"This week the overall teaching focus moved on to riding with collection – also referred to as Finesse, the fourth area of learning in the Parelli programme, where we begin to ride with a contact. Not to be confused with the discipline of dressage, the goal of Finesse is riding with precision and starting to shape and flex the horse a lot more (laterally, longitudinally and vertically).
As we discovered through the many simulations we’ve done, it’s also about finding that flex and shape in our own bodies so we can then ask for it in our horse’s body, our horses can only be as athletic as we are. This morning I watched Linda Parelli spend time with some of the instructors helping them with the Game of Contact, a level five to six technique and got even more insight into higher levels of Finesse riding. At the moment I’ve only really scratched the surface of what’s involved, but it’s certainly something I’d like to know more about when my horse and I are ready.
My personal focus through the week remained on improving my Freestyle riding skills (i.e. riding with a casual rein and no contact). I must admit that I found riding a horse new to me in this new environment quite daunting, so the ridden part of the course has really tested my confidence and emotional fitness. Having a daily plan to guide me really helped me stay on track and avoid the procrastination that I’m often so good at at home. I had some fantastic coaching that not only gave me some new practical strategies and techniques, but which also helped me with some of the more psychological issues I needed to work through. Each day I stepped out of my comfort zone one step further and stuck with it until it felt good. This wasn’t always easy I must admit, but I was very happy to end the week having achieved the goals I’d set myself. It hasn’t always looked pretty, and we won’t be winning any medals anytime soon, but for me this progress has been a pretty significant breakthrough and I’m excited about what comes next!
Amidst the various teaching sessions and studying for the theory test we’ll take next week, it’s been great (and important) to balance this with some fun. One evening a group of us watching the movie How to Train Your Dragon – if you haven’t seen it already I highly recommend it! The next night we went out for ice cream – not only incredibly yummy but also another opportunity to relax and spend social time with my fellow students and get to know each other better.
On Saturday the campus was opened up again for another Parelli Games. After such an intense week, I took my horse out with the intention of just spending some time together while watching other people take part in the games, but I couldn’t resist having a go at the Liberty challenge! I’m glad I did as I was asked if I would like to do another Savvy Spotlight the answer was most definitely yes. This was an opportunity for me and Lucette to play in front of an audience and have a bit of fun showing what we can do. I was very happy to receive a level two rosette, although inside was kicking myself for having missed out one thing I needed to show in order to get a level three rosette – I hadn’t realised I was so ambitious!
I was even happier though to end the morning by riding my big horse bareback for the first time. Standing at 16.3 hands my horse here is dauntingly tall compared to my tiny 14.3 hands Paint mare at home. Once I’d found my balance point and relaxed into her big walk, I was having so much fun I didn’t want to get off – a big boost to my ridden confidence.
On Sunday I had the opportunity to take part in a workshop with dancer and teacher JoAnna Mendl Shaw of the Equus Projects. Through demonstrations and exercises on big gym balls, I learned a lot about the core stability and mobility I need to really connect with my horse and her movement, as well as ways to engage both the right and left sides of my brain through various movements such as the “Brain Gym” techniques. It gave me a lot of food for thought, and I’m now especially looking forward to getting back in the saddle tomorrow as our fourth and final week begins!"