Monday, February 2, 2009

Holding my breath until I turn blue!

A friend of mine has this huge (17 hh!) Thoroughbred gelding that was rescued from Enumclaw two sales ago. He is very sweet but very nervous around new people. I haltered him and led him out to the turnout and spent some time petting him.

After a while, he let out a huge sigh. My friend explained to me that around new people, he holds his breath until he is sure it is going to be okay. He wasn't trying to get away from me. He didn't show the whites of his eyes. He did everything I told him to - but he was holding his breath the whole time.

Anybody ever have a horse that did this? He's an interesting puzzle. We know he was broke at the track but didn't race, probably at 2. He's 5 now. He is generally quiet and low-energy and not reactive but he looks at all new people like they are going to eat him. Once he knows you, he is great. We are rehabbing his feet at present from some very serious cracks so it will be a while before we try to do any serious work with him but the ground work will continue until then.

37 comments:

mlks said...

Does he only hold his breath upon the first meeting with a new person, or is this a response to other types of stress, too?

Latigo Liz said...

Cathy bet if you breathe deeper when you are around him he will release and breathe sooner...just a hunch and something to try.

SunnySD said...

Is he a freezer? Stock still unless you ask him to do something until he takes that breath? Two mares (mother-daughter) that I've handled would do that. Neither would act seriously nervous until they were ready to explode. I've never noticed them holding their breath, but now I wonder....

green_knight said...

Can't recall many to hold their breath completely, but a lot of horses practice a variant of this - they will take shallow breaths (and stop when they are really stressed).

One trick I've learnt with nervous horses is when riding, I will wait for them to take a deep breath before I start the 'working' part. Before that, basically warm-up - long lines, much walking, easy transitions, rising trot, much stretching. When the horse starts taking deep breaths (which can be a sigh, or a snort, or for some horses a couple of coughs), I can start asking for more.

I used to ride one mare who needed to stand until she took a deep breath before you could do anything with her. Of course, she was antsy enough that she didn't just hang out in the middle of the school, but needed to be reminded often and would need to walk off and come back to it, but once she sighed, she was ok. Otherwise, she was, ahem, interesting.

For most well-ridden horses, that moment comes very early in the ride - you get on, you put on a little leg to ask them to stretch over the topline, you get a happy puddle of horsedom - but with reschooling projects, it might take half an hour or longer. Worth waiting for, though.

oregonsunshine said...

He reminds me of Casey when I first got him this fall. I'm interested in some insight into this puzzle as well.

Jocelyn said...

Poor ol pony..
My mare puts up a leg like a stork when she is stressed.

What I love about my horse is that she gives clues to stress and doesn't just go bat shit. Gives me a minute to regroup before she really loses it. Love that...

Drillrider said...

I have experienced the "sigh/snort", but didn't realize they might have been holding their breath.

However, I know when I first started "I" would hold my breath lots of times due to stress or anticipating a blowup.

Now, when they get spooky or sily, I just laugh, use the reins to ask for their attention, diverting their attention back to me and move on.

fernvalley01 said...

Ihave a couple (1/2 brothers) that do a variation of that when confused/stressed they semm to take the attitude "if I don't move I wont do it wrong" they were raised here and not abused so I can't tell you why ,just that when I take a step back and try again I often get that deep sigh and then the do whatever I am asking for quite relaxed. Al that said they quite simply "grew out of it" by about 5 or 6

OldMorgans said...

Yep. My TWH mare is like that. She also gets the glassy stare and just freezes. What Green Knight said. And go slow, give him time to process. Most of the time, you cannot be too slow; but you easily can be too fast. Once he learns that the people handling him are not going to rush him or force him, that slow time will get more speed. But he will likely revert to breath holding when presented with new things. Every time the person can give him the time he needs & wait on him, the more secure he will feel and have less need to hold his breath. Latigo Liz's idea can help too. That does help my mare, sometimes.

Have fun w/him and consider this an opportunity to work on your patience.

sagebeasties.blogspot.com

moosefied said...

Way back, I think it was last summer, Cathy did a post about getting the VLC to stand still and not walk around when mounted. And I remember CutNJump talking about little exercises, turning and stopping, 2 steps forward and stopping, and so on, so he would be ready to stand still any time. And it was said then, like Latigo Liz just said now, that if you take a deep breath and sigh, the horse will copy you and slow down and quiet down. Then, I saw this happen with my own colt when I was trying to get him to keep a foot up when I cleaned it. I praised him and he sighed, and it was like it "Caught" or "clicked."

