Saturday, March 13, 2010

Mental Gridlock

This morning, I was invited over to play with my L3/4 friend's mare, Vanna. The rain held off just long enough for us to have time for a good session.

Once again, as I stepped out into the arena, my brain seemed to stop functioning! After some prompting to do a "pre-flight check" of Vanna's responses to the Porcupine (she escaped a bit) and Driving games, my friend challenged me to stand on a pedestal and send Vanna in a circle 3x each way at a trot.

This was (of course) more difficult than it seemed it should have been. First off, Vanna just didn't want to back in anything like a straight line. Instead, she offered me sidepassing in a circle, backing in a circle, a squiggly back, and various other evasions/tries. Instead of getting too particular about backing up, we allowed her to move her feet in a walking circle.

Like last time, I struggled with keeping the 22' rope away from my feet and out of a knot with my savvy string. My stick kept falling to the ground, which was farther than usual do to me being on the pedestal! Boy, was it awkward, and frustrating since I've been supposedly doing PNH for oh, over six years..

After we sort of got the hang of the basic circle at the trot (not so hard since Miss Vanna is a quite the extrovert), we moved into transitions. Once again, while my head was thinking,"Which way should I turn in order to slow her down?", the moment had passed and I had to adjust to a different situation. Eeek. (Honestly, I think that the last time that I actually played with this task was with Smokey at a Kelly Sigler clinic two years ago.)

We stopped for a bit and played with some simulations, taking advantage of three innocent bystanders to form a Conga Horse. ;-) This worked great, because it allowed me to rehearse my rope handling, cues, and energy, without creating a bunch of static for a real horse. Thanks, Aunt Barb!

It occurred to me once more that all of my studying of PNH materials, without the corresponding time with an actual horse, is more of a hindrance than a help to me right now. I'm so self-critical that I just want to run screaming sometimes.. However, Alyssa is doing a great job acting patient and non-judgmental (even though inside she must either be cringing or laughing her butt off - or both).

I realize now that the name of the game for me is going to have to be MUSCLE MEMORY. This is what saved my rear in the production of Joseph last summer. I practiced enough that my body knew how to dance even though my brain was freaking out. I just had to trust the process and keep my brain from messing things up. It was a huge lesson for me.

So, from now on, before trying a new skill with a horse, I'm going to strive to rehearse some simulations to set the movements in my body. That should relieve the pressure on my struggling brain.

For all of my whining, this practice with Vanna is helping me a ton. It is becoming increasingly clear to me that I wouldn't be able to pull out this rut without a coach being physically present with me on a regular basis. I'm sure that once my motor skills catch up with my mental stuff, I'll be primed to really make some progress.

Another thought is that, boy is it a different perspective actually standing in the center as a horse is circling around me, versus viewing the PNH study materials from the viewpoint of a spectator!

As I've told many folks, the Parelli "Patterns" DVD set are about as interesting as a set of crochet instructions - unless you DO them. I need to diligently apply this idea to the rest of the PNH materials. Perhaps a 30-day commitment to play with Guinness is in order?

I'm looking forward to another session with G. in the indoor arena. Hopefully, it will be this Tuesday evening. My freind gave me a tip: to get Guinness moving without having to spank him, try lifting and leading one rein in the direction that I'd like him to move, and then bring up my energy.

Unfortunately, I seem to be more "green" than I'd given myself credit for. Thank goodness that I picked a baby with a mellow and forgiving horsenality.


Lisa said...

Clare - you are too precious. I'm sure Alyssa is neither cringing nor laughing. Just like we do with our horses, she's probably thinking "hmm, that's interesting" or "oh boy, what an opportunity."

I can get pretty self-critical and one of my dear friends has helped me so much with this. Remember, horses think in terms of comfort and discomfort, rather than right or wrong. So nothing you do with any horse is right or wrong. If you don't get the desired results you just didn't phrase the question for the answer you wanted.

Yesterday I wanted to demo a straight back-up from Z1 - something Cricket does *very* well. Except on this occassion she offered everything BUT a back-up. Oh well, guess I asked the wrong question (or asked the question wrong).

Remember that this is all a game and we're just playing. So what if you color outside the lines, use the wrong crayon or whatever else. Keep your attitude positive and everything else will fall out just fine.

And finally nothing is written in stone. If you are sensitive to the rapport then you can never go far enough to break that and everything else can be fixed. I think of all the mistakes I've made with Cricket and she still greets me with a light in her eyes and a soft nicker.

Naturally Gaited said...

Hey Lisa -

Your blog has actually helped me a great deal and has inspired me to be honest about the not-so-great stuff!

Your comment struck me, "horses think in terms of comfort & discomfort rather than right or wrong." I hadn't though of it that way - they aren't judgmental the way that people are. That takes some of the pressure off..

As my sister (with similar tendencies to over-think things) says: "Jump on in and mess it up good." Time for me to get on it. :-)

Lisa said...

Thank you for your kind comments. I've been doing a lot of thinking about savvy and Parelli - some events at the barn have triggered it all and I plan to blog about it when my work load clears.

Something an instructor (non-PNH, natural dressage) used to say to me "Don't try, just do it." I use *try* to give myself an escape hatch when things go bad. I would over think something and just get in a fuddled mess. Mark would tell me to just do it because in the doing is the trying. Does that make sense?

I need to start another 30 day program with Cricket. I've just got to get my work to clear up. You're doing AWESOME with a commitment to self improvement. Rock On!

Naturally Gaited said...

"Just do it" has been one of those one-liners that has been in my head lately. Another one is, "a little less talk and a lot more action"! ;-)

For me, there is a huge disconnect between book learning & actual application. It has been a recurring theme in my life. How come I'm just realizing it now..?

I love PNH because it does encourage us to learn and change ourselves. We only *think* that it is about the horses.