Blog

Welcome to my website and my brand new blog! I'll be making posts here dealing with anything and everything Parelli from keeping you updated on my personal horsemanship journey to sharing fun projects and challenges for you to try with your own horse.

Thanks for following me and keep it natural!

Courtney

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Emotional Fitness Super Clinic

Posted by cntrares on August 11, 2014 at 7:25 PM Comments comments (0)

You can read about my experience at the first ever Emotional Fitness Super Clinic with Linda Parelli and Dr. Jenny Susser here http://parellinaturalhorsetraining.com/news/a-powerful-experience-at-the-emotional-fitness-super-clinic/

Time Flies!

Posted by cntrares on July 3, 2014 at 1:20 PM Comments comments (0)

My year just keeps getting better, and busier, which is a great problem to have!

I successfully passed the colt start course with Pat Parelli in Texas, and then returned to a full teaching schedule through the end of June. One of my biggest take-aways from the colt start was that I need to be practicing perfectly everytime I do a basic foundational task, such as mounting or haltering. Doing these correctly and excellently is so important especially when handling an untame horse or giving a colt its first ride. Are you practicing perfectly?

At the end of June, I taught my first 4 workshops, and I couldn't be any happier with how they went. Each student made positive changes with their horses and I loved seeing all the "ah-ha" moments whether it was understanding why to use spurs or how to prepare for successful liberty. I truly enjoyed teaching these, and I'm looking forward to the next workshops in my summer series (July 19th Durand, MI & July 27th Holly, MI).

Now that its July, there are only 3 months left till the American Horswoman's Challenge, so MonteCarlo's development will be a major focus for me. He's had 3 rides, we've begun playing at liberty in small areas, and he's playing confidently with obstacles on a 22ft line. He's a super learner, who puts extra "try" into all that he does. I'll be having some special "Meet Monte" events in August and September, so stay tuned for details!

I'm doing lots of traveling to teach lessons lately, so be sure to check my calendar to see if I'm coming to your area. I'm always looking to expand my student base, so if you are in a different area, let me know and we can set something up for you and your nearby friends!

Savvy On!


New Beginnings

Posted by cntrares on April 13, 2014 at 5:00 PM Comments comments (0)

Well, it finally feels like spring is here! With the change in season, my horsemanship journey is also evolving. As you know, I’ve been selected to compete in the American Horsewoman’s Challenge and have been searching for a colt to be my partner in this endeavor. This past Friday, I found him! I brought him home yesterday, and I’m excited to get started building our relationship!

When buying a horse, especially a young one, there are a lot of unknowns. I can only hope my instincts were right! So far, I’m happy with what I’ve seen as I’ve observed and played with him today. He’s a little unsure and needs to develop more confidence, but with that being said, he’s quite a confident guy already! My favorite thing about him so far (in addition to his size) is his high level of curiosity and desire to interact.

Yesterday, we just bonded and did a bit of catching game and yielding the hindquarters. This morning, I observed him while cleaning the pasture out, which was fascinating. He was a bit worried about the riding lawn mower and dump cart we were driving around the pasture. It was funny to see him get a bit startled and then soon quickly turn to face it and even approach it to investigate it several times. He also came over to say hi to me and he managed to talk me into sharing my granola bar :)

This afternoon, I went out intending to groom and play with all three of my horses. My new guy walked all the way to me from the far side of the pasture! I kept it simple and slow evaluating his reactions and responses. Not only did he get groomed, we made it through all 7 games, and I have to say for his first time, I was quite impressed! His stickiest games are porcupine and squeeze. Sideways was a breeze!

My immediate goals with him are to get him responding to a softer feel, introduced to a bareback pad, and confident with trailering. I found out yesterday that he has some fairly significant issues with the trailer, so that will be a fun project! I’m contemplating filming his trailering progress and offering it as a video to the public for a small sponsorship fee. Stay tuned for more information!

 

 

 

Exciting News!

Posted by cntrares on April 8, 2014 at 10:50 AM Comments comments (0)

I just wanted to take a moment to share with you a few exciting announcements!

First, I have passed my level 4 freestyle audition with Shadow. I have also submitted my finesse audition, and I am currently waiting for results. Hopefully, Shadow and I will officially be level 4 graduates in the near future!

Secondly, due to passing my level 4 freestyle, I've been upgraded to a 2* Jr Instructor. This means I can now teach a second savvy, freestyle riding, and I can teach 3 hour workshops. Additionally, I can now teach up to 6 students at a time instead of just 4. I am very excited to be offering these two new services to continue helping you and your horse(s) develop more skills and a deeper relationship. While I love giving private lessons, I am really looking forward to the workshops because due to the larger number of participants and timeframe, they will have the feeling of being mini-clinics! If you've participated in a clinic, you know how much fun they can be!

