The Texas Parelli Rally Roundup was a powerful experience for my partnership with Rocky. It was an honor to volunteer for a fundraiser to benefit the Parelli Education Institute (http://www.parelliinstitute.org/texas-rally-roundup-biggest-fund-raiser-ever/#wrap) and to meet so many people devoted to making the world a better place for horses and humans. The lesson reinforced by the Rally was the power of proper preparation. I had not realized how little confidence I had in my natural horsemanship abilities until confronted with the prospect of attending the Rally with Rocky.
When my husband and I initially volunteered to work at the Texas Parelli Rally Roundup, I did not plan to bring Rocky to the event. I always leave Rocky at home while volunteering at horse events. My public activities with Rocky have been at small clinics of 8 to 10 students led by one instructor or small horse play days. I must admit that I wasn’t sure we were up to the challenge of such a large professional arena with 9 Parelli instructors and as many as 100 horses. The idea of working with Rocky at such a potentially chaotic event was just overwhelming.
Confidence or rather a lack of confidence is always a big factor in my hesitation about bringing Rocky. Our horse and human partnership has been coasting along a well-worn path with for most of the last year. Life happens and I had consciously taken a break from advancing my natural horsemanship skills. My husband convinced me to bring Rocky and enjoy the weekend doing as much as I could with Rocky. He was so right! It was a powerful experience to reconnect with Rocky and enjoy our relationship as we confidently played at liberty and rode freestyle with the Parelli bareback pad.
The daily temperatures in north Texas had been hovering around 100 degrees every day with lows in the 80’s. The trailer was so hot that I left the doors and windows open to cool off the interior when I put Rocky’s breakfast hay in the trailer feedbag on Friday night. Well before sunrise on Saturday morning, my husband left to set up communications for the Rally while I fed and watered our assorted poultry and horses. Rocky loaded like a champ when I pointed to the door of the dark trailer. This was a fantastic start to the weekend and my confidence soared. I tied Rocky, shut the trailer doors, and ran back to the house to grab my purse and fresh coffee.
When I came back to the trailer, Rocky was wildly stomping his feet and snorting. Rocky doesn’t normally stomp and snort in the trailer. What was happening? My confidence sank lower than you can imagine. I grabbed a flashlight and opened the trailer door. The trailer was full of horse flies that I hadn’t seen in the dark. Rocky was covered with biting flies. I quickly got him out of the trailer and covered the interior of the trailer with fly spray. I questioned my ability to take Rock to the Rally while I brushed and scratched his fly bites. After a few minutes of indecision, I decided to take Rocky to the Rally because he could stay in a stall all day while I worked. Rocky again loaded like a champ when I pointed to the trailer door. He is such a forgiving partner.
The first Rally session I had a chance to attend was the horsenality classroom session on Saturday with Isabelle Farmer. The attendees represented seasoned Parelli students and beginners. Pat’s message about proper preparation has succeeded in reaching out to future horse owners as well. There were several attendees that don’t yet own a horse and were there to learn as part of their preparation to become horse owners. Isabelle did a wonderful job explaining horsenalities to everyone and reinforced the information with examples from her personal experiences.
On Saturday afternoon, I participated in two Liberty sessions led by Keri April, Gena Warrington, and Julie Payne. The first Liberty session was in the indoor arena and it was my first event with Rocky. Rocky and I always enjoy playing at Liberty but I was worried about all of the other horses and the distractions in the huge arena; in addition to the fact that we haven’t done very much training during the past year. Everyone spent some time playing online and demonstrating connectivity with their horse before being given permission to go offline using the savvy string around the horse’s neck as a safety line.
Rocky was a real partner sticking with me and playing games with the obstacles. I shouldn’t have wasted my time worrying about arena distractions and other horses. We ran, stopped, and backup in unison. Rocky circled barrels and weaved between barrels like we had been doing it every day for the past year. We did sideways from zone 1 along the arena wall covered with flapping banners. My confidence soared as I realized how light and easy it was to direct Rocky in the crowded arena.
Our biggest challenge was actually the heat. Saturday was a bright sunny day with a temperature of 100 degrees and a much higher heat index. We moved outside to the round pen for the Advancing your Liberty clinic with Gena Warrington and Julie Payne. It was really impressive to see such dedication to teaching and learning natural horsemanship in the blazing sun. I was so proud of Rocky as we easily did liberty figure 8’s and all of the other patterns.
On Sunday, Rocky and I rode in the freestyle and bareback clinics with Kerri April, Julie Payne, and Gena Warrington. They are fantastic instructors who helped everyone understand how to ride using carrot sticks and turning with your body. In the freestyle clinics, I rode with the Parelli bareback pad in a sea of regular saddles. I don’t have a regular saddle and I had been worried about riding with all of the other horses. Rocky was responsive to my requests as we weaved barrels and cones, rode figure-8’s, stepped sideways, trotted small circles, performed walk-trot-stop-backup tasks, and so many other patterns. The Rally was a reminder that all of the activities we did for our Parelli Levels (1, 2, and 3) have properly prepared us to confidently handle new challenges. I will definitely remember this lesson the next time I suffer those nagging doubts from a loss of confidence. I was able to reconnect with Rocky and enjoy our relationship as we confidently played at liberty and rode freestyle with the Parelli bareback pad.