A friend of mine who is an experienced rider and all round horse lover mentioned that she was very interested in learning more about Parelli after seeing the Master Classes and Celebrations on Horse&Country TV and asked if i could give her a lesson with one of my horses.
YES! Of course!
Not only did a relish the opportunity to talk all thing natural hormanship and psychology with someone (because i am a nerd like that!) But its always such good fun and very educational for me also, as i never get the opportunity to observe my horses being played with because i am the only Parelli Student (that i know of) in Hereford. Its very insightful to be able to take a step back from the situation and obseve my horses from another perspective and also, because everyone is different, its also very insightful to see how they react and respond to someone elses energy, body language etc.
We worked our way through the first 3 of the 7 games, talked about horseinality in its very basic form by learning how to identify an unconfident Right Brained horse and how to identify a condifent Left Brain horse, we also learnt about the 5 zones of a horse and how to apply pressure in phases.
Starting with Game 1; Friendly. We developed an understanding of what counts as the friendly game, we developed technique, learnt about the two purposes to the game; confidence and relationship building. We learnt how read the horse and recognise whether they were confident or unconfident and then we learnt how to best respond to the situation. We also discussed how Left Brain confident horses find the friendly game pretty easy because they're already confident compared to Right Brained un confident horses.
We observed Piggles gaining confidence by paying attention to when he; licked his lips, blinked, lowered his head, relaxed in his face and body, when he was able to look directly at Sammi, and when he tried to eat.
We observed when he lost confidence by paying attention to when he; became tense in his face, he stopped blinking and went all 'starry eyed', he braced his neck and his head came up a little bit, when he could nt look directly at Sammi and tried to 'leave'.
Once horse and student were confident and happy then we wokred our was through playing friendly came in all 5 zones. Cudos to Sammi, she did great considering how difficult it is to control the bloomin' 4ft stick and 4ft string as it is without throwing a pony into the mix and having to aim for the right zone!
We moved on to Game 2; Procupine. We developed an understanding of what the purpose of the game was, technique and how to respond appropriately to the horses response. We talked about how horses communicate with one another using rhythmical and steady pressure in order to get each other to move their feet and that the porcupine game uses steady pressure to move the horse around. We incorporated horseinality and discussed how Left Brain horses find this harder, because they're are often dominante so dont want you moving their feet, we also experienced first hand how Left Brain horses find it easier to yield their zone 4 (hindquaters) because it means they're bringing their front end towards you which is the part of their body they push into your space to move you around with, compared to how easy it is to move their forequaters over. Being a Left Brain horse Piggles demonstared this perfectly for Sammi.
We also remembered to impliemt what we had learnt during the friendly game inregards to reading the horse so as we could identify if he was confident or unconfident, that way we knew what to do to get the message from the brain down to the feet, whether it be increase our phases, maintain the pressure or retreat.
Being an enthusiastic bubbly Left Brain Extrovert and Piggles an Introvert we noticed that despite playing friendly gameand rubbing on him before Sammi tried to porcuppine his forquaters over Piggles looked quite tense and soon kept moving away before she was even able to touch him. I asked Sammi to quite and take a big exhale, bring her energy way way down and just relax, now walk backwards and draw him into her, keep walking backwards untill he comes in to her, when he does stop, stand in neutral and just relax with him, rub on his face quietly and then we'll start again.
Sammi follwed my instruction perfectly and by bringing her energy down to the same level as Piggles and retreating Piggles was able to relax and Sammi was then able to porcupine Piggles zones easy peasy. Great Job!
As Sammi continued to practice her porcupine techinique we observed Piggles lower his head and let out 3 BIG yawns after which he sneezed and licked his lips and chewed for about 30 seconds. I asked Sammi to stop, return to friendly and observe this behaviour, pointing out that these were all signs of Piggles relasing emotional tension and over coming a mental brace which he would have built up when her energy was too high, now that she had lowered it and retreated Piggles was able to release all of his tension and then pay attention to what it was she was asking which is why her porcupine game got so much better. I also asked her return to friendly because i didnt want to interfier with this release of tension by asking him to do something else. Wait, let him lick and chew, then continue. It was a brilliant example of how important it is when working with Introverts to just be paitent, wait and do nothing, because thats just what they need. Nothing means nothing to these horses.
