Saturday, November 19, 2011

Pics by Coco

Slideshow of photos taken while Kisia & I were in Ocala, FL attending the Flex-track course at the Parelli Center. The Parelli Center in Ocala is a magical place. I was lucky to get to attend one of the last courses held there as it is now for sale. I'm not always comfortable with pictures of myself which is why one typically only sees horse pics here. But, these are more about the relationship &, I think, Coco did a great job of capturing that on film.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Deliberant, consistent & persistent

Florida was another wonderful experience at the Parelli campus. Kisia & I are both glad to be home enjoying getting back to our routine & a bit of rest to digest some of what we've brought back. My personal focus during the Flex Track was on Freestyle riding. It's been a challenge for me as I'm used to riding with contact as is my mare. What I realised during our course was just what I was missing. I was not being clear or consistent enough with my phases. I also was giving up way too soon when things weren't working & going back to what I knew worked.....riding with contact. After getting some clear instruction on just what my phases should be....not nagging with one too long before going to the next...& staying with it until Kisia was able to understand what I wanted....we put it to test. My big break through was while trying to walk around a tree in a circle. I kept having to go to phase 4 with the reins & put her back on the circle. I knew that all I had to do to ride a lovely circle around that tree was pick up the contact! But it was not about the circle, it was about allowing Kisia the time to understand what my intention & body were asking her to do. As these things go, she "all of the sudden" got it & turned at phase 3 with just my outside leg. That was it! We still had moments of needing to go to the reins for a correction but she knew what that leg meant from that moment on & even began to turn from my eyes/belly & focus later. This also translated to other areas for me as to the importance of being very deliberate & consistent with the four phases as well as staying with it as long as needed for the horse to understand what your trying to communicate. We stayed so busy that I didn't get many pictures but did have a photo session with Coco. Should get those photos in about a month & will share here.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

What we've learned so far....

Kisia & I enjoyed watching "Parelli Games" this morning & spending some undemanding time together today. After a very full week, it's nice to have a day to relax & think on some of what we've learned. One area where I got some great suggestions was on Kisia's desire to dive down to eat grass about anytime I'm not actively asking her to do something. One instructor suggested using a voice cue "head-up", then kiss, then a bump on her rope. This helped but wasn't effective enough as a bump on the rope doesn't bother her too much. I questioned another instructor who suggested to "try to beat her to the punch" giving her a tap on her hiney as soon as she would start to dive for a bite. We made a game of this, moving around to different grassy areas. It worked like a charm. Took about 3 times for her to get it so I then added the voice cue "head up" & the tap if needed. Again about 3 times & she was able to understand that "head up" meant a tap to the toosh would soon follow if she went for grass. Next step was to get some communication going as to a cue that meant...."yes this is a good place to eat grass, go ahead!". So I began asking her to lower her head....she was pretty skeptical that it was OK so I very quietly took a few steps away from her physically & directed any energy well away from her. Didn't take long for her to get this part either. This has been an annoyance for me for some time with Kisia with things like grooming, tacking up & bathing in grassy areas. For me this is a priceless bit of learning & goes back to the saying to make the wrong thing uncomfortable & the right thing easy. We're had some great break throughs with our freestyle ride as well that I'll share here later!

Friday, October 7, 2011

Update from FL

Kisia & I are nearing the end of week one here in Florida of the Flex Track course offered at the Parelli Center. The first two days were testing. A theory test, knot tying, online, freestyle & liberty skills. Since I'm here more to develop my horsemanship skills rather than progress through the instructor track, I feel comfortable saying I might prefer no testing in a future course. That said, testing skills in front of an instructor is a challenge for me so good to step up from time to time & give it a go! Day three consisted of a rope handling, knot tying, personal goal setting for the rest of the course & reviewing our test scores (if we wanted them). Disappointing online score as Kisia & I have passed our level 2 online but surprising scores on both liberty (which we've done next to nothing with) & Freestyle. Kisia, having endured a really long trip, got several days off before the course started as we arrived a week before. I'm glad we did that as I feel it helped her to have some time to recover a bit before asking her to start moving & thinking so soon after that stress. She is a young mare, just four & a half, so much is new to her about traveling. She of course draws admirers & charms people who pass her pen. Such is her charisma & beauty. She's proving herself to be true to her breed displaying spirit when she moves, super sensibility in the face of unending new stimuli & ease of training. The new obstacles like the car wash, a nice long isle of blue tarps hanging with cut outs blowing in the wind, tires, jumps & ponds are, for her, curiosities rather than something to fear. She does get quite exuberant at times when riding. But as long as she's connected & listening that's something I personally enjoy. Will get some pics this weekend of this magical campus to post here later & share more of what we're learned as we go along.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Heading to Florida!

