Licensed Parelli Professional 2* Junior Instructor

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Saturday, 6 February 2016

CAUSE them to think about it ALLOW them to do it ...

Session 10: In session 10 we did 1 hour of tie time. Interestingly on this day she developed some challenges with trailer loading (which had been going really well). I often find that this can happen with Introverted horses ... especially innately nervous horses, like Flo. What happens is that for years she has been just jumping in the trailer because no one was allowing her to have an opinion about what was being asked of her ... no one was letting her have a voice in the conversation. So now that I have been allowing her to have a voice.... she decided maybe she would say, "NO!". I spent about 20 minutes helping her to get past her tantrum, and try. Then I loaded her buddy first, and asked her to try again. She still was struggling. The trailer I was asking her to get into didn't have a ramp, so she had to step up and I could feel that she was struggling making that step. As Pat would say, "We had the nose and the neck, but not the feet!" I began to play with her front feet with the rope, and then when she was confident I lifted her foot onto the step. With this little help she was able to jump in, but I KNEW that we had some work to do to help her get confident making that nose, neck, THEN feet change. She was doing really well with her nose and neck... but having trouble converting that try to her feet. So that dictated my training plan for the day ;)

When I got to the arena that I was riding at that day ... we began by playing with some "hunting the ump" ... seeing if she could convert her nose and neck interest to doing something with her feet.  It took her a little while, and a few tantrums, before she realized that I wasn't going to MAKE her jump, I was just going to CAUSE her to realize that jumping was the MOST comfortable option ;).

Then I continued with helping her to convert her nose and neck try into her feet doing something ;). SO we also played with the pedestal. This Smart cookie figured it out and was about to stand on the pedestal as well! It was SO cool to see her begin to trsust me and figure out that the BEST way to do things was to try and solve the puzzle. And also to trust me that I wasn't going to MAKE her do anything, I was going to CAUSE her to understand my idea.... and then allow her to try to figure it out ;).

She also wore her bareback pad for the first time. Pat always says in the colt-starting skeleton that horses TEND to struggle with EITHER the placement of the saddle or the constriction of the girth ... not usually both. For Flo, it is COMPLETELY about the placement ... the girl doesn't worry her at all, its getting past something being placed onto her back. She did really well though ;).

Thanks for Listening!

Thursday, 4 February 2016

Flo: Advancing from a Foundation of Faith

Flo's journey with me is continuing in a beautiful and humbling way. This horse continues to surprise me at her willingness and vulnerability. Over the past few sessions I have zeroed in on what exactly my own goals with Flo are... What Id like her to truly gain from her time with me. I've discovered that I believe that the biggest thing I can offer this special little horse is building a foundation of Faith in humans ... More specifically, Faith in a humans ability to apply pressure, fairly, appropriately and logically. At the moment this is Flo's largest challenge.

Flo doesn't really understand the difference between rhythmic motion (stimuli I'd like her to relax about) and rhythmic pressure, (stimuli I would like her to yield softly from. Because of this she is in a constant state of tension as she attempts to guess whether she should yield or relax. It's my responsibility to give her the CLEAREST messages I can from my energy, so that she begins to take her cue off of that, as opposed to guessing. It's also my job to apply pressure using phases... "Being as soft as possible, but as firm as necessary." In this way she can begin to have faith in me, and in humans and in how pressure and requests will be made of her in her future. This fairness, clarity and focus is what she will be able to depend on :)

On that note, here is a breakdown of our last few sessions-

Session 6:
-1.5 hrs tie time - Tieing horses is so valuable... It allows them to have time learning to respect consistent and fair boundaries (the length of the rope, and yielding to it)! It also helps them improve their patience, emotional fitness, and self confidence.
- in our On Line play, we began playing with backing into her pen. Flo struggles with stimulus behind her, so this is a good challenge, especially as it has a purpose :)! She is getting softer each time. One of her tendencies is when she is first asked somethig, she throws a BIG tantrum... I believe because in her past, preasure has been applied too quickly, and she has been asked to try harder when she is ALREADY trying. Often with horses, this causes them to throw a big tantrum at the beginning. What I try to focus on is that she DOES NOT have to DO the task, but she DOES have to TRY. As soon as she tries, all the pressure goes away. In this way we are building her "try reflex" more and more! Lastly we also did lateral flexion both directions and she did SUPER! 

