Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Level 2 Clinic with Christi Rains

I think its Tuesday, yep says so on the upper right hand corner of my computer along with the time. Two days of getting up at 5:30 then spending all day watching, listening, and thinking– gee sounds like school. I’m wiped out. And still have a yearning to spend more time with Jeepers. If I could only get the energy to get dressed and drive over to the barn. See a real advantage to being able to just walk out the door and hang out with her if she was here.

This Level 2 Clinic was a first for me in so many ways. The first Parelli clinic I have every attended with Jeeps. The first time I took Jeeps somewhere – basically the only time she was loaded on a trailer in the last 8 years was to move to another barn. Okay not quite true, lets think a moment – two horse shows (neither one a great time), she was a massage volunteer once (but she never settled), and one day at Dressage Camp (sort of okay except for stall time, again never settled). Through all of this she willingly loads. Thank god that has never been an issue. First time we went somewhere for two days. I did take her home each night. Based on past experiences where she would not settle in a new stall I thought it best to bring her home and let her spend her evening and night with her girl friends. Didn’t consider the added stress for me in early rise time and coordinating with Mary who was doing the trailering. Ah, our horses come first.

Oh and there was my getting involved with the clinic beforehand to help make it happen. Can’t just seem to go to a clinic, seem to need to get involved. Originally was going to take place at Apple Knoll, just 10 minutes from where Jeepers is boarded. This made the whole adventure seem doable to me. Removed one of my primary concerns of trailering her a long distance and having to board her overnight. Seemed like it was an offering to me that the clinic was so close. But the clinic didn’t fill and was close to being cancelled. So I called the coordinator and suggested Cedar Brook, a place I have been promoting shows at where the cost was much less. I arranged for the clinic to be held there. Now Cedar Brook is about 45 minutes from Jeepers barn, but maybe the clinic could go on and not get cancelled.

Sunday – first day of clinic. Up at 5:30 to deal with last minute things and to the barn to groom Jeeps for her debut. Beautiful day, cool clear crisp, almost fall like. I’m working on keeping my anxiety in check so I keep busy. Jeeps is eating hay with her girls so I take my grooming brushes with me to her paddock and groom her while she is eating. Don’t want to cut her breakfast short. The coordinator, Heather, due to trailing issues, had brought her mare Sierra over last night and is joining Jeeps for the ride to the clinic. She goes on, then its my turn to load Jeeps. She walks right on. What a girl!

We are running a bit late and Mary seems to be driving slowly. Its okay its okay I keep telling myself. Breath swing breath swing (chant I used to use when trail riding). Finally pull into Cedar Brook. Everyone, okay there are only 5 other people in the clinic besides me, is already there with their horses.

Now my past experience with Jeepers is that she unloads and then sticks her head way way up in the air and neighs, whinnys, screams, snorts, spins around looking for her friends. Today she unloads spies clover right beside the trailer and drops her head and proceeds to eat. Huh? So I let her graze quietly for a while, nod to others and then walk her calmly to the barn and put her in her stall. Okay that is the factual account of what happened. Emotionally? I am standing leaning on Jeeps in a new environment as she is grazing in the sun. I am overwhelmed and crying. As I am walking toward the barn the realization that I at a Parelli clinic WITH Jeepers is overwhelming and I am sobbing. We have crossed an enormous threshold.

Christi talks for a bit about her journey thru the program. Shares how she raced through things and had to go back to Level 1 building blocks when she found herself stuck on somethings in Level 2 and again in Level 3. Then we did simulations – riding position, rein feel, hollow vs rounded back – on the ground down on our knees, on each other and on the barrel. Doing these under her direction was really informative. Got a very good feel for how it feels to be a horse and be jammed by rider, got a good feel for what it is I do that effects what Jeeps does.

Then we got our horses. Started with backup and transistions at backup. Bring your energy up – walk in place swinging carrot stick, walk forward and if the horse doesn’t move they bump into the stick. She even showed running toward the horse more energy and they should increase their backup. Well Jeeps was not impressed. I think she was asleep! I’d get one step, maybe. Christi came over and got her to back up maybe 5 steps. Said, well she is an old horse (I had mentioned she was 25) so she would not ask for much more. I watch the others, Helen with her TB, Torri with her out of control QH, Becky has a 2 year old kite on a string, Heather (Level 2 graduate working on Level 3) has a very turned in 7 year-old, Sandy with a rescued Morgan. At least I could see how it was supposed to look.

