Posts Tagged With: plans

The view from Level 2

This past fortnight I find that I have finally accepted, with a combination of wonder and chagrin (“well, DUH”), that I am solidly Level 2. Not just safe, but confident. I am working to shed the habit of seeing all other horse people as experts and me as a wannabe, and have had some success recently in keeping self-abasing comments from flying out my mouth.

One form of proof is on the posters on my wall. In On-Line savvy we’re almost to Level 3 patterns. In Freestyle, we’re 9 sessions from the first Level 2 pattern.

In relationship, we’re in early Level 2, as we’ve yet to start Liberty. But we’re doing almost all our play with the belly of the 22-foot line on the ground…

Even more important than our tasks, patterns, self-assessment checklists: I see so much more. And I’m developing what Bill Dorrance calls feel.

The best horsemen say the horse is the best teacher. ~ Bill Dorrance

I noticed recently that Rocky felt “off” even though I couldn’t see it for sure. When the vet came out yesterday for the semi-annual vaccinations, I asked him to look. Sure enough, Rocky was ouchy in both front feet. Makes sense as his September injections would be wearing off by now. The vet blocked his heels and we circled around again: totally sound.

I admit I flushed with silent pride as Rocky beautifully responded to my cues to jog, trot, and extended trot (or, in our parlance, Easy Trot, Big Trot, and Evil Trot). He asked questions, he offered more than I asked and offered it before I asked, and he came in with a happy face and a big sigh — even when his feet were still hurting.

For what the horse does under compulsion, as Simon also observes, is done without understanding; and there is no beauty in it either, any more than if one should whip and spur a dancer. ~ Xenophon

A year ago I couldn’t tell if a horse was tense or achy or afraid until it was practically shouting; now I’m hearing Rocky’s soft voice, and I’m starting to hear him whisper. What I could not see for sure in his trot — was that a head bob? is that a wince? — I could feel.

This is HUGE, for me. I have never had feel with horses like I do with dogs. (I can tell what Jedi is thinking from across the country, sometimes.) Parelli gives me an intellectual framework and specific metrics to put around horsemanship. Life-altering, that. “Simple” things. Not just “Is the horse afraid” but “Is his head high, is he blinking, is his tail clamped, are his nostrils wide, are his feet moving, are his ears still.”

And I’m starting not to need to run down the mental checklist, but without it, I’d have stayed in the scary dark.

He knows when you’re happy
He knows when you’re comfortable
He knows when you’re confident
And he always knows when you have carrots.
~Author Unknown

Yesterday, I wanted Rocky to stand calmly with me, on-line, while we waited our turn with the vet. Every time he stepped closer to me, I yo-yoed him back until his front feet were behind a particularly flat rock in the gravel drive.

In the past, I’d be told “Don’t let him crowd you” but I didn’t quite know what that meant; and I was flattered that the horse even wanted to be near me (heh). It seemed like everyone else had this sense of where the horse had been standing and where he was standing now and where to put him back exactly; no one ever thought to say “I just line him up with that fence post/tree/manure pile and if he crosses that line, I back him up.”

It’s entirely possible that’s what most people do and it’s so obvious to them they don’t think to say it aloud, but I didn’t grok it until Parelli. (Specifically, I think it dawned on me when learning Sideways Without A Fence, focusing on something in the environment to be able to tell if Rocky drifted forward or back.)

With Level 2 savvy I now understand why to keep Rocky where I put him (reinforce his sense of safety and comfort in my leadership, play a little game of who can out-persist whom) and how to do it (find a marker, use it consistently, keep my feet still).

Before I can get one thing done, I have to do two other things, one of which is impossible. — Jerry Pournelle? (paraphrased)

For the first time, I believe one hundred percent that I will reach higher levels of communication, understanding, and fun with horses. I don’t feel stuck on a learning plateau, nor am I bravely accepting that even if it never gets any better than this, that’s okay because this is so much better than it’s ever been. Even more astonishing: I believe I’m going to become a fluid, confident rider, on obstacle courses and trails, despite the bum knee. Not just hope, but believe.

I can feel it.

Categories: Leadership | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

Patience is waiting. Not passively waiting. That is laziness. But to keep going when the going is hard and slow – that is patience

Rocky yet again played the perfect family pony this weekend, patiently lugging all three of us around (one at a time) as Dan and Jan learn and I re-learn how to trot comfortably. Dan felt better sitting the trot than posting, while Jan and I prefer to post. Hm, how interesting.

Hug the pony!

I find that explaining things to Dan and Jan helps me clarify what to do in my own body, not just in my own mind and emotions. They are clean slates, fresh wax, no previous horse experience to unlearn or ancient fear to overcome. And Rocky likes them.

Good thoughts for the weekend:

  1. Patterns are everything, because Rocky needs a purpose and I need a plan.

    Whether from the Parelli program or just stating aloud what you’re going to do — weave through the cones then figure 8 at the barrels then half a rectangle then direction change then halt and back up at the bridge — a pattern gives you and Rocky both something to accomplish and feel complete. I told Jan “It doesn’t matter if you zigzag around the entire arena twice, backwards, as long as you keep your belly button pointed at the cone and you end up there.” In saying it aloud to a newbie, it fell into place in my guts how to engage the power of focus, how not to nag the horse, and how to balance consistency (repetition) with variety (new challenges).

  2. I am better at this than I remembered.

    Without the irrational fear I finally let go of — when? October? — I am much better at posting and convincing Rocky that Big Trot is more fun than Evil Trot and Easy Trot is even more fun than that. If I persist through the first awkward minutes, we both get smoother. Letting go of any need to be at any particular skill level riding has also lifted a pressure-stress I didn’t realize was so strong. Becoming creative with obstacles in the arena, and having music on the P.A. system (I love this place!), has made it more fun for horse and human.

  3. Teaching others is how I transition from classroom to laboratory.

    I’m more interested in getting out there and doing, rather than stuck inside reading and watching, when I have buddies to share it with. Teaching is an added bonus as it keeps me completely engaged and helps me strengthen my weak spots so I can Be A Good Example. I think Rocky felt the goodwill and joy all three of us humans were emitting on Saturday, because he stayed mostly engaged and entirely patient.

First posting trot debrief

I should note that I am in no way setting myself up as an instructor, and Dan and Jan both know this is the novice leading the newbie. But it’s so much fun to share the love of horses and the journey of horsemanship, I can’t possibly require friends to study Parelli intensively like I do, nor am I going to say “sure go ride the pony” without teaching them how to communicate with him.

I am worried that he might be getting ouchy in the front again, but if so, it’s too subtle for me to be sure. With the new storm it’s going to be even more difficult to tell as we will continue to be sporadic in how many times we get to move.

Certainly though it’s time to move more — to make the obstacles much more challenging and to do our patterns all at the trot. Both of us need to get our life up if we’re going to make it through the rest of the winter doldrums.

Categories: Freestyle, Language, Leadership | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

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