This article was originally published in the August 2010 issue of Savvy Times magazine. Recent back-issues of Savvy Times are available for Parelli members in the Resources section of Parelli Connect.
Horsenality™ Savvy On the Parelli Patterns
-by Linda Parelli
The Parelli Patterns are a great way to help your horse progress your horse mentally, emotionally and physically—they are the perfect exercise and development program.
Because a horse learns patterns easily, he will start to know what to do and even begin to take more responsibility as a partner and focus on doing the pattern himself.
It’s important to know that for your horse to learn a Pattern you need to do it every day (or every time you play), seven times in a row. Repetition is a vital piece of the puzzle.
Make a plan to do each of the Patterns as a “program,” seven times in a row, then every other day for a couple of weeks. After that you can do them once in a while and enjoy yourself because you’ll feel that your horse really knows them.
When to Add a New Pattern
After four times on one Pattern, you will be ready to add a new Pattern. You will end up working on two or three Patterns at the same time, on the ground and/or riding. But at first, do one. Then after four times start another one, and after four times with the second one you can add another, and so on.
In this way you’ll be playing with at least two Patterns on a consistent basis, which keeps things interesting for your sessions. Later on you can do any Pattern you feel will be the most valuable that day, or for what is needed right now.
Use the Patterns as your warm-up exercises before teaching your horse a new task or going on a trail ride. It will get your horse mentally, emotionally and physically prepared.
Remember: The Parelli Patterns are Pat’s secret for developing his own horses. He doesn’t just go play or just ride. He has a plan with both short- and long-term goals.
Extrovert and Introvert Savvy on the Patterns.
Here are some examples for you to consider.
Extroverts love this game because it gets them to go somewhere, but you’ll find that they pick up speed easily. Rather than hold them back, try to keep Zone 1 lined up with the target. This will automatically help them regulate their speed.
Introverts benefit hugely from this game. It builds confidence(for Right-Brain Introverts) and motivation (for Left- Brain Introverts). Don’t ask for speed; allow it to develop.
Extroverts will need smaller, rounder circles in the 8s.
Introverts will need an elongated Figure 8 and to have the markers spaced wider apart. On the ground you can also play tag after they pass through the middle, as in the video clip. This helps make it more of a game, which is more motivating and fun for your horse—plus it gets him to think about the “allow” being his responsibility instead of you constantly asking him to keep moving (which is really a Driving Game!).
Extroverts will need you to take it more slowly so they can make the turns. Do a lot at the walk.
Introverts will need you to do less, with lower phases, and expect them to think more. A rest at each end will motivate them well at first, or combine the weave with a little trek around the arena or field in between.
Extroverts learn a lot from traveling circles because they have to move and stay focused, and they get variety. They may try to change direction a lot because their adrenaline gets up, but don’t make a big deal about it; simply encourage them to go the other way. Pretty soon they’ll maintain gait and direction because they’re more confident and focused.
Introverts—Left-Brain Introverts tend to find traveling circles a lot more interesting, but be careful that you don’t just do these and forget the value of teaching your horse to hold up his responsibility on the static circle!
Follow the Rail
Extroverts will need you to do small circles if they start getting too fast. That’s much better than holding them back and trying to stay slow, because that makes them claustrophobic and more impulsive.
Introverts will need you to allow them to break gait before asking them to regain it. Don’t try to prevent it—hold him responsible!
A Million Transitions
Extroverts will need to do a transition every time they think about getting faster. Use one rein and do it smoothly and effectively (don’t pull or be rough), and also use partial disengagements to relieve tension.
Introverts will need you to ask for a downward transition before they think of it. This is a key to keeping it interesting and getting to their minds. Do not wait until they break gait or try to prevent it; you’ll end up working harder and getting frustrated.
Extroverts—Smaller is better at first; otherwise they can build up too much speed. Be very particular about your turns, too, going high in the corners. That will help with control, because it gets your horse more focused—and being particular without being critical builds respect.
Introverts—For Left-Brain Introverts, the bigger, the better—and once you are both familiar with the pattern, spice it up by asking him to go faster through the middle. Right-Brain Introverts are better on smaller patterns, and as they become more confident they can get larger (on a different day, of course).
Extroverts—More frequent changes of direction are better at first. It helps you quickly get focus and control. As they get steadier, you can then lengthen the space between changes more and more. For Left-Brain Extroverts, think about having more variety—some close ones, then some with more distance.
Introverts—Left-Brain Introverts need a lot of variety. Keep them guessing as to when you are going to ask for the 180. Right-Brain Introverts need more predictable consistency, especially at first.
Extroverts —The faster they want to go, the smaller you should make the circle. Stay on the circle until they really want to go to the center. If you go there too soon, you may find they cannot stand still. The longer it took to get there, the longer you should stay.
Introverts—Right-Brain Introverts love circles; they are very calming. Small to medium-size is best at first, progressing to larger ones as the horse gets more confident. You can even switch between smaller and larger in the same session; it’s a kind of approach and retreat. Left-Brain Introverts can have a lot of trouble with this Pattern—that’s why we don’t do them until Level 3. And make them very large, or do only a few. You may find that they quickly learn that going to the middle is the goal, so if that becomes too strong, mix it up a bit and stop him out on the circle to balance the tendency and keep him guessing.