Level 3/4 Freestyle Audition, The Filming Process, and What I Learned!

Sooooo this is definitely cause to celebrate!  I FINALLY got my Freestyle filmed to submit for the Externship requirements.  You may be wondering why I filmed a Level 3 audition when I've already passed L3, let me tell you why!   Parelli now doesn't just assess you as Level 1, Level 2, or Level 3, you can now be a L2+ or a L2++ OR you can be L2++ On-Line, L2 Liberty, and L3+ Freestyle.  Yes, it's true!  You can graduate different parts of multiple levels all at the same time AND you are now given the opportunity to see how close you are to achieving the next level by the (somewhat subjective) "+" scores that can be added.

So in August at the Fast Track I graduated with a 3+ On-Line, a 3+ Freestyle, and a 3++ Liberty.  For the Externship you need a 3++ in the first three savvies to qualify for acceptance.  I decided to go big and film the L4 requirements for On-Line and all the L4 requirements for Freestyle with the exception of the flying lead changes - though I did get changes over a jump which I felt was a step up from simple changes though not quite a real, unassisted FLC.  I submitted the OL for L4 and the FS for L3 - hoping that I'll get a 3++ in both - you know what they say - shoot for the moon and if you fail at least you'll land among the stars.  So that's what I'm going for here :)  I've posted some trial run videos that I took during the audition filming process on my YouTube channel - so check 'em out and let me know what you think!  I love comments and feedback, it's always so fun and inspiring to connect with other Parelli folks on the internet and share our experiences with each other!

The process to get the video was a challenge in and of itself.  Starting with the fact that my camera fell lens down in the arena a few weeks ago and now doesn't work.  I asked all my friends, no one had a camera, their camera was broken, or whatever - it just wasn't happening!  I finally decided to use my best friend's camera that takes TERRIBLE video - you'll see some of them on my channel - half the image is yellow all the time!  But, I decided a yellow video was better than no video because I had to get something turned in to Parelli ASAP.  Next I had to find a day that my friend - and newly appointed videographer - as well as myself had the same day off of work.  Now on that day we also needed some decent filming weather.  I'm not talking 50 and sunshine, I'm just talking no snow, no ice, no tornado force winds, and no freezing temperatures.  Because in Montana April is still WINTER friends.  Then on this day, with the recently found camera and videographer, with decent winter weather, I also needed my right brain extrovert 'impulsa-pony' (as I fondly call her) to be in the right frame of mind for bridle-less riding.  Taking the bridle off a right brain extrovert in a big arena is exhilarating, rewarding, and telling of where we're really at.  But it's also scary - especially with a horse that likes to go and sometimes likes to think about becoming ninja-pony and bucking.  So when all my stars aligned we were ready to film Freestyle! :)

I got some great things right from the start, I had never tried jumping a single laying down barrel before but I did it in the video for the FIRST TIME EVER and BRIDLE-LESS!  I also jumped the water tanks bridle-less for the first time in the video.  I was totally blown away with Aspen's try and focus.  But at the same time when replaying the video could really see how evident it was that I was relying a lot on my carrot stick for steering and that she didn't really KNOW the patterns I was filming (corners, clover leaf).  I shared the video with my instructor who was honest when she said that it probably wouldn't pass with the marks I was looking for.  I was frustrated and disappointed but at the same time I realized this was an opportunity for improvement.  The deadline to audition really focused me and I began getting results!  I will try and organize some video clips that show what I had going in the beginning with the patterns to what I ended up with in about 10 days of FOCUSED riding. What's that responsibility we have as humans?? - USE THE NATURAL POWER OF FOCUS??  Yes, it's about looking and focusing where you want to go when you're riding but it's also about focusing on the goal and using consistency as your friend!  BE CONSISTENT WHEN YOU'RE TEACHING SOMETHING.  Be consistent.  Be consistent.  Be consistent.  Do the patterns over and over until your horse sees it as her responsibility.  And for me, visualizing really helped.  I began dreaming about riding the patterns, I'm not even kidding.  I was dreaming and feeling what it would feel like if we were in harmony.  I began seeing where I had to start turning in my body to get Aspen to be more fluid and consistent on the patterns and it really helped.  My friend who was videoing for me came out to film again, and this might have been the 3rd time she'd been out to help tape or watch me ride over the course of a couple weeks.  On this day it was the day after one of my freestyle dreams and I really was imagining and feeling in my body all day how I wanted my ride to feel when I got on Aspen.  And during that ride my friend remarked that she was really impressed in the sudden dramatic improvement Aspen and I had made in a few short days.  She could see that Aspen and I were really more in sync with each other and that it looked like Aspen was finally thinking ahead to where we were going and I wasn't constantly steering her through the cloverleaf.  A neat compliment and observation and testimony to the power of focus!

In the final video you'll see that I'm not yellow and it's because our memory card malfunctioned and we couldn't use her camera so we were forced to try a cell phone to video.  We tied my iPhone onto the camera tripod with my hair tie and wouldn't you know that it took some really nice video! The whole time in our pockets we had a tool that would have worked great for filming and didn't know it until we were forced to become inventive by necessity.  Isn't life grand? :)  So my video isn't yellow and it turned out pretty nice.  I believe that as nicer weather comes around and I can ride more I now have the focus and more tools to make more steady progress and by the time of the Externship I will be a lot closer to Level 4!!  As stressful as it was to try and audition under my current circumstances of malfunctioning cameras, weather, work, and a right brain extrovert Thoroughbred I am so glad that I did.  I learned so much about myself as a horsewoman and my shortcomings in consistency, focus, and using the patterns to my advantage.  Aspen and I are closer as a team and I know she's happy that I'm finally figuring things out and allowing her to make the progress she's ready to make!

On a final note HAPPY 8th BIRTHDAY (yesterday) to my wonderful horse.  She's worth her weight in gold to me and I'm so thankful she's not easy and she challenges me to better myself all the time.  When I'm an instructor my students can thank Aspen for teaching me some very valuable lessons in horsemanship.  <3