Reflections

Officially starting Level 3

It’s not like I haven’t been exposed to level 3. I’ve in fact completed, reliably but perhaps not with excellence, almost all of the tasks on the level 3 on-line savvy self-assessment checklist — we spent a few lessons doing that and identifying where the holes are. I’ve seen a lot of Parelli events and demos and the monthly Savvy Club DVDs.

But I realized that I’ve never actually watched the level 3 home study course. I have the 2009 version, which is not structured like a course but rather like a video of a demo or seminar with Pat.

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At least, the first DVD so far is Pat playing with Aspen and describing what he’s doing. No pocket guides, no lists of exercises that build on previous exercises, no troubleshooting tips. Just Pat and a horse, with Pat talking fast and interrupting himself and not finishing his sentences, as he tends to do.

But. By the time you’re watching level 3 you’ve got the vocabulary and the experience to understand what he’s doing, so it doesn’t need to be so structured like a course. In fact, as you enter level 3, you are expected to be a puzzle-solver, in charge of your own learning.

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So if I want a checklist of all of the exercises he shows with Aspen, then I can make one myself. If I think I didn’t catch something, I can rewind and watch again; they aren’t going to do a slow-motion replay.  The program makes all kinds of resources available to us for level 3, but it doesn’t hold our hands. It’s like they’ve taken off the halter and what’s left is the truth.

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Priorities and progress

Rocky and I are cantering and playing with soft feel, although not at the same time. River and I are riding around in the arena bareback and bridleless, and around the ranch in a bareback pad and halter. I have played with the 45-foot line, challenging River to back up to objects the full distance away. I have advanced in liberty with “Can You…?” games like walking with Rocky from the barn to the turnout after our session without putting a halter or rope on him.

I find that I feel a sense of renewal starting up sometime between December 25 and January 3 each year. I don’t make resolutions exactly, but I do pick a Thing to think about for the coming year. Last year I experimented with a “just this once” attitude toward horsemanship, and now I don’t worry about “if I’m not going to do this every day at exactly this same time, there’s no point in trying it today.”

This year, I am experimenting with “every day that I am home, I ride.” Even if the horse had a training session earlier that day, and even if the horse worked a lesson with someone else. Even if I am buried with work and have deadlines and travel looming. On the 3 days each week that I’m away for work, I make sure in the evening to read articles and watch videos and look for used Brenderup trailers online.

Of course, I adjust based on how the horse feels. A “ride” can be anything from sitting up there for 30 seconds to spending 90 minutes in the saddle playing with various patterns in all three gaits in both directions. If they really don’t feel like it, I’ll play some ground games from zone 3. I make a shorthand note on a small hardcopy calendar about what we did.

I’m asking more of all of us, and it seems to have renewed our partnerships rather than stressed them. River has more exuberance in her attitude, and Rocky is offering more relaxation more often.

I’m warming up with stick to me and other active games. I’m stretching more often. I’m allowing my body to find what feels comfortable and balanced rather than envision a particular position and get stiff and tense trying to keep it. I’m improving my ability to hold on with my inner thighs (active riding) instead of flopping my knees all out to the side (dead weight).

And I’m finding that I can smile, and breathe, and focus, all at the same time.

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