The horse's pasture to the East...

Monday, August 30, 2010


8. BALANCE, Qualities of a Horse-man, Pat Parelli

When you think of 'balance' in terms of riding and horsemanship, most of the time it has to do with being able to move in a clear and fluid way with your horse. But the further I go into Natural Horse-Man-Ship, Parelli style, the more it becomes a lifestyle choice and philosophy. It's bleeding over into my everyday interactions with friends and family.

Last night John (handsome feller you see in the slide husband) and I went to visit with some friends and to have dinner. They're folks we haven't seen much in the past year or two (time keeps on slippin', slippin', slippin' into the future!). We've all known each other for many years, so it wasn't hard to slip back into our old patterns. There's a real comfort in that too.

But I also found myself watching, listening and interacting with the ideas of BALANCE ( keeping conversations on an even keel, up beat and attentive), TIMING (knowing when to listen and when to carry my side of the conversation in a positive and progressive way), RESPECT ( TIMING magnified, embracing them just as they are) and, with this set of folks, EXPERIENCE (remembering funny stories together, talking about their children and grandchildren). Later I had the chance to practice IMPULSION and FLEXION when we went for a long, after dinner walk.

The walk was fascinating because we all had different levels of fitness, so I slowed, or sped up and matched pace with each of them as we changed pairs. At one point, one of them was walking so fast...with me keeping up and matching pace and energy levels...that we were very nearly cantering! It was all I could do to keep from saying "YEEE HAW!". I was having that much fun. Ask me if I'm obsessed?!

This morning I did the same things with Lucky and Apache, trying to repeat some of the same QUALITIES OF A HORSE-MAN as I did last night. I met the guys at the gate, touching hands to nose and stopping to just enjoy the early morning sounds. I consciously tried to match myself to their rhythms and patterns. When I opened the gate to the OUTSIDE (the other side of the fence is always better!), I gave them their signal to walk through softly. And they did too, but this morning they elected to stay with me!

Usually the grass beckons so the most I get is a nice little rub or nod, but today they spent the morning hanging up around me and the stalls while I did chores, even following me into the barn voluntarily. It was all very nice and soft, easy and graceful. They followed me, watching to see what I was going to do next, going in and out of gates stopping to graze while I dumped yet another load of wet and soiled bedding. Magic!

The further I go into this, the more I stick to the program, the better the relationship becomes between my little herd and I. Most of you have no reason to know this, but that's a HUGE breakthrough for me. I've never followed any program to the letter before. Even while I went to school at University and acquired my degrees I was still an independent agent of sorts (course, when you focus on Fine Arts, that's somewhat encouraged), always questioning and debating, experimenting and doing a terrible job of "standing in line" (I'm still not very good at that part...standing in line)

So, today was a quiet start to the week. When it was time to come in for grain, I whistled. They came, trotting and gaiting across the field to me. That's my reward, when they come to me like that. It's their way of offering RESPECT, and HEART AND DESIRE.

Yeee haaaw! I'm having fun now.

Nancy, smiling at the way things change...and always stay the same

Monday, August 9, 2010


So I just saw the perfect saddle on ebay for $1200 less that it costs to buy it new...a Parelli saddle too, my size and Lucky's size. Whew. Sometimes it's hard to show self control. It was the color I wanted, the style, the full monty. I watched the seconds tick down and felt the adrenalin come up. I love auctions, and there I was sitting this one out. Fardles! C'est la vie. I'm taking the time it takes, but sometimes that isn't the easy choice.

10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1 Sigh.

But the up side is that yesterday and today were wonderful! Lucky calls to me now, even from the back of his pasture. And I never have to go out to get him anymore either. He comes in, foxtrotting all the way, ready to play! HUGE!

He talks too. He's probably the most verbal horse I've ever known. He nickers, whinnies, mmm hmmm mmm's, to me and to his herd too. He's the alpha in his of those quiet but insistent types. He rarely uses force, just waits for Apache and Willow to follow. He's the best example I've seen of what I've been taught about how to assume leadership. Horses teach humans and humans teach horses. Funny how that works!

