Peanut’s Blog

Peanut – what a show off

Lyla & KP 051017s
Lyla Cansfield returns

The time since Lyla Cansfield’s last visit passed quickly. And, to begin with at least, Peanut seemed to be making good progress with the benefit of Lyla’s insights to his way of going.

Snapshot - 24s

But then, almost overnight, it was as though we’d hit a brick wall. Peanut went from being a boisterous, flashy show off to a stubborn little git. I could get him started but, then, he would do perhaps half a circle and stop. He’d turn to look at me and simply ignore anything I did to try and get him moving again. Worse, he went back to simply walking right through me as though I wasn’t there. Here I am, 6’ 5”and a good 100 kilos and, waving my arms around like a windmill, he would just wander over me. It was embarrassing.

Fortunately, I didn’t have to put up with too much of this before Lyla came back for another visit. She quickly put her finger on the problem. I’d gone from being too aggressive to overly gentle. As she put it, Peanut was acting like a stroppy teenager (she does a very good impersonation of Harry Enfield’s Kevin) and all it took to get us back on track again was for me to sharpen up my act.

A glint in my eye

It was quite funny really. Without turning into a bully, all I had to do was put a glint into my eye, square my shoulders and put a bit of energy into the command. The first time I did it Peanut just reared away but then very quickly settled into a brisk trot.

Of course, I felt a bit of a fool for not having worked this out myself but I guess my excuse is that, from the start of this journey, I’ve had to make a conscious effort to lose my basic instinct. To hurry up and get on. And the wishy-washy me just hadn’t been clear enough with my commands. We’d gone back to that horrible mutual confusion. Just winding each other up.

Now, I realise that it’s a very thin line between over-aggression and a wimpy, please be a good boy Peanut. I’ve got half a ton of horse on the end of that rope and if I give him an inch, he’ll take a mile. So, starting again, I find all it takes is to put a bit of energy into my end of the rope and we start to get somewhere.

Regular changes

While I am enjoying this epiphany, Lyla is setting up a few obstacles in the sand school and Viv/Ritz and Linda/Sally are getting to grips with figures of eight and weaving down a line of blocks. All, of course, managing their horses with nothing more than their first finger at the rope and a carrot stick in the other hand.

Peanut 051017s

Having watched us for a bit, Lyla suggested that what Peanut needs most is a regular change of task. Give him something to think about. As I’m standing there happily watching my boy jog around first one way and then another, out of the corner of my eye I see Lyla setting up the poles for a jump.

 “See what he makes of that,” she says. Of course, the new Philip hasn’t yet become super confident and my first attempt fails miserably with Peanut just strolling up to the poles and standing there sniffing them. But, now I know that I don’t just have to put up with that. I quietly lead him away again and this time give him a bit of a glint in my eye and a meaningful swish of my stick.

Peanut, now you’re showing off

And away he goes. Sailing over the jump he stops on the other side and turns to look at me all pleased with himself. “I was going to be an eventer, you know”, he says. “Okay”, I say, “let’s see if you can do it on the other lead, then”. And blow me down, off he goes and jumps again. What a show off.

In no time at all, of course, I’ve become the show off and have him turning back without stopping and taking the jump again. And again. Lyla sees this going on and, wisely before Peanut gets bored with it, suggests that we move on and have a go at weaving him down the row of four jump stands. I’d seen Liz do this with Woody a while back and she had kindly let me have him to have a go at it myself. But Woody, of course, knew better and just walked all over me.

So, even with my newfound energy, I approached this with Peanut not sure of how it was going to go. And with that hint of uncertainty in my mind, Peanut inevitably got the vibe. He tried to pretend I wasn’t there. Fortunately, I recognised what was happening and, putting a bit of will into it, we actually got it done with me walking in a straight line a few feet out and guiding him with stick and rope.

He may not yet be a cutting horse

I’m sure that all my old riding friends – the ones George and I used to team up with to do a bit of cutting horse or team penning – might read this and think I have gone soft. Feeling such a sense of achievement in doing something so simple. But, as I keep saying, I’m doing something I should have done many years ago. And I’m enjoying it.

Best of all, though, is Lyla’s compliment on the real progress Peanut and I have made. So, as a pièce de résistance she now suggests that we see how Peanut manages with some side passing. Now we’re talking, I think. Side passing is meat and gravy to a western horse. If we can finish the day with the boy getting the hang of that, it’ll be real progress.

