Monday, January 31, 2011

PNH Blogging #12 - Your favorite horsenality to play with and why?

I guess it would have to be the extroverts, both right and left brain. I love a horse who moves its feet and likes to boogie. Royal switches back and forth between the two. His generosity comes from the RBE but his goofyness from the LBE. I like 'em both.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

PNH Blogging #11 - Pat and Linda don't where a helmet….do you? Why or Why Not?

Okay. Here we go. *sounds of Renee cracking her knuckles and neck*

[Helmet Fanatic]Yes I wear a helmet! Because I care! about my brain! and family! and friends! and insurance premiums! and the CHILDREN!111!!11!eleventyone! WHY DOES NO ONE THINK OF THE CHILDREN?!!?!?![/Helmet Fanatic]

Helmet Fanatics make me embarrassed to wear a helmet. I wear my helmet because I feel it is a safety measure that I like. Not need. Like. I've gone back and forth with wearing helmets. When I first went to horse camp when I was seven, helmets were mandatory for all the campers (but not the counselors as I recall). When I started riding lessons at ten, helmets were, again, mandatory. It wasn't until I started "working" at Last Chance Farm (the farm where I got Royal. Not its real name.) that I started riding without a helmet. On the camp/trained horses, not Royal. I wore a helmet when I rode Royal and all the other green horses. Helmets became less of an everyday piece of equipment, and more of a precaution when riding green horses. I can honestly say my Troxel saved my life the three times Royal threw me.

Since I didn't ride very much for two years after starting Parelli, besides the odd hop-on-and-sit session and I usually wore my helmet for those. Then, I stopped wearing it, mostly because it didn't fit my head. I had a risky fall off of Royal when he got stung by a bee and lost my confidence all over again. It took me a year to get it back, and for the first few months, I wore a new helmet. But then, I consciously made the decision to stop. Why, you ask? Because I realized I was using my helmet as a crutch. If I felt I needed a helmet to ride, that was a HUGE sign that I wasn't feeling confident to ride. Either because of my own issues or because Royal was acting up. So, instead of donning the helmet, I would play on the ground from as long as it took for Royal to be ridable, which sometimes took two hours.

So I went for three years without wearing a helmet, except for jumping. I always wear a helmet when jumping. Again, so I wouldn't use it as a crutch. It may seem weird to think like that, and it probably is, but for someone who had her confidence shattered twice, it was very important for me to not put myself in those situations again. And even though I now wear my helmet 95% of the time I'm on a horse, it's not the first safety measure I think about. My safety list is more like

1) Is my horse ridable (calm, relaxed, listening to me on the ground)?
2) Am I in a good mental state to ride?
3) Is this a good environment to ride in (footing, distractions, hazards like cars and other horses)?
4) If my horse got upset, could I handle it?
5) If everything went to hell in a handbasket, could I do an emergency dismount and get my horse back into a ridable state on the ground?
6) Do I have my helmet?

I'm always amazed at the kind of people who seem to think helmets are the ONLY thing that keeps people safe. I don't think they really think that, but one could be forgiven for getting that impression. So much energy and emotion over helmets, but not as much given to ground preparation, not getting on a explosive horse, and getting off when horse becomes unridable. Think how many falls/accidents could be prevented by people simply getting off their bolting/bucking/rearing maniac, instead of trying to "ride 'em through it" and getting thrown when the horse explodes. Yes, there are the freak accidents where a horse slips or trips, but head injuries are not the only possible injuries. Is breaking your neck a walk in the park? Does rotator cuff surgery come cheaply? And I suppose it only takes an hour to recover from broken arms and legs? Helmets are not magical force fields of protection.

I suppose the reason I get so mad at the Helmet Fanatics is because I feel like I was robbed of three years of progress with Royal because of that mentality. I shouldn't be just starting Beginner Novice this year; I should be doing Novice or Training. But because helmets were the only safety measure taken when I started out with Royal, I had to regain my confidence over two years. That's two years Royal and I will never get back, and I don't think I would have lost it from the Bee Sting Incident if it hadn't been so tenuous.