I do my best to be his leader, trying to "be like Lucky". I think I'm getting there too. His excitement when I show up is an indication of how he feels. Horses never lie. (and that's why I didn't BID on the saddle. I would have had to use a charge card. I'm trying not to spend money I don't have. Doing that would be "lying" to myself. Horses teach humans and humans teach horses.)

Yesterday we worked on being very light together. I want him to really, REALLY want to play with me, so the lighter the better. The more I do for him, the more enthusiastic he is. Even in the early morning heat and humidity, he was ready to rock! We flowed from one thing to another, focusing on Sideways (sidepass), Moving Circles that flowed into Sideways and back again, Weaving that moved into Figure Eight's and back again and then back to Sideways.

His rewards (pressure motivates, release teaches) were the stops in between when he ate grass and, of course, the stop itself. I'd set it up so that all of the places we ended a game were right on top of silky, green grass. I thought maybe that would feed into his need to have a purpose for everything (he's a classic Left Brain Introvert). Foxtrotters were bred to be trail and work horses in hilly terrains. Everything we have here is on hills, so he's loving all of it. And so am I.

For all of you KU alums, I know you remember being in school and having to walk up or down hills to all your classes. We all had awesome legs by the end of our time at school, didn't we? Well, working out here with my horses is the same thing. Our part of Kansas is in the East where it's all hills. He fits and, now, so do I. We're getting fit together.

Our breakthroughs yesterday were when Lucky was able to play Sideways through the barn doors and up a hill. He did it very smoothly and without his usual tension. That was a red letter day for both of us! Sideways isn't easy for him, being gaited. And he's been building himself up physically too after having been sick. He's strong enough now that his Sideways wasn't taxing up the hill. His legs didn't get tangled either. HUGE...HUGE...HUGE!

When I gave him destinations for his Traveling Circles (ie. green grass going down a trail into his OUTSIDE pasture), they made sense to him and he just sailed through them. Easiest it's ever been! (And I'm still thinking about that saddle. But, bareback this year and saddle next year. Patience is...)

We ended after about 40 minutes because I didn't want to go monkey brained and push. He was having so much fun, seemed like a good time to stop while he was wanting more. (Qualities of a horseman, #7. Timing)

This morning was a Walk About day. He came to me, nickering all the way. "Heeeellllooo Ma!" And then off we went, him leading and my arm over his back. I love doing that. I never know where he's going to take me.Today we went to the back of a field, towards the East, and down a hill that's been kind of scary for him before. It goes down into the trees. Monsters live in forests, from his point of view. He was a bit tense, but he was also leading so I went with him. He stopped part way down, listened, looked around then looked at me. I stood quietly and said "It's up to you, Big Kahuna." His head came down a bit and he sighed, just a little, but it was to scary for him. We went back up the hill and into the sunshine.

Whew! He stopped about twenty feet into his field, sighed and then yawned. We walked another fifty feet or so and then he just had to stop and roll. After we dumped adrenalin, we walked back up to the barn, past it and around the back of the house where the really good grass is, under the oak, in the shade.

When he got thirsty, we turned around and walked back to his barn for a drink (I always fill water buckets before we leave. Nothing like cool, clean water on a hot day to take us home again.).

I love going on adventures with him taking us there. Today it was on the ground and at an easy pace. Perfect way to start the day!

Feels like Qualities of a horseman, #1. Heart and Desire. to me!

Funny how that works out.

I remain your horse crazy, liberal humanist, tree hugging artist smiling at you from the land of OZ...Nancy

PS. Y'all come back now!

