Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Self-Assessment: An Essential Horsemanship Tool

One of the things I ask my student at the end of every class or lesson is "What have you learned today?"  It is a broad open question designed to allow the student to restate some of what they have been experiencing and take it in any direction.  The learning often goes outside the boundaries of techniques or even horsemanship, and verbalizing is a great way to keep the new elements in focus. This is one of the ways to reinforce those new neural pathways that have been established in the brain.

I have been fortunate this summer to spend extensive time with two dedicated Parelli students who also happen to also be my hosts here in Ontario while I search for a new place to live and board my horses.  We have been taking advantage of my time here to discuss horsemanship and do short but very focussed lessons to help them advance their savvy.  The results have been quite dramatic in both the horses and the ability of the humans to establish a stronger connection and relationship with their equine partners.

A great part of what we have been discussing is how to read the horse and the differences between reacting, simply avoiding pressure and responding appropriately to pressure while seeking the answer.  There is a huge difference between getting a horse to do something (Make) and causing him to want to do something willingly and with enthusiasm.  This is what Parelli is all about, it is way more than just techniques or performing the 7 Games despite the horse.  Anyone can do that!  But it takes savvy and skill to get the horse to do it with a positive and willing attitude, acting like a partner and not a prisoner.

I would like to share a great example of this type of learning. Here is what Lisa posted on the Parelli Connect member site as a result of our latest sessions:

Derby and Menina have a great connection!
Getting the same level of acceptance of the human has not been so easy
I've been looking at my horse Derby in a whole new way since I've discovered that rather than being a left-brain introvert like I've thought all these years, she's actually a right-brain introvert. A sometimes subtle but very important difference. Being the introvert that she is, her "right brain" moments are not dramatic, so I've been misreading them as her being left-brained "stubborn". Now that I'm looking at her and approaching her and relating to her as right-brained, we have a whole new relationship and she looks at me in a whole new way. I've also been doing a lot of thinking about the concept of submit and accept when it comes to working and playing with Derby. Now, she is willingly coming to me in the pasture (from quite a distance), accepting me as a leader, as opposed to submitting to my leadership - BIG difference. During a recent lesson with Geneviève Benoit, 3 Star Parelli Professional, my friend Deb and I were talking about what we wanted to do in the lesson. We were thinking about riding and Genevieve asked how Derby was at accepting the bridle. I was just about to say "great", but then I had second thoughts, using my new perspective. She "submits" to being bridled, but does she accept it, willingly. The answer was, unfortunately, no. So now, before I bridle her to ride again, I've started a whole new program designed to ask her to "accept" the bridle - not just submit to it. I feel like I'm starting a whole new journey with Derby. I'm so excited about this new part of my horsemanship journey. I can't wait to see where this new perspective will take us.
So ask yourself next time you go out to play with your horse:  What went well? What have I learned?  How could I be different next time?  And if you are struggling or feel stuck, please do yourself and your horse a favor and seek some help.  Sometimes all it takes is one little push in the right direction to discover a whole new level of understanding and knowledge.

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