"Good better best, never let it rest. Get your good better and your better best!" Pat Parelli quoted by Carol Lowery
Today was a great day for Simba and me. At least it was a great day for me! Simba was happy when the morning was over and he was back home heading out to pasture to meet the "girls". But I like to think his trust in me as his leader grew today.
Carol Lowery from Hampton attended Parelli training this summer to become a certified On Line instructor. She must complete 50 hours of free classes before beginning her business. I signed up immediately to take a class and jump-start Simba's and my Parelli journey together. It was an awesome experience. Carol is kind, gentle, and knowledgeable. Jacey Tevis and her Morgan, Mekos, joined us in class. Jan, Kathy, and Kory watched the session, taking video and pictures. I'm so grateful for their support.
Jan and Kathy spent last Wednesday here at the farm playing with Simba and Dreamer. I saddled up Babe and walked around to observe how Dreamer and Simba interacted with them. It was good preparation for the on-line class with Carol. Jan and Kathy gave me great feedback and had success teaching Simba a few of the seven games.
Simba seemed less worried about the trailer ride to Belinda's today. But Jan commented that he definitely was not "with" me for the first hour. He was trying his heart out, interpreting my body language to figure out what I was asking him, but easily distracted.
Carol started us on the Figure 8 pattern. I have never asked Simba to play this game, and I was amazed at how quickly he learned. Jacey and I seemed to struggle with some of the same human issues, and Carol asked us to break the Figure 8 down into two circles. After each circle we disengaged the horses' hindquarters, let them "soak" a second and then asked for the change of direction to complete the pattern. Carol reminded us to break down any task and take it step by step rather than ask for the whole task immediately. For instance, Figure 8 is two circles, Weave is two Figure 8's, etc. In fact, at the end of the day, she reminded us that we played all seven games during these two patterns.
Here are a few of the things I learned:
1. I expected my leadership to change for a left-brain horse because of their propensity to become bored. Carol explained that there is another common denominator to take into account: both Dreamer and Simba are INTROVERTS. INTROVERTS need time to think and absorb new information whether right brain OR left brain. Light-bulb moment! Give Simba more time to lick and chew!
2. During a Send, send ALL zones! (Send Zone 1, then Zone 2, then Zone 3, etc.) Keep the rope short enough to tag Simba if he doesn't leave when I ask. I must "mean it" if I tag. Tag the spot that hasn't left, not the horse!
3. Keep my belly button pointed in the direction I want Simba to go. Standing with my "bull horns" pointed directly at the horse is confusing. I must be clear in my signals. Simba was more sensitive to my belly button than my eyes. It's not as easy as it sounds to keep the belly button pointed where I WANT Simba to go!
4. During the "allow" on a circle, relax, but keep up my energy. When I completely relaxed, Simba lost impulsion or braced before he stopped, usually right behind me!
5. If necessary, use the power position if he braced against the rope. (Power position: Let the rope pass completely around my body, don't reach for it. Pick it up when it passes in front. Keep the stick in your hand at all times!)
6. Whenever Simba breaks gait, change direction. Open my hand and allow the rope to slide through. When it gets toward the end of the rope, begin walking with Simba rather than allow him to brace against the rope.
This was a defining moment. It was awesome how it worked. I stopped acting like a dictator (or predator?). Sometimes having real SAVVY is breaking the rules and doing what works. It seems to be a cardinal rule not to move your feet on the circle. The "rule" says every time the horse makes the human move her feet, she loses. Sometimes you trust your gut, though.
Carol told me to move with Simba during the allow and when it felt right, stop moving and disengage when he completed 1/2 circle. If he broke gait before 1/2 circle, change direction and start over, moving with him again. Simba became interested and engaged with me, constantly asking questions. It was lovely and heartwarming to see what partners we can be. It was a perfect time to stop, give him a treat and praise him.
For us, it was a fantastic morning of learning. My savvy grew ten-fold. The sky is the limit for Carol as a Parelli instructor. We are so lucky to have her in Central Iowa.