Kisia & I are soon to be on our way to FL to attend a 2 week course at the Parelli Center. I'm obviously excited to get to do this but especially pleased to get the attend one of the last courses that will be held at that beautiful horse heaven. It's my understanding that the FL campus has been sold meaning that future offerings will only be at the CO campus. I'll post some blogs along the way about what we're up to down there. In prep for our trip, rather than worry about what Kisia & I can do as far as our skills....of late I've been focusing on helping her to build confidence for the long trailer ride. Kisia is always more than happy to load up & down but has trouble staying in the trailer & gets worried when all the doors are shut. We've only taken short day trips (outside her long trip here from TX as a weanling). Each time we arrived at our destination, she would get off the trailer sweaty, apparently having worried that whole trip. I've tried spending longer periods of time in the trailer which wasn't making a difference. As soon as the butt bar or back gait went up, her stress was clear. As these things go, I had a moment of brilliance walking by the trailer one day & thought....wonder how she'd do if I left her in there with a buddy. Foxy is quiet & experienced in the trailer so loaded her up....loaded Kisia up who immediately started much hay (a first in the trailer)...butt bars up....back gait closed....two mares hanging out munching hay....YES! I made a program of this, leaving them on together about 30 minutes several mornings, then just Kisia. The 1st time she went on by herself, she had a few moments of tension (biting the chest bar & little pawing). Then she settled in & started eating. 2nd round of this no tension, just hanging out eating. I believe that she was unable to find relaxation at all in the trailer & having her lead mare be relaxed allowed her to chill. She was then able to go there on her own. Long trip ahead of us & hoping for as relaxed a ride for her as possible.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Nothing beats fast & right!

To help prepare for a course in FL at the Parelli center this fall, I've been viewing some of my levels videos. While watching the level 4 finess video (for the 1st time) at one point Pat says another one of his well-used quotes...."slow & right beats fast & wrong" but goes on to say something like but nothing beats fast & right or maybe was fast & right is the best! I thought at the time....hmm, that's true...can't wait to be at that point.

This morning I was worming my herd. Miles has always been something of a terror to worm...but since my discovery of approach & retreat, he's actually much better. Took plenty of time with him....he got his medicine down. Foxy was next, if she could speak she might say something like this about worming....."I'll stand here & take it because that's who I am....but if your asking then, No thanks! So again, took my time with approach & retreat until her lips relaxed then......down her medicine went. Zorra, who's not had much issue with worming thought today that it smelled funny & just wasn't again more approach & retreat till she willingly accepted the funny smelling stuff. Enter Kisia's stall (with slow & right on my mind)who is standing at the door, ears perked & 2 eyes all on me...allow her to smell it..she tries to eat it, touch her with the tube....she tries to eat it, touch her lips with it...she tries to eat it then... Shazam! I realize she's yelling at me...."give it to me! I want that stuff! What's taking you so long!" I've literally spent years preparing this mare to accept all the strange things humans do around horses.....she doesn't need slow & right......she wants fast & right! So I held the tube up....she took it...& believe've never seen a tube of wormer exit a horses mouth that clean. Then she looked at me as if to say "What next?". Yep, your right Pat....nothing beats fast & right!

