Saturday, March 28, 2009


As Jet and I concurred, motivation is slowly but surely coming back. What is most important to me when Jet leaves the pasture is that our time out is just as enjoyable for him as it is when he's in front of a pile of hay. Keeping up with his "yoga" and following the chiropractor's instructions have been a big help too because that is something that Jet NEEDS. And if there's one thing I do, it's make for damn certain that Jet stays healthy and comfortable. 

It was an absolutely gorgeous day at the ranch today. High 70's with gentle breezes. I was pleasantly stunned when I went to say good morning to Jet that he led me over to the gate and started tugging at a halter someone had tied to the pipe fence. I thought, "For serious?" and untied the halter and held it out to him, figuring I could take him over to my tack shed and switch it out for his regular one. And waddayakno? He stuck his nose right in. Unfortunately the halter was too small, so I had to run back to the shed sans Thoroughbred and by the time I came back, he figured I was gone for the day and went back to eating. But when he saw me come back, he was more than happy to put on his normal halter and just about ran to the gate.

This is NOT the LBI I adopted!!!

We went over to the barn to say hello to Jill, Sally and Mom as well as knock over a few garbage cans (Jet has this thing for turning them over and sticking his hoof in them). Then we met up with Dave, Rookie and Numerous and decided to go for a walk around the property. Tanya, who's leasing an OTTB mare, Reason, who lives in Jet's pasture, also tagged along. Reason is a bit of a grouch and likes to skulk around the pasture with her ears pinned, but with both out of their normal element, they touched noses like old friends and seemed to find comfort that they were embarking on an adventure with familiar faces. Jet's gone on walks with Rookie and Numerous before, so I knew he would be that much more comfortable.

Jet was alert and alive, eager to sniff every molecule in this unfamiliar part of the ranch. I expected him to be on his toes more since we were in newer territory but I couldn't get over how even though he was extra lively, he was NOT a bundle of nerves. He was enthusiastic and COMPLETELY left brain. While he sniffed the trees and the rocks, he was listening to every command I asked. No tension whatsoever in the rope, his ears were on me and he carried his tail in a perfect little curve. I asked for trot and he jogged happily beside me. If he got ahead of me, I'd jiggle the rope just a little and he'd slow right down and get in stride with me again (which couldn't have been easy for him. Try as I might, I just can't stretch my legs as far as he can!). Ever since, images of us riding around the property have danced in my thoughts. Once our communication becomes this strong and in tune in the saddle, he will be a BLAST to take out into the desert.

He was still in great spirits when we returned to the pastures. Deonna and Dave's daughter, Darien, was celebrating her birthday in the Cherry Pie and everyone had gathered for cake. Normally I would have taken Jet back to the Cuckoo's Nest, but he was so interested in sniffing Reason, who had been put in turn-out by herself, I figured let the two of them hang out, especially since neither of them had taken a bite out of the other or ripped any blood-curdling shrieks yet. Tanya and I watched in delight as our two Thoroughbreds raced around the arena like foals, bucking, squealing, racing in circles, playing tag and nuzzling each other. They had a grand old time, and settled down to groom each other's necks. I loved seeing Jet so playful and happy. Later on, back in the pasture, he and I even trotted around and played Tag some more.

Might I add, the last time I was at the ranch before today, Mom and I took Charmin and Jet into the Parelli bushes for some good old fashioned Patterns. Thanks to our initial experience with Jet, which as you all have read included a LOT of trial and error, Charmie is progressing far faster and more fluidly in his Level 1 exposure. He and Mom are really building a great relationship of their own. As for MY boy?? I was getting sick of holding the lead rope, so I decided to noodle around at Liberty again. And that Thoroughbred...he weaved around the cones...he did beautiful figure eights...he did a small circle...he did a big circle...and he went SIDEWAYS. That day, the rope came off, and all that was left was the truth.

And I think the truth is, my horse and I are becoming real partners. I think Jet is starting to truly love being with me.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Finding Motivation

I must admit, I have been thoroughly unimpressed with 2009 so far.

