Sunday, December 16, 2012

The Attitude of Justice - Parelli Principle # 5

It sounds simple and we know our attitude is vitally important on our horsemanship journey! Then, why, does it sometimes feel so hard to carry out the attitude of justice?

In my path of helping humans learn about natural horsemanship I am often repeating the need for the ‘attitude of justice’ while demonstrating a technique or concept with a horse. In answer to this statement about ‘justice’ I am greated by blank stares or nodding heads with little to no change to how the student is handling their own horse. What I have discovered is that this response comes from a core difference in belief on what “justice” and “natural” actually mean. So, I’ve looked up a simple and concise definition from Wikipedia to help us get on the same page:

Natural – “existing in or caused by nature, not made or caused by humankind.”

How interesting! . . . What does it mean to be natural? Often when people hear the words natural horsemanship they think, “oh good, I can think great thoughts about my horse and they will do what I want just because I am thinking it” or  “I will never have to become effective to be understood and my horse will become a willing and safe partner”! Somehow when people first hear of ‘natural’ their minds travel down a thought pattern of believing that actions no longer have consequences. However, if you take the quote above and think about things in nature – things “not made or caused by humankind”. How many actions in nature do not have consequences?

If, for example, an ant colony gets lazy and decides not to go out to gather food, what happens to the colony? If a horse herd leader can’t outthink a predator, what happens to the survival of the herd? If the herd picks a leader that isn’t aware, effective, and smart, what happens to the herd?

Just for the sake of argument let’s say that same herd chooses to have no leader, in fact every horse is equal and has a chance to “voice their opinion”. Now imagine, this herd full of mares, foals, yearlings, and a stallion ranging all the horsenalities LBI, LBE, RBE and RBI. They are all eating grass happily enjoying their equal opinions and contributions. They hear a rustle in the trees. The LBI’s say, “oh it’s probably nothing, let’s wait and see what happens”. The RBI’s say “ “ (nothing – they have frozen for the moment). The LBE’s want to go check out what made the noise, maybe they can play with it and the RBE’s are running circles around the herd, they want to leave but don’t want to leave the herd. At this stage they agree to have a meeting to discuss what should be done about the rustle in the bushes and who’s opinion they should follow. After several minutes of deliberation they have come to the conclusion that they can not act on any ONE opinion and are better off not reacting at all so as not to offend the horses feelings that were voted down. So, at the end of a lengthy discussion they have chosen to do nothing. This time the rustle turns out to be a squirrel and everything is fine, but what about next time when it is an approaching group of wolves/lions? Will the herd loose a few members? Does this system really work in nature? Of course not! The herd needs a leader, right or wrong the herd can follow the leadership and have a better chance of survival. It makes sense if you think of nature. Nature has laid out a perfect system, one where without humankind intervening their feelings and opinions the species survives.

 Now here’s the interesting part, somehow humans have decided that our way is better and that everything should adapt to suit what we ‘think’ is best. Some examples of this specifically in the horse world range from not allowing horses to interact with each other; so they won’t get hurt. To never allowing horses to experience consequences for acting inappropriately in the human environment, until they are so uncontrollable we have no choice but to put them down because they endangered themselves and others. Perhaps we should put children in a bubble wrap suit with an air purifier mask and have them walk around in a little bubble. This way they can’t get hurt, they won’t get any germs and the bubble will protect them from getting to close to other humans, just in case the other humans say something ‘mean’. Also, the bubble will protect the other children in case the perfect little angel is mad and feels like hitting or slapping someone. Sounds perfect doesn’t it? The funny thing is that to some humans this does sound perfect, this way we can control everything that happens to the individual and be sure no one is ever hurt, but is it natural? Is it natural to keep horses separate from their own species? Is it natural that their actions have no consequences in our human world, until it is too late (doing more later instead of less sooner)? Is it natural for humans to think we know more about what horses need then horses do?

To me the attitude of justice isn’t about punishment it’s about cause and effect. If you touch a hot stove - you get burnt. If you stick your hand in a fan blade - you get whacked. If you don’t look and pay attention to where you are going on uneven ground - you fall. Plain and simple – no emotion involved, it is just natural. It is the most natural part of learning. Cause and effect is how we learn. If you text while driving in traffic you could crash – simple, no emotion, if you choose one path/action there are reactions put into motion.

