Well, so much for my keeping you updated while I was touring! It got pretty hectic with literally one day of travel in between clinics, and each night there were dinners with the riders, instructors, and hosts. It really was a great tour and I enjoyed every minute of it, met new people, reconnected with hundreds of dedicated students, and got fired up with all the progress and transformations – in both horses and people! I got home on Thursday night (18th), had Friday morning with my horses and then performed in our one-day seminar on Saturday. So, after riding yesterday morning, I finally needed a break and just watched TV all afternoon like a couch potato!
Now I’m nicely refreshed and ready to tell you all about it. I’d like to give you an overview and share one important lesson from each clinic. Grab a warm cup of something, here we go…
Where I went
Netherlands – Switzerland – Italy – UK.
Ist Stop – Netherlands
I started off in the Netherlands with a 5-day Advanced Masterclass to follow up from the previous 5-days the year before. I actually did write updates on that and you can read all about it in my Netherlands blog. It is so fun working with the same group as the previous year and seeing all the good progress. Of course, it’s the teacher’s job to push it all to the next level, so there’s not much time to show off 😉 We got to play on the ground and riding, and also some liberty with two round corrals made out of plastic tape! Make sure you check out my blog.
Next Stop Switzerland
Then I flew to Switzerland for a special, 3-day custom clinic with the requested subjects of Horsenality – Liberty – Good Riding. At first, I must admit, I wasn’t quite sure how I was going to do this, especially if devoting a day to each, but we did! I was concerned there wouldn’t be enough riding, but we were able to start that on the first day so we got quite a bit in.
We were in the same location I’ve been to quite a number of times, in Fehraltorf (about 40 minutes from Zurich) and I knew most of the riders who were all working on Level 3 or 4, or more. As usual, our distributors Philipp and Seraina were wonderful hosts and took care of all of us so beautifully, even cooking lunches every day! And… I had a lovely surprise: our good friend Luis Lucio (Chef d’quip of the Spanish Olympic Dressage Team) flew in for a day. He is always studying and learning more about the Parelli approach, and we had a great conversation about psychology and dressage. You may already be aware that Luis is one of the stars at our Dressage Summit in March 2019!
On the Horsenality day, we started with playing the Seven Games in every way you knew how. Then we also focused on reading the horse and being appropriate to its Horsenality. The most important part was being able to tell what your horse’s CORE Horsenality is – and pretty much everyone one did, but they needed to improve their approach. As I travel the world, there are a lot of people who say “I’m not sure” and, I must admit that makes me crazy! It is SO important to know this because you’ll be much better in your approach to your horse and not bring out the crazy, unpredictable, lazy, or naughty side.
Do whatever it takes to get clear on your horse’s Horsenality and then use the strategies for best approach. The goal is to get your horse more centered and there is a LOT we’ve produced to teach you about Horsenality, gathered from many years of developing this work. In the Levels program it is introduced in On Line Level 2: https://members.parelli.com/topic/horsenality/. Then, of course, there is the amazing electronic Horsenality-Humanality Report, which does it all for you after you fill out a simple questionnaire. There are over 90 pages on your horse, on you, and what to do to improve your communication and relationship.
No matter what, start here: Fill out the Horsenality Chart on each of your horses:
Here’s how to do it:
- Start with checking the boxes on Extrovert or Introvert, on the vertical axis.
- Next, do the horizontal axis and check the boxes for Left Brain and Right Brain.
This will tell you which quadrant your horse is in. For example, if you have more dots on the extrovert and left brain side, this means your horse is a left brain extrovert.
- Go around the circumplex and put a dot next to any of the situational behaviors your horse shows and in the appropriate zone of mild, medium, or high. This also reflects your horse’s spirit. Do not mark a behavior if it has happened only once or twice, only if it is something you experience fairly regularly.
You should find most of these behaviors are in the same quadrant as your horse’s Horsenality, but there will be also more around the chart and in different quadrants. The more situational ‘dots’ you have in other quadrants, the more complicated or unsettled your horse probably is.
