Relaxation Strikes Again!

How perfect that since writing my last blog I have another opportunity to coach a student on dealing with right brain (RB) issues. In this case, Emma’s horse is RBI (right brain introvert), but goes RBE (extrovert) in front of a crowd. She had the misfortune of experiencing this last year when she applied to do a Spotlight at our Reno event… and her horse took her in another direction!

I don’t select the lesson participants at our 2010 events, so it was fun to see that Emma had been selected and of course the subject was “helping my horse deal with crowds”. She was already better since Emma had been focusing on some things she learned since then, but of course once you get back in that situation, there are still things to deal with.

I had a lot of thoughts the night before about what to do because there are a number of savvy arrows in my quiver for dealing with that kind of problem, but once with Emma and Lil I took advantage of the situation as it presented itself and tried my first idea first. It’s the concept of “and then some”… “You want to run around, you should do that… and then some”.

Emma brought her horse into the arena and it didn’t take long before Lil was running around in circles, very RB. So I asked Emma to encourage that* – not so vigorously that it could be perceived as punishment through discomfort, but to encourage it in a positive way. That feels kind of weird because every instinct we have as predators in that situation is to shut it down which actually can make it worse because it makes the hors feel wrong and claustrophobic. With this horse being Level 3 competent yet upset in a strange and very challenging circumstance, this approach can really work very well. It’s as though your horse thinks “you see, I knew we should be scared!” and that asserts your leadership in a prey animal sort of way. By sending the horse forwards and then some, it takes the adrenaline out of the system and it keeps you in the leadership role.

*(It’s important to know that if your horse is below Parelli Level 1, and if you are below Level 2, you might find this hard to do. Some approaches are more suitable for certain situations but you also have to weigh up how competent the human is and how educated the horse is – from a basic trust/partnership perspective. If you are not as advanced as this, constant and frequent disengagement is the most appropriate approaches).

So Emma encouraged Lil to go a little faster with some stimulation in Zone 5 with her Carrot Stick and Flag (plastic bag attached – which Lil had long ago learned not to fear). And go she did. I asked Emma to speed her up for a lap, then relax and see how long it took for Lil to slow down. It took an average of 3 laps. Pretty soon, it took less than that and finally Lil started asking if she could slow down and trot. It was almost difficult to get her to speed up! So we encouraged the trot, and then the walk, and soon she wanted to come in. So we invited that but if she couldn’t stand still, we gently encouraged her to move again. Not much longer and she wanted to stand still.

But that’s when her introverted side showed up! As Emma sat on the barrel (as directed by me to lower her own extroverted energy!), Lil sidled up to her, zone 3 / 4 first. That’s a major behavioral tendency of RBI horses – feeling better but not enough confidence to come over with zone 1 first. What occurred after that is what you had to be there for – the Touch It and Figure 8 Patterns were very revealing! At this moment, we are working on getting the complete video-taped lesson up on to the Savvy Club Vault. It won’t happen right away, please be patient, it will be there and we’ll let you know. Same with the wonderful lesson Pat gave, which was the exact opposite of mine! Erin needed to learn how to get more assertive with her husband’s LBE/I!

Here’s the great news… first of all, go to Emma’s blog about what happened on Sunday and even better, the breakthrough she discovered after the fact. And secondly, here is a wonderful email I got from a Level 3-4 student who is also a nurse:


First of all, it was a great weekend; it just went by too quickly….

So, today I went to work. I don’t know if you remember that I am a nurse and I currently work in the post anesthesia care unit (PACU). I was caring for an elderly gentleman today. He had some Parkinsons disease and had surgery for a bowel obstruction. No small feat for a man of 81.

Anyway, he was quite confused after the sedatives began to wear off and became very combative. It always amazes me that these little elderly people suddenly have superman strength when they are confused! There were literally 4 of us holding him down and trying to keep him from pulling out his IV etc…

I was thinking to myself, this poor guy is in fight or flight mode right now and his brain synapses are firing a million times per minute. He is so on adrenaline…I asked everyone to stop fighting him.

He had my hand in a death grip and was thrashing his arm back and forth, so I just started moving with him instead of against him.Then I started moving his arm a little faster than he wanted to go. Within about 15 seconds, he stopped fighting and became calm. He did this a few more times until he finally was able to cooperate a bit more and at that point we were able to reorient him a bit. His baseline was slightly confused but not out of control.

