Wednesday, June 15, 2011

A week with Kathy and Quick "Brideless, Bareback Jump"

Often people see me doing something like the picture above and think it just happens, out of thin air I could do anything I wanted. In reality even after you have a black string you still need to practice proper preparation. So, I wanted to tell you the preparation that went into this picture:

We had the opportunity to teach at The Horse First Farm a few weeks ago, on our way in to the farm I saw the honeycomb jumps (3+') and thought "wouldn't it be nice to have a picture jumping that bareback and bridless". I knew I had a week to prepare Quick (we would be heading out by the end of the week), and I set myself the goal of building Quick's confidence towards jumping the fence bareback and bridless, not on actually doing it (this way I could be sure to put my principle before my purpose). Quick is already solid Level 3 in his skills and knowledge so I knew the important thing was to have his confidence in the environment and be sure he was tuned into me as a leader. Here is an overview of how the days of prior preparation looked.

Day 1: We went to the playground on line and explored all the obstacles playing traveling circling game on a 45' line. By the end of the session he was confident being away from his herd and confident with the playground obstacles.

Day 2: Review day 1, make sure he still had confidence today - check! On to our next step: After playing some follow the rail to warm up I rode around the playground freestyle and over a few of the lower jumps, we finished on a nice relaxed 'blow out' and I allowed Quick to eat some grass in the playground.

Day 3: Started On line with a few pre ride checks. Reviewed Day 2 for confidence and relaxation - check! On to our next step: I rode over the honeycomb jumps with a saddle and snaffle until Quick was relaxed, confident and 'seeking the jump'.

Day 4: We started at Liberty to get some connection. Then reviewed Day 3 to make sure Quick was thinking over the jump - check! On to our next step: I rode over the honeycomb jumps with a bareback pad and snaffle. This step was more to make sure I found my balance bareback and that I was able to stay out of his way while jumping :-)

Day 5: Again, we started at liberty, allowed him to get some pent up energy out and finished with some great stick-to-me! Next, you guessed it we started by reviewing what we had done the day before: I rode over the honeycomb jumps with a bareback pad and snaffle freestyle (casual rein) until Quick found relaxation. Then we slipped the snaffle off, made sure we still communication (turn right, left, upward and downward transitions, and of course STOP :-), and then we jumped the honeycomb jumps bridless with just the bareback pad!

I hope this sheds some light on the fact that even after you have a black string prior and proper preparation is still necessary. Even though it may seem like Instructors just magically can do 'stuff' often it is only after many hours, days, or months of preparation. As Walter says: Do the most difficult maneuvers with your horse so that he never knows they are difficult. That is what I keep in the back of my mind as I prepare Quick for my goals.

“Be The Change That You Want To See In The World”

The above quote from Gandhi has been floating around in my head over the last few weeks. Maybe it’s because it is a GREAT quote. Maybe it’s because it puts the responsibility back on us, rather than allowing the blame to fall elsewhere. Maybe it’s because since John and I moved from Faclty at the Parelli Center to field instructors, one of the things that seems to be at the top of our students question list is “How are you finding life in the REAL world?”. It is an interesting question and one that I haven’t answered the same, yet.

If you haven’t been to the Parelli Center you may wonder about the comment “living in the REAL world”. Well, some say that while at the center it is like you are in a positive Natural HorseManShip bubble, surrounded by positive energy, happy horses and people who truly LOVE what they are doing! Some of this ‘bubble’ may be due to VERY minimal make that non-existent cell phone reception, no TV, no radio and no newspapers laying around, but I believe the biggest difference is due to the people! What is so amazing about the people at the Parelli Center? Those who are drawn to the center believe in devoting their lives to something bigger then themselves, to Never Ending Self Improvement. To making the WORLD a better place for horses and humans. These are the people who create the ‘magic Parelli bubble’. The energy that they bring to their day, the energy that they leave behind, and the fact that the center is led by the most naturally positive and progressive people I know: Pat & Linda Parelli. The combination makes for a magic energy bubble.

After spending the last 10 years at the Parelli Center is was easy to get used to the feeling of being surrounded by positive energy, being in a safe learning environment and through experience we have found that as students make the transition back to the “real world” the journey can be challenging and uncomfortable. So much so that Linda Parelli even put together a letter for students going home to help give advice on making the transition a little smoother. After all it is true that not every person you meet is going to think it’s ‘normal’ to play with a ‘conga horse’ or bounce around on an exercise ball to the rhythm of your horses canter! So at the end of every course we would talk about this transition and were available to support students after they went home. So, did John and I read the letter before leaving? We did, but more than that, more than just reading what Linda says, more than just allowing the positive energy to seep into us while at the Parelli Center. I have found that you have to live it, not just read about it and talk about it, you have to feel it, think it, be it, and act it.

If it is people who create the “magic bubble” then it is people who will carry it home with them, who will share it with other people. After all, most of us can think of a time when we didn’t know about natural HorseManShip. When our sessions with our horses were just about having a good time, and “oh by the way, why can’t my silly horse see that the puddle is only an inch deep and just walk through it!” We haven’t always been thinking positive, progressive and natural (or maybe you have, in that case - well done ), so what made the difference for you? I know for a lot of us it was putting our focus and energy towards something bigger than going out and having a good time with our horses (although that’s still fun too). It was when Pat said his mission was and still is to “Change the WORLD for horses and humans”. That is one of those sayings that sinks it at a different level every day. It is also what helps me carry my ‘magic bubble’ wherever I go. Because if I am working(playing ) towards something bigger then myself, something more important than the next door neighbor laughing at me twirling my carrot stick around in the air. Something more life changing than the show jumper thinking I’m wasting my time by sending my horse over the jump on line before I ride him over the jump. What really matters is that I know why I am doing these tasks: To make the World a better place for me, for my horse, and for you. What makes me feel good at the end of the day or end of the week is not my neighbor thinking I look ‘cool’ or the show jumper approving of me doing things the traditional way. It is looking back and knowing that I stuck to MY principles, that I lived what I believe every moment. That I woke up and walked the talk. That I was the change that I want to see in the world TODAY.

So, if you ask “How are you finding life in the ‘real world’?” my answer is “GREAT!”. There are people wherever you go and they all have something beautiful even if I can’t find it. The horsemanship journey has taught me more about myself and the people around me than I ever imagined. For that I will be eternally grateful for the system Pat and Linda have built. One of the lessons I have learned, among many is: I am in control of me and I WILL be the change that I want to see in the world. My personal challenge to all Parelli students is: Will you?