I’ve been “off” all week — as in off, not as in off work — and have not spent much time with Rocky, nor have I checked the Savvy Club forum three times a day or immersed myself in materials. I even decided at the last minute that I was not in the mood to call into the live session of the teleseminar this morning (if it even was live; I don’t think they specified!) and instead tuned in to a rerun later in the evening.
I have been working like crazy and juggling projects and deadlines and so I turned the volume down when the Parellis were answering questions about the levels program, the professional/instructor program, the new courses, and other business news. I’m interested! But that stuff is so far away from my life right now and the deadline for the client document I was editing was so very, very close. (I made it.) I paused in my editing during the horsemanship questions, tuned in, and took notes.
I am listing these first two out of order, as they were the most important to me.
Q: Elaborate on horses being one innate horsenality. What do I make of a horse showing all four quadrants?
A – Linda: A horse has one core, predominant horsenality: he is either Introvert or Extrovert and Right Brain or Left Brain. On the horsenality chart (PDF), the core horsenality is determined by the checkboxes on the end of each axis. The little dots in the quadrants represent situational behaviors. These reflect disturbances, whether mental, emotional, or physical. They also show the way the horse reacts with you, but maybe not with other people. Horses are very reactive. The situational behaviors will improve by way you handle the horse. (Laughing, she added: Or you will make them worse, depending on how well you read the horse and respond.)
My Response: When I went through the Emotional Fitness mastery manual and saw the horsenality chart without the inner details, just the LB/RB and Introvert/Extrovert, I got a better sense of how to figure out the innate; and that means how he is when he is feeling safe, though he flips exactly opposite when he feels unsafe. When I stopped focusing on each little behavior and just went with my “feel” – what I instinctively sense as his core, versus specific little actions – I felt like I knew his innate horsenality, right there on the line dividing LBI and LBE, and on the line dividing low and medium spirit.
Q: How can I tell if my horse is hitting a threshold or just trying to dominate the situation and saying I don’t want to go there and you can’t make me?
A – Linda: A horse balks either from fear or dominance, but it’s not about the threshold. It’s about trust and how he thinks of you as a leader.
If it’s fear/unconfidence, the best thing to do is to back off. Retreat and reapproach until horse is desensitized about that threshold. He might hit another one two inches later, but if you respect all thresholds, the horse starts to trust you and will have fewer thresholds.
If it’s dominance and you smack him, it’s not going to go well. Retreat and go do something else. Rub him. Do anything to help you to keep the relationship right. Then change course and reapproach. Improve your leadership in other areas and then come back to it. Get a series of small yeses before going to the big one. We do this when trailer loading horses we’ve never seen before.
My Response: I cringed, because I feel like I handled it all wrong and reinforced the threshold rather than demonstrate that he can trust me not to push him through it. Harrumph. Learning sucks.
Here are the rest of the notes…
Q: What do I do when my horses are distracted by the grass and want to eat instead of play with me?
A: Make it a game. Don’t set a rule like “you don’t get to eat for 1 hour!” Online and at liberty you can listen to his gait and when he slows for grass, speed him up or change directions or do something else that’s interesting. When riding, do the same, to make it a game and become more interesting than the grass. Use the grass as a reward. Pat said, “We have to become more disciplined, rather than focusing on disciplining our horses.”
Q: Linda, what are your goals now that you are level 6?
A: I want to do dressage, naturally. I’d like to ride at grand prix level, in line with natural horsemanship and classical dressage. I’m not interested in competing. I did a lot of that in my younger years. At every level, everything I do – and it’s especially evident in Liberty — the more that I understand horsenality, the more appropriate I get, the better my timing is, and the better I am at reading horses. Writing the mastery manuals is helping me dig in, figure out what I know, and how I learned it. Pat said, “It’s like writing your doctoral thesis.”
Q: How do I tell the difference between dominance and unconfidence in the horse?
A – Pat: For horses, dominance is huge factor for survival of the species, for food and water and breeding rights. This is natural for horses. When I talk about herd animals, I start thinking about things like synchronizing emotionally with whole herd, and when I say prey animal I think about the unconfident animal, who knows that the whole world thinks he tastes good. The Seven Games are herd behavior games, to help horses feel like they’re in a herd with us. It only takes two horses to make a herd, and the games are how a horse and human can create that. You have to play with horse that shows up not just that day but from moment to moment. You have to establish your leadership through doing the program, following the patterns. Idle hooves are the Devil’s workshop; you have to keep those feet busy. For horses, it’s all about who controls whose feet. Dominance does not mean aggressive, it means powerful. Personal power. Leadership.
A – Linda: Horses put their ears back when they are unconfident and when they are dominating you. To tell the difference, know the basic horsenality. Right brain is lack of confidence: The horse is trying to escape, is fast and frantic. Left brain is dominance: The horse is casual, doing things slowly, looking out, avoiding what you want him to do, but in kind of a dogged way, not afraid.
Q: [I missed it.]
A: [Missed part of it.] Many horses are ruined by not being progressive enough (whanging around on the trail, doing only freestyle in the arena). Many horses are ruined by being pushed too hard too fast into precision (finesse). Balance is the secret. That’s why there are four savvies.
Q: Pat, what is the most profound thing you have learned from Walter Zettl so far?
A – Pat: [Abridged] Walter is totally aligned with us philosophically. We’ve learned good things from each other, like how ground play fits. We have validation we are on the right track. This master of classical dressage confirms that this foundation we’ve been learning and building and teaching is perfect. We’re building the base of the pyramid, and he’s building the top. Walter is a master at execution, directing step by step, moment by moment. He is a master at the application of the technique of classical dressage. He rides the horse through you. He is the guardian angel of dressage horses, and puts his heart and soul into putting the horse first.
Q: How do you get an LBI to do enough circles on-line to get rhythm, relaxation, and contact?
A – Linda: That’s the hardest thing to do with an LBI! The worst thing you can do is keep hammering on them to do it. If you just up your phases … as you do more, the horse does less, it cycles, and horse is laughing.
First, don’t get hung up on it. If you go “ok, gonna get those circles mastered,” the horse will do exactly the opposite. Think about circles in terms of the patterns, and don’t get too hung up on the circling game.
Second, think about that being a level 3/4 achievement. It doesn’t mean you can’t do circles, but when you start doing them with that kind of quality, that’s high level stuff.
To get the horse to play it like a game, every time he breaks gait, change direction or bring him in and send him again. A good send is how you get a good allow. If the allow breaks, go back to a send.
You can also play a game of tag – tag the spot where the horse WAS. When you tag the dirt, horse sees it’s not at him, and makes a game of getting away. The game from his point of view is to keep you still. The rhythm, relaxation, and contact comes from the mental connection, as they get mentally committed to the circle and not breaking gait. If the horse is looking out of the circle, you are putting on too much pressure or you are too boring. For an LBI, you’re too boring.
Q: What qualities distinguish a level 4 from a 3 student?
A – Pat: What distinguishes the hall of fame baseball player from a professional baseball player? For level 4, I look for the fundamentals of performance. That it won’t be long before they find some specialty to do with their horse, whether in competition or having a job. I also think, would I like to hire that person? That’s level 4. Would I like that person as a high-level student? That’s level 3. At level 4, things become second nature. Nothing fancy, but really good fundamentals, with excellence.