Parelli'd to death: free schooling a clingy horse

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Parelli'd to death: free schooling a clingy horse

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    12-30-2010, 08:35 PM
Arrow Parelli'd to death: free schooling a clingy horse

Please save me, HF!

Hey guys.
I'm having trouble with my gelding. I'm still working on it, but I thought i'd stick this post up firstly to get some advice from you more experienced owners, and secondly to see if you think my handling of the situation so far has been, frankly, any good. Fingers crossed!

A little background info: The horse in question is a sweet little 14.2hh 14yo Welsh X New forest pony. I found myself short of time for him, so he's been on a loan type agreement to a couple of girls, and I'm under the impression they only had him in light work, so he's not been doing too much, maybe working once or twice a week. Alongside ridden work, they've had him doing Parelli's seven groundwork games. He's really smart and a very quick learner so he's picked them up very well. Lately he's been quite cuddly, although he wasn't that friendly with me before.

So, now I have a little more time I want to start riding him again. He can be a little difficult at times and because of this I wanted to make sure our groundwork was tiptop, so I can feel at ease and have his respect. I've started freeschooling my mare and we love it, so I thought i'd try that with him. Hmmm. Not only has he gotten more FRIENDLY, he's downright CLINGY! I couldn't get him to go away from me at all. He just didn't get it. And no amount of schooling whip waving was going to change that (he figured it was a 'friendly stick', maybe?). I tried waving it, making noises, hitting the whip againt my boot to make a sound, I wouldnt hit him, but I tried a little tap to encourage him to go away, he wouldn't leave. He also feels the need to be facing me at all times, I can't seem to walk alongside him, the moment I try to walk round him his swings his hind round (kinda like in the driving game I think). He has always been good at yeilding to pressure and moving when asked, but now he won't stand still unless i'm directly in front of him. I got him to still for a bit so I could walk away from him, but he headed straight for me and just wanted to follow me around. He's such a pony-in-my-pocket!

So I figured i'd take a step back and lunge him before I try to get him freeschooling. Again I really couldn't get him away from me. I got a bit of bailing twine and tied it to the end of my schooling whip to make it a bit more.....encouraging. This seemed to get him moving at least a little. I found if I tried to get him to walk he was really confused so I tried to get him moving and managed to get him to trot but it was a real struggle to keep him from turning into me, and I had to start again a couple of times. Eventually I set up a very small jump (with no wings) and lunged him over that at a trot. Having something to focus on seemed to help getting him to go forwards but it was still a real struggle. He seemed very anxious. I got a few good circuits on each rein and left it at that for today, but I need to work out what to do next. The girls say he's fine when they're riding and he's great with their parelli games, but since he started with that the idea of regular groundwork seems to stump him. Like I said he's a VERY quick learner, and while this can be great in the right hands, it also means that if you don't conduct yourself well he can learn from that and move backwards. I don't want to make a mistake here. I'm trying my very hardest to stay patient with him, but frankly i'm a little frustrated when I can do nothing with him, I really wanted to get his groundwork good before I tried riding him again.

Anyways, thanks for reading. I'm going to keep working on this with him, and we've got through worse, but any opinions would be awesome.
Thanks guys xx
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    12-31-2010, 12:26 AM

I have a lot to say about your situation, so be patient with me.

I don't own a horse and dont' do Paralli. I lease a horse and have 11 years riding experience and off and on training in Natural H. And Dressage.

Ok, I am so totally understanding what you are saying and frankly, I am surprised I don't hear this more often from other owners of Paralli-ized horses.
What you have described is one of the reasons why I feel negatively toward the Paralli program, in general, not against the persons themselves.

The problem is that the horse becomes desensitized to pressure. And since the person training him is working him with very small steps and looking for very small responses (for the most part), I think they lose perspective of the horse overall. I mean, the practictioner of P is focussed on getting the horse to do these 7 games, one at atime, without any understanding of why they are doing this and is that what this horse needs? They follow the same formula for all horses.
A horse that is dull will not benefit from training him to stand still, or be real close to the person, or always move his hindquarters away. All this will dull out the spark of Forwardness that is essential in a riding horse. Makes a good pet, though.

