From April 23rd thru 27th, Sonny and I were participants in SIX Star Parelli Professional Master Instructor Carol Coppinger's Supercamp. Awesome, amazing, inspiring....wow...are some of the words I could use to describe the experience. There were a total of 30 students with horses. The camp was L2 thru 4, and going in I felt a little apprehensive that I 'wasnt good enough',,,then even more so---especially when I saw some of the advanced students playing and riding. But, I was there to experience and learn,,,,and learn I did...experience--I DID. Carol demonstrated over and over just what a 'master' instructor she is. I soon lost the feelings of inadequacy, and became an eager learner. She had several other Parelli Professionals helping her with the camp, and each of them was awesome. I knew from the Conficence Course in 2009 that you should only expect your horse to be able to give you 70 % , or less, of what he can do at home when you are in a new environment. I think Sonny started at 40%, or less, and never got over 60%. The first day was very frustrating. I learned how much I need to work on my emotional fitness!! In the early morning session, Sonny was only conficent with me in zones 1 & 2, he couldn't hold still for me to be standing in z3. Much to my dismay, Carol was running quickly thru a series of 'opportunities' (tasks, ie 'can you?s'), and almost all of them required the human to start out in Z3. Man!! I couldn't even get in z3 for over 2 seconds. We were in small groups, and the instructor for our group, seeing that I was having difficulties, was trying to help me, but then I couldn't hear what Carol was saying, and I was constantly 2,3,or 4 'opportunities' behind. I felt frustrated with Sonny and with myself! I still can't say what all the tasks were at that session that I mostly missed, but I'm no longer frustrated about it. It was the right thing to do to put the relationship first and keep working on Sonny's lack of confidence, no matter what 'opportunities were going on with the rest of the class. Plus I'll bet one of the other students will remember what they were.
In the afternoon of that first day, it was time for Freestyle. I knew that Sonny had been 'bracey' at our last lesson on lateral flexion and indirect rein. I'd only been able to ride him once since then, and got the same results. I was one of the last students ,,actually I belive I was THE last student to get mounted, and Caro had already started the freestyle excercises. Everyone was in the arena, doing what Carol was calling out....Sonny gave me a decent latera flexion to each side right after mounting, but as I asked him to move off, I felt him disconnecting mentally and getting tense. His head went up and he quit listening to me. I got pauses instead of halts on one rein lifting, got head bent and spinning in pace for lateral flexion. I felt like we were becoming a hazard to the other students and horses, so I finally got him paused enough in a lateral flexion to dismount. I know there were instructors all over the arena, but I coudnt locate a single one at that moment. I felt like he was very right brained, and he seemed very nervous about all the other horses---pinning his ears, moving both toward or away from the nearest horse as we drifted about without any brakes or steering. Either I was more unconfident than I realized and my nervousness affected him, or his unconfidence unnerved me, or both. I felt cmopletely deflated and discouraged at that moment. On the ground, I headed to the back of the arena to try to rebuild his confidence, and mine. Two other students were having their own difficulties, and that helped me to feel less like 'odd man out' in the class as the three of us played online with our horses to get them left brained. I managed to get Sonny rideable enough to to into the roundpen and feel confident riding in thered. He was minimally bracey in there, but more confident than out in the arena. Carol circulated down to our area to instruct and encourage (and listen to me vent my frustration), and some of the instructors spent a lot of time helping us in the roundpen.
