Photo by Margaret Chant and edited by Jessica Metropulos

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Slow and Right...

"Slow and right beats fast and wrong, and slow and right BUILDS fast and right, and NOTHING beats fast and right!" ~Pat Parelli

Over the past few days, I've gained a new appreciation for that Parelli-ism. You see, I've been hitting a new level of incompetence with Crest. It seems to happen more often with him than with my other projects, which is not all-together to shocking, but this particular bout of incompetence has been a bit more extreme, in that I couldn't simply step back and research my way out of it.

To be honest, this all started with my realizing that I'm unconfident enough that I cannot canter on Crest and feel safe, and I feel like that's really holding us back from progressing into L3 freestyle.

It's cause by different things for both of us. For me, it's fear. I've never been hurt cantering on him, but I've had too many near misses and little hits to my confidence that have built up over time, as well as not recognizing fear and plowing my own thresholds. That's an easy enough problem to solve with approach and retreat mentally--but then actually fixing my fear on his back is really hard, especially since it's not a worry about my ABILITY to canter (put me on any other horse and I'll canter standing up, backwards, forwards, you name it, all with confidence), but in my ability to canter ON HIM.

For Crest, it's an emotional issue. He comes unglued really fast and really easily with a rider. You've probably heard me elude to that fact in prior posts. It used to be that he had a hard time controlling his body--he'd get very emotional even cantering online, but after spending the early summer with Farrah, and spending the majority of the fall developing his online to L4, that's not much of an issue anymore. When I get on his back, though, he falls apart. I'm sure I'm not helping. I tend to want to canter, but only a little bit, so to speak. That trust isn't there 100% a lot of the time.

The issue I was faced with was how one builds confidence as a rider, while helping the horse become a less-emotional individual WITH a rider. To me, it seemed like the kind of thing that shouldn't be solved at the same time, but the problem was, I couldn't seem to find another way to do it.

I sent emails to 3 friends of mine who are Parelli professionals, seeking their thoughts and feedback. Two of the three gave me really really good philosophical thoughts to with these thoughts now line the frame on my monitor as I type this. The third came back with "hands-on" information, and this is where "Slow and right" comes in.

We often generalize that extroverts need to move their feet. They are, after-all, extroverts. What I seem to forget, apparently too often, is that confident, Left-Brained horses are not always confident left-brained learners. In fact, in Crest's case, he's not a confident learner at all.

The FIRST thing my friend said in her email was this thought-provoking paragraph:

"You have to make your horse's confidence primary. When you get him calm, confident and trusting, it will be easier for you to trust him. I think that you're not paying enough attention to his emotional state and pushing him over thresholds that you are probably not even aware of. Slow down, make it easier for him. Break things down in to little chunks. And where necessary, get off for HIS confidence - which probably goes before yours. And when I talk about his confidence, it may not be that he's afraid, as in prey animal afraid, but that he's lost confidence in your leadership."

...Naturally. We've been through this before. I think there's a blog entry from early 2008 with nearly the same advice with regard to a different subject.

So for the past week, Crest and I have been taking it SLOWLY. When I say slowly, I mean observing MICROSCOPIC behaviors. I've re-watched some key demos in the Liberty and Horse Behavior pack, and have actually incorporated some things Pat has done with Casper into our liberty play, here, as well as lots of short pattern-oriented rides. Haven't seen any huge effect yet, but again, "slow and right..." We'll get there, it's been a great lesson in dropping the time-line (which I hadn't even realized I had on him!)

Interestingly enough, the effect that this has had on Prin is for the better, too--I think my introvert is feeling a little resentful--"Sure, you'll finally slow down if it's HIM?" ...nah, kidding! But seriously, she's doing really well as a result, too--the giddyup and go that she's got in her draw, flying changes, and circling game are pretty impressive. It's only taken me 7 years and another horse to teach me the lesson, but hey!

So anyway, with that said, I'm off to go play with a couple ponies.

1 comment:

Tina said...

This is an interesting post to me, because I have VERY similar issues with Dixie. Unconfidence and fear on my part in regards to riding out and for her, emotional issues with cantering. I'd love to hear more of the advice you got if you're willing to share!