I just read this article on the Parelli website – LOVE it! It’s going to be food for thought for awhile I’m sure. Enjoy!
I’ve come up with my first cut at goals for the winter season. Keeping in mind that on average I’m only able to ride about 1/week in the winter, I am trying to be realistic and focus on basics that both Corona and I need to rediscover. Also considering the lack of riding time, I’ve added in some theory goals that will allow me to learn through books and videos when I’m not able to get out to the barn.
At work, we’re always told to ensure our goals are SMART – Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-bound. I’m not sure that these goals are very SMART, but I do think they will serve me well. If anyone has any suggestions on how to improve them, please let me know.
- Continue study of natural horsemanship through purchase of fundamentals video from Parelli.
- Learn theory behind the Parelli 7 games more in-depth so that I can more accurately put them into practice.
- Get dressage book to more accurately understand the pyramid of training and then be able to put it into practice.
- Lead Corona walk/trot/halt and have him follow at a respectful distance and speed. Will halt at a respectful distance and keep out of my personal space.
- Mount/dismount while standing calmly in a variety of locations.
- Halt/walk/trot/canter transitions – I want to have consistently willing and relaxed transitions.
- Focus on leg position – keep heels down and leg in a secure position.
- Be able to maintain forward impulsion throughout riding sessions and keep an even tempo at all times.
With the onset of winter and the subsequent decrease in the amount of riding I’m able to do, I have been looking for a new hobby to try out on a trial basis. I have a friend at work who practices Buddhism and has taken up meditation over the last few years. I always find talking with her a real treat and always refer to her as my, “wise friend”. I had always been curious about meditation but didn’t really know anything about it or where to even get started. Through my discussions with her I decided that perhaps it would fit the bill for a tryout. I found a yoga studio close to my house that was offering a 6-week introduction to meditation course. The course description outlined that we would learn the basics of how to sit, how to breathe, how to observe, and how to let go. Furthermore, we would learn how meditation helps alleviate stress and tension and how it helps cultivate inner peace and balance. How could I say no to that?!
I’m in week 3 of class right now and I really do enjoy it. It’s unlike anything I’ve ever done before, but I find it really interesting. I won’t lie, there are moments when I have looked around at some of the more seasoned veterans (yes, there are advanced people in the class too) and wondered what on earth I am doing there, but it’s a very comfortable atmosphere. To be honest, I was actually quite surprised at how non-hippy the participants are. There are a variety of people in the class – it’s mainly women, but there are a few men, I’d say the ages ranged from early 30s to 70. I’m definitely one of the youngest but it’s nice to be surrounded by such a variety of people with different experiences.
Since it’s an introductory class, we have been focussing on learning how to focus and to just “be”. Our instructor was discussing how, during meditation, many students experience heightened physical feelings (ex: pain, itches, stiffness) or emotional feelings simply because your eyes are closed and our other senses are heightened. The key is to recognize these feelings but not feel obliged to immediately “fix” or “change” them. The need to “fix” or “change” means that we’re not living fully in the present and acknowledging that we are not at one with what is happening to/around us (if we were content with it, we wouldn’t want to fix it). Our instructor brought up a good point – she said that all feelings have a beginning, a plateau, and an end. It’s a process that will occur and if you recognize this, then you will realize that there isn’t the need to fix things when they are uncomfortable for you.
One of the techniques we learned was BRFWA – Breathe, Relax, Feel, Watch, Allow.
When you’re feeling something, continue to breathe through it. Then consciously choose to relax into it. For example, if you’re sitting cross legged and your hips start to hurt, instead of letting your body tighten up against the pain, choose to relax those hips instead. Then we feel – if it feels good, then great. If it is uncomfortable, just acknowledge that it feels uncomfortable and see it for what it is, a temporary sensation of discomfort that will eventually end because everything has a start, a plateau and an end. Then watch – watch what happens when you feel it, let yourself observe what it happening as the sensation changes. Lastly, allow – allow the sensation to be whatever it is, don’t try to change it, just let it be.
This is an interesting concept to me and I’m going to really try to bring it into my everyday life. I was also thinking that it is likely going to be a useful tool for my riding. I actually think it lends itself quite well to my principles, in particular Personal Principles #1 and #3 – respect the horse as a horse, and respect The horse as A horse.
