November is the month of serious transition from fall to winter here in Minnesota. The trees are bare, the leaves blown away by strong winds; the skies are either steel gray or brilliant blue, the air hangs dry and light, waiting. In the U.S. it's almost Thanksgiving - a time for gathering, connection, and gratitude; a time which all people everywhere celebrate in some way at some time.
I, too, am in transition - getting ready to head to the Parelli Center in Florida for another four weeks of Mastery Program with Pat. (I'll be there, except for Thanksgiving, from November 16 through December 17. By the time you read this, I will just about be there.) While it's a huge job to get ready to go, it will feel good to get underway. Fortunately, while it takes a couple days to "load" me and my stuff on the trailer, it only takes about 10 seconds to load the horses! Malin, my 9 year-old Swedish Warmblood will be going with me.
I'm excited to see what progressive horse development and teaching ideas Pat and Linda have come up with since I was last there earlier this year; I'm eager to watch Linda teach her "Game of Contact" course; I'm looking forward to measuring my own development against their standards, and, not least, I'm looking forward to seeing Parelli friends! Look for occasional updates on my Facebook page. And, please, feel free to email me with questions about anything Parelli or in this newsletter, and I'll choose one to answer (with your permission) in the December issue.
This is also a time of year to pay tribute to mother earth and the life she gives to sustain us all. Our horses are a part of that natural bounty and while they rarely any longer sustain our existence with their hard work hauling, pulling, plowing, carrying, and running, they help sustain us in other ways. Parelli, especially, merges with the intangible sustenance our horses offer and together they provide a full plate of "food" which feeds us - mind, body, and soul.
When you play with the Can You? described below, consider how it challenges you mentally, emotionally, and physically. This - developing ourselves to become horsemen and women and developing horses to become keen partners - is not easy stuff! I'll write another time about the "power of play" which is dramatically present when we keep ourselves and our practice natural, positive, and progressive. In the meantime, enjoy this beautiful time of year when summer's heat has eased and the press of cold winter waits. May you and your horses enjoy each other!
Nita Jo Rush
4-Star Senior Parelli Professional
P.S. - Some of you have commented on the photographs in last month's newsletter. Many were taken by Kimerlee Curyl, of Santa Ynez, California. She and her friend, Shelley Paulson (St. Paul, MN) taught an equine photography clinic here at my place last year. Everyone--horses and humans alike--had a wonderful time! Kimerlee's photographs really capture the beauty, athleticism, and playfulness which enliven horses. You can see more of her work at www.kimerleecuryl.com.
|Can You? |
Can you play the Friendly Game with your reins
without disturbing your horse's gait or direction? Can you do this at all three gaits (walk, trot, canter) without disturbing the cadence of his gait or his straightness (shape)? Last month the Can You? was about following the rail, a basic exercise in developing and assessing you and your horse's ability to uphold his four responsibilities, with a focus on maintaining gait and direction. Now this month, I'm adding a layer of a complexity.
If you're practicing Freestyle riding, whether in L2 or L4
and up, test yourself and your
horse on maintaining your and his responsibilities while playing Friendly Game with the reins. When this goes smoothly, see if you can play the game without disturbing the cadence and tempo of your horse's gait and without disturbing his straightness or shape. Think of cadence or rhythm as a refinement of that second responsibility to maintain gait; think of straightness and shape as refinements of the third responsibility to maintain direction. (Of course, we need to be developing our own, matching responsibilities!)
One of the results of being able to do both of these Can You's well when riding Freestyle is that your horse will demonstrate rhythm, relaxation, and (mental, emotional) contact. This will set you up beautifully for rhythm, relaxation, and contact (mental, emotional, and physical) when you begin riding with concentrated reins as you learn Finesse in L4. Rhythm leads to relaxation and when combined with contact (remember, this is mental and emotional before it is physical) and straightness leads to your horse having more athletic ability, maneuverability, strength, and power!
How to play Friendly Game with the reins while you ride may be your question at this point. You can see many examples of Pat doing this in the various Parelli educational DVDs. Here's one way to start: ride on a casual rein (one hand on the imaginary buckle of your hackamore or snaffle bridle rope reins), lift the rein and slide your other hand down one side of the reins and just take a light but clear hold of the rein and feel for your horse. Release and then do the same on the other side. Keep doing this in a nice, fluid rhythm and quit the Friendly Game when you see that your horse keeps on with his "job". Remember, a light feel doesn't mean keeping your hands open and sloppy; close all fingers around the rein. Remember, too, the goal here is to teach your horse to maintain gait and direction as you do this - if she tips her nose ever so slightly to the side when you feel for her, that's fine, even desirable. If she turns or slows down, correct her.
When you move up to attending to cadence and straightness, you'll want to begin at a walk and concentrate on really feeling your horse's body (ribs, shoulders, hips) and individual feet so you can correct soon enough to prevent him from being "wrong so long he thinks he's right." Pat has always said this; another Parelli-ism which fits this situation is: "Trust your horse to respond, be ready to correct, not one more than the other." When you refine your communication with your horse, as you will when you attend to cadence and straightness or shape, the mistake you correct will be much slighter or smaller than when you are starting out in the first levels.
Your "cool down" period after a vigorous, good play or riding session, for example, is one excellent time to develop increased straightness of direction and body, of practicing perfectly while riding bareback, with one or two Carrot Sticks, playing point to point. Pick a fence post or knot hole or tree, ride toward it guiding with your focus, seat, and legs (supporting with the Carrot Sticks) until your horse points zone 1 right at the spot or, better, touches it with his nose. Release, relax, and reward with a good dose of comfort.
A fun way to measure straightness is to play with this when your horse can make fresh tracks. Pick undisturbed sand or ground in your arena to begin so you can look back on your tracks. It's important to have a visual aid to match how it feels with how it looks until our own feel for straightness/direction, cadence and gait, is well-developed. Soon, many of us will have the perfect set-up for fresh tracks: snow!
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.
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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.