Our first event of the year went very well. The team was super-organized, even quickly remedying a computer crash as the doors opened, and the horse crew had all the horses ready for the big entrance.
This year we decided to do something very different, to start with horses as being horses, and turned them all loose in the arena to play for 15 minutes before Pat came in. It was very cool as you could see them playing dominance games, separating into groups within the herds and keeping the ‘strangers’ at bay. Pat came in and talked about what they were doing, pointed out the different games they played with each other.
Then Pat called in his group of mastery students and they sent the horses galloping around the arena to the fabulous John Denver song “Eagles and Horses,” performed by The Killens, who also produce many of our DVDs and TV shows. It was spectacular, and then spell-binding as each student in turn stepped out and called their horse back to them. What a great way to start, to show horses in their natural state and then partnering up with humans.
My session with Remmer was next up. I love to tell my story about the difficulties I was having that drew me to Pat Parelli for help. My favorite line is, “You can imagine how desperate this dressage rider had to be to go to a cowboy for advice!” Then Remmer comes in, I tell a little about how he came into my life and then we play. But here’s the part I really want to tell you about – the Friday before the event!
While we were driving to Virginia, Pat asked me what I was going to do. I said I wasn’t really sure yet, so he said he thought I should ride bareback, with a halter, and jump the picnic tables and barrels like I so often would do. The only problem was…I hadn’t done that in over a year!!! Uh oh, now Friday was going to be about figuring out if I could do that or not!
First, I played with Remmer on the ground; and I take it really slow and easy, don’t ask too much. (I’ve learned that because one time I asked for a lot and the next day he didn’t offer me a thing!) So we looked like we were doing a lot of nothing. I didn’t even jump him. Then I got on, bareback and in the halter, and what happened next was awful! Walking was fine, but as soon as I went into a trot, I was bouncing all over the place. So I figured I was just rusty from not riding bareback for such a long time, so I asked for the canter. Well, he wouldn’t canter! I asked again and he cantered, and sure enough I ruffled the hairs on his back. No wonder he didn’t want to canter he knew what was coming! Yuk. Hmmm. What was I doing wrong? Suddenly I realized that I was riding him as I had been practicing so hard this past few years in getting back to dressage, I was all ‘collected’ in my body and yet that was not what I was expecting him to do. So I changed my focus, settled back onto my balance point, loosened my legs and everything changed. We cruised around, took the canter easily, everything felt wonderful.
Now, the jump! I slid off and sent Remmer over the upright barrels to see how he would take it – he didn’t even hesitate which was great because I hadn’t jumped him since his abscess back in October/November last year. So I got on, cantered off, headed to the barrels and sailed over with him. That was it. I got off and gave him some cookies.
When it came to our performance on the Saturday morning, everything went beautifully. We were in perfect harmony and as we approached the picnic tables (which we didn’t do on Friday) I could suddenly see that we were half a stride out. Remmer saw it at the same time and I felt him sizing up the jump and checking in with me, but I mentally told him “it’s your call,” either take off early or pop in half a stride. Remmer was feeling great so he took off early and we did this HUGE jump over them. Oh my gosh! I felt like one of those avatars from the movie! He landed and I looked up into the audience and laughed and then he arched and twisted into some exuberant bucks. Luckily they weren’t very big – he looks after me these days! But I pushed on his withers anyway and went with him. As we rounded the corner, there were the upright barrels and I thought “Oh well, might as well take them rather than do another circuit!” Remmer didn’t even hesitate and soared over them. On the other side we came to a walk and I dropped the reins. When I picked them up again he offered me passage so I took it and we pranced around until we got to the pedestal and he stood on it.
As I said to everyone there, “I used to dream about being able to play with horses like that,” and Remmer and I left the ring with a wonderful feeling of connection and unity. Later in my signing line I met many students who said it had brought them to tears and I told them, “Me, too.” It really moves me to have such a magnificent animal as Remmer give me, offer me, so much.
The rest of the day was super. Pat had his Mastery Students come in and demonstrate the Seven Games in 4 Levels, on the ground and riding. So much fun to see the scope of what can be achieved, where it starts and where it can go – they brought the house down!
Savvy Club Sunday was really interesting, for me especially. Pat coached a Level 3-4 student with goals of competing in cow horse events, and I coached a student who’s horse had a tendency to get very fearful and rear up. Pat ended up riding with Jason, doing Clover Leaf’s together and working on more “collection” with Yo-Yo Games played at the canter, while Patty, my student, learned how to manage her energy and maintain her focus with her horse while mastery students bounced balls, dragged tarps and rolled barrels around the arena! The end was spectacular; after I did a simulation with her to point out how she was grabbing instead of holding the rope when asking for disengagement, her horse completely changed and softened, responding to the slightest suggestion from her.
In the last session I gave a demonstration of my latest breakthrough with Remmer in the Game of Contact. He was incredible – round, powerful, enthusiastic. Students and instructors who have known Remmer and watched him over the years could not believe the transformation in him. Even his body looks different, he looks more like an athlete. That was pretty exciting for me, and the first time I’d talked about this and demonstrated it in public. :)
Then the Gold Summit Monday – a more intimate day with Gold Savvy Club members who asked lots of questions, dined with us and got some peeks into the future. I also had some photographs up on screen so I could point out posture issues when it came to discussing the finer points of fluidity.
And now we’re on the way home. I didn’t want to tell you all the details of what went on, but I thought you might find it fun to know that it was a little challenging for me at first!
Best of all, it is always so wonderful to connect with you all in person. Even though we don’t necessarily all get to talk, I see your familiar faces and love your smiles and enthusiasm as you get new ideas or are re-motivated to take your horsemanship to the next level.
How does it go? Good better best, NEVER let it rest!
Maybe some of you can tell me what you learned over the weekend? Tell me one thing that was an “AHA!” for you.