Posts Tagged With: horse expo

A Zebra, Mini Horses, and Horsegirl Necessities at the Horse Expo 2012

We saw things at the Western States Horse Expo that we would not have known were there if we hadn’t poked our noses over stall doors and into obscure corners.

For example, we browsed the Sale Barn and admired a grey mule who was looking out of his stall. A closer look revealed that the mule was not actually for sale. He was there as a companion to the zebra stallion, who was. I didn’t get a good picture of them, but found one on the owner’s website that looks like the same mule, although I’m not sure about the zebra.

For just $2,000, you too can own an exotic equine. I had to google when I got home to confirm that it is legal to own zebras in California and to learn how domesticatable they are. Of course, with a Parelli foundation, probably anything can be tamed, to a point. Especially if imprinted, a la Robert M. Miller, DVM. (Click here to see books by Robert M. Miller, DVM, at

We admired the minis in the Breed Walk, where various breed groups did 15-minute demonstrations about their breeds throughout the day. This, plus our concern lately about Salsa’s odd weight loss, inspired me to order Miniature Horses: A Veterinary Guide for Owners & Breeders. I suddenly realized I don’t have any resources specific to miniature horses and just scaling down doses of things based on weight doesn’t necessarily work. Like when you give Previcoxx to a horse to treat arthritis, you give them the Dachsund dose, not the Wolfhound dose.

And now, for scale…

A paint stallion, ready for his spotlight:

Another driving mini:

We also found some cute overalls for Jan, who has worn out her old denim ones in the past 7+ months of ranch work. The new ones are cut for women and have all kinds of extras, like kneepads and zip-off lower legs, and a secret pocket with a zipper. They are from Rosie’s Workwear and we very much enjoyed talking to the ladies in the booth!

We stood on Vibe*Fit exercise machines to experience what it might be like to be a horse on an EquiVibe vibration platform, strengthening bones and massaging muscles. We used Hawaiian Moon Aloe Vera Gel Moisturizer to soothe our wind-burned, sun-exposed skin and ended up buying some in partnership with another horsewoman, to take advantage of some kind of “buy a few, get loaded down with many” show special pricing.

We rode an Equicizer, a mechanical horse that jockeys use to learn, rehab, and stay in shape. It was invented by jockey Frank Lovato, Jr. Therapeutic riding programs also use them to help clients develop physical skills and confidence before riding horses. We were in a Western saddle, so we didn’t get the full race training experience, but we could feel what a great tool this would be for any lesson barn. Like a bouncy horse for adults! Now if they’ll just invent a Big Wheel, we’ll be set.

We bought beautiful ceramic pendants sculpted by Judy Watson of Freelance Design, USA:

I got the best hat I’ve ever had, from the Australian Hat Outlet here in Northern California. Here’s the first picture I’ve taken with it. I’m sure it will be appearing in many, many horse pictures henceforth. It is made of kangaroo hide and is called a Barmah hat.

KANGAROO SUEDE. Traditional Aussie Style higher crown/oval brim, premium kangaroo leather suede, fully foldable into cotton bag (included), lightweight, waterproof, softy sweatband for maximum comfort.

It also comes in green:

We bought pretty t-shirts from Susan Wells of Poni-Girl, who hand-blings them on amazingly soft, wonderfully drapey material. I notice her website barely has any shirts on it at all. She had sold 1/3 of her stock by midafternoon on the first day of the Expo, though, so perhaps she will expand her online section soon.

All in all, it was worth the price of admission, parking, concessions, and getting up early.

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Clinician Highlights: Lynn Palm at Horse Expo 2012

Lynn Palm’s session was called “Be Positive: Your Horse Knows Every Word You’re Thinking.” She focused on showing the results of keeping our thoughts on a positive path.

“Positive” in this context doesn’t mean unfounded optimism. It means phrasing our thoughts around the outcome we want (“we will trot evenly around this circle”) instead of what we don’t want (“oh god what is my horse going to do next, she’s so spooky, ack, she might shy at that, ack!”).

In Parelli lingo, this is “the natural power of focus,” and it goes much deeper than just “what we want.” Whatever has our complete focus is what will happen. There is no other outcome. It will happen, because it is the only thing than can happen.

If you can focus 100 percent on “we will trot evenly around this circle, with rhythm and relaxation and contact,” that is what will happen. Your horse can then share your bedrock certainty. Ah! yes! we will trot evenly around this circle! those billowing tarps and flapping flags and whipping branches and swirling dust devils are not the droids I’m looking for!

If you focus 10 percent on that and 90 percent on possible spooks, distractions, and disasters, you are going to get spooks and distractions, and possibly a disaster.


In fact, just now, it hit me how rare the disasters actually are, relatively speaking; it tells you something about the horse-human bond that horses manage to stay disaster-free most of the time, even in our fear and lack of focus.

When you look down, his mind is in front of your mind. Keep your eyes ahead of the horse. ~ Lynn Palm

Lynn said that when we catch ourselves looking at our horse, or thinking “why is he doing this, what will he do next,” that’s a sign that we need to relax, slow down, think about something else, be casual, breathe, and ride through it.

She didn’t mean ride through an explosion. What she described sounds awfully close to Linda’s teachings on handling thresholds.

The more the horse wants to look, the more we need to let them. Stop on a loose rein. The more they look, the more chance they have to settle. ~ Lynn Palm

Like Chris Cox in his session about rider confidence, Lynn coached her student on physical balance. Breathing — “in sets, inhale and exhale” — and relaxing were key. Even just that made a change in the horse.

At first, the student had her hands wide, below the crest of the neck. Her arms were stiff — her whole body looked rigid — and any time the horse even hinted at shying, raising her head, moving sideways, or some other “unexpected” move, the rider clenched tighter and jerked on the reins.

The horse expressed her own discomfort through tense, jerky motions, and by flicking her tongue all around. Even when she kept her feet relatively still, her tongue was in motion, sticking out of the side of her mouth, rolling the bit, flapping up and down.

I watched the horse and rider escalate in a cycle of nervousness and thought ah, yes, I remember that. Many of my normal lessons went just that way.

The first change Lynn suggested was for the rider to raise her hands and move them forward. With the rider’s hands in front of the horn and above the mane, she could not lean on the reins to balance. She also coached the rider through looking ahead, not down, and had her tie the reins in a knot without looking at them and drop them over the horn.

While an assistant managed the horse on a longe line, the rider practiced raising her arms, then making a T, then resting her hands on her thighs, then picking up the reins without looking at them, then setting the reins down again. All while looking where she wanted to go.

When the rider let go of the reins and began to do other things with her arms, finding her balance point, the mare reduced the tongue action considerably. The longer the rider stayed off the reins, the more relaxed the mare’s entire body became, and the less we saw the tongue.

Parelli reminds us that the more we use the reins, the less they use their brains. I can’t help but think that many people prefer that their horses not use their brains, because the people do not trust their horses. They feel safer on horses that give up trying to use their brains and go dully where the reins drag them instead. These riders feel safer or smug with the illusion of control because they don’t realize it is an illusion.

In Lynn’s session, the looser the reins, the more relaxed the horse, which calmed the rider, which calmed the horse.

I ride Rocky now with the understanding that he will communicate with me in phases, not “suddenly for no reason at all” transmogrify into a bronco. It took me a lot of ground time to develop that trust.

Our horses are our mirrors. They are quick to feel a change in us, to provide release for us, and to reward our slightest try. We just have to learn to do the same for them.

Categories: Events, Freestyle, Lessons | Tags: , , , | 3 Comments

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