As this year ends and a new one begins….

Many thoughts ran through my head today while I played with my horses for the last time in 2010. We all had a great time while I checked out where we were with various things. After the final play session I found myself pondering over what lessons I have learned from each of my horses this past year.

With Dove I learned the power of relaxation.
This has been a topic we have been exploring for some time. Dove came to me a bracey, racey pony with picture perfect bad banana posture- the perfect Parelli cartoon of a RBE- yep that was my Dove. This past year we have played with asking her to lower her head down as a first response when she gets tense or worried. We played with this as she stood still, at a walk, then trot, on a circle, on a straight line, while riding, while playing with transitions and even while changing direction. Then we added moving her HQ out and creating a soft bend in her ribs while she moved. What I believe Pat refers to as traveling straight on the circle. When Dove finds relaxation as her first response the possibilities are endless. As this year closes we played with the beginnings of flying lead changes online on a Fig 8. Whoot Whoot! This is HUGE my friends for my little blonde pony was doing this playfully tonight. I mean it, she was having fun versus all tense and bracey. She was flicking her pretty blonde head at me as we played our little game of tag. When I unhaltered her she hung around, lowered her head, exhaled and then offered her version of spanish walk to me! We played with a little left and then right leg pawing the ground as we walked together. Friends there is nothing you can’t do when the horse becomes a part of you! Thank you Pat Parelli ….thank you!

With Spice, I learned the power of my belly button. LOL…. no kidding!
Leave it to Spice to point out the obvious! She is quite direct my little spanish filly. While we played tonight Spice didn’t want to trot let alone canter. Over this past year she & I have been exploring ways to elicit a soft canter depart (minus the head flick) while we play with transitions. Spice came to me with a good dose of LBE in her. Although she can get unconfident and big when worried and use her big shoulders against you, when all is right in the world she hovers between a LBI and a LBE. One minute she’s asking What’s in it for ME? and then the next second she can be a bit playfully naughty. So of course tonight I learned another lesson from Miss Spice. We were ending our session with some Fig 8′s. As I mentioned earlier she wasn’t keen on cantering tonight so I thought why push it. So instead we played with trotting the Fig 8 and speeding up to a fast trot as we changed directions. As I ran through my phases she started buck jumping into a canter as she changed directions. With a 50/50 chance staring at me I decided to reward Spice’s buck jump “try” because frankly she did speed up – from a trot to a canter. The results were hilarious. As soon as I said the word good she stopped immediately and then looked at me…. you know the “where’s my cookie?” look. We repeated this a few times and what I soon learned was that she was responding off of my belly button. My stick never left the ground. As she’d round the cone and I ran backwards, the minute I began to move forward facing her she was buck jumping and changing directions. I played with trying to not bring my life up so much as we changed directions and the results were better but not great yet. I think she plans to play this with me for another 6 sessions until I get it. LOL.

With Cherokee I learned the power of patterns to improve confidence.
When it came time for us to play tonight the sun had gone down and fireworks could be heard in the background. Needless to say my little gelding was quite uptight and looked like the Parelli cartoon of the RBI complete with puckered lips poor guy. I knew he needed time to be quiet but also needed help moving his feet constructively or else he’d explode in a frenzy. So we played with the Fig 8 for almost our entire session. When we tried a little circling he was gone- no connection- lost in his worried mind. So back to our Fig 8 pattern we’d head and soon we could change to a nice falling leaf or backwards S pattern. I ended on a good note and we headed back to his herd. Once back at the hay bar he was relaxed. So we played with another pattern- were we ride point to point up and down the lane. Ah the power of patterns as a place to go mentally, emotionally and physically and relax. Chero has taught me to see the pattern and use it to help him move to a more confident state. And from there we can do amazing things!

Well my friends the New Year is fast approaching. Tonight as midnight rolls around I will be dreaming of all the adventures to come in the New Year and all the lessons my horses still have to teach me!

About Kim

Family owned and operated ranch located in Martinez, CA
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5 Responses to As this year ends and a new one begins….

  1. JMG says:

    As always an insightful and fabulous post. Can you expand on "This past year we have played with asking her to lower her head down as a first response when she gets tense or worried."??
    Looking forward to 2011.

  2. Kristen Eleni Shellenbarger says:

    Yes, agreed…how do you play/ask for a head lowering when tense. I too have a RBE that Im just starting Parelli with. Thx :)

  3. ~kim says:

    Hi Jaime,
    Expanding on "This past year we have played with asking her (Dove) to lower her head down as a first response when she gets tense or worried."

    A little background- Dove came to me very bracey and stiff – nose up, hollow back, holding her breath (and then letting it out with a squeak!)- when I ask her for a transition to a walk, trot or canter, both online and riding. She even ran around with her buddies in turnout in a bad banana posture. So she has habitual bad posture- old habits that I am trying to replace with good habits. Her first response to pressure or if she is anxious is to raise her nose up and hollow her back. So David Lichman and Rachel Jessop have been coaching me on how to teach Dove to relax and find a better posture. We also touched on this in the Fast Track we attended.

    Basically I am ulimately looking for Dove to think of relaxing (lowering her head) as the first response to the stimulus or anxiety versus raising her head first (in tension) and then lowering it (into relaxation). Does this make sense?

    Whether it is to a porcupine game (hand on snap) or a driving game (rhythmical tapping with my stick and string on her back) or a little of both when asking for transitions or even just her first response to a spooky thing…. I want her first response, first thought to be hurry up and relax (or as Pat says hurry up and unlax- I love his little ditties).

    Does this answer your question?

  4. ~kim says:

    Hi Kristen! Sometimes the specifics to "how" to play/ask for a head lowering when tense may be hard to describe or explain because each horse can be so different in the moment.
    So I will give it a good try and if I am not successful then I will point you toward my mentors who are both excellent excellent teachers and both of them do long distance coaching too.
    Rachel Jessop 3 * PP and David Lichman 5 * PP

    OK one example could be: … as not to assume, ;) you would start at the beginning where you may use the friendly game of softly flicking your carrot stick and string. You would first make sure your horse can stand still while you flick your string- that your friendly game is really good. Because the next step can feel very claustrophobic to a horse.

    Then you would add placing your hand on the lead line and if necessary using only 4 ounces of porcupine you ask the head to lower while you are still flicking your string. It feels a bit like rubbing your tummy while patting your head! You will continue the stimulus of string flicking and porcupine until your horse lowers his head just a teesny bit and then you'd reward him by opening your hand fast (the one on the lead line) and stop the string flicking. Better yet if you can reward him for "thinking" of lowering his head you would demonstrate super savvy! :)

    The goal is to help the horse think of relaxing as the first response to a stimulus. This is only one example and the first piece to a progression or sequence. It may take some time depending on your horse but you hope to eventually help him create this relaxation habit and then transfer it to spookier situations.

    To me if feels akin to teaching and using lateral flexion to help them relax. We teach it when they are not afraid and then when they get spooked it becomes a familiar place to go and relax.

    An aside note: when the horse lowers their head below their withers it helps them get off adrenaline. If you have ever been on adrenaline it feels super good to get off of it!

    Please let me know if this helps. This can be hard to sort out on your own. I am fortunate to have monthly lessons with my mentors where I can progress this to higher levels and then to riding.
    cheers ~kim

  5. Parelli Central says:

    Great blog post, Shannon. Happy New Year to you and your family – two and four-legged!

    Petra Christensen
    Parelli 2Star Junior Instructor
    Parelli Central

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