This is the place where I record my current learning experiences with horses. I’m personally aiming to become an excellent horsewoman, but the nature of horses is that they are truly catalysts for personal development. So, while half of my musings will be from a point of observation and communication with horses, this only reflects the way that I am personally developing. Because of this, it is my hope that you can relate to my blog on whatever level you wish. If you are a fellow horseman-in-training: good to meet you, it's wonderful to be on the same journey! But at the same time, if you are a complete stranger to me or to horses, you are just as welcome. Hopefully this blog will bring you some amusement; even if it is just laughing at how mad we horse people can be!

In this blog, you can find pages about my life so far, mentors, and of course, horses and my adventures with them.

"Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to Him be the glory..."

Thursday, April 1, 2010

First Principles

I've been thinking creatively about ways to get certain concepts across to Dowdy and Gramsead (the staff who take care of the horses here at Mufundi). This is a challenge, partly because of certain barriers, language and lack of Parelli resources being the biggest, but also because I won't be here for very long (2 weeks, although we've talked about extending my time here).

At the moment they are excellent at just 'being there.' They spend all day out grazing (not them, literally!) with the horses, moseying around as they do, telling them off if they kick each other, but other than that just being there. This is fantastic, because the horses see them as one of the herd. BUT, I'd like to make Dowdy and Gramsead (D&G) more aware that the horses are communicating with each other. That they don't just kick each other at random, and that there is a heirachy.

So, I made a list of four of the Parelli games: Friendly, Porcupine, Driving, and Yo-Yo. These games are really the fundamental ways of communicating, the other three games are really a mixture of these four foundational games. For those of you who don't know what the Seven Games are.... basically Pat Parelli came up with an easy way for us dummies to understand how horses move each other about. The idea is that if we understand the way they THEY (horses) move each other around, we could mimic these ideas, and in turn communicate/move them around in the way that makes sense to the horses. While a lot of our human communications are verbal, horses predominantly use body-language. So, in the same way that our hierarchy is based upon who speaks the most eloquently, or the loudest, or fastest, or most humourously, the horses hierarchy is based upon who moves the other horses around the most, whilst they themselves move the least (who moves whose feet?)
Any non horsey person will tell you that the horses back end is a dangerous place, as they 'unpredictably kick.' Yes, well done for having common sense, but no... there is a LOT more to it than that. Anyway, if you'd like to know more about horse communication, and Parelli, visit the Parelli website:

The Parelli games are about the different ways that horses move each other around to establish leadership and communication. I showed D & G the first four: 
  • Friendly: Is about establishing trust. Everything you do should be based upon the fact that you're not going to eat the horse!
  • Porcupine: Is about moving the horse using steady or constant pressure ie you push the horse until he moves, an obvious one being asking the horse to move his back end away from you, or pulling on the reins/halter
  • Driving: Is about moving the horse using rhythmic pressure. The pressure here starts by just looking at the area you'd like to move, then applying rhythmic pressure, and if the horse doesn't respond, tapping the area, getting progressively stronger. An obvious example of this is when one kicks with the leg when riding; although many riders kick incessantly, or without response, so in essence are playing (an extremely noisy and disrespectful) version of the friendly game.
  • Yo-Yo: Dowdy couldn't find a Swahili translation for this, so we just translated the words 'backwards/forwards' which is really what the Yo-yo game is about. Getting the horse to move backwards, and then coming to you.
In order to make D & G more aware of the horses communicating, I have given them the following list. 

Every time they see a horse playing a particular game, they are to record it. They have already become aware that the horses use Driving Game way more than they use Porcupine. This is an adjustment for D&G as they mainly use Porcupine when moving the horses around.

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