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Parelli Natural Horsemanship

Natural horsemanship has become very popular in the last few years, with Pat Parelli's name at the top of the list of trainers using this method. He has his own unique program in place for horse owners to follow, or to at least take into consideration when working with their horses. One of the great things about natural horsemanship is that you can use the methods on your young horse that has not yet been worked with, or on an older horse that you would like to help.

Parelli makes getting started relatively easy. He has taken the first steps and made them into games that you can ‘play' involving your horse. Parelli uses language and communication that he says is used by horses to establish friendship and leadership. The order of the games is important so you should follow them through from beginning to end. All you will need for the games is your horse, a hope halter and a long lead rope.

The Friendly Game is the first game. This game proves you are a friend to the horse and can be trusted. You should start quietly and with smooth movements at first, especially if your horse is nervous. Run your hands all over your horse and then move on to using the lead rope. After your horse accepts the lead rope, you can add things like plastic bags, blankets or anything you have handy.

The second game is called the Porcupine Game. This game teaches your horse to move away from pressure and not lean into it. Use your fingers to apply pressure, starting with gentle pressure and moving to stronger pressure if the horse does not respond. He will learn that if he moves away from the pressure, the release is his reward.

The Driving Game is the third game. This will teach your horse to move away from implied pressure. You will not actually touch him, but will suggest for him to move with your gestures. Start out at close range and work your way away from your horse. You can start by asking your horse to move his head. Ask him first by pushing your hands towards him, but not touching him. If he does not move, gently tap him and then use stronger pressure until he responds. As soon as you get a response, stop and pat him.

The fourth game is the Yo-Yo Game. This game will help you get your horse moving backwards as well as forward, without having to pull on the lead rope for either direction. You face your horse and get his full attention focused on you. Leave the lead rope loose and start wiggling your index finger. At first your horse will not move so take the next step and move your whole arm along with your finger. This will make the rope start moving which should get your horse to back up. Eventually, your horse should move back with you only having to wiggle your finger.

The Circle Game is the fifth game and may look like lunging. In this game you will send your horse around in a circle, he will maintain the gait and direction until you ask him to stop. He should face you and swing his hindquarters away from you. Start by pointing your arm and lead rope in the direction you want your horse to go. You may have to encourage him at first by swinging the lead rope towards his hindquarters with your other hand. Once he is moving, keep your feet still. When you want him to stop, gently pull on the lead rope and have him face you waiting on your next command.

The sixth game is called the Sideways Game. This will involve things you learned from the Porcupine Game. You should use light pressure on your horse's shoulder and hindquarters to get him to move sideways. Move the shoulder a little, and then even him up by moving the hindquarters.

The seventh and last game is called the Squeeze Game. Since horses are claustrophobic by nature, this may not come easy to some, but it will help your horse learn to calmly move through tight spaces without panicking. Start with a gap between you and a fence, wall or barrel. Send your horse through by pointing the lead rope with your arm outstretched. Once your horse can move through this gap, make the gap smaller and smaller until your horse is just able to go through without touching anything. This game is great for helping your horse load into a trailer.

These games can be done by anyone on any horse and will help open a line of communication between horse and rider. You will see that these games not only help to handle your horse on the ground, but he will also seem more calm and attentive under saddle.

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