When I talk about being effective with horses and using the attitude of justice all I am saying is to be natural. Sounds simple, however, this doesn’t mean that it will be easy. Many humans get into habits of living and ways of acting that are supremely unnatural, this can cause the shift to becoming natural again challenging. To be successful this new and natural journey must be filled with thought, decision and purpose. One doesn’t just wake up and say “I’m natural” and then go about their day as usual. Becoming natural requires a conscious choice and many choices along the path until natural becomes our new way of being, of living, until it makes more sense than all the other ‘stuff’.

In the end studying natural horsemanship may be a different picture then some had originally envisioned but if you are dedicated to becoming truly natural, it is a never-ending journey worth taking! One filled with discovery, awareness and a feeling of peace to experience “existing in nature”. The horses give us a window with which to peer in to the world of natural. The love for the horse gives us the motivation to go against the flow and learn how to become natural. The attitude of justice is intrinsically natural horsemanship. If you can remember and internalize what natural truly is, your horsemanship journey will proceed with more smoothness and fewer stumbling blocks. So, if you endeavor to take the journey, keep ‘natural’ in mind and see what unfolds!

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Performance and the 7 games

Recently I had the opportunity to attend the Rolex 3-day Event in Kentucky, a test of the top competitors in the 3-day eventing field including many past and future Olympians. Among some of this years riders were Karen O’Conner (from “The Future of Training” with Linda & Pat Parelli and Karen & David O’Conner), William Fox-Pitt (this years Rolex winner), and Marlynn Little-Meredith (finishing a close second).
              In Eventing, the horse and rider are put through 3 days of challenges. The first day is Dressage, the second day consists of a Cross-Country jumping course – over 30 obstacles (including 3’ 6” tall jumps with a base of over 8 feet and jumps into water and at a gallop) while on course the riders and horses often exceed 20 miles per hour, and the course is 4 miles long. The final day (for those competitors able to continue) is stadium jumping (a course of jumps set up in an arena), meant to test the horses stamina and athletic ability. Eventing was originally designed to test horses aptitude to be mounts for the military. These horses needed to have great athleticism, maneuverability, courage and stamina to be good mounts for military men, hence the intense nature of the sport!

I have attended the Rolex event at least a dozen times in the past, it is where I found a passion for event horses and the challenge of the sport! After all those times watching the horses and riders this year something struck me with a new clarity. It’s one of those things that I’ve heard, talked about, practiced and even taught but “all of the sudden, out of nowhere” a BFO (Blinding Flash of the Obvious) comes and smacks you right between the eyes! This BFO was: the 7 games, and how they were a part of everything happening over the 4 days of competition. Most of the riders have never wiggled a rope at a horse to back them up, but their success depended, in large part, to the quality of their 7 games while riding!

Over the long weekend I was able to watch the horses progress through the disciplines and I started to see a pattern. On the first day of competition I watched the riders go through the dressage test (to test these supreme athletes ability to exhibit precise movements). Keep in mind these are horses that are fit enough to jump and gallop over 4 miles (the following day) and we are asking them to come out and show their rhythm, relaxation and obedience the first day! As the horses were flexed around circles, asked for precise transitions (between gaits as well as within gaits) and demonstrated their lateral maneuvers. All I could think was Circling Game for every arc and bend that they did. Yo-Yo Game during the transitions, and Sideways Game during the lateral maneuvers and lead changes! Not to mention the obvious friendly game with 1,000’s of spectators and international waving flags from various countries!! And here’s the best part: Pat says “Observe, Remember, and Compare” – what a great opportunity to do just that! I had the whole day to observe these horses and see if right circles or left circles were easier, to see if upward or downward transitions were harder and if the energy of the crowd bothered the horses. “Well, how will this affect the cross country day?” you might ask, after all the horses will no longer be in an arena, they will be galloping not walking and trotting a predictable pattern and it will be over uneven ground vs. a groomed arena?? Here is what I observed: the horses who had more trouble on their left circle, for example they might leak out through their right shoulder just a little – making a slightly bigger circle than the rider wanted or doing it with a funny angle in their body. These same horses on the cross country course, when unsure about an obstacle/jump, would duck out to the right and refuse the fence instead of going straight as an arrow over the jump. The horses that had more trouble with a downward transition in the dressage ring were the horses that had trouble coming back from a gallop to a canter when approaching a jump and as a result may jump ‘flat’, meaning without balance causing them to have a hard landing or need more space after the jump to recover their balance. This meant that they were not  going to be ready for the next obstacle and may fall down or refuse to jump! Also, those horses that had beautiful half passes right but lacked the same ease left might miss a sharp turn, push through/ignore the riders leg and end up taking the long way around the course costing them valuable time (the riders often get options when coming up to several jumps, a difficult but fast way or a easier but slower way – the course is judges on time, so a rider needs to go as quickly as possible while making sure their horse jumps all the obstacles)!!