Friday, August 6, 2010


I spent a good part of the night last night, laying there in the dark, trying to figure out what "doing the opposite" is when Parelli is already the opposite. Quite a question to ponder. I know while I tossed and turned I was also smiling like a loon. Most of what I do cracks me up because I make such a big deal of the simplest things. I'm nearly always in a constant state of BFO (blinding flash of the obvious, for you less BLOG savvy people). I'm surprised I don't have bruises on my forehead from slapping myself so often!
When I go down to the barn in the morning, I always do the same thing. I walk around the corner of the shed, up to the gate and greet the guys with a horseman's handshake. Then I clean and fill buckets (trying to remember to prioritise...water is always first), pick up feed bowls, fix grain, they go to their places to eat, clean and so on. But this morning was an opposite morning.
To get myself ready I walked backwards into the kitchen and said " nhoJ, gninrom." He never missed a beat. Kept right on fixing his coffee and just smiled. It's hard to blow his socks off when you've been together for 38 years. sigh... That's OK. I'm just trying to prioritise.
When I walked around the end of the shed, the guys had just gone back out into the pasture. Lucky saw me first and swung around to come back. He does love his grain! Usually, when I open up the gate to the outside, I always put up the ropes as a temporary fence since we have no fencing around the edges of the property, up next to the road. But this morning I opened the gate as Lucky came up WITHOUT putting up the ropes. Whaaaaaatttttt?
He was so surprised that he stopped...wouldn't step over the gate line. He looked at me, then at the place where the ropes hang, waiting to be put up. "Did you forget something?" I just smiled and said "Morning Lucky." (nooooo, I didn't talk or walk backwards. But maybe I should have?) and I waited until Apache came trotting up and did the handshake with me too. He was as surprised as Lucky was!
Both of them walked over to the place where the ropes go up and looked at it, stood there waiting. I walked over, taking time to scritch them on their whithers, and unwound the ropes and tied them to the fence opposite while they stood there watching, sniffing the ropes laid out on the ground, fascinated! How interesting!
Then I turned to look at them and went off across the pasture for a walk. "HUH?" No cleaning? No grain? They stood there, watching, and then (oh this was so EXACTLY what I wanted!), they swung in next to me and we all sauntered out into the pasture. We walked out to the top of their hill and stopped. They started to graze and I stood there for a while, enjoying the sun as it came up. Oh my. I'd forgotten how perfectly pretty and quiet it was in the mornings.
I turned, after a while, and wandered back to the barn to do my chores. When everything was ready...fresh bedding (our stalls are always opened to the paddock and pasture so they can come and go), fresh cold water, crunchy hay and grain mixed...I went to get one of the lawn chairs and sat down. I DID NOTHING. That definitely got their attention. I'm nearly always doing something. I fix things. I clean things. I organize things. I set up for 'play time'. I groom them and pick hooves. We play. I mow. I weed. I rake. You know the drill. It takes a lot of non horse effort to have a nice place for your horses!
But this morning, I DID NOTHING. That got an immediate reaction. I just sat there in the shade of the north side of the barn and rested. I put my feet up on the grooming box, sat back and even closed my eyes (well, I did peek between my eyelashes. Had to watch their reactions.)
All three came up and sniffed me, nudged me, walked around me, stood next to me, grazed and then tried to nudge me again. I was having too much fun! They were choosing to be with me!
After a while they wandered off, back down the pasture, to graze some more, roll in the grass and lay on the side of the hill. It was a very pretty morning. Just about perfect.
After an hour or so, I got up and sauntered back out into their space and LOW AND BEHOLD!, they came trotting up to me from clear down at the other end. Ah...but this is the "opposite" morning, so I greeted them and DID NOTHING. I stood there with Lucky on one side and Apache on the other, Willow rubbing against me (donkey for love).
Then I smiled at them and said " I brought out carrots this morning and put them in your grain, (visualizing those full bowls). How about some breakfast?" and I brought my energy up and took off at a jog. AND THEY WERE RIGHT THERE WITH ME, jogging down the path.
Lucky was on my right and Apache on my left. Being young horses, they were pretty excited. WOOWEE! The air was crackling with it. Apache, Left Brain Extrovert that he is, began to pull out in front. And then the miracle happened. He slowed down and fell back with us!
We were coming up on the barn. It was only a hundred feet away or so. I was laughing by then (and pretty sweaty too. It's a long field.). I threw my head back and said "Yeeee HAW, boys!". We, all of us (Willow too! Head up and doing her teeny, tiny donkey toot), ran into the paddock, circled around to their spots for breakfast and I grabbed bowls and gave it to them.
People, IT WAS AWESOME! It was three hours of doing everything opposite of what I usually do to get five minutes of "Yeeee HAW, boys!"
I did it! I think I have an idea of what it means when you do INdirect line thinking...lateral thinking. I blew their collective circuits and all of us had a great time doing it.
Thank you, Linda and Pat, for being so innovative. You gave me the support I needed to let the rules go and to just BE.
Nancy, smiling so big my cheeks are hurting!