Wouldn’t it be nice, if I could say Peanut just looked around and said: “oh, a side pass, ay? Of course.” And then proceeded to go and do one. But, even after a morning like we’d had today, it wasn’t quite a fairy-tale ending. Fair to say, though, under Lyla’s sure guidance, he quickly got the idea and I managed to get a couple out of him before we called it a day.

Snapshot - 19s
So, what do we do now?

Chewing things over as we sat in the sun with our horses quietly at our sides (how about that? He didn’t once try to nibble me!) we reviewed what we had achieved that morning. For me, it felt as though we had made a huge leap forward. Of course, I realise that it doesn’t necessarily follow that we’ll just walk out into the sand school and do it next time. But I’m starting to feel as though I’m standing on firmer ground.

Best of all, Lyla thinks that when she comes next time we’ll put a bareback pad on him. Then we can see whether he has any issues in that area. I moved to the edge of my seat as soon as we start talking about saddles. But, even now, I must accept that we’ve got some way to go yet. For one thing, we need to get his conditioning back to where it should be.  He’s been resting a long time and he’s out of shape. But it’s yet another brick in the wall and progress is good.

Peanut’s Blog – Lyla Cansfield Clinic

KP & Lyla 110917

 

An interesting day…

Well, Lyla Cansfield gave us a pretty interesting day. I finished my last blog speculating that perhaps, in Parelli terms, Peanut is a left-brain extrovert. I’m pleased to say that one of the first things that Lyla confirmed after our first session with her is that she agrees.

Pat Parelli defines a left-brain extrovert as a playful character with a dominant streak and a tendency to “naughtiness”. He is mentally sharp and keen to learn.

Pat gives a list of words and phrases typically associated with left brain extroverts. I can safely say that during our day working with Lyla, Peanut displayed most, if not all, of the following:

playful

smart

charismatic

naughty

mischievous

tends to bite and strike (out of dominance)

mouthy

wilful

exuberant

friendly

fast learner.

And I would not be exaggerating if I said that he displayed a good number of these characteristics even before we got him into the sand school! That said, I’m pleased that the tendency to bite and strike didn’t really show up. It was more a playful waggling of his lips just to see if I was going to react.

Getting started

But, boy, did we enjoy ourselves! Lyla came to the OMEC to spend the day not only with Peanut but with Vivien’s horse Ritz and Liz’s Woody. We started out over a cup of tea just talking about our horses, where we are now with them and where we want to go.

The day was divided into two obviously distinct parts where we started out each showing Lyla where we are with our horses and, then, Lyla taking the horse in hand to try out a few things herself. She then made a few suggestions and we had another go.

At the end of my “show and tell” first session with Peanut in the morning, my main feeling was relief. I had given a pretty good showing of where Peanut and I are at the moment. It wasn’t the disaster it might have been if I hadn’t had so much help from Vivien to get me this far and when, inevitably, Peanut decided to show some of his wilful exuberance, I coped with it.

What Lyla spotted is that Peanut carries a bundle of nervous energy that he needs to release before he can take on board the lessons he needs to learn. Until now, if we had a quiet session with him where he had got hold of something new, we counted that as a real positive and ended the session there.

Lyla taking a hand

Now, after I showed him to Lyla, she pushed him a little bit harder and waited for him to relax into a balanced, flowing lope (or, in English terms, a canter). I think the most impressive part of this period was when Peanut let out a huge, prolonged snort and then just settled into the relaxed and balanced lope she was looking for. He relaxed and, for me, it was a revelation. To see my boy quietly loping around on the end of a 22-foot line was just magic.

Lyla then gave me back Peanut’s rope and it was my turn, again. Peanut now had the idea and although he started off tense, he quickly settled down. This time, though, without the snort!

I guess all this sounds like real beginner’s stuff but I started halfway round the circle with George and I’m now getting properly started round the other half.

I put Peanut back in his field and did a bit of “licking and chewing” of my own while I watched Lyla work firstly with Liz and Woody and then Viv and Ritz.

Viv Liz & Lyla

 

Review and back to work

Over a sandwich and cup of tea at lunch, Lyla talked to us about what she’d seen and her observations about each of us and our horses. She was bang on when she assessed Peanut as “young” for his age. He’s clearly got a bit of growing to do – both physically and mentally but, that will all come with the groundwork.