                As I watched these simple (simple not always easy) things happen and build as the days of competition went along it reinforced in me the passion Pat has about playing the 7 games with excellence. After all he has often said that Level 4 is just Level 1 with excellence, and after seeing (with new eyes) the Rolex, all 4* Eventing is; is 7 games with excellence! As I watched the riders and horses struggle with the balance of the 7 games I knew ways to solve those problems on the ground without having to struggle through while riding. Thanks to Pat and Linda I have tools that will help me even at the most advanced Level of competition. I have a foundation that brings those pieces of the puzzle into focus and helps me know how to solve the problems that show up. The simple brilliance of the 7 games has given me the horse-mans tool kit to puzzle solve the most complicated problems, and Level 1-4 has given me the emotion fitness to look at those problems as puzzles and something to learn from vs. something to dread and avoid!

So, with a renewed passion for excellence in the simple things I am on the road again teaching and seeing just how good I can get those simple things with my horse. Even though we may not be riding every day I can be practicing what it takes to be excellent at my riding goal every moment I am with my horse. There doesn’t need to be a day where “we just played on the ground, and didn’t have time for riding - so I didn’t progress towards my goals”, every day even if we just halter and go out for a bite of grass I can ask myself how am I preparing positive patterns today that will serve me when I’m riding on a cross country course? How was his flexion when I put the halter on? Did he pull on my lead rope while he was eating grass? If yes, then we’ll take an extra moment to fix the flexion or to be sure I am not practicing heaviness by my horse pulling me around to the grass. One day that lead rope will be my rein and I need lightness so that there is no question about my horse sitting his weight back after a long gallop and getting balanced and ready for the next set of jumps/challenges! No matter what our goals or dreams are as horse-man no moment with our horses needs to be practicing the wrong thing, we can get excellence in the littlest things, after all our big goals are just made up of lots of little pieces.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Kathy & Taurus "Getting to Know Each Other"

My newest partner, Taurus!!

I am excited to get to know my new horse partner Taurus! He is a 6 year old Fresian from Florida and found his way to me due to his size and a less then ideal first 60 days under saddle. I am really looking forward to developing a relationship with him and he may become my new demo horse that travels on the road to clinics, etc.
He is extremely people friendly, and curious about people and their 'toys'! He is eager to learn and loves it when I pick him to play with!
At the moment I am getting to know him on the ground only :-), and John has agreed to put the first 30 or so hours on him while I focus on keeping myself and our new (not yet arrived) baby cool and healthy during this very warm summer!! Here is a picture of Taurus with his first session under saddle on our farm. . .
To begin with he was a little concerned with the motion behind his drive line, but by the end of the ground and riding session, he was looking lovely and relaxed . . .

Thank you John for your help, and I can't wait to watch as he continues to progress!!

What I have been focusing on after our first sessions together:
*Improving Taurus' confidence with things 'switching eyes', particularly in zone 5
*Higher energy friendly games
*Approach and retreat with canter
So far Taurus has made great improvements and is now able to accept the stick and string over his back with relaxation (nice low head, and soft eyes). He has also started to learn to pick up the right lead in front and behind (to start with the right lead was often a counter canter), and he is starting to read my body language and energy so that he knows if we are playing friendly game or driving game.

I'll keep you updated with his progress and look forward to learning more about him!
-Kathy Baar

