“I’m going on an adventure”…. The Story of Erbija – Chapter 1


“I’m going on an adventure”… So begins the journey of Bilbo Baggins in Tolkien’s ‘The Hobbit’.

It seemed the best quote to start my story about my horse, because, oh boy!, what an adventure it has been and still is! Today, she is turning 25 and I wanted to begin to tell our story on this special day.

It all begun 14 years ago in Belgium. I had been riding on horses for about 8 years. One day, I came to the stable and the instructor told me that I was to ride on Erbija that day. ‘Who???’, I said (never heard the name before). ‘Erbija, she’s the new mare we are trying on. Go and meet her.’ I went into the barn and saw her. ‘Mwah…’ was my first thought. The mare was much more sensitive than the rest of the horses I knew back then and it took me longer than usual to groom her and saddle her up. Then came the riding part. It begun as a nightmare: her steps were small and fast, I was not able to get her to relax and she jumped on the side because another horse looked at her the wrong way. ‘Well, let’s see how we can the trough the hour on this thing’, was my motto for the day. But then, the unthinkable happened: as the instructor asked for the first trot of the lesson, she speeded forward and my heart went ‘Bang!’. And I fel in love for the first time. I knew she was my horse. It was as simple and clear to me as the sun rise in the morning and the sky is blue. But there was one person I needed to convince that my epiphany was the real deal: my mother. Being 16 and having found my horse was all awesome and nice, but I did not have any money at all. When I told her that she had to buy me that horse, she declared me crazy. But I’m not the giving up type. After weeks of negotiations, we made an agreement: I was to ride her for a year, and if I could hold for that long, then she was considering buying her for me. So my mother was at least considering buying her for me. Step one: Check!

Step two: convince the horse that this was a good idea. Believe me, the mother-part was the easy one! Erbija was not convinced at all that we were a match made in heaven. Being a Russian lady, she had a pretty good idea about what she wanted and those plans did not include me most of the time. She was not mean or anything. When I was next to her on the ground, things were OK most of the time. When I tried to take her to the pasture, she would run whenever she felt like it. If I was standing in her way, it was my problem. When I was riding her, she would jump and run for her life at the slightest move or sound out of the ordinary. Let say that I ate more sand that year then I really cared for.

So what to do? This was my horse, I knew it! I begun by expending the time we spend with each other. I took her for long grooming sessions (she seemed to appreciate it) and made start on groundwork. The Parelli Natural Horsemanship Method was brand new in Europe 14 years ago, internet was not what it is today and Youtube barely existed. So I took information where I could and try to imitate ‘those american ways of doing things’. Step by step, I gained her trust and things started to settle a little bit… I held on for a year, and my mother decided to buy her for me when she decided it was time to move her horse to another stable. Step two: Check!

To be continued…

Allmost forgot: Happy Birthday! 🙂

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Horsenality, who are you? ‘The naughthy, playful horse’ (Left Brain Extrovert)

Horsenality, Left Brain Extrovert

The Basic of the Parelli Natural Horsemanship Method, Horsenality: Left Brain Extrovert



Today we have our first mystery guest on Parelli’s Survival Guide. After my article on Horsenality™ from last week I was able to get an interview with one of the four horsenalities. Let’s discover who is or she is and what he/she has to say.

–      Me: ‘Hello, mystery guest, how are you today?’
–      Guest: ‘Well, I am fine! Thank you for asking.’
–      Me: ‘Can you tell me a little bit more about yourself?’
–      Guest: ‘Well, some call me naughty other playful. I am always a challenge to my trainers.’
–      Me: ‘So you must be Left Brain Extrovert! Nice to meet you! How are you?’
–      LBE: ‘That’s right, good job guessing that so fast. Nice to meet you to. I am fine, I have already told you that! I am getting a little bit bored…’
–      Me: ‘Apologies, I did not want to bore you. May I ask you a few questions?’
–      LBE: ‘Sure, but do it quick, otherwise I might get bored’.
–      Me: ‘Your motto?’
–      LBE: ‘Life is a game and I make the rules.’
–      Me: ‘Who is your favorite Disney figure?
–      LBE: ‘Spirit, the free stallion’
–      Me: ‘What’s your favorite song?’
–      LBE: ‘Pink, get this party started’
–      Me: ‘Well, thank you for your time! I hope I did not bore you too much?’
–      LBE: ‘That was just fine. Bye, have a nice day!’

