I see friendly game everywhere

It was a great sunny afternoon and we've decided to go on a hack with Magda and her horse Dum Dum. Last year during summer we would go to the lake with our horses almost every day, but this year Dum got sick so this was our first chance to go swimming. When we've reached the lake Dum immediately went in, he literary dragged Magda into the lake. Juliano wanted to eat grass first but when he saw Dum going for the reeds he decided it's a much better treat for him and followed. We were both sitting on our horses in the water, we were talking and our horses were going over another patch of reeds when someone on the shore started to beat sand out of a blanket. There was a print of a large dog on the blanket. Juliano was afraid and got tense, but the man continued. He than picked another blanket and by the time he finished with it Juliano was back to eating reeds, totally relaxed like nothing happened. What a great friendly game :)


Freestyle - all systems check

I finally got my saddle out, it was covered in dust. 1 month went by and all we did with Juliano was liberty and bareback riding - it was simply too hot. I didn't have a specific plan for that day only to check if all "systems" still worked. To my surprise the breaks were working better than ever - canter/walk/back-up transitions perfect.

  • Breaks - check

  • Steering - check

  • Gears - check

As all the systems were in place and Juliano was in a positive state of mind I've decided to give jumping a go. Juliano was always sceptical about going over jumps, he would squeeze in between two verticals of a square oxer, he would back up to a jump but he would refuse to go over. I think the underlying cause of our problem was my fear. I would ask Juliano to go over a jump but in my body I was saying stop before it. Clever horse, he knew better than me what I wanted. Today was different, today he was jumping like crazy. He felt my confidence.


Another moving moment

Yesterday we've "scratched our backs" with J today we had another moving moment. I was standing with Magda in the pasture, we were talking and watching our horses graze. Suddenly one of the mares spooked at something in the forest. All the horses started running, so did Juliano. But instead of following the herd he turned around and ran straight towards me for safety. He stopped and hid behind my back. I had tears in my eyes. For a horse to like a human is one thing but to choose a human over other horses... something magical is at work here.


Bonding with the herd

Last night we had plenty of rain. Finally our horses could go out to some fresh grass and cool air. I didn't want to spoil Juliano's fun with the gang besides he looked like chocolate Easter bunny, covered with a thick crust of mud. I've decided to have a quick bareback ride. I got on him on the large paddock with other 5 horses surrounding us. I wanted to make our session more about my focus and using the "eyes" on my belly-button and knees more than anything. We did great, few minutes in trot and canter, doing a figure 8 in between two trees. I didn't use the string, so big success, just the focus. I than allowed J to walk up to his friend and the most amazing thing happened. I started scratching J on the neck, he did the same to the other horse and the other horse started scratching my leg. This was our herd moment. Amazing that horses are willing accept us as part of their herd!


Share your story

During my stay in England I had a chance to tell Juliano's story to a lot of different people including Linda. This got me thinking about how we can change the lives of our horses and how important it is to share our stories with others in order to see the difference we've made. So for those who don't know us yet here are few words of introduction.

I met Juliano 5 years ago, he was 9 at that time. He was aggressive and had a very negative attitude towards people. He was spooky and unconfident and he seemed introverted to me at that time. This is what I came to every day at first:

Not a pretty picture!

I don't know his whole history but I know he raced when he was 2/3 years old, finished his racing carrier at the age of 4. After that he went from one owner to next, he was ridden in draw reins and was basically a "difficult horse".

I always looked at Juliano through the perspective of his past experiences but the further in programme we've got (level 1 than 2 and 3) the more changes started to happen in both of us. In the last year things were going so good I almost forgot what problems and nightmares from his past life we have faced on daily basis 3-4 years ago.

