Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Assessing Struggle

I started thinking about assessing and how some people seem to move through the levels and savvys and assessing, and others, like me, get stuck.

A long long time ago, in the dark ages, I did an in-person Level 1 assessment. Looking back I am not sure how I managed to even make the appointment. Remember my heart pounding and worrying about how my mare Jeepers would react to my nervousness. Fortunately, she was a LBI and just rolled her eyes and helped me out. Well that was until we got to passenger lesson at the trot. By then she had had enough and headed straight for the lone tree in the middle of the paddock/riding ring. The tree with low branches.

We passed and never looked back. That’s the problem.

I came to Parelli to develop my relationship with Jeepers, and to feel confident riding out on trails. After going to the barn, grooming, tacking up and riding in a ring, I realized I wanted more. More of a relationship, more of a connection, more confidence, more more more.

It has been quite a journey, my confidence has slowly built up and I ride the trails. Oh I still have thresholds but with Jeepers’ help and understanding we ventured out. I remember the first time we trailered with a friend to a new trail head and I thought, “Oh my gosh, I’m one of them!” (A trail rider). I now ride with Cici who is a RBI. Quite a different experience.

Before I saddle up I spend lots of time on the ground online checking to see who has shown up that day. Cici has taught me never to assume. She can go from seemingly “fine” to what I call her Blonde Bombshell Ballet (BBBs) – leaping, bucking, galloping, airs above the ground – in a nanosecond.

I’m following the Levels and the Patterns. I’ve moved from a 12’ line to a 22’ and have just begun playing with a 45” online. Freestyle I play with the patterns, have begun to use a carrot stick riding and even ride with a bareback pad. I just haven’t assessed.

Did I mention I am a Right Brain Introvert? And that testing or being judged is not my forte? My thoughts range from: Why go through the anguish of taping an assessment? What is holding me back? Do I need to? Why should I bother? I can do a self-assessment. What difference does it make? I’m developing my relationship and connection with Cici, my confidence has grown, and I’m trail riding – isn’t that enough of an assessment?

Lying in bed last night, out of the blue, my husband asks me what’s the issue with assessing? Huh? Where did that come from? How does he know? He’s been listening to me?!?! He said he thought not assessing was holding me back. That I was probably further along the path than I knew or took credit for.

He asks what I need to do for an assessment. I explain about the taping, the requirements and go on to describe some of the YouTube assessments I’ve watched. Where the cameraperson is running down the path in the woods and the image is bouncing up and down. Where the camera is set up at one end of the ring and the person and horse at the other are soooo tiny you can barely make out what they are doing. About the relationship each person has with their horse that shines through. About the little moments where they take the time to acknowledge and show their love.

He offers to be my cameraman in a few months when he is feeling better. How can I refuse? It’s not just about me any longer.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Moving to LB

Lesson with Avery. In preparation I spent an hour online seeing how Cici was feeling. Started out with the 45 and touch it, step on the cone, sideways over the barrel, sideways down the wall without my moving my feet. A bit of friendly and porcupine for backing. And on to circling. Cici loves the 45. She loves to drift out and circle.

I start to ask for changes of direction on the circle when she is moving slow. Noticing that she will now stop and just pull back when I ask for her to turn in to me. How interesting. After a number of changes of direction she agrees it is just easier to move at the gait I request.

When I ask Avery about this later she says Cici is being dominant. LB dominant. Oh no! LOL

Move over to the cones for figure 8 and change to the 22'. I've kept one clean - was washed - for the lesson. The others weight a ton with mud and dirt. Start asking for change in the center and Cici goes into bucking, leaping, galloping. I encourage her to keep moving and then ask her in with extreme friendly.

Almost an hour of a horse who really doesn't want to move and then bam! Moving for sure! And now Avery comes into the ring. I ask her about Cici cone-nection - where she goes to a cone and put her foot on it and stops - looking very pleased with herself. What is this about and how do I get her to move? More LB behavior apparently!

Avery had me ask for change of direction each time Cici went to a cone and stopped. And then to circle around both cones once before asking for change in the center for figure 8. Talked about keeping the bubble of my circle the same size. That for every step I take back I need to do the same number forward for the draw and drive to be equal. Hmmm how interesting.

Cici sure was moving now. Certainly RB. She goes RB when learning anything new. Today we play with figure 8s at a trot and canter. She was moving her feet. Took a while before she was able to slow her feet and mind.

Mounted up to see if we could continue to work on this. Riding her the issue was when she stops. Walking around the ring and she stops. Back up and then direct rein to change direction. But only want to see her eye (like in dressage) and the move her shoulders over. Avery got me a kidz carrot stick to tap on her shoulder - said to annoy more than anything.

