First and foremost, I am not a Parelli instructor. I have learned methods from different clinicians, and the common thread is PRINCIPLE. However, I did start with Parelli, and a lot of people don’t understand his program, so this is just a breakdown of how he started his students at that time. He may do it differently now. One thing I learned right off the bat, is the use of these tools are combined with body language and your energy. And that is only learned by doing it.
Game One: The “Friendly Game”
This desensitizes the foal to the equipment I will be using, which consists of the stick and string (carrot stick in Parelli’s program) or louge whip, ropes, and the rhythmic motion of them. The goal is to not have the horse over-react to the rope dragging across its back, around legs, under the belly, over the neck and head. A swinging rope in itself is not the cue to move.
Game Two: Porcupine Game
This teaches the horse to respond to physical pressure at certain points. He should back up with light pressure on his nose or chest, move hindquarters over both directions, and forequarters over both directions. That means you work on the left side of the horse and the right.
Game Three: Driving Game
This teaches the horse to move to rhythmic pressure by tapping the air, not touching the horse. This is where your body language and your tool work together. The request comes first from your energy and focus; It is enforced with a tool like spinning the tail of the rope. The object of games two and three are to get movement with the least amount of pressure and teaches your horse to “read” you.
Game Four: Yo-yo Game
This teaches the horse to back up while facing me and then come to me when asked. This sets boundaries for your horse, so he learns not to crowd you. If you can ask your horse to “back off” and he does it, he’s not so apt to step on your toes. You teach your horse how close he is allowed to be.
Game Five: Circling Game
This teaches you how to send your horse away from you and teaches the horse to maintain gait and direction as he circles around you. When he learns to go where you direct him, he will through a gate ahead of you, into a trailer, over a barrell, or wherever you need him to go. A very handy lesson.
Game Six: Sideways Game
Just what it is! Moving sideways in a straight line. This is the precursor to sidepassing, if you want to do advance maneuvers later. But it’s cool to ask your horse to move over without him turning and walking away from you.
Game Seven: Squeeze Game
This helps the horse’s claustrophobic nature, by asking him to go between things. I use different things like barrels, tires, gates, etc. If I am using an object he is unfamiliar with, I first have him circle around it then ask him to go between objects. This leads to easy trailering. Check out my “Prize loading Jackie” in the video gallery.
(This image is an example of the game. I was at Pine Dell Farms, the day J.R. and I were playing this game.)
This squeeze game helps the horse’s claustrophobic condition by giving the opportunity to go between and over obstacles. Okay—I’m not sure where this picture is.
By using the communication skills in these games, I ask the foal to load in the trailer. If the foal will respond to my request to “move over”, “go forward” and “go through small spaces”, this makes the trailering process less stressful for him and safer for me.
Trailering is one of the most time consuming lessons, because a horse is naturally claustrophobic, and is literally putting his life in your hands by going in there. I’ve had foals go in at the first request, and others that took four sessions. Each foal has different levels of fear and responses to my cues.
I do not bribe with food, lead the foal in, or other common methods of trailering that have been known to work. My objective is not only to “get” the horse in the trailer, but to get the horse to want to go in. One of my favorite motto is “Anything forced can never be beautiful”. I take however long it takes, and the next time it won’t take as long.
Note: These “games” teach you how to communicate to the horse, learning how much pressure to apply, and when to release. It teaches YOU timing and feel. The horse will let you know when you get it right. If you don’t do it right, your horse won’t respond the way you want him to. When you get it right, he does. So you know when you “get it right” and you learn to get better. When I work with Mike and Debbie’s foals, they are learning to respond to me, and I let them know when they “get it right”.
There is ton of information on Parelli’s Seven Games on the internet, but the best way to learn is to get the program, get with an instructor, and get with a horse.