Thursday, October 27, 2011

Growth is Uncomfortable!!

Kelly Sigler L 3/4 Clinic, October 22 – 23, 2011


I knew this clinic was going to be fun and educational but I never imagined the powerful things that were going to happen for Renegade and I while we were there.

Since I was the clinic coordinator, we arrived on Friday, about 11:00 a.m so I could help the clinic host get set up for the arrival of participants. After running through a few things and getting the registration table set up, it was time for my scheduled private lesson with Kelly. Things went well and I learned a lot until Renegade decided he really didn’t want to do a few freestyle circles. He kept trying to change the game to anything but circles. I wasn’t being very effective in changing his mind so Kelly asked if I minded if she rode Renegade. I have never had anyone else ride Renegade but I jumped at the chance to have Kelly ride him so I could watch. Renegade has a lot of strategies he uses to avoid doing what’s asked of him, sometimes putting in two to three times the effort than it would take for him to just do the task. He threw a lot of his strategies at Kelly too including a couple of bucks and it was revealing how Kelly dealt with it. Renegade had a lot of opposition reflex and some dominance which he displayed by acting out/up with his penis hanging out. Kelly put him to work to get his mind busy and it was brilliant. Within about 15” Renegade was acting like a different horse, much more like a partner. I was supposed to get back on and ride him after she finished but we got interrupted by someone breaking down on the way to the clinic site and had to stop to find someone to go rescue her and her horse.

The next day, during the clinic, Renegade was participating as a partner until the latter half of the day. He started trying to change the game when we were practicing the steady rein while following the rail. I could tell he had his penis out again by the attitude he was displaying. For the safety of the other participants and so we didn’t disrupt the clinic, we ended up having to go to the round pen to sort it all out. Luckily Kelly drafted another Parelli Professional that stopped by the clinic, to coach me through the round pen session. The only thing I was to focus on was me asking Renegade to canter and continue to canter until I asked him to stop, just working on impulsion. In order to get Renegade to canter, I really had to step out of my comfort zone, up my leadership, and be ready for what ever the result was. Thank goodness he didn’t try to buck but he tried just about everything else, including running my kneecaps into the fence rail. With Pete’s help, I managed to stop that from happening. To get Renegade to canter, I really had to create a lot of commotion, really up my phases to something that was effective, and out-persist his resistance. We finally got a couple of canter strides then had to start all over again, and again, and again…etc. It took about an hour and we finally could canter long enough for me to actually ask for a stop before Renegade stopped on his own and he would canter when I asked with no more than a phase two. At that point we stopped to reward the behavior and Pete and I were talking while waiting for Renegade to lick and chew; it took him a good 15”!!

While Pete and I were talking and waiting on Renegade to lick and chew, my emotions caught up with me and I began to cry. I wasn’t really sure why until a day and a half later, after I’d had time to process everything. After thinking about it, I’ve come to the conclusion the crying was a result of my having to dig deep into myself to do that round pen session to help my horse.

I’m more of a carrot type person, so having to go to that place in myself where I could do what my horse needed me to do to reinforce a concept really brought out some emotions I’d stuffed down deep inside myself. During my childhood, my siblings and I were on the receiving end of abuse that was called “discipline”. I have always been afraid of not being able to control my emotions and I equated “discipline”, or in this case reinforcement, with abuse. I know I wasn’t abusing my horse during the round pen session but it sort of felt that way to me, hence the very emotional response I had.

There is a second reason my emotions took hold of me and that is because I finally came to the realization of just how ineffective I’ve been and that equates to unfairness to my horse. I’ve been lying to him all this time by not being fair and consistent. I’ve always felt I was lacking in this department but after the round pen sessions, I really know it in a gut wrenching, owning it type of way. It’s not pretty but it is what it is. Now that I know it, and I mean REALLY know it, I have to own it and do something about it. That something is to be fair and consistent for my horse. This brings to mind Pat’s saying, “the attitude of justice is effective” and I’ve been sorely lacking in this department.

I really felt sorry for Pete being subjected to my emotional outburst. The worst part about it was when it was happening, I couldn’t put what I was feeling into words; all I could do was cry but it was all part of the process for me and now that I understand what happened and how I felt about it, I’m o.k. with it and it was a very powerful experience.

I have to thank Pete for taking me outside my comfort zone, where I was all too happy to stay, and instead putting me in the learning zone, where something wonderful happened. No one said learning was easy or comfortable, but I’m so glad I had the opportunity to go through this process and come out being just a bit more mentally and emotionally fit because of it. The added bonus is my confidence has gone up a few notches as well!!

The next day, Renegade was a much different horse, content to be with me and following my leadership for much of the day, however; during the afternoon, he began testing me again by trying to change the game, developing an attitude, and he was dropping his penis again. This time, I decided to do less sooner and went straight to the round pen before things got really difficult. I repeated the strategy from the previous day and instead of taking an hour, it only took 10” to see a change. We left the round pen and rejoined the group to play a freestyle traveling circle game. It was lots of fun and Renegade gave me some really nice circles without opposition, argument, or attitude; he actually seemed engaged with what we were doing so it was a great time to quit and give him a big reward.

I was concerned about how the “round pen sessions” would affect our relationship but I didn’t need to be worried. I felt wonderful when I went out to see Renegade this morning and he stopped grazing and came to me with a positive expression. I spent a little time with him then went about my business. Later in the day, I went out to do a few more things and invited Renegade to walk with me by using my energy and a little body language to sort of “scoop him up” as I walked by. He readily came with me and had a positive expression.

Today was a day off, of rest, for both of us but tomorrow I’ll get out there and play with Renegade and see just where we are and what I need to do to be the leader he needs. I’ll be playing with a new awareness and a new set of eyes, trying to be in the moment and recognize the moment my horse needs my help so I can do less sooner.

I really would like to get some feedback from Pete now that I’ve had time to think about all this. When I was “in the moment” and having my emotional response, I couldn’t even ask for feedback let alone be ready to hear and accept it. It only took me nearly a week to be ready; now if I can only get in touch with Pete!!


Anna Mae Gold said...

Beautiful and honest post. Fabulous progress! Thanks for sharing...

craigeagle23 said...

Thank you Anna. It was hard to write and some of the realizations I've come to after this session are eye opening for me. I have lots to work on; myself being the primary project!!

yourpalsam said...

Go Kathy!!!! Sometimes we just don't know what the heck to do in some of these situations that our horses put us in. Being their leader is easy when you are a Parelli Professional, but us, the up and coming leaders, need our own leaders. That is why I've decided to pack up and move into one of their brains. In particular, Linda's! Keep on truckin' girl, you are on your way!

craigeagle23 said...

Thanks Sam! I feel so fortunate to have been right where I was at that moment and that I had the support I needed to help me through everything. I can't believe just how much I learned over that weekend! This clinic was worth 5 times the price I paid, that's how much I learned. This is probably one of the biggest breakthroughs we've had on this journey!!

samihob said...

Great blog! Why not come and post it at an Equine Social Blogging Network for more to follow.

craigeagle23 said...

Thank you samihob...I'll check it out!!