Happiness is not a matter of intensity but of balance, order, rhythm and harmony. ~ Thomas Merton

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Where Savvy Lies

I've been thinking about this a lot. What is savvy? What does it mean to be doing Parelli? A few specific events at the barn have triggered this thought process. Unfortunately I've not been able to work through it until now.

According to the Parelli's, you know you're doing Parelli when: you put the relationship first, develop in four savvies and commit yourself to never ending self improvement. Simple enough. So is the flip side true? If you don't put the relationship first, you are not doing Parelli. If you are not commited to self-improvement, you are not doing Parelli.

Pat defines savvy as "knowing where to be, when to be, why to be and what to do when you get there." He doesn't say anything about tasks or strings or certificates.

I board at a small barn but we have an arena that is used by more than just boarders. Almost all of them have some level of participation in the Parelli program - from curiosity to enthusiasm to dedicated study. There are two people, in particular, who's comments and actions have prompted this train of thought.

First, I was having a discussion with a L3 graduate about a local trainer. Though the trainer is not terribly normal, neither is he very natural. He has good timing but over-faces the horse and does not understand the value of rapport. He pushed a colt so hard he jumped some very high gates. In watching a video of the trainer, the L3 graduate made the comment "I'd send a horse to him." My reply, "I wouldn't." The L3 graduate further commented, "No, he's not great but he's better than most of what's around here, especially for the price." My reply, "Then I'd save up and send my horse off to someone else."

Second, someone at the barn was discussing trail riding. This person doesn't like riding around the barn because the horse acts "like an idiot." This person prefers to haul off the property because then the horse has to behave. This person is trying to take this horse through the program and is supposedly concerned with the horse's confidence and connection.

I guess I just don't understand. How can you graduate L3 and still be willing to send a horse to a trainer who could push that horse so hard? How can you be concerned with your horse's confidence and not realize how you push that horse through thresholds? Where is the savvy?

I know I've made tons of mistakes with Cricket. There are times I get mad at her. Like when she forcefully pushed my $3,000 saddle off the arena wall, into the aisle way. I don't always remember to start slow and allow her time to engage mentally before I push her to engage physically. I have so much room for improvement in my riding and I know I'm the main thing holding her back. And even though I forget sometimes, there is nothing more important than how she feels about being with me. If she won't catch me, I take care of the rapport. If she gets worried, I take care of her confidence. When she lets me know she's not okay with something, we slow it down until she is okay.

I want my green string. But not just as a token of "time put in." I want it to mean something. I want to know that it is a milestone in this incredible journey. I want it to belong to Cricket as much as it belongs to me. I want to get there with her, not dragging her kicking and bucking.

Savvy is not measured by strings, certificates or tasks checked off on a list. It is measured in the eyes and heart of my horse.


Naturally Gaited said...

Gee, Lisa, you brought tears to my eyes! Perhaps that is the main reason that some of us find that when we take our eyes off of the "levels" for a while, we progress by leaps and bounds?

There is also something to being progressive in our learning, something that I've been remiss in, but am now addressing (with help). We don't *need* the levels to do this, but they can be a good tool.

However, like you pointed out, it is possible to achieve L1-4 and still miss the point. Something that I'm sure galls Pat..

Lisa said...

I think I'm finally coming to terms with what progress really means. I still want my green string. I've wanted it for so long. But it's not the string, per se. It's what it represents. The journey from unconcious incompetence to something sort of savvy. It's not worth it unless I can still look Cricket in the eye every day and tell her, honestly, that we're in this together.

Horse-Man-Ship - Horse and Human together in a vessel, heading towards a destination.

It just floors me, sometimes, how people's words and actions are so incongruent.

inchwormwv said...

I love your post - What you are acquiring is maturity, not just emotional maturity, but wisdom. This speaks volumes for who and where you are. Lucky Cricket. Thanks for the reminder "there is nothing more important than how she feels about being with me".

Thanks also for the Liberty dvd suggestion, Spot On!

Lisa said...

Thanks! I guess I'm not that far behind the curve. I've owned a horse for 8 years (seven with Cricket) and there are folks who've been doing this a lifetime and still don't "get it."

I'm preparing to start another "program" with her to get ready (me more than her) for our L3/4 camp in May. I just need to remember what this is about - not impressing anyone but Cricket!

~ Lisa

Tina said...

I've also found that my level of horsemanship decreases the more my concern about passing a level increases. I had some of my worst sessions while I was "working" on my L2 Online, and have decided that I won't even think about auditioning until I know I could pass in my sleep. That means, to me, not auditioning for my L3 freestyle until I'm well into L4-5.

Making this decision has been huge for me! I'm now having fun doing whatever I want to do, rather than living by the self-assessment checklist. I'm enjoying my horse more than ever before, and loving the program.

Once again, "It's not about the...string!"

I think: my horse doesn't care what color string I have so I should either.

Ok, so it doesn't work all the time, as I'd love to have a green one, but I'm willing to wait until we're really ready for it.

Lisa said...

The goal of passing L3 keeps me heading somewhere. I'm just at ease with Cricket's timeline.

We got all messed up in L2 because the one task we had left was simple lead changes. I became so frustrated because I couldn't comfortably canter my horse. It was actually ruining my relationship with my horse. Inability to accomplish that one task obscured everything I had accomplished with Cricket. My instructor saw that and, in her infinite savvy, helped me fix it.

For L3, I'm currently at ease with developing myself and my horse until the audition flows out of the savvy. If I get to the point where it's becoming a roadblock, I'll borrow a horse, pass the damn thing and move on.

My struggle in L2 taught me a lot and I think my savvy grew exponentially.

Checking off boxes on a task sheet or drilling a horse until he performs a task or pattern is not savvy. Ability to perform any given maneuver is not savvy. But if you have savvy then you should be able to ask certain things from your horse and be pretty sure you'll get the desired response.

I think I have a decent amount of savvy. What I loved most about my L3 Liberty audition and the resulting pass was that it was just a video of a fairly typical liberty session with Cricket. Nothing planned, nothing rehearsed. Just me and my Principessa.

It's just hard sometimes. I have a decent competitive streak. But again, my pony girl and the look in her eyes when I walk down the barn aisle is more important than any accolade Pat and Linda could bestow.

~ Lisa