The goal is to see these dots move towards the center and disappear altogether as your horse becomes more trusting, respectful of your leadership, and you advance in your relationship.
- Re-do the paper chart every 6 months, and I’d recommend re-doing the electronic report every 1 – 2 years.
- Make sure you know how to approach your horse according to his or her Horsenality. I find a lot of people end up reacting to their horse instead of leading the way, so they end up either doing too little or too much, going too fast or too slow. When you know who your horse is, it’s much easier to do the right thing.
In general, this will help guide your approach.
Think of it this way:
- When teaching your horse, go slowly, because learning is hard and can be stressful. So be gentle and clear.
- When things go wrong, go quick and take control.
- When your horse is extroverted, don’t wait too long before doing the next thing. Keep them busy.
- When your horse is LB, make progress. This keeps things interesting and provocative (rather than do everything faster!)
- When your horse is RB, repeat until your horse is calm.
Important lesson: Many people let their RBI horses ‘process’ for a long time. You only need to do this the first time, when you are teaching your horse something new. After that, give them a moment or two and do it again because repetition will help them learn and get calm. If you always wait a long time for your horse to process, you are actually teaching your horse to do this! They will begin to think it’s the right thing.
We ended up spending a whole day on this and everyone got to be in the round corral for individual coaching. I’ll talk more about this in the Italy section!
Of course this is SO much about leadership, stability in your body, and clarity of communication from your seat. I did a bunch of simulations to enlighten everyone to how much the horse can push your legs and body around, and how much we move our hands and feet! My concept of HEADLIGHTS really helps to change that. I’ll tell you more when I get to the part on the UK because we did that there as well.
It was great to be in Switzerland, there is always so much enthusiasm and dedication, and you can really see how much the Parelli Professionals team has kept the momentum going. Thank you for having me!
Next Stop – Italy!
As I mentioned earlier, we had the same subjects as Switzerland: Horsenality – Liberty – Good Riding; but with Italian riders! The facility in Torino was very nice, and the weather a little chilly and rainy on the last day but we were under cover. (By the way, Switzerland was warm. I don’t think I’ve ever been that warm working there!)
Again, all the riders were well prepared and we made some super progress. On the afternoon of the first day, I had everyone play the Seven Games while riding – to play each game in every way they knew how. It takes a good hour to do this and is really interesting and revealing. I had everyone grade or score their horse’s quality of response (same on the ground). Many were experiencing a wide range, from 3’s to 8’s. The goal is 7’s or better, so when you have a 3 or 4 you can quickly make changes to improve your horse’s response – to be straighter, lighter, calmer, etc.
Important Lesson: One rider was having a lot of trouble with her horse being tense, emotional, and cranky. I realized that the main problem was she was not steady enough in her body, hands and legs, and this was making the horse upset. So I had her do a demo with me on my concept of HEADLIGHTS.
Imagine you have headlights all over your body – eyes, shoulders, hands (knuckles), belly button, hips, knees, and toes. When I showed her how to shine all her ‘lights’ in the direction she was going, her horse absolutely transformed. Headlights help you keep your body, arms, and legs ‘together’ so it gives the horse clear direction. When your hands move differently from your body and legs, it’s very confusing for the horse. Some get dull and ignore you, others get tight, tense, and upset.
Liberty was a really fun day – in fact we did a liberty morning on day 2, and then another liberty morning on day 3 so we could witness all the improvements!
The concept was simple, but not easy: Play the essential / basic Seven Games at liberty – and not everyone could do it (same in Switzerland, everywhere really, so this is nothing about Italians! Haha ;).
There were two main reasons for the trouble:
- No one really practices the Seven Games at Liberty. They get into Stick 2 Me, Circling, and all the fun, tricky stuff.
- Body language for the Games is not clear.
