The Seven (7) Games of Parelli Natural Horsemanship
(Video Below and Link to Additional Videos)
Facilitated by Nancy Allen
The Seven Games (7 games) of PNH (Parelli Natural Horsemanship) are a great way to start training
or re-training of your Icelandic Horse / Pony. They help to develop a relationship, a bond,
and a common basis / method of communication between you and your Icelandic Horse.
These exercises can be used with any breed of horse such as Missouri Fox Trotters,
Tennessee Walkers, Paso Finos, Peruvian Pasos, Icelandic Horses, Quarter Horses, Thoroughbreds,
Mules, and Donkeys.
Natural Horsemanship is not an invention of Pat Parelli's, but Natural
Horse-Man-Ship is. It is an organization of techniques learned from many
great horsemen and put together in a comprehensive form. Pat Parelli
developed the program as a progression of tasks that develop horsemanship
skills and takes us through a Levels program as we increase our abilities.
Horsemen all over the world are using Parelli Natural Horse-Man-Ship (PNH) with Icelandic Horses. This site will give you links to many other European Country sites Parelli Switzerland: http://www.parelli.ch/. Interestingly, in France, we've heard that trainers must certify in PNH before being able to train professionally.
For centuries men and women have gotten together to discuss ways to
make things better for the horse. Through Natural Horsemanship we are asking
the horse to do alot
of un-natural things though. Be around people. Be saddled, bridled and
Natural, to me, means working within a horses natural way of understanding
(this is through feel) and within his own boundaries. Icelandic Horses seem
to understand this natural communication very easily.
I'm hoping to get alot of input here from everyone. Yvonne, Lisel,
Paul, Judy and others-I'm counting on you to share your knowledge with the
rest of us! I've learned alot from the Seven Games, but my application may
be different to what some people use. We can sure discuss the differences!
It would be fun and interesting.
Since the clicker will be added to the Seven Games, my purpose is a
little different from the ones Parelli lists in his notes for the Level 1
Partnership Program. In his Level
1 notes the purpose of the Seven Games is stated: "PURPOSE: Game #1 proves
to your horse that you are friendly. The other 6 games prove to your horse
that you are alpha in the herd."
With all of the games I am looking towards building a partnership. I'm
thinking alot about feel and developing that from the very beginning. To me,
is the most important and understandable way to communicate to our horse.
I'm never going to use or think about the word dominance.
The Seven Games are not about winning or losing. A horse does not know
about winning or losing, unless we teach it to them. I prefer not to teach
that. Instead I'll think about setting things up in a way that my horse can
best understand and then use the clicker to encourage reinforce that
The Seven Games are an excellent guide to teach us about body position,
observing your horse and improving rope handling skills.
Karen of Windgait
Icelandics http://windgait.com/ playing with Ima, a two-year-old filly, practicing the friendly game.
Equipment needed: a rope halter is recommended because it is lighter
and communicates faster. If you have one, great, use it, but if not that's
alright too. It would be good though, to have a 12' lead rope to work with.
This is the only equipment I would say is essential because as we ask our
horse to move, we don't want to inhibit that request by running out of line.
With a standard 6' rope we probably would run out!
The first thing we'll start with in a future post will be how to put a
halter on in a way that asks the horse to work with you. It sets up the
"theme" of the Games, IMO, of working together.
Putting on the Rope Halter (or Web Halter)
First, let's just review how to put the halter on properly.
This is important because you're asking your horse to help you with
That, to me, is a huge part of what working with your horse is all
about. You're asking him to be a part of the Games right from the
beginning. It sets a precedence for all future things. : )
"Organize your halter in your left hand and your lead rope over your
right elbow. Place your right arm over his neck and place your halter under
his neck and hand it to yourself. Use the fingers of your right hand to push
his head towards you as you slip the halter over his nose. Adjust your
halter with your left hand and tie it off with the Natural Horse-Man-Ship
knot with your right hand."
If you don't know how to tie the knot just ask.
