May 31, 2010

So it begins

I have had the idea to write about my relationship with Lupin ever since he was born, as I knew that my first time raising a colt was bound to be an experience filled with the kind of personal growth that can always be converted into good narrative value. But I’m a born procrastinator, and so it took me 8 years to seriously start thinking about what I might write.

At that point (which was last summer), I hatched the hare-brained scheme to take Lupin to Colorado for a month-long course at the Parelli Center. Colorado, note, rather than Florida (which is days closer) and a course that is essentially designed for Level 3/4 students while Lupin and I are still happily plugging away in Level 2. Yep. That seemed like good narrative potential for sure.

But did I mention that I’m a procrastinator? While “My Year of Not Getting Ready to be Totally Overwhelmed at the Parelli Center” would have been a catchy idea for a blog . . . well, somehow it didn’t happen. So now we’re more like into “My Last Few Months of Cramming for my Parelli Course, Most of Which I’ll Spend Writing this Blog Instead.”

So as not to waste further time, I’ll just quickly introduce us. Lupin and I both have playfulness and stubbornness as key personality traits. We are, I strongly believe, perfect partners for each other—or at least the kind of partners that we each mutually deserve to have. But the problem is that I am more playful in virtually every area of my life than I am with my horse, who is the one being that would most appreciate it. He deals with that situation by creating his own games to play with me, which always seem to highlight my areas of greatest inadequacy. And feelings of inadequacy do not readily lend themselves to a sense of carefree playfulness. And so the downward spiral begins.

On the stubbornness front, however, I still feel pretty competitive. After all, I’m still here. But Lupin likes to give me a run for my money there too. Pushing my emotional buttons is, in fact, one of his favorite games, just as I myself have been known to push other people’s buttons for my own amusement. It is possible that Lupin would have been more aptly named if I had called him “Karma.”

Despite all of this, however, I see glimpses now and then of something more than Lupin and me battling it out or, on our less inspired days, poking around in half-assed apathy. Every once in a while, Lupin really does feel like my partner—a partner in crime, or at least in happy chaos, and a steadfast being there to back me up when I don’t quite come through. And it’s for that reason, more than any other, that I stick with Parelli: because I want to see where Lupin and I could go together.

For non-Parelli folks, Parelli is both a person and the horse-training system founded by Pat Parelli—though it’s actually human-training that Parelli does. Parelli operates on the assumption that it is almost always the human, rather than the horse, that needs to learn more, and what humans need to learn is more horse savvy. Students study in four areas:

1. On Line: on the ground with a halter and different lengths of line on the horse

2. Liberty: on the ground with nothing on the horse

3. Freestyle: mounted with the focus being to use only your focus—your eyes—to guide your horse

4. Finesse: mounted with a high level of precise movement achieved through reins, etc. (similar to dressage)

Parelli calls itself a journey, and it is. It’s a journey of self-discovery and self-mastery, and also of relationships and leadership. The principles apply across all areas of life, but horses make them more immediate, and more real, since horses are nothing if not honest, and also big enough that you can’t ignore the potentially disastrous consequences of bad decision-making.

For all of these reasons, I tend to wax analytical when I’m on the topic of my horse. Once more, playfulness loses out. Perhaps by the end of the blog, I will have achieved more of a balance there. For now, those intrepid souls who choose to continue reading this blog can expect a rather bland mix of pop-psychology, self-analysis, and general rambling, peppered, one can only hope, with the occasional interesting anecdote.