And he went out as quickly as he came in.

Left-Brain Extrovert, who are you?

A Left Brain Extrovert horse is a horse who is playful, naughty, quickly bored but a fast learner. To keep him entertained and motivated, he needs quick, intensive sessions, with a lot, lot of fun and games. The down side of being playful is that it can quickly turn into naughty, if he get bored. Keep things interesting for him and don’t hesitate to play little tricks on him: he won’t hesitate to play them on you! Also remember this: move his feet and he will give you full attention and motivation.

Your energy, attitude and mindset are also really important: no fake it until you make it here with this one. To have a successful session with a Left Brain Extrovert horse, you need to smile, be enthusiast and have a lot of fun as well! Never punish him or try to be the boss of him: you’ll achieve a lot more by playing with him than try to dominate him.

If you are entertaining and inspiring him, you will make from your Left Brain Extrovert horse a partner for life.


Inspiration: http://www.parelli.com/horsenality-horse-training-dorsquos-and-donrsquots.html

‘Horsenalities’… What is it exactly?


Today I want to introduce one of the basic concept of the Parelli Natural Horsemanship Method: Horsenalities™.

The word is a mix of the words ‘horse’ and ‘personalities’. Do I need to say more?… Uh, yes, please!

The concept of Horsenalities™ was developed by Linda Parelli while she was observing Pat Parelli at work with different horses. Although he achieved great results with all of them, the approach was slightly different from one horse to the other. Linda brought it back to four different personalities of horses, or Horsenalities™: Left Brain Extrovert, Left Brain Introvert, Right Brain Extrovert and Right Brain Introvert. Respectively abbreviated LBE, LBI, RBE and RBI both on the internet and in the common language of Parelli students. When confronted to new situations, Left Brain horses are more prone to react by thinking first, Right Brain horses will react on emotions. Extrovert horses will ‘explode’, introvert horses will turn into themselves and shut you down.

Why would you want to know this? Why is it so important?

Because it gives everyone the tools to asses the components of the Horsenality™ of his or her horse and to chose the best method to train him or her.

To give you a first impression, let’s look at the following diagram:

The four Horsenalities™ according to the Parelli Natural Horsemanship Method

The four Horsenalities™ according to the Parelli Natural Horsemanship Method

It is based on adjectives that people use to describe their horse. Most of the riders say things like ‘my horse is lazy’ or ‘mine is hard to read’. Without being conscious of it, they give their horses personalities, or Horsenalities™.

To determine which Horsenality™ or Horsenalities™ may be playing a role in your horse’s personality, it is very simple: you just have to fill a chart with positive and negative aspects of your horse’s personality. This gives you a good example of how your horse is at that moment. Of course, some things might never change and are in the nature of your horse, but the goal of the Parelli method is to improve the negative aspects of this nature. That’s why I want to share a second diagram with you:

The ideal positive attitude of the four Horsenalities™

The ideal positive attitude of the four Horsenalities™

It shows you the ideal attitude for each of the four Horsenalities™. The naughty Left Brain Extrovert becomes willing and cooperative, the crazy Right Brain Extrovert calms down, the  lazy/stubborn Left Brain Introvert gets motivated  and the fearful Right Brain Introvert becomes a trusting partner.

As you can see, Horsenalities™ are not an excuse! Even a challenging horse can become a nice partner.

I will look more in details at every Horsenality™ in a serie of other articles… Stay tuned!

 Source: http://www.parelli.com/horsenality.html

Back to Basics: “It’s supposed to be a game”


As I promised in my last post about trailer training, it is back to basics time. After our last session, who was not such a great success, it was time for me to take a step back and reflect on why it did not worked that well. In other words, back to the basics of the Parelli Natural Horsemanship Method and the ideas behind it.

