I’ve been using two new-to-me strategies with Rocky lately.
- Play outside the covered arena. I want him to see that we can play anywhere, anytime, even with Things going on around us. That the constant factor in his life is me; I’m Safe, Home, Olleeolleeoxenfree.
- Use the smallest, teensiest movements possible, and then wait. This is difficult and I’m not remembering to do it most of the time, but each play session I am getting better. I noticed at the demo with Maurice Thibault and Susan Nelson that both instructors used larger motions but not faster motions. Maurice had to go to a phase 3 and he didn’t wiggle the rope faster, he just whirled it in a larger circle. It went on the demo horse’s nose and he backed up. With the slower motion, Maurice’s release was immediate, with no momentum to peter out first.
Since the Parelli demo last Saturday, I have added a third:
- Rhythmic motion vs. rhythmic pressure. I am more conscious than ever about my energy. Maurice said something about body energy that I have not heard before, and it’s so good I’m surprised it’s not a Parellism. He talked about rhythmic motion and rhythmic pressure, and as he spoke, he and Susan both demonstrated the difference. Rhythmic motion is what we use with friendly game. Relaxed, not asking the horse to do anything except relax about whatever motion we’re making. Rhythmic pressure is when we get intense and are asking the horse to do something. It make look the same at a cursory glance, but it’s not at all the same, and the difference is in energy and body language.
This is the same concept that Erin has talked to me about, that my biggest challenge is in my energy, that I don’t come out of friendly into intensity — I will wiggle ropes and sticks first but forget to bring my life up first and only use tools if needed, as support. Pat and Linda talk about this a lot, and teach it in Level 1, planting the idea in our heads of the schwiegermutter look.
But Maurice’s rhythmic — ha — word choice really resonated with me. Maybe it’s the French accent? But the pressure vs motion somehow completes the lesson. And now I find myself trying to move an oval of air, about six feet deep and ten feet wide, when I shift into rhythmic pressure, and only then do I use the rope and stick.
All three of these strategies worked well when I implemented Lisa’s suggestion about teaching sideways without a fence, with some adaptation.
Yesterday I made a fence out of plastic chairs and asked Rocky to sideways from one end to the other, where, astonishingly, he would find a cookie on the end chair.
After a few successful sideways games in each direction, I moved the chairs further apart. Sure enough, he started to take 1 step forward in the gap, but I did a slow, sweeping wiggle of the rope and kept my energy forward (I did this by walking toward him in zone 3, not by standing behind the chairs in zone 1). He kept sidewaysing and got to the green chair in the foreground of this photos. He ate his cookie and we did one more time. This time I didn’t have to block forward, and at the far green chair he found a bucket of oat pellets. I released, stroked his neck, and set him free.
When he finished and began to wander around, I joined up with him at liberty and we walked back to his day pen where the rest of his brunch awaited.