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:
tends to bite and strike (out of dominance)
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.
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.
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.
It all went okay until he came face-to-face with himself in one of the mirrors.
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….
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.