Things to work on here: asking your horse to lower his head and accept
you being above him (when you put your arm over his neck). If this is where
you have to start, getting the head to lower, then that's where you start.
The head lowering is what you will always ask for. It will always be
one of those details that you include.
Let's say, your horse lowers his head, but turns his nose away from you.
This is another detail that you want to fix. Your horse's head is now in a
sort of loop made up of your arm over his neck and the other arm under his
neck and the open halter in between. Use the open halter to ask your horse
to bring his nose back to you. Parelli uses his hand, but utilizing the
halter works well too. Keep asking until he keeps it there and works with
Now if any of the other horses have trouble with the
lead rope attached, take it off and help them as much as you can by
directing the halter over their nose so that it doesn't bump or bother them.
Sometimes this is just where you have to begin. Be considerate of the young
especially or the hard to halter horse. In the end we will look for
your horse to readily put their nose into the halter and REALLY help you
Use your clicker where you see fit. If your horse has some issue about
touching their ears or having you stand over them, they'll be pretty obvious
Attach your lead. You might want to attach it so that the snap, that
you open with your thumb, faces in. This is pretty minor, but sometimes the
little notch on the snap can bump the horse's chin when you begin to use the
The final goal is to walk up to your horse at liberty, from at least
10' away and halter him.
That's where we'll start. If you halter your horse in a stall,
to do it out in pasture. If anyone's
horse is SORT OF with them, but steps away when the actual halter comes up,
start again and gently put the lead rope over their neck if the horse
be unsure, hold onto both ends and let the rope help you ask him to stay.
Only do this
if the horse just needs some support-but not if he seriously needs to leave.
be another issue that we can talk about if anyone needs to.
Click and reward when they stay!
Later the actual Friendly Game will start! If I'm getting too detailed
I'll be adding a post every two days or so.
Let the list know how it goes! Was your horse comfortable with this
way of haltering?
Could you walk into the pasture and halter him?
Something to think about as a future goal is asking your horse to
target the halter from a few feet away (or more!) when you hold it up and
offer it to him. You'll really have a partner in this then!
Maybe ask your horse to fetch the halter by picking it up off of the
ground, giving it to you and then asking him to help you put it on when you
hold it up. Use behaviors that you've already taught through clicker
training! Have fun together! Be creative!
Can you run up to your horse with the halter, jog around him, have him
stay and then help you halter him?
Can anyone else think of some haltering exercises that we might try?
The Friendly Game! (smile when you play that!)
"Show us how friendly your horse is and how friendly he thinks you are."
In this game we work to be able to touch our horses everywhere (and I
do mean everywhere!) Flanks, stomach, under the tail, mouth, nose, ears,
udder or sheath, etc.
Can you touch your horse anywhere without an adverse reaction like
tail swishing or ear flattening?
Be careful at first with some spots if your horse is uncomfortable!
Use a carrot stick or whip as an extension of your touch for those "question
mark" areas while staying in a safe place, observing your horse and using
the clicker if you need extra help.
Some things to think about: your approach. Sometimes just reaching
for a sensitive area bothers the horse. Start with a not so sensitive area,
like the neck and work your way to the more sensitive spots. Continue
your horse so he understands the progression of your hand and isn't
surprised when you touch the more sensitive parts. Never just grab. : )
Use the whip or carrot stick to increase your reach if you are unsure
of your horse's tolerance or if you think that your horse might kick. If in
doubt-use one of these.
Think of the quality of your touch. Gentle and confident. Not ticklish
Something that often works well is making a fist and rubbing your
in small circular motions-like another horse might. No patting, but you
already know that!
Use the advance and retreat technique for difficult areas.
Consider your approach. Maybe let your horse sniff your hand before
you begin to touch him. Is your approach confident but friendly?
Your assignment: Spend 15 minutes to half an hour playing the
Friendly Game. Touch all areas that you safely can and take note of what
need to work on. Have fun and enjoy the time together!
The quality of your touch is important because it speaks to your horse.
