Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Can I Knit on Horseback?

What breed of horse are you? Find out!

You are... a Mustang, the wild breed of horse that roamed America in the 1700's and 1800's. Like the movie Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron, you are an outdoorsy character, you'd rather go camping than attend the fanciest dance in town. Matter of fact, you're rarely in town. You'd rather gallop like the wind in some huge wild prairie, and you're free as a butterfly. (Okay, maybe that's a bad analogy...) You never have and never will have an owner... you're free! Your coat colour will most likely be: buckskin or dun.

Cute. Fairly accurate, too.

Well, we've taken the first step on the Parelli Pathway to Professional. Cheerios and I participated in our first PNH clinic together last weekend. My fifth as a rider (I've audited near as many), his first. I knew going into it that it would either be an absolute disaster, or a major growth opportunity.

I'm relieved and pleased to say it was the latter. Our instructor was 2-Star Trainee Jesse Peters, who, ironically, I'd met in 2004 at my last clinic with Wildflower—we were both participants. Jesse was still playing with Level Three at the time (it was a L2/L3 clinic). Four years later, he's on the road to 3-star... I'm starting over with a "new" horse.

Hmm, how interesting. ;-)

It was fantastic. I got a lot of strategies to use with my Left-Brained Extrovert/Introvert bi-polar horse—he flips between Extrovert and Introvert on the fly and sometimes goes into Right-Brained Introvert territory... eh, all this is better posted on my little-publicized horse blog... the point is, yes, he's a bit of a challenge, but yes, he is manageable, and yes, I have the capability to do so armed with new strategies. We made amazing progress. I had some major breakthroughs.

Thing about Parelli is that it's more about the human than the horse, and the Remudas (debriefing sessions where we discuss the sessions) turn into group therapy sometimes because your horse IS your mirror, and often I'll learn something about ME through my interaction with my horse. Such as what I learned about fear.

My underlying fear issues have inhibited me from being as firm as I've needed to be sometimes, which meant I wasn't being very clear about what I was asking of my horse, which caused confusion for both of us, and lead to my horse becoming frustrated because if he didn't know what I was asking, he couldn't find the right answer... so he'd blow up and do the things that create the fear in the first place.

Can you say, vicious cycle?

So I learned to step up and BE firm (but fair and friendly, never mean or mad) when I needed to be, and whoa. I was afraid to be firm for fear he'd get mad.

The exact opposite happened. First, I'd teach, gently. But once there was evidence that he had an idea of what I wanted, I'd nag at Phase 1 but not be very insistent (leading to confusion, etc.). Well, we changed strategies. I'd ask at Phase 1 (very lightly) and give him the opportunity to work it out, but if he didn't respond, move through the Phases and get as firm as necessary. Yes, I DO want you to [insert response], thank you. Then relax. BIG difference. Suddenly my horse has figured out, "Oh, when you start to make that motion, you DO want X. GOT IT." Suddenly, he was very motivated, calmer, and his confidence came up, which brought out his curiosity.

It's fascinating to watch, at least to me and all the other PNH nuts. To some it's like watching paint dry, but whatev. ;-)

Then there was the insight about my parents and my life. Yes. The horse clinic brought up unresolved issues and insights. My parents were my greatest cheerleaders (and annoyances, simultaneously). They were the ones who knew when I needed advice, and when I just needed to hear someone tell me not to give up. Since they died, there hasn't been anyone around to step in at those moments and tell me Do Not Quit. As a result, I've felt very lost since they died. The sad thing is, I didn't even realize this until Day 2 of the clinic while reviewing the previous day's events over my morning coffee.

The trigger was this: I was having difficulty getting firm with Cheerios' butt while asking him to move Sideways—his butt kept getting in my face and I was worried if I asked it to move out of my space, he might kick. Jesse showed me that wouldn't happen. It's about being the leader. He said I need to be persistent and stay with it until I get the response I'm asking for. He looked me in the eye and said to me, "Promise me this—do... not...—" and waited for me to fill it in...

"Quit?" I asked.

Yes. Do Not EVER Quit.

Really, it's like the Karate Kid.

So I'm mulling this over the next morning, and it hits me. One, this is how I've been living my life since they died—hitting roadblocks, not looking for solutions, just giving up or backing down. Quitting. Too easily. Two, the two people in my life who always told me not to quit were gone, and I really needed to hear someone tell me not to quit, but I had no idea how badly I needed to hear it until Jesse said it.

When I went to relay this during Remuda, I lost it. Choked on the "two people" part and sobbed my way through the rest. God Bless Jesse and the other gals—they all got it. That's the thing about Parelli people—they've all had these moments (the men as well as the women). There's an insider joke about how Parelli (like the rock band KISS) has a ton of logo'd items for sale, they should sell logo kleen*x because God knows we students go through it.

It was a big weekend.

No truck just yet. The estate... *sigh*. We went yet another round with the house sale, but THIS TIME, the contract is really, truly, finally done—I think—but it kept pushing the closing date further into the future. They almost had it moved to June but I veto'd that. I said "no way. It closes by the end of May or no go." May 31st. Hey, isn't that 1) a holiday weekend and 2) a Saturday? Oh, well. On or before.

Might not need one as readily, anyway. The barn manager at my current barn trailered us last time and as long as it isn't too far and doesn't conflict with horse shows, she'll do it if I buy the gas. Jesse's coming back to the area twice more this summer, and the barn manager at the hosting barn and I clicked and she offered to come get us if need be. So that's two possible rides. Do I need to buy a gas-guzzling monstrosity and a tagalong trailer? Maybe... maybe not.

Anyway, step one. I think we'll actually pass Level 2 (PDF file) this summer. (Level 3 [PDF] will be the fun one!)

I'm also proud to say I cleaned eight filthy stalls in record time with far less muscular acheage than before, and I seem to have misplaced five pounds.

Oh—and as for that knitting thing, uh, well, I managed to mis-knit two rows on my CPH while philosophizing with B the other night and have to rip back and figure out just where the heck to put my marker so when I don't knit on it for a month or two I'll remember where the cabling row actually IS.

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At 8:22 PM, May 17, 2008, Blogger Sheepish Annie said...

I'm just a plain, old Quarterhorse. That's OK. The world needs us.

Congrats on the riding training. It sounds like a lot of work, but fun, too!


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