Lastly, but not least by any means, I have won a spot in the finals for the American Horsewoman's Competition! This means I'll be representing America's female horse trainers the first weekend in October in Oklahoma City with around 40 other competitiors. Between now and then, I will take a green (less than 10 rides) or unstarted colt and develop it to compete in Cowboy Dressage, Extreme Cowboy Racing, and Liberty. Currently, I am searching for a colt that meets these requirements between the ages of 3 and 6. There will be several opportunities to sponsor me in this endeavor in the near future, so keep your eyes open! Any sponsorship, no matter the size of the donation, would be greatly appreciated. I feel blessed to have this opportunity to show how the Parelli foundation creates talented horsewomen and phenomenal horses!




Taking Ownership of Your Journey

Posted by cntrares on February 6, 2014 at 10:15 AM Comments comments (2)

Just realized that I’ve neglected my blog the past couple of months!  Oops! Here’s the first of hopefully many more entries this year.

In our horsemanship journey, it’s very easy to make excuses:

“This darn weather, I can’t do anything with my horse.”

“My horse would be doing that if he wasn’t an introvert (orextrovert). I’d have that task done.”

“I just don’t have the money (time, etc.).”

“If I was younger (or older), I could do that.”

You get the idea- when it comes to our weaknesses, we often shy away from taking responsibility for them. It can be hard to admit that we could be better…that we could try harder. Some of us find it hard to admit because we’re perfectionists and feel self-conscious about our shortcomings. Others feel guilty, frustrated, etc.Consciously making a discussion to stop making excuses can lead to big progressin your horsemanship! If you stop making excuses, you can become a puzzle solver. We teach our horses to be puzzle solvers, so shouldn’t we lead the way and remedy our own excuses? 

When you stop making excuses, it’s empowering! It causes you to take ownership of your journey in both its ups and downs. You have an active stake in how you learn and grow, and in turn, the results.

Pat Parelli says we should expect a lot and accept a little from our horses. Shouldn’t we expect and accept likewise from ourselves? We make-up half of the horse/human partnership, so be sure your holding-up your responsibilities too!  But when you do catch yourself making an excuse (it’s probably inevitable that you will!), don’t be too critical of yourself either. Our shortfalls are how we learn to be better, so don’t carry the burden of them around. Let go and move forward!

When we find our horses have a hole in their foundation, we seekout exercises to fill-it in. Likewise, when you take ownership of a weakness, seek out education, exercises, and support that will help you become stronger in that area.

In my recent goal setting lessons with students, there is a line in one of the worksheets that says, “Make sure the actions are with-in your control. You aren’t making a to-do list for someone else!” So, when you are looking for strategies for self-improvement, don’t pick ones that rely on other people and environments you can’t influence.

Now you might be saying, that’s great, but I can’t ever influence the weather.  True, but here’swhere you can employ your puzzle solving skills. Is there something you were struggling with in the fall in your sessions with your horse? Now is the perfect time to watch videos, read articles, brainstorm, make a clear plan or have a chat with another savvy friend. A discussion with another passionate horse lover is almost as good as playing with your horse! I always find myself uplifted and rejuvenated after a good chat about horsemanship with a peer! Of course, your horse still has to be fed, no matter how cold it gets, so spend an extra minute or two playing with respect at feeding time each day since you’ve got to go outside anyway. Can you teach your horse to wait patiently till you allow him to eat? Not only will feeding time become less stressful for all, but I bet you’ll see improvements in other areas of your relationship this spring!

So, own your journey in 2014! If you ever need support or want to have a chat in these winter months, I’m always here for you. Embrace a positive, progressive, and natural attitude this year and join me in saying NO to excuses.

 

Elements

Posted by cntrares on November 2, 2013 at 7:25 PM Comments comments (0)

So often in our horsemanship, we get direct-lined and focus on tasks or goals instead of the enjoying the process. While some horses are forgiving enough for this approach to give you your desired result, most horses at some point will start to show negative resistance. This resistance can be seen in things like expression, lack of try, brace, etc. Left brain horses will often start to “fight” while right brain horses tend to “flee” either physically or mentally.

