Today was the first teleseminar for gold and silver Savvy Club members. I missed the first 15 minutes due to technical difficulties on my end, but the remaining 45 were packed full of information. I liked the format: they had a host (Neil Pye) who summarized the question and said who it was from (“Diane in California”), and then Pat and Linda would answer it. Pat used a lot of his familiar phrases which made it easier to follow, because we can immediately go “oh yeah love/language/leadership, got it” and focus on the rest of the answer. (Kind of like I use the horsenality abbreviations in these blog posts rather than describe Rocky’s current behavior in detail. See my Parelli reference page for a key.)
I jotted down some things I want to ponder further, perhaps during some undemanding time later this evening. We didn’t swear to a confidentiality agreement and this is nowhere close to a transcript and yet just look at how much good stuff is packed into just my *highlight* notes! I’m even leaving out my notes on herd composition and management, personal space, some of the riding, and some of the elements of the next 5-10 years of the Parelli program and company. Plus I missed the first 15 minutes.
Dominance isn’t aggression
Pat said “Think of some of the most dominant people in the world today. Jesus. Mohammed. Ghandi.” This made me laugh, as I’m not religious, and I wouldn’t have thought of those three as “people in the world today.” He then said “They are all known for being passive.” Not passive-aggressive, but passive … passive resistance, I guess, against things like violence and greed, and also as living examples of their teachings. You can be assertive without being aggressive, and a horse can make a dominance play without being aggressive. He also used a freeway metaphor: If you merge into traffic at the right speed, people let you in and are not upset by it. If you go too slow or too fast, you aren’t matching the energy, you’re probably upsetting other people, and certainly you aren’t in the flow — you don’t have the feel. The key, he said, is that balance of love, language, and leadership.
What if you’re not a natural leader but you love horses, how do you step up to be what your horse needs?
This question intrigued me because among people and dogs, I am a natural leader. As a boss I am good at mentorship and motivation, helping people achieve their potential; good at creating process and plans; not so good at maintaining paperwork. (I can create a good process and document it but I am not good at checking off the milestones – I’m a creator not a maintainer.) Yet with horses I’ve always been hesitant. I want to “do it right” and can get bogged down in study and analysis and get stuck because I’m unsure but need to be “skilled” immediately — yet I can’t develop skill if I don’t try. See Comfort Zones, Stepping Out Of, Stephanie Burns. Heh.
Linda said that it’s common for those of us studying in levels 2 and 3 to have this question, because we’re starting to see what we can do with horses, and we want to do more, and our now-confident horse is saying “why?” Especially left-brain horses, who aren’t looking for leadership the way right-brain horses are. She said also we worry about offending our horses but that if you watch horses with other horses, they don’t get offended. They do get scared, and I know I have scared Rocky sometimes, by accident, in my learning process. I was reassured by her comment that your horse feels your anger or frustration and that’s what makes him afraid, because that means you’re being a predator. I haven’t felt frustration with Rocky (other than some rueful “argh” at his tendency to get hurt or go lame right when I finaly have time and confidence for riding). I have never been angry with him and I can’t even remember when I was last angry or frustrated with myself anywhere near Rocky for “doing it wrong” — not even sure that I’ve been angry with myself in private, about horsemanship, since I started Parelli.
The answer though, about being the leader for your horse, was cool and achievable: follow the program and do the patterns. She says that in following this blueprint your leadership will develop. Pat says leadership is having a plan and knowing what the next step is. Apparently the next mastery manual is all about leadership.
I took this to mean that you just gotta keep having experiences and trying things and your leadership will develop as it needs to, without any special code words or secret handshakes.
Various questions about riding with relaxation, rhythm, and contact
Linda reminded us that we work on our riding every day. Even on days we don’t ride. Always working on something, like pulling armpits (lats) down to our hips, to relax our shoulders and open our chests. She also said you can’t work on everything all at once, but every day, be conscious of what you can improve. One technique was to move any part of your body that feels stiff. Then instead of moving it a lot, move it a little. Then just imagine moving it. “You’ll always achieve a new level of incompetence,” otherwise you’re not progressing.
My horse gets herd bound with the other horses on a group trail ride, whether it’s one other horse or 60. What do I do?
Pat says, this is only one of the biggest perils in life with horses, because they are programmed to be aware of everything, to fly from fear, and to be gregarious (synch with the herd). He acknowledged that humans want to relax and switch off for trail rides but this is when horses need us the most. For the woman who asked the question, he said the answer was leadership: becoming the safe zone for her horse, no matter who else was around. And that the horse is bonding with other horses for that feeling of safety (a common right-brain behavior).
He suggested that as soon as she sets out, start doing transitions. Walk slow, walk fast, walk slow, walk fast. Sideways a few steps each direction. Get the horse concentrating on her. “It’s lots of work to have a relaxing trail ride!” He also suggested playing a yo-yo game with the horse in front. Have that horse stop and back up; give the rider a carrot stick to tap your horse on the chest. Herdbound is all draw, not balanced with drive. When your horse starts to stop and back up in unison, keeping the same distance from the horse ahead, then you have the drive and draw balanced which will help with confidence and leadership.
An RBI rider asked how to gain confidence and be provocative when riding her LBE horse.
Linda said “you can only be as confident as you can be.” And that you must be confident before you can be provocative. She said it’s okay not to attempt provocative while riding until you are so confident you can’t help it, and that the patterns provide enough variety and consistency for even an LBE. Be inspired by what you see from Pat, Linda, other high level people, but be where YOU are when you play with your horse.
Pat talked about having the correct focus, in answer to questions about where to put your weight in a turn. When driving at speed, you look far down the highway. When driving a tractor through an obstacle course, you focus in pretty closely. Do the same when riding, and that will help you stay centered and be where you need to be. Linda said when you want the horse to bend around your leg, you stretch down into the inside stirrup, but you don’t lean in.
Fun stats about auditions
Since January, PNH has receieved more than 1200 auditions. Almost everyone has passed at the level they were trying for, in whatever savvy, and about 20 percent have passed at least one level higher than they expected. They praised the creativity and imagination they are seeing in the auditions, the use of music and obstacles and the priority of the relationship and dignity of the horse overall. I really need to get everything in order: Seth and his good camera, my sister and permission to use songs from her first album, Rocky and his @#$%^! sore feet…. LOL