Monday, July 2, 2012

A really useful article that I copied from Daniel Stewart's Newsletter! If you don't already get it you can sign up here!
Donna asks "My instructor is encouraging me to set goals. I think it's a good idea but I just can't seem to get into the habit. I've spoken with a few other riding friends and they can't seem to get into it either. Is this normal"?
I commend you on your desire to include goal setting in your training program and encourage you to not get discouraged, it's actually quite common for many riders to struggle with it. Having said that, goal setting is one of the most beneficial tools any of us can develop, it helps us learn to use our training time more efficiently, stay focused on what's important, identify strategies that lead to success, provide us with feedback on our progress, gives us reasons to keep going and provides us with a clear vision of what we want to accomplish.
There are many reasons why riders might struggle with goal setting, knowing what they are may help you understand what's holding you back:
  • Fear of Failure - We might avoid setting goals so that we can avoid the possible disappointment of not being able to achieve them.
  • Fear of Success - We might worry that if we achieve a goal today we'll have to keep achieving them in the future or be labeled a slacker.
  • Impressions - We might believe that others will think badly about our weird way for training or of trying to exceed being average.
  • Wrong Tool For The Right Job - We may have been discouraged in the past because we set outcome goals (only focused on winning) instead of the long and short-term goals that create success.
A lack of willpower can also lead to goal setting difficulties. Willpower is defined as having the self-control to resist instant gratification so that we can achieve long-term success. Many riders believe that goals require too much time and doubt that the efforts they put in today will benefit them tomorrow. When done correctly however goal setting can actually be a time saver because it gives our training sessions greater structure and purpose and makes them more efficient by focusing more of our time on the skills that will benefit us the most.
Understanding why we don't set goals is only 1/2 the battle... the other 1/2 is learning how to set them. For more information on how to do this I suggest you read the following Tip of The Month and to remember that:
Any goal worth setting is a goal worth working for.
Thanks for the great question Donna! If you have a question you'd like me to answer in a future newsletter feel free to email it to me at:

Tip of the Month
Setting Goals For Success

Riding is a very goal-oriented sport, whether we're training a young horse, moving up through the levels, learning to jump or developing a conditioning program, goal setting is an integral part of what we do. Learning to set goals is important but it's just as important that we learn how to achieve them. Below are a few tips that can help you do this:
  • Correct tool for the correct job - Set short and long-term goals that focus on your skills and behaviors instead of those of others.
  • Worthwhile - Goal setting requires hard work and dedication so your goals should make the effort worthwhile.
  • Realistic - Set goals that are challenging but achievable, too easy and you'll loss motivation, too hard and you risk feeling disappointed.
  • Schooling and Showing - Since the vast majority of learning occurs in training you should set goals for your lessons as well as your shows.
  • Self-Determined - Goals should be all about you, meaningful to you and not someone else (avoid setting goals to make others happy).
  • One at a time - Goals work best when you set 1 long-term goal at a time and set no more than 3 per season - quality is better than quantity.
  • Measurable - The best goals let you know if you've achieved them or not. Non-measurable goals like "trying my best' are too ambiguous.
  • Time Bound - Create a target date for your goals, it makes them measurable and helps you avoid procrastination or complacency.
  • Believable - If the gap between your ability and your goal is too big your mind won't be able to accept the discrepancy.
  • Perpetual - A goal that requires a lifetime commitment is fine but goals tend to be more achievable when you work on them one day at a time.
  • Ethical - Setting goals that go against your morals (i.e. sacrificing your horse's safety for a ribbon) will leave you wondering if it was all worth it.
There are many other ways that goal-setting can set you up for success... watch for more goal setting tips in future newsletters!

A week with Kathy & Quick
“Teaching flying lead changes from zone 5”

As you can guess by the title this week I decided to try and teach Quick flying lead changes with long lines from zone 5! I chose to use the figure 8 pattern – something that he already knows, to help support the flying lead change pattern.

Some things I found useful to already have in place before starting this week’s project: In a nutshell, at least Level 3 ground skills with Quick. Plus, confidence in zone 5 with two rein driving at walk, trot and canter. Also, a positive pattern on my 45’ line doing the figure 8 with just one line. In addition, I have been practicing Walter Zettl type 2 rein sessions with Quick, getting him highly in tune with my energy up and energy down so that we can make precise transitions without heavy use of the line. Lastly, we have been playing more and more with zone 5 driving while I keep my feet still = lots of circles, figure 8’s, and weave (with very long lines and lots of ‘drift’).

Day 1: With all the preparation we have done I felt Quick and I were ready to dive right into the Figure 8 pattern. We started at walk then trot and built to canter with simple changes by the end of the session. Once we got to canter I focused on seeing if I could keep my feet as still as possible and would allow Quick to do several circles around me while I prepared to be in the right position and when we were both ready I asked Quick for the transition and new lead when he was in between the cones. Once on the new lead I allowed him to circle several times until we were both ready and then asked for the transition through the center and into the new lead.  Quick caught on quickly (no pun intended J), and we finished on a relaxed canter around a cone, a nice downward transition to walk and then back out around the other cone in the new lead about 3 times.

