Animals – Begin With The Relationship (Part 4)

     I grew up with an OLD “Life Lesson,” what some referred to as “The Golden Rules.”  One such rule is to treat others as you would like to be treated.  (As I am typing this last part, I can still hear SEVERAL people who lectured me on my interpretation of this “Golden Rule,” as if the way I have interpreted it is something awful.)  How do I interpret it?   Well, I’m glad you asked.  I believe it means that we should treat one another (including animals, plants, and other things) in a manner that we desire to be treated.  So, for example, SOME of the things I desire are:

  • Have someone like/love me for who I am
  • CARE (About me, my feelings, thoughts, etc.)
  • Be Honest
  • Be Trustworthy
  • Be Understanding
  • Be Kind
  • Be Fair
  • Be Patient
  • Be Respectful
  • Be Considerate
  • Be Sincere
  • Be Loyal
  • Be Supportive

     To me, these things are not hard to do.  They are simple positive things to do towards others, including animals and can create a lot of positive outcome for everyone.  Based on my experience, I’ve found that most animals not only desire these same things, but seem to follow this naturally, more so than most people.  We just have to be able to recognize, reward, and reciprocate it in order to increase our chances of  understanding and having a better relationship.

     I believe that animals are more sincere and honest about how they feel and what they want than most people I know.  I also believe that most animals are more forgiving, understanding, and willing to go the extra mile for a simple reward, such as praise, a tasty treat, or both.  Unlike some people who have ulterior motives that go beyond simple praise and recognition.  As I am typing this, I’m remembering some comments by people who disagree with me on this because their animals were (in their words) “Dishonest” or “Belligerent” with them.  As I’ve told them, I didn’t say they can’t be…..  I said I believe they are more sincere and honest than most people I know AND usually have a good reason for why they are behaving in a certain way. 

   I’ve found that typically, when animals behave in a negative manner it is  because they are actually trying to communicate with their human(s) about something vs many Why certain humans behave that way.  It could be that they (the animal) are trying to let them (the human) know that they don’t like or want to do whatever it is that their human is asking or trying to make them do.  To some humans, they interpret that as being belligerent, defiant, stubborn, etc. and then react to THAT vs. trying to understand WHY and helping the animal(s) deal with THAT part in a fair and helpful manner.

     Instead of putting so much focus on WHAT they are doing and making assumptions as to WHY, I’ve found that it’s more productive to actually TRY to understand the REAL reasons WHY and address THAT in a fair manner.  It doesn’t mean you may not have to be firm, but it does mean you need to be FAIR and NOT jump to being forceful.  People also need to keep in mind that what may work for one animal may not work for another AND what works NOW may not work later.    What does this mean?  Well, in order to have some type of successful moments that lead to the desired behavior(s) you need to be flexible and have multiple options of things to do to accomplish your goals.  THAT means, if you run out of options (ideas/solutions) then you need to do your homework and know when to ask for (and accept) help.  This last part can be a challenge when our egos rear their ugly heads, but you can do it!  Just put that Ego back in it’s cell and go for it.


Ilka * Mary * Favory


   OK, let me share an example.  Story time!


    Several years ago, I adopted/rescued two horses.  They were Lipizzaners.  For those who are are like some of my loved ones who are not familiar with horse breeds, for now I’ll keep it short, sweet, and simple, they were white horses.  I can hear some horse people getting technical with me on this right now… (Bare with me… the voice in my head are speaking).


   I’m sharing this for those who want to learn.  Many people within the equine (horse) community focus on the technicality of things… a LOT…. when it comes to … well, MANY things… but that’s not the point.  The POINT is… many don’t consider a white horse a white horse if it’s skin is dark under the white coat.  Those horses (with the dark sin) are referred to as GRAYS even though to the average eye they look WHITE.  I know.  I know.  Welcome to my world.  Grant it, I have NO problem with their definition, EXCEPT when people insist on cutting me off to CONSTANTLY remind me that they aren’t WHITE even when I am describing to someone who isn’t a horse person what color my horses are/were.  If you say “GRAY” to a non-horse person, they think of the ACTUAL gray color.  There are times that I don’t feel like doing a WHOLE dissertation about the color of my horses.  I just want to say, “I have 2 white horses.”  See how the human EGO can get REALLY annoying REALLY fast?   Now GRANT IT, I completely understand WHY they are saying what they are saying and the importance of the distinction, but the WAY some of them feel they HAVE to lecture. . . OMG. 


