Filigree is a 4-year old mare by Stiletto Pg out of Fasta by Master (SW)
Filigree is the oldest of the bunch and was previously started under saddle. However, I was told that it was not the most positive experience, leaving Filigree tense and apprehensive. With that said, her time back out in the field prepared her for a fresh start! To me she feels emotionally centered, self confident and more than ready for what we have in store. She was the first of the four babies to accept the saddle and has been moving right along ever since.
Below you can follow my daily journal of her progress. Although my strategies vary with each horse, my basic sequence and “skeleton” are the same.
Day 1: Introduced myself and my tools through the first three of Parelli’s Seven Games. For a more in depth description of each game click HERE.
Is this sounding familiar yet? Perhaps I should tell you why this is commonly my first interaction with a horse. Parelli’s seven games can be broken up into two categories.
Friendly Game (confidence building)
Porcupine Game (yielding to steady pressure)
Driving Game (yielding to rhythmic pressure)
Yo-Yo Game (equalizing the horse’s ability drive and draw)
Circling Game (teaches horse their responsibility to maintain gait and direction)
Sideways Game (teaches horse to yield both the front and hind end simultaneously)
Squeeze Game (builds horse’s confidence in tight or claustrophobic spaces. i.e. a trailer, wash rack, cross-ties. It also shortens their “flight line” which is a prey animals instinct to run away from danger)
For a great read on the horse’s prey animal instincts click HERE.
I personally like to think about the principle games like this. The first three games are like your staple baking ingredients. Flour, sugar, eggs etc. Without them it is very hard to create any baked good, and, any skilled baker knows that it is always a good idea to keep those items stocked and ready should they be needed in a pinch! Therefore, instilling these principle games as a line of communication is my priority when meeting a new horse. First, building their confidence in my tools and myself. Then, develop understanding of how to yield appropriately to pressure.
Another great use of the principle games is trouble shooting! Lets say something just isn’t working with your horse. Here is an example.
He is not leading well and always dragging behind you. For me this could be one of two reasons: Either he is dragging behind because he is afraid of you (friendly game is broken) or, he’s not yielding to the pressure of the halter on his face (porcupine game). Once you have uncovered which game is broken you can reestablish the horse’s understanding to create a more successful leading experience.
Filigree and I got through the first three games quickly so we added the first two purpose games, Yo-Yo and Circling. Then, we re-visited them in the indoor arena. She was super in there and we took a short break. Then, we went back into the round pen and I worked with the mounting block and me laying over and sliding off from each side. She was a ROCK STAR!
Day 2: We continued to put principles to purpose by adding in Zone 3 driving. First in the round pen and then in the covered arena. Remember, this exercise is building a bridge for when my butt is in the saddle, by creating understanding of how to perform upward and downward transition off of my energy. I noticed that Filigree quickly became light in the downward transitions. However, the upward transitions took longer to become snappy. This was one of my first tips when distinguishing if she is extroverted or introverted. Introverted horses have more whoa while extroverted horses have more go! Of course the goal is to create positive impulsion where Go = Whoa!
After we achieved snappy transitions along the rail walk and trot I took Filigree back into the round pen with my saddle and pad set up in the middle. First off, I allowed her to go and sniff the pad and saddle. She confidently approached it and even began to chew on the pad. After playing friendly game all over with the pad and approaching and retreating with the saddle I felt I was getting a bright green light! So up it went and I got to adjusting my cinches. When I asked her to move out she was slow at first, adjusting to the weight of the western saddle and back cinch.
After half of a lap or so I encouraged her to trot and canter on. She did offer some small bucks (I call them humps. Like when a dolphin jumps out of the water) but quickly found rhythm and relaxation when I encouraged her forward. I was very happy with how quickly she came back to me and how connected she stayed. We did this both directions and then I allowed her to process and decompress in the middle of the round pen with me. She licked and chewed several times, blew out, then yawned and yawned and yawned. All of the signs I am looking for!
Day 3: We reviewed our first five games in the round pen including zone 3 driving and lateral flexion from the ground. Then, I laid over, slid off and forked my legs from each side. I then Introduced games 6 & 7 and saddled her for the second time. When I sent her out this time she had even less opposition and there were essentially zero bucks. I mounted her from the ground and put my hip in the saddle both sides and the light remained GREEN. In the end I swung my leg over and was able to do lateral flexion from each direction. I freed up her feet and walked all around in round pen. I did this “passenger style” meaning I was not trying to steer, simply going with the flow and creating a positive experience for her.
Once I dismounted and removed the saddle she gave me some more good yawns and even rolled in the round pen with me! Again, all the good signs that I am looking for!
Day 4: I reviewed the seven games in the covered arena, this time using a ground pole for our squeeze game between the rail and a longer 22′ line for the circling game. Then, we went back in the round pen for our another saddling. I was able to saddle, mount, flex and walk off again with ease. From here I began to shift the relationship from passenger to rider and created a pattern of Filigree maintaining gait and direction along the rail. Again, she was super and we were able to quickly advance the pattern at the trot.
Day 5: Was a review of everything. Again, blaring GREEN light so I enlisted Anna, Erin’s assistant to help me take things to the next level. I had Anna stand in the middle of the round pen with the carrot stick in hand. My hope was that Anna could help me build in my cue for the upward transitions from the saddle. The set up was, I would bring up my energy and cluck once for trot or twice for canter. If I needed more support, Anna would use her energy appropriately to get the desired response. Just about this time Jean (owner of Valhalla Farm) walked up and was able watch the whole process in action. Filigree and I were able to achieve walk, trot and canter each direction with no surprises or excitement. SHE WAS SUPER, and licked and chewed after every transition.
I am so encouraged after this first week and cant wait to see how this mare progresses!