Petra's Parelli World - Follow my Journey as a Parelli Professional Instructor

Thursday, September 30, 2010

My dad was diagnosed with Cancer today

For the record, I wrote this blog post a few months ago, in June:

My mom seems to find it easier not to use the C word, but it’s a tumor, it’s in his lung and it is cancer. After hanging up the phone at 6:20am this morning, I decided I didn’t have the luxury and time to sit down and cry, so I finished breakfast, snapped at Dennis because I couldn’t find my boot cut jeans (I was sure it was all his fault, poor guy...) and somehow still managed to be 10 minutes late for the two week course meeting with Kathy Baar (Faculty Member), Pete (If you’ve been at the ranch you know Dancing Pete, don’t you?), Jarno from Belgium and Steffi from Lenggries, Germany, just half an hour away from where my parents live in Munich.

I remember having to ask things twice and when the meeting was over, I did participate in our morning Remuda with Pete and Steffi. After that I was running between the office and lodge like a chicken with its head cut off, forgetting what I wanted to do there in the first place. The tears I had swallowed in the morning refused to remain silent and I finally conceded that I would not be a valuable team member today.

I explained Kathy what was going on and left. My computer is still sitting somewhere in the corner of the staff office and my jacket is laying out on the bench at the fire pit. Of course, I noticed once I was home. Now I’m sitting here under the umbrella in the yard, eating Rock Ford ice cream, listening to the wind chimes and trying to figure out what to do next.

I am so glad I couldn’t talk to my dad today. Me crying my eyes out, him not being able to understand me on the phone… It would have been very unproductive. By tomorrow I will be back to my logical self, with a plan and being supportive. Life it too short to be unhappy. The fact that my dad smoked for 50 years, (he quit 10 years ago) and that I spent my childhood trying to get him to quit, cannot be changed. Somehow, in the end, we all live with the consequences we create for ourselves.

Several years back during my divorce, I could not deal any longer with my emotions and I started to go to counseling. I was asked to share my feelings about being mad, sad, glad and scared. I found out that my biggest problem was not being able to admit that I was MAD. Just the word caused my stomach to twist. I firmly believe that we create our own destiny, that emotions that we are holding back (like I tried to do this morning following an old habit) make us sick and that our thoughts become words, words become habits and habits form our character.

So, try this exercise with me…. What are you mad, sad, glad and scared about?
I am MAD, because my dad smoked for 50 years, afflicting his, my mom’s and my health. I am SAD because I love my dad and I don’t want him and my mom to suffer. I am GLAD because my parents love each other and my mom is my dad’s rock right now. I am SCARED because my mom said that my dad was devastated when he heard the diagnosis and in my whole life of 44 years I have only seen my dad devastated once. He is usually the one that says, “Oh, it will work out alright.”

So what does all of this have to do with Parelli? Parelli taught me to become emotionally fit, first for my horse, then for myself, my family and friends. Parelli Natural Horse Man Ship has also helped me to accept my feelings, to be ok with them, to turn frustration into fascination and to turn despair into action. Only if I take control of the situation can I be a leader, for my horse, myself, my family and friends.

My belief is whatever obstacles I face, I am choosing the road I walk on. Do you agree? I would love to hear, oh I guess “read” your thoughts…..

And this is what happened since then: My dad decided on chemotherapy. He had his 4th treatment this month, 2 treatments were postponed for low blood count and - shortly after the first treatment he came down with pneumonia and ended up in the hospital for a week. I was able to send my son Jani to Germany for 6 weeks, and he ended up being a wonderful supporter for my mom and dad. After the 3rd treatment the doctor said all the tumors are shrinking, including the tumor on the liver that they had missed earlier. My mom is holding on, but tells me during every phone conversation that she doesn't want to live if my dad won't make it. She is also working overtime due to the financial fallout (which I'm sure is still smaller than what it would be here in the US thanks to our health care system). My dad is in good spirits and we are all hoping and praying for the best outcome.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

How to Learn to Set Boundaries

So, you read my last blog "Gaining Confidence with Setting Boundaries" and you could relate to my troubles and are eager to find out HOW to set boundaries? Great!

If you read this blog, you probably have a big advantage: You are "into" horses! Let them be your teacher and they will teach you well... Your horses will show you whether you are able to set boundaries (you might not even know like I did) and what to do about it if you're not.

