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Parelli Natural Horsemanship: Squeeze Game

By Pat Parelli

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7. Squeeze Game
Horses, by nature, are claustrophobic. They are instinctively afraid of small or tight spaces because these areas usually spell disaster for prey animals. The Squeeze Game teaches your horse to become calmer, smarter and braver, and to squeeze through narrow spots without concern. You allow your horse the opportunity to work through his innate fears in a safe environment.

Before starting the Squeeze Game, go back to the Circling Game (Game #5) and make sure all three parts of the Circling Game—the Send, the Allow and the Bring Back—can be done with ease. The Squeeze Game requires the same three techniques, but instead of playing the game on a circle, you will now be playing it on a straight line.

Start the Squeeze Game by standing with your horse about 6 to 8 feet away from a fence. This should give your horse plenty of space, but if he shows some fear, then just widen the space or send him between you and a barrel in an open area.
Send your horse through the narrow space by leading his nose and driving him forward from his hindquarters with the lead rope or Parelli Carrot Stick. Once your horse is moving into the space, just Allow him to go through. Turn with him and once he is on the other side, ask for the Bring Back by bringing your hand to your belly button to lead his nose and pushing his hindquarters away.

Once you have both of his eyes focused on you, Send him back through the other way. Continue to ask your horse to go back and forth through the narrow area--with a short rest on each end to give him incentive--until he can walk through without a care in the world.

Once your horse becomes confident with that space, take a big step toward the fence to make the space narrower. Allow your horse to get comfortable with the new width, and then make it narrower again until you have worked your way down to about a 3-foot distance between you and the fence. This process may take a day or several weeks depending on your horse and your skill level. Just remember to end each session on a good note so you can pick up where you left off the next time you play together.

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