As I watched Linda Parelli take over working the gelding, it reminded me of the first time I saw Harvey Jacobs. The mare brought to Harvey's clinic appeared compliant but she was anything but. The mare wasn't being expected to do anything she didn't want to do but one "small" thing. Now as Linda Parelli put pressure on this gelding he clearly reacted like the mare had done with Harvey.
It became clear to me this gelding was much like the mare, only compliant with what he felt like doing. The good thing was the gelding was much younger than the mare. There was more likelihood his behavior could be safely changed while the mare was long set in her ways and got violent over the littlest of things that Harvey asked of her.
That mare's attack on Harvey had clearly impressed on me how dangerous it could be to let a horse believe it could be in charge. As I looked at this gelding and his submissive owner in the ring I understood the urgency of teaching this woman another way. My suspicions were confirmed as I saw the gelding's response when he didn't get his way.
In the early stages of the demonstration the similarities I saw were between those two horses. I am mentioning it because of the numbers of horse owners who tolerate poor manners and do not understand the real jeopardy they face because of it. As far as I am concerned the importance of teaching a horse proper boundaries can never be talked about too much and this gelding's reaction to Parelli reinforces that message, I think.
As Linda Parelli upped the anti getting specific with her expectations of the horse, his mind set became more and more clear. The more she blocked his inappropriate behavior, the more resistant he became, not wanting to give up ultimate control. The horse clung to his last vestige of dominance, running over or past Parelli to avoid doing what she wanted. The amount of aggression he exhibited would have likely harmed a less experienced handler and it was clear from her body language the horse's owner was glad to be safely positioned away from this schooling session.
Running past the handler was part of the behavior being exhibited by my stallion and is typical for a young horse that hasn't learned its space, yet the defiance exhibited by the gelding was very different. That difference might make it hard for some to see the reaction of each horse was rooted in the same instinct.
As flight animals, there are only so many ways a horse has to escape. Despite each horse's motives, escape is what each horse intended. Because the avenues for avoidance are limited, similar behaviors are to be expected despite the ultimate intentions of each horse.
In effect that should mean the fix would be comparable except for the variables presented by the personality of each horse. Closing the window of opportunity would change or stop the behavior depending on the effectiveness of the tactics used. There would be differences in how each would respond based on the differences of each animal.
In the case of this gelding and my stallion, I am not sure the behavior of one was any more or less dangerous than the other. Although, I think to many my stallion's behavior would probably look worse.
When my horse gets excited he wants to swing his head from side to side and slap the ground with his front feet. He gets so focused on what he's doing he forgets he's in hand and he rushes forward trying to continue this play.
The horse means no harm but the behavior is dangerous to anyone in proximity to this game.
The gelding's behavior is equally dangerous but not nearly so obvious. Many think such actions are part of what we must live with when we own horses. Yet the horse's attitude that he does not have to take direction leaves the door open to aggression. His behavior of charging passed and/or over his handler is just a warning sign that will only escalate if ignored.
With the personalities and motivations so different I was very interested in seeing what Linda Parelli would do with this gelding. Would the work clearly reflect the differences or would there only be subtle changes?
While I had realized at the start the gelding's behavior was about his lack of boundaries, I had not initially seen the similarities between his behavior and that of my stallion. The owner was expecting so little of the horse, the full potential of his defiance was unknown until Linda Parelli got her hands on him. When the horse had no other out but to comply or escape, he chose the latter.
Deciding how to proceed with either horse is where Parelli's horsenality came in. The amount of finesse needed to plug the hole would be based on the reactivity of the horse. This dull gelding needed strong cues that would have sent my sensitive stallion flipping over backwards but it was still interesting to see this demonstration with a less reactive horse.
In all actuality it is this reactivity that gives Arabian horses a bad name. People who are not sensitive to the nature of this breed tend to deal with them in mannerisms too large, setting the horse up for failure. The horses get labelled as crazy when the issue is usually the insensitivity of a human that causes the problems.
Parelli clearly understood this and referenced it often. She explained the importance of understanding the temperament and learning capability of each individual in her discussion of horsenality. She specifically stated a sensitive horse needs subtle requests while dull horses would need a more get in your face kind of approach. She also clearly said, and repeated often, there are no black or white answers when dealing with horses. Their behavior can bleed over into those of other categories, no matter what "type" each appears to be. Their idea of horsenality seemed to be more about a reference point to start from, not a bible to follow, because each animal is as individualistic as we are and the people who didn't leave with that impression were apparently not listening.
To be continued........