In the afternoon, we went back to the sand school with the horses and, with each of us, Lyla tackled some basic issues that she had picked up on during the morning session.

With Peanut and I, it was a question of generally improving my technique in dealing with Peanut’s tendency to “crowd” me. This happens to begin with when I am leading him. Then, he has this inclination to try and creep up on me from behind. With George, it was endearing. Even without a lead rope or reins, he would follow me around with his nose in the small of my back and I knew I was okay. Peanut, I suspect, has something rather different in mind and we haven’t yet got to the stage where I can trust him out of my sight.

How to manage without eyes in the back of my head

Without eyes in the back of my head, it’s a matter of feeling the weight in the lead rope and sensing whether he’s getting too close. That’s okay but, of course, it can go wrong too quickly and, at this stage of our relationship, he needs to know his place.

So, the first thing we did in the afternoon session was address that issue and we very quickly got to the point where I am a lot more comfortable leading Peanut around.

In the process of doing this, we introduced him to the indoor school for the first time. So far, it being summer, we have been happy to work outside in the sand school but, with autumn coming on, we need to get him comfortable with being indoors.

Peanut indoors
KP indoors

It all went okay until he came face-to-face with himself in one of the mirrors.

KP & Mirror - small

We all got a little bit tense, then. I sort of held my breath and watched as Peanut firstly peered at himself and then at me (in the mirror). And then at himself and then back to me. He gave a little snort and bounced about a bit. Of course, the other horse (the one in the mirror) started bouncing about as well. By then, the bloke in the mirror was laughing loudly and before the situation got completely out of control, I walked away and took Peanut with me.

So, that went well enough but it’ll be part of our routine for the next few days.

Back in the sand school, Lyla showed me some better techniques for working with Peanut and after we’d got the hang of that, I put him back in his stable while Lyla turned her attention to Ritz and Woody.

I learned a lot. More than anything, I’ve come away from the day with a lot more confidence and some better techniques to practice as Peanut and I build our relationship. We’ll be seeing Lyla again in a few weeks’ time and, hopefully, will have a good few more bricks in the foundation by then. I can’t wait….

Webster’s home!

And the best news of all this week is that Webster is safely back home. After 12 days and some anxious moments at Bell Equine Hospital, we went and picked him up yesterday. I’ve never been so glad to sweep up the poo from the trailer! He’s now going to be on 7 weeks’ box rest until his wound has healed but the indications are that he can then get back into work and teach idiots like me the right way to manage a rope and stick.  We’re all happy again.

webster 3 (small)

Peanut – progress at last

P & KP 1 s
Nearly a year gone

The weatherman on the TV tells us that summer is over and we are now officially in the autumn. Of course, there’s been no instant change outside but the end of the year is creeping up on us.

Also, coming up on a year since we brought Peanut home to OMEC, I’m looking back at what we’ve achieved. This time last year, I was still hopefully searching for George’s replacement. It was the old me out there: confident, assertive and looking for the horse to get me back into western riding competition.

So, the first and obvious conclusion is that I’m not that man any more. I can’t say that all my friends and business associates have suddenly noticed the change but, when it comes to horses, I’m in a different world. Peanut has done that. I look at the photo at the top of my first blog, and it’s me, beaming away. But poor old Peanut is staring anxiously into the distance, wondering where he’s landed up now.

This, as it turned out, was his fourth home in a year and, with what I’ve learned in the meantime, I almost want to cry at the thought of what was going through his head when that photo was taken. Of course, we found out soon enough. And, for me, it was a chastening experience.

Peanut becoming a horse again

Happily, for Peanut, it’s been the time he needed to start down the road of becoming a horse again. Back then, I would come home from a session with him and count the bruises left from his casual biting and nipping. Back then, I’d take him into the sand school and watch in awe as he exploded on the end of a 22-foot line.

But, as I’ve changed my way of going, so has Peanut. Whether it’s the relaxed, horsey, life at OMEC or the change in my approach, he’s clearly changing too.

Of course, he has his off days but they get less and less and if he rewards me with that little “nicker” as I rub his nose at the end of a session, it’s worth millions. Hopefully, it’s a combination of the two: as I am giving up my old ways, he’s finding a man he can trust.

Gently steering me through all this, Vivien has been a model of patience and encouragement.

