NEW! ACTHA AOC Parelli In-Hand Division

Photo used with permission by Lori Silcher of 4 Seasons Marchador Ranch
Photo used with permission by Lori Silcher of 4 Seasons Marchador Ranch

The skills/obstacles will be the same as listed on the riding challenges, with some variation.  In Hand Challenges are based on the principals, concepts and criteria of Parelli Natural Horsemanship which is broad enough to encompass all effective in hand training methods.

While any training method or philosophy may be used to participate in our In Hand Division, we feel strongly that Parelli Natural Horsemanship program encompasses and embraces the experience of the master horsemen, Tom Dorrance, Ray Hunt, Ronnie Willis, and Dr. Robert Miller. For more information on Parelli Natural Horsemanship go to


Parelli uses “PHASES“, in other words, subtle cues that start with an almost invisible “SUGGESTION“, and then if needed, a polite “ASK“ -(very soft communication). A little more obvious pressure has a mild penalty and is considered a “TELL” -(pressure applied to the horse’s personal bubble), and a more severe penalty for following through with a “PROMISE” -(which is pressure applied to the horse itself either with the lead rope or training stick).  A horse’s positive response to a request will be just as important as if being ridden.  Horse should look at obstacle, then calmly follow the suggestion of the handler, demonstrating trust and respect.


1) Suggestion

2) Ask

3) Tell

4) Promise


There are 5 Zones for ease of identifying the position of handler and his tools that will affect the movements of his horse.  Zone 1 is in front of the horse, the muzzle, up to the front of the halter (nose).  Zone 2 is behind the halter to the withers and chest.  Zone 3 is behind the withers, includes the front legs, rib cage, to the hip.  Zone 4 is behind the hip, includes the hind legs to the dock of the tail.  Zone 5 is the tail (and behind the horse). If a handler is leading his horse, he will be in Zone 1. If the handler is sending his horse on, he will be in either Zone 2, 3, or 4.  For long lining, he will be standing in Zone 5, safely out of kicking range.


Horse must be wearing a halter, rope halter suggested but not required, lead rope (approx. 12’ or 22’in length) OR long lines (driving reins).  A carrot stick (training stick) or Dressage style whip may be utilized.  No mechanical devices, chains, side reins or other restricting equipment, however long lines may be used.

Different lengths of rope will be used and judged in judging criteria according to how far away the handler is from his horse. (approx. 12 feet, 22 feet or long (driving) lines). The farther (and less influence) the handler has on enforcing the completion of the obstacle, the better, and pluses can be earned.  Ropes are to be folded in a ribbon VS looped in a coil for safety.  Long Line Driving from Z5 for Open Division only.


There are 7 Games in Parelli communication that are understood by the horse.  In essence, it is the language of the horse.  The first three are the Principle Games- the alphabet for horses. Game 1 is the Friendly Game and is defined as rhythmic motion (a rub, a scratch, a rest period, etc.) Game 2, the Porcupine Game, (rub, press, rub.) is steady pressure that increases if no yield is given. (The difference between a yield and evasion is, the horse moves his feet only when there is contact, then stops moving when the pressure stops VS the horse jumps away from, and avoids, the Handler.) Game 3, the Driving Game is rhythmic pressure.  The Phases for each should always be soft and subtle, using Phases, never big and frightening. Like with riding, we are looking for a dance between partners.  The Porcupine game (steady pressure) will always score higher than the Driving Game (rhythmic pressure) and The Friendly Game (stroking, scratching, etc.) will score highest when used to reward a try.

The other 4 Games are Purpose Games, Yoyo (forwards and backwards), Circle, Sideways and Squeeze (over, under, through something).  The obstacles are examples of the Purpose Games!

Stick to me Game is another game where the handler walks next to horse in Z2 as they travel together.  Horse is responsible for staying with his human like a mare and foal.  For safety, handler will always be on SAME SIDE as an potentially spooky obstacle.


SAFETY FIRST! To send a horse to an obstacle, the horse goes first, WITHOUT being lead.  Horses held too close to the lead rope clip, have a chance to push into and step on their handler!  There should be plenty of space between horse and human.  To do this, the handler will back horse out of his personal space, then with the leading hand, ask the horse forward with a little feel, driving with the stick or end of lead rope at the shoulder, to encourage the horse to move out and away from the Handler, towards the obstacle.  REFINEMENT looks like the handler subtly motioning the direction of the horse- as “step this way…” with a light Phase 1 or 2.

Ropes should be loose, any horse pulling (showing resistance) on the rope will be penalized.  The rope should be long enough for the horse to take full responsibility for his actions, yet short enough not to get stepped on.  TOOL HANDLING SKILLS are necessary to complete a smooth and responsive look, and will be judged accordingly.

Any obstacle that can be efficiently and safely completed on the off side (right side) of the horse will earn a plus.

Handler must hold rope at all times, holding the clip will be penalized.

Handler will not stand in front of a horse crossing a bridge, jump, water obstacle, etc.

If Long Line Driving, Handler will keep safe distance from horse.

Horse is to respect the Handler’s personal space.