I thought Oh my gosh! All animals are wired similarly when that fight or flight kicks in. Then I thought, maybe I need to get to that extern program sooner. I am treating my patients like the horses! Hehe

So, now I have one more thing to add to my What Parelli has permeated in my life list!

Talk to you soon,


Filed under Events, Horsemanship, Teaching

16 responses to “Relaxation Strikes Again!

  1. Paulette

    Hi Linda…

    I have an EXTREME LBE/RBE Hanoverian mare that Rob McAuliffe is helping me train. He LOVES her because she is such a talented athlete but says she is a very challenging horse with an extremely high spirit. Unfortunately she was started by a traditional horse breaker, he was kind but a direct line thinker and his approach was all wrong for her – he admitted he couldn’t train her so we went and picked her up. When I got her home she was extremely claustrophobic and explosive when you ask for anything. A year on and I now have her spending most of her time in the Left Brain which is great – we are still online 95% of the time. She reminds me a great deal of your Remmer, just without the catatonic bits. I can definately relate to your comments of feeling like you are getting no where sometimes. Our last 3 sessions haven’t been much fun… she is really “hot” and we have just been working on her keeping respect and distance from me when she is in her high energy place. From all the Parelli study I have done I understand that LBE need to move their feet, but do feel that she can quickly get really fired up. So now I tend to get her moving her feet and then interrupt it with a jump, hind yield, touch it or something. I dream of the day she does a nice relaxed canter circle with bend towards me and blowing out with every stride!!

    I have most of your materials, but would really appreciate if you can direct me to as much info as possible that you think can help me with my miss… I really need all the help I can get!

    Kind regards

    PS – I have 9 other horses I train, most of which feel like therapy after training the young lady mentioned above…

  2. I played with my sister’s RBE yesterday and I usually use a *long* phase 1, I didn’t know just *how* long…. I don’t usually have to be that long for my LBI, she takes about a 4 second phase 1 to back. He takes about 10 seconds of phase 1 to start backing.

    I also used the same technique that you used with Emma and Lil. It took my sister’s horse about 3 laps to want to slow down, as well! He didn’t want to go forward by the end of the session. Great Idea!

    Thanks so much, Linda!

    Priscilla and Cricket (LBI)

  3. JoAnn

    Sooooo exciting to see others write of what has enthralled me!!!! My adult life with horses has taught me about people, and peopel about horses….and I have used so many of the Parelli methods when working with patients as a therapist. I was known for being good with the “crazies!” Now I know I was “Savy” with them. What a kick! And the dual application goes on! Makes life a blast!!!

    Thanks to Linda and all the bloggers!!!

  4. Sandy

    I was glad to see your blog on right brained horses … Hope you spend sometime in a future issue of Savvy Times on strategies for RBI and RBE, like you have for the LBI and LBE. Looks like theres a lot of interest from the comments. I know I’ve struggled to get savvy enough to see when my otherwise low energy LBI gets RBI and to know how to change my tactics
    accordingly. Everyone thinks he always looks so calm, but I know hes not. Thanks for all the work with the horsenalities! Its really made a difference for me and my horses!

    • Sandy, I know what you mean. Reading horses is the most important thing to master!
      I wrote a whole bunch on cusps for our newly released electronic horsenality report, so it’s featured as a supplement for horses that are on the cusp… tells you when to know they’ve hopped over the line and what to do.

      • Sandy

        Will the information on cusps be in the Savvy Times or Savvy club website? Just can’t afford the horsenality report right now.

  5. Isabelle

    Love the story about the patient with Parkinson. I use to work with trouble teenagers and Parelli works pretty well on them as well! I use to view those teens as RBE or RBI!
    Anyway I am doing so much Parelli training at the moment that yesterday night when my husband was crowding me in the kitchen I did a send! No needs to say that he looked at me a bit strangely and asked me if he should expect hay for dinner!

  6. Tessa and Rumi

    Hi. I loved the idea of WAITing. My horse can be all over the chart and is RBI when I catch him but I didn’t realize this before Redmond.

    We had this amazing session where I sat in the middle of the pasture and WAITed. He was pacing up the fence to get out and he knew I was the key but he was afraid that he couldn’t be with me without me constantly putting on pressure (too high in my phases, wiggle finger phase 1 is a lot for him).

    It took him about ten minutes to quit pacing and come touch me. He sighed, then went back pacing. This cycle occurred with shorter times of pacing or not even stopping at the gate.