I see so many horse owners get stuck on drilling a task that they are having trouble with. I myself have been guilty of this poor horsemanship habit many times in my own learning journey. Practicing the task your stuck on hundreds of times probably isn’t going to fix it. In fact, it’ll typically create a bigger issue. After all, it’s not practice that makes perfect, but perfect practice that makes perfect.

So, what do you do instead of drilling a troubling task that you want to accomplish? Think about the elements of the maneuver. Typically, the stepping stones needed for completing the task are what’s broken. Stop, slow down, and decide what the elements are. Then review the steps until they are solid. Once the building blocks are in place, then put them all together and you’ll probably get the result you’ve been looking for.

Sometimes it’ll take several repetitions once the elements are in working order for you and your horse to figure out how to put it all together. These repetitions, however, shouldn’t feel like a drill. The difference between repetition and drilling is really in your attitude. It’s being passively persistent, positive, and flexible with whatever it is your horse is offering. When we drill, we tend not to adjust to fit the situation, so be ready instead to check an element and fix it if you feel something isn’t working. If you balance the elements properly ensuring that your horse is confident and connected, you’ll soon be rewarding your horse for his/her first correct completion of the desired task. You probably should quit here or move onto something else. Once your horse has confidently done the task in several sessions, then you can probably think about asking for more within a session and refining the task.

These thoughts relate to my personal experiences last week in preparing to film another level 4 online audition with my mare, Shadow. Instead of drilling flying lead changes in the week beforehand, I focused on the quality of the necessary elements like draw, drive, flexion, connection, confidenc ein both eyes, changes of direction, responsiveness, etc. In the week leading up to the audition, we only did a few flying lead changes, and I rewarded big when she offered them. On the day of the audition, I warmed her up quickly checking off that she was calm, connected, and responsive. Then I started circling her and tried the task to see where the elements were at. As needed, I checked the elements and remained relaxed and happy with her emotional fitness and try! In a few minutes, she confidently offered me two consecutive quality lead changes,and we proceeded to film the rest of our audition, which I’ve submitted and am eagerly awaiting the results of! I couldn’t be more proud of Shadow than I was that day! The difference between just over a year and now is night and day. She’s been a challenge for sure, but that has caused me to learn so many important lessons about developing a partnership.

 

Getting Closer to Success

Posted by cntrares on October 5, 2013 at 3:40 PM Comments comments (4)

Many of you saw, if you were following my posts while I was in Colorado, that I filmed a level 4 online audition and submitted it while I was there. Well, I received the result last week. I’ve been debating about whether or not to share it as level assessments are quite a personal experience!

Often, we only share the good news, which isn’t necessarily a healthy habit. No one is perfect, and everyone encounters rough patches in their journeys. It’s these rough patches that help us to grow! For me, this past year has been full of rough patches or, as I try to see them, wonderful opportunities for self-improvement. The biggest obstacle for Shadow and I in our assessments last year was her lack of correct flexion on the circle, which made flying lead changes near impossible. Since then, she and I have made huge changes.

When I filmed the audition last month, I was elated because Shadow did all of the compulsories, showed some exuberance, and she was in a great calm, connected state at the end of it. I thought maybe we’d finally get our pass! Well, despite these positives, we didn’t get a level 4 online pass.When I read the email, I understood why I didn’t pass, but I couldn’t help feeling disappointed. Doubts started to creep into my mind… What am I still doing wrong? Maybe that was Shadow’s best effort? Perhaps Shadow isn’t able to do a level 4 quality flying lead change?

After a day or two, I took a deep breath and put things into perspective. I have to believe Shadow can do it or she won’t! In reality, she has made a ton of progress! In fact, in the audition results her flexion was marked as level 4 quality. This is something I’m incredibly proud of her and I for accomplishing!

What do we still need to improve? I need to have her draw-in on the circle for the flying lead changes with me taking fewer steps. That’s another big challenge for her, but yesterday we got one with me taking just a few steps. Even more important was the huge release she had afterwards. She blew out and her whole body just softened. It’s a bit hard for me to describe in words, but it was a magical moment!

So, I won’t be able to teach in the field for at least another month or two while I re-film and wait for results, but I’m not quitting and I know this struggle will only make the success even sweeter one day soon. Plus, I think this interesting journey will also make me a better instructor.  

