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October, 2010
Nita Jo's horses


The fall colors have been bursting forth here in Minnesota as well as in New York's Hudson River Valley where I've just come from teaching. It's a lovely time of year, with sunny days, vibrant sunsets, crisp nights, and soft, lazy, hazy morning fog. The horses certainly seem to love the cooler weather - as do many of us humans. Some of my ponies are already fuzzy with downy new winter coats; others still glisten in the sunshine and shiver a little in the wind. For all things there is a season.

my beautiful horses

The response to last month's newsletter - my first - has been amazing to me. Students whom I haven't seen in years have written to say hello, others have emailed with questions, many have issued warm-hearted thanks for the connection and support, and a few have described surprising, welcome spurts of progress in their leadership and partnership with their horses. I'd like to share with you one such break-through Carol, a dedicated L3/L4 student in Nevada, wrote about:

"Hi Nita Jo,

Just wanted to thank you for this first newsletter you sent me.  I want to say that partly due to hearing about the rule of 3, followed by the encouragement of polite and passive persistence in the proper position I had a huge breakthrough with a very challenging horse I've been trying to play with and trailer train since January. Just yesterday I had an almost miraculous breakthrough with this horse and he is a whole new horse today, walking right in when asked. He had horrible ground manners, but over the past few months the vet, the hoof trimmer, the neighbors all noticed his changes in behavior... except that darn trailer loading!!!  We had trailered him in the past with success but had an incident that really sent us backwards.  I can't believe the difference today, but in my most recent time of frustration and not being able to read when to quit, your newsletter came along. Thank you!"

I can hardly say how gratifying all your emails have been. Teachers of every sort work very hard for little immediate reward. If you are or have ever been a teacher and have heard from a student years later who tells you how much you meant to his or her growth, you know what I mean. So, my thanks to all who wrote, and please keep the comments and questions regarding anything Parelli coming!

Nita Jo Rush  Stay Savvy,

  Nita Jo Rush
  4-Star Senior Parelli Professional
Can You?

Follow the rail at a trot with arms folded? Following the rail (and/or a trail) is the skeleton upon which the other impulsion programs hang. It's a fundamental, critically important element of your horsemanship skill and savvy. If you have the Parelli Patterns, for example, you can easily see how basic this simple pattern is to horse development. It is so important that Pat emphasizes it at all levels and continually evaluates his Mastery Students' ability to do it and teach it to the horses they ride.

If you have no fence to follow, you can follow an imaginary rail from marker to marker, from tree to rock, from point to point.

follow the trail

"Follow the rail or trail" is most important of all to - your horse!  After all, maintaining gait and direction are two of your horse's four responsibilities. Whether you have a young or impulsive horse, or seasoned, steady-eddy, whether extravert or introvert this pattern matters. Horses learn it easily and naturally; they are born followers and love to have a way to go from point A to B which is consistent and offers no surprises.  And we earn their respect, develop their impulsion (and our leadership) when we teach this to them well. (You can consult your Parelli Level 2 and Level 3 Freestyle DVDs for more info on Follow the Rail.)

How To   

As you practice following the rail at a constant gait, you may confront the need to tune up your phases for go and whoa.  A question from Cynthia illuminates this: 

"Hi Nita Jo,
I was watching one of Linda's lessons on a DVD I receive through savvy club. She mentioned that the student "Jason" shouldn't kick or pull up his heals to get his horse to move forward. I have this problem of pulling up my heals to get my sluggish Percheron/Thoroughbred to move forward - he tends to have an uneven rhythm which I would like to equalize...she never said what to do instead! Do you have an answer to this problem?"

Here's my answer to her:follow the rail

Excellent question! :)

Here's a review of the 4 phases for "go":

Phase 1 for "go" is: bring your "life up" - meaning, lift your mid-section and take your belly-button forward and up a little (as if taking off) while you gently squeeze "all 4 cheeks." That means, smile and squeeze your butt muscles a little. Don't make this a huge effort; it should be light.

Phase 2: turn the "smile" into a light squeeze by turning your toes OUT (rather than up), which will put your lower legs into contact with your horse's sides. No exertion or difficult muscle work is required to do this; simply turn your toes out. Practice doing this while just sitting on your horse and standing still. He probably won't move when you "smile" with your cheeks and then turn your toes out (but if he does, that's great!), look at your feet this one practice time to make sure you're turning your toes out and not pushing them down or using the side of your foot to squeeze. Turning toes out takes almost no effort. If you feel you need more of phase 2, push your toes down and the heels of your boots will also come into contact with your horse's sides.

Later when you've got this going well, you'll find that it will often take just a hint of "toes out" to ask for more - a hint which no one watching will notice.

Phase 3: "spank the air" - meaning, swing your mecate or savvy string rhythmically back and forth across your shoulders. Be absolutely certain that you still have phases 1 & 2 "on" while you do this.

Phase 4: "spank the hair" - swing your mecate or savvy string rhythmically back and forth across your horse's butt and gently (at first) tag or spank him. You can increase the energy you put into this if he doesn't move off quickly.

Whenever he moves forward even the slightest bit during this process - phase 1, 2, 3, or 4 - release  your phases and relax into active neutral. That is, don't slump into zero energy, but quit asking for "go" and ride the new gait. It's important to hand over the responsibility for maintaining that gait to your horse: as Pat says"trust that he'll respond, be ready to correct - not one more than the other." This means allow your horse to make the mistake of breaking gait and then correct him fairly and effectively (without allowing him too long to be wrong).

(For more information and video, see your Level 2 Freestyle DVD. Also, be sure you know the phases for "whoa!")

If you have a question for me, please send me an email and I'll again select one to answer in next month's newsletter. Remember, too - the Savvy Club vault is full of answers to a variety of questions from students over the years.

Issue: 2
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October 15-17, 2010
Foxgate Farms, Columbus, Michigan
Level 2/Level 3 Clinic: Building Confidence - Horse & Human and Lessons
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October 23-24, 2010
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November 5, 2010
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November 6-8, 2010
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Refinement Level 3/Level 4 Clinic for those who are ready to dig into Online, Liberty and Freestyle riding in Level 3 to prepare for the challenges of Level 4! Also for Level 3 graduates (self-assessed or official) who want to hone their skills, develop elegance and delve into Finesse.
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