Friday, November 13, 2009

Programs: because horses are like computers

"Horses are like computers: they never do what you want them to, but they always do what you tell them to."
~Pat Parelli (or anonymous: Pat was the first one I heard say it)

Today, I spent the day studying to prepare a program so I can accomplish some of my goals. I really just needed something to focus my sessions. I know that there are a lot of things I want to work toward, but having a program can really help you to organize and chip away at the problems/goals.

So, for those of my possibly nonexistent readers who would like to know how to create a program, I will show you now:

Step 1 (one): Brainstorm. I find that lists are the best things to start with for me. I can list goals I have, dreams I have, problems I want fixed, etc. The lists that are in straight stacks are nice, but it may help to put them all over on a big sheet of newsprint. The purpose of brainstorming is to discover just how much you really want from your relationship with your horse, as well as to have a nice pool of problems to pick from. Be bold: if it is in your mind, put it down. You can edit later. If you think it would be cool to ride you horse through a ring of fire, I better see it on your initial brainstorm--personally, I have long hair, and it would SO get singed. The brainstorm should look like a swirling vortex of goals, fears, dreams, and nightmares about the relationship between you and your horse. I always feel like there is so much on my mind, that the big newsprint papers are necessary, but I suppose that if you had to, a normal sheet of paper would be fine.

Step 2 (two): Break It Down. Before you begin studying and researching, look at the list--or swirling vortex--and, on a separate surface, break each issue down into what you feel are the ingredients to the item. For example, if you have written down "Get rid of that ugly expression my horse has on his or her face when I ask my horse to run with me" I might say that one of the ingredients that create this problem is how much/little your horse is drawn to you. This secondary list is helpful to develop problem solving within your own reasoning. As you learn more about horses and commit more to memory, all of that problem solving will become integrated into a repertoire that you can access within yourself anytime. It might be interesting to go back to this list after researching and seeing how many ingredients are in common.

Step 3 (three): Research It. Tackle you original list and cut out what you want to save for later. If you have "the ring of FIRE!" next to "nicer expression when running beside me" you would decide to put "the ring of FIRE!" on the back burner, for sure. Now, go to your personal library of horse learning material and see what you can find about what is on your lists (you should study things related to both lists to maximize your success). If you get a feeling that there is not much there to find, move on to the internet, the public library, or your friends' personal libraries. You should have an idea of some natural horsemen and horsewomen that you like. Look into buying their books or products, but also, see what is available online. I will warn you, though: in case you did not know, the internet is full of psychos! This means that some of the things you find there will be far from awesome and miles from natural. Actually, a good start if you are really green to natural horsemanship, is to Google it and see what turns up. There are all kinds of different programs to check out. If you have good judgment of intellectual value, the world is full of the right answers--they are just not as abundant and often not as cheap as the wrong answers.

Step 4 (four): Conceptualize. At this point in the game, I take the notes I have from studying and researching and make a concept web for each goal, issue, dream, etc. This helps me further organize and make important connections to what I have learned about what was on my edited list. I am back on a giant sheet of newsprint, as webs can get hard to read on tiny sheets of 8x10's. Something else might work better for you, but the idea is that before you go to a schedule builder, you connect the research to your brainstorm.

Step 5 (five): Use Concept Map to Navigate Self to Success. Break the item down into its ingredients, if there are any. The key to success is to set everything up for success, so start with Day One being successful if you accomplish small goals. If my horse was impossible to catch when she was out in the back pasture, Day One would not be "catch mare in back pasture." That is the path which leads to tears. Day One would be "sit in small paddock for one hour with mare." Do you see how this would work towards being able to catch her in a big space? Now she knows that you don't just come and get her and work and put her back. You would progress to sitting out in the back pasture for X amount of time, throw in some giving her treats during one of these quiet times somewhere in there. Just make sure you have progression in the original plan, but know that you can deviate if, as you evaluate each session, you think more or less time needs to be spent on something. On the other hand, some things may be so basic, that you cannot really break them down too much, or it is just something that needs to be introduced to your horse for the first time and you know the ingredients are strong. Simple. Start the new pattern up so that it is small, slow, and very clear. Each session will work toward the complex pattern that you want in the end, and the horse will begin to understand it better. For something like picking up the feet, you would progress to the horse holding up the hoof when you snap your fingers near the hoof, but start with just having success when your horse shifts his weight and cocks his leg. As you write these schedules down think about how much progress you think that you and your horse are capable of per session; that should tell you how many sessions you need. I myself hover around 5 to 10.
Step 6 (six): Beautify It! I am an artist, and I am possibly--but not likely--OCD about recording everything neatly, so I like to have an attractive final draft. I just use plain old Microsoft Word and hit print!

+ You might find it helpful to create some kind of evaluation at any point before you begin creating your regimen. These are especially helpful for knowing what your horse's learning capabilities are regarding a certain item that you have not addressed in eons, such as handling the tongue without a big scene.
+ Many smaller goals do not need entire sessions spent on them, such as the tongue handling example. Rather, they can be integrated into every session as a less than five minute sub-session. On the other hand, some items will be main focuses and you want them to be given the proper amount of dedication. Make sure that the days you choose to have a session on one of these main squeezes, you have enough time to give the horse and yourself a good education.
+ Too many goals at once can make it difficult to make progress. Try to set up your program so that you tackle a few things at a time then move on to the next program. If you create multiple programs, think about making the goals in each compliment each other.
+ Don't forget to review old things. Programs help us to teach and explore new ideas, but they can also help you recycle and advance. Each program should have an equal amount of learned patterns, ideas, etc. that you are simply advancing on. If you can ground drive your horse very well, now, maybe you will advance to driving a cart. Or perhaps your horse will stay by your side online, but you want to advance that behavior to liberty.
+ Never cut out down time from a program. I recommend that you set goals to have X amount of time devoted to down time each week or each month, depending on your lifestyle. This is good for horses of all breeds and personalities. Take a book and a carrot and sit out in the pasture or outside your horse's stall and be with them. If your horse likes to hang out with you during this time, learn some massages or just rub your horse. At first, your horse may ignore you, and you might feel like it's a waste of precious time, but if you keep at it, you will begin to see better results in everything you do with your horse.

So, with that said, I hope that someone out there, a someone who, like me, is an avid student of the horse, can make sense of this and try it. For now, I am just happy that my one active student can access this and use it!

1 comment:

  1. Hi!

    What an interesting post. I am just about to spend some time refocusing and getting clear on my horsemanship goals, so I will come back and have a look at this.



About Me

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I am a young horsewoman with a million things on my mind. I have been a student of the horse all my life. As a little girl, I had a desire to understand horses on deeper levels. I believed that there was no such thing as a bad horse, and I believed that all horses were beautiful. One might say that I was a naive child, but I guess I don't have an excuse anymore, because I still believe all of that, and Parelli Natural Horsemanship is helping expand on this perspective.

What We Are Currently Playing With

  • Moving Close Circles at Liberty
  • Soft, Balanced Canter on 45' Line
  • Zone 5 Driving