Tuesday, August 21, 2012

The Horse and Soul Parelli USA Tour 2012 - More Gelding Work

Part One

As Linda Parelli led this gelding back towards the first obstacle (which if memory serves me was a blue tarp laying flat out, probably about 12 feet x 12 feet) I remember thinking about something John Lyons had said the first time I saw his work. John claimed a horse would put up three fights before it actually gave up and changed a behavior. According to John the first "discussion" would be pretty determined. The second would be more mild, almost half hearted and the third would be an all out, desperate attempt to hang on to its way of doing things.

John figured if you didn't see all three attempts, you were more likely to encounter serious objections over and over later down the road. Working through an issue through those there stages in the same session would dramatically change the horse's perception of things and give the lesson a better "stick."

Over the years I have thought about Lyon's view as I worked teaching my horses new lessons. It's come to mind sometimes when watching others working with resistant horses too. I find myself tracking those tries, checking his concept over and over, observing the difference between each attempt and looking for signs of final submission, anything that might say the horse is done resisting.

It is not a concept that always occurs to me. It's more like something that probably gets triggered when I see a particularly resistant horse or a particularly difficult problem. When it does arise, the horses do seem to portray the kind of pattern in their learning that Lyons described.

This has happened often enough that I try to make sure I get through those three stages in one session whenever I hear John Lyons' message playing in my head. It is a concept that has served me well.

Now,  as I watched this gelding's display of attitude as Linda Parelli guided him towards that first obstacle with John Lyon's playing in my head, I found myself looking for that pattern of resistance and learning. I wondered how it would relate in Parelli's work.

Before they even got close to the tarp the gelding reverted back to his earlier behavior trying to rush past Parelli to control the situation. With her new cues in place Parelli was armed with the tools to stop him but the gelding clearly wasn't going to give up easily. The lightness she had worked to attain disappeared so she stepped up the pressure with her use of the coiled rope. Using it once again to block  the horse in the front and pushing him aside with its use on his shoulder. Once again the woman worked towards getting the horse to back.

It's always amazing to me  how a new cue, properly applied, can make such a dramatic change in such a short period of time. Despite the gelding's determination to convince Parelli that he should call the shots at the tarp, the horse still responded to the intensity of her application of those cues. She had to work hard for it but focusing on getting him to back whenever he wanted to charge forward changed his momentum and gave her the opening she needed to get inside his head enough to make him think she really was in control.

On the first attempt the horse did get past Parelli but she didn't circle him around and bring him back to it. Instead her focus was getting control in its proximity. When she got him stopped, she backed him into the original start position, retracing his steps of avoidance in reverse. That strategy reinforced her cues in his zone of discomfort.

The next time she attempted to head him towards the tarp, the horse resisted again but there was a lot less heart in that attempt. Parelli responded with only as much pressure as the horse had exerted and she easily stopped his attemptst to get ahead of her and pushed the horse back into his original position.

As she made her next try I was not surprised to see this gelding respond as John Lyons had described as particular to the final effort. The horse pulled out all the stops, pushing his shoulder into Linda Parelli and trying to mow her down. Parelli was ready with her understanding of his strategy and her newly instilled cues.

 The horse fought to utilize the holes that had worked for him in the past but Parelli was on to him. The tarp functioned like the wall had done blocking an exit to the right and Linda used that rope and shaking on the lead swiftly and firmly to block everything forward and left, stopping the horse in his tracks.

 At each release the gelding tried to escape  but Parelli blocked him every time.  Each attempt was an all out, forceful effort to get past the woman so the horse could reestablish his dominance but Parelli's responses were as swift and forceful as the gelding's. He responded quickly and abruptly,  still looking for any avenue of escape for several desparate tries.

I could tell by his body language the gelding was not done at those releases. His head was up high, his eyes intense and his body tight. At each lurch forward I watched the horse's frantic attempts to win. Linda Parelli's timing and understanding of the situation were perfect. The battle was fierce but short.

When it was done, the gelding stood with his head dropped low, his eye soft and his body relaxed. The next time Linda Parelli headed the horse towards the tarp he slowly walked up to it, hesitated for a moment and then stepped onto it. The drama was over.

To be continued.......

Working with the Gelding's Owner


  1. Sounds very effective, I would like to have seen it . I like the way you describe it as well, but so much of what I have seen of the Parrelli work is snippets often taken out of context , I would be very interested to see the whole thing

  2. Sounds like she knew exactly what he was gonna try and she worked him through it. It is so hard to get past that third step when the second step almost seemed too easy.