Sunday, July 10, 2011

A peek into RC's Journey

RC is now 36 1/2 months old and has just experienced some pretty amazing things this week. As of today he has completed his 27th ride. We started our week out at Heidi's ranch on Tuesday riding RC in the round pen working on transitions. We are really beginning to get a feel for each other and every time I get on him I feel more confident and comfortable. While I am not as savvy as Matt, his trainer, he is beginning to be more comfortable with me as well.

Wednesday we headed over to a cattle ranch that Matt works at to introduce RC to some new things. I got the opportunity to ride Rosie;one of Matt's horses while he rode RC. When we arrived there was lots of activity going on. Carpenters working on buildings, someone loading firewood into a truck, chickens and dogs every where. Ranch hands moving bulls from one area to the next and a herd of unknown horses. RC was on a bit of sensory overload when he got off the trailer. Matt took him while I got Rosie ready and off we went out into the pastures.

The first new and exciting thing for this young horse was sagebrush. Now it was a little surprising because his corral is surrounded by the same kind of sagebrush. He quickly got over that and out the gate we went and came to our first obstacle to go through. It was not a large creek nor was it deep and Rosie and I went into it and stopped in the middle. RC took a few moments of hesitation and with Matt's guidance walked through it and off we went.

Matt and RC went up and down some boggy embankments and flirted with more water. We picked a nice place to cross the creek again and RC went through it like he'd been doing it all his life. Once on the other side we went into a pasture with some cows so he could learn a bit about them. At first the calves were more interested in RC the he was of them and with the support of Rosie and I(well more Rosie, its been years since I have worked any cows)he quickly became interested and off he and Matt where to separate and move some cows. I enjoyed watching Matt introduce this young colt by encouraging him to move them and then giving some positive reinforcement each time just as much as I enjoyed watching my horse develop self-confidence in what he could do. The next thing I knew he was holding his head relaxed with soft eyes and a eager look of "lets do it again Matt!!!" He walked back to the barn with such pride. The other very interesting thing for me was to see the horse that was riding with us, start picking up her pace as we headed home and Matt mentioning that RC didn't know we were headed home and therefore didn't pick up his pace. I spent a lot of time thinking about that and how horses learn that with time and how I can prevent him from every starting that "gotta get home quick" attitude.

That night Matt loaded Rosie and RC up and headed off to another ranch a few hours away to begin work early the next morning gathering and sorting cattle. RC worked for 3 hours giving Matt everything he's got, earning himself a very nice afternoon standing tied and resting. Friday was another morning of working hard and this time even better and more eager to sort and move the cows Matt felt needed to be moved. At the end of the day Matt loaded up and came home.

Saturday afternoon when I arrived to pick him up he was a tired boy and seemed somewhat indifferent to seeing me. Looked a lot like a kid who just came home from summer camp and was exhausted. Matt was very pleased with the abilities of RC and has stated that he would take him again in the future. Of course I am the proud mom and will let him continue to learn and grow with Matt.

This afternoon RC and I joined my neighbor and her mare for our first ride into the forest. RC was still a bit tired but still ready to go and see what we had in mind. We went out the back of my property with RC confidently taking the lead and up the trail onto the golf course paved cart path and cut into the forest. Jeanie took the lead and we followed along the narrow path. It opened up onto a one lane dirt road surrounded with dense manzanita only to come upon a car working its way towards us scratching the sides of the vehicle making screeching scratching noises as it crept it's way closer to us. We stopped in surprise and RC was like: "Wow look at that"?!

They pulled off the road and we passed them and set off again, commenting in all the years we have been riding out there we had never come across that before. About 20 minutes later as we had just turned onto the main gravel road here came that same car again and as they approached us from behind, RC and I stopped and I turned his head to see them and he calmly watched them drive right by him looking in the window as they passed.

We trotted and strolled our way through the forest and then came across some mountain bikers with dogs and again, RC was curious about them and watched as we crossed each others paths.