Monday, August 22, 2011

Zorra playing "touch it"

We had about a week of comfortable weather recently. Everyone got to move their feet a bit & do something interesting. Few pics here of Zorra playing "touch it" which is basically a confidence building game & therefore is wonderful for a girl her age in my opinion. Baron, our dane, came out to help & somehow a cat made it into about every shot! Zorra here at 16 months old.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Summer update

We've had another very hot summer which has impacted much of our outdoor activities here. We have, although, the last week had a small drop in temps so I've been able to spend some time playing with Kisia & Zorra. Kisia & I are gearing up to return to the Parelli Campus in FL to attend a Flex-track course. With the recent announcement that the FL campus is closing, I'm feeling lucky to get to attend one of the last courses offered at that magical place & plan to get as much out of it as possible. We'll see if Kisia has the same opinion! She has been playing at level 3 online with us focusing on a final few tasks at that level. We're very close to being ready to film our level 3 online audition which is pretty cool. As far as riding, she is just great! We aren't quite "there" riding on a freestyle rein. She does better with a shorter rein at this point & hoping we'll get some pointers on this in FL. My husband has ridden her several times now on our little trail rides. Let me say here that prior to this he has been a self-proclaimed "trot hater" with no interest in riding a trot. He was a "gaited or I'm not going" type. It's pretty clear that Kisia with her sensitivity, comfortable gaits & equal go & whoa just may be his favorite mount....who knew!?!? Zorra & I spend our time working on being friendly, respectful, taking walks & playing with obstacles including the horse trailer. She's ended up being a low spirit LBE according to her horsenality report. That's a separate blog in itself but suffice it to say I was surprised. Knowing that although, has helped me to be more interesting to her. She's progressed quite quickly with the little games we play. Foxy has had a few rides from family & myself. And, Miles is actually looking good having gained a good deal of weight. He's a hard-keeper on a good day & has been challenging to get weight on. I think he's looking good enough for some pics so when cooler with get out there & allow him to be his dramatic self for some shots. We also have a new barn kitten we named Margarita.....she's into everything & knows no fear so quickly got the nickname Rita Skeeter. If you are a Harry Potter fan, you know she is a busy body into every one's business but her own! Pic of little Rita here.

Friday, July 8, 2011

4th of July family fun pics


So we've practically got a "herd" of nieces & nephews now! They joined our equine herd for some fun on the 4th.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Friends & what they teach.

I've spent some time the past couple of weeks pondering another one of Pat Parelli's sayings......"pick your partner, not your poison." As I'd mentioned previously, my old riding partner, Miles, recently returned home. Miles is a big 16.2 hand Thoroughbred, ex-racer who just turned 20. I had a friend over to ride & was talking about Miles. My conversations regarding Miles typically consist of some pretty dramatic, often scary episodes. During all this she asked "Why would you get a horse like that?". My 1st thought was that there is a lot of good about him. But I don't often share that. It was a totally fair question. Like much of society, it's easy & often more interesting to focus on the negative or high drama in life. Surely this is the fuel for the popularity of modern reality television. But is that the truth of reality? More often the truth is boring, mundane or dare I I realized that in sharing my own reality experience with this noble,yet complicated creature that I've portrayed him only in his worst & ,yes, dramatic or fascinating moments. The real reality is that he's a nice guy with years of well earned experience, training one might dream to have in any horse, confirmation to take  him soundly into old age & an exceptional ability to communicate  (whether they like it or not!) with humans. He will never be beginner friendly & might be even less professional friendly! You know the type! He is a great teacher & for me, an old friend. He's taken me to the highest highs & lowest lows.  Would I pick an easier horse if I'd known more back then? It'd be nice to be able to say yes....but he was meant to be with me. Like youth, loss of a loved one & great heart-break, he's caused me to grow & become better. He's ended up being more that a horse to I really did pick a partner...but one that would be way more than a riding horse. A teacher & old friend....water under the bridge & all.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Clinic with Sarah Martin