First was the job I was working around the clock that made me too tired to even WANT to play with Jet in the all-too-infrequent times I saw him. Then, our place was robbed. Then, I got into a car accident visiting my Grandparents in Florida. Then, my boyfriend and I split up. A wise choice given what we each want out of life, and thankfully a very friendly and civil parting, but now I am living with my parents, and out of various bags tossed around my car, and stressful just the same. Now, I'm not working, awaiting the start date of my NEW job, my triumphant return to bartending. That job tells me I will start, "Hopefully some time in April." Unfortunately, the way things are going these days in the land of Tourism, "sometime in April," could very well mean "June of 2012." News reports that the Big Three casino giants in Las Vegas are throwing their last dollars on the long shot at Hollywood Park, Race 6, or selling employees livers on the black market in hopes of gaining some sort of return to pay off their frightening debts are not helping my state of confidence. A Vegas advocate must always trek on with the attitude that The House Always Wins. Us social misfits who have that screwball wiring in our brains that render us to not only survive living in this city, but LIKE it, are still finding it in us to smile tightly over the lumps in our throats and say, "Vegas will rise again. Vegas always survives."

Given the state of the world, and the state of my life, I found myself shockingly in NO MOOD to play with Jet or ride him. All I have wanted to do for weeks is sit in the pasture with him. My blase attitude towards Parelli had me so disappointed in myself that I posted my frustrations on the forum. Even just posting about how UNmotivated I've been made me start thinking about assessing and playing again. More relieving and supportive were the stories other SC members shared about their own bouts of procrastination and comfort zones, and stresses in their own lives that have put progression on the back burner. It's always such a relief to know you are not alone. 

Another good push in the motivation area was the recent visit Charmin and Jet were paid by an equine chiropractor. What a positive experience that was. The boys were mellow as cellos after their various cracks and stretches. The EC was very natural-minded, and while Parelli was never brought up by any of us, she felt very strongly about putting the relationship first and looking at things from the horses' perspectives. I also felt all sorts of warm fuzzies when she went on and on about what a good boy Jet is, and how he has one of the best attitudes of a Thoroughbred she's ever seen, and she could tell we have put a lot of work into both our guys. She left us with an armload of herbal samples and a list of exercises recommended to keep their toplines developing and keeping them fit and comfortable. For Jet, this included 15 minute sessions of walk-trot. The chiropractor felt that he would benefit more by doing this in open areas instead of round-penning. I was already thinking in that direction, and knew that if I turned his cardio into one long Sniff This game, Jet wouldn't even know he was working out.

I read all the time about how hard it is to find something that makes an LBI tick, and I feel like if all else fails in a play session, I can always suggest Sniff This to Jet and he is happy as a clam to go to that game. His "yoga sessions" are no exception. Jet walked and trotted cheerfully all over Shiloh, saying hello to horses in other pastures, nudging hitch posts, and of course, sniffing poop. At first I would zone in on a particular object and either walk or job over With Purpose. Then I'd start slowing down in a vicinity of interesting things to touch down on and Jet would choose for himself. It was so cute, because he would check out his object of choice, then give me both ears and eyes, then come over to check in. At one point I aimed us towards his own pasture and - wonder of wonders - Jet didn't want to go back. "Aw, Mooooom, just a little while longer?" "Of course, honey." He was thoroughly fascinated with Shiloh's Very Best Pig, Jimmy Dean. I called Jimmy over (he knows his name!) and Jet came to a dead stop. No snorting, no terrified look in his eye. Rather, his ears aimed right at Jimmy, and was slowly blinking his eyes. You could almost hear him: "That. Thing. Is. AWESOME!!!!!!" And then he rushed over to our white, pot-bellied friend, sniffing like a hound. Thinking he was being abducted by an enormous, black alien, Jimmy scurried away in terror, which of course only fueled Jet's curiosity. Eventually, Jimmy Dean stood long enough to check out Jet suspiciously, probably because I offered Jimmy a cookie and a belly rub. However, it may take some more convincing before Jimmy accepts Jet's request for friendship.