Session 7: In session 7, Flo had 4 hours of tie time, in multiple locations ;). So once she found relaxation in one spot, I would offer her water, and then take her to stand in a new spot. Horses are contextual learners, so asking them to learn things in different contexts is SO valuable. Then we played on the 22 foot line with circle game, maintaining gait, and changes of direction. We also continued our ponying off of Damo, helping her to improver her porcupine game and her relaxation at the trot and canter ... as well as with people above her.

Session 8: In session 8 we continued with another 2 hours of tie time. Then we played On-Line with improving her understanding of rhythmic motion.

Session 9: In session 9 we did 1.5 hours of tie time.  Then I continued her pattern of backing into her pen, into the arena, and into some different spaces so that her confidence in zone 5 would improve!

I love seeing her beginning to really trust that Im not going to Make her do anything ... and that IF she tries ... the pressure will go away ;).

Thanks for following our journey!

Wednesday, 27 January 2016

I hope you brought a 2nd pair of socks .... ;)

Well, Since I last wrote, Flo has had sessions 4 and 5 ;). And she is making SUCH great progress! Here is a little bit about each Session.

Session 4: Well... Just so you all know, my LIFE gets in the way of my horse time too, and this day was a perfect example. I had the opportunity to have an indoor arena all to myself this day ... BUUUUUTTT I also had a doctor's appt. SO, I loaded Damo, Flo, Uno, and a Clients Horse (Wyatt), into the trailer and we headed to the Doctor. Then ... Of course, the doctor took WAAAAAY longer then planned and by the time I was done it was getting dark ;(. So Flo got to stand in the trailer and eat for about 4 hours. She does really well, but you can tell that she struggles with anything behind her, so closing the divider is a little emotional.

One of the things I LOVE about Flo is that she is REALLY clearly Nervous/Right Brain. Her first tendencies are often to Escape or Flee ... rather then fight, THEN to yield. WE just have to keep playing so that soon her FIRST response will be to Yield, Give and Turn Loose, not flee or panic. Sam Caporn, a fellow Parelli Instructor always used to say, "The horses FIRST response is what they understand, their LAST response is what they will learn." I always loved this as a guide to never release on a brace ... and/or to notice what it is that your horse actually thinks is the right answer ;). Although she can be challenging, its nice that she isn't complicated!

Once we got home from our loooooooong trailering adventure, Flo and I played for just a few minutes. This was the FIRST time that I was able to throw the rope over her back 3 times on each side without her moving at all ;)! We also did lateral flexion, and rope around turns to check her understanding of yielding to steady pressure, as well as being put in a vulnerable position and being able to turn loose to the pressure. NEVER underestimate the power of lateral flexion!

Session 5: SO ... Here is where Flo blew my socks off ;). I decided to bring her with me to a free evening event at Courage Rein's Therapeutic Riding Center in Highland, UT. I was bringing Damo as well, so I knew that worst came to worst Flo could just stand and hang out with Damo.

Flo, however, had different plans! She came to act like a star ;). There were about 50 people at the demo in an indoor arena she had never been to!

I first used Flo to demonstrate the three different kinds of pressure we use with horses ... Rhythmic Motion, Steady Pressure, and Rhythmic Pressure.

Then I thought I would turn her loose and demonstrate catching game ... BUT, Flo wouldn't leave my side! This was the first time I've released her and she didn't walk away, and she chose to do it in an arena with a bunch of people watching! I don't think anybody believed me that she has been hard to catch ;).

I couldn't have been more proud of this sweet little horse! I hope she finds a human to help her through her life soon!

Thanks for following our Journey!