When you touch the legs make sure that your horse knows the
difference between the touch of the Friendly Game and the touch of asking
for a foot.
Your horse should be comfortable with you touching his legs without
If you feel safer always keep a halter and lead on your horse and
just lay the lead rope over your arm where you can take ahold of it easily
if you need to. Try to keep that float in the rope though as you do this so
that it's not encouraging movement from your horse. Later you can try the
game at liberty. Some people may be able to do this at liberty right away,
but not everyone. Don't worry if you can't just yet. Staying safe is more
After the Game report back. What observations did you make? Anything
you need to
An addition to the Friendly Game is to "individually pick up all four
of the horse's feet when you are standing on one side." Either pick out your
horse's feet or simulate it. You are looking for cooperation from your horse
and for him to be thoughtful of what you're asking, no matter where you may
For this part of the Game you'll use pressure points to ask your horse
to lift his foot. For the front feet you'll use the chestnut as a pressure
point, and for the back feet, the cap of the hock.
This is a spot where the clicker comes in very handy. I'm not going to
tell you how you teach your horse to lift his feet by using these pressure
points, but I would rather have YOU tell ME. Where will you begin? What is
the first thing that you will do to encourage your horse to pick up his foot
when you touch these pressure points? As always-report back!
Variations: Use your rope halter or lead rope to do "friendlies" with.
What other things can you use to touch your horse with all over?
If you feel safe doing this, think about working with the tail. Since
the tail is connected to the spine, a stiff tail usually means a stiff
horse. Work to loosen the tail. Gently pull it. Make a question mark with
it. Move it from side to side. Compare how loose the tail is before and after the Friendly Game.
We can talk more about this aspect too!
Pat lists the pitfalls of this Game would be: "Being oblivious to your
horse's feelings, thoughts and reasons for negative reactions.
I used to think, wow, what an easy Game. What's the big deal? I don't
have to spend much time with this! I know now that it's a very important
Game because you will go back to it often as you progress through the other
Games. As I said before, your touch speaks to the horse. It comes from a
feeling of good will and true partnership that is inside of you. Be really
open with what your touch means and open up your heart to it. Remember too,
as we set about accomplishing these Games, never miss an opportunity to pet
Later we will add some variations to the game!
Before we move on to Game #2: Porcupine (Fingertip Yield Game) take a
look at the graphic that shows the zones:
Parelli has divided the horse's body into zones, which we will refer to
often during the Games:
"Zone 1: from the nose band of the halter streching out for a mile and
a half in fron of the horse. It physically involves his muzzle and his
personal space in front of him.
The Delicate Zone: around the eye area, the zone from the nose band up
over the ears to the head piece of the halter. It's a delicate area and
needs to be treated with care.
Zone 2: from right behind the ears to the break of the withers, the
little dip right in front of them. Essentially it's the neck and chest and
the end of the zone makes a diagonal line to the point of the shoulder.
Zone 3: from the break of the withers to the point of the hip.
Zone 4: from the point of the hip to the top of the tail.
Zone 5: from the tail head stretching out a mile and a half behind
It might make it easier in some cases to use the zones to pinpoint
where problems are (touchy or nonresponsive areas) or to describe the areas
that we need to stimulate to ask the horse to move.
The Porcupine Game will follow soon.
The Porcupine Game
This is really a very fun Game that teaches the horse to "yield to and
from pressure," while also preparing him to respond to leg and rein aids.
We'll be asking our horse to move in six different directions:
backwards, forwards, right, left, and the head and neck: up and down.
We'll also refer back to the Zones that were discussed in an earlier
We're going to be asking our horse to move in these different
directions with just gentle pressure from our fingertips. Rub the spot
first, begin the pressure with your fingertips, then rub the spot again at
the end of the movement.
For example, I want my horse to back up by applying pressure to his
chest. I'd rub the center of his chest, apply light pressure with my
fingertips while I look in the direction that I want him to move in.
