I have recently been on an amazing journey, one that lacks words to describe the process. I have learned more, packed into a short amount of time then I ever have before. I have experienced more thoughts, feelings, and emotions then I knew were possible and I have learned more about humans then I knew there was to learn.
Throughout my life people have said to me, “you have learned so much with horses, you will be an amazing mother some day” and “With the lessons learned in Parelli, you will be so much better equipped at being a parent.” And “If only I had Parelli and horses before I became a parent!” That may be very true and I am thankful for all that I have learned during my journey to becoming this little boy’s mommy. I also have something to say in return; anyone who has been a mom is supremely qualified to be excellent with horses. (This most likely also applies to dads – who are amazing as well, but for the purpose of this article I would like to focus on moms). There is no journey in life that prepares you for or simulates what being a mom will be like. Every journey is unique, every relationship is unique. Much like each horsewomen’s journey is unique and perfect however it unfolds.
For any mom who doubts they can get back into horses or has the ability and skill needed to reach their dreams, I have news for you; if you have raised a child – you have what it takes. YOU are an amazing, strong, competent women who has been put in the pressure cooker of becoming “mommy”, you have “the goods” and everything you need to reach your dreams with horses!
Pat talks about three different things we need to reach our dreams; Love, Language, and Leadership.
LOVE: There is no greater, deeper, or more consuming love then what a mother feels to her child. It consumes every molecule in our bodies. Our very being changes with the chemicals that surge through our bodies to help us experience a love that goes deeper than any level of frustration or exhaustion. It helps us rise above the disgust of cleaning up body-fluids, even when they are rubbed in our hair, while our little ones are sick. It bridges the gap between caring more for someone else’s wellbeing then your own. The love that consumes our very being when we become a mother suddenly stretches out and shines on others. The love you experience for your child helps you realize how much you care for so many people and things, to a new level that you have not experienced before. So, as far as Love; Moms – you know love, you know how to give love, and you know how to share love and you know how to put your heart in your hand and make your love felt.
LANGUAGE: During Pat’s presentations he often says; “Raise your hand if you know how to read . . .” Most of the people begin to raise their hands, at which point Pat finishes his statement; “ . . . a horse.” At this point most of the hands go down. Moms; if you put your hand down on this statement I have news for you, you are the best linguist that exists! You have learned to speak toddler!! More specifically you speak the one dialect of toddler that your little one speaks, and you speak it better than any other mom! Your little one didn’t come with a course on speaking his or her language, they just showed up and expected you to know, NOW! In short, you have all the skills needed to learn to speak your horse’s language. The great news is you even have the opportunity to put your horse back in the stall when you need a break (in most places this is still frowned upon with kids 😉 – this is a joke, please never leave your kids in a stall!!).
LEADERSHIP: Here’s the amazing thing, people think it is hard to motivate a horse to canter sideways or trot backwards. That is “people” who have never tried to motivate a back-bending toddler to get in the car seat, or tried to convince a fun seeking “munchkin of cuteness” that splashing in muddy puddles on the way to church isn’t a good idea! The real challenge in motivations comes from convincing your “bundle of joy” that they should still having a clean, smiling face by the time you get to your destination AND stay quiet and act like a partner as you walk through the doors. Let’s face it, when compared to those feats of super power mom stardom, getting your horse to go sideways with some exuberance pales in comparison!
Some more great news is that if you had children before horses, your children have more than likely prepared you for being the horsewomen that most people dream of! Since I became a mom, I realized there was this secret club, it is a club for only moms. They would love to invite others in but it is not possible to “get it” until you become a mom. It’s one of those things that can’t be taught. Motherhood is empowering and uplifting and HARD and expands every ounce of your being, to areas you didn’t know existed. There isn’t a secret handshake, just a code word; MOM and all who would like to join are welcome. But as some clubs go it’s “easy in and hard out”, in fact on this one there is no out! And we wouldn’t have it any other way.
Of all the things I have learned from becoming “mommy” one of the most amazing has been the tremendous power of mommies! Mommies are amazing, powerful, strong, gentle, compassionate beings with more strength than any one human could imagine. To all the moms out there, I want to leave you with a thought – After getting hired for the job of mom, there is nothing in life you can’t do!
Maserati (AKA Boundless) and Blanketing (Originally posted in Feb. 2015 Savvy Times)
Occasionally in our journey with horses it may be appropriate to put a blanket, sheet, cooler or fly sheet on our horses. In this moments it is almost always better to be prepared than to wish you were. As Pat says at nearly every event where he speaks (taken from the 45+ ‘P’s”) “Prior and Proper Preparation Prevents ‘P’ Poor Performance.” Another great thing about preparing horses for the blanket is that it can help prepare them for their first saddle and/or help you see how the horse’s confidence is with “things” that wrap around the whole horse. To set horses up for success we can take our time with the blanket preparation and help the horse become a more willing and confident partner. The following steps are some ways that I think of preparing a horse for a blanket and the photos are of my new weanling filly who needed this lesson in preparation for winter (just in case).
