So, Level 1 and Level 2 were mostly about me not dying or giving up. I got to know my tools, myself, and my horse. I found a new layer of dedication and grit, commitment and energy to reach a goal. By the time I finished Level 2 I had started over with 4 horses for one reason or another. It was a long and arduous journey and, I'd say to date, one of my greatest horsemanship accomplishments.
If you remember from my Level 2 post, I had submitted my Level 2 Auditions just weeks before attending my Fast Track course and found out I passed while at the class.
|Me with my Level 1 red string when I arrived at the Fast Track.|
|Sooo proud to have my Level 2 blue string just a week or so into the course!|
One month later at the end of the Fast Track, I was holding my green Level 3 string.
I feel like saying "BAM!" is in order. One, because I feel cool when I say it and two, because that's basically how Level 3 happened for me. Prior and proper preparation as well as having a lot of support during the Fast Track gave me the confidence I needed to assertively pursue my next Level.
Looking back I feel like my ENTIRE journey up until that point was all Level 3. I mean, way back when I did my Level 1 Audition, Terry Wilson had told me that I was close to Level 3. Now 6 years later I was still working within those same skill sets, where was the progression??
Sure, I had learned new things (mostly important emergency stop and Horsenality strategies), but I hadn't really been provocative or progressive. I had been caught up in that vicious cycle of perfectionism and lack of confidence. I got to a point where I trusted my horse and the process, I even felt good about the idea of sending in a less than perfect Audition, being on camera didn't bother me either... I just didn't trust that I actually knew what I was doing. I felt that Level 3 skills were better than what I had, thought Level 3 was more. In my mind I had a picture of what a Level 3 horse and rider looked like, and while I wasn't focused on perfection, I just honestly didn't think we were that good.
FreeStyle has always been my most challenging Savvy with Aspen because she has so much forward, and if she's not going forward she's bucking. In Level 3 FreeStyle it becomes a lot more important to keep your rein in the mane, or neutral, while riding around. This was especially challenging for me on my high spirited, Right Brain Extrovert as I was constantly checking her speed with my reins. Even riding with a Carrot Stick was death defying at times because I didn't have both hands at the ready to bend to a stop if I needed.
Because we still battled these impulsion issues I knew Level 3 was a far cry from being mine. Level 3 horses didn't have impulsion issues, it was something they said you solved in Level 3. After several intensely fast rides in which we had no speed control on a loose rein I knew we just weren't there yet.
|Aspen and I in the Honey Comb riding the Clover Leaf pattern. We got lucky that night and only had to share it with a few other students. We rode that pattern SO MANY TIMES during the course! :)|
My main goal for attending the Fast Track (aside from qualifying for my Externship) was to resolve impulsion issues. My Fast Track was a month long course at the Colorado Parelli Ranch. There were 60 students with 60 horses and about 6 instructors with horses too. Our class made Pat's Arena Grande look like a dressage arena. The combined energy of 132 hearts beating in one location was enough to blow Aspen's and my lid. Calm, connected, and responsive was a distant dream. Coming to a halt from any gait was a wish in the wind. Fleeting thoughts of relaxation whipped between our ears as we drummed around on high alert. There simply would be no way to do a pattern long enough to get our nerves down to have control on loose reins. Bye-bye impulsion control. Bye-bye goals.
|The August Fast Track 2012 class!|
The course experience is another story, I will tell you there were highs and lows, moments of "ah-ha!" and many moments of "oh no!" The class tested every emotional fitness boundary that Aspen and I had as we struggled to keep control during our group riding sessions. One thing we don't appreciate enough is simply how hours with our horse, miles in the saddle, and days of exposure lead to great things. While we weren't riding around bridleless by the end of the course we certainly developed a lot of positive habits and skills together and I learned new strategies to gain and keep control.
As we lined up on the last day of class I was surprised and honored when they hung my green string around my neck... I was also confused.
I left feeling like I had somehow cheated the system, somehow they were mistaken. We still couldn't ride around on loose reins everywhere. We still had more go than whoa. It truly bothered me for a very long time and I didn't understand why the instructors had given me my Level 3.
Over the next several months I began to realize that my SKILLS were Level 3, I had the knowledge and ability to achieve it with my horse given some more time. After all, the Levels are about people - the horses are already Level 10 - this is a journey for us. Each Level is another step for the human to learn the horse's language and take another brick out of the barrier between our species. Level 3 was about ME!
Don't get me wrong, Aspen and I weren't that far from actually being able to do all of the tasks - our sole set back was our control on a loose rein. But just because she wasn't centered enough to do that yet didn't mean that I didn't show Level 3 quality in my feel, timing, and balance. It didn't mean that we didn't have the rapport, respect, relationship, and ability to get there. Once I realized that the actual tasks might come in time but that my skills were there for Level 3 it was a liberating experience. It was a journey I realized I had been on for so long, since the beginning, and I had finally done it.
|Me and my friend Adency with our new Level 3 green strings!|
I can't say enough how the journey through Levels 1-4 in the Parelli Program change you. Without an ounce of exaggeration, I would not be the person I am today had I not taken the time to go through the program. I'm so excited to share with you all about my Level 4 and what it has meant to me and to my horsemanship to have completed it.
I LOVE hearing from you guys! Please feel free to comment below, shoot me an email, or visit my Professional page on Facebook (link on the right) to get in touch.
Much love! oxox