Are we ready to audition in 10 days?

Ready or not, we’re filming on the 30th.

I’ve been riding River in the bareback pad recently and working hard on training my body to give clear, distinct cues. Not “eyes, bellybutton-leg-rein” but “eyes, belly button, leg, rein if necessary.” I’m also working on not rolling my knees out and putting the backs of my thighs on her. In our lesson today, Erin said that as long as my lower legs aren’t gripping or on her unnecessarily, I can relax more about my seat. Riding bareback puts me in more of a “chair” position than I want to have in a saddle, and that’s just how it is, because the saddle lifts me above River’s back enough to make things a little narrower so I can get my legs more under me.


Last week I rode Rocky at the rodeo arena and found that with the bigger space he is much more able to follow the rail and walk in a straight line. I practiced walking and trotting the length of the arena, using a hindquarter yield to turn around with the nose to the fence, and walking or trotting back. Most of the time he was able to stop just with my relaxing and exhaling and didn’t require me to lift a rein, even though we were in an unfamiliar place.

rocky at the barrel

We then played with follow the rail around the whole thing, sprinkling in transitions (walk, trot, halt, back) and circles (at walk or trot) to keep things interesting. I used circles when he got rushy so that he never felt like I was holding him back, and having room to do a bigger circle helped him soften and relax sooner. When necessary I could spiral the circle a little smaller, but the big circle is much better for his joints and it was so cool to feel confident and able to use strategies to achieve outcomes. We finished with some barrel racing; I took Rocky through the cloverleaf at a fairly big trot, and then Barbara gaited Hermoso around it, and then Maddy trotted River leisurely to wrap up.

Then Rocky lost a shoe on the way back to the trailer and had to spend a week in the barn with a boot on.

I’ve had a minor setback in my daily Healthmanship practice in the past two weeks as we consolidated two households into a single cottage. We’ve been renting two cottages on the ranch but it has become financially unsustainable; it’s not a problem as our human herd has adjusted well and we can get along in a smaller pasture than we needed a year ago. Thus I’ve had plenty of exercise, especially of the squat-and-lift variety, but very little horse time. Although I did realize that the day I felt like it had been a month since I’d last ridden a horse was actually only 5 days after the trip to the arena, and I had petted at least one horse at least once a day each of those 5 days.

During the “down time” I caught up on recent Parelli Savvy Club video lessons and read some back issues of the Parelli magazine. I find that I can read an article or watch a video segment on just about any topic and discover that it applies to me right where I am, doing exactly what I’m doing. It’s like re-reading a wonderful book — the book is different every time, because I am different, and my life experience is different, and my perspective on events and people has probably changed.

I’m starting to put the building blocks together more often and more naturally. “Separate, isolate, and recombine” has been my puzzle-solving mantra, and I feel like I’ve reached a “recombine” phase of late. I’m much improved in using my legs and reins independently of each other, and I’m starting to develop a sense of what patterns to use to address an issue or advance a skill. My latest pattern with River is a combination of circle and weave using 4 cones.

I worked on it today in a lesson and asked Erin to coach me on getting the circles bigger and rounder, while getting the sideways part in the middle straighter and closer to the cones.

It’s a challenging pattern because as soon as we straighten we then have to turn rather sharply, and as soon as we get a nice circle, we have to straighten for the line back to home. It takes coordination with each leg and hand working independently while keeping my focus strong, my body relaxed, and my seat centered. We repeated it 5 times in the lesson and I felt it when River started to understand that it was a pattern, and we ended on a good note. In the next session I will add in some walk-trot transitions to keep it interesting and to give myself practice sitting the trot bareback for short distances.

I am trusting myself more, and allowing things to happen without worrying if I “did it right.” The “try something and see what happens” approach is working really well with both horses, now that I have the skills and the confidence to flow with the go if someone spooks or trips or fumbles or braces. Both of the horses are more interested in our sessions now that I am asking for more complex patterns, and allowing them to participate in the learning and solve the puzzle.

More partnership, less micromanaging. A relief for us all.


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