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The Hazel Tree by Julia Debski

The Hazel Tree

by Julia Debski

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Friday, February 25, 2011

Step 1 of Recovery and Redemption

"All that we see or seem is but a dream within a dream." -Edgar Allan Poe

The day after I posted The Grave Realization series, I fell sick with what we believe was the flu. (It has been spreading like wild fire in our area)
Maybe it was the break I needed, and a good reason to stay away from the horses in order to get my thoughts together.
I had to do some serious thinking about where my journey was going and what needed to be done. Having a week off from school (even though I was sick) gave me that time I needed.
Knowing how complex the subconscious part of the brain is, I wouldn’t be surprised if my subconscious lowered my defenses for me to purposely catch the flu in order for me NOT to go to school so I could do that serious thinking. Does that make sense? My mind is an evil mastermind! >:)
This is a collection of events from Thursday till now, all mixed and jumbled up so bear with me.
Road to the Horse
First of all- The Road to the Horse. I didn’t know about it till Friday when I saw a bizzilion posts about it on Facebook. Boy was I surprised and disappointed. I had been asking and emailing Parelli and other people to PLEASE come and do an event near here, and there is one happening only an hour away from here! 
I felt like I really should have gone, and its my fault. I got the Kathy Baar Clinic and the Road to the Horse mixed up. I thought Kathy Baar was in February and RTTH was in March. Sadly, it was the other way around.  (More about Kathy Baar Clinic later)
I felt like I should have gone because events like that always refuel my enthusiasm for Parelli and Natural Horsemanship.  Next year...

One afternoon as I was feeling better - slowly recovering from the flu- Mom and I went out, haltered Sharlie and Casper and I took Sharlie to play. We started out online. I decided to try the Figure 8 again, but this time just at a walk. There is no need for me to get frustrated because Sharlie got frustrated and became uncontrollable at the trot or canter. I tried a thing that Linda suggested for LBIs is where you can ask them to walk, but ask them to walk as slow as possible without stopping. She wasn't in the right mind frame for this to be interesting to her. She just took advantage of it to stop.

Sharlie was already in a negative mind frame that day, probably assuming I would be the same since I had been that way for such a long time. So because of this it took her longer than usual to lose the negativity and start cooperating. When she finally released it (It took alot of smiling and blowing out on my part) she started to offer more when I asked her to slow down. However like I said, I asked her to stay at a walk simply because I didn't want either of us to become frustrated.
 After a few minutes, I realized Sharlie was in a very positive frame of mind (ears staying pricked forward- rare enough in itself, enthusiasm, etc...)

Casper and I 
 I decided to take things  into the round pen to play at Liberty. We have recently started playing at Liberty again after strengthing our bond again and this time I can really enjoy it. If you have seen my video about Sharlie on Facebook, you see we can do quite a few things now that we weren't able to do before. We can do a Figure 8 at the walk, Sideways, drive & draw...
In fact I want to start to teach her the Weave Pattern in the round pen and start to speed up the Figure 8 pattern to a trot. Then I would like to transition some stuff to a bigger area which is Sharlie's pasture.
What I eventually want to be able to do is to play at Liberty in one of Kara's pastures. They are large, square and NOTHING in them. So the horse can leave if he wanted to but he can stay too. That is going to be one of our "Ultimate Challenges."
We played Stick To Me, going faster bit  by bit. Sharlie has a habit of lagging when I walk faster or start trotting. Its like she is saying " go on ahead without me.." After a few minutes I tried to send her away (tried....failed :P ) That is good and bad... It means that we have to find a balance between her going out and doing some circles and sticking to me. I'm just glad she didn't revert to her old self where everything meant GO!
What struck a cord is when I asked Sharlie to put one foot on a object and she offered more by trying to step on it like it was a pedestal. She was offering things to me. She was honestly trying to put that second foot on the post even though it was impossible. 

It gave me hope.

"Prepare for the future with the present." -Unknown

Hill Therapy
I have done hill therapy with Sharlie three times since getting better and going back out to the stables. The first time was the Thursday or Friday and I was stunned at how it turned out.
I was expecting...well the wild and crazy Sharlie. The one that was going to buck and cause me to become frustrated. I expected that whole visious cycle.
Instead I was amazed. Sharlie picked up a slow trot, leaving plenty of slack in the rope. This was huge. She wasn't rushing and she wasn't pulling. Thats not all though...She  rounded her neck, tucked in her chin. Then she would change to lowering her nose close to the grass, grabbing a few bites and blowing out, streching.