Even as we focused on one activity, I noticed more how the Seven Games can be applied with purpose. As Jet trotted beside me, I was able to drive his FQ away from me so we could go in another direction (actually, so he could take me in another direction at my suggestion). He got a little ahead of me at one point and I would have ended up smushed between him and the tack shed row. That gave me a chance to practice Sideways, and he sashayed right off, giving me room to walk through. It made me realize that it's not about progressing quickly. It's about progressing continually, regardless of how much or how little life thwarts your plans and intentions. With each offer that Jet makes, whether he puts his hoof on something, or hangs out on the open playground AT LIBERTY with me instead of taking off on a merry romp around the ranch, it's progress, and its value can never be diminished. Neither can the value of undemanding time. To this day especially, when I get impatient with myself, I still constantly repeat to myself, "Jet is 6, I am 25. We will grow old together."

At the end of our adventure around Shiloh, I rubbed Jet's neck and told him, "Slowly but surely, we'll start getting motivated to do more." Jet's attitude is, "So long as treats are involved, I'm game."

Monday, February 23, 2009

All New Things

To everyone who bugged me to finally update this blog...HERE, ALREADY!!!!!! Just kidding, I deeply appreciate having loyal fans. The harassing e-mails were particularly warming :-)

First and foremost, a big welcome to the newest member of the family: Charmin, the snowy white pony every little girl wants for Christmas!!! Mom's been head over heels for the little guy for months and finally decided to give him his forever home!
Look how cute they are! Charmin is the spitting image of the pony who taught me how to ride; Jump For Joy, aka JJ. JJ was a little terror (mostly by the doing of humans, but what did I know back in the day?) but I adored him. He was an amazing school horse who taught me flying lead changes, jumping...and as normies, we had a very strong bond.

Charmie, as we like to call him (Dave also refers to him as "Spawn of Satan") is LBE to the fullest. Where Jet finds it more interesting to figure out ways to NOT do ANYTHING, Charmin will leap logs, climb up the sand box and jump down from the highest level, trot next to you... and LOVES terrorizing other horses. He's created quite a stir since he moved into Jet's pasture. He also beat up Rookie and Numerous recently in the turn-out, which would explain why Dave keeps trying to secretly sell Charmin up the river whenever potential adopters come out. This is also one of just many reasons why we affectionately refer to him as "Lucifer."

I know, he LOOKS so sweet and innocent, right?

Jet the Dream Child seems to have figured out he has a new step-brother and he could not be LESS thrilled. It's actually quite comical to see little Lucifer trotting like a hairy sewing machine towards Jet, ears pinned, and Jet, one of the tallest, manliest looking horses in the herd, flee in terror. It's like the old wives tale of the elephant who's scared of the field mouse.

One of the reasons I've been out of commission for so long is my job had it in to work me and my co-worker around the clock until we dropped dead. I guess the figured they would sweep us up under the bar mats or something after that. Who am I kidding? They would have propped us up and still nagged us about payroll as our corpses lay slumped across our desks, staff peeking in and asking us if we would approve vacation time. I seriously did not see Jet for more than 5 minutes over the course of an entire MONTH. It got to the point where people would innocently ask how my horse was doing and I would stamp off in a huff, snarling, "How DARE you??" under my breath. I would look at his picture next to my computer, eyes filling with tears, trying to calculate when I could possibly sneak up there to just give him a carrot before I headed off to work. Welcome to the recession.

I wish I could say that the money helped, but it didn't. Beverage management is a thankless job, mentally, physically, and ESPECIALLY monetarily. I took the promotion a year ago at my other casino because it seemed like I could never find a bar with longevity and at 25, beginning the climb up the corporate ladder looked most impressive. I started in Vegas as a barback...2.5 years later, I was running the beverage part of a whole casino resort on the Strip. Not as glorious as it sounds. No benefits, no 401(k), insulting pay, long hours, and endless aggravation from my subordinates AND my superiors. Although I will say at both casinos where I was the boss, I had a GREAT department. They did the best they could. But I was miserable. I missed my horse. I missed bartending. I REALLY missed my horse. I missed sleeping and having a chance to change the oil in my car, too. But mostly...I missed my horse.

By a sheer miracle, I snagged a summer gig bartending at one of the best resort pools on the Strip. Through recent events that do not include the generous pay of my job, I'm even financially stable enough to enjoy some much needed time off, so I am on my own personal "vacation" until my new job starts. Back to the serene life of bartending and basking at Shiloh for the time being!!!!