Day 2: We prepared with a VERY short session on the 45’ line to get his energy up (it was very HOT, so a short session was key!). Once he was connected we played with 2 22’ lines in zone 5 warming up with the same pattern as Day 1, all was coming smoothly. So, I chose to ask for the change. On the first attempt Quick did a slip change (not quite enough ‘Shwung’ for a flying change), but after a few repetitions and some “go button” practice he offered a flying change!! We stopped, rubbed, scratched and gave him a cookie. Then to the other side, and he immediately offered a flying change the other direction J Stop: Rub: Cookie and we cooled out for the day!

Day 3: Well, after ‘Day 2’ you may be thinking goal already accomplished, but . . . Today I warmed up, reviewed the pattern from Day 1 and decided to try 2 45’lines for the changes, my thought was that with the longer ropes I would able to be very savvy and keep my feet completely still while offering him drift. However, we only got slip changes. Still we finished on a relaxed, obedient figure 8 pattern with slip changes and off to eat grass and cool off. After dinner while reflecting on what happened I believe I was allowing so much drift that Quick was getting ‘flat’ and loosing elevation in his canter therefore making it harder for him to change (the same thing that happens to most students when they try to get ridden flying changes – that’s why they need a ground pole – to increase the moment of elevation). So, tomorrow back to the 22’ line!

Day 4: Back to the 22’ lines and a much better result! What I learned was that the shorter lines caused me to keep him more elevated because if I allowed enough drift for him to become ‘flat’ I was out of rope! So tomorrow I’ll be back to the 45’ lines to see if I can allow drift at the right time and ‘bring him back’/more collected when he needs to get ready for the change.

Day 5: We started with low energy today, perhaps due to the heat (only 90 at 9:00am!). So, I realized I needed to make a quick session of high energy and we spent time warming up Quick’s brain with some slow but particular tasks, like places one hind foot on the pedestal and playing ‘touch it’ with his tail! After he was in the mood, we moved onto the 45’ line. After 2 slip changes we added some energy and ‘Shazam’ we got 3 changes in a row! The 45’ lines worked great, I was able to allow drift to get the forwards then shorten about ½ circle before the change to help him set up for the change – and it was a success!

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

A week With Kathy & Quick "Bridling While Mounted"

Bridling While Mounted

A Week With Kathy & Quick

This week I decided to see if I could get Quick to act like a partner while I was in the saddle and bridling him. My goal was to get Quick to have a positive response to the point that I could hold out the bridle and Quick would offer to take it without me having to bend over and ‘chase’ his mouth around.  The following link is to a video of our progress at the end of the 5 days:

One of the things that I needed to have in place to make this 5 day goal a reality was a positive response to bridling while on the ground (video link of Quick Bridling on the ground):
To build this positive response to the bit I have been playing with Quick getting something ‘tasty’ each time after accepting the bit. It is the same idea that Linda Parelli shows in the ground simulations on the Game Of Contact DVD.

Day 1: I checked our bridling from the ground and rewarding with a treat to make sure we were set to go for this week’s goal -all was good. Now I needed Quick to solve a more complicated puzzle, I just held the bit out and asked him to ‘take’ it (up until this point I have been setting up the situation as perfectly as possible). When he did he got a little cookie.

Day 2: I started where we ended on Day 1, asking Quick to take the bit in an awkward position, ex. Up higher and down lower than normal. Also, at this point I started simply holding the bit out and waiting for him to come around and choose to stick his head in the bridle.

Day 3: We started on the ground and then I moved to sitting on the fence and asking Quick to take the bit. This was a little bit of a challenge for him to make this leap, but I stuck with him and rewarded the slightest try (ie. Sniffing the snaffle) with a cookie. After about 2 cookies he figured out the game was the same from the fence and was able to take the bit while I sat above him on the fence.

Day 4: After warming Quick up online with a saddle I started our bridling session on the fence, all went well. So, after mounting I rode over and picked up my bridle. He had a similar reaction to the first time I was on the fence – a little unsure about the game. I went back to rewarding him with a little cookie for just touching the bridle with his nose. After about 3-4 repetitions he figured out the puzzle and put effort into putting his nose and mouth through the bridle and onto the bit. We repeated the bridling while mounted 3 times rewarding him with a cookie and scratch after each success.

