Plan vs reality

Every time I go to see Juliano I seem to have a plan. A plan to ride, play on-line, do liberty, work on a pattern etc. If I have time before making my way down to the stables I watch a DVD of Pat or Linda or read an article and then I visualize how will I teach Juliano and myself that concept. I think of a blueprint of what small things we have to work on. I go to the stables with all these ideas and plans for our session. It's all easy and picture perfect in my mind but then the reality verifies my plans. There are so many factors that can influence what we do on that day: time span, the weather, Juliano's mood, my mood, farriers visit, friends and so on. So how to plan your and your horses progress and not make it a goal before principle? Tricky question and even trickier answer. I recently discovered that the greatest plan is not to have a plan at all.

Being Parelli students we have so many things to work on, so many ideas and fun things to do, that sometimes I have a feeling I should play with Juliano a few times a day to cover all areas. There is on-line, liberty, freestyle and finesse and a million exciting challenges in each savvy. You travel up the levels with your horse and after each you think "Now, now we know everything!". Soon after that, another door of another level opens and you know it's just the tip of an ice-berg. Again you have so many things to learn and it gets more and more exciting each step of the way. For most of us horsemanship is our passion, something we want to learn every day and we devote a big part of our life to it. We go to see our horses eager to learn, eager to ride and then...

… then there is the horse - our beloved animal, which has it's own needs, ideas and preferences. Now comes the tricky part, the part where our human plans meet the state of mind in which our horse is in. Do we continue with our plan for the day? If we are at home with our horse, not on a course does it go: Monday – freestyle, Tuesday – finesse, Wednesday -on-line, Thursday – Liberty, Friday – Hack, Saturday – Play Day, Sunday – off? From what I've observed in interacting with Juliano, 9 out of 10 times I have had to change my plan. Lets say I want to ride, do some finesse and I go to get Juliano from the field but I can clearly see he is in a super playful mood and I don't have time to do both, play and ride. Do I continue with my plan and say "OK, knock it off, we are going to do lead changes today" or do I take this playfulness, grab a 22" foot line and just go play? The answer is simple, I abandon my plan and follow Juliano's idea. This is easier said than done, at first I was a bit angry with myself, I thought "I didn't do anything special with Juliano, we didn't learn anything". After some time I started to realise I actually learned a lot more and so did my horse. By allowing him to choose his "plan" he actually offered more and learned faster. There were times when we didn't ride for a week or two but we've had breakthrough after breakthrough on the ground. These were the most amazing sessions. Just yesterday, I wanted to ride but we ended up doing Liberty. Liberty is not my strongest savvy yet but I was blown away by Juliano's focus on me. He would trot back to me when I asked him to disengage from the end of the arena, not round corral, arena! Our draw has never been so powerful. In the photo, you can see the exact moment in which I've asked Juliano to come to me. His feet were still moving away but I got his mind and few seconds later he was standing next to me.

This was a dream Liberty session and I wanted to ride instead!

I now have a golden formula for me and Juliano. I keep a blueprint in my mind of patterns and ideas to play around in all four savvies. I try to be one step ahead with my part of the learning and the information that I may need. I don't make plans for particular days, I allow Juliano to do that for me. I go to the stables, greet him and observe him for a bit. After short time I know what he wants to do, what mood he is in. It's his idea and his choice of a classroom in which he wants to be on that day: on-line, liberty, freestyle or finesse. It took me some time to figure out how to be flexible and as Pat says „put principles before goals”. How do you plan your sessions? I can't wait to read your ideas.


  1. Hi Marta,
    Really enjoyed this! You are so right, it's hard to make a plan, a good one. One that your horse can be happy with too! Over here in Ireland we study a lot with James Roberts who has developed a really good plan / blueprint for horse development. Happy to share that with you!
    Cheerio, Miguel

  2. Dear Miguel,
    I would really like to learn more about this blueprint.

  3. Marta, I so enjoy reading your blog. It really does inspire me (here in New Zealand) But I have to ask who takes your photos, (as you are in a lot of them), they are fantastic.
    Like Juliano, my Raffy, was gelded late in life, but is much more introverted than him. We have so far to go, that I need inspiring at regular intervals. Thank you doing that for me!

  4. Hi Tina,

    Photos are taken by my friend from the stables - Kamila. She's got a great eye and talent.
    I'm so happy we can be an inspiration with Juliano. I've never even imagined that we would both change so much and that Juliano would enjoy my company. Thank you for this wonderful comment, it means a lot to me.

    Warm wishes,

  5. I NEVER have a plan... I just do whatever comes to my mind basing on my mood, my mare's mood, the weather, friends... (just the thing you mentioned ;) ) It works great for us :)