P KP & Viv s
She runs a quiet, peaceful yard at OMEC and the arrival there of this big, black, bolshie young horse was probably – make that certainly – a test of everything she holds dear. But, thankfully, she’s been there for Peanut and me and I’ve learned that groundwork is good.

Lyla Cansfield clinic
Lyla-Cansfield

I’m writing this as my first clinic with Peanut looms on the horizon. We’ve got Lyla Cansfield coming next week and we’ll have a day with her to take stock of where we are. Hopefully, we’ll also get a few good hints on where to go from here.

Lyla has an approach to natural horsemanship which chimes brilliantly with the way we’re going with Peanut. She believes you tackle understanding and confidence (horse and person) first. Then, it’s a question of body language to assess the horse’s posture. It’s also consideration of his movement and readiness for riding.

Finally, she works on balance. This is firstly in relation to the horse’s mental state so he is able to cope with life in the world at large. Also, it relates to his physical balance. He needs that in readiness for the instant response that we look for in a versatile horse.

It’s going to be good and I can’t wait!

A word about Webster
webster 2 (small)

I can’t be writing this without a mention of my little friend Webster.

We had the most horrible morning last Saturday. It was a beautiful day and we were just getting ready for some work with KP when there was this loud “thump” and we looked up to see Peanut and the other horses running about in fright. The “thump” was the sound of Webster hitting the ground as he went down in his field in obvious agony. It looked like a bad colic attack and we had couple of nightmare hours getting him on his feet and keeping him there.

Fortunately the vet got there in a bit over half an hour after Webbie first went down. After he stabilised the little chap, we managed to get him into the trailer and down to Bell Equine. Oh, the relief you feel as a nurse takes the lead rope and a team of vets and nurses descend. For me, it was like history repeating itself but for poor Viv, whose love and care rescued the little man, it was just torture.

Surgery found a a benign cyst strangling his colon. I’ve always struggled with that word “benign” in situations like this. Of course, it means its not cancerous but there was nothing harmless about this horrible thing. We’ve now got everything crossed while we wait for him to recover. The news has been up and down since but he’s in good hands. He’s a tough boy and he’s hanging in there….

 

 

 

 

 

Water Baby – Peanut’s story continues

Peanut Water Baby

 

It’s been a while now…

It’s been a little while now since I gave best with Peanut to Vivien while I honed my natural horsemanship skills with Webster. Bless him, Webster was a patient teacher and got me started with some basic aids that, in all truth, were not in my toolbox. 

Learning patience has been the biggest issue so far. That, and adjusting my expectations to realise that Peanut knows nothing of my agenda. He has no agenda at all and doesn’t even understand that, when we’ve got one skill fixed, we can forget that and move on to the next one!  

It’s been as much about adjusting my own outlook and lowering my energy as it has been about acquiring new hand-eye skills. I’m finding that, even writing about it, I seem to relax and sit heavier in my seat. 

So, before I took up Peanut’s lead rope again, the first thing I had to understand was that, whatever happened yesterday would not necessarily be the basis for moving on today.  

Done biting and nipping?

We are, I hope, over the biting and nipping that Peanut so casually applied to anyone that came within his reach. Even so, every time I put on my Levi jacket – the one with the top pocket Peanut ripped off – I remind myself that he can still do it if he feels like it.  

But, where before I would have responded in kind to that sort of thing, I now blame myself for not seeing it coming and ducking. And it’s in that change of attitude that we seem both to have moved on to a more relaxed approach to each other. It’s good. 

Also, my friends have stopped asking why I haven’t just chucked a saddle on him and got on with it. Not having to explain that all the time adds to the acceptance of the fact that we are where we are. You just take him as you find him every day. 

A Parelli slogan

It’s one of Pat Parelli’s slogans that you must take the time it takes so it takes less time. You read these things and it’s hard not to feel that it’s easier said than done. But, in a week when I have had my first uneventful and quiet workout with Peanut, you realise it’s true. Vivien puts it slightly differently but it comes to the same thing. Taking time at this stage to build a solid relationship is going to be the foundation of faster progress towards a sound working partnership. 

All of which sounds very existential but the bottom line is that by accepting the wisdom in the experience of others, I’m making a good start with Peanut. 

And that may sound as though I suddenly have a pussycat on the end of my rope. Certainly not. There’s a spark in this boy that you feel every time you look him in the eye.  