We did drive the hindquarters 181 degrees. Keep the front feet still. Jeeps was still blowing me off, sleep walking. I took a little time now to see if I could get her engaged. I did a draw and then ran backwards. Finally she perked up and trotted to me. Did this a few more times and then went back to driving the hind end. At first she would walk forward and then around. Had to get front end to stop and only hind end moving. Release is where they learn. Important message for me. Did drive the front end 361 degrees, with back feet not moving or within a hoola hoop sized circle. Took more effort. Needed to be more rhythmic and Christi helped us here. And finally got Jeeps doing this nicely.

And then circling game. Because there were six of us in a chain set up large size dressage ring – which various of the youngsters would step into the chains and get excited – we were all working with our 12 foot lines. Asking for snappy departs. We then switched to 22 and one at a time walked the circle down the entire length of the ring which had all sorts of obstacles. Young ones were delightful to watch – so much energy high jinks surprises. Great for me to see. When we did it, quieter and much more dignified ; -) Was not getting a good send and Christi wanted me to touch Jeeps with the savvy string. Of course I kept missing her. She had said to me earlier that I was in the nagging stages, that I was not fulfilling my promise. And here is the very interesting thing – she said you don’t have to hit them hard – just a touch with the string is okay. And I finally was able to connect and Jeeps did a very nice depart! Whoppee!!! I now had a horse trotting and everyone was surprised to see that she was a nice mover LOL! Even Christi commented on how nice her trot was! Jeeps has fooled everyone initially into thinking she was a dull slow moving OLD mare. She was showing herself now.

We broke for lunch and afterwards spent the afternoon in the indoor, horses saddled. Started off with doing whatever games we wanted to get our horses moving and focused. Christi had us doing half circle against the wall and then asking for sideways. Keep it rhythmic Jamie. More drive hind end, drive front end. Jeeps was very up, nervous coming into the indoor. I was not sure about getting on her. Doing all the ground work got her listening and calmer. When we mounted she got into walking mode. Her trail riding big walk. And walk and walk and walk she did. Casual rein. Stay on the rail. Jeeps wanted to walk out either of the end big doors. Hard for me to drop into casual rein. Bend to stop – lift, stroke rein, close finger 1, 2,3, hand to thigh. Christi said to anchor your hand and then when they release they reward themselves. Jeeps would bend, soften, and then walk on. We did 9 step back ups. Long focus (helps to keep it straignt) Had resistance – okay opposition reflex. Lift rein, slide down close fingers. Slow down, everything done slowly. I was struggling with her. Christi had me slow things down. Lift higher and be lighter and Jeepers got lighter and lighter and lighter! As the afternoon wore on it took less and less from me to get her to do listen. And then she would walk on. What was interesting was that Christi was fine with her not being able to just stand. Didn’t make a big deal out it. We were accomplishing the various tasks. Jeeps would get soft and stop, bend or back up….and then walk on.

We did an exercise – leap frog – walked along the wall, turn into wall by disengaging hindend. Couple of steps of sideways then back up off wall and halt. Next horse would walk in front of you and then turn to wall and back up.

Final exercise was figure eight at trot. There were only 3 of us riding in the ring, me, Helen and Heather. The others with young or handful horses were going to work after us. So one would ride and the other two were the centers of the circle. Jeepers’ trot was just too big for me. So I did this at the walk. Challenge to get circle as opposed to amoeboid shapes. Helen (dressage rider) did great a trot and even cantered with simple change of lead. Christi explained how to go from casual rein to both hands, reach down for bend for transition to trot and then you are in position for correct lead canter. If on right lead canter casual rein in right hand, left hand on reins and slides down – slows horse to trot (changing bend) and then you have left hand forward and right back for correct body position for left canter. Really great to see this in action. Heather western rider was incredible with her horse. I sat and watched. Jeeps was getting better, finally, about standing.

