Earlier this year, I launched a brand new distance group coaching format which has drawn attention from students around the world. Ever since I started teaching Parelli 10 years ago, I have always wanted to be able to follow students on their journey for more than a couple of days at a time. Clinics are certainly fun and I love to see the changes in people and horses that can be achieved on only a couple of days; they also foster new friendships and a sense of community. However, once everyone goes home, the instructor might not see or hear from those students again for months if not years, and we can only hope that they have felt inspired enought to continue seeking more knowledge. I always felt a bit disheartened to see the same people come back year after year and look exactly the same as the year before. Why were they not progressing?
Looking in the mirror at my own horsemanship, I reflected on those times where I was not making progress and at the obstacles I had to face to keep advancing my skills and my horses. Like most students, I don't have my own facility and I have to contend with the constraints of boarding. In order to be allowed to be different, I have in the last few years resorted to boarding my horses at small, privately owned facilities which are open to a Parelli mindset. That freedom to do the kind of horsemanship I want to do often comes with lack of training facilities, no indoor arena, small spaces to ride and having to contend with weather conditions - challenges that most of my students also face daily.
Isolation is another factor we all experience unless we can be lucky enough to be surrounded by like minded professionals or friends. Keeping the motivation alive and managing pitfalls can be challenging without support, even in the best of times. Compounded with factors involving weather, time, timing, availability and just plain lack of focus or goals, this can be a steep hill to climb even for the most dedicated rider, especially when it means finding time away from work or familly, having to get in the car and commute to the barn!
So with that in mind, I created a group distance coaching format which is designed to address these issues.
Students have joined from all walks of life, ages and stages. From beginner to Level 4 students, some as far as the UK and Australia, it has been a diverse yet incredibly fun group of aspiring horsewomen (and now even a gentleman!) sharing and supporting each other while being guided and instructed through various horsemanship concepts and assignments.
The key to J2S Your Journey to SavvyTM is that everyone is on their own journey and while guided, is allowed to progress at their own speed and level. The primary rule is a good attitude, natural, positive and progressive, and we also try to have fun as we learn.
We celebrate our accomplishments and breakthroughts, and help those who are in the Learning Pit see what is on the other side of the wall.
It has been absolutely wonderful for me as an instructor to see students actually gaining depth and scope into the program, improving their relationships with their horses and getting more and more savvy each month!
Here are a couple fun pics and videos of current J2S members and what they have to say about their journey.
Melody (Brandon, Manitoba) started out in the middle of a harsh Canadian winter in the Prairies. She was still recovering from a major horseback riding accident which left her physically impaired and scared to ride. But mostly, she had to come to terms with the fact that she did not understand why her horses did not act like partners. This is her third J2S class and to quote: "I have attended many clinics and ridden in many places -- BC, SK, MB, ND, CA -- but I learned to learn in J2S and it has completely changed my horsemanship." She has started to ride again, with savvy, and after almost getting out of horses altogether, is now having a great time with her four equines. Here is fun movie she made of her Haltering with Savvy assignment.
Karen (Nova Scotia) has been a long time Parelli student, but her new partner Java, a young LBE, caused her to seek more regular support. His playful and dominant nature constrasted sharply with her RBI Humanality. Through distance coaching and a dedication to studying the program, Karen has made huge strides with her young horse and they are now having a lot of fun together. Check out her dragging an object project video after I challenged her to teach Java something purposeful and interesting.
"For me, this J2S class has all been about inspiration. I am able to put all the other key words together when I am inspired by watching each of us learn and grow with our equine partners, share BFO's that hit us in the middle of the night, post triumphs, a few set backs and then more triumphs, and all under the excellent guidance of Geneviève who allows us to take this journey exactly as each of us needs to. That's Inspiration!!"
Sandra and Mariya (Melbourne, Ontario) are a mother and daughter team and Sandra has been a Parelli student for many years. She had however never really taken instruction from a Licensed Parelli Instructor, and was having trouble keeping Mariya interested in riding and playing with her pony Ginger. I visited their farm a couple of times in 2015 and Mariya's interest started rising.
In Mariya's words: "When Geneviève came to Ontario last year, I hardly ever played with my pony. I was unmotivated and going backwards. After my first lesson, things changed. I started playing with Ginger at least once a week. After my second and third lessons, I became motivated and confident about riding again."
Both then joined my distance coaching programs, and are now enjoying a lot of great horse time together.
Mariya has started riding again and passed her Level 1 with flying colors last fall (L1++). She is just about ready to submit Level 2 On Line. This video of Sandra and Mariya made the Parelli social media pages and was their take on an assignement which instructed them to do something fun and imaginative with their horses!
Lisa (Rodney, Ontario) has always dreamed of having a great connection with her mare Derby. Her little Appaloosa is 21 years old and has been there and done that, and she is a great, safe, steady riding horse. However, for years, she showed no interest in her human partner and would leave when Lisa showed up. Through lessons and distance coaching, Lisa learned how to motivate Derby to find her and catch her, and then to connect and want to stay. For Lisa, this is a dream come through. Derby will now seek her and catch her from way back in the pasture, leave the herd and the hay to be with her human partner. As a bonus, she is now exhibiting a lot more expressive behavior during their play sessions and offering lots, rather than just being submissive and obedient.
Says Lisa: "Went out to the pasture this afternoon to bring Derby in for our foot picking project and all the horses were down at the bottom of the pasture . I called Derby and she lifted her head and started walking towards me. Then she started trotting and she trotted the whole way up the pasture to me ... at the front of the whole herd!!!! Trotting !!!! TO ME !!!! Derby !!!! How extremely awesome is that???"
Our next instalment of J2S Your Journey to SavvyTM will be revamped this spring and be centered on the 12 Touchstones of horsemanship. For me as an instructor, it has been so much fun watching these students grow and learn throughout the year, even during the winter months where we focus on small but important tasks that to keep improving their feel, timing and balance, and their overall relationships with their horses. By having them study with me consistently for several months, I am able to get to know them, coach and support them through highs and lows, and really see them blossom. There is nothing more rewarding that that for a coach!
Your Journey to SavvyTM is a group distance coaching program spanning four months and run by Geneviève Benoit, Licensed Parelli 3-Star Instructor. Students from all over the world gather to share their journey, celebrate their achievements and support each other. Check out the student video from the first class in 2015!