The one who seemed to be more thrilled was none other than Jet. I KNOW Jet doesn't understand what I've dealt with. But it sounds so much better to anthropromorphize. On Valentine's Day, Deonna left me a message that Jet had a puncture in his knee, which was consequently swollen like a balloon. After I got over the initial horror (meaning my over-protective RB self finally realized that "swollen knee" was not synonymous with "dead"), I started joking at work that Jet was fed up with being neglected. To have Mama come up, desperate times called for desperate measures, and he purposely went off and stabbed himself on something. The really funny part was, when Mom and I showed up 2 days later (Dave and Deonna doctored him until I could make it - thank you again!), I was expecting to see Jet constantly shifting off his puffy leg, eyes glazed in misery. Instead, he was hopping around, chewing on another horse's face. He had a look of, "Ah, crap. Busted," when I made my presence known. Still, I had to say, "Babe, if you missed me so much, you could have just sent me a text." When I tell you that this horse HAMMED up the attention, I'm still not giving him enough credit. Talk about an Oscar-worthy performance.

I squeezed in a day off recently to check off our self-assessment. While his circle and sideways are weaker than they once were, we really didn't do too badly for not playing for so long. I realized that the horses truly DO NOT forget the games, no matter how long it's been. Rather, Jet was pulling every test out of the book, telling me, "YOU'RE rusty...I'm not!!!" Looking at it from that perspective, I was able to keep my emotional fitness in check, and I think that's what made our self-assessment as successful as it was.

Today was my first official day as a "free woman," and Jet was ALL about sharing my good mood. In fact, when he heard me calling Charmin's name when I first arrived, he abandoned his breakfast and rushed to the gate. I particularly enjoyed how every time I'd tell him, "Mama's free for the next few's just you and me now," he would rub his head against my shoulder. In between helping with some chores around the ranch and meeting some new arrivals, I found moments to lay in the dirt with Jet and graze with him (well, HE grazed, I played with his ears). I was hoping to groom him up and shed out the remainder of his winter coat, but he could smell the apple cookies in my pocket and was hell-bent on taking apart the grooming bag. So I decided to turn his pushiness to my advantage, grabbed my carrot stick, and took off to the opposite side of the pasture. It was one of our first real tries at Liberty and we had a BLAST!! He made so many honest efforts, and kept his ears and eyes on me at all times. All in the name of cookies, of course, but I loved how interested he was in playing and how hard he tried, and he loved that I understood what made him tick. I was even able to make him figure-eight around the poles that hold up a lean-to. It was actually a two-step process, but since we were at Liberty for one of the first times, I didn't want to press the issue too much. As Pat says, "Ask less than he offers, wait for him to offer more." So when he offered a turn around 1 pole, he got a cookie, then a stop. Then I asked him to circle around another one. He chased off a horse that was in his way and I expected him to lose focus, but nope - came right back to his path, turned past the pole and came back to me. THAT was cool.

Not bad for such a long lay-off.

Monday, January 12, 2009

The Transfer

I write this at an undisclosed location as my laptop has been STOLEN (along with my boyfriend's laptop, my 42" flatscreen, my coach purse, his digital it, they basically got it), yet another charming "Welcome to 2009" event that has basically made me say the hell with the whole year even though it's still at this stage, a zygote in time. And I was REALLY looking forward to posting the day we were burglarized. While the personal life might suck at the moment, Parelli-land has been blissful as both Mom and I have moved closer, stayed longer with riding Jet.

Going at a pace that is most comfortable for the 3 of us (exact speed: SNAIL), Jet has been a JOY. We're hanging out in the roundpen. Mom is about ready to take hold of the leadrope and take Jet for laps by herself. Meanwhile, he works a little harder under HIS mama's command, as we graduated to PP at the trot. Priority 1 is continuing to make sure I am listening to Jet and supplying what he needs under saddle - comfort, protection, well as slowly building up his endurance to trot (fairly) consistently for 21 minutes. Even us most experienced riders do not realize how long that is when suddenly you're doing it "Parelli" style. Not to mention neither Jet nor I have ridden seriously in several years now. But I stand by my original statement many moons ago that Jet actually LIKES being ridden. He is especially enjoying turning. I've noticed with the OTTB's that even after they are rehabbed and reconditioned, their first instinct when they are under saddle is to flee in circles. The more F8's I make Jet do, the more focused and willing he becomes. I think as he gets more comfortable, we'll squeeze around some cones with an end bulls-eye of a small pile of hay or a friend holding a carrot. Mr. What's In It For Me.