It was progress.
Everytime since then I have done Hill Therapy it just gets better and better. I have found a more interesting spot. Its rises slowly then on the way down hill its a steep slope. This may be contributing to the progress with the Hill Therapy. Also I have become more and more relaxed and neutral every time we do it, so hopefully that is contributing to it as well. One thing is for sure though...Sharlie is gorgeous when she collects willingly. Maybe thats why she was a dressage horse before I got her. Sadly, she obviously wasn't happy then so she wouldn't be collecting willingly which in my personal opinion takes away the beauty of it. When Sharlie WANTS to collect it stuns me she would ever do a thing like that for me. 

I was trying to explain to people that I feel that part of my 'recovery' and 'redemption' is to be able to redeem myself and build up some credibility at Mercy. Some people understood what I was trying to say. After 2 years of being told what I was doing with Sharlie was wrong, after months of being told this way, my way didn't work, it is bound to leave an impact. Just because I am young doesn't mean I have things to say and just because I am young doesnt mean those things are wrong.

Trying to get a decent photo of Sharlie & Casper together
When you look at me when I first got Sharlie we had the following problems:
- Spooking
- Running people over
- Difficult to lead
- Mortified of trailer
- Could possibly freak out when saddled
- Raised head out of reach when bridling
- Hard to catch
- Rushed when riding
- Tense, nervous/bolty when riding
- Could not be ridden in open area at all

Those are just the main few. Now lets look at how many she has now: (An [X] besides it means the problem is solved)
- [X]  Spooking: No more, last time she spooked was about a year ago.
- [X]  Running over people: Not unless she is in a LBI mood and with people she doesn't know. Which is rarely. In any case its a game, not to assert dominance or be a pest on purpose. She is just trying to play.
- [X]  Difficult to lead: I think that problem is solved, seeing I can walk with her back to the field without having to even touch the leadrope!
- [X]  Mortified of trailer: Well she is eager to load so I think we can say that is solved as well. Though we were doing it wrong at the beginning, we do it the right way now.
- [X]  Possibility of freaking out when saddled: This only happened to me once or twice at the beginning, but it was extreme enough for me to acknoledge it as a big problem. Looking back it looks like the case of a RBI exploding. rses to catch on the entire farSharlie was all over the chart back then.

- [X]  Raised head out of reach when bridling: Problem solved with just a bit of Friendly and Porcupine game, as well as honey on the bit for several rides.

- [X] Hard to catch: I would say Sharlie is one of the easiest hom now!! If there was ever a horse thief at Mercy, Sharlie would be the one waiting for him at the gate! (Which is not nessicarily a good thing, but proves my point.)
- [X] Rushed when riding: I admit straight away that this is solved in an odd way. Sharlie only becomes rushed when something is very wrong at the stables. Examples: A horse loose, a thunderstorm overhead, etc... Which means its perfectly explainable and expected. So technically there is nothing really to solve.But all I'm saying is that she can be like that when stressed.
Tense, nervous/bolty when riding: This is not completely gone yet. At the walk she is wonderful. But at the trot and faster she can tense up. I have recently gotten a Theraflex pad*  and I am already noticing the difference. (*More on the theraflex pad later)
- [X] Could not be ridden in an open area at all: As far as just riding out there at a walk and a little bit of trot, its perfectly fine. Now I wouldn't say I could go cantering out there yet, though I have with the bareback pad back in the fall. Sharlie still bucks sometimes at the canter so I think it would be best we figure that out first before we go cantering through the fields.

So I got 9/10 problems solved.
There are so many more too though...lunging, pulling, aggresion, the list goes on and on. But the important thing is that most of them are gone now. Our challenges now have a totally different tone compared to the ones Pre-Parelli.