Our ride today was about 90 minutes long and as we rode back into our yard I savored the experience I had just had with this awesome young horse. He is everything that I have wanted in a horse and so much more. I can't remember the last time that I rode out into the forest with a horse that was so calm and confident. I sit here writing this blog and find myself filled with so much joy and appreciation for this horse and his trainer, who has helped my horse grow into such a wonderful young man. I am so excited about our future and about learning all that I can about how I can become the rider he deserves to have on his back.

I have had a lot of people ask me lately what I wanted this horse to be or do. Each time that I am asked this question I pause and think about what do I want for him. I know that I want to have a horse who is excited to be with me, who has the confidence in me as his leader and in himself as a horse. I want a horse that can handle everything that life has to show him with curiosity and excitement. I want a horse who can head out on the trail just two of us or with a large group and be completely comfortable either way. I want a horse who is willing to try new things in life at least once with me and if we like it we will do them again. I want a horse that is going to hold me accountable for my part of the relationship and will let me know when it is time for me to step up and out to explore a new level of our abilities.

That best thing about knowing what I want for this horse is knowing that together with the guidance and training from his trainer, my mentor we will accomplish all of our dreams and so much more.

I truly hope that you too are following your dreams and doing what makes your heart sing!

Always remember yesterday is gone and tomorrow is yet to come, all we really have is today and why not spend it with the ones you love doing what you love?

Till next time, enjoy every moment as if it were the last and don't forget to dance!

Monday, June 27, 2011

RC's Journey

It's hard to believe that I have not blogged since June 9th?!

Things have been going very well with RC's training. He is coming along so nicely and is really a very smart and willing horse.

One of the reasons I have not written anything since the 9th is because I have been absorbing so much information from Matt that I've been at a loss about what to write.

I have spent the last 10 days with house quest and have been busy enjoying family and friends while they were here. Thanks for the visit mom and dad and everyone else. Our annual Fathers day run was here in Truckee this year and we had 3 wonderful days of motorcycle riding in the beautiful Sierra mountains. Everyone has gone home now,the last to leave was my son Jack who came home for some R&R after just graduating from The Art Institute of San Francisco with a BA in Media Design. He is in the process of interviewing with a gaming company in North Carolina and I have mixed emotions about that. Of course I want him to get a job that he can enjoy and be fulfilled, I am not excited about him being so far away. We are very proud of him and he is a talented level designer and am sure he will be very successful.

My Daughter; Kaydie is busy looking for apartments in Santa Barbara and will be moving in August. So as of August we will have no children living with us for the first time in 24 years and it is really kind of weird to imagine.

Okay so back to RC, I have gotten to ride him 3 times so far and each time I feel a little more confident and comfortable on him. I watch he and Matt together and am in aah at how much this little guy can do with a skilled horseman on his back. He is getting stronger and more coordinated every ride, he is learning to carry himself correctly and really enjoys making the moves correctly when Matt ask him to do so. He is learning how to make his turns very smoothly and Matt is pretty excited about his ability to spin. Well I am not so sure Matt would call it a spin, however he is setting him up to do an amazing one someday! It is really fun to watch this little horse starting to ask Matt questions and looking for the right answers too.

Matt is teaching me as much as possible about what he is doing with RC. It is my goal to learn all that I can from this very talented horseman. I have found that all I think about day and night is what I am learning from him and about horses. I am beginning to look at everything I do, with or without horses from a whole new perspective. I pay attention to how I move my body and where my weight is distributed when doing so and thinking about how that effects my horse and what he needs to do in order to move better. I watch how I am using my hands and how fast and hard I grab things. Wondering if I can do it softer and slower, how soft can I tap something with the end of my rope and am I micro-managing as I work with others. How is my leadership? Am I someone I would want to follow? I wake up in the middle of the night running things I have seen with Matt through my head and wondering how can I apply it, I am addicted to learning this stuff!

I rode RC on Thursday while Matt was coaching me with my riding, at one point he asked me to come over to the fence where he was and side pass RC up to him. My first thought was;" oh no this is going to be hard"! So I aksed RC with my leg and weight and before I knew it he was gracefully side passing right up to Matt. I was amazed and so excited to be sitting a top a horse that was so well trained and then realizing he was mine, I could hardly contain my excitement! Matt began to tell me about what I needed to do differently and I had to stop him so I could just savor the moment I had just experienced!!

