Had an awesome day today with Aspen. It was mock audition day in a Savvy of our choosing with both of our instructors watching us and providing feedback. It is such a great opportunity to evaluate where we're at, how it feels to be observed for an audition, planning our alloted time well, and of course, demonstrating the best that we can do with our horses in that moment.
I got to watch a handful of other student's go ahead of me in different Savvies and everyone did really well - trying their best and with a positive attitude. Kristi Smith sat in for about half the day which was awesome. A fresh pair of eyes does everyone good and she had some great insights and techniques to offer each of those she watched to get a little farther in their horsemanship.
Aspen had a bit of a tummy ache last night and I was a little sick today - on top of my nerves - so I was a little fizzed up before my Liberty audition. But I really tried to just be in the moment with my horse and realize that I could only do the best I could do, and it's best to have things go wrong now than at the end of the course when we're headed home. With Amanda's encouragement I decided to start my audition in the arena which was a bit of risk as it allows the opportunity for Aspen to run away from me if she's not feeling connected or I put too much pressure on her. Doing the whole thing in the round pen would have been easy - but I know I can do everything there so I thought it best to test our limits in a larger space. Susan asked me what kind of music I wanted to play during my time and at that point I was so excited and focused and nervous that I didn't care. I honestly have no idea what songs were on when I was going - if it was fast or slow, country or jazz, I just tuned everything out and focused on what was happening between Aspen and I.
While it wasn't a perfect audition it really went so much better than I had anticipated. I couldn't be more pleased that my horse wanted to be with me and was putting a lot of effort and positivity into what I asked her to do. We had walk/trot figure 8's, stick to me at the walk/trot/canter, backing in an arc by her tail, the beginnings of our Spanish walk, and a single down barrel jump. I then moved to the round pen to do our flying lead changes and close range circles. I could have tried it in the big arena but those I know are hard and it is easy to push a horse away with too much pressure - so to set it up for success I wanted to be in the round corral to reinforce the maneuvers where Aspen and I could both feel good about it. She got both her flying changes, some good sideways toward me, and offered some close range circles too!
At the end Maurice said I did very well and was very encouraging and supportive of me reaching my Level 4 Liberty before the Externship is over. After today I know that I need to work on keeping my neutral a little better in the Figure 8, getting all maneuvers at phase 1 and 2, and keeping the respect and leadership when I asked for the canter.
I really feel so lifted up by all the students and our instructors - it's really great that we can maintain our support and optimism for each other while also keeping things real and in the now. Horses are wonderful but we all have less than perfect days and we all have areas we can grow stronger in - the Parelli ranch has just been the absolute perfect place to do this. This week Kristi told us about her journey to becoming a Parelli professional and that it wasn't always easy and it took a lot of dedication, perseverance, and belief in herself regardless of what anyone else thought to make it to the top. If she had given up when things got tough the Parelli community would be missing out on a very wonderful instructor. It's so encouraging and inspiring to see people rise up to the challenge and succeed. It's good to think of these things when we're not getting what we think we should out of our horses or ourselves. Keep striving forward, you can only go up from where you are if you're trying!
To summarize today I would say for me it was about challenging my confidence in myself and in my partnership with Aspen, pushing the limits and testing the waters. Maurice likens our interactions with our horses like a rubber band - how far can you stretch and expand and push before the rubber band breaks? You don't want to break it but you sure want to see what you've got and you won't know unless you try.