Thursday, August 5, 2010


Ever have one of those days where the little things add up...and add up...and add up until the 'little things' have run together into a great big flood of gooshy stuff? Yeah. Me too. I'm up to my neck in it.
Basicly I'm at optimist. My nickname in school, eons ago, was Can-Do. I was always ready to dive into the deep end and test the water. I still am. But horses aren't water. They have their own itinerary. And, sometimes, that list of things to do or NOT to do doesn't match up with mine.
Today was pretty much like that between Lucky and I. He wanted to come out to play, but on his terms, not mine. And grass diving was mainly what he was focused on.
He wasn't agressive. He didn't strike at me or buck or bite or even try to pull away. But he didn't want to move either...lots more whoa than go. He was "Blah, blah, blah. Grass is much more interesting than you are." Sigh.
So my question to myself today was "When is it too much? What IS direct line thinking? How do I time this so he wants to play, finds me intriguing enough to leave the grass alone?" No easy set of questions to ponder, are they? And, the question that boggles all of our minds, how do I work with the Big Kahuna without taking his dignity away?
I'd love to give you a cheery answer with sparkles and stars and great background music, but the truth is I've been trying to learn the answers to these questions by myself and that's just plain FLAT OUT FRUSTRATING!
I'm whining here. No doubt about it. But sometimes you just gotta vent. So here it is : AAAUUGH! I more than earned my sweat equity badge today. It was super hot and super humid and weirdly foggy early this morning (and it's worse this afternoon when I'm writing this, so working this morning was the only option if I want to keep going forward). I was wringing wet and so was Lucky by the end of our hour. I'm tired of being out here by myself! PHOOEY ... BLIG ... and a whole bunch of other expletive deleted type words.
He's a gosh darn big Left Brain Introvert with grass on the brain. While I worked to get him healthy he was coddled and now I'm paying for it. FARDLES! The big lug has got my number.
So, first thing to do is to change the number and blow his circuits. I guess I'll do the classic Pat Parelli thing and do the opposite of what I think I'm supposed to do. But then the question becomes "How do I do the opposite when the opposite IS Parelli?" AAAAUGH!
Maybe I'm just thinking too much. I do have a tendency to suffer from 'over stuffed head' when it comes to the brains department. I ruminate and cogitate, do research, read, practice and work things out to death. Maybe I just need to do things WITHOUT planning? I'm an artist. That's the way I usually think anyway. You'd thing it would come to me naturally (funny how that word sneaks in to the conversation, isn't it?).
Hmmmmmmmm...what to do. What to do. What to do? I don't want to be boring, but I'm supposed to repeat patterns at least seven times and then come back to them as we learn new things, to make it easier, cleaner, more of a dance between the two of us.
I don't have a trailer. I've offered to park trailers here, clean them up and repair them, even to rent them! I can't afford one right now. How do I simulate a trailer? It's such an important part of their training. And all the nice folks I have for neighbors, the ones who have horses (and who have mulitple trailers sitting in fields with weeds growing up over them while no one ever uses them!), think I'm flat out NUTS! to even want to spend the time on it. So convincing them is like hitting my head on the wall over and over. Doesn't accomplish anything except to give me a headache. with what you have, where you are, when you can and do your best. Right? (See what I mean? Little stuff rolling into more little stuff and turning into great big waves of goosh washing over me. Hard to keep my feet under me and my head above water when it's like this.)
Well, at least we have grass to grow and space to move in and clean water to drink. And I'm healthy and so is Lucky. That's a very good thing. I still don't have a saddle (can't afford the one I want...yet), but he has a lovely wide back to sit on and Pat Parelli wants his students to ride bareback anyway...right? (I should email and ask if you can pass through Freestyle without a saddle).
Obviously I have some things to work out before tomorrow. Well, at least my brains work so I can do that...right? RIGHT? Anyone out there? knock...knock...knock (me knocking on the computer moniter) Can anyone hear me? sigh....
Never mind. I can do this. (See where the nickname came from?)
Nancy, smiling ... or at least working on it

Monday, August 2, 2010

I found me!