I hope that soon RC and I will be ready to do our Parelli level 2 freestyle riding and submit the video for assessment and then we will be on our way to level 3. I hope to start tagging along with Matt at least one day a week so that I can watch him with a variety of horses and learn all that I can learn.

Stay tuned for more of RC's adventures and I hope that you are all enjoying our wonderful summer season.

Thanks for reading our updates.
Cindy and RC

Thursday, June 9, 2011

RC's Journey Day 11

Today was day 11 of RC's journey and instead of our usual beautiful morning drive to Loyalton, our lesson was at 3pm. I think my hubby appreciated me actually showing up for work this morning.

While I was eating lunch I looked out the back window and saw RC basking in the warm sun on dry dirt. Something that has not been available for about 7 months. I wondered if he was going to be willing to get in the trailer and take a warm afternoon drive?

When I went outside I yelled "hey RC its time to go to school, meet me at the gate"! I went in got his halter and came out to find him standing at the gate. I didn't have my muck boots on and was hoping I wouldn't have to get my shoes dirty. I opened the gate he leaned his head forward into the halter, held it there while I put it on and out he came and right up into the trailer to the front ready to be tied.

YES!!!!! I love this stuff, my horse actually wants to be with me and go with me!!!!

We got to the ranch and let RC have a roll and then I started walking over to brush him and Matt asked me to stop come back and get my horse's attention and ask him to join me-hmm that would be cool.

So I did and RC did and I felt my heart singing YES!!!! I love this stuff!!!!

After I groomed him, Matt went in and began saddling him while we continued to talk about the lesson from the previous day. When he was saddled Matt asked me if I noticed what had just happened? Pausing and thinking I said "no"?

He went on to point out that RC had stood quietly and calmly in a comfortable position while Matt saddled him at Liberty and now Matt was smiling and very pleased with RC. (I think he was saying "Yes I love this stuff"!) :-)

The entire lesson went like that, Matt riding RC and sharing principles,purpose, techniques and timing with me. Helping me to see the power of focus, feel and patterns. I watched my horse moving in sync with his rider today. I saw how Matt's patience and perfect practice with this youngster was developing him for so many opportunities in the future. I saw my horse begin to understand the power of body language from his rider.

I saw a shift in both RC and I today, something clicked for both of us today.

I learned about self-confidence and how I too can go into the round pen with my horse and spend a hour doing very simple yet powerful things with and for my horse. Things that will keep us both engaged with each other and keep it interesting and fun at the same time not just for me, for both of us. Whats amazing is I learned all of this while sitting atop the fence of the round pen.

Tomorrow is a very exciting day for me, it is the first day that I will get to climb up on top of this amazing young horse and feel him and with him. I am as excited as I was the night before the first time that I ever got to ride my very own horse when I was just a young girl. Tomorrow is the first day of the rest of our life together and I will savor and cherish every moment.

Today I felt the power of the passion and commitment that I have for this horse and our journey together. It has been a long time since I felt this so strongly and I know that we will continue to achieve our goals one day at a time.

Thank you everyone who is following us along this path and I hope that you are enjoying it as much as we are?!


Saturday, June 4, 2011

RC's Journey Days 6-8

Day 6-8

It has taken me a few days to write this blog about RC’s journey. I have found myself spending a lot of time licking and chewing on the lessons that I have learned in the past 3 days.

First I feel that I need to share a little bit about RC and myself before getting into the details of the last 3 days.

I am an Equine Experiential Coach and I work with individuals, couples, families and groups. My horses and I help people to explore their beliefs and behaviors through interactive activities. This gives our clients the opportunity to discover strengths and weaknesses in themselves and then together we create a game plan on how they want to move forward from that new understanding.

Horses have a very strong sensory awareness and are able to sense and mirror things for us that we are unable to see about ourselves. Horses have been some of the best teachers in my life and is the reason I have decided to do Equine Experiential Coaching (EEC). Sharing these powerful teachers with others is something I am very passionate about.