Worse, by desensitizeing the horse to pressure it takes away the most essential tool for training a horse. Without that , how can we train them? Not like dogs, with treats. We need horses to be horses, not pocket pals.

I am going to send this, take a short break and write more. Told you I had a lot to say.
    12-31-2010, 12:37 AM
Undoing training can be tough. Groundwork is important, but I wouldn't let it get in the way of you riding him. Especially if his problem is being too "in your pocket." That's probably not a problem that's going to translate to the saddle like complete lack of respect. Horses often see people as two different people: the person in the saddle and the person on the ground since the horse can't see you when you're on their back.

I'd try exaggerating your body language to get across what you want. Maybe put a halter on him and tie him up to a fence post in the arena, move around him and ignore him. Once he stops focusing in on you release him, and let him loose as a reward. Then go sit on a mounting block and ignore him. To get him to move away when you ask him is to first get him to stop overly orienting himself to you.
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    12-31-2010, 12:38 AM
Part two;

So, to get your horse back to being respectful of your pressure you may have to startle him a little , out of his fog.

I would put him on a shorter lunge line (The Parelli line is really good for this. They do have good quality products!). He is facing you, right? You are facing him . YOu turn your body slightly toward the direction you want him to go. He stared at you. You cluck at him and start a mild shake of the whip on the driving side . Lets say you are starting him to the LEFT, ok? He will not move except to keep facin you. You NEED him to move so that he presents his driveline (cinch area) to you. You cannot drive him forward until he does this.
How to get him to turn? You will step toward his face, focussing mentall on his left nostril, and you will push on him THERE. By pushing his HEAD away from you, he will eventually move it away from you. I guarantee if you put enough pressure on his head, he will move it away from you. If you approach him with your toes pointed slightly in the direction you want him to move and pushing on his inside nostril, he will jerk his head back and step back and away from you. This presents his driveline to you and you push on him THERE, askng him to go forward.

Push means: First you step toward one or two steps, you lean toward him, you have a forceful energy in your body that demonstrates your intention, you lift your hands up and face them at him, crooked like "claws" and tap the air and as you walk closer and closer to him, if he doesnt read all these signs to MOVE, you will run into his nose with your tapping fingers. Keep tapping , bigger and bigger until HE MOVES! Sure, he will jerk his head up like, "hey, what the hell!". Too bad, he did not listen when you asked many times already.
You can also use the extra end of the leadline and swing it like a propeller as you walk toward that inside nostril and you are not hitting him, he is just not moving out of the way of oncoming pressure. If you use the propellor, don't whack him hard, but I have actually let it contact the cheek of the animal or the neck close to the head. If it is not close to the head, it wil only cause the hroe to backup, not turn away from you.
    12-31-2010, 12:45 AM
Part three

Once he has moved his head away from your pressure, you can point the whip or propellor on his driveline area , pull the rope with your left hand with a couple of quick jerks in a "forward" direction (left in this case) and say firmly , "walk on!"
If he turns his head into you again, start again pushing his head away and asking for forward movement. He may struggle a lot trying to figure it out, but as long as you are consistent and when he does the right thing you reward thim.

In fact, you could start with your first goal only being getting him to step away and offer his driveline. When he takes that first step away and sideways and his side becomes available to you, you do nothing. You got what you wanted. Let him rest and then do it again. Once he will step away/over with just body language, (no whip or propellor) then you can get step over AND step forward onto the circle, the beginnig of actual lunging.

Does this make sense to you?

If you dont' care if he is responsive to pressure on the ground, well, ok. But usually a horse that is not responsive to pressure on the ground will also be dull in the saddle. Lazy or slow in turning, heavy on the bit, resistant to moving forward, you name it.
I want a horse that moves over when I ask him to. I do not think this will destroy his calm nature or affectionate manners. I don't want a horse to be so close on me . Too much poundage close to my tootsies.
    12-31-2010, 03:29 AM
Oh boy, I would be beating someone (humans) with a carrot stick. I don't know what to tell you other than I would fear a loss of trust, as he has been taught to trust the scary things that make him move, and if you push them, I can imagine he will go into a breakdown. I would if I were him and taught to trust something that is now going to have to become more powerful.
I am sorry for you and your horse, and I will be following your progress with interest, please keep us updated.
    12-31-2010, 04:02 AM
I could be wrong, but it kind of sounds like he might just be confused, really. The girls took him all out of his element, and de-horsified him. Poor guy. I dislike Parelli for the reasons Romantic Lyric, tinyliny, and you do. It totally desensitizes the flight-or-fight instinct in them.

