9/23/2006

The Seven Games

The seven games are what horses do to each other out in the Field as they play or overcome dominance issues. Many people wonder why horses do that and why they are doing it, so by understanding the seven games and using them one will become familiar with what goes on out in the Fields.
Game One: The friendly game
This sure gains the horses respect for you. If you have ever had a horse that moves when you reach for its legs of somewhere were its incomparable for the horse this will cure it. All you do is rub you had (with a friendly touch) over the horses body. once you hit a spot that he feels uncoftorable to him, just leave you hand right there and go with the horse till he stops, then remove you hand. The secret to horses is the timing of the realise. So if the horse moves and you take of your hand to stop the horse, he will go oh I can make her take her hand off my body when ever I move. So don't realise the touch till he stops moving. VERY IMPORTANT. Once good with that see how many other objects you can rub him with.
Game Two: 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 also be asking our horse to move in six different directions: backwards, forwards, right, left, and the head and neck: up and down.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.
Start out smoothly and assertively increase the pressure until the point where your horse is motivated to respond.

Game Three: The driving game

This teaches your horse to move without any applied pressure.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.

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. My I suggest 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? (Just remember the fly that lands on a horses back.)Let me know how it goes!

Game four:The Yo-Yo game

The purpose of this game is to develop a balances backward and forward movements, while developing straightness. To begin, stand 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.

Game five: circling 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 the Friendly 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.

This is an exercise in which the horse circles around you. You are teaching him to yield his forehand and move out and around you."

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.

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 precision 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. I start 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 work.

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 hindquarters to stop and face you.

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 allot 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 adding obstacles.

Game six: sideways

Let's see......Sideways......different from Side Pass.

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 allot easier. 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 fence line 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 the easiest!

I know that everyone who works on it will be successful!

Game seven: 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 lead.

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.

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 pass 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 on.

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 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 made!

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.

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