By Krysti McArthur
My name is Krysti McArthur, and I live in beautiful Colorado Springs, Colorado. I fell in love with Parelli Natural Horsemanship in 2016 at the Rocky Mountain Horse Expo when I saw 3-Star Parelli Professional Lillan Roquet’s clinic on the first day! She was so positive, so uplifting, and so encouraging to all the owners that were participating in the clinic. Then she and a few other Parelli Professionals performed a demo. Watching Lillan at Liberty with her mare instantly got me hooked. I knew that I wanted that kind of partnership with my horse, Twix.
I brought Twix home on Valentine’s Day in 2014. When I went to see him, he wasn’t the ideal horse that I was looking for, but I knew that he had a heart of gold. Then, he instantly fell in love with my youngest daughter and was so sweet with her that I just had to bring him home! He is the horse that I needed in order to grow as a horseman and rider. He is now a 10-year-old solid Paint who is very much a Right Brain Extrovert!
His posture and overall look were extremely poor when I first brought him home. He was underweight, had absolutely no topline, his neck was pencil thin, and had a very small hip. I wasn’t given a lot of information about his past, but from what I saw when I first met him, he was extremely tense, nervous, hollow-backed, and his head was as high as it could be with his chin tucked in as far as he could get it. He was ridden in a shank bit, which wasn’t a problem, but the rider had extremely heavy hands and didn’t allow Twix to be part of the conversation, which caused him to have extreme anxiety about contact.
When I bought him, my initial plan was to do Western Dressage. I had him for two years before I found Parelli, and the dressage just wasn’t working. It was nearly impossible to get him to relax, bring his head down, and use his body correctly. But then after I saw Lillan and discovered Parelli, that changed my life forever, which has greatly improved Twix’s life. I may have not gone about it the way most do, but I feel like I did what was best for both of us. We have come so far! Using the Seven Games and also the beginning stages of The Game of Contact to teach him to not be afraid of contact was the biggest game changer for us.
I use Linda’s Hill Therapy program a couple times a week now that we are at a location with a nice open space and a decently sized hill. Twix also found a love for jumping barrels, which has made a huge difference in getting him to use his hind end more efficiently rather than pulling himself up the hill with the front end or not being able to lift his shoulders high enough to make it over the barrels, which he was really bad about prior.
The biggest thing that I have learned is the ability to teach him not to fear contact, which then helped him build confidence to be able to go around on a loose rein and to be able to stretch down. He can get so anxious and so fixated on things that cause him to be tense and rigid. Now when that happens, I’m able to ask him to stretch down and relax. Then we can go back to what we were working on, which wasn’t something we could accomplish before.
Over the last three years, I’ve changed more than I ever thought possible. I used to feed off him and become nervous and tense myself, but it was because I wasn’t sure how to help him. So I would become frustrated. This past year, I have learned so much and am now able to use the different tools in my toolbox to be able to help him work through his emotions and become confident and relaxed. Some days and some places are definitely more challenging, but now that I’m confident and relaxed, we are able to go more places, work on our partnership, and make it a successful time for both of us. I no longer feel frustrated; I take everything as a lesson and work towards making every minute that I’m with him a positive one.
My main goal with Twix is to build the best partnership I can possibly have with him. I want him to love being with me and I want him to feel confident with me no matter where we go. I plan on continuing to do Western Dressage with him, and now that he’s more physically fit, he’s able to carry himself and me so much better. He’s also able to follow my cues better and faster now that he’s relaxed about contact, which can be a challenge in Dressage.
I am just so, so thankful to have seen Lillan that weekend! Parelli has opened my eyes to what it’s like to have an amazing relationship with horses. I love being able to have a conversation with Twix, allowing him to ask questions and for us to just have an amazing time with each other every single day. Thank you, Parelli Natural Horsemanship!
Follow Krysti and Twix’s journey as @thequirkypony on Instagram!