So, yes, I wear my Charles Owens AYR8 with pride, but because it's a choice I made. And because I don't need it. I only want it.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

PNH Blogging #10 - Post your favorite picture of you and your partner and write about it

I've posted this one a couple times before, but it is my favorite of me and the Fuzz, as I like to call it. It's in Bayfield last August, and only the second time I'd ever jumped in an open field. My sister and grandmother were there, and Katie just happened to get the photo at just the right time. I love how even though it's just a 2-foot fence, Royal's still snapping his legs up and has a marvelous expression. And after this picture, the camera decided to stop working with us and all the rest of the photos are kind of awkward. Oh well. At least I have this one.

Vet School Dreams, Both The Literal and Figurative Kind

So, I want to be a vet. Either a behaviorist or an Equine Sports Medicine specialist, not quite sure which one yet. I think last semester knocked me out of the running for this upcoming cycle, but I'll still apply and consider it a practice cycle. But it's been on my mind a lot lately, since the U of M is starting up it's interviews and I have to start thinking about taking the GRE. Haven't even started studying for it yet.

But last night, I had a weird dream. I was a vet student, as evidenced by my white coat, in a warehouse-type building at night during a thunderstorm holding a chicken. A white hen, as a matter of fact. And I had to leave the building and drive to another building to euthanize the chicken. I'm not sure why. But as I was driving, in the thunderstorm, with the chicken in my lap, it turned into a puppy. A Beagle puppy, with lots of black fur. I got to the other building and I didn't want to euthanize the puppy, but I did anyway. And that's when I woke up.

Like I said, really weird dream. Not quite sure what to make of it.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

PNH Blogging #9 - A moment you have had with your partner that would not have been possible without PNH

You want me to pick just one?! Pretty much every time I have a fun, relaxed interaction with Royal was made possible by PNH. I know that sounds like hyperbole, but Royal and I radically transformed shortly after starting PNH. I suppose the coolest recent one was a month ago, when I rode Royal bareback through the pasture. I just stood on a stump, he sidled over to me, and we went tramping through 3 feet of snow all the way to the gate. It was pretty awesome.

In today's Royal adventures, I decided to try some more clicker training. I'll go into why and how I do some clicker training with Royal in a later post, but it seems to help for the stuff that he just has trouble figuring out. Trailer loading, lead by the tail, and Stick To Me seem to be those things. Since the trailer is surrounded by snow, I decided to try the other two. Stick to Me went very well, but he had trouble with lead by the tail. It didn't help that clickers don't work too well with thick gloves. Towards the end, he started to get it and it's something we can work on for a while. Royal does love treats.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

PNH Blogging #8 - What is your horsenality, what is your partners horsenality and how do you make them work together

My "horsenality" is innately Right Brain Introvert. I tend to clam up in big social situations and really need my "me" time. I can be very high energy, but can be easily exhausted by social interaction. Some types more than others. Parties are the bane of my existence, but I like talking to fellow horse people, especially PNHers.

Royal started out as a Right Brain Extrovert and has become a mix of RBE and Left Brain Extrovert. Or, as I like to say, he's either being a punk or thinks ninjas are on the lawn. But the good side of both of those means he has lots of energy and can be a tremendous learner.

It was hard for me to match Royal's energy in the beginning without emotion. It used to be the only time I got high energy was when I got emotional, so a large part of my journey has been separating energy from emotion. I'm better at it now, but I'm not perfect. And Royal has learned how to tone it down, so we're sort of meeting in the middle.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

PNH Blogging #7 - A time you turned a moment of frustration into a moment of "Hmm How Interesting?"

The most recent example would be the last time I rode Royal. This winter, he's developed a habit of being tense in the arena. I could work on other stuff, but he wouldn't really be with me. So I decided to work on relaxation through Partial Disengagement. It took a long time for him to relax and he tried to do everything but relax. I just waited it out with his bracing, spinning, changing speeds, and trying to yank the reins out of my hands.

I won't deny I was kind of frustrated and exasperated with him, but I just let him figure out what the right answer was. As soon as he sighed, I dropped the reins like they were hot. And the next time, it only took 30 seconds for a nice deep sigh. Haven't done any riding since then due to the Eternal Cold Snap, but hopefully next ride will be better.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

PNH Blogging #6 - What is your dream with your horse

Already been accomplished: having a horse who understands me, is reasonably happy to see me most of the time and is fun to be around.

Being accomplished: bridleless riding. We're getting there, slower than usual with the weather being so uncooperative and classes starting up. But we're still getting there and hopefully will be able to send in out L3 auditions this spring/summer

And competition. Jumping competition especially. So that why we'll (hopefully) be trying our hand (and hoof) at eventing this summer. I have all the tools I think I'll need to prepare the two of us and I have the money (finally!) to do it.