Thursday, 21 January 2016

Jumping into Circling & Porcupine: Creating Relaxation

Great play with Flo yesterday! We had the indoor all to ourselves :). This was basically session 3, and she was SUPERB to catch in the round pen; I can tell she would still be tricky if she was in a big pasture, but in the round pen she is now doing really well! She still puts her head UP when I go to lift the halter over her nose, (eventually our hope would be that she would drop her head DOWN into the nose hole) ... but 1% better each day!

We then headed up to the indoor. I thought I'd begin with circle game since she felt that she needed to move her feet. SO I started with a circle to the left (her easier way) ... and tried to figure out what the parameters of the game were. (This is something I OFTEN think of when playing with a horse ... WHAT do they have to do to get a release? That's what makes it a game, that's what makes it fair.) As she cruised around, I noticed a few things; first, she would speed up headed back towards the gate every time ... often breaking gate upwards. She was also pulling on me, near the gate as well. Being particular is one of the most important things with horses, and I often find that if we have MORE than one goal at a time it can confuse them. So I started with selecting "maintain gait" ... i.e., I didn't want her to speed up towards the gate and slow down going away from it. So I hung in there until she made a shift, and was able to maintain the trot all the way around me (she was still speeding up and slowing down, but she wasn't breaking gait). Then we went the other direction which is much harder ... she doesn't like humans being in her right eye. She also made a huge shift this direction!

After I sat down (something I like to do to give them a BIG release of pressure), and just managed the rope while she wandered. And then, the COOLEST thing happened ... she got confident enough to lie down! However, as you can see in the video... She had SO much adrenaline she had to get up, lie down, get up, lie down. However, it was AMAZING that she was confident enough to lie down ;).

Next she had some tie time while I played with Damo ... She was super, stood relaxed like an old hand! I then decided it was a good time to help her find more relaxation at the trot, and improve her porcupine game... SO, it was on to Ponying! Damo and I began at the walk on her good side (left), and she did super. We then made the transition up to the trot, which was SUPER hard. I used my horn to reinforce the porcupine game, and spiraled so that I was asking her to come forward at an angle. Damo was an angel... keeping her hip out to the outside so that Flo was coming towards my knee, not towards Damo's tail. It took her quite a while, but eventually she chose to come forward into the trot, and we were able to spiral back out and trot a few laps around the arena until Flo found relaxation at the trot.

Then we switched gears to improving rhythmic motion again. Now Flo had me in a new "strata" (I was now above her, on Damo), and she struggled with understanding rhythmic motion and finding relaxation, but we got there and I was able to throw the rope over her withers. I was also able to flip it down over her hindquarters a few time and ask her to follow the feel in a circle. She was soft, and had really made a choice (in our ponying discussion!) to follow a feel ... (See Video below!) ;)

We were also able to do a little bit of ponying at the canter! She got a bit impulsive, but still did super. She is a super nice horse ... it will take time to build her trust and confidence, but as with most introverts, once we put the time in the rewards are SO worth it!
Thanks for following our journey!

Tuesday, 19 January 2016

Flo's Journey on Improving Catching

So... There are multiple steps, phases, and strategies to a good catching game, to creating a horse that WANTS to be with us, and can't wait to get caught! As I mentioned in a previous blog, to me Flo seems to like humans and want to be with you; however, she is scared of ropes, fast movements, and motion of most kinds. Obviously, this makes her challenging to catch.

One of the ways you can tell which parts of the friendly game your horse struggles with is how easily they re-approach you. For example with Flo, if she leaves, she only goes about ten steps away, stops and then re-approaches. This tells me that she is more concerned about my movements and my tools, not so much about ME! And this is a good thing! It means we just have to continue to improve her friendly game and understanding of motion and tools.

So today,  we played with improving this understanding in Flo. I brought her her breakfast, (two flakes of hay) and then I stood right next to her hay bag. As she ate, I proceeded to touch and rub her face. The first few times, she needed to retreat; during this exercise I didn't apply any pressure on her when she left, I just allowed her to retreat and re-approach in her own time. This works especially well since I have the natural draw of breakfast on my side!

I gradually increased my motion, and today was able to use my hands, and the rope a little bit on her neck and face! My goal is to use this time and this gentle technique to expose her to many many different tools and motions!