Water can be fun

I think he loves a game and there’s a mischievousness in him that is never far below the surface. This showed up a while back when we’d had one of those torrential downpours that make it summer in England. The sand school at OMEC is as good as any but, after that kind of downpour, you’re always going to have a sizable puddle. This time, though, it was not far short of a lake. Vivien has a very good surface water pump that quickly solves the problem but I had turned up ready to have a session with her and Peanut. We decided that we’d all just have to get a little bit wet. As you do. 

Now, dear old George would baulk at anything that so much as looked like a puddle.

George

George

There was a time at Camber Sands when the tide had gone out and there was the merest ripple at the water’s edge. While all the other horses splashed their way into the sea for a swim, George and I stood at the water’s edge with him spooking at every slight ripple that came his way.  

He got over it, of course, but not in all his 22 years did he ever approach a puddle without giving it some serious thought and gentle encouragement from me. I took comfort, of course, that George was not entirely alone in this anxiety and I expect there are a few horse lovers reading this have shared the experience. 

Peanut’s puddle

So, when we first presented Peanut with a puddle, given his generally excitable nature at the time, we half expected a refusal and perhaps a bit of a strop.  

It may be that, in the expectation that he was going to grow up to be an eventer that Julie Keatinge got him familiar with water early on in his life. Whatever, the way he seemed to say: “oh, goody, a puddle” before he launched himself cheerfully into it left us all laughing like mad. He splashed happily around for a while and then dropped himself fully and sat in it!  

Peanut Water Baby 2

So that’s one little issue I hope we won’t have to worry about. Unless, of course, he decides he must sit in every puddle he comes to even when I’m riding. Fortunately, that’s not something we have to deal with just yet… 

Right brain or left brain?

For now, I’m glad to have got to the stage where we can work quietly together. I’m under no illusion that we’ve got a few steps back in store. But, I’m lucky to have Vivien on one hand and the Parelli Savvy Club on the other.

My next problem, I think, is coming to terms with the Parelli concept of “Horsenality” and working out whether Peanut is “right-brained” or “left-brained”. Then, adding to that, whether he is extroverted or introverted? Right now, I’m inclined towards left-brain extrovert. I think that we’re still too early on to decide about that and will keep an open mind. Don’t hold your breath but I hope we’ll be back soon…

 

 

Peanut – a blog about Western Riding

Peanut – not a good start

It wasn’t an auspicious start to our relationship. I had travelled down to Chippenham from London to meet Peanut and his then owner, Alex Peternell.

Peanut dressage
Alex had owned Peanut for about 10 months having acquired him as an eventing prospect. But Peanut hadn’t come up to scratch and Alex was looking to sell him. I had recently decided to continue western riding after the death of Delphicks Boy George and perhaps to prove a long held belief that you don’t need an American Quarter Horse to go western riding.

Unfortunately, though, Alex had been delayed in another part of the country and couldn’t be there. He had, however, arranged for a friend to show me Peanut and it all went well enough until, inevitably, I was invited to ride him myself.

It’s worth noting at this stage of the account that in my 16 years of horsemanship, I have only ever ridden “Western” and, of course, KP didn’t know a western saddle from a bar of soap. Quite how I imagined I could get on a 6 ½ year-old horse and expect him to respond to Western cues, I have no idea. And it did not go well.

Poor start gets worse

Actually, the 1st lap of the sand school was uneventful although we were wandering around a little bit as the poor boy tried to understand where I wanted him to go (“neck reining” was, of course, totally ineffective). Quite why I thought it would be a good idea to try him at a jog I am not now entirely sure but he picked up the pace happily enough and we did another lap of the sand school at a fairly brisk trot.

Unfortunately, there were a few poles here and there and Peanut wandered in the direction of one of them so the easiest thing was to let him jog over it. 3 of his feet cleared it but he clipped it with a hind foot and that was enough to set him off at a canter.

That, in itself, was not particularly a problem but he was not responding to my efforts to slow him down and the last straw came when the Velcro holding my windcheater closed gave up to wind pressure. The windcheater flapped open with a loud ”crack” and, of course, that was the last straw for Peanut. He took the bit and set off at a full gallop with me not having much of an idea how to stop him. At least he seemed happy to be confined by the sand school fencing and eventually I had the sense to get his head round to my inner knee and he came down to a full stop.

