Sunday, 31 July 2016

Masterclass with Pat Parelli

I went over to the UK for the Pat Parelli Masterclass "Beyond the Basics", in July 2016.  I was a gallery spectator and Pat was teaching 12 students, and everyone got to ask questions, there were about 150 spectators and he was teaching right in from of the gallery. Beautiful arena at Oakridge Quarter Horses in Collingham near Newark. In fact I might not have gone but being just up the road from my brother's house, they bought me the ticket as a birthday present and Istayed with them. I might not have chosen to spend money to see PP himself as there are some great instructors out there who I would like to spectate, but it all fell into place and I have enjoyed it, great atmosphere, a fab 3 days watching and learning and ideas to bring home and practise. There were lots of old jokes but also much humour and help in the teaching and presentation, and some new thoughts.

There were several recurring topics such as push not pull, influence the horse, using positive energy, reins are for shaping, balancing the aids, etc. Also we were told to forget some previous ideas and techniques and move on. More than once, Pat told the students, "I know I taught you to do that, now I'm saying do it differently".

One of the first challenges or groundwork exercises was moving the horse back and sideways without touching the rope or using disengagement as, he said, I taught you to use that, now I'm telling you to forget it, or use it less, only if necessary, because it breaks the connection. This made the participants work really hard!

The level of skill wasn't that high, I mean, I had expected to be watching higher level students and they were my level or lower on the whole, a mix of ages, some quite young, and two ladies looked my age or more and some of the riding quite inexperienced, even allowing for the situation and nerves, I saw a lot of reliance on reins and that dreadful constant thoughtless heels nagging, which was greatly improved by the end and as a result of the teaching. There were some pretty horses, I liked the little appaloosa, and the grey arab type looked good under saddle, and there were 2 handsome dappled greys, and a very nice palomino QH.

Pat with his mare Vision during the first afternoon introductory seminar.

He got a bit boring as I have heard it all before and the old jokes, but he is a bloke, and American... So I had plenty of time to observe Vision and was fascinated by her apparent fascination with him, she was relaxed and had soft body language but was totally tuned to his every movement and mirrored him, if he walked off she walked at his side, stopped when he stopped, as you would expect, but if he asked her something, to demo a point, she responded. For me watching, and he was right in front of the gallery, I could barely spot the change in body language but Vision did. I also observed during the 3 days, and when riding her,that Pat was uncompromising with her, if he askedher to move and she didn't respond with effort, he appeared to reinforce quite strongly, but she showed no sign of offence, so presumably she took it as firm but fair. Hmm, how interesting... I have mares and as some of you know, Lucie and I have had our moments and misunderstandings and she taught me how important leadership is to a mare of this type, no grey areas, they have to believe you are up to doing a better job of leadership than them, if not, they argue. Lucie still argues if I ask her to do something she doesn't think important or isn't in our general routine, although she will stick to me and respond appropriately with that lovely soft look on the everyday moving around etc. Food for thought.

These photos were taken first day first hour, the students had 15' to warm up before Pat came in and I expect they had been able to play with their horses in the arena beforehand, there was no whinnying, no horses trying to sniff each other or be with other horses, none of the usual fuss, shouting and mayhem that you so often see at shows or equestrian events, all was calm and concentration, each couple in their own space as a herd of two. As spectators it was interesting to read the horses' expressions and guess which partnership had a strong connection or which would break and have to be re-established or strengthened, and whether this occurred at different distances or certain movements or change of pace.



I wrote up about the Masterclass on a forum (A Matter of Horse) and was asked about the teaching level and approach, this was my explanation:
These 12 students were new to him but they were not new to the method and had to be a certain level to participate. So they would have all started with the 7 games on line and progressed to maintaining the connection at greater distances then test the connection at liberty and riding. Each of these horse human partnerships entered the arena either on a loose long rope or at liberty. The tasks that Pat set would test this and provoke questioning and thinking, and techniques to strengthen the connection. So he works on a "can you" as in can you ask your horse to go sideways away from you down the centre of the arena, can you ask your horse to circle round you at liberty at trot, can you send your horse around two cones in a figure 8 at liberty, etc. Then, how can you improve that, how can you get your horse to do that with more effort, or at canter, or with a better look on its face, etc. Always pushing the boundaries, if it breaks down, ask yourself why, which element is broken (isolate, separate and recombine).

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