We'll see what happens.

Friday, January 21, 2011

PNH Blogging #5 - What is your favorite DVD, Celebration, Tour Stop etc..etc…moment

I'd have to say I really enjoyed the 2009 Madison Celebration. It was cool to see the Spotlights (people playing with their horses to music), all of Pat and Linda's horses (Allure and West Point were especially fun), Walter Zettl lesson with Linda was so AMAZING that even my non-horsey mother was entranced, seeing the saddle makeovers, and just being around fellow PNHers for three days. It was a great weekend.

The closest event last year was in Ohio, a 12-hour drive from the Twin Cities, so I wasn't able to go. But this year, Pat and Linda are coming to the MN Horse Expo! Yay! I'll just have to walk a little ways from campus to see them, instead of driving for five hours. Sweet.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

PNH Blogging #4 - One BFO (blinding flash of the obvious) moment you've had

This is something I'll elaborate on in a later post, but it was when I decided to try clicker training to help Royal trailer load confidently. My family's trailer is a 3 horse slant load with a mid-tack. The nice thing is that the back is wide open and inviting for unconfident horse. The bad thing is there was plenty of room for Royal to turn around and run out immediately. It was never so bad that I couldn't keep him in there if I needed to, but it was always stressful for both of us. I tried all the Parelli stuff I could think of, but it never worked very well. My beagle Copper is clicker trained so I thought I might be able to try it out with Royal.

It only took one hour for him to hop right in, side-pass up to the front, and wait to be tied. The only thing I could think of was "why haven't I tried this before?!". And a couple days later, I had to load him in the trailer to go to Bayfield, and he did. No problem.

It was an epiphany.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

PNH Blogging #3 - What is your partners favorite game

Royal's favorite game is probably the Circling Game at Liberty. He loves to run and play, so it's not hard for him to circle. We've had to work on improving the circle this past year and he's become very soft and light online. He also canters instead of galloping now.

He's also a fan of the Friendly Game, though he'd like it better if it were the Acquaintance Game. He feels that sometimes it's better to not get too friendly with Nose Scratching Cat.

Back At School

Sigh. It's true. I'm sitting in the Underground Lounge in the St. Paul Student Center before heading back to Minneapolis for O Chem Lab Lecture (yeah, it's weird). O Chem Lab check in was today and all my materials looked good. But dang, there were lots of them. I wonder if I'll use them all or if some are just for show.

Oh, and lab starts at 8am Tues and Thurs. Am I crazy? Most definitely but everyone already know that.

Monday, January 17, 2011

PNH Blogging #2 - What is your favorite savvy and why?

I would have to say my favorite savvy is Freestyle, by a nose. I like them all, but Royal is really fun to ride and I love jumping. It's also very useful in developing harmony and balance for both human and horse, since neither can depend on the reins. Freestyle has helped me and Royal with emotional control as well.


Today was my last day of freedom and it was in the mid-twenties, so I headed out to play with Royal. I decided to try Partial Disengagement again and see how it went. Royal did very well at first, even with some trotting, but after a half an hour, just got very tense and WOULD. NOT. RELAX. Royal can nurse tension like some people nurse grudges and this time he was bound and determined. He tried yanking the rein from my hand, grinding his teeth, picking up the bit and chomping, flipping his head, turning in a circle, going r-e-a-l-l-y s-l-o-w-l-y, for about ten minutes (felt like an eternity). Finally, he let out a deep sigh and I dropped the reins like they were hot. Phew! I didn't get mad or frustrated, I just stayed there until he relaxed. We stopped in the middle of the arena, hung out for a bit, and tried again. This time, it only took about 15 seconds for a nice long snort and that's when I quit.

"Make the wrong thing difficult and the right thing easy."

Sunday, January 16, 2011

PNH Blogging #1-How did you find PNH

So, here we go. This is gonna be a long one, since I have to explain Royal's and my history and how we met, which was a big factor in starting Parelli.