So, next time you go out with your horse, make a plan and set a goal. Then observe yourself and your horse, remember and compare...

  • Is your horse entering your personal space uninvited and you are happily accomodating him?

  • Is your horse not responding to your requests and you have a hard time to follow through with a loooong phase 1 and an effective and quick phases 2-3-4?

  • How many times did you ask your horse to do something but you didn't follow through in the end? For example: Did you ask your horse to move his front end but he only moved his hind end and you didn't follow up by asking again?

If you say "yes" to any of those points, read on ... Here are the great news: Once we are conscious about something, that's when we have a choice to change it! So, for your next play session set yourself one achievable goal, for example: "from today on my horse will not enter my personal space uninvited". Now it's up to you to follow through. If you feel good about doing this with a knowledgable friend or family member, it might help if somebody watches and points out to you when you step backwards instead of asking your horse to move etc.

Remember that this is a learning process. It will take time and it will not happen overnight. Just know that you are not alone in this. Pat yourself on the shoulder when you feel successful. Everything else: take it as a learning experience and check it off and store it as such! Do not fall into a pattern of "Oh, why did I do this" and "I could have done better". This is negative self talk and wasted energy. You gain NOTHING from it! Immediately stop yourself .Take it as a "learning experience", move your thoughts to a new game plan. This will help you maintain your energy for better, more worthwhile things!

Once you become a better leader for your horse, it is time to take your newly learned knowledge into the real world! How I went about his and what I learned, I will share in my next blog. Please share your comments, so we all can learn from each other!

You are always most welcome to email me privately at as well!

Yours Naturally....

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Some people don't know what they are missing....

After spending the last couple days reading questions and answers in the horse section of, I decided tonight that I have a lot of empathy for people who suggest to yank, kick, spur and yell at horses to "train" them. Boy, they have no clue what they are missing out on!
Dennis was working tonight, so I decided to take the horses for a walk to the big meadow up the hill. I started out by asking Cash to come out of the pasture at liberty and I trimmed her feet. Can you pick up your feet when I snap my finger? Can you hold your foot up while I trim it? I let her eat off and on while trimming, and she stopped at my suggestion. Cool! So I haltered her and asked JB to join us at liberty. First, he wasn't quite sure whether he wanted to participate or not but he finally came out of the pasture and joined us. I took the old fire road up the hill and about half way up JB realized that we would head to the meadow and he passed us and trotted up the hill, out of sight. Cash looked a little puzzled, but stayed with me, largely unconcerned.
When we finally arrived at the top, JB was already in the middle of the meadow, looking at us with his typical question mark expression on his face: What took you so long? We stayed about 15 minutes and I was thinking about a strategy how to cause JB to follow us home willingly. Obviously, he was not mighty concerned leaving Cash and me behind. While letting Cash graze, we played all 7 Games. Can you move your hind foot one step? Can you move your hindquarters and move your front end around? How about when I step on the lead rope, can you follow my porcupine game? She was willing and engaged, so I decided to ask her to follow me at the fastest trot we could muster, running up the hill into the trees, out of sight. I promised myself I would not turn around and look, so my ears were all I had to figure out whether JB was following or not. He must have waited for a while, thinking I would for sure come back and get him (darn it, created that pattern during feeding time the last couple weeks!). But I didn't and so he trotted up the hill and found us in the pine trees. We zig-zagged our way down to the house, playing around the trees and over fallen stumps.
When we finally reached the road, JB was right next to me and I put my hand on his withers and he followed my suggestions to walk slow, fast, slow and stop with an alert and happy expression on his face.
We ended our little excursion with a sunflower seed dinner, some good hay and scratches for all the mosquito bites. What could be better?

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Gaining Confidence with Setting Boundaries....

As an instructor I meet quite a few students who have confidence issues and I know what it is like to loose confidence myself. Many of us come to Parelli because of it. I was one of them. I got bucked off a second time by my beautiful Quarter Horse gelding, landing on my face. When I opened my eyes, the fence post was right in front of me. My first thought was: I COULD HAVE DIED! It stuck with me for years.... "what if..." paralyzed me... I remember sitting on my paint gelding Harley who was a sweetheart, unable to move or get off, because he had lifted his head and checked out the neighbor's pasture. I sat on my horse, unable to stop crying because I was scared to death, felt out of control and was frustrated with myself beyond belief. Like my friend Theresa Zenner wrote in her blog "Staying in the moment" I remember the many times I thought "what if my horse bucks again", "what if I loose control", "what if I get hurt", ...