Maybe the next time I’m getting less than desirable results from Corona, I can tune into BRFWA and just ride it out. I can accept it for what it is, just a blip, recognizing that it too has a beginning, a plateau and an end. Maybe I can use the technique when I’m trying to keep my heels down and I can feel my bad ankle clicking, or when I’m trying to sit up straight and keep my shoulders back. If I conscientiously choose to keep breathing, and choose relaxation over tension, then I simply feel, watch and allow the sensations to wash over me, maybe I will learn to accept them and my riding will progress as well.
I thought I’d take the opportunity to share this video that I’ve had saved to my favorites for awhile now. I absolutely love it!
When I first started exploring natural horsemanship with Corona, it’s one of the videos that I found on Youtube that really stood out for me. We’re nowhere near this level yet, but it gives me something to aim for. Enjoy!
As I’ve mentioned previously, there’s no indoor arena at my barn which means we’re often at the mercy of the weather. The weather has actually been great here – we had a very hot and very dry summer, which obviously had its drawbacks, but I’d be lying if I’d said I didn’t appreciate the constantly gorgeous evenings to ride. The fall has been great as well – not too warm and not too cold (knock on wood). We’ve had a couple of snow flurries already but nothing that has stuck around (knock on wood again).
Saturday was gorgeous out, but for some reason the footing all over the barn was absolute mush. The only thing I can think of is that we’ve been getting quite a bit of frost overnight, so the ground must just be soaking it up, then when the sun comes out during the day, it melts and we’re left with mush.
Regardless of the poor footing, I had a great ride on Corona. The other girls were out as well so we decided to just have a really relaxed session 3-wide on the track. One of my friends is also in the process of getting used to the new horse, Roller, so it was nice to just bum around a bit and observe.
Once again, Corona was a gem. I was actually quite surprised because he was quite agitated when I was tacking him up. You see, Corona does not like dogs; he didn’t mind them when he originally came our way, but now he has made up his mind that he hates them with a passion. The Boss has 3 of her own – a border collie, a sheltie, and a springer spaniel. My friend has a german shephard/lab cross. They’re all great dogs and very smart, however the border collie and the shelties instincts to herd the horses are more than many can take. Heck, they’re more than I can take too, to be honest.
Four dogs running up and down the aisle of the barn is not Corona’s idea of a good time, even if he is safely tucked away in his stall. Sometimes I think he plots to get them when they’re least expecting it…he will stick his head out the door, ears pricked forward and entice one over, give it a sniff and just when the dog thinks, “Oh! A new friend!” Corona pins his ears, bares his teeth and goes for them. So far, the dogs have been lucky. I’m not quite sure how to react to this sometimes as I’d prefer no deaths on the premises, however in conversation with the Boss, she’s actually quite in favour of it and sees it as a training opportunity for the dogs to learn to be safe around horses – after all, this “hatred” is not limited to Corona, there are 13 other horses at the barn who pretty much have the same opinion.
Back to the ride – success #1 was standing at the mounting block. Well, to be honest he took a couple of steps but I reminded him to stand and wait and he obliged the second time. We have worked on standing quietly while mounting quite a lot over the last 2 years. I make a concentrated effort to stand still without moving off for about 45 seconds each time I mount. I’m happy to report that we have made phenomenal progress that is consistent 98% of the time. Like Saturday, there is the odd time that we need a refresher, but overall, Corona is very polite and willing to wait at the block. I’m always really proud when someone else sees this and comments how good he is, because he really was a disaster in this respect when he first arrived.
We all rode on the track since the ring was far too sloppy. The footing was bad enough that we stuck to walk and trot. I continued to work on getting Corona off my leg and asking him for impulsion. He has a tendancy to suck back sometimes and be more concerned with what’s going on around him (mainly behind him) and can tune out quite easily. A couple of corrections were required, but we had a great pace going and it was consistent (success #2!).
We also did quite a bit of walking on a long rein (I’ll be honest, us human folk had a bit of a chat session!), but I was cognizant to keep my leg on to keep himself moving foward. I also added in some leg yields so that we were doing some zig-zags from one side of the track to the other. He was great about this as well and really reached for the bit as he flexed (success #3!).
I would say there was only one slight blip in our ride. My friend’s dog Gus (the shephard/lab mix) was jogging along beside us like he normally does and Corona really didn’t seem to mind. Remember what I said above – how sometimes I think he plots? Well, along we went, happily trotting along when my four-legged beast took a notion to lunge at Gus. I’m talking leaping-in-the-air-ears-pinned-teeth-barred type of lunge. Took me by total surprise, took Gus by total surprise, took the other two horses by total surprise, but everyone survived with no harm done. Gus proceeded to give Corona a bit more space and there were no further incidents.
