Gino and I have been home for a week now and have settled back into our routine. He was very happy to set his hooves back onto his own dirt and his herd was happy to see him. Although big black Magic did struggle a little to relinquish his temporary leadership position of the herd .
While I had hoped to be able to return to Parelli Natural Horsemanship University to begin the Fast Track 8 course that is starting tomorrow, I am accepting for now that this is not the right time. I do have plans to attend in 2011. Being back in the incredible learning environment that is found at Parelli Natural Horsemanship University helped me to reconnect with the part of me inside that longs to be all that I can be for my horse, other horses and humans who long to have the deep natural connection that can be shared between the two species.
The Parelli team is a group of amazing individuals who have devoted their lives to horses and their well-being. Pat and Linda together as the unique pair that they are have created a learning environment like no other. The entire ranch is so carefully thought out and nothing, I mean nothing is done or created without a purpose. Allowing yourself to be open to learning you are able to discover things that you would never begin to imagine. Participating in a course at the Parelli Natural Horsemanship University is filled with so many opportunities to develop your horsemanship and animal husbandry to new and higher levels of ability.
I suppose I could take a moment and share some of the things I have learned about myself and my horse and horses in general. One of the things I learned about myself was that I had a deeper fear of getting back on Gino then I knew. Through our confidence course and learning to discover the different signals my body gives me when I am entering a state of fear. I learned that I was afraid to even think about getting back on him. Thank you Parelli instructors for helping me to discover this while sitting on a simulator horse instead of being on Gino's back and having a repeat of what has already happened! I learned how to be a better leader for my unconfident horse. I did not realize how much I walked on eggshells to protect him/us from any scary situations. I learned how much I was contributing to his insecurities instead of helping him.
I learned how to look at new situations with a attitude of "OH BOY" instead of "OH NO"! I learned the skill and tools I needed to be able to help this horse be all that he can be. My horse now looks to me for leadership instead of turning tail and moving to the far side of his pen. Which by the way is exactly what he did for the first 4 days of being in Pagosa. I learned to put our relationship first.
While all the other students were able to go right into their pens and halter their horses, I had to take the time it takes for my horse to want to come up to me and put his halter on. This was hard for me, I found myself worrying about what everyone else was doing. What they may be thinking about me and Gino, what the instructors may be thinking about me! Then there was the frustration of what I was thinking about ME and GINO!!! Of course the latter was by far the worse of them all.
The first day we took our horses out onto the playground to practice some of what we had learned, Gino did his famous freak out, turn tail and head for the hills,not taking even a minute to see if I was still there or not, leaving me standing empty handed with nothing but a rope burn on the palm of my hand. I am hoping to be the last of many rope burns given to me by this horse. I was then instructed to take him into a round pen and work with him in there under the supervision of one of our instructors. By now we are both emotional wrecks, he not trusting humans and me not trusting him. So angry and frustrated about having to deal with him and the burning throbbing rope burns on my hand at the same time. I was telling my instructors that I was willing to leave the ranch without that horse!
Thankfully they did not take me serious, they did however take the situation and the relationship between my horse and I very serious. With they guidance and help from all of them and the skills and compassion of our lead instructor, Gino and I had our first break through on the 4th day of our course.
Kathy, our instructor, took Gino and spent about 2 hours working with him in a round pen while I observed from a safe distance. Watching what she did with him and how calm and confident she was while working with him is something that I believe I will never forget. She helped this frightened horse move beyond his comfort zone into his learning zone and never allowed him to cross over into his panic zone. I watched this woman skillfully help my horse to overcome things that made him literally fear for his life, all the while staying very grounded in herself and light hearted enough to let him know everything is alright. She taught him how to look for the answers instead of looking for the emergency exit. She taught me how to help him stay out of his adrenaline state of mind and seek his endorphine state while looking for the answers. Our two lives were forever changed in those two hours.
I learned how to observe horses from a more horse like perspective. I learned so much about the power of body language and what we are really saying when we think we are saying something else. I learned how to handle my tools with confidence away from horse so that when i am with my horse I am not fumbling with and making things chaotic. I learned how to relax and enjoy the journey, no not THE journey, MY journey. I learned that I can be the human Gino needs me to be. I learned that it is so much more than riding. I learned that its not about the goals its about the relationship. I learned that if I never get on Gino's back it will not mean that we are not partners or that I have failed in anyway. It means that I have truly put my horse and our relationship first!!!
By the end of our time at Parelli Natural Horsemanship University and our Confidence Transformation course, my horse was standing at the entrance of his pen looking for me and whinnying when he finally spotted me. He would walk up to me and lower his nose into his halter.
While playing out on the playground one afternoon, I was up on a mound and he below me. He walked up to me with his head low and relaxed, he gently rested his chin in my lap and we put our foreheads together and I gazed into his eyes, our hearts deeply connected as I felt our hearts become one, I whispered "hello my gentle friend" as I silently shed tears of joy.
So here we are home again and I play with him every chance I get and he still looks to me when I come out to see them, only now he looks at me with confidence, confidence in himself and in me as his leader.
Thank you Linda, Pat and your Parelli team for giving me the chance to help this horse to be all that he can be and for changing our lives forever!
I will return to the Parelli Natural Horsemanship University to further my education and to become the horseman I have always desired to be and to become a instructor so that I too can help to change the world one horse and human at a time.
Honored to be taking this journey with the Parelli team!