    At the end, he came up and yawned six times in my lap! COOL! He also enjoyed me scratching him instead of him doing his “displaced behavior” of biting his stomach when he is trying to come off adrenaline.

    He left once more and came up with some sort of LBE dominant posture, almost like a half rear. It was so cute! He then came in a bit too cocky for my taste and I gently porcupined the air near his feet to get two steps back while matching his playful energy. He got a little introverted and I waited for a few seconds. I then invited him with the biggest SMILE on my face.

    I then quietly left the pasture as it was 7 AM or so and gave him a flake of hay.

    When I played with him 4 hours later, he was LBI -RBI. Constantly reading the horse is so important and I think it’s easier now that I’ve been in the program a few years.

    Thank you Rumi, for letting me know how to WAIT. In thanks of that lesson, I want to thank you Linda and Pat for allowing me to get savvy. Rumi and I are in awe.

  7. TJ

    I love the nurse’s additional story, too. I think for those of us who have had a “forced” event at the Dr’s office, realize it can instill or increase fear. Kudos to that nurse for being brave enough to stop everyone and try another way. That little 81 year old gentleman probably appreciated it too!

  8. Deb and Jake

    Hello Linda!

    We’ve been experimenting a little with RBI!
    I’ve been really tying to feel, listen and learn from Jake!!
    I have found when Jake loses confidence a little Rhythm WITHOUT phases seems to help us!..
    I can then talk to Jake without MAKING him listen!
    Rhythm lets him know I’m not after him!!..this really seems to engage his mind BEFORE his body! This way it seems to KEEP his relaxation/confidence and not cause any brace!
    I WAIT!!..for a feeling or a connection or even just the very slightest try!!…
    Just using rhythm with a loving feeling ( carrot stick-your hand or line) seems to comfort Jake!
    Just like Pat says “Put your heart in your hand!!”..can’t think of a more important time to do this for your horse!!
    When we feel his together Jake ALWAYS lets me know by nickering to me!
    It feels amazing!! Thank you Soo much

    love Deb and Jake xx

    • That’s excellent Deb. The idea of ‘phases’ is to understand when you are starting to be effective. Rather than go all the way to 4 and end up ‘making’ the horse listen, when you find that phase 2 is catching his attention, stay there until he makes the change. If he gets worse then you need to do more, but wait and see if it’s better first.
      Lovely story, it will help a lot of people… and equines!
      Thanks :)

  9. I love this solution! My OTTB seems to goes back and forth between LBE and RBE, and I have found that over-correcting him when he blows (or correcting him the way people have suggested by banging on his nose) is not only NOT effective, he just gets more confused.

    Pushing him forward, however, seems to make him think and it’s usually not long before he gives clear indications that he’d like to come in and hang out with me instead.

    Puzzling through things with him and trying to figure out how to communicate with him are truly educational.

  10. Martine Parsons

    Hi i live in australia, would have loved to have seen this, hope it comes out on a future dvd. My horse is RBI and goes RBE when he gets scared he is a 20yr old now. we have a few session’s with louise atkinson, who has been excellent with him, but i have not got the confidence or experience to deal with him like she has and he has hurt me quite a few times, hence the reason why i choose to retire him for both of us for safety reasons, he was finding it hard with the seven games, would really shut himself off, go into his happy place, and exploded when he comes back.

    • Yep, tough / damaged horses are not easy to learn with. That was my only choice when I had Regalo and I’m grateful for it… but it was not easy. Steep learning curve. To this day, when someone says “my horse is extreme RBExtrovert” and I handle him, it doesn’t even come close to what I used to deal with. But maybe I’m better these days too so it doesn’t feel so overwhelming. How interesting :)
      Don’t you just love learning?


  11. tami st.germain

    WOW! What perfect timing. Just last week i was playing with my 6 year old and although she has done the circling game, when i asked her to trot, after a few rounds, she would keep picking up speed and eventually blow-up. i would try to let her drift, but since i can’t hold the line, i started to bring her in as i saw that she was going more RB, and then i would start her off as slow as possible. i am still confused as to whether she is going RBE or RBI. Usually she is a LBE! i thought, ‘Guess i need to write Linda’! i had thought that maybe i needed a longer line and try to push past it.

    i am still not sure which way we need to proceed, but now, instead of getting frustrated, i am curious to see how to solve the puzzle….and think, hmmm now isn’t that interesting! ;)

    Thank you Linda!!!

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