Salt Wells, Wyoming Mustang Mare

Saturday, February 25, 2012

The Florida PaRally

I'm finally getting around to writing a post about the Florida PaRally and I've got lots to share! December, Tink, and Marjie put a lot of effort into putting this thing together and did all the heavy lifting. My role was coach, cheerleader, and networking...a very easy tasks for me being a LBE!

The girls were there on Wednesday and Thursday setting up all the wonderful obstacles and getting things organized. I couldn't be there as I had to work although I did stop by on Thursday evening to say hello and drop off some cavalettis. The girls were hard at work setting things up. I can't imagine how tired they all must have been after the conclusion of the rally!

I attended on Friday without my horse. I figured I could man the registration table and that would free up December and Tink to play with their equines; I imagine they didn't get much time to play on Wednesday or Thursday. Registrations went in spurts so I had time to join in some of the simulations. The "brick and feather" or "ice cream cone and tick tock" simulations with Pete Rodda were enlightening and lots of fun. I also enjoyed the riding simulations and how to find your balance point with Karen Woodbury and Annie Shank. After the simulations, it was time for me to get back to the registration table and let others get in on some of the fun. I also wanted to chat with Bonnie Williams about the Young Living Essential Oils and her table happened to be right next to the registration very convenient!! I ended up having to leave earlier than I'd wanted to; I had gone to my truck to put something in it and noticed I had a tire going flat. Luckily the ranch had a compressor so I was able to inflate my tire but then the hunt was on to get it fixed...not an easy thing on Friday after 5:00 p.m. I absolutely needed to get it fixed as I was hauling my horse to the PaRally on Saturday morning. Lucky for me I was able to get it fixed but I didn't make it home until almost 9:00 p.m.

Saturday I was up bright and early since I wanted to get to the ranch by 8:00 a.m. I loaded America at 6:30 in the morning and even though we'd not practiced loading in the dark, she loaded with no problems and we hit the road. I had to stop at the store to pick up a few things as I was planning on staying overnight if America was handling everything well. We arrived at the ranch just before 8:00 a.m. and did our check in. A previous post tells all about our adventures on Saturday and Sunday.

The facilities at Goethe Trail Head Ranch were very nice. There were plenty of stalls and lots of room for hook-ups. The ranch even has a pool, although the weather wasn't quite warm enough for a dip and I didn't have a swim suit anyway. There were 2 round pens and either 8 or 10 turn out areas for horses. The main arena was very nice and lighted all night long for night time use! Also, the restrooms and showers were very nice with plenty of hot water for showers. I didn't get in there until late and thought I'd have to take a cold shower but was pleasantly suprised to have hot water...and boy did it feel good after a long day of horse play!!

The Parelli Professionals, Karen Woodbury, Annie Shank, Dancin' Pete Rodda, Whitney Van Zyl, and Jerry S. Williams, were outstanding and represented Parelli Natural Horsemanship very well. Their demos, similations, and lessons were informative and fun and several people signed up for lessons with each instructor. Jerry's "laser coaching" sessions were amazing, free of charge, and very popular. Each participant had 10" and explained their particular issue in one or two sentences. Jerry then gave them some strategies to use to make a change. Transformations were amazing and people went away with new information, happy to have new tools to problem solve. Whitney Van Zyl had just received her 2* rating from Parelli and needed to give away 10 hours of freestyle lessons as part of her new 2* status. I'm happy to say, participants at the rally helped her meet that requirement and were very happy for the opportunity!!

The presentations by Dr. Fred, the equine dentist, and Beth Ramsay were outstanding. Dr. Fred's presentation was very interesting and informative...I wish more people understood the importance of having regular dental visits for their equine partners. Beth's presentation on personalities and working well with others was a hoot. There was a lot of information and Beth presented it in a very entertaining way. We all had fun deciding who was D, C, S or I and the best approach to working with them. There was a lot of laughing as we all recognized ourselves in the information Beth shared. I highly recommend participating in this presentation if you get the opportunity.