Our freestyle did improve during the camp, but I've discovered that Sonny doesn't see me as much of a leader in the saddle. He evidently feels like he has to take the leadership for his own survival. No big coincidence that he was unconfident that first morning session with me in Z3 online. I'm making a point of doing lots of online Z3 driving (riding from the ground per Carol Herring, PP) to help with that. He did wuite a bit better with a smaller number of horses present, and better in an arena than in the open field. Carol had the more confident riders out in the open, and the less confident horses/riders in an outdoor arena for one session. The arena was divided in half with cones with about 6 riders in each half. Sonny's only unconfidence in that session were the threshholds outside of the arena. He was actually flipping from RB-Threshold!! to LB----I want to roll in this deep sand......for about 15 mins I was miserable trying to keep up with his having a threshold to preventing him from rolling without inadvertently pushing him thru the next threshold. He finally gave up thinking about rolling and the thresholds diminished to much fewer. He did pretty well in that session untill we tried the bowtie pattern and he braced strongly against the indirect rein to the point that I felt it was best to turn it into a lateral flexion and accept that. Carol Herring said that was the correct thing to do at that point. By the last day, I was able to ride him in the big indoor arena with al the other students,,untill,,,,,untill he saw the mini horse hitched to a cart in the roundpen. Oh Boy! I got to practice a controlled catastrophe, and I sure will be happy when our HQ disengage gets that good without a catastrophe!...softest HQ yeild he has given me yet--I didnt even have to use the CS for support. Then he riveted on the mini-cartpulling horse, and did NOT want to turn away again. That mini was so much more interesting than me or what I was asking for. I did, with passive persistence in the proper position, and the help of an instructor, finally get him to move off, but he was slightly RB'd and not really connected with me. Everytime we came back around to the area where the mini was, he froze in place and wouldn't/couldn't take his eyes off him. At least we did have some time, semi-successfully, ion the arena with everyone else. I felt like we had graduated from Pre-school at last (out of the roundpen). He was getting softer on lateral flexioin after Nancy reminde me (Duh! Fay) to use phases and not just close a 4 fingers and pull. Same issue with indirect rein-remember my phases to get a softer response, also supporting with CS. He was getting better at listening to leg cues. I could almost get a turn with only a leg cue. Also, with Nancy's help, he's beginning to understand moving his HQ over to the mounting block when I tap the opposite hip with the CS. He definitely got quicker at giving me permission to mount. I also learned how to mount by standing on another (brave) person's thigh. They called this the 'bareback mount'. Carol taught hindquarters in, shoulders in, sidepass, legyield and other advanced skills, but I didn't quite 'get' the concepts since I was still working with Sonny on the basic rein positions. I wasn't the least bit frustrated---Yay me!--because I truly was focused on what Sonny and I needed. By the end of camp, I felt completely confident in the arena for Freestyle, but Sonny still wasn't. At least that is progress for 'us'. One new technique that Sonny and I did get to try , and did fairly well is using a collected rein--back up a few steps, then look out to one side and push the other shoulder over for only a step or two in that direction. I don't know what she called it, and I think it also involved a supporting rein, but I know NOT a pulling rein. I may be wrong, but I can see it as the very beginning steps of building to a rollback. Carol also taught us to turn out toes out and DOWN when asking for HQ disengagement. It causes the horse to feel the cue better from not only the heel, but the calf muscles as well. Speaking of toes, she said that if you notice your toes are up while riding, it means that you are gripping with your legs--not good. I do that a lot and I fail to realize the moment when I've done it. She also instructed to push with CS and increase phases with your foot for HQ disengagement/indirect rein, DON'T pull harder with the rein, which is what I'd been doing,,,and getting bracing as a result. In more than one session, she had us playing the circle game with one horse and rider (or stander if not mounted) in the place of a barrel in the center while the other horse and rider making the circle.
During the camp, Carol had us working on every Savvy, even some Finesse, esp. for the more advanced students, but all the students could try the techniques if they felt ready. I was totally blown away by the Libery sessions. Not only did sonny do well (as well as the other students at our level or whos horses were first timers at being 'naked' in an arena with 29 other horses....30 counting Legend. To me, this is where Carol's ability to manage a large class of mixed levels of proficiency,,,and keep order and calm thru it all shows just what a fantastic instrutor she is. If anyone had told me that Sonny would remain calmly walking at libery with me as another horse GALLOPED by, I wouldn't have been convinced. Sonny did leave me a few times, and did his share of galloping loose, but mostly he stayed with me. Carol taught us how to rreconnect with our horses if they lost focus on us by HQ disengagement the moment we see their attention straying, and then how to let them catch us and reconnect if we missed that moment and they did leave us. She and the other instructors coached us as to which hand to be holding the CS, when to turn and face, and when to up the game by changing direction and running to see if they'd turn and come with us. If they wouldn't play that game "will you come with me?", then go back to "can I get you to come to me?' game. What felt the coolest to me was being able to walk in a small circle and have him turn the circle with me---in that large arena. She showed us how to get a 361 degree turn at liberty---the start of a spin---and how to ask for only halfway for starters---yield the hq, then move the shoulder on around till his rump is facing you. You then progress to pushing the shoulder fully around with the SS for a full turn. She said that if you can move a horse's fq 361 degrees, then you have the horse's mind and he is convinced that you control his feet. If you can move the hq 181 degrees-the same. I have only had one opportunity to try the beginnings of a libery spin--not at camp-I wasnt brave enough there---but at 'home' and I got almost the halfway turn. I was pleased for a first try!
In online, Sonny gave me a squeeze over a barrel and it wasnt up against a fence. That was a first. He's always gone around the far end unless the barrel was against the fence. In my private lesson with Carol, she showed me how to improve the falling leaf pattern by pushing his shoulder out in a clearer manner, to help him to follow the feel of the rope better. Carol Hering helped me to get games 5,6,7 in a flow.
