Friday, January 4, 2008

Q&A from Linda Parelli

This was in this weeks Parelli E-News....

Eeek - I have created a monster!

I have watched all the L2 dvds now, plus all the L&HB dvds and started using incentives in the arena when riding because my Left Brained Introvert (LBI) gets oh so very bored in the arena.

I set up a barrel at each end of the 60m long arena and had treats at the ready. We were playing point to point for the first time.

He thought this was the BEST game ever when he got a treat at each barrel. And, after placing a trot pole half way down the arena he offered canter after the trot pole for the rest of the way (and stopped at the barrel when asked even though it was placed at the arena exit- which is always open - (unfenced arena). Offering canter was something he has never done pre-Parelli! I was so pleased. That was two weeks ago....

Today I was going to work on some circles and straight lines and getting rid of any opposition reflex on turns (when he wants to go the OTHER way)...

I mounted, walked into the arena and he immediately takes off to the barrel at the other end - in a fast trot. Yes - my LBI - the can't be bothered working hard horse!

We play that for a bit and then try to do some circles..... he put his ears back, stopping dead, swishing his tail, snotty snotty snotty.... - he just was not having it. We did a little sideways practice..... then tried again - nope! Head down like he was going to buck etc. I tried shaking my reins to try and make him not be snotty (thinking of the snotty face example in the L&HB dvd) but he just stopped and did it again when we carried on trotting.

Keep in mind I have only been riding for three years....and confidence has been a big issue for me - cantering in a halter alone (for the first time two weeks ago) was a big deal. So I am not quite ready to go ride in big paddocks just yet hence my reliance on arenas for now.

OK - so now he just expects treats all the time and if he doesn't get them he heads for the barrel at full speed!

Three weeks ago I used trot poles as obstacles in the circle game on the ground, stopping him at the trot pole, and gave him a treat. We had a fantastic session and did some liberty afterwards - a fantastic day. Now everytime he sees a trot pole he stops (even in circle game) and paws it or bites it!


So give him treats! The idea here is not to find out what motivates your horse and then try to do it without. It's more about how to use it effectively. When you get too repetitive then you set up an expectation, but if you can use the same thing for different reasons, you're ahead. Here's an example. Right now, you've had great success going from point to point. Now, ask him to circle once around the barrel before giving him the treat. Next day, ask him to circle a couple of times and then just rest at the barrel and have the treat in your pocket so now he associates what he does with getting approval and reward from you. You could also place a treat only on one barrel so he has to go around it and then back to the one that does have a treat. So you construct different games and puzzles for him to get mentally engaged in. You could plant treats around the arena and go to them in different ways: backwards, sideways, slowly, making transitions, etc. etc. Learn to think in your mind: Hmmm... I know there's a treat over there in the corner, so how will I get him there? How creative can I be? Pretty soon he'll get into the habit of doing as you ask because it is interesting, and because there's something in it for him... sometimes a treat, sometimes a rest, sometimes a scratch. Pretty soon you'll be able to have all these be just as meaningful for him.

I think what you've done is used the treats only for the point to point, but then asked him to do something different and he can't see the reason for it. So he has a tantrum. Rather than try to make him do it, sit there and pet him. Ask for things very slowly, just a step or two and then pet him. This kind of horse is looking for ways to dominate and frustrate you, but if you ask less than he expects, and you pet him when he gets obstinate he will run out of ways to do that. I know it probably doesn't make much sense to you, but really try to crawl inside his skin, understand his Horsenality and then you'll start to see how the smallest things can bug him when he doesn't see the reason for it.

This kind of horse (LB Introvert) is very frustrating for most trainers. Pretty soon the spurs and whips stop working. The tantrums get too big or he just plain flops on the ground and won't move. Force doesn't work, kindness and knowing what is important to him does. He keeps saying "No! Why should I?!" And you will learn to demonstrate to him, "Because I'll love you and give you what you like too".

I understand that you are worried about going outside the arena, but you've actually chosen the best Horsenality to do exactly that with. LB Introverts are super trail horses because they feel like they're going somewhere and life gets interesting. And they don't really want to use much energy so slow and steady works just fine out there. Getting them to perform in an arena is the hardest, so here's what I suggest: Start doing less in the arena and start venturing outside, little by little. First take him out on line, do walking trail rides with you on the ground on a 12' line. Observe his behavior, see how he reacts to things, get him to do interesting things like back through gates, up or down little hills, go around trees, over logs and ditches, etc. That will gradually build you the confidence to do it on his back. And the first time you are on his back in this situation, practice getting off every few minutes, even if you don't feel the need to. This helps build it in as an automatic response if at anytime you don't feel confident. Get off more than you think you should and it will actually build your confidence!


PS By the way, you did not create a monster. That monster was always there, potentially! What you've done is awakened the side of him that was dulled out to people, so look after it well and don't let anyone talk you into using punishment or higher phases instead or you really will find a monster in there.

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