And we said................I DO!

To begin this journey you have to have some history. After about 5 years, Jim finally proposed! He said he didn't want to rush me (I think we're safe there!). So, almost a year later (don't want to rush) we got married, on May 12th 2007. A very small wedding in our backyard; 11 people counting us and officiated by one of my closest friends (yes, ordained online). The next day we headed out on our honeymoon. A road trip down the coast line into California to Disneyland, then over to Las Vegas, up to Reno and back home in three wonderful weeks! And who thought that 8 months later we’d be moving to our very own horse property but, that’s exactly what happened!! Sometimes, childhood dreams do come true!! So, here begins our journey…..

The amazing yet simple Game of Contact!

August was the craziest month ever! I had something planned every weekend, including a small riding clinic put on by our very own, Emma Kline. Emma had learned this incredibly amazing game to play with your horse under saddle, the Game of Contact (created by the wonderful Linda Parelli, of course). The game is simple, either you have the contact on the reins or horse does. The goal is for your horse to "choose" to have the contact. Emma wanted to try out the concept on a couple riders and horses of different backgrounds. I won't be able to explain things as eloquently as Emma but, I can certainly give my take on it and what I've observed. As described by Emma, it's "simply the art of riding in connection with the reins. Strong like a firm handshake, as fluid and maneuverable as a dancer's close hold"; focusing on "free forward movement, looseness and stretch-ability". In short, your horse is learning to stretch over their top line (rump, back, neck, poll. Horse yoga!) and use their hindquarters to power forward; basically moving them from front wheel drive to rear wheel drive. LOL. The Game of Contact and the exercise referred to as Fluid Reins helps your horse achieve this. And here's the really amazing part! What you're asking your horse to do becomes their idea because you make a "game" of it! And, it works with any horse of any age and any level of training (I've personally experienced it with three horses of different backgrounds).

Emma and I started searching for a good date to have her clinic and of course Murphy's Law said it HAD to be the weekend before Jim and I's BBQ when we should have been working on the yard or pond or something!! But, I took a big breath and agreed to do it. So, I got two of my favorite horsey gal-pals to join me as students and the plan was I thought. It seems that Emma and I had a small communication problem. The night before the clinic I realized that Emma thought the clinic was in one location and I thought it was in another. LOL. Lucky for us Jim, in his quiet, calm way, suggested that we have it at OUR place (such a simple solution)! The next day things went great. The weather was perfect, Jim and Kip took videos of the whole affair and all three horses and their humans did wonderful (actually four horses, I rode Jake and Minnie). The "game of contact" AND "fluid reins" is so amazing.

Shannon & Desi
Shannon has been taking dressage lessons with her horse, Desi. And even though they have advanced tremendously in the past year or two, they totally benefited from both game of contact and fluid reins. The first time Shannon used the fluid reins, Desi stretched her neck all the way down and stretched her top line like she'd been doing it for months.

stretching with Fluid Reins
Kim's horse, Tunes is green broke and will eventually become a barrel horse. Tunes nor Kim knew anything about the game of contact or fluid reins but, within the first 15 minutes we all could see a difference. How amazing is that!!

Kim & Tunes
Minnie and I went last. Minnie did awesome. Emma had started us on the game of contact back in May but, with summer being so busy, this was only our 8th session. The difference in Minnie was truly amazing. I've had Minnie 6 yrs this November and I've struggled to get her to calm down, slow down, balance herself and use her body properly with really no success. Yes, I tried the
"traditional" martengale, forks and different snaffle bits both online and under saddle.... and then I met Emma and Emma learned the game of contact and passed it on to me!! In a 1-hour session, Emma taught Minnie and I the game. We went home and had 3 more sessions on our own, each one better than the last. The fifth session Emma coached us again to keep our progress moving forward. Two more sessions and Minnie was literally a different horse; I could see it and feel it, Jim could see it, my mom could see it. The 8th session was really a testimonial to the concept. In fact, we started working on the lope that day (another big challenge with my "goey" horse). So, 8-1 hr sessions spaced out over a summer, only two of which were coached, and my horse learned how to stretch over her top line and use her hindquarters all with contact on the bit and it was HER idea, from playing the simple "game of contact".

Me & Minnie
Next, I rode Jake. In all reality, Jake doesn't have alot of time under saddle and what he does have, has mostly been leisurely, plodding around with Jim (you know, just a couple of dudes hanging out). When I ride him, he has to work! LOL. Jim and I describe Jake as driving an old farm truck and Minnie as a Ferrari. I've also described Jake as trying to bend a bus! He did not possess any "fluid movement, looseness or stretch-ability". So, Emma made Jake and I work hard that day (which Jake does not appreciate). The task at hand was to encourage him to have a bend in his body going around a circle. The exercise was simply trotting a circle and asking him to move slightly sideways, stepping up under himself with his inside hip and bending and relaxing his neck. I have to say, at first I didn't really know what Emma was after. I was just following direction and trusting my "leader". It did finally sink in, for me AND Jake. :) The process is so fascinating to me. Here's this big lug of a horse who's been going around the arena like a chunk of wood and all of a sudden, with no brutal gadgets, harsh riding or harsh words, he starts to gain "looseness and stretch-ability" through his whole body and it only took 30 minutes or so and our relationship was still in tact.

I should mention one more thing. You'll notice a clicking sound in the video. Emma has been experimenting with a dog clicker. She used it during our lessons to mark exactly when our horses had achieved what we were asking. It's a great tool. The theory is that you can mark the exact moment that you and/or your horse "get it right" and THEN give the reward. It's more precise. And it's said to create mental markers in our minds that we remember later. Very interesting!

All I can say is, I can't wait to see how Jake, Desi, Tunes and Minnie progress from here and thank you, Linda Parelli for discovering and developing these exercises and thank you Emma for sharing what you've learned.

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