Relaxation Is Number One

Hi everyone,

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,



Filed under Horsemanship, Teaching

45 responses to “Relaxation Is Number One

  1. Another great post, really valuable, keep up the good work Linda.

  2. Barbara

    I couldn’t have subscribed at a better time to this blog. I am having the same problems getting my LBE/RBE to relax. I have been shutting “Jack” down as I thought he was showing signs of fear and all along it was dominance so can I assume I have learned behavior going on now. I would love to see this in a DVD so I would know I am approaching the PD correctly.

  3. Claire

    Hi Linda,

    Claire here from the lesson, i just wanted to say again thankyou so much! You are a wonderful teacher and i feel so fortunate that i got the opportunity to have you teach Scarlett and I… I took so much away from the whole weekend! Such as amazing experience inside and outside the arena!

    • Great Claire – sorry I mispelled your name! How are things going with Scarlett now? Are you using the PD (Partial Disengagement) sooner and more effectively now?

      • Claire

        Thats fine :) Yes, it has been very wet so not much ridding oppourunity but i have used it HEAPS on the ground and the imporovement has been HUGE. When i do it you can see the expression on Scarletts face that she gets it and it just happens so quick and we can get on and do other things. It is really helping her to relax and loosen up!

  4. Mandy

    Good Morning Linda

    What a wonderful read! I was in the stands and I echoed the comments at the end. My partner Sophie is an x racehorse, she is 19 and we have been together for 15 years. She was an extreme RBX but over the years we have moved closer to the hub and she now joyfully exhibits her Leftbrained ness!

    Your comment that fixed the lesson firmly for me was about Scarlets early start and I realised that some of Sophies traits I had believed were inate Rightbrained ness are, in fact, part of her early thoroughbred upbringing. Hence I can now approach them with a different plan!

    Sophie and I are often told what a great example of realationship that we are – on the ground. I still carry alot of fear with me in the saddle. You are an inspiration for me in that – at the same age as me – you are strong and supple and – as Pat says – you are a horse woman ‘living the dream’.

    I have come home to Sophie and to NZ newly committed and inspired to put ‘living the dream’ in the centre of my life.


  5. Would love to see the lesson with the Welsh Pony on a Savvy Club DVD. In general, more lessons with folks like us that we can see ourselves in.

  6. Tracey Duncan

    Hi Linda,

    this was a great read for me – i have a very high spirited, extreme RBE, some LBE tendancines coming through and occassionally RBI.

    she could go all day, esp when RB she has no sense on self perservation, and injured herself out in the field last winter due to this. We have come along way but i am still struggling on whoa and go, and that relaxtion.

    Working with a PP ive been told to interupt that moment off – when she is about to go RB and go off like a loone. so when reading this and you saying ” you wanna go – lets go”. i tried this and she seemed to rather enjoy it!!! she would ask to come baack down to a trot, but she seemed like i wasnt really making progress even after a long time(i expect this is my lack of savvy) anyway my concern with this is that as i always do a lot online before i get on that i could end up with a very very fit horse.

    i am continuing my program on interupting that moment before the moment – but am intrigued by your idea verses the play im currently doing.

    many thanks

    tracey uk

    • Hi Tracey,

      I’m going to write more on this in my next blog, plus share what occurred in my lesson at our Oregon event using this approach.
      In the meantime, a question… do you use the Patterns? That should make a big change to your warm up effectiveness and warm up time.
      Also, the first time you do something it can take a while, but if it was effective, the next time will take half the time or even a lot less.

  7. Guylaine

    Linda, I think you’ll be proud of me !!
    Seeing you and Pat in Sydney was the injection of Savy I needed to stimulate myself ..Why?
    For one,I had forgot about “Better, good, best, never let it rest” That’s why Sultan ,RBE, was slowly becoming pushy, agressive with the other horses when I wasn’t taking him ou to play, climing fences, pushing the other horses away from me, dropping his sheet while next to me..
    Pat told me work him more ,walk him.
    I came home and did just that, whit all 4 horses.
    Most important Sultan and I are back on track.
    I guess I had become bowring to all 4 horses,specialy Sultan he’s always willing to learn and do more.
    I got trap in my safe zone whit my horses.
    Thanks to your” relaxation is number one” you probably saved our lifes and all the Parelli work I had done with Sultan .
    On Sunday Sultan and I after playing the 7 games and the green ball,we went for a little trail ride with my dog Manly.
    I felt something was wrong, one dog that never bark as I walk the trail by his house, bark…the birds were flying sparcely,Sultan was pumping up his chest and his head up. my dog was stuck to us instead of running in and out of the forest.
    As we started going down hill a white arabian was running full circle in his padeck.
    Sultan stop, was spook and stared at him , I patted his neck and said calm down, get over him wlak on slowly…but suddenly the big warning blow…I got off.
    I could hear the squirells screaming and weird noises.
    I felt like Sultan and Manly were using me as a sheild . Sultan’s stress was way….up and he wanted to go back home.
    I stayed calm,(even if I was sacred) I didn’t want both of us up there in stress mod.,
    I felt like something was watching me,
    I didn’t want to go back in time with Sultan after all my hard work, the time it took to get out alone on trail calmly away from the othr 3 horses.
    So I stayed calm and start walking down the hill from side to side instead of staight, Sultan was still spook but I could feel him calming down to my level. We got by the arabian horse and they kind of feed of each other both strenght and weakness.. I tought I will stay here until whatever goes away and if something jump out at me I’ll let Sultan run home and I’ll take shelter in the barn I was by.
    A truck and trailer drove by making noises,
    obviously enough to scare whatever away, soon after it left the 2 horses calmed down Manly was more relax and finally Sultan start eating grass
    I waited a while and went I felt Sultan was good to ride we went home.
    A little faster then usual to get out of the area. Then I use the relaxation through partial disengagement technique you showed us, as I was walking along the road, and on the last stretch of my ride we walk home slowly.
    Yes, then I had a good breath and said;
    ” Thank you Parelli. I did it.”
    Sultan wasn’t scared by this experience and he is as good as he was before, I took him out the next day and he was fine.
    Whihout thinking relax stay calm, I would of blown away all his confidences and struglle to get him away from my 3 other horses, never mine not being able to ride that part of the trail and down the hill.
    I have saved myself by getting off the sadle, save my horse confidence by staying calm and his leader.
    I was told after a young cougar as been hanging around, so…we were lucky.
    So Linda keep things coming at us and freshen up our mind all the time.
    Thank you for all the savvy!!!!

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