciative of Linda’s blogs but I just don’t see my mare behaving or responding in the same way, although it’s the same issue of responsiveness. We’ll see where the journey takes us.

Mistakes and Reflections

by pursuingsavvy on April 14th, 2011

filed under Horse Man Ship, Lovey, Parelli, Personal

A lot has happened in my world since my last post. I’ve been thinking about my progress and my horses’ progress as our journey continues to horse-man-ship and partnership. While I am always keeping in my mind the end goal, and something I’d like to achieve with my horses and to develop our relationship, I’m becoming less worried about the timeline and I’m not in a rush. As long as I’m learning on a daily basis and every time I play with my horses, and as long as they’re learning as well, we’re good in my mind! As long as the relationship is first, that’s what counts.

I came across a roadblock a week or so ago with my mare, Lovey. As I’ve talked briefly about her before, she’s very left-brained and fairly confident, and often tends to push into my personal space when we’re playing or just hanging out. Since she’s the “least” horse in the herd of four, she’s often the one bossed around and driven to different areas. The dominance game is: You better move or I’ll do something about it! So, my gelding Basseet decided that she was too close for his comfort and decided to drive her away, meanwhile leaving me behind nearly-trampled in the dirt. Myself being an introvert, I’ve been told I tend to overthink things (and in some cases I’ll think about a problem or scenario for a few days to try to come up with a solution or to see it in every possible way), I took some offense to her knocking me over in her attempt to avoid being bitten by the other horse. At first I was pretty upset, and felt like my trust had been virtually broken in her. However, it’s my place as the human partner to take some leadership and protect her from other, more dominant horses in the herd. At the time, though, I felt hurt and humiliated that my sweet mare, my Lovey, had decided it was better to (almost) trample me in that situation, than to be aware of her surroundings and that I was standing there. That’s what my human mind told me. Needless to say horses don’t necessarily think in that way, but it still wasn’t acceptable. So, with my sweet, beautiful mare, who has often been the leader in our relationship, it was time to step things up!

Lovey at evening feeding time

I was mainly afraid that my confidence with her would be completely broken, but the next time we played together, I found that my focus and skills in protecting my space had been revamped! I’ve started using the driving game in a more deliberate manner, and sometimes being a bit more forceful with more energy to get the point across. She tends to squeeze through small spaces, and so now I’m working with her to respect my space. Often during playing games, she tends to run right past me, in my personal space, and during a yo-yo will literally walk past and behind me until she stops. That’s her idea of a “draw.” It’s been a challenge the past week to put myself in the position of another horse and how they might behave in protecting their area and driving another horse away. It’s taken a long while to register, but I’m happy to say it’s starting to!

It’s hard to believe that six months ago was the beginning of my relationship with Lovey. The time has definitely flown and she’s taught me to be patient, willing to change, and more confident. Six months ago my lifelong dream of owning my own horse and enjoying that kind of relationship came true, and my journey to horsemanship was kick-started with the Parelli program. I’ve been thinking back and reflecting on all my instructors and mentors in the past, and luckily I was first introduced to the horse world at the age of ten. I regard that time as a grooming experience to prepare me in many ways to where I am today, and to where I’d like to be in the future. I don’t know exactly how I’ll achieve my dream of becoming a Parelli professional and sharing Pat and Linda’s message of natural horsemanship with the world, but I’m more dedicated to learning and experiencing and to regarding my relationship with my horses first than I’ve been before. Horses truly teach humans for the best, and I’m thankful daily for the opportunity to share life with such amazing, sensitive, and intelligent creatures God has made.