Kisia & I attended one day of a clinic with Sarah Martin. The clinic was held here in Oxford at Cedar Winds Farm. I had heard this clinician was nice so thought we'd give it a try. I'll stop here & say that at this point in my horsemanship journey I don't do mean people anymore. I've been there, done that & have no intention, regardless of what I might learn, in being told anything mean about myself or my horse. So there! If they aren't positive they aren't for me. I had hoped for some insight into helping Kisia understand contact. She has moments where she gets this but I've felt overall that she's not confident with the connection of mouth to hand. I discussed her early training with Sarah who suggested I try lunging her for a short time (10 minutes) in a surcingle, bridle & side-reins to help her learn to find where the contact is comfortable without the rider's issues or influence. She stressed that because Kisia was young, that we keep this lunging & riding her with contact very short. Just a few circles W/T/C & move on. The goal was for Kisia to understand & not to feel drilled. So she showed me the lunging technique asking for a couple of circles trot then canter both directions. Then mounted up & staying on a 20 meter circle instructed me to "be the surcingle & side-reins". We did this for few circles walking which Kisia was nice & quiet for without the usual "rooting" type behavior she normally does when the contact is first taken up. That was impressive to me for a start! Then did several transitions W/T with me maintaining the contact softly but staying consistent allowing her to again find that comfort zone. Then moved on to T/C transitions, the 1st of which blew my mind. So soft & quiet. She did go up & down a bit with her head but never once pulled me or did her dramatic leap into the air with the up transition which for me is just huge. We transitioned up 3 times both directions, then done. It was wonderful. My mare was relaxed & seemed happy! So this was new as I've never used the surcingle/side-reins & honestly never understood it seeing so many people use it as what looked like a torture device. We went on to discuss Kisia's fitness issues. Sarah suggested taking her out & just riding her for fun in the pasture, trails, etc. It all felt classical & natural which to me is pretty cool. Kisia was pretty awesome, so confident & brave. I've decided that if she maintains that state, what I've done is OK & good. Would certainly attend another clinic with Sarah. Links to her site here if anyone interested in learning more...... &

Friday, June 3, 2011

An update!

Spring has been way too busy leaving us as fast as it came. We're starting June feeling like mid-summer here which means HOT! That said, the equine gang are all doing well. Zorra is growing into an elegant & obedient young mare. She's outgrown Kisia in height & hard to believe but her forelock is longer than Kisia's as well so looking like she's gonna be the new "hair queen" around here soon. Foxy has been getting a bit more well-deserved (but still not enough) attention in the form of some trail rides. She & Randy have accompanied Kisia & myself on some rides out for fun & to help Kisia learn that riding isn't all work but can be interesting & fun too! Zorra tags along with us as well for our "trail-rides". Kisia & I have been continuing our progress with the Parelli program to get ready for a course in FL this fall. Since being home, I've focused on riding her "freestyle" which has been interesting as she's not been sure what to do with the "free" part of that meaning a casual (loose) rein. So she's expressing her self a bit more then relaxing which is nice! The ground has dried enough that we have started cantering on our rides. She still has her "WEEEEEE!" moments but has offered a few quiet, relaxed canters which just blow my mind as I wasn't sure they were possible. Her trainer said it would happen. Kisia's weight is a huge challenge this time of year. To put it nicely, she's ummm robust! So no grain & this year she's spending most of the daytime in the barn to limit her time on grass. And of course doing our best to get in several days of exercise playing online & riding. The biggest change around here is that Miles has returned home. Such a contrast from my issue with Kisia, Miles came home unfortunately looking like a rescue. He had been at what might be described as a horse heaven type eventing barn. So even the nicest, affluent type barn can neglect the nutritional needs of horses unfortunately. Thankfully, Sedona & Cash (along with Mississippi Horses) taught me how to help a horse needing refeeding. He's a hard keeper on his best day but has surprised me gaining weight quickly so far. Still too thin but not disturbing to see now so making progress. Miles is a ham for pictures so pics coming soon when he's looking better of our now 20 year old ex-racer, ex-jumper, retired dressage horse! Pic here of him shortly before he went out on lease about a year & half ago.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Spring 2011 Herd Pics

Our herd always looks so nice this time of year, we try to get some liberty pics. Obviously biased, but I think they all look pretty glorious!