RC is a 3 year old American Paint horse I adopted 2 years ago from a PMU ranch in North Dakota. He came to me after the loss of Rondo; who was my 24 year old Parelli Natural Horsemanship partner. Rondo was given to me by a very dear friend when he was 9 months old. Needless to say RC has some pretty big horseshoes to fill! Since the first day I met RC our relationship has been very special. Becoming certified in EEC and continuing my education in Parelli Natural Horsemanship has made me much more aware of how I interact with my horses. I am learning everyday about the psychology of the horse as well as their behavior and how they interact with each other as a herd. My relationship with RC is stronger than any other I have ever had we are learning and teaching each other about things every time we engage with one another.

The journey we are on together is one of growth and exploration. It is my goal to become a Parelli instructor and RC is my partner in this dream. Together we will work our way through the Parelli levels and on to sharing it with others. We will help to teach people about horses, humans, relationships, life and how to live and love unconditionally, however first we must experience this with each other.

RC’s sixth day of training with Matt began with some play time in the round pen. He tends to need to do a little rolling and running before he is ready to focus. Once RC let Matt know he was ready to join him in the days lessons he was saddled and out into the big arena they went. They started with the circling game having RC circle in both directions and asking him to maintain a trot. This was pretty easy going to the right however not so easy when asked to go to the left. RC was pretty sure that his pen was the better place to be and decided it was time to let Matt know about his decision. Matt recognized very quickly that RC was bumping up against something that he was uncertain of and needed some guidance in order to help him find the right answer and a more comfortable way of moving around the circle.

Horses live in the present moment and every day is a new day bringing with it new experiences. Even though RC has done the circling game with Matt every day for the past 5 days, each day has brought something different to be learned. Every day he is asked to step out of his comfort zone and into his learning zone. It is Matt’s job to keep him from entering into the panic zone, as his trainer and leader discovering where these zones begin and end in a safe and effective way.

There are 3 zones in which we spend our time, imagine if you will a circle with another circle around it and then another around that, creating three circles. The inner circle is the comfort zone, where we spend most of our time because it’s comfortable. There is not a lot of change taking place for us when we are here. The next zone is the learning zone we must leave the comfort zone and be willing to be uncomfortable in order to learn new things. It is natural for us to experience a degree of discomfort when we are challenged with new experiences and if we are able to allow ourselves to be a little uncomfortable we learn how to achieve something new. As we learn new things our comfort zone actually expands automatically. The last zone is the panic zone this is the place where we are fearful of our safety and survival instincts kick in. We are in the reptilian part of our brain and thinking is not something we can do at the moment. If for some reason while we are in our learning zone we tip into the panic zone any ability to learn has disappeared. This is the place that memories of bad experiences are born and will be triggered anytime something similar is experienced. Sadly many of our horse companions are pushed into this zone unintentionally by inexperienced trainers setting them up for a lifetime of challenges.

While I watched Matt working with RC and saw his uncertainty developing and he was beginning to act like less of a partner and more like a prey animal, I was not really sure what was happening. Matt stayed fully present with RC and when this young horse began to get himself so worked up beginning to enter the panic zone, he took him back to a place that RC was familiar with. He allowed RC to accomplish what he was asking him to do in a way that he had done before, bringing him back into the left side of his brain and back into his learning zone. RC calmed down and was reconnected with Matt and then back out into the arena they went. He was able to accomplish the same task in the bigger space without the comfort of the round pen. From there they went out into the pasture and had a wonderful time trotting, cantering, circling and even some side passing. RC ended the day feeling very confident and happy.

I spent the day thinking about the lesson and realizing how important it is to have a professional starting my colt and helping him to learn safely and effectively. All day long I played the session through my mind, observing and learning more each time.

Instead of sleeping that night I found myself deep in contemplation about the three zones and how they apply to me and my life. I have been experiencing a lot of anxiety about pursuing my dream of becoming a Parelli trainer. I realized that thinking about the commitment and the unknown of how I would find the funding and the time to accomplish this dream would put me into my panic zone.

