10543071_10203570582044255_6793993256284853259_nChaco and I just completed the first week of our Journey to Level Four at the beautiful Parelli Ranch in Pagosa Springs. I will highlight the first two days with this post and then try to catch up as the week goes on. We have been so incredibly busy, the days just fly by. But what fun we are having!!

The first day we got the horses settled and then had an orientation meeting. We met our wonderful instructors, Nita Jo Rush, Margit Deerman , Erin McKee Fowle, Karen Kartchner and Ashley Dudas. We played a game of tag the water bottle (there is a name for it, but I forgot what it is!) with our carrot sticks and savvy strings, had lunch, had an on-line demo and then were asked to go get our horses to play 10557386_10152650478418588_4654991411950029125_non-line. The goal of the first day’s lesson was executing Level One With Excellence. Chaco was multi-tasking – by that I mean he was doing what I asked, but looking everywhere but at me. When I asked for advice, Nita Jo suggested I be more progressive and more provocative, meaning I needed to change things up on him, think ahead, have a plan, ask for more (speed, distance, subtler phases) basically challenging his brain to become calm, connected and focused.

Day Two started with rope handling skills. We were all asked to get our 45′ lines and practice throwing our ropes and coiling them back in evenly and in order. This is much harder than it sounds, but it was really fun! Erin taught us how to use our rope to get into a power position to prevent a run-away or out-of-control situation and we did simulations with one another. Some “horses” were naughtier than others, but we managed to keep it under control! We also discussed patterns that we have developed that need to change, such as letting our horse get ahead of us and working on getting a good circling game. The circling game is the only game of the 7 where the horse learns to take responsibility (maintaining gait, looking where he is going, etc.) because it is the only game where the human is not moving their feet (or shouldn’t be :P) Nita Jo then gave a wonderful demonstration of Driving From Zones 4 and 5. We were soon rained out and had to head indoors where we did a simulation called IMG_2636Conga Horse. This is a great simulation to see and feel what a horse sees and feels when we are communicating with him. For instance, did you know that when you are standing directly in front of a horse at one to three feet distance, they cannot see you at all??? That is one of the reasons that communicating with your energy is so important. The horse needs to “feel” what you are asking.

Stay tuned for more adventures in the days ahead!