As I'm pressed for time, I won't be able to harp on and on about my inner thoughts and revelations, mine and Mom's conversations, and general blathering about how amazing and perfect Jet is. But I will say that during our last session, before I got blasted with the bad news about my condo, 2 things happened that still have me dancing on air. After our last ride, Jet TROTTED beside me at liberty, pulling a brilliant Stick To Me performance. And Mom video-taped our trot, which I nervously played back on the way home. And I was floored. It's pretty obvious that Jet and I are both rusty, somewhat clumsy, maybe even the slightest bit sloppy - but there's also something about us beneath the surface. We look perfect together. We look like we were born as horse-and-rider. I've never felt that way in any pictures or videos I've seen of me riding, even the horses I loved the most. With some practice, and definitely some more savvy (can you ever really have too much?), Jet and I are going to have as much an ideal partnership in the saddle (and bareback and bridleless!) as we already have underway on the ground. Remembering that video keeps me eager and more excited than ever with the passing days about riding.

Monday, December 22, 2008

A New Year

A Very Happy and Savvy New Year to all! Hope everyone also had a wonderful Christmas! Jet had a blast during his Christmas photo shoot: He looked just breathtaking after a 2 hour primp-and-grooming session before he was brought to the Christmas tree. I, of course, forgot to check a mirror for my own self. Typical.

Jet was a very good boy this year and received the Parelli Ball from Santa. I think he would have preferred apples and mints.

Dave helps blow up Monster Apple

With Jet safe on the other side of the roundpen, he follows Monster Apple with trepidation...

...but curiosity starts to get the better of him. Little Charlie in the backround thinks, "That thing is bigger than me!"...

...And finally, the touchdown! He has since shown no interest, lol.

It's been really interesting listening to everyone's goals and resolutions for the new year. Of course I can't help but think of what I would like to accomplish as well. But unlike years past, I'm trying REALLY hard not to be a direct-line thinker about them, now that horses are involved. After making a list (and checking it twice) of all the things I plan to do this year, I've zeroed in on what it is I want the most, and noticed that through it, the others will follow. Of course I hope to gain more savvy than last year. That's already underway, as Jill asked me to start working with some of the ponies and get them ready for their forever homes. I just started playing with Elvis, an adorable chestnut Welsh with a guitar-shaped white blaze (hence his name). Elvis is an RBE, the complete and utter opposite of my lazy, laid-back and sometimes argumentative Thoroughbred. Mom has also been messing with Charmin, who is that fluffy white Unicorn Pony that every little girl dreams about. He is an LBE, just as brave as Jet, but doesn't need motivation to play. For him, it's ALL about play. Working with other horsenalities is eye-opening, and I've loved figuring out how to best address all the different horses that show up. Of course, helping the other horses who are still waiting for homes has taken away time from Jet a little bit, but when we DO get back to our own horse, playtimes with him are getting more fun and more efficient. Someone on the forum once hypothesized that horses can go into different quadrants at different times of the HOUR and I completely agree. Jet is pre-dominantly LBI, but that didn't mean he was all la-di-da during a bad windstorm a few days ago. He was completely RBE. The poor guy must have been smelling coyotes all the way from Pahrump and thought they were right behind him. But instead of trying to motivate him to jump over the log or climb up and down the sandboxes, it became about comforting him when he needed it (which was a lot) and using approach and retreat to ask him to be brave about doing things in the scary wind. By the end of the session he was marching right past a flapping tarp that was strapped to one of the new building containers on property (Shiloh is being renovated!) like it was nothing. Jet went back to his pasture braver and respecting us as his leaders and I went home feeling like Pat :-)