At first I'll start with the very lightest pressure. Parelli suggests
starting out by applying four ounces of pressure (can anyone give a good
example of what four ounces of pressure feels like?) then slowly increasing
the pressure about every three seconds until my horse moves (remember, in
the beginning just a weight shift is considered a try) immediately I stop
the pressure, and rub that spot again.
I always look at it as the first rub tells my horse: 1) I'm friendly
and 2) I'm going to ask you to do something. Then I'll ask, with my
fingertips, then let him know that the movement should end(and he that did
well) by rubbing the spot again.
Parelli suggests "smoothly and assertively increase the pressure until
the point where your horse is motivated to respond."
He uses a phrase, "be as dependable as a fence post" in how you ask. If
your horse "leans on a post, it gets harder the harder he leans." When the
horse does begin to move though, "the post doesn't follow him." The pressure
is immediately eased off.
You AND your horse should stay with that gentle fingertip pressure.
You're not chasing with it, he's not escaping from it. You're moving
together. You're partners.
The click can have many applications here that will help your horse
quickly understand what you're asking him to do. Always be consistent in how
you ask and in starting with the lightest touch.
You apply as much pressure as is necessary to get a response but as
little as it takes. Your aim, throughout though, is to always use as little
pressure as possible.
I have a friend who always asks me "How much does a fly weigh?" When I
ask him how I should cue my horse. We see our horse's flinch when a tiny fly
lands on them. They weigh less than four ounces, in other words, and the
horse can sure feel it. Four ounces is a starting point though, but
eventually, once your horse understands the Game, all that is needed is the
intent, light as air, coming through your fingers.
Ready to play the Game?
"Back your horse by his nose.
Move the front end (Zone 1,2,3)
Move the hindquarters (Zone 4)
Move him sideways, left and right (Zone 2,3,4)
Back your horse by his chest (front of Zone 3)
Lower his head to the ground (top of Zone 2)
Raise his head back up (Delicate Zone-Cheeks)"
Think about your body position too. What placement of your body will be
most effective in influencing your horse to move IN THE DIRECTION YOU WANT?
Think about the straightness of certain moves and how your body and
hand placement on the horse may effect it. Where you ask on the horse's body
may actually be asking him to "back crooked" for example.
Look up and in the direction that you're asking hm to move.
Try not to poke or increase the pressure too quickly. Let your horse
have some "think" time of about three seconds in between increases.
Plan ahead. Know what you're asking for before you ask but learn from
Remember to rub before and after the movement.
For delicate spots, like the flank (Zone 3) try not to just "go for it"
at first. Maybe rub a less delicate spot, like the middle of your horse's
back, slide your hand down to the flank, rub again, apply pressure to ask
for movement, then rub again when the movement is complete.
With the clicker, your horse will learn really quickly. How creative
can you get with the Porcupine Game?
As always: Report back!
Karen of Windgait Icelandics, asking Svertla to move her hindquarters.
The Driving Game
This Game helps your horse "to understand and respond to supporting
In this game you'll ask your horse to move without touching him.
If your previous Game, The Porcupine, is getting good and you're using
a soft touch, this next step is just around the corner! Some of you may
already be there!
You won't be using your lead rope to cause the movement (you can hold
onto it if you need to, but keep the float in it or lay it over your horses
neck) instead you'll use a steady rhythm with your open hand or eventually a
slight wiggle of a finger or a lean of your body.
To me this game asks you to use your concentration and inner energies.
I always breath, concentrate and then think of my energy going out from the
palm of my hand to my horse.
I have also thought that it also includes a bit of using the power of
suggestion. For example, stand next to your horse's shoulder, facing his
hindquarters. Take one big step sideways away from your horse. Bring your
arm straight out to the side at shoulder level. Now make a big sweeping
motion and point to your horse's hindquarters.
In my experience, the horse seems to finish the movement and you'll see
his back end take a step away or at the very least, the muscle will flex. To
me, this is the power of suggestion influencing your horse.