It was quite powerful to have a translator while I was teaching because it helped me make a very strong point – if you are not understood, it’s impossible to learn and it creates confusion, frustration, and tension.
The Seven Games provides the vocabulary of the horse-language. And the language of horses is… BODY LANGUAGE. If we use our bodies carelessly, inconsistently, it makes it very hard for horses to really understand what we want. So I cleaned up everyone’s body language in each of the games (it looked like a Tai Chi class!); they practiced being at liberty while standing on their rope, and presto! Their results were phenomenal.
Once the problems are addressed we can go on to more fancy stuff like change of direction, canter changes, improving draw, and spins. But first, the problems must be fixed. That’s why I start most of my clinics and courses with a list of problems and goals. Here was Italy’s:
My highlight was teaching everyone how to canter using their elbow (yep, your elbow – none of this pushing stuff!) and I told one of the riders – Parelli Professional Eric Berlander – on the first day that he will be doing flying changes with his elbows on day 3. He could already do flying changes, but he was using his legs too much and his lovely big warmblood did not stay straight and the changes were not clean. Well, on the last day I had him do canter transitions. When those were good I had him do some simple changes, and then… he changed elbows and did a perfect flying change. He was blown away – and so was everyone else. When we get clear, and we know how to ‘do it in our body,’ the horse can do it in his body.
Thanks for having me Italy, it was so fun to be there. Great food, great people, and wonderful to see lots of Parelli Professionals staying updated with all the latest stuff!
Last stop, UK for two clinics: 3-day Happy Horse Clinic and 2-day Instructor Intensive.
The Happy Horse clinic is one of my favorite formats because we get to really talk about psychology as a background to everything we do with our horses. The goal is to get to the horse’s mind (psyche) not just his body. Each day we can focus on one of the three things that a horse needs to be happy: SAFETY – COMFORT – PLAY.
For horses to feel safe, they need to know they aren’t going to be trapped… and they need a good leader. Simple as that. Most of us are not good enough leaders because we are unfocused, lack a plan, and let our horses take over. A lot! I try to have a lot of fun with this and love to use the analogy of a car. We let our horses do things we’d never let our car do… move off from the stop light, change speed, change lanes, not go, not stop, turn better one way than another!
I think we can get lulled into thinking it’s not that bad, but if this was our car it would NEVER happen! “Hey! Let’s go to the movies, we’ll take my car. Now watch out because the gas pedal is sticky, the brakes don’t work very well, it speeds up and changes lane when it wants, the passenger door flies open when I turn left and it probably won’t be where we parked it when we get out! Wanna go?” You wouldn’t even get in the car because IT IS NOT SAFE!
Well, your horse isn’t either. But, even worse, it is frustrating for the horse. When you don’t communicate clearly (poor body language), don’t hold your horse accountable for his transgressions (fix it if you’re not enjoying it), and micromanage your horse’s every move, it creates tension, confusion, fear, and resistance.
So, on day 1, we cleaned up our body language (remember, this is the way horses communicate with each other!), learned how to have a plan, stick to it, helped our horses to gain trust, and we earned more respect.
Knowing what your horse needs is an important part of success because many people think that leadership is just bossing horses around. But good leaders know how to help their followers feel successful too, and having your horse be calm is Number 1. Without that, you can’t accomplish much.
A few horses came into the arena and got pretty excited. They were… can you guess… Left Brain Extroverts! They started leaping in the air, putting on quite the show. Rather than wrestling with them and trying to stop them (which only makes things worse), I advised them to do Zero Brace in the form of “Me & My Shadow.” The horses changed IMMEDIATELY. You see, LBE’s are really curious and when you stop them from going to check things out they’ll fight you. The first day it took 5-10 minutes for the adrenaline to come down, but after that, it was literally 1-2 minutes.
And then there’s that trap thing. Horses, as prey animals, are afraid that we are going to kill and eat them. But in order to do that, they have to first be trapped. And that’s what they are really afraid of. Traps.