    They only consider those with pink or light skin (Albinos) to be TRUE white horses.  Yeah I know… whatever, right?  It looks white so I’m going to call it white.  (sigh) 


OK – so NOW we all know.  WHEN I’m talking about a horse that has white hair, it probably has dark colored skin and is called Gray in the horse world.  WHEN I mention a gray horse, then know that I’m referring to a horse that LOOKS like the traditional color of GRAY.  For the “real” white horses, I shall refer to them as Albino.  PHEW!  OY!  Glad that’s out of the way… Now where was I?  . . . . . . . . . .


Favory * Mary * Ilka


   On With My Story. . . . .


         So, back on my MAIN example – My first two white horses that I adopted/rescued/rehabilitated.

    One was a stallion named Ilka and the other was a gelding (Neutered male horse) named Favory.  Both were highly trained show horses and have worked with a variety of humans long before I knew & worked with them AND WAY before we adopted them.  That means they have learned skills on what they thought they needed to have in order to survive/deal with all the humans they’ve had to deal with.  That’s not to say they had an awful life with said humans.  It just means they had to develop some different “skills” or behaviors to deal with them in order to maintain some type of “peace” with said humans. Both came to us with serious physical problems.  We adopted them soon after we were married.  Talk about testing OUR relationship (And I’m talking about the one between my husband and me).  I am FOREVER grateful for the love and support from my hubby.  We did NOT expect to have to spend the amount of money, time, and effort that  we did, especially soon after adopting Favory and Ilka. In fact, we didn’t expect to have to do that at ALL, let alone soon after bringing them home. Nor did we expect to have and deal with the large amount of Bovine Fecal Matter we had to endure in order to SAVE these two boys and give them the chance and life we felt they deserved, but THAT’S another story.


    I wanted to learn how to improve my horsemanship skills and was introduced to Parelli Natural Horsemanship soon after I adopted my boys.   I really liked how they teach people how to better understand and communicate with horses in a positive manner.  I thought their Home study program was SO COOL! 

It was a challenge for me.  Not only because I had to figure out HOW to learn these skills and apply them with horses that had physical limitations and a LOT of psychological issues, but to do so within my own physical and financial limitations.  At the time, I could NOT afford to buy their program, let alone equipment.   We didn’t have a lot available, with regards to online options, as they were REALLY limited back then (late 1990’s).  What did I do?  Well, I watched others who did have the equipment, time, and physical ability and attended clinics as I could, including when the Parelli’s came to town and performed at different functions.

Then, armed with whatever stuff I picked up from listening and watching, I applied what I learned within my limitations.  That meant getting creative.  For example, Their “Friendly game.”  I didn’t have a carrot stick to do the lessons they have.  However, I understood the concept and applied it with things like, my hands.  Paying attention to their body language on where they felt comfortable when I reached to pet them.  I applied the “approach and retreat” method. (I’ll go in more detail about this in other posts and videos).  The point that I’m trying to make is, I learned the concept and had to figure out HOW I can apply it within my horses’ and my restrictions to begin to work towards my goals learning how to understand and communicate with them and building a trusting & respectful relationship.

  So while I was learning their Level 1 program, I noticed that some of the time my boys responded in a similar manner and other times?  Well, I saw their individual personalities shine through. 


   OK – Here’s an example:  This is after I was finally able to afford to purchase their Level 1 program and get the basic equipment (which I purchased used).

I was doing what Parelli calls the “Circling Game.”  It made “lounging” a game to where you can build communicate and work on your relationship (such as building trust)  vs. just making them go around in circles at different gates (i.e. walk, trot, canter, etc.)  To Favory and Ilka, it was lounging.  They HATED lounging, especially Favory.  When I was using the Parelli method, it took some time for them to realize that I was NOT trying to force them to lounge, but something else.   It was SO COOL to see them switch from their usual behaviors to one of trying to understand what I was trying to SAY.  There were SO many times I got the giggle fits of JOY seeing their reactions and noticing we were starting to have a dialog!   I was learning THEIR language and I could see that they began to notice.  Favory was more, I’ll say, sympathetic towards me and wanted to help.  Ilka was like, “WTH are you saying?”  Don’t get me wrong.  Ilka was intrigued that I was trying to speak their language, but expressed his “help” in a different way than Favory.


    Let’s look at this from a Human to Human perspective.  Let’s say someone comes here to America.  They are coming from a different culture and don’t speak English, but they are trying to learn how and apply their new skills by talking to people who do speak English.  They may struggle with trying to say the correct words in the sentence structure that we’re used to.  HOW they say it may not sound the same, but as they are trying to communicate some people may put the extra effort into helping them as they say whatever they are saying offering words to help them say whatever it is they are trying to say, some help but not as much, and some may be more skeptical and ignore or walk away from said person. . . . .


Mary * Favory


   Lessons From a Natural Horseman . . . . .