Playing with the obstacles onlinek, Sonny gave me all 4 feet on a wobbly pedastool (board accross a tire), walked accross a mattress, and 'touched it' with a very noisy toy. We learned a helpful technique for backwards S pattern which is to make a serpentine pattern with your feet , before refining to you moving straight backwards,,this is helpful in the beginning of learning the pattern. In one session we played with long line driving. Those of us who were still learning in Z3,4, and 5 with the 22' worked on that, and the more advanced students played with long line driving with 2 lines from Z5. By the end of that session, Sonny and I were doing fairly well in Z4, and occasionally a step or two when I drifted back to Z5. I got the hang of asking for a counter turn with the string (I'd never been able to drift further back than the carrot stick could reach prior to camp) He would go forward, turn or counter turn, and even halt and back up. It was very intersting and informative to hear Carol's instructions for the long line driving techniques. We played with human 'conga horses' for some of our sessions, and I learned that I give off a lot more energy than I realize or mean to. That certainly helps me understand how I offend Sonny sometimes, since he is very sensitive (although also very oppositional and dominant) My human 'horse' kept picking up a trot when I hadnt' asked for it, and when I asked why--they all said that my energy was big and they felt pushed up a gait. Hmmmmmmm, how interesting!
At camp, they also taught us some 'knots to know'. It's so much easier,still tricky, but easier to learn this from an instructor in person versus a picture or even a dvd. I learned the Bank Robber's knot, also known as the John Wayne knot. We learned the stockman's bowline knot, and how to tie knots in a high line to creat loops to tie up the horses. I was taught , again, (forgot how) to secure the reins of the hackamore when you are leading with the Mecate. Very cool stuff.
Skipping to change our leads --humans only--was demo'd and taught, and we had a session on popping baloons with our savvy strings. With the help of another student, I was very happy to be able to pop a balloon! Tip: slow out and fast back, plus the leather popper has to touch the balloon--the string won't pop it.
Oh yeah, I forgot to mention that in online, we learned how to get a snappy backup, snappy departure, and a snappy 'come to you'. Another point of clarification that Carol taught is that in the circle game when you put your foot at 4:oo or 8:oo respectively (sending right or sending left) you Keep your weight on the other leg/hip to 'keep the door open' and not unintentionally block the horse from being able to go the direction that you're asking for. I had never realized to do that, I had been shifting my weight to the 4:oo or 8:oo leg each time. Good to know!
Tina helped me with new information on change of direction in the circle game. If he can't give you both eyes, you keep going backwards (I already knew), BUT it doesnt have to be straight. (wow!) you can spiral in smaller circles untill he is able to give you 2 eyes, then STOP and go to neutral--reward.That helped a lot, I'd been trying my best to keep straight-as taught by Linda in the old L2-untill one or both os us was stopped by the fence. Also, Tina taught me that if you realize that the horse has trouble giving you 2 eyes, then he is unconfident coming toward you,,,do lots of friendly with 'come towards me',,lots of release and reward. Build on that confidence before resuming asking for change of direction when he gives you 2 eyes. It may be necessary to rinse and repeat with each gait.
When I told Tina that I'd been getting a change of direction without going backwards at all with the technique learned at the Baar clinic for falling leaf, she said that although that is 'ok' ,,I need to be able to do it getting 2 eyes , running back as well. Skipping it will cause a hole in our foundation, that may be problematic when we are learning lead changes. Okeeedokke, then!
Tina gave a saddle fitting demo where I learned that there are only 3 kinds of backs: uphill, downhill, and hollow. Also, there are only 3 reasons for shimming: scapula clearance, balance point, and hollow back/muscle wasting. She showed how to use two flex curve tools to get a wither tracing and and underside of saddle tracing. Then place the saddle tracing over the wither/most extended point of scapula tracing to see if the saddle will fit. For shimming, the Parelli saddle website hs the patterns needed for the 3 types of backs. She said to place the backmost shim first and layer the others over lapping from there. Also, check the inside of the saddle with a flexcurve to make sure it isnt too concave. She showed how to find the most extended position of the scapula, and to mark it with a 'mean streak' marker. The saddle bar (English) should be placed THERE when placing the saddle on the horse. Where the narrowest part of the fender attaches to the tree is the equilavent in a Western saddle.
Carol taught us to not allow manure sniffing or rubbing his head on you. Both of these are dominant behaviors (I thought he just wanted scratches!!)...manure sniffing is what happens before what happens happens.
On the final day she had a graduation for us, she had been observing us al week, and she awarded each student the level(s) that she saw demonstrated thru the week. A few students earned their string for L3 in 3 savvies!! It was a very inspiring time as we all shared the joy of each other's accomplishments. I was more than thrilled to be awarded L2+ online and freestyle.Wooohoooooo,,,Sonny and I did it! Needless to say, I was quick to sign up for next year's Supercamp.In a word, Supercamp was fab-u-lous!