Monday, March 28, 2011

Kisia back home :)

Kisia came back home this past weekend. While I loved having access to the beautiful facilities as the Mid South Dressage Academy, it's beyond nice to have her back. My herd again seems whole & everything just looks right with that pretty silver mare out there! We both learned a lot while she was in training. She got some much needed time under saddle with an expert rider, comes home with a canter cue & nice start on lateral movements...which by-the-way are a breeze for my side-ways loving girl! I learned that you really have to know how to ride to keep up with a young horse. She was constantly (as her trainer Ila put it) looking for her boundaries. "Her job is to find the boundaries & test them!", "Yours is to set them & be consistent so she understands!" I improved my athleticism in a huge way to be able to keep up with her....& I'll tell you what....she needed & deserved that of me. Certainly one of those good, better, best areas so many of us should improve for our horses in my humble opinion. I learned how to steer....surprising how I really didn't know how to do this...riding a schoolmaster for so long, he knew what I wanted even if I didn't know how to ask for it correctly. I learned to be brave when she cantered! Oh my, there were moments I thought I was riding a warhorse that could mow-down the scariest foe! She's very powerful & that canter is gonna take us places. Her trainer, Ila, also taught me a great deal of the bio-mechanics of riding. An interesting area that's all about how you use your body & strength to ride. There is a lot going on in your horse's body when they move. Getting in tune with them & not hindering their balance or what your asking of them is primarily what I got from this. I also learned to expect my girl to be what she is...a 4 year old. One of my favorite quotes (sorry don't remember who said it) is "Don't make people feel wrong for what they don't know." Same goes for horses...& really, what does a 4 year old know about riding? She's got her predator on her back making her do all these things she really is only interested in doing when she's scared or excited. So a little exuberance, confusion, lack of balance, etc, etc isn't something she should get in trouble for. She doesn't know....but thanks to some help she knows a lot more now. So do I!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Sedona's's a filly!

Short clip from Have-A-Heart rescue of Sedona's brand new baby girl. She's gorgeous don't you think?

Monday, March 14, 2011

Spring Update

The past winter ended up being one of the coldest & certainly the snowiest I've experienced. So far early spring has been pretty wet but the temps for the most part have been really nice. Foxy had some trouble with the frozen ground & snow which caused her some lameness in one of her front feet. She's better now & ready to do some riding. I've been trying to ride her at least once a week bareback. This helps my balance & confidence! She's one of those rare creatures who doesn't change much if not ridden regularly so it's easy to not ride her as much as she deserves. Zorra is growing & almost a year old now. I'm planning to make an obstacle course of some interesting things to play with for her when the ground is a bit more dry. We'll be building up her confidence to introduce trailer loading. Kisia has spent the past few months in Hernando, MS at the MidSouth Dressage Academy in training. It was immensely difficult to leave her there. The 1st month or so was pretty rough for both of us. I spent way too much time worrying about her. She, being an expressive & extroverted type, made it clear for all that she wasn't sure about all that change. Thankfully she did settle into the little things like being stalled every night, standing in cross-ties & being in a paddock next to, but not with, a herd. I've been getting a riding lesson on her a couple of times a week. I make sure to groom her ground tied & depending on her energy level, play with her online & always do a short warm-up freestyle to keep our Parelli play in practice. She's thrown several challenges my way but as a 4 year old, I'm told (over & over) this is to be expected. I can say I've really had to learn to ride to keep up with her. Riding a school master for so many years made me think I could ride...but riding a 4 year old is a true test of patience & skill! Lots of learning! which if I recall from my time in FL at the Parelli center is not necessarily a comfortable place....the learning zone is just outside the comfort zone. I believe we've stayed in that place & not crossed the next line into the panic zone but it sure felt close a few times. Looking forward to bringing her home in a few weeks where life is a bit more relaxing but not too much....we're headed out of green-broke with the goal of her being good-as-gold!

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Debbie Hill Clinic

Had a great ride with Kisia at a clinic with dressage rider/trainer Debbie Hill. The clinic was only one day. I would have loved for a nice 3 day clinic with this trainer as she was very intuitive about just what Kisia needed to keep her relaxed & not bored. Anyone with a LBE knows how dangerous boredom can be! It's always a challenge for me to be interesting enough for Kisia. I warmed her up freestyle (on a long rein) prior to our ride playing with follow the rail, direct & indirect rein positions just letting her stretch & move but still trying to keep her a bit busy. For our ride with Debbie, she discussed Kisia's want to root or push into the reins with contact (Linda discussed this in her "game of contact" as typical of LBE's when they don't understand contact) & suggested that I be very soft & giving when she is quiet & accepting of the contact. Then really match her pressure when she goes high or low then back to soft as soon as she accepts the contact. She had us make lots of transitions & incorporate patterns like serpentine, circles, side-pass down the quarter line to the side taking as much time as needed to get there & spiraling circles. Was a wonderful ride. I'd definitely recommend riding with this lovely trainer & hope to get to do so myself again soon!