Then my barn owner told me, once they do that, let them stand and process for a moment. Don't go right on to more of the same. Just let them stand and think. And I found that worked well too.

This long speech doesn't answer Cathy's question, but it goes together with getting horse and human to relax and think. As a lifelong worrier, I do see the benefit in this, slowing down. Once my riding teacher told me too, if you want the trot to get longer and smoother, post more slowly and smoothly.

altofarm said...

I have an Ap gelding who, when we bought him at 3, was extremely back sore and had been ridding with spurs and way too much bit -- to this day, he holds his breath when I get in the saddle. I just sit tight, and ask him for a vertical flexion, and wait until he's breathing again before we move out.

altofarm said...

"ridding" = RIDDEN
it's been a long day...

myhorsefaith said...

Yes- that is Cassie's signature move! She does this hold breath "pretend i'm a statue" thing - especially with strangers. Glassy eye and all.

She also used to not be able to tie for the very same reason. She'd be zoned out, and then "wake up" (no real obvious external trigger) you'd hear this huge breath intake sound, her eyes would pop out, and then she'd freak out, pull on the halter, and panic. I used to have to keep her engaged even while just brushing. She knows very well how to give to pressure, and if she's with it- she does so. But if i see her go to lala land, i have to take action.

Deer Run Stables said...

You are describing a horse exhibiting right brain introverted behavior, as are many of the people responding with stories of their horses. I remember having to grit my teeth and count to ten while reading a blistering post about the Parelli left brain/right brain/introvert/extrovert paradigm over on the Fugly blog last year, so I know that you're familiar with the concept. If you're willing to take a fresh look at it, I'll do a quick overview.

Left brain horses tend to think, rather than react in most circumstances. The VLC sounds like a left brain horse. Right brain horses tend to react before thinking. Spooky horses are generally right brain.

Extroverted horses tend to want to move their feet and have difficulty standing still. Introverted horses tend to freeze or balk, and it can be difficult to get them moving.

Therefore, a right brain introvert is a horse who responds to stress by "going inside" mentally, often freezing in place when frightened. I would predict that this thoroughbred also has trouble making eye contact and resists looking directly at you when you are standing close to him.

When a right brain introvert is "inside", he can perform basic tasks that he already knows, like leading, but any training done while he's in that state won't stick. The owner may often feel like they have to go over and over the same material, and that the horse is stupid and a slow learner. In reality, the horse just wasn't mentally present during the training, like the smart child daydreaming in a schoolroom because they don't want to be there.

Strategies for dealing with a right brain introvert include first being able to identify when he "goes inside". Clues are glazed eyes, rigid mouth, dullness to aids, and breath holding/shallow breathing. This horse apparently cues you that he's coming out of the introverted state by sighing loudly, which is fairly common, as is lip-licking/chewing.

RBI horses appreciate it if, for the first little while at least, you allow them to initiate physical contact before you start petting, haltering, grooming, or whatever you'd planned to do. This means walking up and extending a hand, then not proceeding until they look at you and sniff your hand. The extended amount of time this may take will show the depth of their dislike and distrust, which may be mild or extreme.

When a RBI goes introverted during a training situation in response to too much pressure, you can bring them out of it by stopping, retreating a bit, just sitting or standing next to them without petting or otherwise stimulating them until they snap out of it. You might as well-- if you kept on with the training session, they wouldn't absorb it anyway, so you'd just be wasting your time and further damaging the horse/trainer relationship.

In addition, If you maintain the pressure on an extreme RBI, they explode dangerously. Most horsemen have seen the horse crouching absolutely frozen behind a horse trailer, eyes glazed and absolutely motionless while four guys try to beat and muscle it onto the trailer. They keep on and on, thinking it's just being stubborn, and then out of nowhere the horse explodes into kicking, plunging, scrabbling, falling down, legs flailing.

That horse went inside to momentarily escape what was happening, probably early in the trailer-loading process, but then it "woke up" to find itself being attacked by a bunch of predators working as a pack, and began to fight for its life without heed of damage to itself or others.