Day 5: Today we warmed up On Line and then videoed out progress (see video link above). After figuring out it was the same game he is used to just in a different zone it took no time at all to get bridling like a partner while I was mounted!

Saturday, April 21, 2012

A great video of catching game!!

Click here to watch!

The outside of a horse is good for the inside of a man . . . or is it?

I’ve spent the weekend at the Equine Affaire in Columbus, Ohio and had the privilege of watching Linda Parelli, Jesse Peters, Mollie Robbins, and Christine Madoni demonstrate horsenalities, personalities, and Game of Contact! Plus, watch many other presenters throughout the weekend covering topics such as natural horsemanship, breed specific demonstrations, dressage, jumping, western performance, massage, etc. During all these amazing demonstrations I couldn’t help but think how amazing, versatile, and athletic the horse is! Not to mention how lucky we as humans are to be involved in their world!
 As I was watching one of the less exuberant presenters my mind began to wonder . . . thinking of all the variety horse’s offer us as well as the room to grow and improve ourselves through the study of the horse. One quote stuck out in my mind as particularly interesting:

“There is something about the outside of a horse is good for the inside of a man.” –Winston Chirchill

Now, normally I really like this quote, but for some reason (perhaps the dominate LBI in myself J, thanks Linda for the humorous reminders this weekend!) I dared to confront this quote with a challenge: The INSIDE of a horse is by far the most valuable for the inside of a man.

After all it is the inside of the horse where the true ‘being’ exists, they are of course beautiful to watch, stunning to observe and fascinating to study. But the true value is Under the sleek, powerful exterior, you have to dig a little deeper find to what makes a horse a horse.

They are amazing partners for us humans, different in so many ways but complimentary in even more. Man is the ultimate predator designed to out strategize its prey. Built to learn, grow and build. Able to remember past experiences learn from them and plan for a different future. Able to build means of communication, science and records that will outlive our short lives. Continually thinking of what has been, what will be, and what could be. Able to overcome incredible odds through faith in something greater then oneself. Nurturing and motivated to maintain strong, and long family ties.

On the flip side, the equine created as the ultimate prey animal. Living in the moment alert to changes in the environment (with foals being able to run in just 2 hours of birth). Able to easily cover 20+ miles a day with rhythm, speed and grace. With the capacity to attack a challenging stallion, fight to the death then within a moment begin grazing calmly with the herd. Built with such a shape that they can accept a human for a comfortable ride on their back and with such a character that they allow it! They are creatures with the dignity of a noble being and yet are unreasonably forgiving. 

What an amazing partnership not because of the similarities but because of the differences. What humans lack horses can provide and often do so willingly.

And for all that they offer and give perhaps the most valuable is the opportunity for us to grow, to discover how to see the world from a different point of view and then how to use our incredibly equipped brains to solve the puzzle of bringing our world views together.

Often at the end of a ‘Horse Behavior & You’ Course we would take the time to say thank you to everyone who had been part of and helped us on our journeys. The last “Thank you” was dedicated to the biggest teacher we could ever have: “Our Horses”, I’d like to second that and say THANK YOU to all the Equines that have helped make us better human beings!

Friday, March 23, 2012

Laying down on the tarp!

A Week with Kathy and Quick

Our challenge to this week was to get Quick confident enough to lay down on the tarp when I asked him. My goal was to build his confidence and see if we had the preparation to get this done in 5 days! Following is a brief recap of what the next our 5 days of progress looked like. (First, before we started our new project I made sure to have lying down off the tarp going smoothly ).

DAY 1: Today I focused on testing out Quick’s confidence with the tarp in normal horse ‘upright’ positions.  I asked him to play “Touch It”, then walk over the tarp and stand on it for a lick and chew. I then played yo-yo and finished with walk, trot, canter on the circle over the tarp to be sure he wasn’t concerned about it. To finish this session I played with having Quick ‘wear’ the tarp, first at a standstill and then in motion. Once he had confidence I finished our session with a lay down next to the tarp and made sure I could play friendly game all over him while he was down.

DAY 2: We quickly reviewed day 1’s session to be sure Quick “woke up” on the confident side of the corral, and then moved on to our normal play/ride session. At the end of our ride I brought the tarp over and asked Quick to lay down with it near him and finished with me moving the tarp around him while he was down and then placing the tarp over him. Once he had a lick and chew we finished our session.