I've always loved horses. I loved horse movies, horse camp, horse books, and horse magazines. I started taking lessons when I was ten at a saddleseat barn. I got the basics down, but I wasn't really interested in competitive saddleseat riding. I wanted to jump, so I started taking jumping lessons. I really really wanted my own horse, but this was before the horse market crashed and good horses were really expensive. Like 5 figures expensive, which my family couldn't afford. Long story short, I went to horse camp at a barn in Buffalo, MN which I really liked and my parents said I could lease a horse there and possibly buy it after a while. The farm was mostly Arabians with a few Quarter Horses and Saddlebreds, but I was sure I could find my jumping horse there. And the owners agreed with me. "You'd like Royal, he's a great jumper." Which they knew because once he got scared and jumped over one of the barn owners. Who was about 5'6". That should have been my first clue.

I didn't (and still don't) know much about Royal's background. I don't even know what breed he is. I think he's an Anglo-Arab, but the owners said they'd been told he's a Saddlebred-Morgan. I highly doubt it, but he has no papers, so I can't know for sure. They got him as a four-year-old from a low-end auction, and said he came from a show barn in Princeton. They never told me the name of the barn. He had actually been bought by the kill buyer at the auction, but one of the owners liked the way he looked and bought him before he got on the truck. He was one of the lucky ones. He'd been bought to be a camp horse, but was too neurotic and spooky. So, they leased him to a stable-hand who also wanted a jumper (this was a couple years before I bought him). She pushed him hard and fast, having him jumping 3'6" within a couple of months. Now, Royal is an extremely quick learner, but he loses confidence easily, so he had a meltdown. I was never given the reasons why, but she stopped leasing him and went to a different barn. Royal just sat in the pasture for a couple of years before I came along.

So I started leasing Royal. I had been warned that he was "spooky" and "needed work", but the owners would help me train him and he'd be an awesome horse in no time. Things went well at first; I did lots of ground training and "re-started" him in the saddle. It went so well that four months after starting the lease and riding him, my parents bought him for me as a 14th birthday present! And a month later it started to go bad. That December, after owning Royal for six weeks, I had my first fall off of him. He'd always been tense when I was riding, but I never got worried. This time, he was especially nervous, and I got careless. I went to dismount, the stirrup banged into his side, and he spun and bolted when I was halfway off. I was right next to the metal rail of the arena (they used round pen panels to separate the riding area from the viewing area), so I pulled on the inside rein to get him away from it, let go, and was thrown over his back. I got back on, and rode him around some more, but my confidence had taken a serious hit.

Two more falls shattered it completely. The second happened early summer. I was asking Royal to canter when someone walked into the viewing area. He'd been too tense to canter ("Aha, a clue, Sherlock!") and had instead been doing fast trot, so I asked him rather strongly. My strong aids and the person walking in caused a meltdown, and he let out THREE MASSIVE BUCKS. I went flying over his head and landed on my back. I got back on again, but was so scared. The third happened a month later. I had started to regain my confidence, so during my lesson, the owner decided to push us and have me and Royal go over poles. My already fragile confidence was not up to the task and neither was Royal's. I was too scared to speak up, too scared to quit, scared of being seen as a wimp. A half an hour into the ride, I thought "I wanna get off." Hindsight is 20/20. Ten minutes after that thought ran through my head, the trainer had me try an extended trot over the pole. We got to the pole, and Royal launched over it. I got thrown over his shoulder, landed next to the rail, and started sobbing. I was hysterical, and never got back on that day. Whatever confidence I had was erased. I didn't get back on him until October.

So, here I was, too scared to ride. And not just Royal, any of the green-broke horses I'd previously loved to ride. I only wanted to ride the quiet camp horses. I still did some work with Royal on the ground, but he never got any calmer. He spooked at his own urine and shadow, and only marginally trusted me. The mere thought of riding him made me feel like throwing up. I had no idea where to begin to regain my confidence, and none of the suggestions I got helped me. I was told to try different bits (stopping wasn't the problem, exploding was), martingales (still doesn't solve the exploding), different nosebands (again, exploding, not mouth-opening), lunging before riding (already doing that, not helping), sending him to the Amish (!!!! not on your life!), sending him out for 30 days (couldn't afford the trainers who seemed halfway decent and I didn't like the idea of just sending him away), and drugging him (again, no frakin' way). So, I was stuck.

