The system of Parelli Natural Horsemanship has eight principles that express core ideas of the program; Principle Seven states “Horses Teach Humans and Humans Teach Horses.” (You can find the other principles here.) This week, after Kelso came down with a flu, I was able to learn from not one, but two, of the farm’s schoolmasters. Both of these horses reminded me of the invaluable lessons that can be learned from riding different horses, especially horses that are schooled by such talented riders as Paul and Andrea.
Kelso came in from the pasture acting a little weary on Wednesday morning. It had been raining all day, and so at first I chalked it up to being depressed due to the weather. When I went to bridle him, he wasn’t seeking the bit as he normally does (which never happens) and then he wasn’t interested in treats at all (unheard of.) He did end up taking the bit eventually and I anthropomorphized and thought he was refusing treats because he was mad at me for the ride the day before (he learned bucking every right lead canter depart was not the correct answer.) The ride was calm and he was a little tired, but nothing that had me really worried such as coughing or snotty noses. However, later that night, when grain was thrown, he didn’t even look at it.
I took his temperature and he was running a fever of 103.4°. Cue my panic. For a horse who has rarely had any health scares (knock on wood), when he does it sends me over the edge. He was given a full dose of Banamine and was back to normal the next morning, which was odd in itself. It is pretty typical for fevers to spike the same night or next morning as their body can still be fighting something. However, he was back to trying to eat my fingers and couldn’t leave me alone, so back to my Wonder Pony.
This all happened on Wednesday afternoon, so Kelso was given the day off for the normal Thursday morning lessons. My temporary mount was Ciela, one of Paul’s mares. I have been lucky enough to watch one of Paul’s longtime students work Ciela every week, so I was excited to get to ride her myself. It was also an opportunity for me to focus more on my position, which is always a plus!
The biggest take-away from my lesson with Ciela was my hand position as well as half-halts. After warming up and working on canter-walk transitions, I returned to the trot and immediately commented that she was pretty heavy in my hand. Paul instructed me to take more intentional half halts, and raise my hands a little bit. She became a different horse! With Kelso, I am able to use pretty small half halts to rebalance him, but he is also about half the size of Ciela….Paul told me that he doesn’t necessarily encourage riders to ride with very high hands, but sometimes it is necessary in order to bring the horse up. Previously, I was half-halting back too much and causing her to dive into the forehand. It was a lightbulb moment!
The next day, I went from my smallest-horse-on-the-farm to the biggest! Ted is a gelding who we joke is the old man that yells at the kids in the neighborhood, “Get off my lawn!” Despite being a grouch, he was so much fun to ride! Andrea had me focus on collecting his canter and doing canter-walk transitions. I didn’t know what using my back was like until I worked with Ted. Andrea commented that if I can collect his canter, I can for sure collect Kelso’s, too. We also played around with baby working pirouettes, and it was invaluable to have Andrea’s eyes on the ground telling me how crooked I was while going to the right. I was riding the shoulders too much, causing myself to become crooked and making it impossible for him to correctly doing the travers he needed to do. Another lightbulb moment!
I included some video of my lesson with the big guy who is not a big Teddy bear, despite the name. (Sidenote: I am my own worst critic and it’s still pretty tough to share videos of me struggling, but I do it in the hopes that you can learn something, too! Thanks for being kind and supportive!)
I was humbled and so excited to be able to learn from Paul and Andrea’s horses this week, and by extension, from them. I am a pretty lucky girl to have such invested and knowledgeable trainers as mentors. Even though I had a ton of fun, I am definitely excited to have Kelso back in action this week to apply what I learned from Ciela and Ted. Kelso might not be, though!
Off to go practice using my back more,
Erin and the Wonder Pony