Sunday, February 20, 2011

Liberty Series #4 - Circles and Change of Direction w/Jerry S. Williams, 3* Parelli Professional 02/19/11

Jerry began the clinic with the statement “don’t use horsenality as an excuse”. Many of us tend to use horsenality to avoid actually making progress with our horses or dealing with problems as they become apparent. We need to instead use horsenality as a tool to develop our strategies that will allow us to advance.


These are the human’s goals for the horse, it’s our job to use the horsenality traits to develop our strategies to meet these goals.
The first thing Jerry had us do is to establish our baseline for the circle. That is, on one send, how many circles or how many strides can your horse do with you in neutral before breaking gait, stopping or coming in to you. Don’t worry about anything right now, just how many circles or strides do you get? Make sure to do both directions and also take notice of the quality: arched, stiff, relaxed, soft bend, short choppy stride, gait, etc.
When I sent Renegade he traveled 1-1/4 lap to the right at a trot on one send and he had a slight bend in his body, his trot was even and rhythmic. When I sent him to the left, he only traveled about 1/2 lap, had no bend in his body (happily he wasn’t counter bent) but he was straight rather than having a soft bend. Jerry likened it to a motorcycle/gyroscope that leans to turn. I noticed my send was not effective hence the quality of Renegade’s circles were equally poor.
Jerry reminded us, we get the RESPECT (mind) with the send. The quality of the send determines the quality of the circle and the distance traveled. Funny, I already knew this but didn’t really “know” it since I wasn’t using it!! I plan to change that in our future play sessions.
We also need to ask ourselves if the horse understands it’s a game? How do I determine understanding? If yes, the horse will put effort in to my request and will have a willing attitude, want to be a partner, and ask questions. How can I make it a game? Attitude!! Instead of asking your horse to do a task, ask “can you” questions. Example: a task would be 5 circles at the trot, a “can you” would be can you trot five circles to the left? Also, name the game or boundaries, i.e., can you trot 3 laps to the left? If horse answers yes, I go in to neutral. If horse answers no, I resend him.
How do I tell if my horse has exhuberance? He’s putting effort into the task/can you.
One of the horses was crossfiring in the hind end. Jerry suggested slowing horse down, then ask again to avoid rewarding the crossfiring by letting the horse continue. As soon as you get a response in the proper gait with no crossfiring, bring your horse in to reward.
As I said previously, my send was ineffective so Renegade’s circles were poor as a result of that. Jerry played with Renegade a bit to demo some changes that will bring about better results:
1st send – Renegade left to go on the circle but wasn’t terribly responsive, Jerry tagged the ground behind him to create more energy and Renegade put in a small amount of effort but still pretty unresponsive.
2nd send – send was more effective, actually tagging Renegade’s butt several times when he didn’t move out. His circle was a bit better but still not great, he did put in a little effort but not a lot of enthusiasm.
3rd send – send even more effective, tagging Renegade’s butt with an even more effective phase 4 and he moved out more enthusiastically and the circles were better.
With each send when Jerry got more and more effective, Renegade caught on to Jerry following through and began to put in more effort and was more willing.
Jerry’s suggestions for improving Renegade’s responsiveness: When sending, keep him within touching/tagging distance, be effective with the send and follow through with phases with cs and string, bring Renegade in BEFORE he slows or stops while it’s my idea then resend, don’t wait for him to break gait or stop. This is where your baseline evaluation helps…if you know from the baseline he’s going to stop at half a circle then bring him in just before that. Also, DON’T DRILL – get a little improvement, move on to something else, then go back to the circle or change of direction game later. REMEMBER…it’s not about the circles…sending and resending IS the game!!
Change of Direction wasn’t bad, was easier drawing his left eye (when he was traveling to the right) than drawing his right eye (when he was traveling to the left). Renegade was pushing too far into my space on the change of direction. Jerry had two strategy suggestions for fixing this: I say no by holding my ground and throwing energy at Renegade’s shoulder by tapping it, flicking with cs and string, etc. to push the should over and out of my space or I can put more energy into my drive and draw by moving backward quickly to draw then moving back to center quickly creating an energy push to move Renegade’s shoulder over.
Renegade responded with a LB no a couple of times when asked to draw. Strategy for this is to run forward, tag zone 4, get his eyes, and draw backwards quickly. Just make sure not to let him invade my space.