I don't know the final tally on numbers of horses, riders, and people that visited without horses but we had a lot of people at the PaRally and there was plenty to do. In fact, I missed a couple of things I'd wanted to do because I was busy doing something else.

I also want to acknowledge all the volunteers, especially December's husband Brian, and Whitney's dad, Dan. They were invaluable all weekend with their willingness to jump in and do what ever needed to be done...we couldn't have done it without them!! Another huge thank you goes out to Lorel, AmberRay, and Jeff at Gothe Trail Head Ranch. All three of them worked very hard all weekend to provide the PaRally participants with a wonderful experience and take care of all our needs. Well done to all of you!!

I am very happy to say, we didn't completely wear out December, Tink, and Marjie and the best news is, there is already plans for the 2nd Annual PaRally, February 15-17, 2013!! I can't wait until 2013!!

Friday, February 24, 2012

The Florida PaRally Part 3

I was up early Sunday morning, partly because I wanted to check on America and partly because I sometimes have trouble sleeping in new places. Either way it worked out well and I got an early start on the day. I fed America and cleaned her stall while she was eating then we went out and went for a walk and some hand grazing and hang out time for about 45". I then turned her out in a turn out pen to stretch her legs while I went to get my breakfast; she did a couple of laps around the pen at the trot but then settled down to more grazing.

After breakfast we went out to the big playground that had lots of obstacles. We played with figure 8's at the walk and trot which went well; I stopped when she made the effort to draw to me then go when I sent her with energy rather than having to use my stick and string.

The next obstacle was a kind of car wash with pool noddles placed vertically along upright posts. They could be moved in or out to make more or less of a squeeze. America didn't have any problem with the noodles as we have a car wash at home made of hanging pool noodles...she kept playing with them, mashing them with her nose!

Next up was the water obstacle. It was a big wooden box, lined with a heavy liner and filled with water. At first America was hesitant and would only go so close to the obstacle then need to move away. I kept playing squeeze game with her, gradually asking her to move closer. Pretty soon she was smelling the obstacle, then drinking the water and then in went the feet...all 4 of them!! She began pawing and splashing and generally having a ball. I'm glad I was standing a distance away or I would have gotten soaked!! When I asked her to come out, she did it calmly and went back in for round two when I asked. I was sending her from about 18'!

By the time we finished with the water obstacle, it was time to head back to the barn and get ready for check out. I still had to strip America's stall and pack everything up. I was a bit sad having to leave so soon but very happy with how everything went for America and I the entire weekend. I think I have one very special horse!!

When it was time to load up, America hesitated a bit, almost as if to say she didn't want to leave either but when I asked her again she went right in the trailer and we headed for home. As we got about 1/2 block from home, I think Li"Bert"y heard the horse trailer because I could hear him calling for America...he absolutely adores her. He was so happy she was back home! When I unloaded America and put her in the pasture she gently reasserted herself as the leader of the herd by moving everyone around the pasture. Once that was established, she set about eating some hay and Li"Bert"y was right by her side.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The Florida PaRally Part 2

After America's turnout time, I went to get her and she greeted me at the gate (whew...relationship still intact even after everything I'd been asking of her all day!!). We went together back to her stall so I could feed her and get ready for my dinner. She got her soaked cubes and a bit of her forage based feed mix and she thoroughly enjoyed her meal!!

PaRally offered a catered wonderful catered dinner consisting of baby back ribs and smoked chicken with all the fixins. It was sooo delicious after spending all day working up an appetite!! After dinner and a shower, I got America out again and we took a walk to spend some undemanding time and do a little grazing. My friend Ingrid and her horse Cayenne were kind enough to keep us company. It was already dark so this was new for America too. She did have a couple moments of mild unconfidence but otherwise took everything in stride, especially once we found the tree draped in spanish moss. I kept pulling moss down and giving it to America...she loves the stuff!!

