The magical fourth session

Parelli says to do a pattern or exercise seven sessions in a row. By the fourth session, the horse starts to figure out the pattern or exercise (by which I mean things like needle desensitization or holding his own feet up). The next three sessions allow the horse to start offering things, moving along the pattern of his own accord and even improvising a bit (“how about I sidepass between the cones instead of just trot?”). More than seven sessions in a row turn into drill-and-kill. Fewer than seven sessions doesn’t give the horse enough time to learn and feel successful and confident.

Riley is away on a camping trip so Rocky and Star were a little bit “up” tonight. Oh boy! An opportunity! I started with my now-familiar patterns of slipping through the trees and careening down hills. No reaction. But when I first pulled up next to Rocky to stop, he side-stepped two steps. I tried to drift with him and only stop when he stopped, but sometimes I couldn’t get myself turned sharply enough or pass through a tree like a ghost.

I repeated the process many, many times, until I could pull up next to him on either side without him flinching. Until he could stand quietly and relaxed while I leaned on the bike and stroked his neck. Until he and Star decided that something on the bike must be edible and I had enough of rocking back and forth in an attempt to let them “run into the bike and stop biting it” — a game they really got into, swinging their muzzles in time to the rocking. I backed out from between them and rode more loops, partly to salvage my bike and partly to get the exercise I need.

I also did a little bit of friendly game with the carrot stick from all zones, wheeling the bike next to me. I asked for a draw while straddling the bike and backing up the hill — I got three uncertain steps the first time and five confident steps the third time, so I stopped.

What you do today is for tomorrow. ~ Pat & Linda Parelli

Rocky is feeling so good today! He’s not supposed to trot until tomorrow but I didn’t have the heart to stop him after his roll in the arena. He was alternating between showing off for Lily, whose humans had come to play and ride her, and standing next to me all perked and watching her navigate obstacles for all the world as if he were studying her form and silently critiquing her performance. He even turned and looked at me a few times, the way spectators do, and once nudged my arm and when I turned my head, he turned his head back toward Lily.

Maybe the critique was not so silent.

Happy news: The boots are in! We’ll fit them tomorrow!

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