So much has happened since my last post, obviously! And i am torn, to blog about each one of these amazing things in detaile would be so ridiculously time consuming and make for one J.K Rowling lengthy type read but it seems an injustice to tone down all the wonderous things that have happened.... I guess i shall have to wirte about the most brilliant parts over a few posts whilst including a brief yet equally wonderous description about the smaller, but in my eyes, equally amazing things!
Where to start? Teaching? In my last blog i talked about a friend of mine whom had approached me wanting some lessons in Natural Horsemanship and we had just had our first lesson. I believe in total we have had 4 or 5 lessons that have incorporated both ground work and ridden work... or should i play!
Well, i have come to learn that there is no better sight than the look on your students face when they have mastered something they have always struggled with, its a mixture of surprise, amazement and joy, and i have learnt that there is no better feeling than when your student turns to you and says "I just had the most AMAZING riding lesson, i could feel the improvement in myself and my instructor could see the improvememnt in my riding too, im so pleased, thank you sooo much for helping me!" Iv really found a love for teaching that i didnt know i had! To give someone the tools that can unlock their potential and watch them just grow grow grow is such an amazing feeling and better to watch than any Johnny Depp starring oscar winning movie.
After the first couple of online sessions, my friend asked if i could help her with some ridden work. She was having real trouble when riding without stirrups, she said she would bounce out of the saddle an awful lot, and she would get unbalanced and would end up needing to stop.
"Sure thing! Lets see what we can do."
Being a Parelli Student i have had it drilled into me the importance of foundation, and thats both the horses AND humans foundation. So instead of throwing her up on Piggles and getting her to go trotting round we started on the ground. Why? Well because we need to work from the foundation up! We need to make sure that you have the right energy, the right body language, the correct focus. We have to make sure that all the ingredients that we need in order to go trotting around without stirrups are up to par, otherwise how on earth can we expect ourself to do the higher level stuff if we can even do the basic's. In the words of Pat Parelli Level 4 is just Level 1 with excellence.
So i set her and my levels horse up with a game of "Mirror Me". Its Piggles job to Mirror Sammy, mirror her body language, her gait, her energy. The importance of this game is i wanted Sammy to know what it felt like to "ask for a trot" or to "ask for a halt" i wanted her to know what she needed to do in her body to get Piggles to do it in his body. Using a point to point pattern i asked her to drive Piggles from his zone 3 from point A to point B doing simple walk to trot then back down to walk transitions. You need to lift your energy up and trot and Piggles will mirror you.
(A photo of me and Piggles having some fun with the Mirror Me game)
"It's not as easy as it looks!"
Hehe! Of course not, this is horsemanship, its never as easy as it looks... well actually it is, only as adults we have perfected the art of making simple things difficult! What made this game harder was that Sammy was still learning how to effectively use her energy and today Piggles was feeling more introverted than extroverted. Not only is Sammy learning new things but she is also having to apply horse psychology inorder to help Piggles achieve equal Woah and Go. Interesting! Sure enough though, being the brilliant student Sammy is, she stuck to it and took in every word i said and sure enough her energy was spot on and Piggles was mirroring her transitions nicely. Their transitions up were nt as lovely as their transitions down but like i said to Sammy, being a LBI if we dont quite till its perfect we'll never get there, Piggles will get bored, then difiant and things will just get worse.
Move on, next step. This time i asked her to continue playing a Mirror Me game from zone 3 but this time i want her and Piggles to do it on a Clover Leaf Pattern, this involved alot of turns. As i explained to Sammy, you ve got the energy sorted now we just need to test our focus point. Imagine your belly button is a fog horn, a fog horn of pressure- this is what Piggles needs to follow, When you point your belly button to the left Piggles need to yield to it and also turn left. Start with your eye's, find your focus point and let your body follow, use your body to turn him. I sent them off and Sammy did such an amazing job, she got it straight away and they were doing walk to trot transitions using energy and turning the corners just by using her focus.
"Great Stuff! Now we are ready to ride!"
Sammy jumped on and we went through everything about her Balance Point and Fluidity. We started off with me and Piggles playing the circling game online and Sammy was just a passenger. It was her job to just "Go with Piggles" she had to maintain her balance no matter what he did, whether he stopped or went.