From experience, I know that it takes double time to untrain than to train.... I feel for you, Skye.

I really like the thoughtful suggestions Romantic Lyric, and tinyliny gave you.. I would start with those, and if they don't work, come on back.

Lots of love coming your way,
Gill and Indy.
    12-31-2010, 08:50 AM
Eurgh, What a drag this is going to be. Thank you all for your responses so far.

Tiny, your posts are very well detailed and comprehensive, so thank you for your input, I'm going to give your suggestions a try and see how we go, i'll update this thread and perhaps something new will come to light, who knows.

In response to RomanticLyric, I do see your point that these issues aren't exactly a lack of respect on his part, and he may well be fine in the saddle. I will get riding him soon, the other thing I didn't mention is that as it has been a long time since riding him and he can be a little difficult I wanted the first ride or two to be supervised by my instructor, mainly for peace of mind. Anyways, she has measles, so I'm going to attempt to groundwork him until she's better, should only be a week or so. I'll be in the saddle as soon as she stops being contagious. She knows him very well and I know she'll smooth out any issues that may be there straight away so we can get on smoothly. Thanks for your ideas, I'll see how they go

Alex and MoodIndigo, I think you may both be right. Most of the time the vibe i'm getting from him is that he's just so confused. After weeks of being taught the stick is his friend he just can't understand why he would want to go away from it. The short amount of time I did manage to push him away from me he got really anxious, and couldn't understand why I wouldn't let him come back at all. This led to a lot of snorting and heavy breathing. He got quite upset. But as soon as he's back in my space he seems fine. Poor boy. I do fear a bit of a breakdown on his part. I feel terrible. I don't know how often the girls have had him doing these games but perhaps I should have REALLY knocked into them that he is a VERY quick learner. When teaching him something new I only do it every few days or so if that, otherwise he goes into some sort of learning overdrive. I think that is why he is swinging his butt around so much. It's really bugging me that I can't even walk over to his hindquarters or touch his back. What a nightmare!

One thing is very clear to me though. Baby steps. I'm going to have to do this really gradually. Great. Thanks again for your ideas so far, i'm going to head out to the yard soon and get the horses moving, and do some work with him, I'll update later and see what we manage.

Much love xx
    12-31-2010, 04:24 PM
You don't have to use the carrot stick when you work with him. In fact, use something else. Take a whip and tie a plastic bag on the end of it.

Your being able to move him around should BUILD his trust in you, not destroy it. He may act upset and confused and that's normal. You mustn't stop your asking while he is in the confused state. That would leave him there with those bad feelings. You want to persist with your asking until he, confused and trying this and that, by accident finds the correct response to your asking. When you take the pressure off, he gets relief. It takes a few times before he realizes that he can get himself relief anytime he wants.
And it's strange, but when a horse finds the way out of pressure by himself, I mean he finds the right answer himself, for some reason he will retain it better.
You could have someone lead him out onto the circle while you try to lunge, but he may not realize that that was the answer to your apllying pressure. If he struggles and finds it himself, he will remember it better.

If may get ugly before it gets pretty.
    12-31-2010, 07:53 PM
Originally Posted by tinyliny    
And it's strange, but when a horse finds the way out of pressure by himself, I mean he finds the right answer himself, for some reason he will retain it.
I agree. Just like people who are not always given the right answers and have to think it through or struggle with them, horses keep knowledge better if they make an association themselves. However, this is often a double edged sword as you may unwittingly set them up for the wrong association and then, oh man are you in trouble. Just remember to set your horse up to make the connection you want them to. If you plan to go with tinyliny's suggestion it is extremely important that you don't release the pressure until he gives to it. It will be much easier in the long run.

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