I have all these grand ambitions for George - you know, fancy moves like walking forward, turning, backing up. But I also have found a quiet, peaceful place with George which I would like to preserve undisturbed while asking these things. Sometimes this can be quite a contradiction.
Yesterday, I went into the field to spend time. I put the halter on George. I re-discovered that he really doesn't like to have me touch his chest/neck/shoulder with any kind of intentionality, other than friendship. This gets back to the scar, put there by an angry pasture-mate, who was fed up with George being so stubborn about refusing to move his shoulders over, the scar which George's previous owner likes to point to as evidence of how much force is needed to make him understand the necessity for capitulating on this point.
I understand, from my limited exposure to Parelli, that the system works by breaking through such barriers in the horse. If you discover an area of resistance, you work through it. Again from my very limited, and possibly not very typical, experience of watching Parelli work in action, it looked like the resistance was broken through more or less by force, albeit mild force. In other words, the horse was not given a choice. Lack of choice = force.
Yesterday, every time I put my hand on George's chest or shoulder, he pinned his ears and looked very sour. My intention in putting my hand there was to ask him to release his shoulder in order to move toward me with a lengthening back. He trusts me quite a lot, and yet it was too much to ask.
I didn't insist. How can you insist on a release anyway? Instead I stopped to think. I stood by George's shoulder and pointed to it. I said, "Look, I'm only pointing, I'm not touching."
I applied a tiny amount of pressure on my end of the lead rope and felt a concrete barrier on the George end. I could tell that if I brought his head toward me, his shoulder would come with it, the whole head/neck/shoulder one big piece of fused hardness. So instead, I put my hand on his nose, and said, "You need to release this, so that when you turn towards me, your shoulder can release away, so that your back can lengthen - and it's all about the back, right? You want your back to feel good, don't you?"
After spending a little more time deconstructing the situation, I touched my finger to his shoulder while thinking about his head. George's shoulder melted away from me as his head curved towards me.
It was so beautiful, it brought tears to my eyes.
I took the halter off, and we spent time together in his favorite pose, with me on his left side. Afterwards, he was very nice about letting me go and interact with Rose and Bridget.
When I left, he followed me and kept looking at me after I'd gone.
So, gosh, things like, I don't know, a collected trot seem to be just a little bit far off. However, I remembered something KFH said in, I think, What Horses Reveal. He said that if you're doing it right, the result will be beautiful. Although you can't aim directly for the result, if you don't get the result, then you're doing something wrong. He says that when a toddler performs ballet even though the execution is simple, and maybe a little awkward, it can have a beauty of its own, appropriate to the level attained by the young dancer.
I guess George and I are in the just-learned-to-walk-never-mind-dance group of toddler babies, dressed in our bunny costumes - but yesterday, George offered something that, in its own way, was as lovely as a dance can be.