Over the years we’ve hit some serious bumps in the road and there were times I thought I should quit riding and just have Juliano as a "pet". At the beginning it was quite hard for me to believe that we are on the right path. I had problems with doing one lap of canter without spinning out of control while others were riding their "obedient" horses past us looking at me pitifully . I than found myself in a place where I wouldn't ride in front of anyone except my Parelli friends. During one of his demo's at RFOH Pat said to the British crowds "Death before embarrassment" and this is exactly how I felt. Not only did I choose a different path with my horse but people didn't understand it and they wanted to see results straight away.

Soon after that we've started having breakthrough after breakthrough. Sometimes progress manifested itself in tiny, baby steps and if I had problems with seeing it I always had Joanna and Magda to fall back on. I often said to my friends "I don't need an instructor when I'm riding, I need a shrink". And that's who we were for each other, a shoulder to cry on if we varied off course. Even now when things don't go according to plan or we have a bad day with J, I can talk to them and in the matter of seconds I'm back on my feet, motivated and positive. I think everyone needs to share their stories. Having true, like-minded friends is a blessing but even if you don't have such people around you there is plenty of us in the World. That is why I want to encourage you to share your stories with other Parelli people. Via blog, Share Parelli, Facebook, forums, you name it. This is what we people need in order to stay positive and positive leaders is something our horses need us to be.

Yesterday I opened J's box and allowed him to wonder around the stable. I stood there for at least an hour observing him as he went form horse to horse saying "Hello", playing with hanging head collars and trying to dismantle stable doors. I was amazed how curious he was and believe me he was everything but curious when I got him. How can a horse change like this? The answer is simple - I allowed him to take from me what was taken from him before. Even thought I've made tons of mistakes, he was able to get his dignity, curiosity and playfulness back because I allowed him to do so and encouraged him through play. I could be there for Juliano because I had my friends there for me!


Time apart

Things are going better than ever with Juliano. I was worried that this time apart when I was in the UK would upset J and we will have to take few steps back in our relationship. But luckily I was wrong. Our Liberty is better than ever and our Freestyle mojo is back. Yesterday we went for a quick spin bareback with a Savvy String on J's neck. He did beautiful canter-stop transitions and he did them with me just bringing my energy down, I didn't have to touch the string once. We than played with sideways a bit. This also is starting to work out without touching the string, jupiee.

So how does this time apart really work. I started thinking and I noticed I've changed after seeking Pat live and after talking to Parelli instructors. I came back with even more patience, better timing and I'm more focused than ever. I know what to isolate and work with each day and I know when to quit.


It's not the destination, it's the journey

We are having an unbelievably hot summer here, this was expected - after a cold winter a hot summer will come. This limits out play time to early mornings and late afternoons. We can't even let our horses out during they day as they get covered with bugs in seconds. So the only comfortable place for horses to be in right now are their boxes. There are almost no horse flies there thanks to swallows. Keep up the good work little guys!

The only thing I managed to do with Juliano after my return from UK was to show him his new green ball. I can't wait for the weather to cool down a bit as my head is filled with new ideas and inspiration form Pat and Linda. I would really like to look into the "The Game of Contact" with J.

In the meantime I would like to recommend Linda's post http://parellihorsemanship.wordpress.com/2010/04/29/thats-dangerous/ about an interesting incident she had with Regalo hacking out one day. It's funny how other riders often perceive people riding their horses bridleless. I've received quite a few comments like this over the years - "You are riding a TB in a halter, you must be crazy" or "You will get quicker results if you ride the normal way". But I have a different picture in mind. My goal is to ride with J one day and do piaffes and passages with him in true harmony. Even if it is our last ride together it will be 100% worth it. After all it's not the destination, it's the journey that matters!


A week of Parelli

In the modern society we operate through rules and regulations, DOs and DONTs. Whereas with a horse we should communicate through feel, love, language and leadership. To work out the way to combine both human and horse instincts is a true art.

This week here in the UK brought me together with people from all over the World that not only apply this concept to horse-human relations but also to human-human ones. Working with Pat, Linda, instructors and volunteers showed me how natural and how positive toward others they are. Organizing an event like this is surely a stressful and demanding job but everywhere I looked people were smiling and working as a team. It was a true pleasure to work with them and we had great fun.

