Tuesday, November 30, 2010

A week with Linda, Wendy and Grayson. Part One.

Such a fun time!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Experiment, observe, compare, remember and DISCUSS EVERYTHING! I think I talked more that week than I have in a really long time.

Grayson's steward and owner Peggy had prepared him perfectly for the course. He was very confident with almost everything, safe, willing, stretchy and keen. Linda even said at the end: "this horse is not a challenge mentally and emotionally but he is physically". Emotionally this horse has some "experiences" so I think it's a huge compliment to Peggy that Linda would say that. The physically challenging part is just that he is built kinda long and for whatever reason earlier in his life he had habituated to moving around in a bad banana shape. Nose in the air, dropped tummy and butt up. The weakest part on his body was the bit of neck right in front of his withers. Peggy had already taught him to stretch long and low so the tide had already turned before I got there.

Getting to ride him on Monday I noticed firstly that he felt beautiful! Even when he was crooked or hollow or resistant. He still felt floaty and pretty. First thing off the top was that poor Grayson wanted to spit out the bit. He was happy to carry it around if I didn't hold it. He would even stretch down and peanut roll very nicely. But if I tried to hold the contact he would over curl nose to chest and open his mouth like a happy alligator. I understand! If its just noise and isn't giving clear enough information....is just plain old unpleasant! Add in that we were just acquaintances....yikes.

I simply started picking up the reins and letting them go when his mouth was quiet. Very hard to see on the right side because his mane was in the way. Thank god Wendy was there to be my grounds person Tues, Wed and Thursday. She'd call out "quiet!" when it was. Pretty soon I was able to pick them up and hold them at walk and often he would be soft and confident in his mouth.

Moving to the trot I found that I wanted to baby him. Riding with true Contact and a non flapping rein requires a fair amount of feeling in the reins and therefore in the horse's mouth. Babying him by being tentative in his mouth netted me a reasonably quiet mouth but not a completed cycle of energy between us.

Anytime he didn't understand me he would open his mouth as wide as it would go and over curl hiding behind the pressure. I had to suck it up and take out the slack using my biceps....gently and with feeling....but make sure that he knew that that wasn't the answer. As soon as his nose came forward I'd drop the reins. Trying to communicate "yes!" that's the answer. When we got that I was able to take out the slack and follow him forwards with my triceps until Wendy said "quiet". and I'd drop them.

By the time the Game of Contact Course started I felt like we had some communication with the bit. It was still his default to hide and open his mouth when he was confused. But his brain kicked in much faster and as soon as he started thinking his mouth would relax and he'd start to figure out the rest of his body. What a good boy!

Friday morning we sat down in the classroom for the big Power Point Presentation on the Game of Contact. . . . .


  1. Thank you so much for posting... eager to hear more!!!

    Petra Christensen
    Parelli 2Star Junior Instructor
    Parelli Central