Photo by Margaret Chant and edited by Jessica Metropulos

Friday, February 20, 2009

Upholding Responsibilities

Principle #4 of the Eight Parelli Principles is "Horses and Humans have mutual responsibilities." Mutual Responsibilities? Yeah. That. This is broken down even farther into the Eight Responsibilities-four for each horse and human. I had a fascinating session with Crest yesterday, in which our problem was deeply rooted in the Eight Responsibilities. I'll list them below so you know what I'm referring to as I go along here.

1. Act like a partner, not like a predator
2. Develop an independent seat and independent feet
3. Use the Natural power of FOCUS*
4. Think Like a Horse*

*These two responsibilities have been printed by Parelli now in reverse order. In Pat's book, published in 1993, 3 and 4 are reversed. In my course pack, they're in the order they are now.

1. Act like a Partner, not like a prey animal.
2. Don't Change Gait
3. Don't Change Direction
4. Look where you're going.

Refer back to these if you need to at any point while reading this entry :)

So, I decided yesterday to play with Crest. It was gorgeous, 27 and sunny with no wind, and Prin was busying herself with a bucket of hay cubes anyway. We haltered up and I decided to be a kind leader and play with him in his paddock with the other horses. So I set out, and my first error was to set out with no plan, really. Crest is really out of shape, so I had no expectations of him, but my first problem was that I really had NO expectations at all. So after 5 minutes of a session of Crest saying "No" to every suggestion I made, I realized that as his partner, I've done a very poor job of holding him to his responsibilities, both in this session, and in times passed. Okay, I accept that, so WHY? I think probably because he's got an RBE side, I've been babying him and really cherishing the fact that he wants to do anything for me at all. But now this is turning into a pattern, and I need to do a better job of holding him to his responsibilities, but particularly #2.

This makes me sound like a horrible partner in that it sounds like I don't REALLY care how tired or of shape he is. But what I figured out was this. Crest is not asking a question before he slows and breaks gait. He just does it. "I'm tired, I'm stopping." Regardless of how out of shape a horse is, he should not be so tired as to not be able to trot 3 or 4 laps on a 22' line. Or, if he is too tired, he needs to ask me if he can stop/slow. So, with that in mind, I started playing with being more insistent for the trot. I was more intent with my send and kept my energy up more as I allowed. If he went to break gait, I'd check and see if he asked a question.

The first time, he didn't even ask, he trotted 1/2 a lap and came in. Because he came in so quickly and I wasn't anticipating it, I got totally tangled in my rope, felt anger rising, and I totally lost my patience, before realizing that I was being a hypocrite. If I expected him to uphold his responsibilities as a horse, then I sure as heck better uphold my responsibilities as a human. I had totally just plowed through #1 and #2 (Independent feet/Independent seat include having the ability to manager your equipment with savvy) and was getting mad and blaming him for it. As SOON as I realized all this (took about 5 seconds, roughly), I allowed him to come in, played some truly genuine friendly game, adjusted my attitude, and then decided to start over.

The second I sent him out with my new thoughts and attitude in mind, the change was instantaneous. He started trotting more willingly and consistently in a good rhythm, if he got tired, he turned and ear to me and asked before he slowed down. It suddenly became light and fun to trot around online, and I turned it into a traveling circling game, with the goal being "All that we do will be done in the trot." We had a BLAST! He took me over obstacles, and into the 60' round pen, then out of the pen, down through the ditch (I HAVE MY LBE BACK!), and then I settled at the flat spot at the bottom of the hill. That's when the neatest change occurred. Crest trotted a lap, then blew some adrenaline off, which isn't unusual, but then he blew it off again, and this time kept his head stretched down. He trotted 3 laps with his nose on the ground, exhaling and blowing as he went. I was mind boggled, and so I brought him in, gave him a good scratch on his itchy spot, and unhaltered.