This is a great technique for more nervous horses! With my Arabian mare I used this to get her used to plastic bags, tarps, and the stock whip, so keep thinking about how you can be a REAL natural horseman, and use your horses tendencies and environments to your advantage!

Thanks for following Flo's journey ;)!

Lillan Roquet

Introducing.... Flo!

For the next month, I'm excited to announce that I will be playing with a beautiful Mustang mare named Flo. She was rescued by the lovely team in Cedar City at Dust Devil Ranch Sanctuary for horses...and is looking for her forever home!

My hope is to try to blog about each of our sessions so that Flo can get some publicity and hopefully find a special human!

So today was our first session. We began with Catching, something that she has struggled with in the past. Flo wanted to come and see me and walked right up, but when I moved my hands or the rope she moved away. This tells me that I don't so much have a catching challenge, I think I have more of a challenge with Friendly Game, or Rhythmic Motion. I allowed her to approach and retreat and after not too long she was happy to be haltered. She has some pretty big "uh-uh" muscles under her neck though from lifting her head in tension.

We wandered up to the indoor arena where Flo stood tied while I played with another horse. She pawed a little, but for for he most part she stood really nicely.

I began our session by playing with improving her understanding that when MY energy is in neutral she doesn't have to worry about any stimulus that's going on... She should focus on relaxing! One of the techniques I used was to throw the rope over her back a few times, and then ask her to yield her hindquarters. Because so far she strikes me as a more nervous horse (Right Brain) and she tends to freeze (introvert)... Adding in this motion, and asking her to cross her hind legs helps her to turn loose and be more vulnerable with me, as well as building her confidence.

At the end of her session we had some awesome yawns, big neck shakes and adrenaline releases! I look forward to continuing our sessions.

Lastly when I turned her loose... I made sure to wander with her until I found where SHE wanted to be. Then I let her go, so that I could be the one to leave her, because of her former troubles with Catching.

Please share this around so we can find Flo an awesome home, and thanks for listening!!

Tuesday, 18 August 2015

Hustler: Hoof-prints on your Soul

It's like that quote you always hear about people coming into and out of your life, but some friends leave footprints in your soul.... Well this is a little story and a tribute to a horse that has done that to me.

Hustler first appeared in my life in September of 2013... Approaching FAST being led off the back of a 4-wheeler. Tracy, a friend, and very dedicated horsewoman, got off the 4-wheeler leading a beautiful dark bay horse with a skinny white blaze, and said just one thing to me, "I just know its time for him to come home." I don't think ANY of the three of us knew in that moment the journey that that horse was about to lead us on... Except perhaps him. He gazed straight at me...with eyes that begged me to understand, that ached to be vulnerable, but that also offered an intensity and guardedness that I had seen only rarely before.

Hustler did come "home" that day. He was led to his temporary paddock, a staccato cadence in his feet that never stops, constantly aware, a prey animal to his very core. The next day Tracy invited me to play with him, and our conversation, and his teaching of me began.

That winter I would spend many hours playing and riding this horse. Having massive breakthroughs, and giant set backs, days where his understanding and connection where stronger than any I had every felt, and others when his brain just would not register me as a leader, a source of safety, or anything other than a predator out to get him... A situation he must fight for his life in. But slowly we made progress, we saw glimpses of the amazing horse underneath the baggage and fear and assumptions. 

On his back he began to truly understand how to yield from your legs instead of panic and run. Every time I used him to demonstrate in a clinic he would FORCE me to be more consistent, and precise then any horse I had every touched... There was no sneaking around trying to make things "look good"... There was only principles with him.  And the rewards for this were in the same realm, ten fold of those with other horses. When you ride him you feel the depth of his struggle to understand, his struggle to not runaway, his struggle to trust, and because of this when you feel him truly "get" something... His conscious CHOICE to understand, converse and engage instead of panic...  There is nothing else in the world more magical. 