DAY 3: After having a play at liberty I played friendly with the tarp all over Quick and asked him to wear it again in motion; he seemed full of confidence and ready for something new! I asked Quick to lay down while he was standing on the tarp. He was very willing to lie down but needed to stand after a few moments. We played approach and retreat this way, allowing him to stand as soon and as often as he needed until he could stay down with confidence, and finished our session there.

DAY 4: We had a ride through the woods and wrapped up with our tarp project. I started with some brief review while standing and finished by asking Quick to lay on the tarp. He was much more confident today and was able to stay down for a few minutes (this means we stopped at the right point yesterday). I checked out my friendly game, rubbing and climbing all over him while he was down on the tarp, and had all “green lights”!

DAY 5: To finish our week’s goal after playing on-line we headed straight towards the tarp. Quick had that “I think it’s about lying down on the tarp” look on his face and after asking he went down smoothly and was able to stay! (Although we need to work on our ‘aim’ a little, sometimes he ends up with just half up his body on the tarp).

Quick enjoying a little grain, as incentive, to finish the week.

-Kathy Baar and Quick Car

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

80% of Success is Just Showing Up!

While teaching this month a topic that continues to come up is finding motivation for ourselves. In fact the topic of how to be motivated and how to make progress has been the most dominate after-clinic/lesson discussion between myself and students. Which caused me to lick and chew on the drive home and thinking about the overlay on the horsenality/personality chart. So, here is what I have been thinking about when it comes to motivation/getting started/making progress.

Extroverts have the jump on us introverts when it comes to getting started! The chances of an action-motivated extrovert just doing ‘something’ is greater than an introverts who may feel like they have to have all the information first, then have a plan, and KNOW what’s going to happen before they even start. Well let’s face it, the chances of all of these things lining up, and an introvert feeling motivated, and in the right mood every day from the start of a project to the end is pretty slim! Particularly when we’re talking about a horsemanship journey and did I mention “the journey is lifelong”.

If you find yourself on the introverted side of the Personality model more times than not, I can relate! I relate to the feelings of not having enough information to start, or “well, I really don’t have enough time today”, or “I’ll just wait until tomorrow (and then tomorrow turns into the next day and then next week)” and pretty soon we haven’t started and it’s 2 months later. Now, for some extroverts looking in it may appear as if us introverts are procrastinating, but more than just putting something off, it is uncomfortable for us to start a ‘something’ without having ALL the information. We may be the ones who buy a new camera and before ever pushing a button we have read the entire manual, so that we can find out how everything works before we start snapping shots. On the flip side: some extroverts are likely to take the camera out of the box, push every button on it to see what it does and take at least 100 pictures before the day is over. When asked about what they learned from the manual they are liable to say “What manual, it came with directions?”

Both have their benefits and I can appreciate the advantages of both approaches. The point I am getting at is that the horse’s manual is not nearly as black and white as the camera’s manual. In fact, by comparison (particularly for adults who per Pat Parelli’s definition: Practice making simple things difficult), the horse manual becomes incomplete, unclear, ever changing and never-ending! At closer look the horse manual can seem so overwhelming that often Introverts struggle getting started or making it back to the barn after encountering a problem they haven’t read a solution for. It is such an uncomfortable feeling not knowing what to do and/or not knowing the ‘what if’s?” This uncomfortable feeling can be enough to stop some people in their tracks and hold them back from progress.

The good news is: there can be a light at the end of the tunnel, if we are willing to feel a little more uncomfortable for a little or a lot longer. As introverts we need to embrace the uncomfortable feelings of doing things without knowing all the details, if we hope to progress. The uncomfortable feeling is our brains way of trying to keep us safe (Stephanie Burns has some excellent information, to learn more on this), our brain is doing its job. Just like your horse’s prey animal instincts are doing their job when he spooks at the rustle in the bushes. Sure in principle and while sitting comfortably reading, ‘Embrace the uncomfortable’ sounds like a great idea, but in practice it may not ‘feel good’ and often looks odd as we’re trying to figure things out. However, if we are EVER going to make progress we have to just get out there and do it. Now, let me be clear, I’m not suggesting that you go out to the barn and pull off your bridle, hop on without a saddle and see how things go, what I AM suggesting is that you actually GO to the barn. To get started, a strategy that can be successful is to schedule time to be with your horse and GO. Even if you’re not ‘in the mood’ to play, go anyway. Sit with your horse or groom them or sit on the other side of the fence and watch your horse. After all you are more likely to eventually play with your horse if he is at fingers distance than if he’s 10 miles down the road or even ‘all the way’ out in the backyard. In order to make progress you must make the time with your horse a priority. It is your time to do what YOU need with your horse, even if that means sitting next to him and talking about your challenging day at work/school or standing next to him and smelling the one and only smell that is YOUR horse (it’s the same smell that our non-horsey friends think is ‘stinky’, but those of us who have a love for horses - we know it is the BEST smell in the world :-). In fact by just showing up, you are already 80% down the road of success! So, when life starts to get in the way of your horsemanship and threatens to stop your progress in its tracks, remember 80% of success is just showing up, so GO!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Tips on making horsemanship progress even in the winter!