A while ago, Humphrey said something to me that came back after our last session: ‘You still don’t see it as a game, do you?’. And then it struck me: the answer was ‘No.’. Although it is called the Seven Games and I have been familiar with the Parelli Method for more than one year now, I still don’t see it as a game. And, having a Right Brain Introvert horse, I often find myself standing in front of her with my lead rope in one hand and my carrot stick in the other, asking myself ‘why am I doing this? this is no fun, not for me, not for my horse’. But how comes?

First thing first: look in the mirror!And this is what I see:

– I am an introvert person: to be able to play, I need to be feeling 100% confident in what I am doing and my environment.

– Emotions play a big part in my reactions to events. So if something do not work I feel discouraged rather quickly. (Hmmm… Right Brain and Introvert… This reminds me of someone! 😉 )

– ‘We’re here to work’. Somewhere in my mind, the idea that one should always ‘achieve’ things with horses still linger.

And this can be a deadly combination: trying to achieve something at all costs, reacting emotionally when things go south (which are often the case with horses) and ending losing confidence in things. That sums up a lot of my Parelli sessions when I am on my own.

EquiCarePlus Floris, School example of Left Brain Extrovert Horse

EquiCarePlus Floris, School Example of a Left Brain Extrovert Horse

I needed something to get me out of this pattern. I am convinced that things come on your pat at the right time, even if you don’t see it coming. For me, the wake up call was the arrival of a new horse at the stable, Floris, a KWPN horse (Dutch horse) of 3,5 year old. Floris (or EquiCarePlus Floris, as I should call him) is a great horse, but SO NOT my type of horse! Erbija is a RBI, as I am, but Floris is the complete opposite: he is a Left Brain Extrovert. Which means that he is smart, very smart, quickly bored and can be dominant. But it is also a sweet horse who loves to cuddle and being pet. Floris belongs to my riding instructor and I have the privilege to work with him form time to time. Or as she puts it ‘Here, go have fun!’.

The first time I went to work with Floris, I did the same thing that I always did with Erbija: I took the matter very seriously, expecting results. Well, let say that it did not worked the way I expected to. After a few exercises I tried to do the Yo-Yo Game with him. Doing the Yo-Yo, you want to send the horse back wiggling first your finger, then your wrist, elbow and finally your whole arm if the horse is still not responding. At first, he did not react on the movement of my finger, so I wiggled my wrist what caused the lead rope to move on the ground with a snakelike move. Instead of paying attention to me, Floris was fascinated by the movement of the rope and did something I did not expect: he used his foreleg to try to stop the rope from moving. Pretty much like a cat would do. My reaction surprised me: instead of getting angry at him for not listening, I laughed. I could not stop myself. And then I understood: the whole point of working with Floris that day was not to achieve results, it was to keep it ‘gezellig’.

‘Gezellig’ is one of those untranslatable Dutch words. It embodies cosiness, quaint, pleasant atmosphere, general togetherness, the feeling you get when you see a good friend after a long abscence, the peace of spending quality times with the loved ones. This concept, some would argue, is what is at the very core of the Dutch Culture. (Thanks to the blog http://www.findingdutchland.com/ for the definition).

To achieve this ‘gezellig’ state of mind, everyone evolves should feel at ease and have their own space. It is a moment in time when horse and rider are on the same page and in the same state of mind. To stay that way, you have to keep the communication line open with your horse. This means that you have to be creative when things do not work the way you want, because the goal is to have a ‘gezellig’ time with each other, not results. Results will come naturally when both are on the same page, acting together as one. This creates a positive experience which invites the rider and the horse to repeat it soon again!

EquiCarePlus Floris, School example of Left Brain Extrovert Horse ready to play soccer!

EquiCarePlus Floris, example of Left Brain Extrovert Horse, ready to play soccer!

