Friday, August 3, 2007

Natural horsemanship, or natural selection? You tell me!

*sings* At the carwash...yeah at the carwash!

This is clearly a very important drill to master in case you are called to ride through an operating carwash, a hula dancer's skirt or someone's beaded 1970's era room divider curtain thingy.

Holy SHIT, Pat, it's a killer grape! But I guess I have to be desensitized to that just in case I ever have to be in a Fruit of the Loom commercial. All this Parelli stuff is so important for my future!

(But I am still gonna snort really loud at the grape. Hope you're covering the microphone.)

Before I begin today's feature, I want to say that not everything Parelli teaches is wrong. Most notably, the natural-horsemanship concept that the horse is not the one with the problem is dead on. Where I diverge from the NH devotees is that I don't think the solution is riding in a rope halter or teaching the horse to wear a tarp on his head or stand with all four hoofies on a tree stump. The solution isn't carrot sticks, cow scented barrels (WTF?) or $200 bareback pads or watching RFD-TV until your eyes cross. It's not shaking a plastic bag at them on the end of a longe whip (why? why? why?)

And it sure as hell isn't covering your horse's head with a tarp while he "playfully" bites you in the stomach. That's so kyooot...until you have to call 911 because cutie-pie gave you a tummy tuck without anesthesia.

By the way, how many of you have ever had to throw a tarp over your horse in daily life? Had one fall out of the sky while on the trails? Raise your hands now. Surely it happened to someone. This weird emphasis on throwing blue plastic all over your horse has to come from somewhere, right?

Or did someone just come up with it while they were doing 'shrooms?

OK, I got off track. Here's the solution, for those of you with "problem" horses.
Listen up, I'm giving away this valuable knowledge for free! Today only! Limit one per customer!

A thorough physical evaluation to ensure the horse is not in pain.
Ninety percent or more of horse misbehavior is directly related to pain or the memory of pain. This doesn't just mean the vet. It means paying for a good farrier to evaluate the shoeing/trimming (that ain't your cousin who trims 'em up for $10) and paying for a chiropractor and possibly a professional saddle fitter to ensure there is no back soreness.

2) Better riding. Taking lessons, having someone take video of you so that you can see what you are doing that is causing the problem, and attending clinics with people who actually show and win, not just bomb around with their arms flapping like a fool. Most horse problems are caused by bad riding - bad hands, stiff backs and knees and ankles, "busy" feet and legs, the general inability to use the parts of the body independently of one another, and a lack of courage and/or ability to strongly and consistently ask for what you want and ride through temporary fits of temper.

When I say this, I do not mean to imply that I am not victim to the same problems as anyone else. I've "backed down" when I shouldn't have because what the horse was doing was scaring me and I thought I was going to get hurt. Sometimes you have to accept that you're overmounted. Sometimes you have to accept that
a more talented person needs to get on the horse and fix the problem. Sometimes you have to accept that the horse is smart enough to determine immediately that you are a gutless wonder and therefore this is not the horse for you! Perhaps adopting that BLM mustang, given that you are a 52 year old beginner rider whose usual level of physical activity involves doing the two-handed Dorito lift while watching "Days of our Lives" wasn't the brightest move.

But you don't want to listen to me, and you don't want to hear those facts. You know somewhere there is a solution that will let you and Black Beauty the BLM Mustang gallop free over the prairies with no tack, just like that kid on the beach in "The Black Stallion." You don't want to do anything hard, like trot without stirrups. And you certainly don't want to smack Black Beauty for biting you in the forearm at feeding time! Good heavens, no, if you did that, he might not love you anymore.

And you, dear riders in denial, are the ones Pat and Clinton and all of these folks are making a fucking mint off of. The problem is that no amount of bullshit changes the reality. If you don't ride well enough to train, and if you can't set boundaries, your horse training project will tank like Britney Spears' music career. You will probably get hurt, and then your husband will make you get rid of Black Beauty, and unless you find another NH devotee to pawn off your failed project on, Black Beauty will wind up as $15/pound rump roast in a French butcher shop. And even he doesn't deserve that.

Parelli is right about some things - you don't need to abuse a horse, and you don't need to use mechanical devices to get what you want. But the premise that has been created that there are two kinds of horsemanship - traditional (read "abusive and mean!") horsemanship and natural (read "good and kind!") horsemanship is a humongous crock of shit. And the idea that you can train a horse when you can't even ride competently - that somehow you can do it all from the ground! - is a recipe for disaster.

This person is Parelli Level 3 yet does not realize their horse is off at the trot.

I love the expression on this horse's face throughout this entire ordeal. "Why me, Lord? Why couldn't I go to a nice Pony Clubber?" This is great, the handler looks like she is trying to do the Funky Chicken at some points.

Look, Ma, no hands and left behind with my heels straight up! But I am a Licensed Parelli Professional!

Ooops guess Pat forgot to put a disclaimer in the video that you shouldn't do this game with a 2 month old! Hey, Pat, you might want to sell veterinary insurance along with those videos, I can see a real moneymaker there.
Hey, as I've said before, I don't make this stuff up, and I've seen a lot of the aftermath of failed attempts at DIY training in real life - as has everybody who trains, rescues, teaches, deals, etc. and reads this blog.
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