Parelli Level 2... Why does it take so long?!

I've been putting off this post about Level 2 for about as long as it took me to finish Level 2.... FOREVER!  Mostly because I didn't know where to start as it was a journey that took several years to finish.

I passed the original Parelli Level 1 with Mocha, my Left Brain Extrovert ex-race horse.  Right around that time I was packing up and moving to Montana to pursue a Bachelor of Science degree in Natural Horsemanship from the University of Montana-Western in Dillon.

Not long after I got to Montana Mocha injured his hock and I had to retire him.  I needed a horse for my college program and didn't have much time to search around for the perfect partner.  Some "settling" had to happen and I went from a big, sexy Thoroughbred to a chubby sport pony!

He was round as a rainbow, a solid 14.2h (just small enough so I could jump on bareback!), and a beautiful smokey grulla color with pinto markings and a dorsal stripe.  He was fancy, he was athletic, and he could buck!

The Pony and I.

I had Level 2 going pretty well with Mocha but I was a little lost starting over with this introverted pony.  I had a hard time reading him, he wasn't interested in me, he didn't want to play, and he was unpredictable and explosive (sound like a Right Brain Introvert by chance?).  Riding him felt like riding a ninja with dynamite in his feet.

I had this little guy throughout college, which was unfortunately very anti-Parelli, I focused on my academic studies and not so much on the Parelli Levels Program.

Not long before I got The Pony (that was his terribly original name) I had been in a bad accident with a colt and had been suffering confidence issues since.  With The Pony I was getting bucked off all the time.  My Natural Horsemanship program instructors couldn't help me with his bucking issues and there were no other Parelli people around.  It was terribly damaging to my confidence and I was constantly hurt and either at the chiropractor or the hospital.

The Pony and I at La Cense toward the end of college.

When I graduated college and no longer needed a horse for my program I sold him and decided to get out of horses all together.  I was discouraged and feeling like a failure.  I didn't have the guts and bravery to ride difficult horses.  I didn't have anyone supporting my Parelli dreams when I was struggling.  I had lost my Levels horse to an injury.  I had had an accident and was burdened with confidence issues because of it.  And then I had a horse that was bucking me off all through college...  It was time to move on.

Now, reflecting back on where I was at with The Pony when I sold him I realized we definitely could have filmed and passed our Level 2 - if not some of Level 3 as well.  But I never submitted any Auditions,  I felt like I just wasn't good enough and nothing was going well.  I was scared of him and anyone with fear issues certainly didn't deserve Level 2 (or so I told myself).

Being horseless didn't last long.  About a year later I was ready to get back in the game and try again.  I bought what I thought was an easy, mellow horse to bring along through the Levels.  She turned out to be a lot more spirited than I had anticipated and turned out to be a fairly extreme Right Brain Extrovert.  I officially had my hands full once again.

Aspen not long after I bought her.
You may know her as Aspen, my now Level 4 horse... but then she was kind of scary and not easy.  What did I get myself into?

I wasn't sure what to do with this challenging horse but I was sure that I wasn't going to give up on my dream again.  I found a Parelli Instructor, she lived 100 miles away.  I found another Parelli Savvy Club member about 65 miles away.  Luckily for me I was in the middle of the two of them and a perfect meeting place for a group lesson.

Aspen and I during a lesson with my Parelli Instructor back in Montana.

With the help of my Parelli Instructor my goals of passing Level 2 were renewed.  By the end of 2011 things were going pretty well and with her encouragement I signed up for a Fast Track course at the Parelli Ranch in Pagosa Springs for the summer of 2012.

Having this course coming the following summer was a great motivator to hurry up and get serious about studying and practicing.

I saw my horse nearly every day, it didn't matter if it was 40 below zero and windy, I was out there if even only to say hello and put a "deposit" in our relationship bank.

Summer 2012 rolled around and I sent off my Level 2 Auditions a few weeks prior to my departure for my course.  I found out during the first week of class that I passed my Level 2 On Line Audition with a Level 3 and got a Level 2++ on our FreeStyle!  I was thrilled!

Aspen and I with our new blue Level 2 string at the Parelli Ranch during my Fast Track!

SIX LONG YEARS after passing Level 1 with Mocha, after being told I should be able to pass my Level 3 within a few months with him, and a handful of horses later, I finally passed Level 2.  Wow.

Reflecting on why a few simple tasks too me so long was painful.  They were all things I could do with Mocha before his injury, things I could do with The Pony, and things Aspen and I could do for a while before we actually filmed.

So what was the problem?  It was my lack of confidence in myself and in my horse.  It was my desire to have it perfect (apparently I didn't actually learn that lesson the first time).  But it was also because Level 2 was HARD!

In my opinion it's the hardest Level.  You just barely have basic skills in Level 1 and the goal isn't just slightly better skills in Level 2.  You're heading towards a finished product of getting pretty handy with your ropes and riding, while your horse becomes dependable and reliable.  The ropes are longer, the tasks are more refined, the phases are lighter, and you have to be in control.

Level 2 has a lot to do with Emotional Fitness for you and your horse, it's about impulsion.  Is your whoa and go equal?  I don't mean you and your horse, I mean YOUR impulsion!  Can you set and achieve measurable goals?  Can you stay progressive or slow down when you need to?  Can you let go of perfection and just get out there and do it while embracing the role of Learner?  I had to be able to answer all of these questions before I was ready to graduate Level 2.

I realized that all my progress started happening when I really committed to it.  I went out to see my horse before and after work or between shifts, I'd use lunch breaks to get a quick 15 minutes in with her.  I had lessons as often as I could afford (which wasn't often) to help accelerate my progress.  It was about staying on track, the tasks, the Audition, but it was also abut the relationship.

I began investing in Aspen as my equal and my partner.  Pretty soon she went from challenging, spirited, and very hard to catch to RUNNING to me across a 50 acre pasture, ears pricked and happy to see me.  She'd follow me everywhere at Liberty, including leaving hay and horses behind to be with me.  It was all these pieces that began speeding us along toward success.

The road to your next milestone is long in Level 2.  At least for me it was.  I mean, heck, I was that girl that nearly hung herself with her 12' line!  A 22' line in combination with a variety of challenging horses, injuries, lack of support, and lack of confidence made the journey seem impossible at times.  I felt for so long I wasn't good enough, but I was!  I just had to want it more than I wanted to just accept that I wasn't cut out for horses.

Level 2 is what changed me - not only in my horsemanship, but it really peeled back my next layer as a human being and caused an evolution in how I thought about myself and the world around me.

For anyone in Level 2 - and this is coming from a Right Brain Introvert - JUST DO IT! :)  Keep at it, don't give up, get support, watch DVDs, audit and participate in anything you can, and film, film, film!  The more you film the more you'll learn about yourself when you play it back and watch, the more comfortable you'll get on camera, and the more you'll believe that you actually can do this.

Here's my Parelli Level 2 On Line Audition:
Note: I filmed all the Level 3 tasks but was hoping to just pass Level 2, turned out it passed Level 3!

Here's my Parelli Level 2 FreeStyle Audition:


NOTE: I realized as I was writing this it was more about the emotional side of Level 2 ("I can't", "it's not perfect", "I'm scared") than it ever was about the tools and tasks.

When I finished it I thought, this isn't how I wanted this blog to read. It was supposed to be about fun stories of conquering my 22' line and riding around on loose reins. Then I realized this is exactly what it needs to be - it was about my impulsion the entire time and once I cleared that up I was able to progress.

Interesting stuff! :)