I floundered for a couple months, before a horse-owning co-worker of my mother's suggested I look into Natural Horsemanship. Now, I had already known about Parelli, and even bought the halter, lead rope, carrot stick, and string at the MN Horse Expo a couple years prior to buying Royal. But I had forgotten about it, until the co-worker reminded me about NH. So I got my tools out the basement, bought the L1 program off the webshop, and got started. Immediately, I noticed a difference in Royal and have never looked back. I won't say it's been all peaches and cream; it's been six years of hard work, patience, and perseverance. But, it's all been worth it and I have a wonderful horse to show for it.

PNH (And Horse) Blogging Challenge

A person on the Savvy Club Forum posted a list of 30 topics related to PNH and 30 other general horse-related topics to blog about. I thought it looked interesting, so I'll give it a shot. Here they are:

Day 1-How did you find PNH
Day 2-What is your favorite savvy and why
Day 3-What is your partners favorite game
Day 4-One BFO (blinding flash of the obvious) moment you've had
Day 5-What is your favorite DVD, Celebration, Tour Stop etc..etc…moment
Day 6- What is your dream with your horse
Day 7-A time you turned a moment of frustration into a moment of "Hmm How Interesting?"
Day 8-What is your horsenality, what is your partners horsenality and how do you make them work together
Day 9-A moment you have had with your partner that would not have been possible without PNH
Day 10-Post your favorite picture of you and your partner and write about it
Day 11-Pat and Linda don't where a helmet….do you? Why or Why Not?
Day 12-Your favorite horsanility to play with and why?
Day 13-Post a video (could be an audition) of you playing with your horse
Day 14-What PNH tools, clothing, tack etc. do you own?
Day 15-How is PNH perceived where you live, board or ride at?
Day 16-What is the most challenging horsenality for you to work with?
Day 17-What is your favorite game
Day 18-A time you have seen Pat & Linda live. If you have not seem them live would you like to, what do you think it would be like?
Day 19-A time you were able to help a "normal" horse or horseman using PNH
Day 20-A PNH clinic or lesson that was inspirational. If you have not been to a clinic or had a lesson what educational material has been particularly inspiring
Day 21-Criticism you have about the PNH program
Day 22-How do you explain PNH when people ask what you are doing with your horse
Day 23-SADDLING: do you use the PNH saddle and/or theraflex pad if not what do you ride in and what does your horse think of it
Day 24-A time PNH made things harder for you and your horse
Day 25-What is the most challenging aspect of your relationship with your horse
Day 26-What is your favorite obstacle to play with
Day 27-A time you have impressed someone with your PNH skills
Day 28-Love, Language, Leadership: what is the easiest for you and what is the most challenging
Day 29-If you could ride one of Pat or Linda's horses which one would it be and why?
Day 30-What have you learned about yourself since you have started doing PNH?


Day 01- When and why you started riding
Day 02- The last time you rode a horse and what you did
Day 03- A video of your best riding
Day 04- A ride that impacted your life
Day 05- Your first fall
Day 06- All the tack and riding clothes you have (brand/color/other details)
Day 07- Your favorite ribbon won at a show and why
Day 08- A little about the barn/stable you ride at
Day 09- Any injuries that occurred from ridingDay
10- How your family/friends feel about your riding
Day 11- Find a horse for sale online that you would want to buy
Day 12- Favorite horse color
Day 13- A video of your worst riding
Day 14- Your dream barn/farm
Day 15- If you could speak to any horse, dead or alive, what would you say?
Day 16- Your most recent fall
Day 17- Your equestrian idol
Day 18- Your grooming routine
Day 19- A discipline you would like to do that you’ve never done before
Day 20- Your favorite horse show
Day 21- Your perfect schooling outfit
Day 22- The importance of riding in your life
Day 23- Critique a famous/well known equestrian’s jumping round of your choosing
Day 24- Your best riding friend
Day 25- Your dream trailer
Day 26- Biggest riding pet peeve
Day 27- You know your an equestrian when….. (Give 5 original ones)
Day 28- Helmet or no helmet?
Day 29- A style/trend in tack/riding appearal that you don’t like
Day 30- Your Future With Horses

Not sure I'll be able to do one per day, especially with classes starting up on Tuesday, but I'll try to work through them as best I can.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

In A Lull

Nothing much to report over the last couple of days. I just haven't been feeling the greatest. I have an odd headache that feels like my brain is half a size too big for my head and some fatigue. Classes start again Tuesday, which I definitely don't feel ready for. I still have to get my books. Meanwhile the zipper broke on one of my winter riding boots (again) so that's going to have to get repaired (again). It was "fixed" the first time a month ago, so the problem is still there. I'll try to nurse them through the winter and buy a new pair when all the winter stuff goes on sale in the spring.