  OK, back to my boys.  I was trying to communicate with them.  I think I was trying to ASK them to turn their hindquarters (back end) AWAY from me and look at me without walking in to me.  I had them at the end of my 12 foot lead-line and I wanted them to stay at the end and look at me for the next “request.”  (i.e. change directions at a walk).  Both were used to people TELLING them what to do, not asking.  So what I was doing confused them.  Based on their body language, they were skeptical of my behavior.  


Note:  This whole thing was exciting for me because I didn’t have someone telling me what to do or not do with them.  I was FREE to work with them as slowly and gently as I wanted.

Favory was like the person who put the extra effort to help me try to speak his language.  He would walk in to me, licking his lips, nuzzle me as if to say, “You’re doing GREAT!”  then he’d begin to offer things (i.e. walk, trot, change directions, etc.) then stop, turn to me, licking his lips, with an expression on his face that read, “Is this what you’re asking?”  When I finally figured out HOW to communicate what I wanted him to do he would quickly offer it (and more) and when I would ask him to come back to me, he would do so with his ears perked up, licking his lips, and nuzzle me as if to say, “OMG!  You did it!  YAY!  I’m so proud of you!”  LMAO  It was SO ADORABLE! . . . . . . . . . . .



Mary * Ilka

   . . . . .

         Ilka would have this look on his face that read, “Are you asking me? Hmmm.  Why?”  Sometimes he would walk towards me, licking his lips, and try to help or at least nuzzle me with a feeling of “Not bad, human.”  Several times he would just stand next to me, nuzzling my arm or hand giving me the feeling of, “You’re doing fine.  NO idea what you want, but appreciate the effort.”  Other times, while still at the end of my 12 foot line, he’d look at me, still licking his lips, give a big sigh, as if to say, “UGH.  I can’t understand you.” then either walk over to a pile of poop and sniff it OR begin munching on the grass – which made me think, if he could talk, that he was saying, “OK.  Tell ya what.  I’m gonna go over here and sniff this pile of poop and maybe nibble on some grass.  Let me know when you’ve got your act together, K?”  LMAO  He would do this all while keeping an ear on me and occasionally looking at me as if to say, “You figure out what you’re trying to say yet?”  Now, when I DID get my act together and learn how to clearly communicate with Ilka, he did what I asked but with as little energy as he could.  When I asked him to come back to me, he too was licking his lips, ears perked forward, but in a more calm manner as if to say, “Not bad, human.  Not bad.” 

I got the feeling of appreciation, from both of my guys, and was on my way to earning their trust and respect.

I want to share one important thing.  My progress with my boys was EXTREMELY SLOW.  I’m talking YEARS!  It took me so long because I had two horses that had serious health limitations, on top of myself having some serious health problems AND financial limitations.  Among all the obstacles and challenges that I had to face to accomplish my goals with my boys, I had to also learn how to deal with people and the boat load of unnecessary stress they bestowed upon me in bucket loads.  I don’t think some of them meant to do that.  It just came naturally to them because they were MORE focused on themselves and their needs.  It became “the norm” to CONSTANTLY have people who either weren’t familiar with Parelli or didn’t LIKE Parelli telling me their opinions and what THEY thought I should and shouldn’t do.  Let alone those who followed the Parelli method but were too short-sighted to understand that it was taking me years to complete Level 1 because my priority was the health and well-being of my horses AND my relationship with them OVER accomplishing the goals of completing the program.  It’s possible that I went a lot slower than I needed.  However, it’s what worked for us, so what others think is irrelevant.  In fact, I had a better relationship with my boys than most of those people AND when we completed a task, we achieved a greater level because we took the time we needed to take.

     There are SO many GREAT lessons that I’ve learned from Parelli Natural Horsemanship that I’ve incorporated into my every day life, including when I work with ALL my animals.  Here are some of those lessons (Note:  I am going to paraphrase because my Memory isn’t good):

1.  Have Patience – Take the time you need to take so that next time it takes less time.

2.  Be FAIR – When needed (as a last resort) it’s okay to be FIRM as long as you’re FAIR about it

3.  Be FLEXIBLE – Know when to try something else and/or quit

4.  Leave Your EGO out of it!


Parelli Natural Horsemanship HomeStudy Program

This is an older version of their Levels 1 and 2 HomeStudy Program. I will share more in later posts.
Level 1 and Level 2 teach people the basics to begin learning how to better understand and communicate with horses using the Natural Horsemanship approach.

I've applied/incorporated their teachings into my training with my other animals.

Keep in mind that there is MORE to just applying their techniques and lessons to do that. You need to understand each species of animals first, in order to understand HOW to correctly apply the lessons from this program into the training program you're doing with your other pets.

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