Jan. 20th, 2017

lantairvlea: (zetahra)
Our DVD player has a five disc changer so I've loaded it up with horse DVDs to watch. I did (over)indulge myself for my birthday and got the back issue set of The Horseman's Gazette in September. I had the judges' commentary from earlier in the year for the current On The Levels I hadn't gotten through yet as well as picking up the last two parts of the Parelli driving video series because they were on sale. I joined the Savvy club for an additional discount and got both for less than the cost of one. They also gave me a bunch of credit and had another sale so I picked up their "On Line" series for cheap so I could glean what I can from it and have a little more knowledge of the actual program (the handbooks... holy cow guys).

Needless to say I have quite the stack of videos I can plow through during my down time, especially those times with a baby glued to me. I'm also doing some reading, but I'm indulging in videos because usually I don't.

So I recently finished the Parelli-endorsed video series on driving. I will note that I am not much of a Parelli fan. It has some good stuff on principle, but the execution and tendency towards gimmicks that target one's pocket book rather than bettering your horse's training is not my cup of tea. I paid nowhere near full price for the series and would recommend finding it second hand or taking advantage of a super sale.

The presenter is Nate Bowers and endorsed by Parelli. His father was Steve Bowers who to my understanding was pretty well-respected in the driving community (my sense more among the working/draft sect, but I could be wrong). He's still a young kid and that comes across in some of his presentation.

I picked up the first part (two disks) when the Parelli crew were in town and I was getting ready to start Zetahra driving three or four years ago. While I was working with a more experienced trainer I was also eager to seek out additional ideas and things I could incorporate at home between sessions with the trainer.

While there were some good things in the first set of disks, like how to introduce pressure into the (breast)collar and breeching, ways to introduce long-lining (which helped with Tru-D as she really needed that "step the shoulder/step the hip" thing sperated to keep her relaxed), I was disappointed that they didn't reach the point of hooking the horse to anything and 80% of the work was done with his broke-to-death mare. They did have some brief bits with his wife's horse that was at the beginnings of the driving training, but not much.

One concept in part one that I was not a fan of was getting the horse to walk off from the rein aid. Pick one rein to tip the nose and release when the horse steps. My big problem with this is that I don't really want my reins to be associated with forward motion. I want to be able to ask for a bend without my horse moving off and this, to me, actively encourages something I try to avoid. Plus how do you really get a straight depart if you're constantly asking by bending?

The second set was pretty much about the mechanics of driving and while helpful to someone completely new to driving, those who are a bit experienced or well-read will find it a bit boring. He did note that set one was "things the horse should know" and set two was essentially "things the human should know," which I guess works. Use the horse information to get people hooked before going over the person-oriented info.

He touches on rein use and mentions the whip, but he is not keen on voice aids and generally doesn't use a whip so there is heavy emphasis on rein use only (I'll reiterate I'm really not a fan of how he teaches the horse to step forward off of rein pressure). I guess this might make it more friendly for the beginning driver, but from a personal, communication, and safety standpoint I see the frustration and time spent getting proficient in using a whip and having a horse who is softly obedient to it worth the effort! So while he does cover rein aids, use, and effect he basically says "this is a whip, but I don't use one." He leans towards open bridles, but I imagine that ties into the fact that he doesn't really use whips so doesn't have to worry about a horse reacting to the movement of the whip over the touch of it (which is pretty much my #1 reason for using a closed bridle, to ensure an honest, relaxed response to the whip).

The third set of disks they do finally get the horse hitched starting with simple loads/drags and moving up to how to approach the first few times in the cart. He talks a lot about "commitment-free comittment" and how to hook the first few times to introduce the concept while being able to release quickly in case of trouble. He has some good ideas, but there are others I prefer more (namely the panic snap or string connection Clay Maier uses, it's a shame his website has disappeared off the face of the internet, would have loved to acquire some ofnhisnother DVDs...). Once again it fell a little short of what I was hoping for. While they did hook the horse it was again 90% done with a fully trained horse so there really wasn't anything organic about the presentation. The other horse who wasn't broke to death had previously been broke to drive as a young horse and was being re-introduced after years away from it and they didn't spend any real time with it and the cart.

Overall impression as stated before: wouldn't pay full price for it. It falls a little flat, though it does have some useful information I have referred back to and given me a couple of tools and ideas to add to my toolbox. I imagine they probably shot the whole thing over a couple of days and they used the same space throughout despite some early inages of him driving out in an open field.

I would view it as more of a checklist to refer to as it doesn't really have any trouble-shooting, just "if your horse gives you a yellow/red light you need to go back a step" without much discussion on what a "worried" horse necesarily looks like ir where the holes might be.

Oh, and what Parelli video would be complete without a gimmick? He has these "shaft shelf" loops that he uses during his first hitches to the cart. It has a steel ring wrapped in leather to keep the shaft loop/hobble/tug from collapsing around the shaft. It basically allows the shafts to freely slide out of the loops if necessary. I can't imagine them being cheap and, really, if your traces aren't attached you better have someone holding onto the cart anyway, which should provide the effort necessary to pull the shafts from the loops.

I'm thinking I should start putting together some hort, instructional videos this year.

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