09.03.30: Matching Storm

Today overall has been a really good day. It has had its moments, but I suppose that is what learning is about. We started out the morning with a brief meeting with both classes together to go over some logistics and make sure that everyone had everything they needed. We then broke up into our respective classes and got started. Our class is very small, only about 11 people total, from all sorts of backgrounds, though most are fairly new to the program.
We started out the day with an overview of what the week is going to look like and the various topics for each day. We met the other instructor for the course, Kristi, and she is very nice. She made an executive decision to not play the name game (whew!) per the usual routine and decided that since we were such a small group, and she was reading the group as wanting to be more intimate than usual, we each got a chance to introduce ourselves and tell a little bit about how we found Parelli and what our goals were for the course. I was pleased that we did that because I like to get to know people a little better than just a name, and it was fun to hear everyone's stories.
The topic for the day was prey/predator relationships and the first three of the seven games. We started out by defining the differences between predators and prey animals. I didn't always agree with all of the criteria (I believe that natural predators (i.e. wild animals, not humans) are focused on the survival of the fittest, as are prey animals. In general when an animal is sick or injured the rest of the members of that species do not concern themselves over the animal. There are a few select exceptions. But then in nature few "rules" are 100% true). We moved on to discuss the first three games: Friendly, Porcupine and Driving and how to apply them and their purpose and intent. The large part of this information is review for me, but the advantage is in hearing it again and then getting to apply it to Storm rather than a horse that I will only have to leave later. We did get to watch a cute clip from Madagascar in which the lion is showing himself off to the clan of lemurs (I think that's what they were...) and suddenly realizes that he is a predator and begins to see every other animal as a little steak, and then ends up biting his zebra friend on the butt. He becomes very confused and can't figure out why he is doing this since he has never had the chance to really be a wild lion. The clip was a fun way to look at the reality of nature and how it can be challenging to be something that you aren't. We talked about way in which we can help be less predatory for our horses in order to help separate that prey/predator barrier.
When we finished our discussion and went out into one of the playgrounds to watch Julia do a demonstration of the first three games with her horse Rita. She reiterated that the general focus of the week would be to help use the games as tools to improve trailer loading. Having a horse that is confident loading and playing in and around a trailer is a large achievement and exemplifies confidence and trust in the relationship. She played with Rita using the first three games, and demonstrated how she could use the trailer as just another obstacle and toy. After she did that, we broke up into groups and played with the concepts with "Conga Horses" for practice. My little Conga Horse was very good, and did not give me any trouble, which is nice in a way, but also a little boring since doing everything right is not much of a challenge. I think I am in a bit of a different situation with this course because I feel like I am one of the ones that is further along in some of the theory than many of the other students. In the courses in Colorado I felt very much like a beginner, and I find that I am missing some of those "experts" that participated in the courses because of the terrific feedback that they were able to give. It was a unique situation to be taking classes along side instructors and other very advanced people and all learning the same topics at different levels. This situation is different, and I miss some of that advanced feedback right now.
We finished up with our Conga Horses and chatted for a few minutes before she released us for lunch. Lunch was pretty good, the usual lodge fair, turkey pie, chicken fingers, tofu rice, the salad bar, chicken soup and corn. By that time I had worked up an appetite.
After lunch I went and checked on Storm and got ready to get started. At 3:00 we were due to have our "focus groups" for the day. The focus group is something new that they have started since the two week courses. They realized that students needed more support and "suggestions" of concepts to work on, so they have provided the focus groups to offer tasks to work on. The focus group that I chose for the day was working on the Figure 8 Pattern. I already was familiar with it, but I figured that more practice would be helpful.
Storm and I got ready to head out, and worked our way into the playground. He was a little on edge When we started in, and I was trying to work my way over to the round pen where we could have a smaller enclosure. About half way there another horse got loose, and came galloping across the playground straight towards us. I tried to turn around and deflect it away from us, but about that time Storm spooked and then got away from me. The two horses ended up against the fence 'introducing' themselves to each other, head to tail. Storm was actually standing on his lead rope with a hind foot, and the other horse's 45' line was strung out behind him. Because they were nose to tail and were very engrossed in meeting each other, I didn't have a way to get close to them without being in range of someone's back end. Another person from the other class was able to get a hold of the second horse's rope, and draw him away from Storm so that I could go get his rope again. I was pretty rattled and Storm was still wound up from it, and so I tried a second time to work my way towards the round pen, this time moving him in a figure 8 pattern while we walked so that he was repeatedly changing direction, which helps to calm them down. We got to the pen and someone was in it, but so I checked in and made sure he was ok with me coming in. We continued to do more of the changes in direction once we were inside, and he calmed down quite a bit more. I worked some with the focus exercises and he began to regain his composure.
Julia came around and set out barrels and cones for us to work with the pattern, and she explained the concepts and how to guide the horse through it. Storm and I grabbed a pair of cones and began to work the pattern around them, and he was just fine. I did have some challenge with him staying focused, but that didn't surprise me. He was having a very hard time with other horses were moving with higher energy around him. The leaves rustle constantly in the playground (which is FULL of large oaks), and when the horses move faster it makes lots of noise, and he becomes concerned. After we spent a while working, I took Storm over to a slightly smaller round pen and asked Julia for some guidance since my confidence was a bit rattled. She talked me through a few things, and helped give me some pointers on how I can bring my life up to match his energy and redirect his focus to use the energy. She instructed me to do the figure 8 pattern faster to match his energy. So I started to work again with the cones that were there, I had some trouble getting him up to speed, and when I finally got him to respond he got "offended" and worried about the faster speed. Finally he calmed a little bit, but then he was "checking out" every time he would go through the center of the pattern away from me. Instead of a curve he'd just make a straight line right away, and then hit the end of the rope and would turn around like "Oh, you're here...." I stopped and asked Julia again, and she encouraged me to maintain the "bigger" that I was using, and to change the pattern to interupt his pattern of checking out when he went away from me. So I began to work the 8 not always around the cones. As I was working she began to work with her horse around the ouside of the pen, which served its purpose to challenge Storm to worry about what we were doing, not her horse shuffling through the leaves outside. I paused again and laughingly asked her if she was trying to distract us. She laughed and said yes. I began to ask Storm to continue and he had another one of his little temper tantrums, which she finally got to see. I turned around and said THAT is what happens! She nodded, and I told her that it sort of feels like he's flipping me the bird when he does that, a bit of a rebellion of "But I don't WANNA do that!" and she agreed, and told me to just keep on doing what we were and ignore the little outburst. She encouraged me to work faster and to move the pattern back onto the cones again, and helped support me in doing a few things a little bit sooner than I was in order to help redirect Storm a little faster.
We finally quit when Storm had settled down a lot more, and she suggested that we go find something else to do. I decided that I was about worn out for the moment, and would go try to experiment with the wash rack and see how he handled that. I took him over and had him walk across once or twice before he settled down, and then he was fine with it. I hosed him off a bit just to get some of the dirt off, and then scraped him down. I expected him to roll, but he didn't. It was about dinner time so I got him organized and then headed in for meatloaf and mashed potatoes.
I'm pooped, and I have to get myself organized for tomorrow and head to bed! Not near as cold as last night, thankfully!!

I have forgotten to mention, if anyone wants to send me mail, the address is:
Virginia Branden
c/o Parelli
8695 NW 120th Street
Reddick, FL 32686


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09.03.31: Licking and Chewing
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