I think this morning it really sank in that I have two horses. I, who wasted decades stuck in my belief that only Other People had (deserved?) horses. I, who bought a house in 2003 when I should have bought a horse instead. I. Have. Two. Horses.
Salsa is clearly an LBE, while Rocky is clearly a quadpolar mystery. He’s so evenly distributed in all the horsenality quadrants, and pretty mild to boot, that I still am not sure of his innate horsenality. I do my best to adapt to whatever horsenality he’s showing at the moment, but I’m looking forward to the horsenality report application that Parelli is working on so I can learn how to customize my responses to blend “horsenality of the moment” and “innate horsenality” strategies.
It really hit home for me this week how often I give my horses the wrong responsibilities. I protect my “herd of two” as often as possible, but I have also let Rocky touch noses with other horses, or lay his ears back at them, or even swing his butt toward a lower herd mate while I was haltering Rocky.
I’d been told before (pre-Parelli) “don’t let him do that!” whenever he reached out to another horse, but when I asked “why not?” the answer was “you have to show him who’s boss.” As most of these were people who “showed” their horses who was “boss” by jerking the reins, tying the horse’s mouth closed, or smacking them with sticks in a punishing way versus in a communicative way, I took the explanation to be another example of aggressive or micromanaging methods. I wanted to give Rocky some independence and a feeling like he could make some decisions on his own.
Parelli teaches us to “show him who’s boss” in an entirely different way. We have to act like a horse so that our horses elect us to be their bosses; we don’t impose bossness on them with “mechanics,” “fear,” or “intimidation.” The program gives the horse four responsibilities and the human four responsibilities, and you can trace everything to at least one of those items.
It is my responsibility to think like a horse and that means understanding my role as leader and acting accordingly, which is not the same as micromanagement.
Rocky swung his hindquarters toward Salsa (which put me between his butt and Salsa’s nose) when I had Salsa on-line and Rocky was tied on the high line, and I asked Erin: “Am I supposed to do something here?” and she said “Yes. There should be no dominance games when you are around. If there are, it means you are not the leader.”
So I gave Rocky a long phase 1 driving game and then right when I zipped through 2 and got to 3, his haunch ran into my rope! He pivoted around so fast I felt a breeze, and he lowered his head and gave me both eyes. Then Salsa twitched his ears back and though we haven’t played any game but Friendly yet, I gave him a good schwiegermutter look and he took a step back and gave me both eyes and ears.
I introduced Salsa to the carrot stick today and will start playing the games with him tomorrow, following the sequence the Savvy Times magazine recently laid out: games 1-3, on-line patterns level 1, games 4-7, on-line patterns level 2.
I. Have. Two. Horses.
Horses are like breathing for me. People always ask me, “Isn’t your horse expensive to keep?” but it doesn’t seem expensive at all! It is just NORMAL! I have to buy gas for my car, groceries, and have my horse, it is just another one of life’s expenses. 🙂