Petra's Parelli World - Follow my Journey as a Parelli Professional Instructor

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Natural Horsekeeping, Body Balance & Horsenality

When I first met my Morgan gelding Jean Baptiste, aka JB, he was kept in a small paddock by himself. His chest was narrow, his back antrophed and his hindquarters underdeveloped. The barn owner kept a halter on him 24/7 because he could not catch him. JB was unconfident and didn't trust the human. He would not lope: not in the pasture nor on the 22' or 45' line. His trot was unbalanced and choppy.

Why do we think it's ok to keep a horse in small area like this? How can their body develop, how can their emotional and mental fitness develop if we lock them up 24/7?

My first change was to integrate JB into a herd of horses with access to a a large turnout area with several run-in-shelters. I introduced him one on one with each horse over a period of a week. He didn't have any social skills and his first response was "I'll get you before you get me". He was aggressive, but not out of dominance - it was fear. Most of his response towards me was also right brain. He would either go introvert or explode violently.

I played with him for several months on the ground before I started to introduce the bareback pad, then the saddle and finally passenger lessons. We did hours and hours of pushing passenger lessons at a trot, first in the round pen, later in the big arena. His trot became more relaxed, more fluid but he still would not lope. That's when I introduced Hill Therapy. If you are a Savvy Club Member, you can do a search on to find out more about it.

Since JB had serious balance issues, I decided to start on the 45' line to allow him to play on a larger circle. I didn't ask for a lope until he naturally offered to experiment with it. After 6 weeks, his body had changed. His back and hindend had gained muscle, his chest improved.

Along with his body, his horsenality changed to mostly being a Left Brain Introvert with some Extrovert playfulness. I am careful not to miss any Right Brain Introvert moments, which will reveal themselves with a slightly higher, tense headset. Watch our trailer loading video on my website under "Video Gallery": There is a moment before I ask JB to go in the trailer where he went RBI. I therefore waited until he sniffed the trailer floor, chewed and licked (there were no treats on the trailer floor) before I asked him to load.

All of this is still a process and a journey, and we recently had a setback when JB contracted Pigeon Fever. He yet again lost muscle and tone as a result from the infection. Nevertheless, my conviction is that we not only need to play naturally with our horses, but we need to allow them to be horses: Being able to live in a herd, run, play, develop their emotional, mental and physical fitness - Naturally!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Will your Horse Catch You?

Last weekend I had the opportunity to visit my horses who are "on vacation" at Kris Hughes' Springvalley Farm, East of Pueblo. To find out more about Kris' track system and her farm, visit her blog by clicking on this link.

My horses were on the other end of the 160 acres farm, so I grabbed my halters and headed out for a walk. Of course, I had an agenda. After all, I was late and maybe had another couple hours or so to check on them, to do their feet and groom them. I did a brisk walk in a straight line towards them. Both turned towards me and watched, but then decided to head the other direction. Hmmmm...

I realized that being a human my straight line thinking (catch them, get them back to the barn, trim feet before it gets dark) had gotten the better of me. So I moseyed parallel to them and eventually passed them without looking and sat down. Both stopped. JB seemed to say:" What the heck is she doing?", Cash answered: " I don't care", left JB behind and passed me. Now, way back when JB would have followed Cash, but now he came over, sniffed me while pulling on my scarf and nibbling on my jacket. I noticed this and thought that he really is getting less respectful of my space. Nevertheless, I was excited that he came over, so I didn't make a big deal of it. I gently asked him to not nibble on me and he decided it was fine with him to just stand there, hanging his head over me.

Of course, Cash had watched intently, pretending that the tumbleweeds were WAY more important. I was thinking, How could I peek her interest? I pretended looking for something (that really didn't exist), moving the dirt around with a stick. JB was delighted, "Ohhhhh, can I have the stick, pleeeease????" Cash kept her butt towards me, but gave me the corner of her eye. She casually walked a few steps further and was now about 30 to 35 feet away.

What else could I do? I finally picked up a piece of a tumbleweed and started chewing on it... Oh, my, you should have seen her face! "What do you have there! I want it, too!!!!!" Her eyes lit up, she turned around and came right over and caught me...

I sat there, in the dirt, with both of my horses right next to me and laughing and enjoying a precious moment.

May you find delight and joy in the little things!