So, if the weather agrees with me tomorrow, I'll try wearing my regular boots with wool socks and the heated foot stickers I love so much. We'll see if it works.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Heat Wave!

Well, the Minnesotan version, anyway.

Yesterday I went out to the farm, to find the Other Farrier there. There a weird thing at the barn where everyone except me has used the same farrier for years. I started using a different farrier four years ago, and while everyone tells me that my horses hooves look the best, no one has switched. What are ya gonna do? But I decided to play with Royal in the arena, and he had lots of energy. I let him loosen up on the 22ft circle and when I asked him to canter, he let out a massive buck. After that he was perfect, but it was nice to see him moving around.

Today was less successful. I planned on riding, and we had a fantastic ground warm-up. I got on, and he was kind of tense. I tried backing him up, which usually helps to relax him, but not today. Then I tried Partial Disengagement, which did not go well. He tried sticking him head in the air, pulling the reins out of my hand, stopping completely, even half-rearing. I stuck with him, trying to release at the smallest sign of relaxation, but it still took an hour before he let out a long sigh. And that's when the ride ended. Just from walking around, he'd gotten really sweaty, so I had to cool him down and dry his sweat off.

The heat wave is supposed to continue for a few days, so hopefully I can get a couple more rides in before school starts up again.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

On Being A Fan While Not Being A Fanatic

The best lack all conviction, while the worst / Are full of passionate intensity - William Butler Yeats

I want to talk about passion, fandom, and fanaticism.

Often passion and fanaticism are confused, but they are very different. When someone is passionate and feels strongly about something, often they are written off as a fanatic or crazy. While passion can morph into fanaticism, I do not think they are interchangeable.

Fanaticism is the stalwart support and defense of a person or idea. The person usually is unwilling to change their mind in the face of evidence that contradicts their views. They may be hostile when challenged and refuse to consider the possibility that they are wrong. A lot of religious people fall into this category. Most conspiracy theorists especially are fanatics. Anyone who argues against them must be in on the conspiracy and the evidence that disproves them was obviously planted or false.

Passion is the strong support of a person or an idea. It means someone feels strongly about something and is willing to defend it. However, the person is willing to consider contradictory evidence or views, and accept that they could wrong. Scientists tend to fall into this category. They may fiercely defend their view, but if the evidence that contradicts them is solid they are willing to change their minds.

Obviously, I prefer passion. I think any position worth holding is worth defending, but one should always be open to new evidence.

Too often, someone who is passionate is confused with being zealous or unreasonable. And they can be, which is when they cross the line into fanaticism. But that's not necessarily the case. For instance, a couple months ago, I bought a Macbook. I had previously owned an HP notebook that was very touchy and had a lot of idiosyncrasies. But I just kind of dealt with them until it really crashed the weekend before a Physiology test. All of my note, diagrams, study materials, gone. And it happened on a weekend, so the place I usually took it to was closed, and other places said they couldn't do anything. So I had to study from scratch and somehow passed the test. But that was the last straw. So I decided to do a 180 and get a Mac, which I'm glad I did.

It hasn't been completely smooth sailing, but it's a lot better than the HP. But I don't think Macs are the BEST COMPUTER EVAR and anyone who disagrees is a Windows shill. I still use Windows on a different computer almost daily. So, I'm trying to be a Mac Fan but not to be a Mac Fanatic/Fangrrl.

Same thing with horse training. I personally think that Parelli is the best way to train a horse, but I don't think non-Parelli people are horse abusers. Pretty much every horse person I've run into deeply loves their horse and wants the best for them. And I can't disagree with that. I will recommend Parelli, but I won't push it. As long as people love their horses and treat them well, I'll support them.

Plus, I'm a terrible proselytizer.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011


So, Royal and I had a bad day.

Nothing was going right for me at all. I had to run some errands I hadn't planned on that turned out to be both expensive and useless. So I didn't get out to the farm until 2:45, tired and frustrated. The horses were out in the big pasture and Royal was at the very end. With all the rain and snow we've had, the pasture is very hard to navigate, since you either have knee-deep snow or lumpy narrow paths. Royal pretended to ignore me until I was about 10 feet from him and them he took off. And I mean galloping through the deep snow, and me without my cookies. All the other horses joined him and they started running like maniacs. Even after they all ran to a completely different part of the pasture, Royal still refused to come anywhere near me. Keep in mind he's been trotting to me the last couple of times I've been out there. I finally convinced him to come to me by pretending my glove warmer was a treat, but it was still really maddening.

