Parelli Natural Horsemanship: Circling Game


5. Circling Game
The Circling Game helps your horse understand that it is his job to maintain gait, maintain direction, watch where he is going, and all the while stay tuned into you as his center of attention.

The object of the Circling Game is to have your horse willingly and snappily head off in the requested direction, maintain gait and direction once on the circle, and then come back in at the slightest suggestion. Essentially the Circling Game can be broken into three distinct parts—the Send, the Allow and the Bring Back.

Lead him with a light pull on the lead rope in the direction you want him to go. Lift your Carrot Stick or the tail of your lead rope in the other hand to support the horse in the direction you want him to go. Swing your Carrot Stick or lead rope if he hasn’t moved yet. Touch him on the neck with the Carrot Stick or lead rope if he is still standing there looking at you. If he still hasn’t moved, then just start again from Lead It. The next time, do it with just a little more energy and a determined look on your face.

At any stage in the four phases, if your horse even tries to go in the direction you asked for, stop asking and allow him to go on the circle. If he only makes it half a lap or even a few steps, that’s OK; just start over with a new Send as many times as you need to. The object of the game for the human during the Allow is to not move—no turning, no talking, no slapping, no clucking, no smooching and no lifting the Carrot Stick. Just pass the rope behind your back. The only time you get to move is if the horse stops. Then you just Send him again and go right back to the Allow as soon as he goes.

Ask for the Bring Back only after your horse has completed a minimum of two laps at any gait. Don’t do more than four consecutive laps or your horse will start to check out mentally. Lead your horse in by running your hand down the lead rope and then bringing it to your belly button. Bring your hand all the way in and pretend you are “poking” yourself in the belly button with the lead rope. Lift your Carrot Stick or the end of the lead rope and look at your horse’s hip. Swing the Carrot Stick or rope a few times toward his hip, and then touch your horse on top of his hip to get him to face you. If your horse doesn’t respond by facing you or coming to you the first time, then just shorten the rope and go through the four phases again.

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