The horse's pasture to the East...

Friday, March 25, 2011


One of my favorite movies, when I was a girl, was National Velvet with Elizabeth Taylor. I loved every last bit of that movie, from the first scene when you see Micky Rooney walking down the road whistling, to the last scene when Elizabeth Taylor rides out her family gate to find Micky Rooney so she could tell him about his Dad.

My favorite scene in the movie was, and still is, the one where Elizabeth jumps out of the back of the lorry at the track where the Grand National is going to be run, walks into a lovely garden full of every fragrant flower they could jam into the scene, leans over and puts her head into a lilac bush, takes a deep breath and says " Horses!" She doesn't even notice the garden. All she can focus on is all of the spectacular horses walking too and fro with their riders and trainers, everyone dressed in their racing colors and every coat shining. It's one of those scenes that has always resonated for me. Nothing better in the world than the smell of lovely, healthy horses.

When I read in the news that Elizabeth Taylor had died, I decided to get my copy of National Velvet out to watch again. It was my way of saying goodbye to one of my favorite actresses, and indulging myself at the same time! (Might as well be honest here.)

The last ten days have seen our usual wild swings in temperatures and weather. We've gone from wind and snow to sunshine and green grass beginning to appear to more snow and sleet and back to balmy days again. The last snow left five inches on the ground, which melted by the end of the day. Weirdest part of that day were the frogs in our pond to the West of the house that kept singing through the snow storm! That was a first for us. When it's mating season, it's time to "make hay" and that's all there is to that!

I've put in several new gardens this year so I haven't been writing here the way I should have. We're doubling the size of our vegetable gardens, doubling the size of the flower gardens and putting in an herb garden too. We had lots of compost to use. Had to make use of it somehow! And I asked for seeds this year for Christmas too. It's going to be fun watching my seeds grow and remembering back to opening my packages at Christmas ! Can't wait for the little green sprigs to pop up out of all that lovely, sweet smelling soil. Horses are a gift to the world in more ways than one! (They're going to love the carrot patch!)

The sun's risen and set ten times since my last post here. I've been working with Lucky and Apache every day too. Sometimes it's just for fifteen minutes...sometimes for ninety minutes, but always with the thought in mind that it's just going to get better and better.

I've been focusing on my inner game of Horse-Man-Ship this year...really visualizing exactly what I want to accomplish every day. The balancing act comes in to it with the need to set things up so Lucky and Apache feel like it's on their time table. No easy deal since they're both scary smart horses!

With Apache I'm playing mostly at Liberty. He loves that. When we're coming in from the field (grass is getting lush. Time to shorten their days on the pasture, never easy for any of us!) I'll do small circles, disengaging his hindquarters and then stepping back just as he comes past my shoulder and doing the same from the other side. It ends up looking like figure eights with me in the middle as the fulcrum. Then we speed things up and practice our walk/trot and trot/canter transitions, sometimes going sideways or backwards and then swinging around to go forwards.

None of our sessions are ever more than twenty minutes at a time. The trick with him is to keep his mind engaged as well as his body so he doesn't have a chance to be "naughty", ending it with a flourish and then a lovely, long massage under the eves of the barn, standing in the sunshine.

John has been doing longer sessions with Apache On-Line this year. He's slowly taking the real leadership role with Apache. Mine is the "fun" role, building confidence and respect so Apache is ready for John. I act as the second set of eyes for John, helping him when he asks for me to. So far, so good!

Today Lucky and I had a spectacular ON-LINE session. He was spot on 100 % for me all morning! My focus on the "inner game" is working! I've been very careful to keep my hands open and to do my best to "act like there is no lead when I have a lead in my hand" and to "Act like there is a lead" when we play at Liberty. The softer I get with him, the easier he is to play/work with. The harder I try to REALLY follow this program without deviating from it, the better our language is with each other.

Since Lucky is a Left Brain Introvert, for the most part, I try not to use too many Circles with him. But I want to get him used to the idea of Circles too, so I've been setting them up so that we do two Circles, change direction and then walk two Circles, then come back the other way. Or I break them down into Falling Leaf patterns, moving him in Figure Eights away from me as I walk forward, then switching it around and doing Figure Eight's while I back away, him coming towards me. (Away builds respect, towards builds confidence).  He needs to feel like there's a goal we're going towards, a place we're seeking, for the Circles to make sense and to be fun!

I've been working on our Sideways and YoYo more also. At a clinic we attended two weeks ago, Jenny Vaught emphasized both of those games, talking about the value of an excellent back up and sideways. She taught us some interesting variations on a theme too, so I used a couple of those ideas this past week to keep Lucky on his toes and guessing. I love to surprise him with something new like backing in a curve through the barn door and touching the side of the barn with his inside shoulder. Oh, the licking and chewing that were going on with that one!

Jenny had also talked to us about the importance of letting them rest more in between new tasks, giving them time to absorb and process. Lucky loves to stop. The only thing better is eating! So giving him time to pause and relax is making a huge difference for both of us.

Our breakthrough this week? Lucky is now doing a Sideways for me out to the end of the twenty two foot rope with me standing still! HUGE! He's loving all the carrots too. Every time he comes back to me, preferably Sideways also, he gets another piece of carrot. In his opinion, life is good!

The days are getting longer and sweeter. And I'm wondering if having this much fun is legal!

Breath in..."Aaaaaahhhhhh. Horses!" Good bye National Velvet. We'll miss you!

Nancy, smiling and remembering...


Parelli Central said...

I think I watched National Velvet as a kid in Germany... Long time ago! Happy to hear you are using what you learned in Jenny's clinic and that it is working so nicely for you...
I can only dream of flower, vegetables and herb gardens. Plans for another year :-)

Petra Christensen
Parelli 2Star Junior Instructor
Parelli Central

Nancy, smiling! said...

Hi Petra! I really was impressed with Jenny and Tony. They worked together as partners while they taught...did a wonderful job of backing each other up and helping the students at the same time.

Both of them have the kind of lightness that I want so much to get too!

Glad you stopped by again! Always enjoy hearing from you.