Horsemen always have a goal, a vision of what they want to achieve with their horse. That goal is harmony, the embodiment of flawless synchronicity when the horse and human come together. On Linda Parelli’s recent visit to The Horse First Farm in Brooklyn, Wis., she invested two days into sharing knowledge, insight, attitude, and ambition that set people up to achieve harmony with their horses.
Throughout the masterclass, Linda taught students strategies for becoming better leaders and better riders. She shared techniques and philosophies that helped the twelve riders and many auditors achieve a greater level of harmony with their horses. She focused on developing harmony in finesse through horse psychology and rider biomechanics.
Creating Better Leaders
On the ground and while riding, Linda taught students to raise their expectations and have a clear goal in mind of the quality they want in each task. Throughout the weekend Linda emphasized the value of developing a strong focus. As a leader you must “doggedly pursue what you want,” Linda said. You must be immovable.
“[Horses] feel your commitment to an idea,” Linda said. “That’s leadership.”
Linda compared riding horse to driving cars, encouraging riders to translate their leadership while in a car to their leadership while riding horses. People drive cars with a destination and a plan in mind, and they do not allow the car to sway from that plan. They persist and lead the car to the destination. So it should be with horses.
Quality of Response
Linda taught students to improve their leadership by scoring their horse’s performance in every exercise on a scale of one to ten. Linda explained how continually evaluating the horse’s harmony can help us be particular and therefore improve the horse’s quality of response. The goal is to move the quality of response from control (ratings 0 to 3) to yields from pressure (ratings 4 to 6) to the horse seeking comfort (ratings 7 and 8) and eventually unity and harmony (ratings 9 and 10).
For horses to reach the seeking comfort category of response, the rider needs to set up situations and wait for the horse to find comfort. “You need to set it up so the horse can follow,” Linda said. Humans can achieve mastery with horses when they learn to set it up and wait for the horse.
Creating Better Riders
Linda showed students how to achieve a more fluid and refined seat while riding finesse. She taught that in finesse the rider needs to develop a strong core that acts as the base for all communication. The less people do from their hands and legs the better, she said. Everything must come from the core. Then the hands and legs give the horse and human a frame much like the dancer’s embrace.
When riders master a balanced seat position, horses can stretch and use their bodies with more engagement and shape. Throughout the weekend, Linda taught technical skills while also emphasizing how the goal of finesse is harmony. As she mounted a student’s horse for a brief demonstration, she reminded her fellow horsemen what it means to ride horses.
“When I mount a horse, I do it with a lot of consideration,” Linda said. “It’s a privilege to be up here.” Earning the trust and respect of horses becomes an art, for it is the human’s responsibility to earn the horse’s respect.
Mastering the Basics
Linda taught students the value of establishing excellent basics. Students developed their seat position and leadership through creating a rhythmic walk. “Cultivate the walk,” Linda said. “It should feel like silk.” With horses excellence is the simple things done well, Linda said.
Developing horses should become effortless, Linda said, and the rider should behave in such a way that the horse does not even know it is in training. As dressage master Walter Zettl taught Linda, “A horse should be able to do the most difficult maneuvers and never know it’s difficult.”
Linda coached horses and riders into finding a place of relaxation in contact, an art that requires study and training for humans. Continue to pursue excellence in riding for the horse’s sake, not anyone else’s, Linda said. Our job is not to correct the horse but to train ourselves and then make the whole process easy for the horse.
“Horses seem to understand when we’re trying to do the right thing,” Linda said. By practicing effective leadership and riding, humans ultimately gain better feel, timing, and balance, and those skills will bring the horse and human together in harmony.