Right brain introverts are arguably the most dangerous personality type because clueless owners think their occasional blowups "come out of nowhere"-- they seem calm right before they explode, but they're not; they're introverted-- mentally absent. However, they can be wonderful performance horses-- a properly trained RBI will willingly turn itself over to the rider 100%, because it is desperately looking for a leader that it trusts to understand it and keep it safe.

Hope that helps someone.

Flyin'Horse said...

DeerRunStables, my, you're brave to still be talking about Parelli! LOL I don't completely discount their theories and the right brain introvert idea rings pretty true with my arab mare. Maybe your info will help me understand her better and get better results to boot. Thanks.

Ambivalent Academic said...

While I don't think that this is probably the root cause, has he had a recent chiropractic adjustment?

I started a colt once that did pretty much exactly what you are describing. Didn't act nervous but held his breath (or maybe just did shallow ones) for awhile. I learned pretty quickly NOT to get on until I got that deep breath...so long as I waited until then the rides went fine, but if I rushed then it was well, unpleasant.

Turned out that the colt needed an adjustment to his withers and a few ribs. My saddle fit fine but the people who tried to start him before I did apparently put one on him that didn't fit which caused the misalignment and the perpetual discomfort.

Like I said, it's probably not the root cause of your guy's nervousness but maybe an adjustment could release some tension and discomfort and make him more comfortable.

Deer Run Stables said...

Flyin'Horse:

You're welcome.

There's nothing brave about it. It makes me very sad when I see people being potentially turned away from the easy way (though I use that term advisedly) to reach their goals and dreams with horses.

I assume Fugly knows that I'm a rabid Parelli-ite in my own horse endeavors; I've certainly done nothing to hide it. I hope that if information that I have learned from the Parelli levels program becomes useful to her in helping her friends help their horses, then she'll begin to take a more even-handed approach on the Fugly blog, and stop scaring the more impressionable among her readers away from a resource that can help them.

Or, alternately, maybe I'll become the target of an internet witch hunt. That would be good, too-- god knows I could use the free publicity to sell some horses.

Jesse said...

@Deer Run Stables:

The whole horsenalities thing annoys me, because it tries to sound scientific but isn't. There is no evidence that the right side of the brain controls one thing in horses and the left side controls another. (It was proved long ago that it doesn't hold true for people either.)

I wish they had done something more like the myers-briggs personality thing for humans. Which makes no claim about where in the body/brain the behaviors are coming from, and is also more detailed with dichotomies rather than two.

RussianRoulette said...

A friend of mine has a horse that holds his breath while being ridden. Particularly if you are asking something of him (not just sitting like a lump..) To the best of our knowledge he has never been beaten. He's 13 and we know his history for the last 10 years and he was owned by a very kind woman. We aren't sure why he does it but he eventually has to breathe and you can hear a huge sigh and then sometimes he'll take a deep breath and continue to hold it. Walk, trot, canter. She's been working on getting him used to it when she asks him to work but he seems to think that something is going to happen to him and his reaction is to not breathe. Aside from that he does everything that is asked of him.

Deer Run Stables said...

Why does it matter where in the horse's brain a behavior pattern originates? I could call horses who inherently react before thinking 'Skrigs', and horses who inherently think before reacting 'Petulas', and it wouldn't change my approach to dealing with them one iota. It would just make it more difficult to explain to people what I meant.

I daresay the names were chosen because a much larger percentage of the population will have an intuitive understanding of the subject matter being discussed if you say to them, "left brain/right brain", than if you say "ESTJ/INFP".

I don't really understand your complaint, I guess. You say that it might be a helpful idea for you and others if it were a sort of Myers-Briggs test for horses. I respond: well, *yeah*, that's what it *is*. You fill out a chart with your horse's common behavior patterns and peccadilloes, and then the resulting scattershot of dots (which tends to cluster in a quadrant on the vast majority of horses) gives you an idea of his underlying tendencies, and whether they are mild, moderate, or extreme.

You then use this new-found knowledge of your horse to tailor your response, both to behavior that you don't want, and behavior that you do. Example: the best reward you can give a right brain introvert for a job well done is a moment of quiet time, with absolutely no pressure or fuss. The best reward you could give a left brain introvert is a carrot. Just ask my horse, Tucker. (Well, okay. Actually, he'd tell you the best reward would be a whole BASKETFUL of carrots, but I digress...)