By this time, it was quite late and time for everyone to turn in for the had been a very full day and we still had tomorrow to go; I wanted to be rested for day two of the PaRally!! I slept well but did get up during the night to check on America...she kinda looked at me like..."what??...I was sleeping good til you started shining that flashlight on me!!". She handled the night in the stall really well but she was really happy to see me when I went out to feed at 5:30 a.m.; she was really nickering at me (or maybe it was because I had the food lol!!).

I know this is a short post; I'll do a separate one for Sunday...probably tomorrow, and then I'll do another post all about the rest of the PaRally experience...the demos, the presentations, the mini-workshops, the laser coaching sessions, etc.; there's so much to share!!

Monday, February 20, 2012

The Florida PaRally Part 1

The Florida PaRally took place this past Friday, Saturday, and Sunday at Gothe Trail Head Ranch and it was an amazing and fun weekend. I went Friday sans horse so I could just be a volunteer, checking people in, helping to organize, and anything else that might be needed. I ended up having to leave earlier than I'd wanted to because, as I went to put something in my truck, I noticed one of my tires had low pressure. I had to leave so I could get my tire fixed since I was planning on hauling my horse on Saturday. I also had to finish packing my trailer and get my gear together. I wanted to be prepared so that if America did well, we could stay overnight.

Saturday morning I got up early and wanted to be on the road by 7:00 a.m. so I loaded America up while it was still dark out. We'd never done this before but thanks to all our positive trailer loading practice, she loaded right up for me and we hit the road and arrived at the ranch just before 8:00 a.m. After getting registered and finding a stall, I unloaded America. She unloaded quietly but did a fair amount of looking around and calling out to other horses. She was a bit unconfident but not frantic (whew!!) and I had to gently remind her I was with her and to pay attention to me.

The first order of business was to introduce America to her stall and it took some time to build her confidence enough for her to go in and stay in. Funny how it's so similar to trailer loading yet she was so hesitant to go in. We did a lot of approach and retreat and I was blessed to have Whitney Van Zyl, a 2* Parelli Professional nearby to coach me through everything. Eventually, America decided it was o.k. to go in and STAY in and was even more o.k. with it when some food appeared for her to eat!! The HUGE bonus to all this, and because I took the time it takes, America was fine with going in and out of her stall for the remainder of the weekend. I even upped the ante a couple of times by backing her in to and out of her stall!! After getting her squared away, I went to park the truck and trailer and get myself organized. Then it was time to go get America for a look around the ranch.

When I got America out of her stall to begin exploring, she did a bunch of looking around and calling to other horses. I decided to gently ask her to move her feet, doing some sideways, some falling leaf, playing with a couple of obstacles just to get her attention and have her focus on me. It took a good hour of this gentle play to help her relax and after about 1-1/2 hours she was able to play stick to me. I took her back to her stall and she went right in, got a drink of water and began eating some hay so I let her stay in her stall while I went to help Jerry S. Williams, 3* Parelli Professional,  with his laser coaching sessions; I had volunteered to help with the sign up and keep things moving along. I'll write a separate post a little later on the laser sessions and some of the other workshops that Karen Woodbury, Annie Shank, and Dancin' Pete Rodda did.

After the laser sessions were done, I went and got America for another look around and to warm up for our lesson with Jerry S. Williams at 2:30 p.m. I wanted to really prepare America as I was hoping we could do a freestyle lesson or at least a little bit of freestyle during our lesson. We played with some really interesting obstacles: milk jugs strung on lines hanging down...kinda like a car wash but with milk jugs instead, a shower curtain hanging (and blowing in the was a bit breezy Saturday!!), a teeter totter, the paint "cow" in the arena, a pedestal, a bridge, a bit of figure 8, some touch it, and sideways both with and without a fence. These are all things we have done at home with the exception of the "cow" and the teeter totter. I wanted America to do familiar things in a new place to build her confidence.

