Monday, July 14, 2008

I own a stick.

Okay, so.....I own a stick. It is not orange. Mine is black with a fancy white string at the end. I had a few color options at the time of purchase. I went with the most inconspicuous. I have a carrot stick bias. For those who don't follow the Lords of our sport, the Gurus, the Gods, let me explain the carrot stick.

There is a natural horsemanship clinician that some would call THE God of all things natural, Pat Parelli. In truth, his methods have been used since before he was born by rough neck cowboys. What they didn't have was the gall to package up their methods in shiny black boxes filled with 8 DVDs or to sell them for over $200 a pop. They didn't come up with a brilliant marketing strategy of a graduated level system, must have gadgets, ropes and saddles, special academies or clubs...etc. Simply put, the guy is a marketing genius. I am sure he has done really well for himself, which would be the first strike against him- he actually made money! What a sell out! His demographic is largely comprised of 40+ women that had horses in their youth but were too busy raising babies for the past 20 years to pursue a sport of their own. They are scared of horses and don't know how to handle them safely. The want to be friends with their horses. Its all that lovey, dovey, one with nature, granola stuff that the baby boomers famously eat up like hot cakes. Pat Parelli is their GOD. He actually had the nerve to make ground work games! Games!!!

I don't follow Parelli. I know people that do and they are all, to a tee, insane (please refer back to my first Blog entry where I fully admit all horse people are insane and as self righteous as I am being now.) The Parelli hens are insane. Their horses, crazy. Their methods, dangerous. They all carry around this thing they call a carrot stick, a bright orange 4 foot long piece of heavy plastic resembling a fishing rod with a rope of about six feet or so attached to the end. They use this stick to do their games. I didn't get it. I poked fun with all the REAL horse people. I wouldn't be caught dead with one.

I own a "horsemanship stick". Its black. Did I mention that it is not a carrot stick? Why? Because I am scared of horses and all the other real horsemen are mean people that force you to "cowgirl up" and just go "get'r done", buck up, suck up...all without the benefit of a brightly colored stick to defend yourself with. Or so it seemed... in my eyes. I was twice as nervous in their presence as I was alone because I knew it was only a matter of time before they'd see what a yellow bellied baby I had become. I was desperate. A trainer that was once a "Certified Parelli Level Three Instructor" was holding a clinic. I signed up. He didn't have games. Bonus! He did have levels and an item for sale that conspicuously resembled a carrot stick but came in every color of the rainbow BUT orange. I found this highly suspicious.

First day of my first ever clinic, I found myself standing with a 'horsemanship stick' in my hands. For the next 3 months I didn't let go. It was a crutch, soother, baby blanket, whatever you want to call it but I LOVED that thing like I have never loved something inanimate in my life. It gave me power! There were 10 other people in the clinic. I think maybe three of us had the first clue what in the hell was going on. I started to better understand that it was not so much a flaw in Parelli's system so much as a flaw in his demographic. I believe that anyone, in any equine sport, trainer or otherwise can use and apply some Parelli techniques and become a better horse person, (Please note that I fully appreciate that Parelli's techniques were not developed by Parelli.)

What I learned at this clinic that changed the way I deal with horses in every aspect is this- The optimum point of a horses learning is when the pressure STOPS not when it is applied. I had a epiphany to this effect when I got in to a rental car one day and the damn thing would not stop beeping at me. I could not, for the life of me, make that beeping stop. That beeping was putting pressure on me to find the magic answer. I tired the lights, the radio, the parking brake, you name it. It beeped faster. I was frantic. Finally, I put on my seat belt. It stopped. Whew! Epiphany! That is what all this Parelli stuff is about. The pressure I put on a horse is the beep, beep, beep. When he gets the answer right, the beeping HAS to stop! If the beeping does not stop, he will blow right past the solution and back on to the head lights or e-brake. Sounds simple. Every day at the barn I see horses trying to make the beeping stop. Sally asks her horse to back up by tapping him on the chest. The horse bulks, tries to move forward. Sally adds more pressure, hits harder, faster. Horse backs up. Sally keeps hitting. Beep!

To be continued.

1 comment:

  1. Well hi there! I do believe we're neighbours (sort of) I think you're in Alberta, I'm in Saskatchewan!
    I saw the comment you left on "Baby Black Horse" and thought I'd check out your blog.
    Read your first three entries, you are indeed a fine writer! Oh, and I thank God for spellcheck too! (wish it was available when posting comments!!)
    I have to say I agree wholeheartedly with this particular post! The "Parelli hens" as you called them, well my friend and I call them a cult!
    Pop on over to my blog if you like :)