2/3 of us (myself included) were working within a time constraint, so we ended our session by doing some walk/trot transition exercises. I guess it was a bit of a “Simon Says” game, but this time just for transitions. We would be trotting and I’d call out for everyone to walk. The rule was that you only had 4 walk steps before you had to be trotting again. I do this quite frequently with Corona as I find it really helps his attentiveness and also keeps me focussed. Corona was a star and it showed that we practice this exercise, he really did out-do himself (success #4!).
After a couple of cool out laps, we called it quits for the day. Overall – a relaxed ride, but it was a great change of pace and everyone had fun. We had four obvious success moments and just one tiny blip – but everyone survived right!?
I’ve been meaning to buy Corona a new set of reins for awhile now, but the tack stores in my area have limited hours so they’re not that easy to get to for people like me who work during the day. But, last weekend I went…for reins…but since I was there already, obviously I had to look around at everything else, right?!
I got the reins….as well as a new stable blanket for the winter and a set of bell boots in preparation for next summer. At least everything was on sale right?!
My biggest complaint as of late is that there simply aren’t enough hours in the day to fit everything in! This report is a week late, but hey, better late than never right?
I had a fabulous ride on Corona last Saturday. I was a little worried that he would be full of piss and vinegar because I hadn’t ridden him in a week. Now that the clocks have changed and because there is only outdoor riding at the barn with no lights for night riding – I’m essentially stuck to just riding on weekends until the spring. It’s so hard after riding a few times a week during the spring, summer and fall, but such is life. The other annoying part is that I’m at the mercy of the weather which can be somewhat questionable at times in Ottawa during the winter.
I started our ride with a couple of laps around the track just to warm up. My two friends were there too and one was trying out the new horse, Roller (more details on him to come). I wouldn’t call Corona herd-bound, but when other people are riding he can sometimes be a bit of a jerk when I ask him to work independently. He settles eventually, normally it doesn’t take long but there’s the odd time where you just want to give in (don’t do it, stay strong!). Corona was a gem however. We warmed up with the other horses and then they went into the ring and I continued on the track. I did quite a bit of canter work and love having the track for this purpose. Corona spooked a couple times but nothing horrendous. Riding Corona has taught me to constantly stay aware and remain balanced in the saddle because when he does spook, he’s incredibly quick and can jump out from underneath you in a split second. I kept saying to myself – just one more canter transition and then I’ll go do ring work, but one turned into two which turned into three just because it was so good. I ended the canter work with a dreamy floating relaxed canter down the alongside of the track. It was pretty perfect.
In the ring, the others were just finishing so I pretty much had the ring to myself which was nice. I worked on circles at the trot and walk, lots of transitions and getting him off my leg and then started with exercises in straightness down the quarter lines. I added in some leg yields and Corona was just an absolute gem. To keep him engaged and interested in our session as well as rewarding him for his excellent behaviour, I also did quite a bit of trotting on a long rein asking him to go long and low at large as well as on a circles. This horse was fantastic. You know when you have one of those rides when you feel like one body with the horse? This was it. It felt like I was butter and just melted into his movements and he was so quick to respond to anything I asked and most importantly – he stayed completely relaxed. I upped the ante a bit too in our quarter line exercises. We would go large and I’d turn up the centre line, alternating asking him to go straight the full distance, or asking him for a leg yield. When we reached A or C, we would make a nice turn and then I’d ask him for a canter up the alongside, coming back to trot before the next corner. Typically this is the sort of thing where I would ask Corona to build on something he was doing very well at, and then I’d regret it because all of his relaxation would turn to excitement when I ask for a canter. Not this time however, this horse was so relaxed and just stepped into a wonderful canter rhythm and then willingly went back down to a trot with full relaxation. It was phenomenal!
By the end of our ride I was grinning like a fool. Corona has a nice winter coat already so we did a few laps of the track at a walk to cool down. He stayed completed relaxed the entire time and genuinely seemed to be quite proud of himself. I was beaming, my horse was beaming, it was the type of ride you just file away in your mind to pull out during those dreaded, “remind me why I ride this horse again?” moments.
I untacked my monster and towelled him off a bit before putting a cooler on him and giving him a flake of hay. We also did a couple of carrot stretches and of course, had lots of snuggles. Here he is, just hanging out in his cooler with some hay…such a good boy!!!