I'm back! I had some problems this year with a virus invading my computer, so I lost my address book that made it easy to find my way to my own BLOG. I crack myself up!

It's been a heck of a year, so far. We coughed up the money to buy sand for the base of our arena and round pen, then found out the small tractor we bought wasn't big enough to drag them. AAACK! Learning curve...sigh. Always that learning curve. So now we're hand weeding, burning and hoeing the places that are supposed to be lovely sand. 'Supposed to be' is the operative phrase here. It's Kansas and the grass just wants to grow. What more can I say? Learning curve...

John is now playing with Apache. I'm playing with Lucky. Things are much easier now that it's set up like this. John is doing a great job and Apache is truly happy, having his very own human that he doesn't have to share. He's much softer and easier to be around. And Lucky? We're having the times of our lives together! He's healthy and regaining his old self. His muscles are building back up, his balance is coming back and he's begun to really look forward to meeting me at the gate. I'm so glad the last three years are now behind us. Looks like he's completely recovered from his laminitis.

This past week, despite the constant heat, has been one small breakthrough after another. We've cantered down the drive together...only five or so strides. But that's huge for Lucky...HUGE! He's a classic Left Brain Introvert, so he has way more whoa than go and is just happy to be here as long as he's eating. Getting him motivated enough to want to offer a canter is a real accomplishment for both of us.

Speaking of eating, we're doing much better avoiding the head diving too. This morning (we were out for an hour) he only tried to put his head down twice. And I managed to have him do his Figure Eight's on the 22 foot line and kept my feet still. Read that again. I sent him out to do the Figure Eight's and KEPT MY FEET STILL. WooHoo! Huge for me...HUGE! That's several big steps for Lucky, and no small steps for me. ;-)

And yesterday, when he was out at Liberty outside the fences, we came all the way in to the barn at Liberty too. It was down the length of our east pasture, which is about 14 acres. And it was soft and fun, with lots of Circles and Sideways games. Lucky doesn't mind Circle or Sideways as long as there's a reason for them. Like I said, classic Left Brain Introvert. Add in the carrots waiting for him in the barn and now you know why he was happy to play all the way in! Anything for a carrot.

John and I have been Playing with the horses six or seven times a week since the beginning of the nice weather. At first I was playing with both of the horses, but I was also getting out on the ragged edge trying to keep up. Apache is a Left Brain Extrovert and way scary smart to boot. Keeping up with him and then switching my thinking process to work with Lucky was taxing, to say the least. When I talked to John about it, he offered to take over Apache. Maybe later, when I'm a Level Four student, it will be fun to work with two or more horses. For right now, I kind of like having just one to Play with.

I guess, after our long snowy Winter (nearly four months of snow on the ground, and deep snow too boot) and me asking him to do simulations with me so I could keep learning, John started to get fascinated with the idea of it worked, why it worked and the fact that he could begin to apply it to other aspects of his life.

So this is where I do a shout out to Pat and Linda Parelli for setting up the kind of learning system that you have through your videos, books and Parelli Professionals. I've never seen any other Natural Horseman suggest simulations, much less go into the detail that the Parelli's and their amazing staff have with their educational system and home study courses. It's flat out amazing! And now my man's on board too. It just doesn't get any better than that!


Oh, one more thing. I'm on Facebook and Twitter now also, along with about half of the rest of the world. At least I don't feel so isolated anymore! I'm going to post my BLOG address to both and maybe pick up some other Parelli students. I'm hoping I can make some more virtual buddies to exchange ideas with and to congratulate each other on our breakthroughs and successes. Even better, maybe we can begin to discuss the things that are puzzling us, the events that are unexpected, so we can do a little "arrow exchange".

Keep smiling. I am!

Nancy, smiling at the way things go...