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Parelli Natural Horsemanship: The Yo-Yo Game

By Pat Parelli

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4. Yo-Yo Game
Have you ever wished that your horse had more suspension, stopped easily with a light cue, could do a sliding stop, moved straighter, or could back up quickly? The Yo-Yo Game is the key to developing all these things in your horse, and more.

The Yo-Yo Game helps balance your horse’s backward and forward movements. Most horses will go forward without any difficulties, but backward can be an entirely different matter.

A good Yo-Yo Game is a key to building straightness, respect and impulsion in your horse. It will also help you cure such problems in as running you over, running in front of you while leading, nipping, biting or getting heavy on the forehand.
The Four Phases for Sending Your Horse Backward

  • Begin with your horse’s nose at about arm’s length from you and holding the very end of your lead rope in your hand. Give your horse a "Schwiegermutter" look (means Mother-in-Law in German!), like you are another horse laying his ears back. Lift up your hand and wiggle just your index finger at him. When you wiggle your finger, the lead rope shouldn’t move at all.
  • Close your fingers on the rope and shake just your wrist. The rope should move a little, but it shouldn’t make the halter move at all. (Keep giving him ‘the look.’)
  • Lock your wrist tight and bend your arm at the elbow. Move your forearm back and forth. This should cause the rope and the halter to move so your horse can now feel it quite a bit.
  • Lock your arm really straight and swing your entire arm from your shoulder joint. Your horse will really feel this, as the rope and the halter are moving hard.

As soon as your horse takes even one little step--at any phase--stop immediately and relax your body. This is how he will know that he did the right thing. When he moves, even at Phase 2 or 3, stop there and then start over again at Phase 1 until he is all the way out to the end of the lead rope.

The Four Phases for Bringing Your Horse Forward

  • Once your horse gets all the way out to the end of the lead rope, rest for a minute or two before asking him to come back to you. When you are ready to ask him to come to you, smile and look at him with a very friendly face (like your mother). Lift the lead rope and just motion for him to come to you.
  • Keep smiling and comb the rope lightly with open fingers.
  • Keep smiling as you close your fingers while you comb the rope. The horse should now be feeling some pull on the halter.
  • Smile, plant your feet, bend your elbows and hold the rope steady. Just be like a fence post that he is pulling against and wait for him to come forward.

Again, you will release and go back to Phase 1 whenever your horse takes a step forward.

<< Back to The Seven Games

Next: The Circling Game >>

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