Reno Celebration, Day 1

If today were all. If it were over right now. If the entire Celebration consisted of a day of Savvy Club members in the spotlight and Pat introducing himself to the rescue horse, I would still feel the time, money, and travel were more than worth the investment.

A Savvy Spotlight (click to enlarge):


My cell phone makes it all look very tiny and far away, but it isn’t — the venue is intimate and even if you’re not in the VIP seats you have a great view. Seth brought his professional camera so I’ll be able to post some real photos in the future.

Atwood Ranch yearlings having a nap (click to enlarge):


Pat spent a good amount of time after each spotlight performance giving the person feedback on their strengths and what they can improve on and how. Seeing the different horsenalities, the various ways the people choreographed and adjusted for the horse that showed up, the different people playing in the different levels, and hearing all the feedback taught me so much.

Pat was able to accelerate learning for everyone: the performer with specific feedback, his instructors by showing them how he assesses students and what they can look for, and the audience by giving us an entire day of examples from Savvy Club members at every level and savvy followed by Pat’s analysis.

Volunteers set the stage for each spotlighter (click to enlarge):


Seth and I spent almost two hours at the Atlantis buffet (mmm) talking over what we experienced; I could craft one of those 3,000-word blog posts and still not cover it all. Instead, I will record some of the lessons I learned that have particular meaning for Rocky and me. These aren’t necessarily things that Pat said; some are insights I had while watching people do unrelated things with their horses.


Pushing a horse through a threshold is like shoving him over a cliff: it destroys trust and therefore confidence. I can build trust and confidence by taking Rocky out of our comfort zone on the property and in the neighborhood, with the promise that I will respect every threshold. I will learn to respond appropriately to his thresholds and he will learn to trust that if I’m taking him somewhere, he will be safe. I thought of this while watching most of the spotlight horses have trouble with the gate into the arena (although none of them had a problem with it on the way out!).

Neutral and Circle Game

In teaching us about the purposes of the Circling Game, Pat said we need to be in neutral, relaxed, not moving our feet, and “let the horse act like an idiot if he wants to.” That is part of what Circling Game teaches the horse — that we won’t micromanage him, that he has responsibilities to maintain gait and direction, and that he will have to keep going until he gives us a certain number of good laps. A good lap has rhythm, relaxation, and contact with the human. The number depends on the level:

  • Level 1 = 4 laps
  • Level 2 = 8 laps
  • Level 3 = (Didn’t catch exact number)
  • Level 4 = 40 laps (on a 22-foot line, this is a mile)

And it has to happen in each direction.

I have been one of those Parelli students who fears the Circle Game out of fear that we will cross over into longeing. But nope. Longeing is micromanaged, nagging, not mentally or emotionally connected. Circle Game can have variety – spiral in, spiral out, traveling circles, transitions, etc. He recommended to several of the spotlight performers that more Circle Game would take their relationship and their performance to the next level.

Time to Speed It Up

It hit me (again) that I’ve mostly been doing the patterns at the walk and sometimes trot, due to my own biomechanical problems (foot/ankle/knee injury), my habit, and my former anxiety about higher gaits. Rocky is so mild and calm and yet at the faster gaits his life comes up, and I used to be worried about that — a little scared, unsure of how to work with that energy, much less play with it. But I’m much further along now and I look forward to playing at the higher gaits; it won’t be much longer before he’ll have adjusted enough to the bare feet to canter, and he’s getting boots fitted in June anyway. The spotlighters make it look so effortless, having 1200 pounds zooming around, but it’s a challenge I am ready now to face. Wow.

Expose Rocky (and Myself) to Commotion

The higher levels of spotlight play showed a real ability to connect the horse to the human, so that the horse was not worried about the noise and commotion all around. This goes along with the thresholds: I need to plan for ways to earn Rocky’s attention and confidence no matter what is going on around us. Play days would be a good place to start. Also the front arena. Even the round pen, which we’ve barely gone to, is in an unfamiliar part of the ranch, closer to the road.

I am feeling inspired and even better, confident.

Categories: Events | Tags: , | 1 Comment

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One thought on “Reno Celebration, Day 1

  1. Thanks for the update! I really enjoyed the Harrisburg, PA Celebration and got some similar insights. 🙂

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