Monday, February 21, 2011

Snowhorses: Instrumental Music From Film & Documentary Composer Simon Wi...

Composer Simon Wilkinson enjoyed Randy's video "Discovery" so much that he asked if he could use some of the footage to showcase his composition "Snow Horses". What a nice compliment for Randy to be appreciated by another artist & of course I love seeing my horses to any music! To hear more of Simon's music & see a higher quality version of the lovely footage of our gang enjoying a rare snow in North Mississipp, visit

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Snow Day Video

"Discovery" from Randall Barr on Vimeo.

Another beautiful video from my talented husband. As I said in my previous entry, we don't get much snow. Honestly, we like it that way! Winter has been more wintry than usual this year, treating us to three snow storms this season already. This one left 8-10 inches here in Oxford & actually stayed on the ground several days. The weanlings, Zorra & Cash had never seen anything like this. All the horseplay in this video was totally unprompted, natural play so was wonderful to get it on film. Features Foxy (deep red chestnut), Zorra (big black filly), Cash (black colt) & Sedona (smaller & pregnant chestnut with stripe). Cash & Sedona have since returned to Have-A-Heart rescue having rehabbed to better health with us. We miss them & hope to continue to follow them as they find new & permanent homes in the future.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Snow Day 2011

This much snow is super rare in Mississippi. Normally, we may get a light snow that is pretty much all melted by 11am. So very rare & thanks to Foxy for allowing me to experience a dreamy bareback ride in the snow.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Direct Line Thinking & Cash's 1st trim

If you follow the Parelli program, you hear the term "direct line thinking" a lot! If not, it's probably something you never hear & certainly not something most people in the horse world think about. Interesting (to me at least) how much happens when my horses have their feet trimmed. I'm incredibly fortunate to have a farrier who not only has studied Parelli but is a very natural thinker. The previous time he was here, our rescue & foster, Cash, was still pretty wild so didn't get trimmed. He's now been here 3 months & for all appearances is the definition of gentle, loving, sweet, tolerant, etc. So it surprises me when he reacts to new things like a normal horse. Now when I say normal, I mean a horse who hasn't had tarps, umbrellas, flying plastic bags, bright orange sticks, etc. as part of his life since birth or shortly after as my Kisia & Zorra have. When my farrier approached him, shiny rasp in hand, he kindof left the planet. That little guy is lightening quick...he moved up & away from that thing before you could blink. Hmmm, I didn't think about that! It was clear we weren't getting near him with the rasp so I informed my farrier that I would work on that & he could just trim him next time. Being a natural puzzle solver he said OK & that he'll just pick out his feet. What he really did although, was a sort of dance of trust. He moved slowly around him, clearly & so quietly asking for a it, but so much more! Cash keeping a close eye on him stood perfectly still & was the model of concentrated effort. He then allowed him to approach with the rasp & rasp each foot. I was mesmerized! It's hard to even say what happened. But taking it slow, starting with what he understood already (picking his feet up) & being very clear helped him to accept the rasp which obviously terrified him. Mark left me with an old rasp & Cash's cute little feet look WAY better! Patience, clarity & solving the puzzle rather than just doing what your there to do (direct line thinking!) is what horses understand! Cash pictured here yesterday getting a back scratch & letting me rub the white hairs on his nose. He almost always stands this still & has that zen-like expression on his face.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Cash's sire, Repo

Another video from Mississippi Horses. This is Repo. A few months ago he was a stallion in a herd of mares, foals & young horses. He was also starving to death. After rehab at a foster home, he's just recently been gelded & sent to a trainer. He is most likely Cash's sire as well as the sire of the foal Sedona is carrying. What a temperament! What great work this organization does! Picture below is Repo with the leake county herd just before being rescued.