When Tracy suddenly lost her horse, and Hustler became her main squeeze, they BOTH tackled the project with a focus and learning curve that was steep. I remember countless times when Tracy got to his relaxation, and then the tasks and requests she made were easy. One day in a clinic I was asking students to put their horse's front left foot on a cone. Tracy looked at me like, "You're crazy, I'm just thrilled we are standing still, NEAR the cone," and in that moment Hustler lifted his foot up and put it down directly on the cone. We all have stories like that with horses, their capacity for connection and understanding of our intention is incredible. It gives me chills every time I hear Pat tell the story of it being pitch black one night in Colorado when he heard a scuffle and he thought, "oh no, Casper's out, how am I ever going to find him in this?" By the time he got outside, there was a skinny white blaze standing next to the porch.

As it is with many things, the extremity that gives us such beauty, can also give us grief and challenge and pain. Just like an artist with an incredible ability to depict human emotion, this also means they feel its negativity to the largest extent. Hustlers ability to connect and understand, also lends him to push into any energy or pressure that he feels when that need to fly from fear overwhelms him. And overwhelm him it sometimes does...

Last summer I took him with me to Colorado to ride with Pat and Linda for three weeks. Linda sat with us for almost twenty minutes as he processed his deep emotions about mounting... Talking me through what she saw him going through, and allowing us to dig a two foot deep trench with his front foot in her beautiful arena. Saying that he needed to go there, to process the emotion, to come through it. Since that day, and many days since, of learning to just BE with a horse in intense emotion, his mounting is now connected and relaxed. Im so grateful to Hustler for teaching me this: How to BE with a horse or a human while they process something, not feel the need to fix it, or change it, or soften it, to just be, truly present and WITH that emotion. Then Linda rode all over the ranch with us; helping me to give him clear boundaries on the trail so that he could find freedom within those boundaries.

 After that it was on to Pats world where he immediately diagnosed his tendency to push into pressure and energy of all forms. Enter... Cows. Pat coached me on using the cattle to help Hustler to understand and respect energy bubbles instead of crashing through them. Then we translated this knowledge to the flag, and then onto the human. Until I had a horse who's first reaction began to be to be connected with me instead of panicking and running into pressure. The opportunity Hustler gave me to learn from both of these master horseman, and watch them both push to diagnose and discover what we could do to help him has been unparalleled in my own journey, and I can't thank him and Tracy enough. 

Coming back from Pats I began a program of asking him to lie down. I didn't use a saddle, or force him over, I just used a 22 ft line, pressure and release and set it up and wait. After three sessions he laid all the way down for the first time, and it was one of the most powerful moments I have ever experienced with a horse. You could see and feel that for a moment, he had given up, the only way he could be vulnerable enough to lie down was to give up, to surrender completely. I sat with him and rubbed him until he began to lick and chew, and shook his head, standing and returning to himself. Today he trusts me enough to lie down, roll and even stretch out flat, and the journey to get there has never been dull, as each time I must earn it.

There are things that are still a struggle with Hustler. Tieing, Trailer Loading, Leaving the herd; his claustrophobia, sensitivity to people places changes and things, and lack of trust makes his journey challenging. But through that journey he is teaching us all so much. 

I believe when we ride, most horses give us this false sense of security. Most of us believe, and most horses allow this belief, that if we HAD to, we could MAKE them turn, or stop or go. Riding Hustler removes that from your mind. As you ride him you KNOW in the deepest parts of your being that when you ask, he is CHOOSING to respond. When you ask, he is processing your relationship, the rapport and respect you have earned, and choosing to share in the conversation you are offering. The very first time I rode him I said I've only ridden two other horses with a bigger "engine," Pats horse Magic, and Amy Bowers horse Saphire. That intense power, matched with his guarded vulnerability, really causes you to process the depth of our connection with horses; the significance of what it is we ask of them. Creating a relationship with a prey animal, and crossing that boundary that nature has drawn for them, carved in by thousands of years of evolution, that is a huge thing that we ask of these incredible animals... And Hustler makes you feel the weight of your request. This sits deep and profoundly with me, and I thank the universe for the opportunity at this lesson.