Saturday, January 9, 2010

Little Song

I made one friend in my first semester of college (I will call her Molly). Luck so has it that she lives near me and has horses. We talked quite a bit about the horses and I shared stories about my Parelli and natural horsemanship sessions. Toward the end of the semester, she said that she thought Parelli might work for one of her horses, a Lippizan X Arabian, who was flighty and quick to bolt under saddle. I was happy to hear that she was interested because I have never played with this type of horse and I knew that Parelli would indeed work for her horse. The horse's name is Cantata (Pronounced cun-TAH-duh). It means "Little Song."

On this past Tuesday, I went to her house armed with a ball, a tarp, a Parelli rope halter, a 17' line, a 45' line, and a carrot stick. I took my student/friend, who I will call Bridget to watch me and talk with Molly while I played with the horse, so she could explain what I was doing. This was the plan, but I had no idea how it would happen when I got there.

Molly's mom was there and she came out with us. First, we met the other horses, one of which was a foal (Justin) and his nanny (Valley). I hope to go back and play with him some day. While we stood with the baby, we talked some. This family reminds me of the way I was before Parelli. PNH will be really easy for them to move in to. They are on the right track, there horses have a good home. PNH will make sense to them and become second nature quickly. I know there are some people who struggle making the transition from doing things the old way to the natural way. I am excited to see how this changes their relationships with their horses and their outlook on horses.

Back to Cantata, Molly took her out to a round pen, and there, I asked her to take off the halter and let her go. Molly stayed in the round pen with me for the whole thing, but that was ok with me. Her mom stayed out and Bridget talked with her. Later, Bridget said she was surprised at how much Molly's mom understood what was going on inside the pen.

Molly started Cantata to free lounging, and though she was pretty--a beautiful mover--she was far from confident. I was surprised at how quick she was to be friendly before Molly sent her out. Molly's mom said that Molly is the only one Cantata will follow that way, that she really loves Molly. Well, I followed her hindquarters, asking Molly to stick by my side. I told her that the moment she would look at us we would move away. A couple times, I went to the edge to change her direction and Cantata did not even see me until she was almost on top of me. Then, she would dig down and bolt off. Finally, she gave me a look. Molly and I had separated somehow, and Cantata came to me. I did not hear her, but Bridget told me later that Molly's mom was surprised at that. It did not even take too long. Cantata is much friendlier than I expected. It is what makes her dangerous.

I haltered her and put the 45' line on. I let her be a part of it and asked for her to put her head in the halter so she would continue to feel that I was doing this with her, not to her. As we walked off, the line got between her legs and she started off to running around the pen again. I lifted the line so she could feel it on her legs and she would not step on it. My goal was for her to become desensitized to the rope without stepping on it and getting burned, then I would put the thicker line on to play with her so she would stay safe. It took many laps and several changes of directions before she relaxed and came back to us. Molly did a great job ducking and not getting tangled. It was the worst part of the whole thing, but I kept my body calm and the pressure down. I used that time to observe again how once she got going, she became introverted and was just going with a glazed eye. Molly's mom said that she was probably thinking back to when a trainer lounged her a certain way.

With the 17' line on, the first thing I wanted to do was to show her that the carrot stick was not a lounge whip and could be a good thing. So using the principles of relaxation, rhythm, and retreat, I swished it from side to side low, walking away. She became very agitated and I let the entire rope slide. Molly stood by the gate and so I knew would go straight to her, now that I was the most threatening thing in the pen. I asked Molly to take the line and just let Cantata move. Whenever Cantata relaxed, I stopped with the movement. I left the carrot stick at the other side of the pen and approached Cantata at her pace.

Standing on Cantata's left, I played the friendly game, tossing the rope over her back and off of it until it meant nothing. My thought process was that everything means "go" to Cantata, so I want to first make everything mean "relax" before I start asking for forward motion. That is why the carrot stick first had to be used in the friendly game and why the rope first had to mean nothing, or else, I would not be a safe haven to her.

Now that she was confident about the rope being tossed over her back, I asked her to go forward by ever so gently tapping it behind the withers (behind the drive line). It did not take long for her to get that. We headed for the carrot stick and she immediately became unconfident. I let her pause at thresh holds on the way to it and when we arrived to its proximity, as soon as she looked at it, I turned around and left. She was definitely baffled, which is what I hoped. The next time, I wanted her to touch it before we left it, and after that, I stood and ignored her, talking to Molly. Cantata's curiosity came right up and she was nosing it and even moving it around.

I moved on to teaching the yo yo game, and that would be my last task before I could no longer stand the cold. She wanted to come in and it was slow going before she finally made the connection.

Cantata licked and chewed a lot throughout this session, and her eyes blinked a lot after she got over her fear of the line. I can't wait for Molly to start her journey with Cantata. I predict that her innate curiosity will really come out with time. This horse has a lot of trust in people, she just gets afraid, frozen, and explosive. Her life is about to get a lot more safe feeling.

This was the first time I have ever worked with another person's horse in front of them, and it was the first time I have ever played with a right-brained extrovert (aside from Misty at shows). It went great, though. I was only nervous about Molly and her mom for a little before I entered the pen. I did not let myself go inside that pen until I knew my way and knew that those nervous tensions were gone. It was a good feeling to have a clear mind, as well as a big stepping stone for me towards my goal of self-domination and total self control. One thing I did battle with right up until I walked out the door was how to talk about Parelli and what I do without sounding like a total twot--a jerk. It was not until Wednesday, when Molly came over to my farm and played Misty that she was able to reassure me that neither she nor her mom felt that way.

So, this was the first of what I hope to be many play dates with other people's horses, as well as the beginning of a new life for a Little Song.

Natural Horsewoman Out.

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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