After our play session, I saddled her up and we went to the round pen for our lesson. Jerry had me begin online with the 7 games including cantering on a circle then had me do several things that would be done during a colt starting to make sure America was o.k. with everything including flapping stirrups, me jumping up and down, etc. She was giving us green lights so Jerry asked if I wanted to/felt confident enough get on and of course I said yes! I had America move over to the fence and mounted from there. I had a bit of an issue with getting my foot in the stirrup and America stood still while I had to fiddle for a minute. I need to twist the fenders and plan on getting started with that tomorrow when I get off work!!

Jerry had me check my lateral flexion and hq disengage to make sure I had brakes and America did really well with the later flexion...nice and soft give on both sides. Hindquarter disengage was acceptable but I want to get it much better and can work on that both on the ground and in the saddle. Next he had me do an indirect rein into a direct rein and we were off!! We went a few strides at the walk and then he had me bend her to a stop and rub, rub, rub until she relaxed. We repeated this sequence several times, each time ending with lots of rubbing until she relaxed and then it was time to get off. When I dismounted America nickered at me!!

I'm so proud of America (and a little bit proud of myself as well). We prepared well and had our second ride in a new place with lots of distractions/activities going on and we were partners in a successful ride!! I couldn't have been more thrilled with how everything went and it was an awesome lesson.

After our lesson, I unsaddled America and took her back to her stall to get some water, hay and take a bit of a rest. She was happy to go in her stall...almost couldn't wait to get in there!! Once she was settled, I went to get a quick bite of lunch and take a bit of a break myself.

After our break, I got America out again and we just did a walk about, spending some undemanding time while she grazed a bit. She was much more relaxed now...not doing so much looking around, calling to other horses only occasionally, had a very soft look to her eye and was blinking. After our walk about, I found a turn out pen and let her have an hour to herself. She immediately laid down and rolled...I'd say she was more relaxed!! She wouldn't have done that when we first far we'd come in 8 hours!!

Well, that's enough for this installment...I'll post more tomorrow.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Liberty Fun!!

Played at liberty with America tonight. Played the catching game and it's getting better each time we play...most times it only takes an invitation from me and America catches me. Now we need to start playing with increasing the distance!!

Stick to me is going really well too...walk is good, trot is getting better. Our downward transitions: walk or trot to stop are getting better with America staying straighter when we stop. I've noticed I really have to use a LONG phase 1 so she has time to think her way through the stopping process!! Back up is a bit sticky so I'll wait a little bit until our stop is a bit better and begin with walk to stop.

I decided to try a bit of sideways with a fence and the first time I must have been projecting too much energy too quickly as we lost our connection and America left me. I played the catching game to get her back then a bit of stick to me then slowed everything down for sideways on the fence take two and VOILA...she did a very nice sideways. Her hq lagged just a tiny bit but that's to play with on another day...I was thrilled with the sideways without leaving!!

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Riding America!!

I played with America today in preparation for riding. To begin, we went through our saddling routine, making sure America was comfortable with everything we were doing before moving on to the next step. She did great and stood ground tied the whole time, participating in the saddling like a partner!

Once I had America saddled up, we played online for a little bit to warm up. We started with a little stick to me which went well. We then went to figure 8's and when I backed America up through the center, I sent her and she came around the cone and it was obvious she knew the pattern as she turned and went through the center and around the other cone. Waaahoooo!! She's such a smart cookie.

Next up was a squeeze over the log, turn, face and wait then repeat. She's got that pattern down so I changed it up a bit by asking her to stop 1/2 way over...tada...she did great with just a light wiggle of the rope to ask her to stop. From there we did sideways away from me with me standing still. We did great until we lost our connection at about 17'...something to work on later. Next up was asking her over the log one foot at a time. It took a bit but we managed it. America wants to bring her feet over in pairs but if I slow it waaayyy down she starts thinking down to her feet and it gets easier. At one point she was reading my body language so well, when I released the pressure while she was moving her foot...she left it in mid air!!

