Wednesday, December 21, 2011
Something that I didn't fully consider when I took on my first trimming clients was how different their training methods would be from mine. My two clients both follow Parelli, a training regimen that I'm not terribly familiar with but have taken a quick look at and decided it's not for me. I detest the rope shaking (which I've been told is only used in the beginning levels), and from watching Linda Parelli's round pen work I can't say I'm much of a fan of that either.
Another thing I didn't really think about was that when I go to work underneath a strange horse, that horse doesn't know me from Eve.They have no reason to trust me and they have no reason to cooperate. Because of this I've found that it's sometimes helpful for me to take the lead rope and do some groundwork with the horse as an introduction- this is who I am, this is how I work, can we get along?
So I went out to trim the little arab mare that I started seeing in August, up till this point we haven't had any problems, she was happy with me just rubbing and scratching her and was pretty cooperative without me having to take the lead. But this last time it was different, she's had a bunch of time off (it is winter) and we were working in a strange spot. She just didn't want to cooperate, at one point she started sidling away from me every time I went to pick up a hoof. Hindsight being 20/20 I should have realized she was uncomfortable with the location and asked the owner to move her to the other side of the barn. Instead I took the lead rope to see if she was having an issue with me.
Now I like to think that between Alexandra Kurland and Gwen I've learned how to be pretty tactful with a lead rope. I don't tug, yank, or pull on the rope. I've also learned how to gently ask for something so I'll get a nice, calm reaction from the horse without tension. For example, if I want a hip yield I'll take a little more tension on the rope, look towards the horse's hip and step towards it. I might need to point a finger at the hip or touch the hip to initiate movement but as soon as the horse starts moving I back off and let them finish. One step is all I need.
Okay, back to my story.
I started out by leading her forward to see if she would start and stop with me, she was a little up but she did it. Then I turned and asked her to step backwards 2-3 steps, at this point she started getting pissed. I then went to her side to ask for a hip yield and then she just lost it. She started ripping around me, occasionally stopping to fling her hind legs around. I waited until she calmed then asked her to back up and yield her hips again. Again she took off around me, only this time she spun around to face me and struck with a front foot.
Now I don't know about any of you, but there are three things that I absolutely will not just stand there and take from a horse: rearing, kicking, and striking. When she did that, I'll admit I got a little bit mad, I growled at her and snapped the end of the lead rope at her. Of course she took off again, but I think the fact that I didn't back down made an impact on her because as soon as she slowed down, that was it. She didn't feel the need to take off again and I was able to ask her to walk and back with me again calmly with lots of praise.
The owner was quick to tell me this is how she's always been, and that this was a bad day because she hasn't been worked in so long. I think that's a plausible explanation for how hyper she was, and I wouldn't have thought anything of it if it weren't for her aggressiveness with the striking and kicking. It made me think of the other horse I trim, and that every time I see him lunged he's always turning toward his owner and aggressively double-barreling in her direction. Not to mention the first time I had to take his lead and asked for a hip yield he nearly fell over himself trying to do it as fast as he could, which kind of surprised me.
I know both these owners have learned Parelli techniques from the same trainer, so it doesn't seem like too much of a stretch to me that their training might be causing both of their horses to act aggressive and protect themselves from perceived pressure. These are both very nice people who do their absolute best for their horses, I know there is no abuse going on here and yet I felt like both of their horses have overreacted every time I see them do any groundwork. From what I've seen of Parelli's program, I'm inclined to think that their training regimen can create tense, anxious horses.
So here's my question to the blogverse: Is there any grounds for my feeling that Parelli training can make horses aggressive or are they doing it wrong?