Anyway, if you can think of a way to apply the perceiving and lifestyle dichotomies of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator to horses, and do so in a way that's realistic for most horse owners of reasonable intelligence and education level to implement, then you should definitely do so, and either write the Parellis about your idea or market your own plan to get the concept in front of people.

On the other hand, if you're saying that you think it's a silly, irritating idea because the two dichotomies are called right brain/left brain and introvert/extrovert, but it would be a useful and interesting idea if they were called feeling/thinking and introvert/extrovert, then... well, I think we'll just have to agree to disagree. Because, personally, I don't care what they're called, when the concept works so well and is so helpful to me.

Josie said...

My Nique didn't hold her breath (or at least it wasn't obvious) but she "left the building". Stock-still, staring, unresponsive, a million miles away. With a pointy chin! Poor girl. I was so happy I cried the first time she let her nose wiggle in response to being scratched.

Even later when I was training her to be ridden, the trainer suggested putting my finger in the side of her mouth periodically to break the "clench". I still do that. It's like she doesn't realize and can't just relax herself, but she really appreciates it when I remind her! I am much the same -- if I get busy on a stressful work project, I have to do jaw exercises and neck stretches or I'll just seize up without even realizing it!

mugwump said...

I got behind, so I'm commenting on two at once....
So what's my learning style?
Ironically, I do best if I can see it, not hear itor read it. I visualize over and over, then try the maneuver on the ground, in my head. I imagine how it should feel.
Then I try it on the horse. Once I have success I analyze again, visualize again and try it again.
Then I'm able to verbalize it, only then.
If I'm trying something from a book I DO have to print it out and once again, try it out on the ground, in my mind. I know I look like a wacked out lone arobics queen, but hey.

On the hold your breath guy, I have had new horses come in who did this. I was always grateful to have a cue to work from.
I would think he will quit once he has one owner he can trust. Until then he's falling back on being very careful in new situations. Not a bad thing in my mind....

mugwump said...

Oh-and as far as my exciting horses go, I don't write about the quiet, boring ones, I just appreciate them!

Maddywithay said...

On the parelli thing...

I am neither completely for or against parelli...

BUT I have used some techniques, and they have worked... and neither of my horses have been ruined by it.

I have also, however, seen my fair share of "parrelli-ites" who are absolutely bonkers and their horses have awful manners...

On a side note, I think that before people completely discredit a training style such as parelli they should maybe try it alittle themselves? And maybe instead of devoting yourself completely to one side you should just take the parts that work for you, and disregard the ones that dont.


I am a mixture of everything... I use some parelli, and some roberts, and any other technique i pick up that works for me

fuglyhorseoftheday said...

There are some valuable concepts in Parelli. I object to the packaging, the "you can train your own horse just by buying our shit" mentality and some of the concepts like all the lead rope shaking. But Deer Run, I think you have the right attitude about it and I applaud your ability to argue your points in a sensible manner - that makes me respect you as simply someone who has a little different approach than I do, rather than a snake oil sales(wo)man.

>>I was so happy I cried the first time she let her nose wiggle in response to being scratched.<<

I farmsat this week for a TB farm. Their longtime mares are SUPER snuggly but they'd just gotten two from Keeneland in January that weren't quite sure yet. I made it my GOAL to get those lips to wiggle...got it on both of them! The behind the withers scratch did it on one, the groove of the neck on the other. I love that moment when they realize, HEY, I am allowed to have a personality here!

Myhorsefaith - I really appreciate the input. I'm going to post a picture of the pretty boy in the next post. He's a gorgeous animal who is going to be so cool if he gets over his fears. He is only five so I think he can do it!

Jesse said...

>>Why does it matter where in the horse's brain a behavior pattern originates?

Exactly.

I'm not saying that it's bad to have a way to classify groups of behaviors. Call the horse behavior groups carrot, apple, pitchfork, and banana for all I care, but please don't apply old, bad, disproven theories in an attempt to make something sound more scientific.

If it's useful to you, use it. Pseudoscience pisses me off is all.

Deer Run Stables said...

I applaud your ability to argue your points in a sensible manner - that makes me respect you as simply someone who has a little different approach than I do, rather than a snake oil sales(wo)man.