As a friend recently told me, you can only fail if you quit.So what are you struggling with in your journey? Stop, take a breath, and find a positive to focus on. Remember your still in the game, so you aren’t going to fail. You will overcome and succeed! I hope being open about my own struggles helps you to know that you aren’t alone :)

 

Instructor Horsemanship Course Wrap-up

Posted by cntrares on September 1, 2013 at 10:15 PM Comments comments (0)

Hard to believe that I've already completed the 2 week instructor horsemanship course! The second week of the course flew by! It was fanscinating to see how Carol Coppinger led us through exercises that progressively took us to a higher understanding of Pat Parelli's program. Carol seemed to live in the moment and adjusted her plan to fit the situation and us. Despite our varied backgrounds, goals, and current skill levels, all of us were challenged by the "missions" she gave us.

For me, I think one of the biggest take-aways was the clarification of the levels system and why the foundation is so important. I think in my journey there have been parts of the program that I have failed to put enough emphasis on as I have developed myself and my horses. It's not that I consciously chose to ignore certain parts of the program, its just that I didn't truly realize how and why they were so important. Often I've also lacked a clear vision as to what the underlying purpose of an exercise was. For instance, I've done lots of hindquarter disengagement with my horses, but I figured doing it from a standstill was good enough. However, I've now found out via the course, that didn't mean that I owned my horse's hindquarters yet! When I asked from a higher gait, Shadow wasn't sure how to respond at first. If I don't have control of her hindquarters anywhere, anytime, any gait, well I just might be on a run-away!

Another key realization I had was that in order to get the exuberance we're looking for in level 4, your horse has to access the right side of its brain. I'd been focusing on getting Shadow to turn loose and relax all year, which has done wonders for her; however, she wasn't playfully engaging with me. She'd found her left brain and calmness, but I was too worried to let a bit of that right brain come back. As I found out yesterday when I filmed my level 4 online audition, she's ready for me to take our play to the next level and access that right-side of the brain without the left brain losing control. This morning I really focused on finding exuberance in the round pen at liberty and it was sure neat when we started to play!

It'll be fun to continue playing with and building upon the concepts we discussed in this course when I get home!

Tomorrow, I start the 2 day instructor conference and then I'll begin working on Summit prep, which takes place this weekend! Its going to be an exciting week on the ranch!

Canada Super Camp Wrap-up

Posted by cntrares on August 20, 2013 at 10:40 PM Comments comments (0)

Well, I'm finally getting around to summarzing the super camp that I took part in last week in Canada. I've just typed up my notes, and I'll share one highlight from a topic discussed on each of the remaining four days that I didn't get a chance to post about.

So first, day 2! John led a really interesting discussion about buddy sour horses. Our horses spend most of the time with their buddies in a herd. In reality, we spend a very small fraction of their life with them. So its only natural that they tend to be drawn more to their horse herd than to us. We need to recognize this and not take it so personally when our horse doesn't leave their herd and come running to us. This does not mean that we shouldn't strive for that result of course, but we shouldn't feel quite so dissapointed in ourselves when they don't! If your horse is buddy "sweet" do your teaching near the buddies and then take rest breaks to dwell away from them. This will increase your horse's bubble of comfort and help lead to you being their icon of safety instead of the herd. Along those lines, Don then did a catching demonstration and he gave some simple, but powerful advice, "Don't think about catching your horse until your hand is on him. Think about loving your horse until your horse catches you." Its amazing how a thought can affect our actions and energy!

On day 3, we talked about the horse's needs and our human needs. The horse's four needs are safety, comfort, play/dominance, and food/motivation. The four human needs are consistency/certainty, variety, significance, and love. Through trying to meet these needs, growth occurs between us and our horses. Only when the horse's needs are fulfilled, will our needs be satisfied, and we'll feel a sense of contribution to the partnership.

Don presented an awesome leads and lead changes focus station on the 4th day, but its a bit complicated to describe. You really had to be there for it! So, instead, I'll tell you three jump prep exercises Kathy showed us. First, have your horse walk over a pole, disengage, and face it. Repeat till horse does this confidently. Then, walk over the pole and back-up to it. Lastly, ride a circles over the pole until it feels natural.

On our last day, Kathy talked about the official audition process and I asked her what level 4 flexion was. She gave a great answer...its not about the flexion! Its about figuring out whatever it is you need to do to get your horse engaged via his respect and trust. Hmm...this is still a puzzle I'm solving with Shadow!

Overall, this was the best clinic I have ever attended! All the instructors did a fabulous job presenting concepts and giving everyone individual help. Todd and Maureen Owens were fantastic hosts and the facility was the perfect learning environment. I was so proud of Shadow and all the changes she made. We left more connected than ever, and I truly found a new level of awareness in my horsemanship. I'm looking forward to assisting next year at the camp. Please contact Parelli Professionals Todd and Maureen Owens if you want more information. Sign-up if you can!


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