Monday, December 13, 2010

Seven keys to success

After trying to be progressive and bringing our game up I ended up with a horse that was pissed off and wouldn't talk to me. I had tried to give comfort, rest, friendly though-out the session and I still haven't figured out what went wrong. I've slowly salvaged the relationship using UDT and some time. We have not played for three days.

As a result, I figure I need to go back to some basics and think about them:
The Seven Keys to Success
Ask Knowingly, To Thoughtfully Turn Intention to Success

That is one of many memonics to remember the seven keys to success. The keys are
  1. Attitude
  2. Knowledge
  3. Tools
  4. Techniques
  5. Time
  6. Imagination
  7. Support
Okay, so what do these seven keys mean to me now, almost 9 months after the start of our journey.

An attitude of FOR the horse and not to the horse is the one I try to cultivate. It is a matter of what you intend to accomplish rather then what you expect should happen. If I intend to play progressively with my horse, do new and interesting things in new and interesting ways it doesn't matter if my horse takes one step or three along the road.
Listening and communication are what is key, taking what the horse suggests and making it a great idea, then making your ideas even better is the way to accomplish leadership through attitude. I'm here to help my horse want to be the partner possible, not to force her into a cave on wheels. It is not about the figure 8, it isn't even about the games, it is about the relationship.
Every step, even the backwards ones, are a positive experience because they give you something to learn, something to try to achieve, and a chance to get better at talking to your horse.

I feel like I have learned so much so far. A few nights ago playing with my friend we talked a lot about Parelli, me going for hours about what the various Parelli ideas mean to me. Today I feel like I am in over my head again. One of my efforts to tread water is this blog post, another I am considering is returning to the "starting out" level on Parelli Connect and seeing what holes I might need to fill. I'm considering purchasing the last levels pack through e-bay as the new Pathways DVD leaves me so many questions. I'm not a visual learner and honestly the tasks and information on Parelli Connect seem based on the old packages.
I'm getting threads of information from many Parelli sources and trying to weave an understanding from each of the various threads.

This one I think is pretty good. I've moved "up" to the 22' rope and really love the rope halters and carrot stick. I have noticed that the 22' rope seems heavy to Cayleigh, and as I play out line or pull it in it creates a lot of "noise". I have several "obstacles" in the arena and have purchased a big green ball that I hope to have some fun with.

"The right attitude, focus, feel, timing, and balance" and "steady and rhythmic pressure, rhythmic motion, comfort, discomfort, phases, and release." All those techniques form a remarkable repertoire to play and communicate with your horse.
The seven games have given me a very good understanding of pressure, comfort, phases and release. It is my efforts to gain feel, timing and balance which require more practice with a willing partner. I seem to continually ask the wrong question at the wrong time of my horse. While my intentions are good this means that as a leader a horse would not choose to follow where I lead. I need to make it natural to go where I ask. Last time we played together Cayleigh did everything I asked and I consider it one of the poorest sessions in a while. She was compliant but not willing. I used the tools in an effort to improve our relationship and ended up with a situation I've had to repair. Perhaps it was as simple as not asking her if she wanted to play?

Time works both for and against you. Often I loose track of all time when playing with my horses. Usually I have 3 hours of fun only to realize that I've only been playing for 45 minutes and I've found a nice place to stop. I need to plan my intentions, so as not to let time get away from me, yet not assume that my expectations can be met in that amount of time.
A plan for the day, but not everything according to plan. I'm not sure I could spend four or five hours playing with my horse on my own, but I know it can be done happily as my first Parelli experience was two eight hour sessions over a weekend.
My time is something I'll have to think about more.

I have never been creative. That's not a negative, just a fact. It does not mean that I cannot work on being more interesting, perhaps stealing all kinds of concepts and ideas from all my Parelli friends. It does mean I have to work very hard at not being direct-line in what I ask my horses to do.
All of which shows up in how and when my horses question me; which is seldom. I work on getting the games more regular, but I always try to do something different in each session. The same games used in a different way each time.

Working with my friend taught me that I need to have more interaction at the barn. I already know I need to have someone give me some feedback on what I am not seeing when I play with my horses, but being able to show my accomplishments would be fun and I know watching someone else do the same thing would show me so much more than I have been getting from a DVD.
I'm still in the process of finding a PP who won't have to take several hours to get here from their home base. I think that is the level of support I most need to help me help myself over my current confusions.


  1. I had a major meltdown after a lesson with a PP. In the lesson I had a huge BFO about Cricket's introversion. When I got home, I fell apart. I emailed my instructor blubbering on and on and on. In return I received a very much need "pattern interupt." Basically I was told this: you have 50/50 shot of getting it right so if you try something and it goes pear-shaped, try the opposite.

    Of course, having screwed up, it takes longer to fix but it can get fixed. I have seven years of screwing up with Cricket and still that little mare gives me another "second" chance.

    The key is the horsenality. If Cayleigh is pulling back because she's scared, adding energy is the wrong approach. If she's running because she's worried, increasing the pressure is the wrong approach.

    Even my self-confident Cricket can get very unconfident in what I'm asking. Especially at those times when I'm making a leap in my savvy. It's not always graceful and she's the one who suffers my learning curve. I need to give her some time to figure out what I want so she can trust that even if she doesn't understand, everything will be okay.

    Something that struck me from a Mark Rashid book: horses cannot separate the way they act from the way they feel. So what do Cayleigh's actions tell you about the way she feels?

  2. Well, I saw a lot of fear, and rest/comfort was making it worse/not better... having just gone through the horseanlity DVD I figured I'd try touch-it whic is usuall a very comfortable thing for us.. it did seem to work for 2-3 touches then back to where we were. Definitely fear, head high, unconfidance and scepticism high. I did ask for a lot....

    Part of the problem is that they are inside for up to 16 hours every day because the barn owner prefers not to do anything in the dark outside.

    I'll let them both into the arena to blow off steam and see where we end up in playing the games.


  3. I'd definately let them blow off some steam. Up for 16 hours? My poor "free range" ponies wouldn't know what to do! They are in a dry lot during the day but it's 24' wide by 200' (1-2 horses per run).

    A fearful horse is at the very beginning of the motivation scale (safety, comfort, food/play). So comfort/discomfort doesn't work. They don't care. My TB was extremely claustrophobic - terrified of trailers. No amount of pressure was going to cause him to load. He'd throw his legs against the trailer; his head - didn't matter. He'd kill himself before he'd get on the trailer. Had to deal with the fear before I could use any sort of pressure/release to teach him it was okay.

  4. Yea, I've been trying to play with them every day. They both have lived outside for most of their lives, so I'm not happy how long they are inside. Yet the barn is otherwise really good care.

    As for the fear, I tried applying RBI techniques and to wait it out but it only seemed to make it worse. Friendly doesn't really turn Cayleigh's crank. In the end she ended up a little fearful of me, where she had always gone for protection before.

    I am not sure what made her afraid. It just slowly grew over the time we played.

  5. There are several instructors that offer video coaching. David Lichman even offers live video coaching (if you have a cell phone with bluetooth headset).
    Maybe something to consider...

    Petra Christensen
    Parelli 2Star Junior Instructor
    Parelli Central

  6. Hey Petra!

    It is a great idea but I don't have a video camera, or even a web cam, to use. I'm trying hard to avoid buying electronic junk too, no matter how "useful" it is going to be.

    Thanks for the idea!