Soon enough Sammi was even able to porcupine Piggles zone 3 over and the forequater yields were looking much better. We decided to end this game here, even though it didnt look perfect. I explained that if you keep teaching and teaching the same thing in one go trying to perfect it then the horse ends up looseing confidence or begins to resent and hate the task that you are doing. Either way, it can have a negative effect on your relationship.
Finaly we moved onto Game 3; Driving Game. We pretty much followed the same pattern as when learning the previous 2 games. Discussed purpose, technique, phases and horseinality. Sammi and Piggles did a really great job and after about 20 minuets we decided to have some fun with all the stuff we had learnt by incorporating some obstacles and jumbling up all the games.
I got out of their way and shouted out random games, random zones and a random obstacles and it was Sammi's job to use her savvy and imagination to incorporate all 3 things that i had said.
"Game 2. Zone 4. The Cone" I shouted. Sammi's face was a mixture of confusion and "your mad!" lol so i threw her a couple of suggections that i would do and things became a bit more clearer. There are no limits on creativity when it comes to our horsemanship! Sammi did a great job of yieling Piggles hindquaters over towards the cone. She lined him up (setting themselves up for sucess) with the objective of yielding so as he touched the cone. Piggles yielded and they just missed the cone but i pointed out to Sammi that it isnt about the cone! Its about your relationship and communication. Okay you missed the cone but he remained confident when he swung past it- thats friendly game! and it was a squeeze came too becuase he ended up squeezing past it, dont be disapointed, you did a good job! He listened, he tried, he gave you the right answer, and he remained confident, thats the true objective. We tried Game 2 in Zone 2 with the hoola hoop. Piggles and Sammi did the most beautiful forquater yield with the hoola hoop (looks like quiting game 2 when we did was the savvy thing to do!)
Game over! We ended the session there and hung out with Piggles for 5, feeding him tasties out of the hedge then haltered Blaze and Shinobi for a trail ride.
Whilst Sammi chilled out with Blaze me and Shinobi played in the field, preparing him for our trail ride. I spend just a few minuets on the ground, moving his feet round, gaining some respect (he was in LBI Let me eat! mode) Gee, i remember the day when id have to spend an hour playing with him before i could hop on and ride him. We spend a few minuets at the mounting block, getting him to fullfill his responsibilities, wait paitently and stand nicely whilst i mount instead of him throwing his head down to eat. I mounted and we did a few things. It took awhile for him to respond to my phases, but i maintained the light phase (instead of increasing it) and allowed him to think, then he moved his feet and we actaually got some really lovely canter transitions. Everything seemed to be going well so me and Sammi headed off for our ride.
Both horses did a great job. It was a lovely ride in the blazing sun, there wasnt a single cloud in the sky. Shinobi showed both some unconfident intorverted behaviour and your typical LBI taking the mic behaviours so riding him is always interesting becuase its like riding two different horses at once! On a few occasions he plundged his head down to eat but we worked our way through it and as the ride progressed he improved and i could ride him on a very loose rein with no problems. We went for a canter and Shinobi was infront! He transitioned up beautifuly and we cantered off. After about a dozen strides he came back down to a trot and i could see he became concerened with what could lay in front of him, i asked again for the canter and he couldnt, not wouldnt! He had lost alittle bit of confidence in his environment and was going slightly introverted, soon enough the trot became a walk, but i allowed him to slow, knowing that if i said "NO!" and made him go faster it would send him really intorverted and he would stop. I matched his energy and walked in my body, once i felt him relax i asked for the canter again which he gave me, after a few strides he came back down to the trot but that was good enough for me! He tried and gave me a few strides, im not going to push him. The fact he was able to gain enough confidence to canter for a second time was a brillaint result, no matter how many strides it was for.
Over all a very savvy, fun, insighful, enjoyable, sunny horsey day.