Since I have been taking lessons with Jennifer at Iron Star Farm in Aledo, I have slowly become a convert to the training ways of Pat and Linda Parelli. I used to think this was the dumbest horse training method known to man until I started seeing that the real heart was in the relationship. Over the last couple lessons, all the bits and pieces Jennifer has given me have begun to make sense and fall into place.
This weekend the Parelli's were in FT. Worth for part of their 2008 tour. While I agree that their merchandise is extraordinarily expensive, I do also think the quality is very high. I'm salivating over the new Parelli Patterns to give me stuff to practice at home when I can't get out to work. They demonstrated how every exercise is a pattern that builds on an old pattern and works with the personality of the horse.
I experimented with some of my learning on Liberty this evening. Linda has a horse who is very left brained extrovert. He runs and plays and runs and runs and isn't ready to be ridden every time. She joked about him being bipolar, which I often feel with Liberty. He also isn't as touchy feely as her other horse and isn't as eager to hang out with her. This is how Liberty is with me. I feel a standoffishness from him, but a desire to be up close and personal...but only if it's really all about him. I think I do some damage early on when I "made" him "behave" I don't think it's irreversible, but I do think that he is less trusting of me in some ways than he used to be. So, I'm trying to speak his language.
Linda said a couple things today that made me think. She said that horses often become a tool and the relationship gets lost (this is definitely a possibility for me) and that you need to place the relationship first. In my lesson last week, we realized that you couldn't draw him in very easily. Tonight, when I turned him loose to work out the kinks, he turned away from me some, but also was way more willing to turn toward me than in the past. I think that I have lowered my energy and he feels more comfortable standing with me now. While I couldn't draw him in completely at Liberty, once he quit moving he wasn't reactive and trying to run away as usual. I noticed his breathing and sweating a lot, even though we hadn't worked very hard and I started to notice the release of adrenaline and the licking and chewing which indicated thinking.
I then had time to play the first four games with him and we had a great time. He did the friendly game, but still flinches on the first sounds/contact of the string, the porcupine game--better on the right than the left, the yoyo game (he's getting good at this) and the circle game. Tonight was the first night I ever got him to circle without always stopping behind me. Oh, he stopped behind me a few times, but then figured out that if he just kept trotting he would be praised and given many treats. He didn't work too hard and when I left I was feeding supper...since their supper consists of low starch feed and timothy cubes, I figured he was "too" hot.
I noticed that he had a lot of trouble ignoring the horses outside the pen tonight. Especially Toots! He was really working with me and focusing and acting like a left brained introvert until I started moving him a little and then he just exploded into a fireball of energy. Toots was running around and he was running around. They were both highly amusing!