I did manage to get a ride in, but he was spooky and blowing through my aids. I had to make some very strong corrections, stronger than I would have liked. There's just something in the arena that's spooked him and I need to help him get through it. So, that's my agenda for tomorrow. Lots of Approach and Retreat with the arena and all the scary corners.

And, I'll bring some cookies out to the pasture. If Royal decides to pay hard to get, the other horses may get a tasty snack. ;)

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Not Much to Report

It's been too cold to do much here. I was able to get out to the farm yesterday for a brief ride. Actually it was more like "let Royal run around the indoor for a while, play a little bit Online after saddling, and do a 10 minute passenger lesson". The vet specified that the first ride after an adjustment should be walking on a loose rein for a short time. And that's exactly what we did. I used Royal's new bit and bridle again and he seems to be handling the bit very well.

Even though it was a balmy 18*F and I had all my long underwear and heated toe stickers on, I still found myself hunching over trying to protect myself from the cold. Sigh. I am just not made for this weather.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

What is Safety?

When I wrote my Helmets and Other Veneers of Safety, I pointed out that helmets, for all their promotion and marketing, are not magical force fields of protection. They can definitely save your life or prevent catastrophic brain damage, but you can still be killed or injured while wearing a helmet. Look at Christopher Reeve, Darren Chiacchia, or Laine Ashker. They are not the be all and end all of safety, and I get so frustrated when people judge how safe someone is by whether or not they are wearing a helmet.

So what is safety? Is precautions taken to prevent accidents? Is it something that reduces the likelihood of injury? Is it something else? I refuse to quote the dictionary here, because everyone views safety in a slightly different way.

Look at it this way: when I was leasing and first bought Royal, I was riding the equine equivalent of a paranoid schizophrenic. The horse was literally spooking at his own shadow and urine. Oh sure, I wore a helmet every time and every ride. I still fell off and lost my confidence. Confidence that took me two years to regain. But a lot of people would have looked at that helmet and proclaimed me "safe". But what if Royal reared and flipped while I was riding him (which was a real possibility for how reactive he was)? I would have been crushed, which the helmet would have done feck all to prevent.

Then look at Linda Parelli. She jumps! Bareback! With no helmet! How unsafe! What horrors! Think of the children! Won't someone PLEASE think of the children?! Except for if you listen her talk, you'd know she promotes staying on the ground until you feel your horse is ready to ride and getting off the horse the INSTANT you feel the horse is unsafe. That little piece of advice has prevented more accidents for me than any helmet ever could.

In the summer of 2009, Linda was riding her horse Remmer in a field when he tripped and fell. Linda was thrown off. She sustained a concussion and broken ribs. When people heard about the accident, many wondered if she would start wearing a helmet. But here's the thing: the concussion healed relatively quickly. The broken ribs took a lot longer to recover from. And a helmet wouldn't have necessarily have prevented the concussion. A concussion occurs when the brain bounces around in the skull, crashing into the sides. People have gotten concussions while wearing helmets. A protective vest may prevented the broken ribs, but again, not necessarily. Linda has been riding since the accident and does not wear a helmet or a protective vest.

It would seem that Linda has decided that she can be safe while not wearing a helmet. And, as a committed helmet wearer, I completely agree. Because safety is more than equipment and clothing. Safety is what you DO and how you react to situations. You can't wear safety, you have to live it. The day I went to the cross-country schooling, I was riding up the road while wearing my helmet and protective vest. At one point, after Royal spooked at a barking dog, I thought "I'm glad I'm wearing my helmet". The instant after that thought flashed through my brain, I stopped Royal, got off, and walked the rest of the way. That thought was a warning sign that I was not feeling safe enough. If Royal had thrown me into the path of a car going 60mph, the helmet would not done a whole lot to protect me. I should never need a helmet; it should always been a second line of defense. When I feel like I "need" one because my horse is acting up, that is a MAJOR HUGE warning sign that my horse is not safe to ride and I should not be on him.

So, I guess my point is: wear your helmet if you want, but make sure your horse is ridable.