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“Filigree is by Stiletto “Pg” out of Fasta by the Swedish stallion, Master.  Kyra Kyrklund said Master was exceptional to train, very easy and of course, she had a great Grand Prix career with him until his injury. We bred Master to Fiesta (by the Swedish stallion, Johanniter0, producing Fasta, a 4th generation mare for us. Fasta is a truly exceptional producer, making seriously talented offspring no matter who she is crossed with but we particularly like the Stiletto cross, which has produced both top hunter and exceptional movers for dressage. Filigree has been a head turner from birth with her expressive gaits and as is true to the “F” line here, exceptionally brave and forward thinking in training. Her “F” relatives have been herd leaders, often leading the group to explore anything new in the pasture and to jump any obstacle in the way. I always thought the line would produce eventing prospects, but their gaits made most of the them dressage horses.   Still, Filigree could be that top eventer as she also has a super good jump!!  I should also note that
Filigree is a 3/4 sister to Felisha (Piper), owned and evented by Amy Bowers, 4-Star Parelli Professional. Felisha certainly demonstrates the brave, quick thinking that comes from my “F” line, which started with a Thoroughbred mare that raced until she was 8, competed in jumpers until she was 12, then came to us where she evented with Shannon Brinkman until her retirement to the broodmare herd. She was of the Fern Dancer line, which produced great steeple chase horses and Fern Dancer was a Native Dancer son.”

~Jean Brinkman Owner of Valhalla Farm

As I have mentioned in previous updates, I am introducing all of the babies to several new things this week. My hope is to develop confident athletes who are prepared for anything and able to think their way through new and sometimes scary situations.

1) The spray bottle: I have one filled with water and have been practicing the horse’s confidently accepting being sprayed each day.

2) The flag: This is simply a plastic bag tied to the end of my stick. Gaining the horse’s acceptance of this will not only subdue everyone’s fear of the dreaded plastic bag floating in the wind, but also build the horse’s trust in the hands that hold it.

3) Clippers: I have a hand held massager that I found at CVS. This little pack is easy to hold and creates the perfect simulation for clipping. As I bring the horses in each day this has become part of our grooming routine; focusing on the ears, chin and behind the poll. These are the places people often get stuck and end up having to twitch or sedate horses to reach.

Filigree has accepted the first two exceptionally well, however the clippers (hand help massager) proved to be another story. She becomes agitated with it around her ears. My initiall feeling is that the issue is a lack of tolerance rather than fear. Everyday we chip away at it and I help her find the right answer to receive the release. For me, this is putting the head down and remaining still. I will often use pressure on the halter to help the horse find where I want them to be. When they are in the sweet spot I immediately turn off the clippers. This will help them know where to be so that they can eventually seek the position themselves.

Day 6: After a great session on the ground I attempted to trot and canter in the round pen by myself (without support from someone in the middle) and didn’t get very far. I could feel both of us getting frustrated and knew I needed to take another route. Luckily Jerome was nearby and willing to come in to support us. The second he was in the middle using the stick to encourage her she was perfect. This is feedback for me that although I have proven my leadership on the ground it has not completely transferred to the saddle yet. I am not discouraged by this because I know where the hole is and am confident we can fill it in.

Day 7: This mare is truly winning me over! I love how connected mares can become to their people. Each day she is making contact with me sooner and sooner, even before I get to her stall now! When she hears me coming down the barn isle in the morning she is the first to pop her head out and look for me.

Today was a big day for us! I saddled Filigree outside of the round pen (no issues) and then went straight to the covered arena for our ground work. She did great at the walk, trot and canter and even made some nice squeezes over a small jump (small barrels) each direction. She is truly accepting the cinch now and had zero brace or impediment of her forward motion from the saddle. Although she was calm, connected and responsive the round pen was still in use and I didn’t want to loose the positive momentum we just gained on the ground. So, after making an internal pro-con list I decided to get on in the arena. This was a bit of a stretch for my comfort zone. Although I had total confidence in our preparation and the mare’s mental state I was still playing the “what if” game in my head. Once I gave myself permission to detach from any outcome and just stay present, flexing with each moment I was able to let go.

