Winter maintenance special at work

Rockstar (“Rocky”) and Wesley are two of the horses in my winter maintenance program. Rockstar is an Applaoosa and Wesley is a Clydesdale/Thoroughbred/Arabian cross. Both are tall, lean, hard keepers, and both tend to be reactive, although in different ways.

In Parelli terms, Rocky is innately a right-brain introvert. He has to think before he moves his feet, and when spooked, he will freeze first and then possibly explode.

Wesley is a right-brain extrovert who has to move his feet before he can think. His reaction to a fearsome thing can be quite spectacular.

Before a session, Rocky will amble across the arena, roll, then come back and look over the fence at things going on around the ranch. Wesley gallops around, head and tail high, almost floating with exuberance.

I am teaching Rocky how to lower his head and relax, rather than flinging his nose up and tensing every muscle, whenever he feels that shot of adrenalin start to zip through him. I taught Wesley this last year and we are brushing up on it to help him make it a habit.  We start at the halt, then progress to walking and jogging, teaching first from the ground and then while mounted. (Pat Parelli demonstrates this technique in the January 2010 Savvy Club DVD, which is the lending library here at the ranch for any EPI clients who want to borrow it.)

This is not the only thing we do in the session, of course! But it is an excellent skill for every horse to know — and for every human to practice as well, as it doesn’t help to teach the horse to relax if his human is wound tight and jumpy.

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