We moved to the round pen for the remainder of our session. I asked her to back through the gate...she's really got this pattern down and she didn't hesitate even though she was saddled and it was a bit more of a squeeze. Once in the round pen, we played with tossing the rein over her head, back and forth...all good, tested our lateral flexion...all good, checked our hq disengage...all good, jumping up and down in the stirrup...all good. Time to set up in the stirup...America moved off 2 steps so I got down, repositioned her and stepped up again...all good...she stood still for mounting. I got off then walked her over to the fence to mount from there and make sure she was good with me being above her...all good so I got on. It was kinds of funny, when I got on America nickered!!

Once I was mounted, I rechecked our lateral flexion and disengage hq...all good. Brought my life up...nada, squeezed with all 4 cheeks...nada, squeezed with my legs...nada, so I added tapping her rump with my cs...AND we're off!! We went walking around the round pen...I didn't care where we went, just that we were moving. We had quite a bit of stop and go, I went through my phases each time but each time I went through them a little resting during the stops. There were a couple of times America got sticky feet but I persisted in the tapping her rump. She got a little grumpy for just a minute but finally moved off and we made 1/2 lap on the rail!! America had impulsion at the walk but not impulsiveness and her ears were forward...not grumpy. I decided this would be a good time to stop for the day...I wasn't going to push it on our first ride!! Interesting that when I dismounted, America stood perfectly still and when my feet hit the ground America nickered again like she did when I mounted. I'm not quite sure what all that nickering means...hope it's a good thing!!

I wanted to try a back up for one or two steps but decided since America was having difficulty going forward, I decided to just work on forward for now and leave back-up for another day.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Double The Fun!!

I played with America twice today and boy did we have fun! The first session consisted of tossing the "rein" over her head. I think I need to practice without her; from the ground. I'm having trouble tossing it just right to clear her head and too often get it caught on her ears or on her nose. That has to be annoying for her. On the plus side, she won't get upset if it happens when I'm in the saddle!

Played touch it with two frisbees, sending America from one to the other. She remembered this game from the other day and went straight to the frisbee and put her nose on it each time I sent her...I think she was looking for a cookie as that's how I got her interested in finding the frisbee the first time we played the game.

We did some circling game looking for relaxation while increasing the number of laps we can do while still being relaxed. America is up to 3 laps now in both directions; circling to the left is more relaxed than to the right but we're working on it. I decided to add a little interest to the circling game after the 3 relaxed laps and moved to a log obstacle to see if America would maintain gait and direction while jumping an obstacle. She did great but got a little bit impulsive after the jump so I added in a change of direction and that helped her relax a bit. Will play with this a bit more to see how it goes.

Our second session consisted of a little online warm up to help us connect then we went to liberty in the big pasture. Oh what fun that was. The weather is a bit windy and cool so all the horses were a bit frisky and America was no exception. After the online warm up with some touch it and stick to me, I took the halter off and invited America to walk with me. Everything was going well until I upped my energy to trot. America picked up the trot then took off across the pasture. Of course Bert joined her and they cantered around in sync. When America stopped and looked at me I would turn and walk away. If she didn't follow I would send her again. This is where Bert comes in handy...he LOVES to go and America will go with him. It only took three sends and America was looking for me and came to me at a very ENERGETIC walk with Bert right behind her. When I turned and started walking she followed me and placed herself shoulder to shoulder with me. This time when I upped my energy to trot, she trotted but when I slowed and stopped so did she. Of course Bert was participating in all this by following America. We played with go and stop several times and America stuck with me each time. When she stopped slowly and stayed straight when I stopped it was time to quit. Her reward was some scratches and a couple of cookies then hang out time while I played friendly with Bert with the cs and string.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

A Perfect Day!!

I couldn't ask for a more perfect day then I'm having today; first I audited a workshop then had a lesson with America and Jerry S. Williams and now I'm watching the Superbowl. Horses and football...two of my favorite things!!