As for Floris, I kept on training him, but in a ‘gezellig’ way and with a new goal in mind: making the selection for the national Dutch soccer team for the next World Championship in June! And if you ask me, he could just make it!


Yakari and Little Thunder, two friensd for life!

Yakari and Little Thunder, two friends for life!

Today, I want to present you a hero of my childhood: Yakari.

Yakari is a comic book series, written by Job and illustrated by Derib. I come from Belgium, a country well know for his comic books talent. In my family, they were tons of comic books in the house. We had Tintin, off course, but my favourite was Yakari.

Yakari is a young Sioux Native American, living in a village with his family. But Yakari is not like all the other children: he can speak to animals and understand them. Nearby his village lives a group of wild mustangs. All the men and boys in the village dream of one thing: mastering the wildest of them all, Little Thunder.

One day, Yakari goes to the mustang and tries to catch Little Thunder. His first attempts are a failure, but he is able to speak to him finally and they make a pact: Little Thunder will become Yakari’s horse but one two conditions: he will only carry Yakari when he wants to and Yakari must never but a rope in his mouth to ride him. Yakari agrees and they go back to the village. The months go by and they live many adventures until one day.

That day, Yakari has a bad day: his mother yells at him for not cleaning his tipi, his father is mad at him because he missed the hunt, …. The whole village seems to be mad at him for different reasons. So Yakari decides to go to the ponies and take Little Thunder for a ride. But Little Thunder is busy: it’s lunchtime. Yakari becomes mad at him and try to ride him anyway. Little Thunder takes off and go back to the wild mustangs. Yakari realised what he done and go searching for him. He finally find him, ask for forgiveness and they make peace.

Yakari and Little Thunder found each other again

Yakari and Little Thunder found each other again

Looking back I can see that Yakari was a true Horseman, practising Natural Horsemanship: he realised that his pony was the most important thing in the world to him. He also realised that Little Thunder was a living creature, that he must treat him with respect, instead of imposing his will on him.

What can we learn from Yakari?

Today everyone has a bad day from time to time: we are getting frustrated by our jobs, our friends, family, our daily life. And we take this to the stable. I know I do. Unfortunately, our horses can not run off and we can not talk with them.

If you’re having a bad day, just leave it at the entrance of the stable. Or even better, on the way to the stable. Just do whatever you like and you know your horse likes (go for a walk, extensive grooming session, play with a ball, ….). Never mind other people. And if you are having a really, really bad day, just don’t go to the stable.

If you did wrong to your horse, forgive yourself! Doing wrong things out of ignorance is not a problem. I believe that we are all learning every day from our deeds and mistakes. But doing them when you should know better, that is a shame.

What I like about Yakari:

– His Love: the sheer joy he shows every time he sees Little Thunder.

– His Language: the fact that he can really speak to animals and understand them. Although, sometimes, I am not sure I want to hear what Erbija has to say when I show up at the stable during lunch…

– His Leadership: Yakari learns patience and what being a real Horsemen is. He is also able to forgive himself.

I heard that their new album is coming out next year!

Yakari and Little Thunder

Great Horsemen and Horsewomen of all times….


‘The horse is a mirror to your soul’, Buck Brannaman

On my journey with horses and  the Parelli track, I came across a lot of very inspiring people. They all inspired me in a way: by their quotes, approach and reflections on horses.

They can be well known horseman and horsewomen like Pat and Linda Parelli, they can be imagined characters, or people at the stable (‘stable mates’ as we call ourselves). One thing they have in common: their love of horses in general.

Their approach, adventures and vision inspires me, so I though I would share it with you. I will post portraits of them from time to time in this category. I hope they will inspire you as well! Enjoy!

Buck Brannaman, The horse is a mirror to your soul

Buck Brannaman, The horse is a mirror to your soul

‘Imagine, Ask, Believe, Receive’ : How to achieve your goals


After the fiasco of my last trailer training session, where I had to look in the mirror and face the fact that I am not as far on the Parelli track as I thought I was, it was time for reflection. One of the principles of the Parelli method is ‘Love, Language, Leadership’. The two first are not always a problem but one thing I have issues with is leadership. And I think yesterday brought a little light on the reason why.

