Thursday, August 11, 2011

Let Me Drift Away and I'll Drift Back

I'd like you to think back to your pre-Parelli days and envision your old equipment.  I'm willing to bet your lead rope was only 6' long, maybe 9' if it was an "extra long" rope.  I know mine was only about 6' and made of heavy cotton with a bulky bull snap on the end (it actually hangs on my wall now with my old leather halter as decoration, haha!).  Anything longer than that seemed excessive and cumbersome.  Lead ropes were strictly for taking a horse from point A to B, then because your lead was only 6' long if you needed to tie your horse up you used cross ties or a bungee straight tie.  That was it, end of story.

When my friend first introduced me to Parelli she offered to show me some basic things with my horse but wanted to use her own halter and rope.  I got the logic behind the rope halter but her lunge line was SO short, you couldn't really do a lot or lunge a horse very fast on 12' of rope and she always had slack in it, sometimes the tail end would even drag on the ground.  What a waste of rope!  It looked like one 12' long piece of inconvenience if you asked me.  She gave me the key to her tack locker so I could access her halter and "lead" anytime I wanted.  She assigned me to practice the first three of the seven games with my horse over the week until we'd meet again and I'd get to learn the next four games.  Oh how I hated using a 12' "lead rope" in the beginning, combine that with an awkward orange carrot stick and 6' of savvy string and I was a mess!  If I didn't have the rope tangled around my feet (since I was instructed to let all the extra drag and not to bunch it all up in my hands!) then I had the string tangled around my neck or the stick tripping up between my legs.  I was one big walking catastrophe and upon reflection one great example of an extreme friendly game for my horse.  I was constantly tripping, stumbling, tangled, slapping myself or my horse with the wrong end of who knows what as I flailed about trying to suavely replicate what I'd seen my friend doing earlier in the week with my horse.  Using my stick to rub my horse and the string to toss around his body as a friendly game proved to be my most challenging endeavor, my horse hated the porcupine game - he gave me snarly faces, swished his tail at me, and just leaned in harder when I applied pressure.  I remember her quoting Pat saying that it shouldn't take longer than two days to get my horse to yield to pressure and I almost gave up on Parelli right then!  Oh the driving game - I just couldn't bring out my inner fox for that one.  She told me - just stare at his hip like a fox to a chicken, get intense, put energy into it, then add rhythmic pressure with your stick until he moves.  My inner fox had been strangled, tripped, and snarled at by this point in the games and was more like a meek little mouse looking at one big pissed off eagle...  And when it was all said and done I still had to lead my horse back out to pasture with that dang 12' lunge line!

As time passed my inner fox developed along with my coordination and skill using the 12 line.  I could see it's value and understood it's place in effective communication with my  horse.  I finally had it under control, I could toss my stick and string, lower my horse's head, drive his hip away from me, wiggle my finger at him, send him out on a circle without chasing him around, put him sideways down the arena wall, and even send him over a jump without so much as a misstep on my part.  Oh yeah, I was good!  That was until she gave me her 22' line to use.  Okay, no biggie, I'd used lunge lines before...but what the heck was I supposed to do with all that rope when I wanted my horse to play the other 6 games besides circling?  The 22' line introduced me to a whole new level of humiliation.  You might as well have handcuffed me and thrown me in a hammock and spun me around a few times, I could have gotten out of that bind easier than in some of the messes I created for myself with the 22'.  Again, here I was, one big chaotic friendly game of tangles.  This time, more often then not, it didn't just involve my feet but my horse's legs, head, neck, ears and anything else that I could possibly hang my rope up on. 

Eventually I came to love the 22' line.  I could have my horse go faster, jump higher, play more, and show more enthusiasm.  The 12' line simply became utilitarian, good for going from one place to another or for doing the very basics.  I'm embarrassed to admit that up until today, 5 years after holding my first 12' rope, I had still not moved up to the next length of line, the 45'.  I'm not going to lie the idea of 45 feet of rope was daunting, I remembered being so uncoordinated and at times dangerous with the 12' and 22' before I became more fluid with them.  I couldn't imagine having a Right Brained Extrovert on 45' of line zipping around me or having a Left Brain Introvert drag me slowly, purposefully until I had sufficiently sandpapered my skin off in the arena had I accidentally got a foot caught in a coil.  Ugh, 45'!

Today I thought that I'd better stop just looking at my 45' and actually try it out, even if I just played with throwing it out and coiling it up in the arena without Aspen on the other end.  Well, after bringing her into the arena I looked at my 12' on her, then to my 22' and 45' hanging on the fence and couldn't resist... Maybe I'd just put the 45' on and let her go for one circle and just see how it felt...  Clip - it's on!  Toss - the coils are out and away from my feet... Wiggle - wow, feeling the life of this light rope, watching Aspen go back, and back, and back, all the way out, all 45 feet... Wait - think, feel, observe.  She looked a little surprised I could still reach her from so far away.  Send - she's out, she's moving, she's feeling out the length of the rope and offering slack.  We're doing it!  We're circling!  It feels so nice in my hands, she loves the lightness, the drift!  Then.. snag! The rope slides so easily under my toys and catches under a wood ground pole and ziiiiipppppp!  Aspen startles at the noise but yields to the pressure and comes back around and then over to me.  Lots of licking and chewing - for both of us...

We continued for the rest of my time this afternoon on the 45' line, playing with the feel of the rope, the lightness of it, the feeling of liberty yet still connected subtly.  Aspen loved the extra drift and I really felt her mentally connecting to me as I could talk to her from greater distances and her always offering to come back in to put slack in the line herself.

Aside from some minor coordination errors on my part I feel like I never want to use any other line.  Just thinking about my 22' line I feel like it's now strictly for utilitarian tasks - what could I possibly want to do on 22' feet of rope now that I have 45'?? :)

Pat says, "if you always do what you've always done, then you'll continue to get what you've always got."  Well here's to that!  To trying new things, to being progressive, to stop thinking about doing things or using new tools and to start DOING it.  :)

At first the wheelbarrow was surely something to be frightened of...but within about 30 seconds Aspen decided it was actually something that needed to be investigated, then dominated.

As you can see from the different positions of the wheelbarrow in the pictures she kept rolling it around on different sides and spinning the tires with her nose!
She pulled all of my stuff out of the wheelbarow, stepped on it, flipped it back over the other way, then looked at me like "what, is there a problem??"
Aspen on the 45' line!

1 comment:

  1. So, it's not the length of the line, it is the freedom of spirit.

    When you were but a child a big wheels or trike was plenty, as an adolescent the training wheels came off, and soon the bigger bike with multiple gears. Growth equals evolution.

    Great story about perspective, it is nice to see you recognize this in yourself.



    (sent from my Dad to me to post here) :)