Sunday, second day was another quiet just walk on the trailer. Morning was more simulations. Pulling and how it gives the horse power. Releasing one rein and how the horse disengages hind end. Change of direction on the circle (2 people horses) and drawing them in. Change of direction – walk back until you get two eyes. Draw- cock head looking at hind end and spiral out to circle – so that you are basically walking out to get infront of them on the circle. Easy to watch and then confusing when in the simulation. Really a great opportunity to get the muscle memory and mind memory really understanding and figuring it out. Spent a lot of time doing this. Lots of laughter and confusion. Lots of moments realizing how I confuse Jeepers. Simulations as horse (on hands and knees) and rider on circles – lifting your ribs and horse flexs with you. Also how some horses have ribs stuck to one side and we tend to sit in the hollow that is caused. And if we shift our weight to the high side how this immediately straightens out the horse! Hmmm, how interesting. How amazing.

We then got our horses and tried this with them. Realized I was not getting both her eyes (no right eye) before asking for change. Also I was backing up and not moving forward and driving her soon enough so she was coming into my space and driving me backwards more. Christi came to help me and saw immediately that Jeeps was not giving her right eye. Stopped everyone and talked about this. Said needed to do more work from the right side and needed to fix this before continuing on working on change of direction. Drive hind end to get the eye, lead from right side, saddle, groom all sorts of things from right side. She then went to help Helen who had a question and immediately said her horse was not giving her his right eye. And then Torri’s horse same thing. Interesting.

Christi said the draw was as important as the send. And needed good draw for change of direction.

Second day is going fast. Another beautiful day. Lunch and move to the indoor again for afternoon. Sideways without a wall and leading by the foot. Simulations before we got our horses on how it feels. How important it is to watch for the slightest release, sift of weight and to release. Again as it has been for both days – importance of release. And how quick it needs to be. Worked with our horses on leading by foot. Jeeps was again feeling anxious about the indoor and other horses so I worked on yesterday’s game of half circle and sideways. More energy from me (to match hers) and more focus. Watch position in relation to drive line and be more aware and faster in anticipating what she is doing and going to do. Driving hind end without stepping forward was much better and driving front end was beginning to work better also. Proper position. More energy. More focus.

Mounted, not much time left before Mary was coming to pick Jeeps up. Having done the ground work, well when I got on Jeeps I asked for bend and stops and backups. Didn’t take much and after a few of each she was willing to just stand. Today I could sit on my quietly standing horse and listen to Christi. This was huge!!!! Christi had us work on circling – bending our ribs. Lift outside elbow to lift the ribs. Don’t collapse on inside just raise outside. I found had to isolate body parts, not allow seat to shift completely, keep it moving and lift my ribs. This gets the horse to step under themselves with inside hind. Round soft and lifted. Directing Jeeps nose to the inside, lifting my outside ribs and looking long focus on the circle (not immediately down or down toward the center) I had a nice round horse! Way to go Jeeps!

It’s over. Sigh. Glad I sat down to write this out. As I was remembering what we did yesterday, Sunday’s details came better into focus. I want to continue on this journey. But I am realizing it has to be on my own schedule. The chat/study group is out. They are moving too fast. The focus seems to be on assessing and the journey is getting lost. We were asked what our goals were for the clinic and I said working my way thru Level 2 and assessing. I’ve realized that is not my goal. My goal is to develop my relationship with Jeeps, be able to have more and more fun with her. To build both of our emotional fitnesses. I also realized the importance of spending the time doing my groundwork before I get on her and go out on the trails. I realize how lucky I have been. But that I need to do this before I get on. She showed me this with her walking in the indoor. This is how she moves out on the trail. I had great difficulty stopping in the indoor. Have the same out on the trail. I need to, oh god here I go quoting Pat, “Take the time it takes.” It’s about journey, the complete journey – not the immediate task. I’m going out on the trails with Rebecca later today. I will get there early enough to do ground work with Jeeps and even some riding before. I see the immediate challenge of adhering to this and not get caught up in the immediacy of “lets go for a trail ride….” Hmm how interesting.

On the practical side what did I get from the clinic? Persistence. Proper position. When things are not working, step back and think what can I change. Breaking things down into smaller pieces. And another P precision. Not accepting parts. Like two eyes disengagement. Two eyes before I ask for the send. I need to ask and get her attention and focus and do what is necessary before working on anything. The importance of release. That even though its called play there is a lot of work involved and I need to commit myself to it. Oh boy!

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