The reason that was so huge is that Crest has had lots of trouble learning about longitudinal flexion. He's had lots of biomechanical issues, and so to have him find a rhythm and discover the "Sweet spot" in a downward stretch is great, and really reassuring. Hopefully as he gets back in shape I'll be able to focus on and develop that more, but for now, I'm thrilled he's offering, and will keep playing with upholding our responsibilities.


savvyknight said...

wow that is awesome Fran! I think I can learn something from that!

awesome job!

Randa said...

Wow, sounds like you guys have fun. I'm having the same problem with Brizzee...kinda. When I got her she was 11 years old, and a man had her since she was a foal. He was "heavy handed", and was kicking her to go, pull her to stop, etc. Even when he groomed her, it was like one swip on her back, under belly, and that was it. It was obvious he didn't really care about her at all. When I rode her, I literally thought I was going to die. The stirrups were way too long, it was only the third time I rode, she was really "moving" and wouldn't listen when I pulled back (before Parelli). And at yet, when I got off of her, just somethign about her drew me to her, so we got her. Last spring (2008) I was BEGGING my dad to let me sell her. She was just a handful, and I became terrified of her. I started Parelli with her, but instead of reading "everything" I just read the checklists, DUM. So anyways, we moved last year, and I read EVERYTHING and started playing wit her. Since then it has been fun! It took me a long to get her to the piont where she would do lateral flexion with her head. And it took me a LONG time before I could lower her head, and she still can't keep her head down for very long. When I play the Porcupine & Driving Game with her, she has to move her FQ as well as her HQ, even though I just want her to move her HQ. She thinks she has to move her "whole" body.

I mis read that, and thought it was just a stubborn/dominant thing (She's a LBI) but one day I realized that it was neither, it was rather unconfidence and confused. I've read the pocket guides over and over again (We have the OLD level 1 pack) and I don't think I'm doing anything wrong with my body language, so I think she doesn't know or think she can move only one part of her body.

And we've been having some trouble with the Circling Game also. She used to do really good witht he Circlign Game did 2-4 laps without changing direction, or gait. But lately when I ask her to go out, she gets really tense, and immediately goes out into an unconfident, tense, and fast trot. I try to slow her down and she explodes. And now she's pulling on the lead rope. This time last year she was "worse" then normal, so maybe she just doens't like this time of year...that's what I thoguht before.

But after reading your post, I really thought about it, and I think that last time I did Undemanding time with her was around June maybe August. I have thought "okay, we are progressing, she is starting to trust me more, we can do a lot more things". Well, I was wrong, and I took her for granted. I think she has started pulling on the rope, and going towards the gate because I have become SO direct line and thinking about the task (I wasn't even aware of this while I was playing with her) and not the Relationship. So, I'm going to stop thinking about the "tasks", the "Auditions", and my dreams and just focus on our RELATIONSHIP and spending Undemanding Time with her. Maybe I'll even put the halter on her, take her over to some hay or something, and just rub her, or sit with her while she grazes. I'd like to take her to grass, but she has been foundered, so can't do that.

But THANK YOU so much, and I will be checking your blog often :) THANK YOU,
Savvy On,
~Randa~ & ~Brizzee~
PS. If you have Myspace feel free to "friend me". My address is:

Randa said...

Oh yeah, and before she started pulling on the rope at the Circling Game, she would come really close to me, and when I would go to send her out, she would just move (Sideways), and wouldn't leave me. I petted her, and send her out again. When she didn't go, I moved up my phases until promise. I think she was trying to tell me. "Hey, can't we just hang out like we used to?" And I misread that, thought she was being stubborn and didn't want to do that. Gosh, I sure have a lot to learn still!! THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK!
Savvy On,
~Randa~ & ~Brizzee~

Fran said...


That's really neat, and Brizzee actually sounds a lot like my mare Princess used to be. I too got really goal oriented with her (She put up with me for 3 and a half years before I realized what I was doing!) Go out there and build up that relationship, sensitive LBIs really appreciate it. You'll have a blast, because when they feel like they have reason to be with you, there's nothing they won't do :) Best of luck to ya, keep me posted how it goes!

Katie Hufton said...