So stop? Okay lets back and then change direction, oh and move those shoulders first. Lots to think about (me). Practiced at walk and trot. And wow what a difference in quality of gait. Had a free hip swinging walk and a forward moving trot. Awesome. Now all I need to do LOL is remember everything and practice!

Avery said Cici will test me a lot. That she will become dominant and LB and she might get worrying and RB. But test she will!

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Letting Go

A Conversation Between Connect Friends about Grief & Loss

By Jamie Greenebaum & Jolene McDowell

Linda Parelli suffered a tremendous loss recently with the death of Westy. In the messages of comfort and show of support, a lot of people talked about their losses of beloved companions, both two and four-legged. As Jamie and I read these, we realized that Parelli has indeed become a community and a loss for one is a loss for all.

Jo: It’s never easy letting go. We develop such an attachment with the beings we love. It’s hard to lose them. Unfortunately, we all know the experience of grief: shock, disbelief, crying, exhaustion, confusion, feeling lost, depression, preoccupation, guilt, anger, bitterness and oh, the missing, missing, missing as we struggle with new life patterns.

Jamie: Jo, your words go right to where it hurts the most - the missing. It’s a tough subject as it brings alive all the loss I’ve experienced and the emptiness that is left behind from all the lives that have touched mine and are now gone.

Jo: Yes, the emptiness can take over. It’s so hard to watch others go on with life as if nothing monumental has occurred, when our world is reeling. The depth and intensity can be overwhelming, as if an tsunami has wiped out the world as we knew it in one swipe.

Jamie: To the world at large, we are expected to continue as if nothing has happened. Oh, you can grieve, but not for too long. You need to move on. Get on with your life. Others express their sympathy and love, but they have their lives and we are left alone with our personal devastation.

Jo: It’s hard to open that hand quickly and let go graciously, with no brace. It’s hard to not hold on to what we love, resisting . . .resisting. . .resisting the devastation. The level of grief will vary, depending on the gravity of the loss and the individual. It is so personal. We all meet it according to our individual personalities and life experiences. Yet meet it we must, for grief comes to us all. It is the price of living and loving.

Jamie: Yes, in a bittersweet way, grieving can open us up to more love. But it sure is a hard way to get there. I think being able to let go is the true gift. A few short years ago, I had to make the decision of when to let my mare go to those green, green pastures. Like you Jo, I came late to having horses in my life. “Jeepers” was my first, and she taught me so much. She brought me to Parelli. We were together for 12 years. As her health declined, she waited patiently for me to be ready to let go. That was her final gift to me.

Jo: Just like you, and so many other Parelli members, I have had a lot of losses in my life. I like to say that grief and I are old friends. And it’s not so bad. It’s good to realize you can handle life and what it gives out. It’s good to develop resilency. It’s good to realize that, indeed, as one door closes, another door opens.

Jamie: I’ve never looked at it that way: “Old friends”. Yes, I suppose we are. But I’m not sure it is a friend I look forward to encountering again and again.

Jo: It took my son Nathan 12 years to talk me into a dog. And then this adorable Petite Shelty came into our lives. We called her “Shelley”. I never knew a dog could be like her. When my three sons and their friends would play basketball in the driveway, she would run circles around them until she left bloody paw prints on the cement. She wouldn’t stop running until they stopped playing. Not a week goes by that I don’t think of her, and it’s been 18 years.

Jamie: Don’t you find that out of the corner of your eye you sometimes catch a glimpse of one who is gone? If you run after the image it vanishes. But it was there for that split second. I do believe they are with us, always in our hearts, ready to remind us of those special moments.

Jo: When I was young I thought the one thing in life I would not be able to handle was the loss of a child. Well, I guess I am stronger than I thought. While I may not see the child I loved so much out of the corner of my eye, he certainly is always in my heart. I love to visualize my precious grandparents, my son, my dog, and by then, a few horses that I love greeting me as I enter the doors of heaven. That image alone keeps my feet on the straight and narrow!

Jamie: I believe our loved ones are patiently waiting for us in heaven. However, they don’t want us to hurry!

Jo: Agreed! In talking to others on Connect about this blog, many people mentioned their losses as well. Karen Daniels said she’d lost 2 brothers in terrible accidents and her father from cancer. Jennifer Snitko said “I think this is a very timely and important blog considering Westy’s death and the other human deaths in our Parelli family, not to mention all of our community who loose horses every year. Of course, it struck me particularly, as I lost a very special mare (my first horse as an adult!) this September“. I asked my Connect friends what helped them overcome their sorrow, and almost unanimously they said “Time, remembering and love” After the sorrow passes, there is joy in remembering what we loved so much. Everything we loved in the past, helps us love better in the future. We realize we are better people because of the beloved’s presence in our lives.