As I lay in bed with my heart racing, my palms sweating and fear surging through my body, I wanted to default to my normal response which is to shake it off and stop thinking about it. To get back into my comfort zone and postpone this dream even longer.

Instead I found myself thinking about Matt and RC and what had transpired when he was challenged with something he was not sure he could do. I imagined I was on the end of the rope and my heart filled with fear was the horse. I did not quit and hung in there allowing myself to be uncomfortable long enough to explore some options. When I felt panicked I would take my thoughts to something I knew I could do. Bringing me back into the learning zone and then I would begin to imagine about what I could do next. My heart rate slowed down, my palms were no longer sweating and the fear had dissipated.

I laid in bed in amazement at how RC’s experienced had helped me to successfully navigate myself through a very uncomfortable moment. It also confirmed for me that I am on the right track and pursuing my dream and sharing horses and their gifts is absolutely what I am meant to do.

I was unable to be present for RC’s seventh day of training. Matt introduced RC to a new level of the friendly game with swinging a rope from on top of him allowing him to feel and see it swinging all around him. Then they played with pulling a log around from the front and the back. RC thought that this was pretty fun and enjoyed pulling it from the front. It helped him to learn how to engage his hindquarters and he discovered just how powerful he is. He also got to feel the difference of having reins held in one hand versus two.

This may seem like no big deal to those who have older experienced horses or have not had a horse before. If you would like to have an experiential opportunity to gain an understanding, tomorrow morning when you get dressed pay attention to what leg you put into your pants first or what foot you put your first shoe on. Then stop and do the opposite and do so for the next four days and that is the awkwardness this youngster is learning to accept and explore.

Day eight brought with it a new level of communication, Matt began to ask RC to carry himself a little more collected and on the proper lead. RC complied after they spent some time with the questions and answers part of the process. My young horse is becoming more confident and capable every day. He looks to both Matt and I as we pull up and is excited to come out and play. He is beginning to develop a new understanding about the human/horse relationship and enjoys being with his people even more. Every time I walk out to the corral he turns and comes to me with the “oh boy here she comes” attitude instead of turning tail and going to the other side of the corral with the “oh no here she comes” attitude.

Thank you Matt for providing RC and I with the proper beginning to allow us to achieve all that I know we can be together.

Friday, May 27, 2011

RC's Journey Day 3 & 4

RC's Journey day 3:
As I drove into the Wangler ranch I could see RC watching my truck from his pen. I pulled up along side his pen he was whinnying at me and as I got out he followed me around to his gate and nickered as I came in. RC has never really been one to whinny at people. I was happy to see him excited about me being there. I held his halter up and he politely put his nose in and when we went towards the round pen, his trainer Matt Coats was standing by the gate and RC greeted him with enthusiasm, ready to start the day.

RC had a lot of play in him and so Matt took the time to play some games with him, letting him stretch his legs and get a bit goofy. When RC had had enough he politely joined up with Matt and class began. RC quickly signed on and Matt had him saddled and ready to go out into a new surrounding to further his education and experience. Today's focus would be about learning what it feels like to make some transitions and change in directions with Matt on his back with a bit more guidance. Encouraging RC to follow a feel.

I watched Matt work with RC with a lot of body language and increased levels of energy and when RC did the right thing then Matt would release the pressure and RC would soon be licking and chewing and settling into the new activity. At one point some questions were asked about doing more with the reins. Matt explained to do more with the reins would be to much information. It became very clear to me how important it is for youngsters to have things taught to them in phases. Giving them enough to keep them engaged and learning however not so much that we send them into overload and confusion.

RC had a great third day of training learning to carry his rider and leader around on him with confidence and coordination. Being given guidance and encouragement when he made the right choices and the opportunity to search for the correct answers with patients and respect from his trainer. He ended his day on a very positive note when he gave Matt his body and mind with softness. In return Matt gave him the rewards of feeling good about himself and lots of self-confidence.

When Matt left,RC and I took some time together in the round pen to let him have a good roll in the sand and a body massage. I realized today why it is so important to have a good positive solid foundation put on these youngster. What Matt has given RC and I today has begun to set us up for a lifetime of success. Now all I need to do is be sure that I can be the person he needs me to be; a leader who teaches with equal doses of love, language and leadership.

