Epic Weekend

I just got home from an Epic Weekend spent having private lessons with my two favorite Parelli Professionals, Ethan Zimmerman and Lorri Roy*!  It feels like the word ‘Epic’ isn’t even a BIG enough word for the weekend we just had… Maybe ‘Legendary’, or ‘Colossal’ or ‘Monumental’ would be better words to describe what happened this weekend!

…But before we get to that, I want to share these adorable photos of my Mom’s newest addition, baby Zorro!

Gorgeous right!?  He is a golden palomino pinto with two blue eyes and four high white socks.


Billy and I made a pit stop at my Mom’s Thursday afternoon and spent the night there before making our way down to Ethan and Lorri’s.

We had a little trailer loading problem crop up on Friday afternoon.  I figured Billy would be reluctant to load after his long, hot trailer ride the day before.  However I was unprepared for the extreme denial he had about the trailer existing at all!  Then I was unprepared for his hard core reluctance to get in!  But I persevered and got him loaded. (and if there was a bit of SHUT THE DOOR going on we won’t discuss that…)  I called Ethan, because by now we were running a bit behind schedule and he assured me that we would help Billy with his trailer loading.  I immediately felt better.

I met up with two of my close horsey friends in Stevensville that had made the trip over for this ‘Epic Weekend’ as well.  They had a trailer full with their three horses and we tootled on over to Ethan and Lorri’s!

There is just something about pulling up to your favorite Parelli Professional’s place, seeing them out in the playground setting up stuff, walking around, getting ready for us to arrive.  Exciting is not the right word… how about Exhilarating.  Or Hair-Raising.  It’s definitely Spine-Tingling!

We pulled our trucks and trailers down into the spaces we were directed to, then hopped out to say our hello’s, get our Welcome hugs and wait for Billy to stop DEMANDING to get out of the trailer and then our first session began.  It ended just a few minutes later when I was standing with a nice quiet, polite Billy at the end of my lead rope.  Phew.

We spent that first evening, snacking on yummy food and talking about our goals for the weekend.  Things that had been giving us trouble, things we were hoping to accomplish.  One of my goals was to ride Billy for real.  To go forward without any issue and maybe even trot!  My BIG goal for the weekend was to go for a trail ride on Billy.  (I said this with much trepidation as I have been told numerous times over the years that Billy was dangerous and that has just stuck in the back of my mind, niggling at me all the time.)  Of course riding Billy at their house and on the trail was completely up to Ethan and Lorri.  If they felt he wasn’t ready then I definitely had a long list of other things we could work on.

The girls shared their goals as well; to be safe on the trail, to get help with some tools that would help then feel safer while riding and on the ground, purity of gait at the walk, trot and canter, maintain gait and direction, and the big one, water crossings.

We all shared fun stories and just spent that time chit chatting.  Ethan and Lorri got a good feel for my two friends and what they knew and we all had a great time.  We went to bed late, of course and I spent some time mentally preparing myself for the idea that Ethan wouldn’t think Billy was ready to ride… then I finally fell asleep.

Day One: Saturday

First things first.  We all needed a little help with our grass grabbing equines, so Ethan taught us the “Don’t Eat Grass Game”.  It was amazing how that little game was such a BIG game changer for us.  Especially for Billy and the chestnut Arab, both which were often running the “Billy Show” or the “Chestnut Arab” show.  I can’t tell you how many times I heard, “Is this the Billy show or the Mindy show right now?”

nograzinggameThis is the “Don’t Eat Grass Game”.  As you can see Billy was thrilled with it at first.  Then over the day he became very patient and it turned into the “Time for Billy to Nap/Wait Patiently” game.

Extreme Friendly game with a blue barrel.  Our horses were to read our body language and know that we weren’t talking to them at that moment…

extremefriendlycollageThe top photo is Ethan explaining the game, the two middle photos is of us whacking that blue barrel with our phase four.  What you can’t see is the bay Arab (I’ll call him B from now on) and the chestnut Arab (I’ll call her C from now on) LOOKING at us and moving all around, worried that it was about them somehow.  Billy moved his feet a little bit, but I’ve played versions of this game with him quite a bit… The bottom photo is B finally understanding the game (C had figured it out as well) and just standing there looking.  Ethan would have us keep it up until both horses could lower their heads and relax, at that moment we would ‘release’ or stop the friendly game.

We played around the playground on the different obstacles…


They have big logs for jumping and big tires for walking through.  There are several bridges, a teeter totter and a bunch of cones, barrels and chunks of log that serve as markers for the precision arena and also work for the weave and figure of eights.  (and later point to point!)

The biggest obstacle for us on the first day was the water crossing.  I was especially excited about this one as Billy has played with this obstacle, at Ethan and Lorri’s, about 2 1/2 years ago, as a 2 year old and I never did get him to walk through it.  He would put his foot in it, but not walk through.  Since then I have had the opportunity to play with water, here at home, so I was very interested to see what he would do with this water crossing!

First it was B’s turn…

BatwatercrossingWait for him to look, the old adage, “nose, neck then maybe the feet”, then ask him to step, then allow him to smell, drink and step his other foot!  Finally take the pressure off so he can feel good about the whole thing.