I loaded up this morning and headed out to audit a L 2/3 workshop with Jerry S. Williams..."Does My Horse Respect Me?". The workshop was a great refresher for me, especially now I'm playing with a new partner, plus I learned several new techniques to add to my quiver of arrows.

After the workshop, Ingrid's husband Bob, grilled hot dogs and participants and auditors alike were invited to have lunch. What a gracious offering...Bob and Ingrid are incredible hosts!! We all had a nice visit with old friends and new while eating lunch.

After lunch was over, it was time for my lesson with America and it was an amazing lesson. We are still working online and building her confidence when away from home. America was a bit RB when we first arrived at the wasn't extreme and I found it fairly easy to regain her attention; however, her attention span was pretty short to begin with. During the workshop she did some moving in the round pen, trotting and occasionally cantering around, sometimes calling to other horses but she eventually became comfortable enough to take a couple of rolls and do some grazing. After this I noticed she was much calmer and when she did feel the need to move her feet, it was at the walk and occasional trot and not the trot and canter she was previously doing. When I went to get her for our lesson, she met me at the gate and seemed ready for our session. I played version 1 of the catching game and she stuck to me nicely so we haltered up and went out to the playground, no need to play versions 2 and 3 of the catching game. We played with  several of the obstacles and one thing became very clear...America is VERY careful where she puts her feet...she thinks about things before she does them. It's a big key to who she is...I have to give her time to think down to each foot. Another big key is her responsiveness to my energy. She can feel the pressure of my "bullhorn" belly button so I need to be cognizant of where it's aimed!! It's also very easy to influence her depending on where I aim my "bullhorn". That's not to say she is over-reactive to my energy, just that my phases can be so much lighter with/for her. For instance, when playing the yo-yo, I can project energy through my belly button and she will begin backing and she will continue to back until I turn it off!! To bring her back, I project my energy behind me and relax my shoulders a bit and she comes back in. I love that our yo-yo is pretty's just as easy to send her back as it is to bring her in.

Ingrid has an obstacle that is two big boxes filled with sand. One is fairly low and sits next to another that is fairly high. You can access it from all sides, from both high and low and you can access the high side from the lower side. America had no problem going up and down the low side nor did she have a problem going from low to high but when I asked her to go off the high side, she really had to think about it. I had to back her up and send her several times and she finally decided to go off although she really had to think about it and she did it s-l-o-w-l-y, thinking her way through it.

We played with figure 8's for the second time during our lesson, playing with energy and drive and draw. America was a bit sticky and wasn't putting in a whole lot of effort so we upped the game a bit, upping my phases for a few revolutions of the pattern and she caught on pretty quickly. We ended up doing the figure 8's at the trot with America putting effort into it and looking very LB at the same time. This is a huge improvement for her as previously when we upped the gait the would become RB and reactive.

We also played a bit with the circling game keeping with our theme of looking for relaxation then bringing her in. It didn't take long...her trot looked lovely and relaxed after 2-1/2 laps. She really was looking pretty relaxed on the first lap but I wanted to get a really good look at her on the circle, hence the 2-1/2 laps. Left and right circles were equally good. She was a bit drawn to the horses in the pasture next to where we were circling, pulling a bit in that direction, but Jerry gave me a good strategy for that and it worked like a charm; the next circle there was no pulling so I allowed her to go 1/4 more lap and bring her in. I didn't want to bring her in where she was doing the pulling!

We had quite an audience during our lesson and I had to laugh when during our figure 8's, someone held up a card with a 10 on it! I thought it was such a fun thing. I'm so smitten with my Mustang mare...she makes me look so good, like I actually know what I'm doing. I can't give her enough credit for trying her heart out for me; she makes everything seem soooo easy. I do want to say though...Renegade has been one heck of a teacher...he required I earn my leadership points with him EVERY day, every play session, sometimes several times during our sessions and that has prepared me to offer my best to America. Thank you Renegade and Thank You America!