The first thing and most important for this exercise is to help our horses understand friendly game. As Pat has so often reminded us: “A horse doesn’t care how much you know until he knows how much you care.”
Here we are going to play friendly game in two forms; accepting us the human and accepting our tools (carrot stick, string, blanket, etc.).For safety reasons it is often best to start friendly with the stick, this way if the horse is feeling defensive and we misread the situation they will hit the stick not us. Begin by checking that the horse is confident with the stick being rubbed in all zones (neck, legs, belly, tail, etc) and that they don’t have any “yeah but” spots (these are areas where your horse says “You can touch me anywhere but there”). Using approach and retreat build the horses confidence until they are calm with the stick and might even enjoy it, like another horse grooming them.
A great thing to check out next is the horse’s acceptance to friendly game with the stick and string in all zones. This will help prepare them for the motion of the blanket when we toss it over their back and the motion they will feel when trotting or cantering with the blanket on. While playing with this more active friendly game we need to be sure our energy stays friendly, this is how the horse will tell the difference between friendly and driving games as you advance.
Now that the horse is prepared and we feel as safe as possible with the friendly game it is important we can play friendly with our hands. After all it will be our hands reaching between the hind legs for the straps and positioning and adjusting the belly straps! With this in mind it is a great time to over prepare our horses for this reach. Play a little exaggerated friendly game with your hands, rub with some energy and be sure your horse is accepting particularly in zones 3-4.
Another great preparation for the “just in case” situation is porcupine game specifically with the legs. This is great for preparing horses for a malfunctioning blanket that falls partially off, or drops a leg strap. By preparing horses for the possible and probable we can often avoid injuries or emotional trauma in our horses. Using phases for porcupine and a 12’ or 22’ line we can ask our horses to follow a feel/porcupine on legs off of steady pressure from the rope. By using the rope again we get a little more space in case we need to allow our horses to drift or they get a little concerned. Keep in mind even with your hands on the rope it is important to use phases; 1. Hair 2. Skin 3. Muscle 4. Bone and to release for the slightest try. The goal in this exercise is to help our horses understand how to follow a feel rather than do what is natural and push into it. There is some great information in the Savvy Club Vault (name??) on the Savvy Club Website about leading by the leg.
The next preparation or “test” before blanketing can come from using friendly game with a towel or saddle blanket to toss over your horses back. This tests out the horses acceptance of friendly game with our tools (things that are an extension of us, like our carrot stick and string). Applying the same approach and retreat method used for friendly with the stick and string or saddling we can now prepare our horses a step further for the blanket with a towel that falls off much easier (just in case they take a fright). Using a towel also allows us something small enough that we aren’t getting tired “heaving” it over the horses back. Also, sometimes in the winter static can build up between the horses and blankets/towels, if this happens a quick spray of water or water with a hair moisturizer in it will help tame the static so that the horse is not getting shocked!
Our goal is that by the time we get to blanketing it is easy and that we have over prepared our horses for the situation. After all, the quote “Take the time it takes so it takes less time.” Is nearly a Parelli anthem. This way horse and human can relax when it comes to blanket time and trust that the preparation has laid the foundation for success.
Recently I had the opportunity to attend the Rolex 3-day Event in Kentucky, a test of the top competitors in the 3-day eventing field including many past and future Olympians. Among some of this years riders were Karen O’Conner (from “The Future of Training” with Linda & Pat Parelli and Karen & David O’Conner), William Fox-Pitt (this years Rolex winner), and Marlynn Little-Meredith (finishing a close second).
In Eventing, the horse and rider are put through 3 days of challenges. The first day is Dressage, the second day consists of a Cross-Country jumping course – over 30 obstacles (including 3’ 6” tall jumps with a base of over 8 feet and jumps into water and at a gallop) while on course the riders and horses often exceed … Read More »
In one of the first VHS tapes of Pat’s Seven Games, I heard Pat say, “When in Rome, do as Romans do, and when in a horse corral, do as horses do”. It has taken me a long time to begin understanding how profound this statement is. Most of us know ‘right from wrong,’ what acceptable social behavior looks like, and what is considered rude in our environment. However, what is considered socially acceptable can change significantly depending on the geographic location. For instance, I have heard that in China it is rude to eat everything off your plate at a meal (leaving some of the meal on your plate says that the host has served you a sufficient meal). Here, in most of America if you didn’t finish what was on your plate, you may leave the host feeling … Read More »
It sounds simple and we know our attitude is vitally important on our horsemanship journey! Then, why, does it sometimes feel so hard to carry out the attitude of justice?
In my path of helping humans learn about natural horsemanship I am often repeating the need for the ‘attitude of justice’ while demonstrating a technique or concept with a horse. In answer to this statement about ‘justice’ I am greated by blank stares or nodding heads with little to no change to how the student is handling their own horse. What I have discovered is that this response comes from a core difference in belief on what “justice” and “natural” actually mean. So, I’ve looked up a simple and concise definition from Wikipedia to help us get on the same page:
Natural – “existing in or caused by nature, not made or … Read More »