Day 4: Today was a cold and cloudy day. RC seems to be much more relaxed in his surroundings today and again met me at the gate ready to get out and play. We had some time before Matt got there to enjoy a some green grass grazing. Matt spent a little time with him in the round pen and then brought him out to saddle him. Giving him a bit of a change to what they had done in the previous days with saddling. Allowing RC to experience as many new things as possible to learn that "its all good"!

This morning his pre-ride check took place in the big open sand arena and there were lots of new things to check out and explore. RC was pretty sure that the side of the arena closest to his pen was his favorite spot. Matt helped RC discover that the other side of the arena was actually a much better place to be and in no time at all RC was in agreement.

RC thought today was a great day to test Matt and see what he could get away with. RC was asking alot of questions today and his trainer would allow him to see for himself if he thought his suggestions were better then Matt's. Of course being the smart horse that he is, in no time at all he realized that Matt was actually the wiser of the pair and relaxed into allowing Matt to show him the way. They did lots of patterns and transitions, helping RC to find the correct leads with the help of Matt. Giving RC the opportunity to feel how much more comfortable it is when you are leading with your correct leg. At the same time teaching me how to assist this young horse to search for the correct answer and when to reward the efforts at the appropriate time.

They did some very nice patterns around the arena, came to a stop in front of us and then gave Matt a beautiful backup. Matt hopped off and called it a day!

The gold nuggets that I came away with today:
1) Attitude is everything, can I respond to his actions, rather then reacting to him with emotions driving my behavior (predatory behavior)?

2) It is so important to make the wrong thing difficult and the right thing easy.

3) When he is testing his boundaries,match his energy and then some, showing him that we can do what he wants, but its not as much fun as what my idea can be.

When RC's lesson was over, we gave him some roll in the sand time and then loaded him up in the trailer. He walked right in and stood very calm with confidence. He and his herd brothers were very happy to reunited and will enjoy the weekend with some rest and relaxation. Monday we will be back at the Wangler Ranch for day 5 of RC's Journey.

Happy Memorial day weekend to you all!
Cindy and RC

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

RC's journey day 2

Today was RC"s second day of training. It was a very windy day and on my way to Heidi Wangler's ranch I wondered if Matt would cancel the lesson.When I arrived RC was pretty high spirited and I caught myself thinking about the fact that wind is a common contributor to horse back riding accidents and was sure the lesson would be cancelled.

Matt arrived and he took RC in the round pen and played with him on the 12' line to see what horse was showing up this morning. RC wanted to play and so they did online and at liberty. After RC let go of some extra energy and was signed on with Matt the schooling began.

Matt explained to me that many people choose to not do much with their horses in the wind and by doing so actually deprive them of a opportunity to learn something new. To discover new noises and sensations and to gain the confidence in themselves that everything is okay. Then he and RC showed me what he meant. RC got to experience playing with Matt in the same round pen as he did yesterday however there was things blowing around in the distance and an occasional new nosie and when he spooked, Matt took the time to encourage him to go check it out. Giving RC the time and the guidance to face the unknown and get comfortable with it all.

Next came time to saddle and ride in the wind. Not only did he ride in the wind, he trotted, cantered and changed directions many many times. Learning how to stop, back up. Standing calmly checking out everything very relaxed and confident.

Matt explained as long as his hat stayed on his head it wasn't too windy to work with RC. Then about a hour and half into the lesson Matt's hat blew off and over the top of RC's head and out into the pasture. RC flinched a little as this big black hat came flying over his head from behind, then stood quietly with Matt on top of his back, watching it fly away as if to say: WOW look at it go, isn't that interesting?!

A few more times around the pen and Matt called it a day, after all his hat flew off, RC stayed calm and collected, what more could anyone want from a colt on his second day of school?!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Saturday, March 5, 2011

The Road Less Traveled

The Road Less Traveled
This is why I have choosen the Parelli program to learn how to be a true horseman.
I am very proud of Pat for what he did and does. I admire Linda for her ability to share her wisdom and insights of events in a way that honors everyone.