But I think my biggest and true main goal of this year is to really buckle down about transferring our communication and relationship to the saddle. I've been thinking really hard about what exactly my threshold is about riding Jet because I'm NOT scared to ride. Not only was I riding Moonshine pony a little until he promptly got adopted, but I've also been helping Dave with Rookie's saddle training. Rookie is completely green and had every right to try and buck off a rider from being confused or frustrated about cues, while my horse will spin on a dime just by me LOOKING in the direction I want to go. So here I am, jumping on Rookie and trotting him around the roundpen, offering Dave my input without thinking twice, but hesitating to tack up Jet. Why? I finally came to the conclusion that riding Jet is not my threshold so much as actually mounting up on him. Having permission to get on a horse's back is so important to me now, and has become such an intense (but good) experience that the times I have put my leg in the stirrup and pushed myself up and Jet has walked away only raise my doubts about understanding him. Not to mention my fear that I will damage our bond by getting up on him heightens as well. Subconciously, I probably had his shoes pulled so that I had an excuse to not have more pressure on myself to ride him.

Interestingly enough, once I openly admitted WHAT it was about riding Jet that made me nervous, I felt silly and realized it's not that big of a deal. And riding other horses, including a been-there-done-that, uncannily forgiving Super Pony named Moonshine (who's adoption to a competitive pony girl is pending, the most perfect home he could fit for!) and slowly-but-surely, GREEN-with-tons-of-potential Rookie, is making me more confident in MYSELF about riding my own horse. I'm more ready than I was a few weeks, even months ago when I first started thinking about it. And insofar as Jet's feeling, well, if this isn't proof of how far we've come and his trust in me, then I don't know what is:

Sunday, December 7, 2008


Dave and Rookie passed their L1 groundwork assessment with flying colors. It was enlightening to watch and I had the best seat in the house - right next to Marc, listening to him dictate all the rhyme and reasoning behind Parelli's maddness.

Dave has Pushing Passenger left to go and he officially has his red string. Go Dave and Rookie!!

Seeing how well Dave and Rookie have progressed since we first met them back in Feb. at the last Parelli clinic definitely had me feeling woozy with Assessment Fever. I have reasoned since first learning about the assessment test that its entire existence is for us predators who need recognition, praise, and material prizes as rewards for our accomplishments. We need to see it documented on paper from our instructors that we have passed our level tasks. We need those colored savvy strings, psychologically. They represent the hard work we have put into our horses. These trophies signify we know what we're doing, and we are successfully climbing the totem pole toward Ultimate Unity.

The assessments are changing, as we know. Soon we'll be doing "auditions" in the Four Savvy's for our strings. It seems more confusing to me, and more tasks will be involved. Time is running out for anyone who wants to do less for the same reward.

Without thinking, I made it about the test. We printed out the assessment and started running Jet through it so we could do a live assessment for Marc before the end of the year. Weird things started happening. Jet acted fussy and snotty, sometimes downright RB, like we had never asked him to do such tasks before. All this did was frustrate me ("I'm no good at this!") and scare the hell out of me ("There's no way I can ride him if he's like this!"). I started researching ways to solve the new problems that came out of nowhere - tossing his head porcupining Zone 1, for example. That was corrected, but other issues remained. It's still hit-or-miss regarding when to reward for treats. He was starting his Cookie Monster routine all over again, not paying attention to anything but tearing Mommy apart for carrots, then moving onto Grammy if I refused.

There were some good things that were going on, however. Jet spent a full 45 minutes at the washrack standing like a perfect gentleman. AND he was an ANGEL for the farrier! Both Travis and I were in pleasant shock. That was a product of prior and proper preparation. A few days before, we ran Jet through a dress rehearsal in the barn, where I alternated between letting him hang out and sniff and eat whatever he wanted and playing some games like Yo-yo-ing him in and out of the barn, the stalls, squeeze games, friendly games. Mom simulated Tanis bashing his stall door, as he's known to do when he wants to be turned out, or if someone is in the barn not paying attention to him :-) until Jet stood in the barn aisle half asleep during the racket. On Farrier Day, I had Travis give him a peppermint to ensure Jet knew he was a friend, and asked him to trim Jet's back feet first since he is usually more compliant with those. During the process, I rubbed Jet's legs as much as I could, and fed him peppermints after each hoof was complete. A proud moment it was to tell Travis, "Now see, THIS is what my horse is really like. Just a sweet, gentle, good boy." He agreed, finally able to see I wasn't just blowing smoke when I raved about what a doll Jet is.

