Saturday, October 11, 2008

Using Horses for Transportation

I had an appointment scheduled to play with a Parelli student's horse. I've been playing with him over the past 3-4 months and this was probably our 5th or 6th time together. Today, he turned a corner... big time. Another time where I've had to say out loud, "Man, this shit really works!".

I could tell he was different from the start. Normally, Pat catches him in his stall and he's hesitant. I try to help her understand the Catching Game in these first moments. Today, he thought to walk away from Pat and then changed his mind. He took a few steps, stopped and allowed her to gently halter him. His initial reflex, to walk off, was stunted by his new found pattern of THINKING. I love a thinking horse.

We took him to the grass area and I started with Friendly Game. For the first time, he was completely fine with my stick and string. My jaw dropped. Then we did some driving, some yo-yo, some circle and some falling leaf. He was fine - no excitement or fear. He understand the language and the games and he was - for the first time - showing some confidence! Pat and I were both very impressed. For the first time, I thought the horse would someday be rideable. I'd had my doubts in our previous play sessions.

I quickly decided we needed to make things more interesting and get an obstacle. Pat brought out a rail and I started asking to squeeze over it. Then, I'd ask him to stop with it under his belly. I was doing this all from Z2 and Z3. Then, I moved to Z1 and asked him to yo-yo over it. The entire time, he didn't get excited, worried or fearful. He licked and chewed a LOT and he stayed calm.

It was getting cold and dark so we called it a day. I walked away so satisfied - we'd gotten through to him. He had no reason to trust a human attached to him by a rope a few months ago, now we could actually have a conversation and do some things together.

To add to my moment of glory, I got to her house by horseback. I rode Rain and ponied Z. They hung out in her arena while I played with her horse. When it was time to go, I went to the arena gate and they both saw me and immediately to me from across the arena. Z actually came a little ahead of Rain. I realized Z's draw has gotten much better than 1 year ago.

We worked on transitioning together the whole way there, something I've done very, very little practice on with Rain. It was good for Z to learn to maintain her position as pony-horse during transitions. We cantered some and had a nice ride over. On the ride back, it was cold and getting dark. We found a nice stretch and galloped together for about 1/2 mile. Z kept her spot, Rain kept her speed, I rode fluidly as possible. I was smiling the whole time and my horses were both partnered up with me very nicely. Everyone was holding up their end of the bargain. Rain broke into a nice sweat and I found a place to reward them both with some super green grass left over from our rainy summer.

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