::eyes boxes of snake oil stacked in the back room::

Damn-- *now* what am I gonna do with all this stuff? ;-)

Seriously, though... I've gone from 40lbs of dead weight plodding along at the other end of the reins, interspersed with bouts of balking, rearing, flying backwards or charging sideways to get back to the barn, to riding bareback and bridleless in a 3 acre pasture, and having vertical flexion at the touch of a finger in a mild snaffle bit.

This transformation took me about 3 1/2 years and just under $1000. No one forced me to buy $50 halters or $40 ropes (or whatever they charge; I haven't looked lately). I don't own a carrot stick-- I do own two "parsnip sticks" (they're white!) that I made myself from cattle sorting prods for about $8 apiece, and you can bet I learned to tie rope halters and clip snaps on the end of lengths of rope early into the process.

I can't tell you how thankful I am to all the people who've paid for overpriced Parelli stuff, since they've funded the Parellis' abilities to devote time, energy, and resources to packaging the INFORMATION that I want to be able to consume.

The way I see it, the world is full of people who are trying to buy a magic key that will unlock horsemanship without them having to put any actual, y'know, *effort* into it.

They can buy bigger bits, chambons, sidereins, tiedowns, drop nosebands, spurs, special saddle pads, supplements, sedatives, etc, etc, etc, ad nauseum. That's what they did before the natural horsemanship resurgence, remember? It's what many still do.

Or they can buy a carrot stick, and at least there's someone on the other end saying, "Yes, but you have to USE it... and here's how!".

A percentage will ignore that part, and a percentage won't. I wish the percentage that ignored it wouldn't tell people that they were "doing Parelli", but, hey, it's still a more-or-less free country, and I can't stop them.

All I can say is that anyone who *follows the program*-- which is not unreasonably expensive-- will get similar results over 3 years to what I have gotten. But *following the program* is hard. It shows you things about yourself that you don't necessarily want to see. In many cases-- certainly in mine-- it shows you that your horse doesn't particularly like you, or want to be with you, at first. It starts to creep in to how you interact with people, not just horses.

Most people really aren't looking for that kind of commitment. Me-- I love it. I wish I didn't have this pesky "real life" that kept getting in the way. But, unfortunately, the bills need to be paid, the paddocks need to be mucked, and the knees and hip aren't ever going to be any less screwed up than they are right now.

My personal goal in horsemanship is bridleless piaffe inside of five years, and I fully intend to get there. However, it's doubtful that I'm ever going to take the show world by storm, given my age and circumstances.

I'm terribly jealous of the Pretty Young Things that have grown up with this stuff and devoted their lives to it-- they're going to graduate to the broader world of horses in the coming years, and really blow some people away... and I can really hardly wait to see it.

JT said...

Mandywithay said...On a side note, I think that before people completely discredit a training style such as parelli they should maybe try it alittle themselves? And maybe instead of devoting yourself completely to one side you should just take the parts that work for you, and disregard the ones that dont.
-----------------------------------

I agree completely with your statement except the issue I have had is that far too many of the "parelli-ites" I have encountered have been so fanatic that they turn people off from it.
Some of the concepts I have taken and stored in my "to be used in case of emergency" file. However the training principles I have applied throughout the years have worked, and therefore have not needed to use Parelli principles.

Not every training method works for every horse and its great to have a store of various techniques to use. That was something that has lacked in many of the Parelli-ites I have encountered. It's a two way street and I find while many of us are anti-Parelli many Parelli-ites are anti-conventional.

Sorry about my long windedness

Deer Run Stables said...

Not every training method works for every horse and its great to have a store of various techniques to use. That was something that has lacked in many of the Parelli-ites I have encountered. It's a two way street and I find while many of us are anti-Parelli many Parelli-ites are anti-conventional.

This is SUCH an insightful statement, and so, so true. I really hate this "divide" between "natural horsemanship" and "conventional horsemanship", as if it's not all sitting on the same continuum.

I love working with babies, young horses that I've raised, and working with a certain personality type of (problem) horse under saddle (the lazy, balky kind), but I have no interest in (and NO BUSINESS!) hauling my creaky body up on a green-broke-seven-years-ago hot-blooded Arabian broodmare, and to retrain her as a saddle horse.

So, since I now find myself with four of the aforementioned ex-broodies after my business went kablooey, I've cut a deal with a local young woman whose training skills have impressed me-- some money now, and then a hefty percentage of the sale price of each horse that she helps me get sold to a riding home.