Travis also left Jet barefoot, which has now set my plans for some serious riding work back a good several months. His front hooves are improving more and more, but it was killing him to walk on the stones between his pasture and the arena. Thanks to support from the forum, Mom and I discovered the glory of Delta boots. We stick them on his hooves before taking him over the rocks and take them off when he's back on softer terrain. He never had an issue with the heavier, more awkward weight on his feet, and now struts proudly over the stones in his "sneakers."

But the pressure of having 7 Perfect Games nailed for the assessment was still an issue. It seemed as though anytime we brought him into the Parelli bushes, Jet was dragging more and more. His facial expressions were depressing. He still came and met us in his pasture but anything beyond Undemanding Time seemed torturesome. In between barn visits, I spent tons of time lurking on the Forum. One particular post, from the owner of an LBI, struck deep: "My horse didn't care until I gave him something to care about. This did not happen until Level 2."

A few days later, a beautiful thing happened. Jet let me come over and pet him while he was laying down. Ma was able to do the same thing. It was such an important message for me. Jet trusts us. Jet loves us. It made all the mistakes, frustrations and tears we went through with him all worth it. The whole moment had me re-evaluate what the real situation was. I was defining my whole PNH self-worth on Marc's nod and a red piece of yacht braid. Meanwhile, I wouldn't even be able to assess the riding part until the new assessment, and Marc has been so busy with other students, he hasn't even been able to make it to Shiloh since Dave's assessment. To make matters even more difficult, Jet was bored shitless. Play times were now work times, the 7 Games were turning into the 7 Tortures. And yet he let us be with him while he was laying down. Once again, I was foolishly focused on my own direct-line pressures instead of listening to my horse. And my horse was telling me, "I don't need a red string to ensure we've done it right. Why do you, if it's supposed to be about the relationship?"

So I've decided to suck it up and do an audition as according to the new assessment, at some point after the holidays when Marc is more available. Until then, we're moving on in our groundwork. Time to give Jet a reason to come greet us again, other than looking for his supplement bucket. And no more worrying if he understands the games as I try to communicate. If one gets broken, we'll fix it. And since then, as I repeat over and over to myself, "I know the games and Jet knows I know the games," Jet is interested, willing, and having fun again. This weekend, he leaped over fences, played Stick to Me, trotted figure eights and bravely squeezed between a scary tree and a fence to get to a new area of the ranch. We are both stumbling through him learning and me teaching him to pick up his brushes and hand them to me but having a blast playing "Pick it up and throw it around."

And our shining moment of the weekend: we brought him to the Sandbox of Doom, where he's known to throw some of his best fits. The sandbox is a 3-tiered hill Marc and Dave built, the highest part standing about 2 1/2 feet tall. Most of the horses will walk from the shortest to tallest level and step down from either the middle or lowest. I was standing on the highest level, just watching Jet mosey around and decide if he wanted to try anything. He had already trotted happily up and over the middle level and now I was just interested to see if he had anything else in mind. He scratched his nose on the woodpaneling that holds in the sand and lifted his leg a little. Then, with the utmost confidence, with no urging from me or Mom AT ALL, he hoisted his front half up onto the highest level and tossed his head proudly, ears straight up, as if to say, "I am ALL that is MAN!" Mom's and my jaws hit the ground in sheer delight. A few minutes later, Jet pulled himself all the way up, made a little circle, then bravely leaped the 2 1/2 feet down like he'd done it all his life.

I made sure to feed him a carrot that was the length of my ARM for that one. He looked like the happiest little Parelli horse pulling himself onto the sandbox like that. But most importantly was that he WAS happy playing Parelli today. And he was having FUN.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Circle Game, Take 2

Way in the depths of my last post, I mentioned how Mom had videotaped me circling Jet. Although Jet took it nicely, it wa pretty clear he was tuning me out because my body language was WRETCHED. I was acting more like a dictator than a partner. Frankly, I'm amazed how tolerant Jet became about that because he can really fall apart when he feels like he's under too much pressure. I guess he just figured it is what it is.