Fortunately, Peanut calmed down again as quickly as he had gone off and didn’t seem to bear me any ill will for the experience. Alex’s wife had joined us and I’m not sure who was more embarrassed. Clearly, she thought I was a complete idiot and probably somewhat under impressed with my claim that I was competent in a western way of going. She was kind and polite in response to my parting words that I would have to think it all over on my way home.

A problem familiar to us all

The problem was that I had fallen in love with Peanut as soon as I saw him standing in his stable. It may be that he was black and shiny but he seemed to be bigger than George and, dare I say it, just a little more elegant. Having been brought up to believe that converting an “English” trained horse to a “Western” way of going would be a fairly straightforward process, I was now not so sure. I was more certain that I had probably been over estimating my own riding ability.

I therefore arrived home with very mixed feelings and it was not until the next morning that I had the chance to have a long chat with my friend Vivien. Wise as ever, she suggested I go back and have a riding lesson with Alex and Peanut to see how I got on then.

Thankfully, Alex thought this was a good idea but told me I would have to wait now whilst another interested buyer came to see Peanut. It was one of the longest weeks of my life but, luckily, the other buyer didn’t turn up. By now, I was completely over my 2nd thoughts and ready to just go down and buy him. Alex, though, would have none of that and insisted he would not sell me the horse unless he was satisfied I would be able to ride him (his wife had obviously given him a colourful report of my first attempt). So I drove back down to Chippenham and, this time, with the benefit of Alex’s input, things went much better.

One problem solved

Everything moved quickly after that. Peanut passed his vet exam with flying colours and in no time at all, we were heading back up the M4 with the trailer on the back and Peanut in it. We spent the journey back pondering a stable name. With all due respect to Julie Keatinge who had bred him at the “Keatinge Stud”, and to all the other Trakehners out there having the same pre-name, I couldn’t see myself going out to the field and calling “Keatinge Paicie” every time we brought him in and it wasn’t long therefore before we settled on simple “KP”. But neither was it very long before someone asked his name and, on being told “KP”, the immediate comeback was “Peanut”.

There’s been times since when the suggestion has been that the nickname is derived more from the size of his brain than a logical progression from his registered name but that’s not only unkind but also completely wrong. Because it very quickly transpired that my new best friend, whilst not being possessed of a towering intellect is nonetheless pretty damned smart.

More excitement

The immediate problem was that he wasn’t showing much interest in behaving in a civilised manner whilst being handled on the ground. He was quite happy to chew on anything that came near his mouth (me included!) and being led on a rope didn’t seem to be something with which he was particularly familiar.

We got him out into the sand school on a 22’ line and it was explosive.

Peanut unchilled
We were glad of every inch of those 22 feet as Peanut did everything he could just to get off the line. I’m 6’ 5” and he had all 4 feet in the air above me! It was awe inspiring and not a little bit intimidating but after about 20 minutes of that he settled down and would at least stand quietly so we put him back in his stable and went for a cup of tea while we re-thought things.

A belated admission

It was then that I had to admit to Viv that I hadn’t actually seen him “in hand” at all. First time I saw him he was already saddled up and standing in his stable and the next time, he was cross-tied while they saddled him in the barn and ridden out of it. Add to that the fact that apart from two exercise periods of 20 minutes each day, he’d spent all his time in a stable in a barn, and you could see a picture forming in Viv’s mind. She had a few hard words to say about why I’d even considered taking him on.

But. She’d fallen under his spell, too.

Peanut snip 3
We then had a few long conversations about how best to go about the job of converting my might-have-been-an-eventer into a versatile, working cow horse who would be just as happy showing his style in a Western Pleasure class as kicking up the dust round a Barrel Racing course.

Belated research on Peanut

It was while we were chewing this over that I made the enquiries I should have done before buying Peanut and, piecing together the threads on Facebook, worked it out that I was actually his 4th owner in a year. And that led us to the inevitable conclusion that what Peanut needed most was a bit of time to become a horse again, make a few mates among the other horses on the yard and just get the calm vibe at the OMEC. So we turned him out for a few months and just let him play in the field.

Peanut chilling
He loved all that and very quickly settled down.