Perhaps you'll start by making soft, small motions with your open hand
towards your horses shoulder, and slowly increase the intensity of the
movement if he does not respond (increasing slowly about every three
seconds) until your horse moves. In the beginning you may even need to begin
tapping the shoulder. Parelli suggests even slapping the shoulder if
necessary-but I don't think that you'll have that need.
Remember, even it you do have to increase to actually tapping the
shoulder, when you begin again, you start with the softest rhythm of your
hand without touching the horse. You always start with the softest movement
and soon, the softest movement is all you'll need.
Think about your body placement. Where in relation to your horse's eye
should you begin your rhythmic movements to get him to move in certain
directions? Experiment, see what it takes. Add your clicker wherever you see
fit and tell the list how quickly your horse caught on.
"Drive your horse forwards towards something.
Drive him backwards away from you.
Side pass him along a fence left and right.
Cause him to lift a foot up and place it down a single step."
What else can you think of?
Be careful in driving from behind if you are in your horse's "kick
zone" and he is not yet comfortable with you there. Remember, gentle
movements at first. How can you get even softer? ("How much does that fly
Let us know how it goes!
The Yo-Yo Game
PURPOSE: Balances backward and forward movements, while developing
This is a game where you will ask your horse to back away from you,
pause, then walk forward to you while maintaining straightness and a light
feel, then stop with your slightest suggestion.
The end result will be asking your horse to back with a little wiggle
of your finger then come forward when you "comb" the rope by inviting your
horse in with your open hand, one after the other, under the rope.
That's probably not very clear, is it? I sort of think of "combing"
like twiddling your thumbs, but with your hands, where they circle around
each other, while they pass under and gently touch the rope.
You begin by standing directly in front of your horse. You will ask him
to keep both eyes on you. If his attention strays you might ask it to come
back with a GENTLE tug of the lead rope out to the side of which you want
his head to turn back to.
Here is a good time to mention a warning: this is an easy Game to
misuse your lead rope in. The way I was taught was to really use that rope
to jerk my horse's attention back to me. Fast and hard.
I was also taught, that when I up the phases of wiggling my rope for
the back up (which I will describe in a bit) to escalate it to slapping
Dan's chin and nose with the clasp of the lead as hard as I could if need
be. It's easy to get abusive with this and I personally do not like to see
the Game taught this way because it doesn't encourage the development of
feel. I think that it uses more force and fear. You have an opportunity
though, to go about it in another way. If you just start to think about it,
if your other games are good enough, you can apply what your horse already
knows in a way that he will better accept and understand this Game.
Some people might have other opinions here and it would be good to hear
My experience with teaching Dan this Game, and misusing my lead rope in
the beginning, was a horse that just plain tuned me out. He was physically
just standing there (what I would call "just taking it") but mentally he had
split the scene.
This game was a turning point for me. What I was doing to him really
upset me. I needed to come up with a better way to apply it (for my
particular horse) because I also wanted to get the best out of our
relationship. And I also began to start thinking about the importance of
feel at this time. I needed to make a change. So this is what I did:
I stood in front of Dan, a few feet away, and held the lead rope at the
end, palm down. I wiggled my finger from side to side. I increased the
"pressure" in small increments about every three seconds. Wiggling my
finger, tapping the rope with my finger, taking hold of the rope and
wiggling the rope gently back and forth in the same rhythm. My wiggles
become larger (but still gentle, I don't want the snap to hit my horse) then
I'd start walking towards Dan still wiggling my finger and rope gently, then
I tap his chest in the same easy rhythm, then use my finger tips steadily in
the middle of his chest (remember, rub first, then finger tips) and
porcupine a step back. Click/treat and rub the spot.
I'd step back, then begin again with the smallest pressure, a finger
wiggle. Soon Dan backed with fewer and fewer steps in between the finger
wiggle and his actual step backwards. Then soon, he'd see that finger
wiggle, and that's all it took.
So we start this Game by giving the cue that we want as our "finished"
cue. We add onto it, then work backwards from there!