Texas Time!

by pursuingsavvy on March 30th, 2011

filed under Horse Man Ship, Horsenality, Online, Parelli

I was out of town this past week, the 21st to the 26th. I headed to Grand Saline, Texas, to visit my grandfather’s ranch… It was great spending time with loved ones! On the ranch there are a total of four horses, one seven month old foal and three adults. I was able to spend two days playing with one particular horse named Merlot, a 16-year-old Peruvian Paso gelding. As I started spending time with him and playing with him I quickly learned that his Horsenality fit mainly into the Right Brain Extrovert category. I think part of that was the fact that I was a strange human asking him to do things, but mostly it was innate. According to my grandfather, he had had limited handling and development, apart from riding. In Parelli, everything begins on the ground — you immediately begin working on your relationship by teaching your horse things on the ground, allowing him to accept you as his leader. For the Right Brain horse, he needs to feel safe and to build confidence, which was exactly what Merlot needed from me.

Both of my horses, Lovey and Basseet, are very Left Brained horses — needing Play and Incentive. I’ve become accustomed to learning from and teaching horses like this. It was exciting and new to work with an extreme Right Brained horse. Merlot had no prior experience to the things I was trying to teach him; in the past, he had only been “lunged,” forced around and around in a circle until he became exhausted. Instead, I was doing a lot of friendly game to start with. Even gently tossing the rope over his back caused him to flinch every time, so it took some patience before he was comfortable. I worked on circling some, allowing him to use some of the pent-up energy he had — the big difference between lunging and circling is giving the horse responsibility of maintaining gait and direction. But here I was merely establishing an understanding that I wasn’t trying to hurt him, force him, or frighten him. Just witnessing his constant reactions to everything I was doing was a learning experience for me — so different than the behavior I’m used to! After a while, by teaching him to disengage his hindquarters and look at me, playing yo-yo, and eventually doing half-circles with sideways, taught him to use the “thinking side of his brain.” After all this I noticed he began to lick and chew — bingo!

Unfortunately I had only a couple of days to work with Merlot, but I was learning constantly. I feel that now I’ve had at least some experience in handling an extreme Right Brain horse. It’s all part of developing savvy! I missed my two a lot… It’s been raining almost constantly since I’ve returned a few days ago, but I’m looking forward to playing with them again.

It Takes Time

by pursuingsavvy on February 17th, 2011

filed under Horse Man Ship, Lovey, Personal

I had a lesson with Lovey yesterday that I feel like I need to post about… Overall, we worked on driving her front end away from me so she wouldn’t keep crowding me so much, and then sending her on a small circle (with the 12′ line). Then I did a kind of passenger lesson at the walk, with a focus on lateral flexion. She doesn’t want to go forward much, especially when I’m riding, so we stood still for the most part and worked on her bending to the right and left.

During the lesson, I felt like I had relapsed in my progress, as if I were moving backwards rather than forwards. I felt like I should have known how to do the circling game properly, but since she loves to crowd my space as if to push me out of the way, we had to focus on detail. She wasn’t overall very responsive to the driving game, so I had to be more and more persistent in pushing her energy away. It’s her subtle way of claiming leadership in the relationship! Usually I’m just flattered that she actually wants to be around me, but with her, being around me isn’t the problem. It’s the respect aspect. There’s no balance in the relationship of rapport and respect, love and leadership.

At any rate, during the beginning of the lesson I was more or less allowing my emotions to get the better of me, and was feeling pretty discouraged. Not necessarily frustrated, just mainly discouraged. But afterwards I reminded myself that learning processes are rarely linear, if ever. There’s not a single way of doing things, or of learning. And there will be times in the future when I’ll have to revisit some really fundamental concept, based on the Seven Games, that’s gotten a little sticky over time. I guess I just got too eager to see progress, and to see it quickly! But the focus is the relationship, not how much you can do with your horse. If love, language, and leadership aren’t there in “equal doses” (as Pat says), then I’m heading in the wrong direction, and not toward my dream of becoming a true horseman.

I’m finding that everyday I spend with my horses, they remind me of this. They keep my eyes on the dream, and my heart with them. No matter how little or how much “progress” I feel I’ve made, it’s nothing compared to the connection and bond I’m developing with them both everyday.