At the end of my stay, after Gold Summit, I had a chance to show Linda some photos of Juliano and have a chat with Pat. To be able to share my and Juliano's journey with them just made my day.

I'm still trying to re-live the whole week. It was so intensive in learning and observing that it blended into one huge memory. I'm sure I will be going back to some experiences in the couple of next days and I will post them here for sure. Until than, keep it natural!


You will see true harmony in their eyes - day 2

It is my 5th day here at Stoneleigh. Each day is a long and exciting one and each day I seem to be more and more amazed by human-horse relationships that I see up close.

There are over 40 Parelli Professionals here at Royal Festival of the Horse. Most of them brought their horses with them. Every spare minute I have from helping with organizing the show I turn to the demo arena for inspiration, to take photos and observe what's going on. I'm astonished by the atmosphere in the demos. Each human-horse pair is happy, focusing on each other and having great fun. One thing that struck me while reviewing the photos I took the previous day was that both instructors and with their horses have the same face expression when they play. True harmony and partnership! Just have a look:

Kim and her fjord

Sarah and Mouse

Franco and his gorgeous haflinger/arabian cross gelding


The Royal Festival of the Horse - day 1

The main highlight of the day was Pat's session with Robert Whitaker's new stallion. He is a young show jumping stallion that Robert just brought from Germany and he was very hard to bridle. Pat played with him for over 3 hours. It was a very controversial session and few people left the demo early.

Pat and Robert

Lift the tail button

We stayed and watched amazed how calm Pat was. Understanding horses is a life long journey and sometimes we see things that we still can't understand especially if we'd never came across such an extreme horse. But I was confident that Pat was doing everything for the horse. The horse was very left brain all the time, he didn't panic or move much, he didn't sweat a bit.

Pat finished his session in a very good place for the horse. He played with the horse for another 6 hours the next day at the barn here in Stoneleigh. The outcome was: the horse could be bridled with no problems and Robert want on and competed on him the next day. I think it was in stallions favor that he came across Pat Parelli, otherwise brideling him would get harder and harder each day until he would become one of those people label as crazy, untrainable and not right in the head.

Here you can view some clips from Pat's sessions with Catwalk

This day has proven to me how little I know about horses. How many things I still don't understand or I simply don't see. There are no quick solutions to problems like this stallion had. We should always take the time it takes and try to work on problem areas with the horse not against it, even if the problem seems small or trivial at first. Otherwise some day we might discover the horse can't take it any more. We might be under the impression that the horse suddenly started refusing being bridled, clipped or shoed etc but the truth is the horse probably was putting up with our inadequate behavior for a long time.


Testing Parelli rope strength - unconventional way

You newer know when your Horsemanship equipment may come in handy. Yesterday I've had a chance to test strength of 22"ft rope. My good friend called me in the morning "I run out of petrol in the middle of the woods, I'm in the stables now but I won't be able to tow it today as I'm going away for the day. Can you bring some gas with you to the stables and move the car for me as it is blocking the forest road". I said OK, sounds pretty simple. Boy, was I wrong! When I got to the car with fuel it wouldn't start, and did I mention it is a Mercedes G Klasse which ways 2,5 tons with all the tools inside. Well, I couldn't leave the car there so I decided to tow it with my Ford Focus. I went back to the stables to get my car and look for a rope. Of Course no one had a tow rope. I was thinking what to use and than - eureka, a 22"ft Parelli rope looks perfect for the job. But will it hold?

After a while I was back in the woods, Focus in the front, G Klasse behind and the rope in between. I started towing, slowly, listening for sounds of a braking rope. It turns out both the rope and Ford did just fine. The rope held a 2.5 ton car and what's more the forces on the rope must have even bigger as the forest rode was quite rough. Well done both to my car and 22" ft rope!