It was C’s turn next.  She’s been so funny about water.  She would stand with 3 feet in the water and hold one of her hind feet out.  When trail riding she was known to leap across the streams, if possible.  So this was very exciting for her person to play with!

cinwaterAgain, nose neck and maybe the feet!  C kept trying to solve this puzzle by putting her feet on the railroad tie along the edge of the water.  Horses are so smart!  But with a little encouragement she offered to dangle her toe in the water and then… walla!!  All four feet STANDING flat in the water!  And she offered to just stay in there while she had a little treat of green grass.  Talk about exciting!!

Billy was actually a total rock star.  He walked up, tried a few things, then decided that it was actually about the water, so he attempted to just drink it all.  I was laughing at how much he was drinking.  I swear he was thinking if he just drained the obstacle then he would walk through without wetting his feet.  Of course that didn’t happen so he put his fronts in and with just a few approach and retreats, he offered to walk right through!!!  Then he proceeded to walk through each direction many many many times throughout the weekend.

billyandwaterAfter this, we took a short break.  When we came back out Ethan and Lorri had us get our saddles…. oh the excitement!!!  They had a little chit chat with each other, I swear it was to get me sweating a bit… then announced that Billy was more than ready for me to ride!  Whoot whoot!!  Ethan said he didn’t see any dangerous behavior at all, Lorri agreed, with a big smile on her face, and off I went to set up my saddle for the game of “Send Your Horse to the Saddle”!!
saddlinggameWe all saddled up and did our pre-flight checks so we could climb on board!

ridingcollageFirst photo, using my focus to get Billy to go where I’m asking.  Second photo, riding around the play ground!  Third photo, winding down our afternoon of riding…

This is a video of our first trot in the round pen!  Turn up your volume so you can hear Ethan coaching me.  (I often call Billy my elephant because of his tail… it looks exactly like an elephant tail to me!  I mentioned something about his elephant butt when we first arrived and Ethan looked at me, laughed and said he and Lorri call him that too!  So he became my elephant all weekend.)

Day Two: Sunday

Are you ready for the “Monumental” and “Legendary” part of the weekend?

I rode Billy on a trail ride!!

trailridingcollageWe went on a trail that I am very familiar with because I used to hike it with my Andalusian, years ago.  I have never gone quite as far as we did on Sunday though!

We crossed the creek at 5 different crossings and all the crossings looked very different, total we walked across the creek 10 times!  At one of the crossings the water was up to the horses knees and all three handled it like professional trail horses.

At times it was difficult to tell that this was Billy’s first official trial ride!  All that hiking and walking certainly paid off.  If anyone tries to hurry you through the foundational steps of starting a young horse, don’t listen to them.  You do this when you are ready and feel safe.  This weekend was the ultimate pay off for the last four years.  The best part?  I know there are many more trail rides in our future!!  And I have the tools to help keep Billy and myself safe and happy while on the trail.

trailridingcollage(2)During our lunch break Billy ate half of my peanut butter and jelly sandwich!  After the break we rode down the trail some more, crossed the creek a few more times and then turned around to do it all again on the way back to the horse trailers. We encountered people walking their dogs, other riders and cows in a field beside the trail, plus a couple of bridge crossings.  So many wonderful experiences!

The last picture is the end of our trail ride!  We were back at the horse trailers, hot, sweaty and so so happy.

Thank you to Ethan Zimmerman and Lorri Roy* for this Fantastic, Tremendous, Stupendous, Awesome weekend!!!  I simply can NOT wait to go back for more!!

* Please click on their names to go to their website!


  1. Pretty much sounds like the best weekend ever!!! You have to teach me the don’t eat grass game. We have been working on something of the sorts, but I feel like I am getting more and more frustrated!
    Trotting in the round pen looks great! I remember those days :).
    What an awesome trail ride! Wish I could have been there with Estella!

    1. Totally the best weekend ever! I believe I even told someone that this weekend rates right up there with having my babies 😉 I mean it did involve the biggest baby in my life at the moment!! LOL

      It would have been so awesome to have you and Estella there with us! Wouldn’t it be awesome if you and Estella and Billy and I were all in Colorado for a Parelli course sometime?!

      The “Don’t Eat Grass Game” looks like this. Wait for the horse to make the mistake of eating the grass and then you TAG their hiney, or their shoulder because if Estella is as smart as Billy (which we all know she IS!) she will learn to try for the grass while keeping her hiney from you 😉 So, she goes down, grabs the grass, you tag her hiney, then rub, friendly in the spot you tagged. The rubbing is VERY IMPORTANT because if you forget that part of the equation, for some reason they start to grass dive even more than ever! Isn’t that weird? If you are walking and they grass dive, just lock down on the lead rope, don’t allow any to slide through your hands and keep on walking, keeping your focus ahead. If you stop to tag, look back to tag, etc, then you are in essence allowing the grass eating! It’s amazing to me how important the tiniest little things are to the horses. Remember to wait for the mistake BEFORE the tag. If she goes for the grass and you raise your stick and her head comes up then good! Don’t tag unless she eats the grass. Pretty soon Billy would slightly lower his head, I would flick my EYES at him and he would just raise his head, ever so slightly, cock his leg and take a nap 😉 LOL! I was blown away by how much this game raised my leadership points in every single way with Billy. Our porcupine game got better, my draw got better, even something as simple as our haltering got better!

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