In talking to my family yesterday about one of many great lesson I learned from Linda Parelli, called “Thresholds.” The thing I LOVE about Linda is that she is one of the best communicators in the horse instruction world. Where other very accomplished horsemen talk about theory and ideas, sometimes the language is ethereal and can be difficult to understand. Linda and Pat Parelli are masters of labeling and creating a human-friendly language that we humans can actually understand and then try to apply, sometimes successfully right away.
Linda’s teaching is called “Thresholds” was a life-saver for me and my horseback riding, especially riding out alone in the Las Vegas Desert. My horse at the time, was a great little quarter-horse named Bogey who I purchased from the Bonnie Springs Trail Ridge group. He didn’t work out as one of their trail horses as he was just a little too energetic. I learned that he was rather herd-bound when I would to ride out on the trail. After about 20 feet away from the barn, Bogey would get upset and nervous! Not fun. I received myriads of advice, you know the drill. ”Wet Blankets,” “Work Him when you return to the barn.” Well, I tried a few things, but when I learned about natural horsemanship, and implemented Linda’s exercise called “Thresholds,” I realized there was a better way.
OK, back to “Thresholds.” Linda teaches that when your horse leaves its comfort zone, his stall, the barn, whatever. Here’s the deal: walk your horse away from his comfort zone, when he gets nervous (head goes up, starts smelling, starts prancing, starts whinnying for his herd, sweats, or whatever your horse’s signs for nervous are, STOP, back up a few steps until he starts to relax. If you need to go back to the stall, go back to the stall until he starts to relax. The signs for relaxation are: lower neck, yawning, licking, blowing. Then head out again. As soon as your horse relaxes, go again. NEVER push him over his “threshold,” always retreat. The old, “Approach and Retreat” teaching!!! We tend to have a plan and a place to go, but the horse only thinks about his herd and his place of safety and comfort. If we establish ourselves as his place of safety and comfort, by returning him to his comfort-zone and then asking for a little more, we will become the herd leader in our horse’s eyes.
OK, so, I headed out on Bogey. I scheduled the whole day to do this as I knew I would have to “take the time it takes” because quite frankly, it was annoying to be jigging on the trail and feeling unsafe! So, we walked a little, then he stopped, put his head up, looked around, looked back to the barn, took a minute, then he walked forward. Then he stopped, looked around, smelled, lowered his neck, licked, then walked forward. Only a couple of times did I ask him to go, the other times, I allowed him to walk forward on his own volition. We did this for probably 2 hours. We didn’t go too far but I didn’t care, I was working on his confidence! My plan for the day was to help him become calmer and braver.
You know what? We NEVER had a problem on the trail ever again!!!! He walked out slowly, and more importantly, HE WALKED BACK SLOWLY. The other horsemen I rode with always remarked about his calmness going home. And I was quite surprised! I thought it was just going to help me going out from the barn, but it solved the problem coming home to the barn too! Wow! Thank you Linda and Pat for creating a language I can apply for my horses and a language that works for them and for me!