This woman is not a Parelli enthusiast. She has no interest in Parelli. I have no interest in trying to convert her to Parelli. Why? Because when I watch her work with horses, 75% of the time, she's doing essentially the same thing that I would do if I had the guts and the physical health to be the one sitting up there on the misbehaving hot-blooded broodmare.

And the other 25%? Well, if I had all the answers, I wouldn't have needed to hire her, now would I?

The point is, she's not doing Parelli... she's doing *horsemanship*. Which looks an awful lot like good Parelli (not I-just-bought-my-Level-One-kit-and-practice-on-alternate-Tuesdays Parelli!). It also looks an awful lot like good dressage basics... and good reining basics... and good ranch horse basics.

Hmm... how interesting.

Char said...

Thank you, DeerRunStables. You are the first "normal" Parelli student that I've ever come into contact with, and that's saying alot, as I'm related to one. :)

I was intrigued when I first was Parelli, and now I take some and I leave some. I have access to, and have studied the first two levels. It's just that sometimes it's easier for me to react in a way that is natural to *me*, rather than always trying to think, "ok, what did parelli say about this again?"

I also find the fact that my horse started to back anytime his leadrope got a sway in it VERY annoying, not to mention that everytime one of the other horses on the farm is told "whoa" or given a cue to stop, they ALWAYS swing thier haunches around to face me.

No. That's not what I said. I said "stop". Not,"Look at me."

Anyways, thank you for being reasonable at the very least, and a gracious ambassador to your chosen training philosophy.

:)

sarcastabitch said...

I used to be very much into Parelli.

Until I realized that most of the concepts are basics that are taught by good horsemanship instructors. The only problem is that usually said instructor doesn't use the same language or precisely the same cues that you're encouraged to use with Parelli.

As many have noted, it's a package for a lot of really good basic concepts. Which is GREAT if you can learn on your own or have access to quality Parelli professionals.

If you don't have access to Parelli professionals, or a good foundation in horsemanship, or a lot of natural ability...I think you're better off sticking with a quality instructor.

Contrary to what Deer Run is implying, not all riding trainers are about gadgetry and shortcuts. That's the implication I resent. My instructors are great at basics, and it is a lot more fitting to my lifestyle/circumstance to call the circle game "lunging".

Lunging, done properly, teaches the same things as the circle game (without that silly passing the rope behind you and having the horse out of sight). Ground driving, done properly IS the "driving game".

Deer Run Stables said...

Thanks, Char-- I'm flattered... I think! ;-)

I'm starting to wonder if I've become a hopeless, crusty old Parelli dinosaur, from back when the training stuff came out on VHS tapes.

Back when I did Level One, one of the tasks was to be able to run forward, and have your horse come with you at a trot, then come to a screeching halt and start walking backwards really fast while your horse politely and calmly backed in a straight line to keep out of your way, then jumped forward, without fuss, into a trot again when you once again started to run forward.

You wouldn't pass the task if at any time your horse was lugging on the end of the lead line, or barging into your personal space, and the task certainly couldn't be completed at all if your horse swung his butt to the outside when you went to "whoa".

In Level Two, it started to become very important that your horse learn the difference (communicated through body language) between commotion that means something (back up! Get off my leg! Circle to the right! or whatever...), and commotion that is to be ignored (here, stand still while I throw this rope over your head... twirl this string above you... open this umbrella... put on this raincoat).

As a Parelli student, if my horse were to start backing up when the lead rope swayed in the wind, or because I'd just slapped at a mosquito on my arm, instead of saying "Oh no! Parelli has taught my horse to back up whenever the lead rope moves!", I would say, "Yo, horse! You're only supposed to back away from swaying lead ropes when I'm focusing intently on you with my body language and asking you to move! Let's practice for a minute or two so you can remember (or learn) the difference. This is what my body language looks like when I don't want you to back away, and now I'm only going to take the pressure (of the swaying rope) off when you stand still and relax. This is what my body language looks like when I want you to move back, and I'm only going to take the pressure off when you take a few steps back. Got it? Good. Maybe we'll practice for a minute or two the next few times I'm with you, so you don't make that mistake again."

The other thing that drives me bonkers is that there are apparently all these "Parelli students" around the country who spend all of their time flapping their ropes all over the place.