And I also remember, WHY I got bucked off in the first place. Back then I didn't know but I learned the "why" in my journey to regaining my confidence.
I was unable to set boundaries!
That very day my neighbor had told me to get back on my unconfident horse, to not let him get away with it after he bucked me off the first time, shying from an irrigation pipe! It didn't feel right. My inner voice said, NO, do not get back on!!! But I did anyway... And here laid my real problem. I was unable to say no!
Growing up I always was a very "obedient" child. It was so much easier to just do what adults told me to. It seemed to be too much trouble to have my own opinion and stand up for myself and it continued into my adulthood. In daily life, in my marriage, with friends... And that's how I lost myself. I didn't know back then, I was so busy pleasing everybody else that I forgot what it felt like to please myself - and keep myself safe for that matter...
This riding accident started a journey of mine. Back then I didn't get hurt physically, but I lost my mental and emotional balance. It probably was never there in the first place, but I didn't know. For a while I tried to start riding again. It scared me to death. I was on the verge of giving up my life's dream, my horses, when I took a fear management clinic. Things got a little better. Then I went to a Parelli Tour Stop in Denver, dragged my family along (my son read Harry Potter 5 in one swoop that weekend) and ended up that summer in a one week Level 1 course in Pagosa Springs. I rode, I enjoyed myself for the first time in a long time on my horse, I started my what I call "recovery".
While playing with my horses, I had to set boundaries. It was the first time in my life that I really, truely noticed that I had a very hard time setting boundaries, not just with my horses, but in "real" life as well. My horses were my "guinea pigs" I have to say, but they taught me well. I am a different person today. I listen to my inner voice, to my instincts. If something doesn't feel good, I won't do it and nobody can MAKE me do things anymore that don't feel right. Check back for my next blog on HOW I learned to say NO!
How does Pat say? Parelli changes lives. We are in the business of making this world a better place - for horses and human. What an awesome job to have!

As always, I welcome your thoughts and comments. Please share!

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Failure - How to appreciate it!

If I were to ask you "Do you like failure?", what would you say?

FAILURE! The word in itself had once a very negative sound to me. I actually used to hate this word, just thinking about it made me feel small and insignificant. Whenever I failed in something, or in somebody's eyes, it was a horrible feeling and I beat myself up over it.

Then I started Parelli and listened to Stephanie Burns and it finally dawned on me that there is no learning if we don't fail. If we always do things right, if we always clear the bar, how do we know how good we really are? Once you raise the bar, then you know... you might clear it, you might not. If you don't, you have two options:
1. give up, feel sorry for yourself and retreat
2. take it as the opportunity to become better, to grow and try again!

According to the dictionary a failure is " The condition or fact of not achieving the desired end or ends". Ok, so what. You didn't achieve the desired end. But you just found out, what didn't work and now you can get one step closer to what will work!

Did you know that Walt Disney filed bankruptcy seven times before he finally succeeded? What would have happened if he had chosen the first option!??!?! Like him, I chose the second one and boy, did it make a difference for me! I remember there was a day, where I told myself: "From this day forward I forbid you to feel bad when something doesn't work out the way you planned. You are no longer allowed to beat yourself up. Instead, regroup (how does Pat say: separate, isolate, recombine), look "why" it didn't work and then make a better plan and execute - again." It made a profound difference in my horsemanship and in my daily life.

Now, I would call myself a solution finder. Give me a problem, I find a solution. Well, actually, I probably come up with several and then I'll pick the one that seems to suit best. If that one doesn't work out, I check it off as a LEARNING EXPERIENCE and move on. I learned that beating myself up is wasted energy, it's absolutely useless and doesn't get you anywhere.

Even if you don't know a solution, do SOMETHING instead of NOTHING. If it works, great, if not, you just accomplished to scratch one thing of your list. Try the next one! Never, ever give up!