Anytime an unconfident student bubbled to the surface on campus Linda would ask them this, “what is the best time to get off of your horse”? when the student struggled to find the answer she would respond, “the second the thought enters your mind”. I believe giving ourselves permission to get off allows us to be better leaders. This way, we are present, flexible and have removed any ego from the situation.

Once I was up we reviewed our; Lateral Flexion, Indirect rein, direct rein & Nine-Step back up.

With all these feeling good I decided to try for a passenger lesson (a passenger lesson means that I am aboard the horse as a passenger, not a driver. As long as the horse maintains gait they can go wherever they choose). Filigree walked off calmly and we were able to mosey around the entire arena, investing things as we went. Then we came back to the center of the arena per my request for a planned dismount:)

By this point the round pen was now free so we went in and proceeded with my original plan to build in a better “go button”. I had a plan and was committed to follow through with my phases this time. RESET. Then repeat until the horse found the answer. It took all but three round of

Phase 1, Phase 2, Phase 3, Phase 4, RESET

and we were trotting and cantering each direction all by ourselves. I was SO happy with Filigree and she could feel it! When I dismounted she looked at me for scratched (She loves to have her face scratched) and stood quickly as I un-tacked her. I thought this would be the perfect time for us to just decompress together and offer her a nice roll in the round pen. Although she never rolled there were some very rewarding yawns, and licks & chews. For me the most rewarding thing was how she followed me around at liberty, being too intrigued by me to even think about rolling.

Day 8: Filigree has been out of work for about a week now due to an over ambitious trimmer.

When I list these as “days” they are really sessions. Each horse gets rotated every other day throughout the week.

Day 9: Back to work! I knew Filigree may have some excess energy after so much time off so I snapped on my 45′ line and went to the covered arena so she could move her feet. We played with maintaining gait at the walk, trot and canter on the circle. Then, I tested her porcupine game on the halter by asking her to maintain gait as I coiled the rope in, bringing a 20 meter circle to a 12 meter circle, then letting her out again. This is a great way to begin developing the horse’s suppleness from the ground and create the idea of leg yield on the circle. To continue with the suppleness theme we did some sideways game along fence. I am becoming more and more particular about releasing when she truly activates the inside hind leg to cross under her body.

Day 10: I saddled Filigree in my cross tie area for the first time (not tied). Each day I try to treat them more and more like a “real horse” constantly increasing my expectations. Then we played on the 22’ line in the indoor arena. Worked with the plastic bag, all seven games, then mounted from the stationary mounting block outside the arena. It is very important to me that the horses maintain the halt when being mounted.

Below you can view a short video on how to mount with savvy

Then we walked into the indoor arena under saddle. Reviewed our pre-flight checks from both sides and picked up our passenger lesson at the walk. She was very confident and mostly interested in stopping to sniff poo. I took this as my cue to take over the reins and become the driver/leader. We started with some transitions along the rail and practiced our 9-step back up. She was feeling great so we went for a little trot around the arena and called it a day! SO HAPPY WITH THIS MARE!

As I am developing each horse I am staying true to my principles of 80% Freestyle (as little reins as possible) 20% Finesse (having contact with the reins) until they are solid in understanding their responsibility, balanced, and acting like partners. To do this I am using Parelli’s FREESTYLE PATTERNS to help me achieve this each day.


  • Auburn Cowboy says:

    Thanks for the Nugget of knowing when to get off if scared and the benefit of being able to be present for the horse knowing I can get off at anytime.

  • I’m so happy with this work. I’m also not surprised at the "who’s the leader" part for the first few days. Filigree is an "Alpha" mare, and as a leader already, she had to trust and submit to Micaela without any loss of "self". Micaela is also so right about the way mares connect. Many people want geldings because they couldn’t find their way with a certain mare or two, but from my own work and training, mares and stallions have something in common. They want to totally understand the work and it has to be fair. Then they can show their own brilliance and desire to please. Some stallions can be on the lazy side, but Martini was very naturally forward and willing, which continues down his line. Karl Mikolka, who taught me when I was training Martini to Grand Prix, showed me that there is an exercise for every problem, to be used instead of force. The horses had already taught me to be kind, but the exercises made all the difference in the way we related to each other. I see this so truly in the work Micaela does. Walter Zettl was another teacher of the "freestyle" approach Micaela uses.

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