In the meantime, I had a bit of a hill to climb of my own. Although I have been there, seen it, done it and – literally – written a book on versatile western riding, I’d done all that starting off with an almost fully trained horse, my gorgeous Delphick’s Boy George. And what he hadn’t taught me, we’d learned together. Groundwork wasn’t something we’d done much of (why walk when you can ride, right?) and I’d kind of skipped that whole scene on the Natural Horsemanship front.

I’d seen and greatly admired such “horse whisperers” as Monty Roberts and Buck Brannaman but the penny hadn’t really dropped that they all built their relationship with a horse from the ground up. You go and spend a few hours at a clinic with one of them and, in the time available, the groundwork just seems to be a shortish exercise before saddling up and getting on with the real stuff.

Parelli

Pat Parelli, as I now understand, makes a much bigger thing of the importance of building from the ground up but back in George’s day, discussing such things with friends while saddled up and riding along, “Parelli” seemed to be an over marketed, almost industrialised, approach to the natural horsemanship concept. Worse, nearly all the people I knew who had “done Parelli” were poor horsemen to begin with and when Parelli hadn’t shown them a quick fix for their problems, nothing changed.

Of course, big mouth that I am, I’d already voiced these opinions to Viv when I turned up at the OMEC with George back in 2012 and she’d politely (she can be polite, sometimes) just let me be a blowhard.

Now, sitting with her with my cap in one hand and a cup of tea in the other, I started to learn that everything I’d seen and admired about Viv working with troubled horses had come originally from her being a Parelli disciple. She’s the first person I’ve ever seen actually putting Parelli techniques into practice and the evidence is there, staring me in the face. It works. And so I see no reason not to believe it will work with Peanut, too. I have to find a way of making a connection with him and introducing him to the western – ultimately, Vaquero – way of going and this must be it.

The obvious problem, of course, is that I know as much about Parelli as Peanut knows about a western saddle and unless I can get the hang of it pretty darned quickly; it’s going to be the blind leading the blind. We’ll get nowhere apart from, quite likely, me in hospital.

So, signing up for Parelli, I’ve quickly become an admiring disciple. He may be a bit keen on his metaphors and adages but, for me, I get the message and, wonderfully, I have Vivien and Webster on hand to laugh gently at my efforts.

My new friend Webster
Webster

Webster is one of Viv’s rescues. He’s got a very poor, practically blind, left eye as the result of someone else’s mishap when he was a boy and he’s barely a pony. But he’s feisty, full of mischief and doesn’t know he’s vertically challenged. He does know that if I don’t get it right he doesn’t have to do it. But when I get it right he happily trots, turns and side passes and backs up all with me standing on the other end of a 22’ line in one hand and a stick with a string on it in the other. I feel joy when it goes right and you can almost see a smile on Webster’s face.

We’ve become good friends along the way while Peanut has been chilling in the field with his new mates, Ritz and Linney.

But, and it’s a huge “but”, translating all of that into working with Peanut is a different story altogether. When I get it wrong with Webster, he just stops and peers at me through his forelock with his good eye. You can almost hear him saying: “Now then, Philip, that’s not what you meant to do, is it? Have another go”.

Start of a relationship with Peanut

Although in the meantime, Peanut has started down the road towards a relationship with me, coming to me in the field and quietly walking back to the yard at my shoulder, it’s a different story when we get into the sand school for a bit of work. He’s acquired a few tricks along the way and he’s a very clever, spirited chap.

“Clever” and “spirited” were what I saw in him and wanted him for in the first place but you quickly learn that if you don’t read him right and get there a split second before he makes his move, you’ve lost him. Confusion quickly comes for both of us and the result is a mess.

It hasn’t taken me very long to realise why some people start out in great hopes with Parelli but fall by the wayside before they can achieve their goal. You can learn all Pat’s 7 “games” and become quite adept at managing the rope and stick and he can tell you how to look for the signs. But there’s nothing in the world that can just inject his 30+ years of experience in reading a horse and knowing what it’s going to do before it does. Pat calls it “savvy” and nothing, but nothing, counts for more when you’re building a relationship with a horse.

I’m very lucky to have Vivien standing at my side and, currently, taking over for a bit. Although I have made progress and a long way from where we started, it’s that “savvy” that holds things up for me. As a result, the message hasn’t got through to Peanut. On the basis that he’ll get a better idea of what’s expected of him if Viv can show him first, she’s currently putting a bit of time in with him while I watch and learn.

Peanut & Vivien

TO BE CONTINUED….