Another issue we were having in the Circling Game was asking Jet to trot. He continued, no matter how politely we asked, to throw raging shit fits, to put it diplomatically, before slouching off in an angry jog.

I could hardly wait to try Circling Game again to prove to Jet I am far nicer than I look on the Circle. In a perfect world, being more relaxed and trusting him to know the routine would ultimately cause the trotting issue to fix itself. But who knew? I had plans B, C, and D in the event that requesting the trot would cause mass hysteria.

Jet did a gorgeous back-up in the lightest of phases and waited politely for my next move. I got into send position, and emulating the attitude as best I could: "Step this way, please, and let me help you!"

As soon as he took the send, I dropped the rope. Of course, Jet came in, as I assumed he would. Until now, the only time I lessened the pressure on the rope was on the bring back. I assured Jet he wasn't wrong in coming back, sent him back out, and dropped my arm when he was back on the circle.


Not only did he IMMEDIATELY get the idea, but the expression in his eyes was bright, and I swear to God, RELIEVED. He let out a little whuff while he was walking like, "Praise God, she finally got it!" He had a spring in his step and seemed completely at ease. I brought him back after a couple of laps and he was praised with hugs, rubs and a carrot. NOW Jet was interested! Oh my, a carrot!

Set up for success...

I sent Jet back again after letting him rest for a moment and it felt like we had been doing perfect Circles for years. Basking in his reward AND relief, I picked up the CS, but did not raise it. I wanted to see just how subtle I could be. Most students and instructors advise us to not use our voices but Jet is extremely tuned in to the tone of my voice. My voice is very theatrical and my emotions are pretty clear when I speak, whether I like it or not. So I said, in my most upbeat and positive attitude, "Hey Jet, how about a trot?"

To which Jet replied, "You got it, Mommy!" He GLIDED into a most glorious trot. It was one of those moments where you want to drop to your knees and scream, "THANK YOU PAT!!! THANK YOU LINDA!!!" and promptly nominate them for sainthood.

It went on like that for the remainder of Play Time. Especially when he realized carrots were involved, he was the classic LBI: "I'll do anything for a carrot! Watch me do a backflip! Can I have a carrot?" When it was time to go back to the pasture, I bolted from the arena to see how well Jet would follow me. He always walks nicely at Liberty back home, so once again I wanted to up it a notch. I should have known - carrots were at stake! Jet trotted after me, but never went overboard. For the love of treats, he could have raced right up behind me, grabbed the bag with the carrots off my shoulder and trampled me without even meaning to. But once he caught up, he stayed a respectful distance. I've been playing Stick to Me and Yo-yo at liberty in his pasture - he HAS to work for treats. We learned the hard way that giving him treats just as a sign of love turns him into Cookie Monster. His trotting beside me and not trying to kill me for the bag told me it was working. We played some Stick to Me a little more once in the paddock, though I couldn't help making myself a hypocrit of my last statement and fed him ONE baby carrot "just because." It was time for us to be heading home, so we walked back to the Cherry Pie (lounge area) and Jet helped himself to some water. I turned around to take a last peak at him and he was looking with both eyes on me, ears pricked forward. I can only hope his thought process was somewhere along the lines of, "Wow, Mommy was actually kind of fun today!"

Perhaps we're more fun when we've got peppermints or carrots, but if Jet associates us with his hierarchy of needs (which for him, goes in the order of FOOD, comfort, food, food, play, food, safety, and food) and continues to put in such honest efforts in order to attain them, well, there's all the love right there I could ever ask for. I love seeing his eyes light up when he gets a treat for trying. Sometimes, and I am aware of this, he doesn't try all that hard, but when he realizes he gets something he loves for a small effort, his next effort is worlds larger. His fun is trying to get a treat. Some horses do it because they want to just play and play and play. Some horses do it because they want a job to do. Some horses do it because they want a treat. The important part is they do it because they want to. It isn't about the reason why. It's up to us to continue being provacative and motivating, yet comforting and assuring when Jet needs. With that, we should be able to live, love, and learn just fine.