Walk fine, trot however proved to be quite a threshold. I could see Sammy getting more and more disheartened as she struggled to remain relaxed and on her balance point. So we stopped and i gave her further instruction and lots of encouragement.
"Dont worry. Learning looks ugly and involves making mistakes, that why its called learning, its okay! Remember your fluidity excercises, peddle your feet which will stop your lower leg from bracing and also loosen your lower back and remember to roll your shoulders to stop you from tensing up top. YOU CAN DO THIS!"
So we started again. Still being slightly unsettled by his short bouncy pony trot i made a decision not to stop Piggles and offer further instruction and encouragement, instead id keep him going and helped her out where and when she needed it. Something Sammy later thanked me for, left to her own devices she would have stopped every time, she said as hard as it was she needed someone to help her work through it. When she began bracing in her lower leg i reminded her to peddle, then when she tightened through her shoulder i reminded her to roll her shoulders, then remind her to peddle her feet, focus point higher, move back on to your balance point, keep peddling your feet untill all of a sudden it was all happening together and almost instantly Sammy and Piggles looked like a professional team! Sammy looked so gracefull and natural up there! She was moving with him and kind of just melted into his stride, it was really something to watch. She no longer bounced and instead they looked like one being, even when Piggles surged forward she maintained her balance and just went with him. The look on Sammy's face was the biggest smile i had ever seen and im pretty sure i was mirroring her!
We took 5, to talk about what has just happened and to let Piggles have a rest.
"Okay Sammy, now that you have got your balance point sorted and you can move with him without bracing i want you to do the point to point pattern with walk and trot transitions, exactly in the same way you did on the ground. Engery up and trot in your body then energy down walk in your body to transition down.... oh yeah and i dont want you to use your reins... i can see you trying to use them to aid your balance!"
(Responsibility number 3 for us humans "Maintain and independant seat)
Piggles was needing a little help by this point, we still had nt caused him to have equal Woah and Go, he still had more woah so the transitions up were nt to snappy and he was breaking gait and transitioning down without Sammy's say so.
"Okay Sammy every time Piggles comes down to a walk i want you to ask him to halt"
Sammy followed my instruction perfectly and was already aware of the reverse psychology approach i was now taking with Piggles (and since then she always uses it as an expample of human responsibility number 4 "Think llike a Horse-Man" which is just fab). In order to cause him to have more Go we needed to ask him to go ever slower than what he wanted, soon enough he didnt want to stop and wanted to keep going. So their transitions up were now much better and their transitions down to walk were fab but Sammy kept having to use the reins to bring Piggles to a halt. Hmmmm how interesting....
Sammy is a very bubbly Left Barin Extrovert and Piggles is a very sensitive little pony so it dawned on me that perhaps when asking for the halt Sammy wasnt actually quiting riding and still had some energy about her. I asked her to stop and i explained the difference between energy down for a transition down and no energy at all and quitting riding in order to halt, we had a big "Ah-Ha!" moment and then right before my eyes Sammy and Piggles did a series of the most fluid, effortless halt- walk- trot- walk- halt transitions, bareback, with no reins, balanced and relaxed the whole time!
"Right! Im not done with you yet!"
So now we have, balance, fluidity, and energy now just to add your focus point. This time i sent her and Piggles on to the Clover Leaf Pattern and asked them again to do exactly what they did on the ground, transitions and using your focus to turn....
...wow, Wow, WOW, FREAKIN WOW...
Piggles and Sammi were trottiing down the straights, transitioning down when they got to the corners, Sammy used her focus to get round the corners, with only the slightest tounch on the reins for support, transitioned up again on the straight and then once they did it in all 4 corners they halted in the centre. All the transitions done with no reins, all turns done 80% with focus, 100% balance, relaxed, confident, Piggles was doing in his body was Sammy was doing in hers! What a result! Considering where both Piggles and Sammy were when we started.
I was super proud of Sammy and she was dead chuffed with herself too, the smiles on our faces could not have got any bigger! Not only did she over come something she had quite a lot of trouble with but she was able to address Piggles needs also and caused him to find equal Go and Woah. They worked on their problems and eneded coming together as a real team. I was just so greatful i could be a part of it!