One thing I discovered is that I was full of doubts and not convinced that I could really achieve something with my horse. I went home after a bad horse day, and sat in front of the television. One of the actors in a show said something that resonated in me:  ‘My philosophy is Ask, Believe, Receive.’ I was sure I had heard it before so I googled it and found that it is from a Bible verse ( Matthew 21:22 ‘Everything that you will ask in prayer and believe, you will receive‘.) but a New Age quote as well (where you ask the Universe to give you something).

Leadership is being soft as flower and strong as a tiger

Leadership is being soft as flower and strong as a tiger

I believe that progressing in the Parelli method also means progressing as a human being. If I am not convinced that I can achieve something (with my horse, or in my life), how can it become true? Without leadership, you are getting nowhere, not with your horse, not with your life. It is your responsibility as a rider to be the best leader you can be for your horse. In my vision, Leadership is being soft as a flower on the outside, but strong as a tiger on the inside. This kind of leadership can be achieved by using the three steps named above (Ask, Believe, Receive). However, for a training session with a horse, I want to add one more step: Imagine.

Step 1: Imagine

You need to have a very clear vision of what you want. it can be something as simple as having your horse take one step back when you move your finger, loading him in a trailer or win the Olympics. In every situation, you need to have a clear vision of your goals and stick to it. This does not mean that you have to stick to one rigid plan at all costs, but that you should use this vision as a guide though your working sessions.

2: Ask

You can now ask your horse to do something using the Seven Games (Friendly, Porcupine, Driving, Yo-Yo, Circling, Sideways, Squeeze Game). If you are not sure how to proceed, ask your Parelli instructor or consult the internet. They are many many things out there to help you: Youtube, the Parelli Community, books, …. One thing you should always do is divide a task into 7 sessions: starting from where you are now to session 7, where you achieve your goal. If your goal is to have your horse doing five steps sideways, then your starting point is the circling game, then one step sideways, then two, and so on. You might want to reassess after three sessions on you progress: maybe you’ll need four sessions maybe fourteen, it does not matter.

If your horse is not responding in the right way, maybe you need to ask him something else or in another way. According to Pat Parelli, ‘If a horse says no, you either asked the wrong way or ask the wrong question’. One trick that might help is to think ‘Oh Boy!’ not ‘Oh, No!’ when things don’t go according to plan. ‘Oh, Boy’ allows you to keep a positive vision and to think of another way to ask something of your horse. ‘Oh No’ allows you to think negatively and doubts might come back. Once again, if stuck, ask help from you instructor or look it up on the internet.

Step 3: Believe:

No place for doubts. You have to be convinced that you will achieve what you want. If you doubt, you’re going nowhere, and even backwards. You may revise the way you ask it along the way, but you have to keep faith in achieving your goals. I know this can be a hard thing to do, but taking a leap of faith and banish all the doubts is the only way to progress as a Parelli student, instructor, as a leader for you horse and as a human being in your life in general.

Step 4: Receive:

Watch it unfold as you reach your goal. Enjoy the journey, it is a big part of the process. Be happy with small steps in the right direction: they are the proof that your are asking it right. If not, go back to check your skills and start again. Only fools don’t learn form their mistakes and only coward people never step out of their comfort zone. After all, this is where the magic happens.

To help you further, I want to share three quotes with you. They were given to me on the same day, to encourage me when I needed it the most. I hope they can help you too.

‘I recognise what you said, I felt exact the same way in the past: I could get frustrated as well. But you can learn to overcome this, just give it time’. Humphrey Dirks

‘Don’t be too hard on yourself. It is more important to learn from your mistakes than mumble about it. Being conscious of what you did wrong already brought you a step further’. Annette Timmer

‘Your horse is not an easy one. I had problems with mine too, but those horses are the greatest teachers and you need them to bring you one step further’. Ivon Engels