NOTE: Remember to be clear in my body language. Stand up straight when drawing, don’t bend forward as this can confuse my horse and cause him to think the game is over. The three ways to draw are: draw in a straight line backwards or I can turn with my horse as he circles – this creates a bit of a squeeze on the hq (make sure it’s zone 4 and not too much of a squeeze) and as his hq squeeze a little closer to the rail, he should look in. Take the pressure off by moving back and drawing him in. The third method is to use the 45’ line as described earlier.
Other observations and BFO’s: more and more pressure is causing Renegade to give less and less so reward often but give less rest time between asks. Don’t drill, do a little, move on, then go back later. Also, keep it short…a 20” liberty session is long enough!!
Terri/Beau: baseline: ask for the canter to the right 3 laps. Be effective with the send – send with authority, if horse breaks gait spank the ground with a “ha, ha, gotcha” attitude. Go back to neutral as quickly as you can. Head shaking = dominant (zone 1). Beau becoming more LB? Notice which side horse has difficulty drawing in for change of direction. Take pressure off by moving backwards further and faster to create the draw then resend by moving forward (pushing the shoulder over). If moving straight backwards doesn’t create the draw you can spiral to create it then when successful, return to neutral in center. Another alternative is to use 45’ line looped around horses neck, the only time it comes in to play is when you want to suggest to/help your horse follow the feel of drawing in. Don’t pull on them, just use the rope to suggest. This helps the horse learn the pattern, limits their being wrong for too long, and helps with the bending/flexing.
???/???: horse doesn’t want to come back in, slow down, etc. – may have history of being lunged A LOT. Need to dhq so attention is on you can be done in several ways: sneak a peek at zone 5, tag, turn away as soon as horse’s attention is on you or squeeze horse by stepping towards rail – if horse passes me I spank/tag the ground and continue playing the game or leave out on circle and wait for horse to ASK to come in. Take notice of eyes, ears, ribs, rhythm, can I back away and draw horse? Horse says no, o.k…do another lap, then try again.
Karen/Kristy: Kristy having difficulty especially when traveling to the left. She’s crossfiring and has no bend. This is causing her to be rigid in her body and making change of direction difficult for her. Need to work on helping her find the bend in her ribs.
1.       12’ rope
2.       keep forward motion on a fairly large circle
3.       either put hand on girth area or us the cs to get in time with outside hind leg
4.       when the outside hind  foot is on the ground, use either your hand or cs to create a bit of pressure on the girth area (a gentle push or tap)
5.       the pressure should cause the horse to step up under him/herself (not as in a hq disengage but more along the midline)
6.       you should be able to feel the ribs “give” a bit. It won’t be a huge flex but a gentle give.
7.       Make sure to time your pressure with the outside hind – it helps you apply the pressure with the proper timing to influence the inside hind
1.       send horse out on circle
2.       squeeze horse at zone 4
3.       not a huge squeeze, just subtle
4.       should cause horse to bend ribs a bit, stepping under self
5.       may look inside circle rather than straight ahead or to the outside
6.       once you squeeze and get a slight bend, move back to neutral

The biggest BFO of the day for me: IT REALLY IS NOT ABOUT THE CIRCLES OR CHANGE OF DIRECTION!! What it really IS about is observation, the relationship, taking care of my horses needs, and fixing the problems that show up BEFORE moving on. In other words, “Excellence is simple things done well”. If I pay attention to all the little things and work on our foundation, then excellence will follow!!


  1. Hi Cathy, Your blog is one of my favorites and your clinic notes are awesome. As I read them I picture myself out there with my horse. I really appreciated you posting them. Did a friend take the notes for you while you were out during the clinic? I attended a clinic this weekend and I can't remember the details. My notes that I took for my friend are pretty informative, but they help her and not me.

  2. Sorry I haven't answered before now...for some reason, I don't get notified anymore when comments are posted...hummmm...going to have to check that out and FIX it!!

    @Sam - I'm fortunate to have several friends that study with the same instructor and generally we're not all participating in a clinic or workshop all at the same time. So...if we're auditing we take notes for each other, share and combine them to get the most complete picture of everything going on. Sometimes it seems as if something that's happening with someone else and their horse doesn't pertain to me and my horse but often the info comes in handy somewhere down the line! Also, the notes may not directly relate to me but I can get ideas and/or modify the techniques so they work for me. Hope this helps!!