We had our third Parelli Savvy Students – Gold Country meetup today, with just Stacy and me able to attend. We each brought our two horses into the covered arena and set up a few toys: poles, cookies on objects, a string of balloons, and a tarp.
We soon fell into a rhythm where we would play with one horse each while the other two horses practiced relaxing while tied. This was harder for Rocky today than usual, as the gusting wind and heavy rain made such a loud tattoo against the Cover-All, and the tarp and other lightweight items kept lifting and even traveling across the sand. (The tarp looked like the black-goo-on-the-pond monster out of a TV special I watched in the ’80s, written by Stephen King.)
He did well, though, relaxing sooner than he used to. We did eventually weight down the tarp and put the other items away so that the horses didn’t have to deal with that additional stimulation.
For Salsa, the trial of standing tied is that he is so itchy. I gave him enough slack to reach his ribs and hips with his teeth, and he managed to lean into the panel and rub his shoulders and hindquarters so hard the entire length of the rail shook.
Rocky is still limited to walkies and I paid attention to make sure I wasn’t overdoing it with the changes of direction or circles. Yet he remained engaged each time it was his turn, and when I asked at the end for a small trot he did it willingly — just enough to show me that the right hind is still sore, so we didn’t even do a full circle to the right.
The recent Savvy Club DVD focused on changes of direction in all four savvies, showing us how each savvy builds up to the next: on-line to liberty to freestyle to finesse. Pat explains that changes of direction coming toward you build a horse’s confidence, while changes of direction going away from you build respect. He demonstrates this with Vanna, driving her in front of him in a falling leaf pattern, then jogging backwards and drawing her toward him. I’ve taken to calling this the rising leaf pattern.
I’ve been doing the rising leaf with Rocky for several days now, on our hand walks, and I have seen how it is building his confidence. Then today I practiced some of the falling leaf, to encourage him to build trust in me as a leader.
Here is a sketch of building respect with change of direction on-line:
Salsa started to learn today that if the carrot stick is still pressuring him while he’s walking, he can switch it off by trotting. He licked and chewed and I persisted longer than I have in the past with him, as his attention span is longer and we are doing more complicated things. He has absolutely no response to clucking and is helping me (finally!) overcome my old habit of nagging with CLUCKCLUCKCLUCKCLUCKCLUCK.. Jan and I will figure out what verbal cues we want to teach him — probably “whoa,” “walk on,” “trot-trot,” and a kissing sound for canter — so we can be consistent.
It was fun to play in the arena together. We slipped easily between chatting and concentrating on our horses and had a nice companionable vibe. The music (Enya’s “The Celts” album) gave me a taste of what it would be like to prepare a savvy spotlight or practice at a Parelli course. Rock and I got our first long session together in weeks, with plenty of rest breaks for him, and I can tell how my body language and use of energy has improved since the last time.