Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Using Groundwork for Success

I was introduced to Parelli Natural Horsemanship in 2007, at the same time as I was looking for a new horse. Groundwork, or work in-hand, is a major part of the program, both On Line (aka. on a line of 12-foot, 22-foot, or 45-foot length) and at Liberty. This foundation is supposed to lead to riding on a loose rein confidently and ultimately to contact, collection, and finesse. Once you have reached these goals, then you are ready for specialization for the purpose of competition. 
Because I've been involved in the program for 6 years now (it has been 6 years, oh my!) I've watched it evolve and change. I have had my moments of dissatisfaction too, and I know I'm not the only one. 
When I first started, in a way I sort of pledged myself to the program and to their values, and for several years it was "The Only Way" for me. I would listen to other ideas, other trainers' opinions, and if it didn't match up with what I knew Parelli taught, then it was automatically not for me and not correct.

I think that this mindset wasn't completely bad for me or for my horses. I learned a lot about setting up a good foundation for a horse of any background. Lady and I have a terrific relationship and she has nearly impeccable manners.

That being said, we never did make as much progress with riding. Part of this might be that I never got instruction while I was on her back, but for whatever reason, I never worked as hard on her ridden foundation as I did on the ground. So it just never progressed. We passed our Parelli Level 2 Freestyle audition 4 years ago with flying colors, but it was in a round pen and we pretty much stayed at that level until recently. Part of this also was due to her back issues, which kept me on the ground for some time.

Anyways, I was blessed with a lovely, fast, athletic horse with whom to work with and play with and make mistakes with. But most of all, to have success with.
Parelli always starts out with safety, the acceptance of equipment, and basic yields to different kinds of pressure. With that, one progresses to doing more advanced yields in all different areas around the horse. For example: moving sideways with a fence for guidance, or without a fence, with you alongside the horse pushing him along or in front of him, or behind perhaps? Long-rein driving is often an important part of young horse's training, and it is a part of Parelli's program as well.

Jumping at liberty in an open area.
Lady knows how to jump what I point her at, she knows how to yield, pay attention, and stand still. I can touch her anywhere, pick up her feet, medicate her in any form or fashion, and control her in nearly all situations without putting myself in danger. There is something to be said for 20-something-foot lines and distance control. About the only thing she does not do well is load in a trailer, but considering we've never had a trailer on the yard except for taking her to the vet, it isn't surprising.

I'll talk about riding some other time, but when it comes to groundwork, manners, and the like, she is the most well behaved - soft and sensitive and obedient. In fact, that is probably one of the best things that Parelli has taught me over the years: how to keep your horse sensitive. Lady still has a highly developed personality, she lets me know when something is bothering her instead of just tolerating it, and she is extremely sensitive to all aids. And I know how to be a better leader because of the program.  :-)

And finally, to steal from SprinklerBandit's post today, I'll post the same thing that I put in her comments. Some fun information about getting one's horses. As she put it... horses are so much more than money.  :)

Horse Name:  Lady
Age When Acquired:  9
Experience/Training at the Time:  She was a thoroughly western trained horse with more than a few years of barrels/poles and endurance competitions behind her. And one foal.  :)
Purchase Price:  500 even

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