If your Porcupine Game is good, you can apply it to teach this in a
very understandable way. You may prefer to use a carrot stick to gently add
by rhythmically tapping the ground or softly wiggling in the air, then
gently tap his chest then porcupine him with it (or a whip will work too)
Remember, you can softly rub for the porcupine with a carrot stick or whip
too. You may have to play the Friendly Game using these objects first
though-which would be a nice way to start anyway, even if your horse is
comfortable with them already.
Pause a moment after the back up, then invite your horse back in by
combing the rope. You can increase the pressure slowly by softly closing
your hands on the rope and combing it this way. Increase to opening and
closing your hands and gently tug as you comb. Close your hand a little
more, but keep the rhythm. Comb the rope and hold, don't pull. Wait. If your
horse starts to back walk with him. Keep him facing you. Keep the same
pressure, (no tug of war) just go with him. Let him know that you are with
him for the long walk if need be (letting him know that this is important to
you) The moment he stops and gives (even just a small give) release.
Most of you may not ever need to use all of the steps, but if you do
that's alright, it's a starting place to build on.
Eventually you would want to be able to back your horse up to the end
of your 12' (or longer) line, pause, then ask him to come forward while
coiling up you rope again.
Strive for straightness (keeping both of your horse's eyes on you),
lightness and balance (is your horse's backwards just as smooth and easy as
Advanced Yo-Yo Games: wiggling your finger from any area in your
horse's field of vision (even from behind him or from the saddle or while
sitting on a fence) and have him back. (Don't worry about having his "two
eyes on you" for this! Ha! By this time, it's the movement -your cue- that
is meaningful now).
Ask your horse to come forward by just circling your index fingers
around each other.
Stand to the side and behind your horse, ask him to back past you or
until he's even with you. Porcupine his hindquarters 45 degrees away from
you, continue to back him, pause, walk to your horse, take off the lead
rope. Walk back to your place and invite your horse to walk to you.
Add poles or obstacles. Play the Yo-Yo Game while your horse is leaving
his stall, back and forth through the doorway.
Is it as clear as mud?
Question? Ideas? Insight? All is welcome!
The Circle Game
PURPOSE: Teaches your horse to take responsibility to not change gaits or
directions until you ask.
This is a game that resembles longing, but that's not what it is. It is
a Game of intent, dependability and responsibility.
The intent comes from us. For example if we swing our lead rope during
Game, we keep sort of a neutral feeling inside that asks our horse to stand
still and stay with us. But if we need to swing our rope during the Circle
Game, our intent changes. We're asking him to move and that asking starts
with how we present it to the horse, through intent.
Dependability comes from both the horse and the human. The horse knows
what to expect when we ask for movement. There is a pattern we'll always
follow regarding how we ask for it. There never has to be a question in our
horse's mind of what will happen or if we really mean what we're asking. We
are dependable on that, and he will become dependable in his response.
Responsibility: The horse becomes responsible for maintaining gait and
we are responsible to always ask in the same way with as much pressure as
necessary but as little as it takes and no more.
Parelli describes this as "an exercise in which the horse circles
around you. You are teaching him to yield his forehand and move out and
A two lap minimum and a four lap maximum is suggested. You'll ask your
horse to stop, yield his hindquarters and stand facing you with both eyes
"front and center."
This is a very good pre-ride game because you can see if your horse is
relaxed, listening and willing to yield his hindquarters.
To begin with you'll want to stand in one spot (later, when you add
obstacles you may want or need to walk with your horse while he circles you
and negotiates the obstacles). We'll ask the horse to move off to the right
"by straightening your right elbow and stretching your right leg out to the
side at the same time." This, opens the door, so to speak, to the direction
you want your horse to go.
For some horses (who understand your feel through the lead rope) that's
all the encouragement they'll need. This is the goal to shoot for.
Pat suggests if your horse doesn't begin to move, "swing the tail of
your 12' lead rope (held in your left hand) anywhere from two feet in front
of his nose to his withers." I personally would just concentrate on the
withers and stay away from the head area with this. At this point, you're
still not letting the rope make contact with your horse.