Making the best of the winter weather and getting a chance to play with your horse can seem like a challenge at times, particularly for those of us who live anywhere that gets below freezing! If you’re someone who likes to keep feeling in your toes and appreciates a normal colored nose vs. your nose’s best impression of Rudolph, it can seem hard to get motivated to keep up with your New Year goals and go out to play with your horse! Well, I feel your pain! When it takes 10 minutes to bundle up, 10 minutes to de-bundle your horse, and by the time you’ve groomed and are ready to play you’ve lost feeling in your fingers, it can seem like a far reach to practice your refinement under 6 layers.

I have to say Quick and I have experienced the same thing. So with all the extra time sitting in front of the heater to warm up I came up with a plan to stay on track even when the weather doesn’t seem like the most willing partner. I realized that during my daily horse chores I can add in a little progress. For example, I need to bring Quick from the pasture up to the barn for grain and Parelli Essentials J, well Pat says there are only 7 games in 5 zones so why not make the walk from zone 5 (after all my one rein driving could use a little more straightness) and when we come across a puddle or mud patch I can use my body language to turn him on the way to the barn, it’s working as a great point to point to help his straightness! Then I take an extra 2 minutes and just before I grain him we play with the clippers, what a great way to set up a positive pattern – put up with the vibrating clippers and then get something you love – grain! And as you can imagine we have to go back to the pasture (good draw) so I can practice two things that could always be better backwards and sideways “The better your horse goes backwards and sideways the they do everything else”, so we play a little ‘Rockslide’ on the way back to the pasture.

I vary the routine slightly but at least this way I get some progress time in with him even on the days that are below freezing and we get a chance to stay connected during the challenging winter months. I hope this helps inspire some ideas on how you could make the best of the time with your horse even if it is limited. Stay warm ad have a progressive winter!

Saturday, January 14, 2012

A Week With Kathy and Quick "Seek The Jump"

As I move forward in my jumping goals with Quick it becomes increasingly important that he seek the jump and choices to go over it. I choose to use Liberty as the savvy to focus on for this week in my jumping play sessions with Quick. At the start after looking at Quick’s Self-Assessment checklist I chose to have my week goal be jumping upright barrels at liberty, away from the round pen rail. The photo above is from Day 5 at about 15’ away while keeping my carrot stick in neutral. Below is a brief outline of our progress during the week to get here:

Day 1: For a warm-up before going to liberty, I asked Quick to jump the single barrel laying down (SBLD) from a walk at 12’, then the same at 22’ feet. Both distances he was able to ‘seek the barrel and jump with just a suggestion (phase 1). I then asked for the same at the trot. Once this was going well we moved into the round pen. I asked for him to jump 3 BLD set against the fence, and progressed to one barrel laying down against the rail.

Day 2: We warmed up with a liberty review from day 1. All went well, next we moved to 3 laying down barrels off the rail, no problem  So, on to 2 and then 1. We finished on 3 upright barrels against the rail via squeeze game.

Day 3: We started with 2 barrels against the rail and reviewed the day before. With everything going well we moved to 3 upright barrels about 3 feet off the rail. Once Quick was able to hunt this jump we finished our round pen session with a bucket of grain inside the round pen 

Day 4: We warmed up reviewing the previous days. When I moved to 3 upright barrels a few feet off the rail I played some stick to me with the barrels ‘in the way’ to be sure I was clear in my communication that the ‘jump’ was the solution to this puzzle, success with the upright barrels and stick-to-me. We finished with some grazing inside of the round pen.

Day 5: Again, we warmed up briefly reviewing the previous days. Things were going well, so I asked for a 3 upright barrels from 12’, then 15’ using squeeze game. Quick is such a great partner and loves to figure out puzzles! So, this was a fun week for us both.