On October 31st, we shared Judy Saunders’ video of backing her two gray Arabian horses simultaneously into a trailer on Facebook. Three days later, the video has upwards of 1.4 million views! Judy, who has been a Gold Savvy Club member for nine years, was surprised at how much attention her video has accumulated.
Her two horses are purebred Arabian geldings with no genetic relation. “When we bought them as two and three year olds [respectively], they didn’t look anything alike, but we think it’s fun that they have morphed into each other with time,” said Judy. In the video, the horse on the left is Tommy (his registered name is Epitome RGF), a 14 year-old LBE/LBI who she is currently working with on Level 4 On Line and Liberty auditions. Woody (Shameen), the horse on the right, is a 17 year-old RBE who belongs to her husband and is not officially in the Levels Program but is likely Level 2 and playing in Level 3 On Line. Saunders and her husband used to compete in Endurance Riding with both of them. “Woody excelled at it and pursued a successful Endurance career while Tommy and I veered off to concentrate on our natural horsemanship journey,” said Judy.
Judy, who has owned horses for 50 years and competed in Endurance Riding for approximately 30 of those years, was skeptical of the Parelli Program at first, but after witnessing the Savvy Team performing amazing movements with their horses during a tour stop, her curiosity piqued. She realized how little she knew about horses, so Judy started with the Level One home study pack and at the time couldn’t have imagined trying to back one horse, let alone two horses, into a trailer with a simple wiggle of her fingers while she sat quietly on a bucket. “The Parelli Program has taught me how to develop a language with my horses,” said Judy, “and that has led to an immensely more fun and fulfilling relationship with them. It’s also taught me to seek personal growth and ‘never ending self-improvement.’ I’ve developed a higher level of awareness and learned to take ownership of the problem when things aren’t going the way I want instead of blaming the horse — and that empowers me to find solutions to learn to change what I need to help my horse understand.”
When she first acquired Tommy as a two year old, he was quite the challenge — he tossed his head, was overly reactive, dominant, and a bucker. “Through following the Parelli Program, I’ve learned how to develop Tommy’s trust and cooperation by learning to become the leader he needs me to be. By learning to control my energy and be clear in my requests, I’ve helped Tommy to become calmer, braver, and more responsive,” Judy said.
According to Judy, the viral video was only Tommy and Woody’s second session backing into the trailer together. All of the pieces had come together long before that. The pair had already traveled long distances in the trailer, and they share space on a regular basis. “In our day to day handling of them, we usually lead them both together from their paddock to the pastures and make a habit of backing them together through gates,” said Judy.
Tommy was already familiar the task, and Woody had no objections to it. All Judy had to do was make the trailer a comfortable place for her horses. She started out with a 12-foot line and a Carrot Stick to insure straightness, but it wasn’t long before she graduated to using longer lines and lower phases to encourage them. “They willingly backed into the comfort of the trailer,” said Judy.
In October, Judy rode in a One-on-One Master Class with Pat Parelli in Uxbridge, Ontario. She set a goal to improve her harmony in the saddle and help Tommy become more responsive and consistent within his gaits and specifically his transitions. Pat identified part of her problem as not maintaining her own energy and rhythm — each time she pumped her legs, she was giving Tommy micro-releases, which accidentally rewarded him. When Judy amended that, the improvements in Tommy were substantial.
“The Parelli community is an incredibly positive, dedicated, and supportive group that provides encouragement seldom found in the traditional horse world,” Judy said, who feels honored to be part of such an extensive community of ordinary people performing extraordinary things with their horses. “I have found that the Parelli Program contains the principles, comprehensive information, and logical sequence that enables anyone to learn how to become a better human for her horse(s).” Judy admires the passion that Pat and Linda have to make the world a better place for horses and their humans and their dedication to never-ending self-improvement.
photo credit: Wendy Webb Photography