FLAPPING THE ROPE IS NOT THE SIGNAL FOR THE HORSE TO MOVE OR DO SOMETHING. FLAPPING THE ROPE IS THE *CONSEQUENCE* IF THE HORSE IGNORES THE SIGNAL TO DO SOMETHING.

If someone has been "doing Parelli" with a horse for six months, and is still flapping the bloody rope around like an imbecile, they are MISSING THE POINT. The point is not to have to shout (body language-wise, by throwing the rope around), but to have the horse paying enough attention to them 90% of the time that they can speak normally and be understood, and later, whisper.

I would be terribly discouraged by all the clueless people running around and proudly proclaiming to the world that they are "doing Parelli", except that there are just as many clueless people "doing dressage" or "doing jumping" that are every bit as cringe-worthy.

Sigh. Anyway, just for you, Char, here's a link to a video of a young woman in France who is doing Parelli (without quotes). I'd say she's high in Level Four, or beginning Level 5. This, for anyone who is curious, is what I want out of my interaction with horses. With any luck, I'll get there during my lifetime. I'm certainly a heck of a lot closer now than I was three years ago!

Video link

Enjoy.

Deer Run Stables said...

Hi, sarcastabitch--

I agree with some of what you're saying, though, interestingly, it was the opportunity to learn more advanced stuff, like lateral work and flying changes and collection, that originally drew me into Parelli. I was trying to learn the things that would let me get out of Training Level Hell through dressage lessons, after well over a decade of regular old garden-variety "riding lessons" (since I was 9 years old).

I could occasionally get the movements (leg yield, lengthening, shoulder-in), but it felt *horrible*. Tense, and like a fight or a struggle against the horse.

A friend that I was starting colts for at the time got hold of the old Level One VHS, and we watched it together one afternoon. In the intro, the "grab your attention" part of the video, there was Michael Wanzenreid, a Level Four student at the time, doing bareback & bridleless piaffe and passage on the Arab stallion Red Sun. Needless to say, I was like, "HOLY CRAP! I want *THAT*! What do I have to do???".

All I can say is, so far, so good. One more level to go! :-)

Anyway, I'll try to respond to something you said:

'Contrary to what Deer Run is implying, not all riding trainers are about gadgetry and shortcuts. That's the implication I resent.'

I went back through my posts to see if I could find what you're responding to, and I think it's this:

'The way I see it, the world is full of people who are trying to buy a magic key that will unlock horsemanship without them having to put any actual, y'know, *effort* into it.

They can buy bigger bits, chambons, sidereins, tiedowns, drop nosebands, spurs, special saddle pads, supplements, sedatives, etc, etc, etc, ad nauseum. That's what they did before the natural horsemanship resurgence, remember? It's what many still do.

Or they can buy a carrot stick, and at least there's someone on the other end saying, "Yes, but you have to USE it... and here's how!".'

If that's what you were responding to, then it's my fault for not being a clearer writer. What I meant was, there are riding students and horse owners who want to get results without having to put effort into changing themselves first. I think that many from the same group who used to try to get those results by going for the bigger bits, nasty devices, etc., are now going for the carrot sticks and savvy strings, instead.

Both approaches appeal to their incorrect idea that there's something external that can magically "fix" their horse, without first having to "fix" themselves by gaining the necessary knowledge and practice.

If, on the other hand, you got that from the general tone of my posts, then I apologise. Admittedly, I'm a bit "down" on a certain kind of cowboy trainer that's fairly common in my area at the moment-- I've been trying to help a friend of mine rehab a horse who was a victim of the "tie 'em down, buck 'em out" school of Midwestern Yahoo Training, and it's depressing, because he's only fit for dog food at the moment, he's so mentally fried.

But as far as implying that all non-Parelli trainers use gadgetry and shortcuts, believe me, if I thought that, I wouldn't have hired a "normal" trainer for my ex-broodies. All I care about is good horsemanship. And you learn good horsemanship from good horseman in all disciplines.

That's why Pat & Linda currently take lessons with classical dressage master Walter A Zettl, and why they've collaborated with David & Karen O'Connor, Karen Rohlf, and Craig Johnson in recent years, among others.

If my "gurus" have such a high opinion of these "normal" trainers and riders, then can I do any less?

sarcastabitch said...

