Happiness is not a matter of intensity but of balance, order, rhythm and harmony. ~ Thomas Merton

Monday, December 5, 2011

Normal, Naturally

I have this thought gnawing at my brain and I want to see if I can get it out before it festers.

I read a Parelli Central blog post about "breaking horses."  It wasn't the actual post that got me thinking but rather some of the comments.  I don't want to pick on people but I want to explore an idea about normal vs. natural . . .

There is a pervasive idea that Parelli horses are "crazy."  You don't have to be a super-sleuth to find this out.  You simply have to Google Parelli and you'll find a host of anti-Parelli websites and people who wouldn't touch a Parelli-trained horse with a 10ft pole.

Parelli people don't always help this image.

It is possible to get so wrapped up in what we think is creating relationship and preserving dignity that we fail to realize our horses are brats.  Or worse, dangerous.

"He needs to move his feet."  Sure, he does.  But not while the farrier is up underneath him.  True story - a Parelli student allowed her horse to just walk off and wander around, leaving the farrier with a dumbfounded look.

"She's unconfident in new situations."  Sure, she is.  But that doesn't mean she gets to shoulder through the vet tech who's trying to hold her for x-rays.

"He's food motivated."  Of course he is.  But that doesn't mean he gets to pull the hay out of the barn owner's hands while she's trying to put out hay for the boarder horses.

"She's dominant."  I get it.  But that doesn't mean she gets to charge and kick when another boarder comes to get her horse.

Here's a bit of a news flash: Your horse may not always be under your care.  But . . . but . . .  No buts.  It's reality, folks.

My mare spent four weeks at the teaching hospital at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville.  She had three major procedures and had to undergo daily sedation and nerve blocks.  While this may be an extreme case, it's an extreme example to illustrate my point.

I had ABSOLUTELY NO CONTROL over the people handling my horse.  Worse, few vet students have large animal experience and some are very afraid of horses.

I remember handing Cricket's lead line to the vet student and simply saying, "Don't hold her close and trust her."  I couldn't explain the million things that had gone into her training and development.  I had to trust my horse and the preparation I'd given her thus far.

It is my responsibility to help Cricket get along in a normal world.  A world where horses are not seen as sensitive, emotional animals.  A world where they are expected to meekly obey every cue and command.  Where they are supposed to lead on a short line and stand tied and lead into a trailer and go into stocks and stand on scales.  A world that expects her to be "normal."

I train my horse to be normal, naturally.  I treat everything the normal horse world expects of her as a friendly game.  She will lead on a short line and stand tied and lead calmly through gates.  She'll back away from her feed bowl.  All the behaviors that make her an equine good citizen.

To make the world a better place for horses we need to spend some time making our horses better for this world.


Tina said...

Amen, sister. I've heard of several Parelli students who refuse to tie their horses, because it's not "natural". Never mind that Pat's horses (and don't we agree that it's HIS program??) are tied for HOURS EVERY DAY. Whatev. I'm with you - and I love your title. Normal naturally it is. My goal...for my horses to do all the things everyone else's horses do, but that mine are actually happy about it! ;)

Lisa said...

Do not get me started on "but it's not natural." Nothing blows my popcorn like this piece of irrational drivel. Really? How far do you want to take that thought?

Nothing, I repeat NOTHING, we do with our horses is natural. Natural Horsemanship is not about mimicking the natural state of the horse but working with his nature to build a partnership.

Teaching Cricket to be a partner means teaching her to cooperate. Not just with me but with anyone who might handle her rope. That means teaching her the skills normal people expect her to have and teaching her to be polite and safe in a variety of situations.

Anna Mae Gold said...

Lisa... you sure have your head screwed on right. You are so insanely sane that it blows my mind.

If I die today, I don't know what would happen to my Rumi... It is my responsibility to transform this snorting and farting extreme RBE little horse into a "equine good citizen".

Thank you Lisa! You rock. Savvy on!

Lisa said...

AMG - I am very fortunate that I have a solid back-up plan for Cricket. In the event I could no longer keep her or when I die, I have several people who've offered to take her. And if/when no one can keep her, she has her name on the list at Proud Spirit Sanctuary (the most amazing place EVER!)

I want Cricket to be seen as a "good horse." Not just because of what I can do with her but because she's a pleasure to be around. I cannot always guarantee that savvy hands will be on her. How do I call myself a steward of this amazing animal if I don't prepare her for a world that doesn't always take the time to understand her?

Anna Mae Gold said...

Sigh... Beautiful. Do you have children? Equally applies...

Lisa said...

AMG - I do not have children and do not plan to have any. My Cricket is my fur-baby and my Mum even calls her the "grand-pony."