Leading without holding the leadrope
When I look at people at the stables, I can see that their horses have just as many problems as they did when they got here. Many have developped many more serious problems as well. I will tell you about one example, but I will rename him. Lets call him..."DJ"... :P
DJ is a short stout Quarter Horse. I feel a special connection to him because I was there when Susan and Curtis went to go look at him and try him out. So I have a first hand experience of the before & after.
When we went to go look at DJ, he was such a calm sweet horse who was waiting for his owner to come halter him patiently, already knowing they were going to go on a trailride. Because thats what DJ did in his old life. Trailrides. Well Susan and Curtis bought DJ and brought him home. I took my first riding lessons at Mercy from DJ. He was calm and steady and didn't seem to mind the fact that even though I was in a Western saddle, I was riding like an English rider. (This was ALL before Sharlie)
Then things happened...blablahblah. I could tell you the details but it would depress you.
Needless to say, DJ became too hard to handle for as a lessons horse. He began to bolt when asked to canter, he became harder and harder to catch and he acted more and more like a stallion. In fact, he spent several weeks with Sharlie. Baddd times. :)
I was terribly dissapointed anyone would let this happen to DJ. The previous owner had pulled me aside and made me promise to take care of him. Sadly, I had forgotten and failed that promise.
The point is DJ is way worse off then when he started. He has gone from a child's horse to, as Linda said, "a man's horse" and that is exactly who handles him. Men. (And even THEY dont always catch him)

Sharlie & Me
Back to credibility. How can you say my way is wrong when you ruin perfecly good horses like "DJ" with your 'right' way? I am going to lead by example and hope people will see and follow. But also I want to be able to offer advice, just little tidbits. I want to get to that point. It will take some time. Maybe once I turn 15...
15 is more mature than 14 right? :)

"If we did the things we are capable of, we would astound ourselves." -Thomas Edison

The weekend after I got better, something awesome happened. ( ;P) Crystal, Susan's daughter in law, offered me a job of saddling and leading the horses for the pony rides at parties. 10 dollars a party. Its a great oppurtuniey. I've helped out at the parties beforehand have just added it to my hours. This time I can start saving. Plus it is amazing how many parties there can be in one weekend. On Saturdays you can have 2, and on sundays you can have 1. So in total 3 parties, 30 dollars in one weekend. 30 more dollars toward something for the horses. Anyway, thats just a side note. Maybe its the key to start rebuilding my credibility....

 I recently bought a used Theraflex Pad & 2 shims from Hannah Willis. I was hoping that this would be the key to start helping us with our problems with freestyle. I didn't expect it to solve them straight away, but to give me a boost, help me out a bit as well as Sharlie.
Well after alot of reading and studying of shim patterns, I went out and began expirementing different shim patterns. Finally I figured it out. The 2 shims in the very front of the pad. After alot of preparation in the round pen I got on and had Mom lead Sharlie around. Oh. My. Gosh! It was ridiculous!! :P If it was possible, I think Sharlie would have swung my hips off. Its like she was throwing her front legs out in all directions, finally able to MOVE her shoulders. I only walked, feeling that if we trotted I would probably get swung out of the saddle completely. ;) That was day 1. 
On the second day, my friends Marisa and Mariah came out and we went out to ride. Sharlie was doing really well out on the trail. Her head was lower than her shoulders. I didn't dare trot though.
Excellent. Simply excellent.
Kathy Baar
Things are getting better, granted, but I still am keeping the possibility of having someone like Emily Larramore come up and give me a lesson. The option that we may need help is still there, and I don’t want to cross it out. For some reason, my brain is telling me NOT to because if I do, thats when we will need the serious help.
If there is an area I would like to have a lesson in it would have to be expanding what we can do at Liberty or a lesson about fluidity, Freestyle Patterns, etc...

"Where ever you go, go with all of your heart." Confucius

In March I have something to look forward to. On the weekend of the 19th Kara, Brita, Mom and I are going to watch the Kathy Baar Level 2/3 Clinic in Wartrace TN. I look forward to it. It will be 1) the first Parelli Professional  I meet, 2) first clinic I have ever gone to, 3) I'm going with Kara which makes it all the better. ;)

"May your spirit soar throughout the vast cathedral of your being. May your mind whirl joyful cartwheels of creativity. May your heart sing sweet lullabies of timelessness." Jonathan Lockwood Huie 

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