Now, that's where I am in total agreement Deer Run. Some of the people I hold up as my highest role models, heck, idols really, train with the Parellis.

You sound like the kind of person I've encountered who has the most success with Parelli. Lots of background in "traditional" lessons, fairly good read on things like "ears down means kicky!"

I ride with a family now who is BIG into Parelli, for similar reasons. The regular lesson program was getting a bit boring, and they were pushing the horse to much more advanced techniques gently with Parelli methods. Big background in horses and riding, and a fair bit of natural ability.

That's where the current program falls apart for people like me. I am way more "gritty determination" than "natural skill" and I pretty well need eyes on the ground going "NO NOT LIKE THAT!" I painstakingly followed the Level 1 and Level 2 home study with my weanling, and we did quite well with ground work and lead-up to riding. As far as RIDING though, the home study couldn't help. I just didn't have the basics that only hours on a longe line can teach :)

Sorry to sound accusatory, yes, I was responding to that paragraph.

For everyone else, the Parelli people I know in real life are like Deer Run! Not like the message board crazies! It's just too bad that there isn't enough support in my area for the true newbies to do the program well.

Deer Run Stables said...

Sorry to sound accusatory, yes, I was responding to that paragraph.

Not to worry! Internet communication is a tricky and inexact science at the best of times.

For everyone else, the Parelli people I know in real life are like Deer Run! Not like the message board crazies! It's just too bad that there isn't enough support in my area for the true newbies to do the program well.

Aw, thank you. :-)

Yeah, I think that's where the system breaks down at the moment. It's like we were talking about in the learning style post-- the "study-at-home" method just clicks for some people, and not for others.

No doubt about it, riding takes hours of just sitting in the saddle and learning to do it right. There's no substitute for practice and time, whether you're trying to get up the Parelli levels or the dressage tests or into the cutting pen.

See? we're not so different, really. ;-)

sarcastabitch said...

Hopefully people aren't too irritated by this tangent, but there is one Level 1 exercise that I think is really great for relaxing horse and rider.

I'm talking about the one where you hang on and let the horse go at a trot or faster for (I think) 14 minutes without a break. No steering (no reins) and the horse must stay at a trot or better.

The reason I think this is really great is that it is really scary (the first time, depending on the horse) AND one of the best Dressage teachers I've ever had the pleasure to learn from pretty much starts all her riders the same way. She stands in the middle of the arena, sets a rhythm, and the rider just works on position and seat cues. For the better part of half an hour.

My spooky mare was so visibly CHANGED the first time we did this exercise that it was astounding. All of a sudden she started looking for contact, relaxing her jaw...it was like she'd been holding her breath every time I got on, up to that point. Different horse, much more confident rider.

mulerider said...

Based on the way he acts, I think my oldest mule was once owned/trained by someone who I guess was not necessarily abusive, but was at least very forceful. I've owned him for a long time now but he still freezes and tenses up every time you move toward him. Once he convinces himself that you're not going to hurt him or behave aggressively toward him, he relaxes. He may not be physically holding his breath, but he sure is doing it mentally.

Regarding left brain vs right brain, thinking vs reacting and freezing vs fleeing...

Donkeys tend to freeze when startled, as opposed to horses who tend to flee (yes, I know that there are exceptions to every generalization). I was told that this is thought to be related to differences in the environment in which they evolved. Donkeys evolved in the mountains, where fleeing in blind terror could result in diving off a cliff. Horses evolved in open grasslands where the safest response to danger was to flee.

I have found that my mules span the full spectrum. I've got one freezer, one flee-er, and one that jumps and flees about 10-15 feet before spinning and freezing.

Finally, on the subject of natural horsemanship, the author of my favorite book on training, Mike Schaffer, has a blog:

http://thedressageprocess.wordpress.com/

He said this in a recent post:

There’s really nothing very new, special or unique about Natural Horsemanship. It’s just common sense horse handling that’s been around for centuries. Yes, there’s a lot of good information within the modern NH packages and if you have a chance to watch and learn from some of the very good practitioners out there, do it. Just remember NH has very little to do with a stick of particular color, rope halters with special sailor knots, lead ropes with magic powers, green handkerchiefs with logo or whatever else some are trying to sell. It’s the ideas and concepts that are important and they boil down to “acceptance” and “understanding.”