One thing that you might try is to practice your percision with the
tail of that rope. Tie one end to a post and see how accurately you can
swing that rope and touch different areas on the post or fence with the
tail. Make sure that you can be accurate with your rope before you start
working with your horse.
The horse should take both eyes off of you and begin to look (and
hopefully move) into the direction you ask.
If your horse is not yet moving, this is where you decide how you will
proceed. Parelli starts to let the end of the lead tap the horse. Tapping
the withers every twirl of the rope, increasing the energy after about three
seconds. At this point you may need to start walking (with intent) towards
your horses forequarters while still swinging the rope. Keep walking towards
the forequarters until the horse leaves.
Immediately stop swinging the rope and let the rope slide through your
right hand to the end. As the horse circles around you, you'll pass the rope
from one hand to the other without turning with your horse (note: in the
beginning, you may need to actually turn with your horse to add a hint of
pressure, letting him know that he should keep going).
So you direct by lifting the rope first, and if you need to add phases,
the other hand lifts, then swings the end of the lead. Direct, lift, swing.
Always the same order so that your horse always knows how things will go and
Circle your horse two to four laps only.
To stop your horse, run your right hand down the rope and hold the end
in your left hand while extending your right arm asking your horse to yield
his hind quarters and face you squarely with both eyes on you.
In this first phase you can also just point to your horses hindquarters
and if your previous games are good (like the Driving Game) your horse will
yield his hindquarters at this suggestion and stop.
Phase two asks you to swing the end of the lead rope at your horses
hindquarters. We are asking him to yield the hindquerters to stop and face
The other phases may include tapping the horse with the end of the lead
on the hindquarters and upping the pressure every three seconds until the
horse yields. I prefer to slap the ground in the beginning. You may also
need to slide your right hand down the rope more to have more of a tail end
to get near the horse with.
If your horse stops or breaks gate, you'll stop him in the same way
described above and immediately start him off again.
C/T where you see fit, although I would personally look to have them
actually complete one full circle first, but I'd like to hear how other
people teach this.
Teach both directions. Remember that cantering can be tight with this
length lead for alot of horses and you might wait until you begin working
with a longer line for that.
Later we can talk about changing directions without breaking gait and
Please ask questions and fill us in on your successes!
Let's see......Sideways......different from SidePass.
Includes moving the fore and the hind to the side either by pressure
(Porcupine) or the suggestion of pressure (Driving).
All previous games should be good before trying this one.
Start by asking the fore to move one step, then the hind to move one step
and work up to combining the movement.
The Sideways Game can seem hard to teach until you think about what
it's made of. It's actually made up of things that we've already taught, and
in the end, we're blending them.
Years ago, when I taught Dan this Game, I had an awful time because I
was only looking at it as a whole and not as a sum of it's parts. It wasn't
until I broke the task down into easy pieces, that I became successful.
Clicker training helped me do that too!
So, looking at it in this light, the Sideways Game begins to look alot
As Judy said, your previous Games should be good before you try this
one. If you are still working on them, that's okay. Take your time and get
them down well. They are your foundation and you want a really strong
foundation that you can always fall back on.
Next questions: How will you judge when to combine the two movements?
If you choose not to use a wall or fenceline to keep your horse from walking
forwards, what Game, that you have already taught, will help your horse to
understand that he should not step forwards?
This Game I have seen taught where the person is almost chasing the
horse. To me the horse was reacting more than thinking. Reacting to fear-and
fear inhibits thinking and learning. This takes us back to how well you've
taught your previous Games. If you've taught them well you already have a
good base of understanding going. And this Game, that in the beginning,
appears to be one of the toughest to communicate, will end up being one of
I know that everyone who works on it will be successful!
The Squeeze Game
PURPOSE: "Help horses to overcome their claustrophobic tendencies. Develop
confidence for trailer loading, jumping, crossing streams, passing through
gates, into stalls, wash bays, etc."