When it comes to relationships, we will fail. There is simply no way to ALWAYS succeed. The important thing is to make daily deposits in our emotional bank account. Then when you do fail and make a withdrawal, you still have a balance and you didn't bankrupt yourself! With your horse, spend quality time, be fair, be compassionate, don't expect perfection... It's not about the trailer, the obstacle, the show.. it's about the relationship. With your family, partner and friends... it's really the same thing. Be confident, you will "screw up" eventually, just make sure about those daily deposits to have a big enough positive balance to make a withdrawal once in a while...

Appreciating failure changed my outlook on life and it will change yours! As always, have a fabulous day and engage in never ending self-improvement...

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Yeah, but... Spots... How to improve your friendly game!

With the weather being wet and cold, playing friendly is something we can do even in the worst type of weather...

So, has your horse told you about "yeah, but..." spots? "Yeah, you can touch me here but NOT there!" or "Yeah, you can touch me there, but no, not really..." or the famous " Yeah, I stand still, but I HATE it when you touch me there!"...

We find those spots when we do friendly game with the goal of true acceptance not just tolerance. With my Morgan JB it was mostly his face. For the longest time he would move his head away when I tried to rub him. Putting my relationship with my horse first, I did not force the issue. He clearly told me that he wasn't ready to feel ok being touched on his forehead. After some investigating, I found out that JB enjoyed me rubbing his chin (with the backside of my hand in the beginning), it was a compromise... Now that our relationship progressed, I can touch his face, rub his forehead, and he will show me by lowering his head that he's ok with it.

So, where are your horse's "yeah, but.." spots...? By finding and eliminating these areas we solidify our friendly game and take it to the next level. Acceptance is our key! Watch out for tenseness in your horse's facial expression, in his neck, and tail. Look for a wrinkled nose and mouth that will tell you, "I really hate it when you touch me there!" As long as we overlook those, we are blowing through our horse's thresholds and that will impact our relationship negatively.

Even if the weather is bad, this is something you can do with limited time on hand. Look out for areas that your horse is not ok with being touched. Your horse might even stand still, tolerating, but not accepting. Use approach and retreat to build your friendly game in those areas. Value your horse's feedback and feelings, and he will thank you with a better attitude.

Let me know how your relationship with your horse is coming along, I'd love to hear from you!

Friday, February 19, 2010


Boundaries..... hmmm....
When I first started with Parelli Natural Horsemanship, I was not only unconfident while riding, I was downright scared for my life. My confidence around horses got shattered due to a riding accident, where I got thrown off the horse, listened to my friend to get back on and got - again! - bucked off just a few minutes later. My inner gut had told me not to get back on my horse (more about why it happened and how in a later blog... :-). Yet, I listened to my neighbor and friend and mounted back up.
Why do we do things that WE don't feel comfortable doing, but other people tell us to do or expect us to do? I realized that it's because I was unable to set boundaries and unable to say NO. I was certainly guilty of THAT. All I had to do that day was, say NO! No, I do not feel ok getting back on my horse... It might be ok for you to do that, but it's not ok for me. Saying this, would have meant that I take care of my feelings, my confidence, my health, simply taking care of myself. Hmmm... Rather than doing that I pleased my friend, lost my confidence, hurt my body and did some serious damage to my emotional well-being.
It took me a while to figure out, that I was never really good at setting boundaries. Not with my horses, not with my family, not with my friends, not with customers, not with strangers. My mom was and still is of the opinion that you have to take care of others first, and that you take care of yourself last. So, this is what she taught me. It took me a long time to be OK and feel good about taking care of myself FIRST. A friend told me once: How can you take care of others, if you don't take care of yourself.... Giving myself the permission to do just that... it was hard... and sometimes, it still is :-)
Do you know Pat Parelli's 45's P's? Here is a part of it:
"This Perspective takes Patience from Process to Product, from Principle to Purpose. "
Yes, it's still a process for me, and it does take patience and the principle is the willingness to notice, learn and move on, instead of beating myself up over mishaps and missteps... :-) I have to pat myself on the back, I am getting much better at setting boundaries and reinforcing them. I learned this by following the Parelli program. Being aware of my personal space, being aware that there is a difference between my horse asking to come to me and simply invading my space by coming close uninvited.... Being more particular and to expect more from myself and my horse...
Engaging in never-ending self-development... It's a journey... It's part of being a Parelli student....
So, how do you do with boundaries?
I'd love to hear from you!
Yours naturally,