Traps come in all forms for horses in the human environment – stables, trailers, paddocks, girth, lead rope, contact… And every time you say ‘no’ with the reins or lead rope, and pull or hold them back… it feels like a trap. The best thing you can do when your horse has trouble is release for a moment – give. I like to show my horse “It’s not a trap,” and repeat it as often as needed until the horse believes me and relaxes.
When a horse can’t find comfort they get tense or frustrated. Comfort is so important, it is Number 2 on the list of priorities, and we make it hard for horses to find it because we are always moving. Our feet, our hands, our minds. We need to teach horses that the reason to yield from pressure is to find relief. At first we release the pressure when the horse responds, but we have to progress to where the horse does not lean on the boundaries we create with the halter and length of line, our personal space, and with our legs, reins, the bit, and our seat when riding – they go with us, they follow the feel of what we are doing.
Comfort also relates to our equipment. I am manic about saddle fit (of course we do the opposite of what everyone else does). See parellisaddles.com, bridles, bits, halters… because anything that is too narrow, pinches, is sharp… is going to affect the horse… psychologically! It doesn’t just hinder their performance, it makes them emotional. For example, when we do saddle makeovers, 50% of the transformation is physical because now they can move freely, but the other 50% is a dramatic change in the horse’s emotions.
On this day we focused more on achieving Category 3 – Seek Comfort, in the Calm, Connected, Responsive, Supple, Successful (CCRSS) formula. To hold and wait instead of go up your phases… To maintain your focus and direction for the task instead of giving up or doing more. When you Hold & Wait you engage the horse’s mind, and once the horse knows that they can find the answer themselves (without you having to release), they put in a lot more effort.
Play, for horses, means having fun practicing dominance games! When you play the Seven Games, you are automatically playing the same games that horses play, which is why you need to get good at them. Play can also be translated into learning, and this is where you can make the most progress.
But how do you make it a game? We’ve all heard Pat talk about that, and that we shouldn’t micromanage the horse physically. Basically, you ask the horse to do something and then wait for him to do it – rather than pushing and coaxing the whole time. When he’s trying, leave him alone. When he’s not, remind him of the task. That’s it! Well, sounds easier than it is – at least without seeing it and being coached through it. And that’s why you have to come to clinics and courses, right? 😉 Then you really get it, and it’s life-changing for both you and your horse.
Important Lesson: Three Reasons
There are three main reasons horses have trouble: Fear, dominance, or confusion. When you can diagnose which one it is, the solution is more straight forward:
- When it’s fear, you need to RETREAT.
- When it’s dominance, they need to YIELD.
- When it’s confusion, you need to slow down and be clear.
And finally, two days with Parelli Professionals from the UK and Ireland!
I cannot say enough about how lucky we are to have Parelli Professionals who have dedicated their lives to helping us change the world. They are the ones who are there when we are back in the US. They are the ones who can help you when you need it, inspire you and advance you with lessons, clinics, and workshops. You can learn a lot via videos, but having hands-on help will get you through tough situations and accelerate your progress.
The fact that SO many Parelli Professionals attended every clinic of my Europe tour is testament to their dedication. And it was really great to have two days in the UK dedicated to their horsemanship progress.
Some people ask me how I stay so smiley and energetic until the last day, and it’s because of my PASSION! I’m passionate about changing the world, about horses, about people who love horses, and want to be the best partner and leader they can be. That gives me boundless energy and enthusiasm. I love seeing the transformations and the positive energy that comes back to me from the students and the gallery keeps me fueled too.
I’m sending a big, warm thank you to the Parelli HQ team here in the US, and to all my hosts – Eef and Anemyke (NL), Philipp and Seraina (Switzerland and Italy), Larisa and Nicole (UK) for doing what it takes to help us change the world and supporting the students, members, and professionals who are passionate about this too.
Looking forward to next time!
Featured Image by Anita W. Hopcia www.eqinephotodesign.com