You might be on the trail and you ask your horse to go through the
narrow opening between two trees. Maybe he balks or if he starts through, he
rushes it to get out of that tight spot as quickly as possible. This, to me,
is the horse just doing what he thinks he has to do to survive.
Deep in his instinctual memory he knows that tight places are unsafe.
He thinks, perhaps, that he's being asked to go into a place that he has no
hope of escaping from. His instinct as a prey animal runs pretty deep.
If your horse has some difficulties with this Game in the beginning, it
helps to understand his point of view.
This is a Game, though, that helps to develop mental fitness in your
horse, through trust, confidence and the help of the previous Games.
The final goal is to ask your horse to pass confidently between you and
a fence just three feet away.
To do this you're going to direct your horse the same way that you do
to begin The Circle Game. If you ask your horse to pass in front of you
going to the right for instance. You'll pick up the lead with your right
hand and extend your right arm as you draw it across your chest and then out
straight from your right side.
With the other hand you can twirl the end of the 12' lead if your horse
needs encouragement to move. Let the lead slide through your hand as your
horse walks between you and the fence. As his hindquarters pass you, you'll
bring your right arm back slightly, bend your elbow as you ask your horse to
bend his neck towards you, bring his front end around and step through with
his hindquarters so that your horse ends up straight and facing you. As
you're doing this your left hand takes the place of your right hand on the
Eventually you can ask your horse to pass smoothly in front of you in
one direction, turn, you trade hands, and then ask him to pass in front of
you going in the other direction. Always end with the turn and asking your
horse to face you.
Parelli writes: "Master the art of positioning yourself so that you can
direct your horse's nose into the space with one hand, and swing the rope
with the other to create impulsion. You should ultimately get to where you
don't need to swing the rope and just the amount of pull on the halter will
signal how quickly you want the horse to go."
Alot of things get accomplished in this game: how freely your horse
leads up, how well he gives to pressure to walk forward, turn and stop; with
the turn you're asking him to change eyes-he passs in front of you seeing
you from one side, turns, and sees you with the other; you're asking him for
a few steps of turn on the forehand, a few of turn on the haunches. Speaking
of this last part, the more smoothly your horse moves through this the more
relaxed you know that he is. This is also a great pre-ride check to see if
he is bracing at all and would be a good thing to work out before getting
Maybe in the beginning, three feet is too narrow a space for your
horse, he might still rush through or worse yet bump you while hurrying
through. This would go back to what we discussed in the beginning and you
might just need to start with the maneuver of the horse passing in front of
you and turning towards you without anything else around you.
Maybe then you'll start by standing ten feet from the fence. You might
want to start by asking your horse to pass between two bales of hay set ten
feet apart first. Just start where you need to start.
Once your horse begins to show confidence with everything, then you can
start decreasing the space in which you ask him to pass through-but never
ask for something that you're not confident that your horse can be
successful with. Sometimes they will still rub the fence and maybe get a
little nervous. Be ready and help encourage and support him if need be.
This is also a good Game to do with your horse saddled. If the stirrups
hit the fence or push into his side it will be better for him to get used to
it with you on the ground and not in the saddle.
Armed with clicker and treats, take your horse for a walk. Lead him
through the gate using the same technique. Use your natural environment to
lead him around or through obstacles. Stand on a mounting black and play the
Squeeze Game from that position.
Expand the Squeeze Game into working with a gate. Ask your horse to
stop and wait repeatedly while passing through the opening (lots of clicker
potential there!) Incorporate the other Games in this. Working a gate is
really just about patience and thoughtful movement. When the weather was too
rainy to ride safely, Dan and I spent time working gates from the ground.
Then when it came to opening and closing gates from the saddle, we had it
Load your horse into his stall using this technique asking your horse
to pass through the doorway in front of you as you stand outside the stall.
Ask him to turn then and face you for his click and treat.
Thanks for letting me write up these Seven Games lessons. I hope that
you got something out of them. Ask any questions, any time!
Trish rides Starri bareback and in halter to check the mail.