The Friendly Game is the first of the Seven Games by Pat Parelli. It is word put in action where the relationship between horse and person comes first. For more on the principles behind this game, please read up. Essentially, the Friendly Game is about trust. Can you rub your horse with your hands, halter, rope, stick? The concept of approach and retreat is important. How close can I get to that spot before the horse gets nervous? Then, taking the time it takes to gain the horse’s trust.
Since I’ve owned Sara, she has been fairly “herd bound.” As I’ve come to know her, I realized this is an issue of safety for Sara. For the first four plus years of her life, she lived in a small herd with only essential human interaction. Enter my purchase of her and all of the sudden she’s supposed to trust..me? This is where the Friendly Game hits home for us.
I do not have issues catching Sara. This is an exercise I gave myself to build trust and confidence. She is worried when she leaves her pasture mates, which is what I’m looking to ultimately address.
One of the principles Parelli teaches is doing things for the horse instead of to him. Sara needs to feel more important than the task at hand. As a prepared horsewoman, I need to establish both rapport (connection) and respect (obedience). It’s my responsibility to realize that she presently feels safer with the herd than with me. It’s her responsibility to choose.
According to a great article by Linda Parelli, the savvy strategy for Right-Brain Extrovert Sara is: “Needs to feel safe. Don’t go over thresholds; speed up to match his energy, sending the horse back faster than you ask him out again.”
Today, I spent almost an hour purely playing friendly with Sara without removing her from her herd mates. Three times, she wandered away from her herd if only slightly to come visit with me. Just what I was hoping for! I want her to choose to spend time with me because she knows I am safe.