The Savvy Station

"Brace" and How it Affects Flexion

by Parelli Professionals on Jan 17, 2024

"Brace" and How it Affects Flexion

By Sandy Stanway — 3 Star Parelli Professional


Using the Parelli program, we learn to use Love, Language, and Leadership in equal doses. We are human beings and like to progress, so it is easy to get the balance of these three vital components out of balance. If we don’t have enough love or language or our goals are more important than the partnership with our horse, it’s easy to allow the leadership to drift over into dictatorship. 


If you are having problems with your horse bracing when you ask for vertical flexion, it may be because your Love, Language and Leadership are no longer equal.


Your horse might be asking for a bit more love, or they might not understand what you are asking because they don’t understand the language you are using. This often happens when we ask for something new. Our horses brace because they don’t understand. They can’t flex their bodies if they don’t know what is being asked. You may need to break down the request. Remember Pat’s phrase, “isolate, separate, and recombine.” You might need to do that until your horse understands what you are asking.


Sometimes our horses brace because they are no longer feeling the love. They feel like they are being used. Long ago, when I was trying desperately to pass Level 4, that happened. My horse was Level 4 On Line, Freestyle, and Finesse, but at Liberty, he would run off.  Not all the time, but enough that I knew something wasn’t right. My techniques were good. My language was good, he knew what I was asking, and my leadership was good. We had a good level of trust and respect, but something wasn’t right. It took me weeks and weeks to figure it out. This horse was my husband’s horse who I had commandeered after my own had become very sick. I was determined not to steal his heart because he was my husband’s horse. And my horse felt that. He knew I wasn’t entirely with him. I was holding a little back. It was the Love component from me that was missing in our relationship. I stumbled upon this after another disappointing session where my horse had run off. My husband said, “do you think he knows you are trying not to love him?”


Horses aren’t that intuitive, are they?


Well, when I went back out after deciding to 100% commit to this horse, he never left me again. It was startling. My Love, Language, and Leadership were not in balance. When they were, there was no brace, and we passed our Level 4 easily. It was also interesting that our latitudinal flexion and longitudinal flexion improved immensely. The grey horse I am standing on is the horse that used to leave me when we played at Liberty. We built such a strong partnership. He would allow me to do anything on or with him.


So, if you are struggling with flexion of any kind, ask yourself where is the brace? Then ask if it is the Love, Language, or Leadership component causing the brace. Address whichever one you think is the cause and see if your flexion improves.

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