The Reward in the Journey

May 21, 2010

Tank and I have been playing Parelli games for about five weeks. So far the main thing I’ve learned is: I am very impatient.

The first day I practiced with Tank I realized I was simply moving too fast. I wasn’t watching him closely, and I was pursuing my own agenda without regard for him. Since he had done so well with the clinician, I expected he would do the same with me. Ha! Apparently he wasn’t convinced I was a worthy leader, and though he is a very gentle and kind horse, his attitude was basically, “Make me.” Out the window flew all my hopes of zipping through the games and showing off with my super responsive horse.

You talkin' to me?

Aside from learning about my impatience, the other important things I’ve learned include:

  • Pay attention—both to Tank and to myself. What is Tank’s body language saying? Is he paying attention to me? How do I feel? Am I tired? Distracted? In a rush? If I’m not wholly present, how can I ask Tank to be? My attitudes and feelings will be reflected in him.

  • Slow down. Don’t expect he will respond to me as he does to the Parelli clinician who has years of experience working with horses in this way. It may take me a few tries. This is not a race. I’m not trying to get my horse to do tricks—I’m building a respectful and trusting relationship, in which he views me as his leader. I came to see a successful session as one in which I was sure I had clearly and firmly communicated what I was asking of Tank, whether or not he responded “perfectly.”

  • Try something different. If what I’m doing isn’t working, try signaling it a different way. And if something really feels off, take a break. Let Tank graze, or watch my friends work with their horses. Go back to it if I feel like it. We’ve had some very successful sessions this way.

To quote John Strassburger, performance editor for Horse Journal (a sort of Consumer Reports for horse owners), “With horses, the reward comes from the journey with them, not just from reaching a destination. The fun comes from figuring out and developing the horse as an individual and as an athlete. The fun comes from the relationship we develop with those horses and seeing them mature, progress, and (if we have them long enough) to become senior citizens” (“Invest in the Horse, Not the Destination,” March 2010).

The Parellis often say this is not a system of training horses; it’s a system of training people. I’m beginning to see what they mean. I now realize what I’m learning here can be applied to every area of my life: Paying attention, slowing down, trying something different…and most importantly, enjoying the journey.

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  1. What a beautiful horse. I agree with your thoughts... and think they could apply to many learning experiences.... equine or not!

  2. "Paying attention, slowing down, trying something different…and most importantly, enjoying the journey.".....

    Seems to me that's what most of us seek to do everyday in some form or fashion. Bravo to Tank for teaching you such a wonderful lesson. Glad to know you're finally catching on!! ;•)

  3. Teresa--Thank you, I think he's beautiful, too. It seems like there are really only a few lessons to be learned in life, and we all find different ways to learn them. Working with Tank has taught me a lot--it's really changed my life.

  4. Laure--Well, you know me. I can be a little thick-headed... I couldn't have asked for a better teacher than Tank.

  5. As can we all, my dear girl, as can we all!

    And yes, I do think you have a very special teacher in Tank.

  6. I think your comments apply to many learning situations - and I will try to remember them as we train our puppy!

  7. I think Tank is doing the teaching and you are just there for the wonderful rid.

  8. Cheryl--good luck with the puppy training, and take joy in the journey (even if you have to clean up some accidents)!

  9. Jeanne--I have to agree that he's taught me far more than I've taught him.