It’s been a little while since my last post what with Sydney travel for our recent event there. We had a wonderful two days, met lots of new students to Parelli and of course reconnected with many long-standing students we’ve known for some years now. That part is always fun for me especially.
On the Saturday I ran the section explaining the Seven Games and how they work with the help of four Level 2-3 students who volunteered to be the ‘savvy team’. Some of them had never been in front of a big crowd so they and their horses were understandably a little nervous, but they still did a super job and I think people really loved the fact that these were not professionals, but people just like them.
I told them to go to liberty if they felt they could, but hardly anyone was really ready by the end of the music. So I encouraged them to do it, and took the risk that some of the horses might leave but how fun and educational it would be for everyone to see how to get them back. It was so much fun, lots of laughter from the audience as I helped young Mel (14) to get her naughty Welsh pony back! They were all just super.
On the Sunday, Pat gave a lesson to Mel on getting her pony to bond more with her. That’s not easy with a LBE acting RBE, but by the end he did not want to leave her. The afternoon lesson was with me and one of the Savvy Team members from the day before. Clare’s RBE thoroughbred mare had some issues with tension.
So what did we do? You might have guessed it… Partial Disengagement! I actually coached her with this a little bit on the Friday night before the event when she was riding and it went quite quickly. Clare was thrilled with how relaxed her horse felt and said that even though things were so much better, she had never experienced that level of relaxation when riding her. Much to the delight of the group, things did not quite go that easily, however, on the Sunday!
First of all, they were in the arena alone and even though the Gold Members were sitting quietly and all in one spot, Clare’s horse was very distracted with the activity up on the walkways and was totally obsessed with getting out of the arena and back to the other horses.
We started on the ground and it wasn’t too bad so I had Clare play the Circling Game on a 45′ line and encourage her forwardness by asking her to make canter and gallop transitions. When you have an impulsive horse, it’s common to want to go slower and keep things calm and avoid anything that is fast. The good thing about this technique is that it actually is calming for the horse because you run off the adrenaline (of course the Circling Game must be established before you can use this technique). You ask the horse to go faster than it wants to and then relax and wait for it to slow down to a canter again, repeating this several times until the horse is really left brain, almost a little reluctant to gallop and wants to come to you more than stay out there.
This went super and pretty soon Clare’s horse was just lovely, so on went the bridle and I began to coach her through the Partial Disengagement to get the relaxation when riding. This took AGES. Even though her horse was walking on a loose rein and not trying to run off, she was very tense. Clare bent her slightly towards the wall and pushed on zone 3 with her leg (the one closest to the wall, on the inside of the bend) putting a curve in her ribs and making it difficult for her to hold tension there… but she held on and held on, almost releasing it then tensing up again. Clare was wonderfully patient and we all rode with her mentally and emotionally as we pursued relaxation as the number one goal. I lost track of time, but it was probably 40 minutes!
Her horse would almost make it, start to make little groaning noises, pre-blowing sounds, but not actually going all the way and blowing out. Then all of a sudden, somebody started making a lot of noise up on the walkway and her horse got really frightened. Clare reached down, bent her with one rein and got off, it was beautifully done. As Clare was obviously a bit shaken I asked her if I could continue with her horse… it was so important to make the breakthrough.
I began on the ground, she was certainly not safe to get on, and I kept up the Partial Disengagement by walking next to her, bending her slightly with the rein and pushing my hand on her ribs just behind the girth. She was so tight, so wound up, she brought back memories of Regalo for me!
As we came to one end of the arena, more noises appeared from the walkway and she froze and stared up towards it. I made the point that she can look but not get fixated because that’s dangerous and can quickly turn into a panic attack. It’s important to interrupt that pattern, so I flapped the rein against her neck to get her attention and to get her moving forwards again. This only had to happen a few times and then she was refocused and soon after she made the big breakthrough and started blowing big time, dropped her head and relaxed.
Now she looked rideable! I stepped up and walked her on a loose rein. She strode along, head down, back swinging, totally relaxed. It was wonderful. I told the group that Clare had really done all the hard work but I looked like the hero, I just helped at the end! After a couple of laps, she wanted to stop which I welcomed and as I talked to Clare she started to walk in tiny circles and I felt she wanted to roll so I allowed that too. As she dropped to the ground I stepped off and she released her body of every last little bit of emotional tension and adrenaline. It was quite moving that a horse so afraid just a short time ago was now so confident, trusting and relaxed to be with us. What was even better was that everyone got to see the whole process.
At the end I asked how you would be different after watching this and there were super comments about how now they get it, that this HAS to be the most important thing. My favorite was this one: “I now know that I can have the relationship I’ve always dreamed of with my retired dressage horse. Even though we’ve come a long way, for the 18 years I’ve owned him I know he’s never really been relaxed with me.”
Relaxation needs to be number one. When you learn the secret of achieving this with horses the world opens up. Partial Disengagement will be such a powerful tool for you – on the ground and riding, and I’ve written an article on it that’s coming out in the May Savvy Times magazine. I hope you put it to great use and you’d better let me know how it goes!
Keep it natural,