Jr/Sc- Lead rope and stick or dressage whip (optional, can use popper at end of lead rope instead of stick)

Pleasure- Lead rope and stick or dressage whip (stick/whip is optional, can use end of lead rope)

Open- Lead rope OR long lines, (stick/whip/surcingle optional)


360 degree turn/spin-

Handler will stand in Z2 to complete this obstacle, using either Porcupine or Driving Game to ask horse to turn/spin.

Animal on the Run-

Handler stands either in Z1 (Jr/Sc/Pl) with the animal passing in front of the horse OR in Z5 (Open) with the animal passing behind the horse.


The handler stands in Z1 (Jr/Sc/Pl) to back the horse, OR in Z5 (Open), using either the Porcupine or Driving Game to complete obstacle.

BANK Down-

Handler stands in Z 2, 3, 4, OR 5 using the Driving game.


Z 2, 3, 4, OR 5 using Driving Game.

Barrel Board Pin Wheel-

This will be a Stick to me Game (Z 2) where the handler walks between the horse and the Pin Wheel, one hand holds the end of the board and the other remains close enough to pet the horse on the neck as they circle together.  All ropes will be ribboned VS coiled for safety.  If the horse spooks, his lead can be let out to allow him to safely drift out and away.


Z 2, 3, 4, or 5, Driving Game.


Stick to me Game, Z 2


This is done as a Circle Game (horse circles human) at canter.  Minimal aids used, horse canters easily from walk or trot, without stopping on his own, and leaves the rope loose.

Open: Walk canter transition or a change of direction may be used or

Z5 with long lines- showing leads and lead changes.

Close Encounters-

Jr/Sc/Pl: Handler stands between obstacle and horse, asks horse to turn and face the obstacle, and remain still as it passes, can then follow it to build confidence.

Open: Horse is asked to back up as object approaches, then follow it.


Jr/Sc/Pl: Z1 Driving Game.  Handler asks horse to swing HQ to simulate mounting.

Open: Z3, Driving Game, side pass towards the mounting object.


Jr/Sc/Pl: Stand next to horse, picking up both front feet from just one side.

Open: Pick up all four feet from just one side.

Don’t Feed the Bears-

Z1 while backing away from the obstacle, horse behind you.

Open- Handler in Z5 while driving horse forward away from obstacle, one hand on lines, one on pulley rope (ribboned, not coiled), back up to lower.

Don’t Spray Me-

Send the horse to the object to see if he will touch it with his nose as a Friendly Game.  Spray neck.

Open: Spray ears, neck, belly, and legs.


Can use Stick to me Game (Z2) or Driving Game Z2, 3, 4.

Open: Stop at bottom of hill for 10 count.


Z1 with handler pulling drag and horse following. Horse travels straight.

Open: Z5 Driving with handler pulling drag behind him, (one hand on lines, one on the drag rope, (ribboned, not coiled)

OR Z1, backing horse in front of Handler as he pulls the drag toward horse.  Horse backs straight.

Frog in a Pond-

Jr/ Sc/ Pl: Toss frog from Z1, horse behind handler.

Open: Toss frog from other side of pond towards horse into the water.


Send horse through without bumping into gate.  Keep one hand on gate at all times.  Horse turns and faces on other side, can send back through the other direction.

Open- horse backs through with handler at Z1 or long line through from Z5. (one hand on the lines, one on the gate.)

Hat Pick up-

Send horse to touch hat with his nose as a Friendly Game.

Open- Can tell horse to fetch the hat.


Z2, 3, 4 Send horse over the jump using Driving Game.

Open-  Send horse at canter.  Z5 long lines- jump, halt back up.


This is completed as a Porcupine Game from Z1

Open Z1 or Z5 with long lines.

Optional, can back by the tail for a plus.


Porcupine Game at Z1.

Open- Z1 OR Z5 with long lines.

May back by tail for a plus.


Send horse (Driving Game) to put his nose on the mailbox (Friendly Game.)

Open: Side pass horse to mailbox.


Simulate mounting.

Handler gets up on block, stump, fence, etc. and asks horse to side pass toward it. Rub and scratch horse’s back.

Open- horse straddles log for simulated mounting.

Noise Control-

Jr/Sc/Pl stands in Z1 between horse and noise.

Open- Horse is asked to follow noise with Handler in Z1, 2, 3.

Z5 long lines, back horse towards noise for plus. (DO NOT back towards noise from Z1).

Perfect Picture-

Jr/Sc/Pl: Send horse to stand in ring.  Take picture as horse stands quietly.

Open: Have 2 rings, one for the horse and one for the handler.  Stand in small ring and send the horse to his.  Take his picture as he stands quietly.


Jr/Sc/Pl: Z2, 3, 4.

This can be done as a Stick to me Game or a Driving Game.

Open- 45’ lariat or long lines.


Jr/ Sc/ Pl: Z2, 3, 4 as a Driving Game.

Open: Handler has horse stand quietly in center, then back out.

Side Pass-

To be completed from Z1, 2, 3, 4, or 5 as a Porcupine Game or Driving Game.

Open: Handler asks horse to side pass both directions.


Jr/Sc/Pl Friendly Game.  Send your horse to put his nose on the raincoat.

Rub your horse in Z2.

Open- Send horse to put his nose on it then rub all over.

Spanish Pole-

Lift pole and send horse through to turn and face on other side.

Open- send through, holding pole, turn and send through the other direction.

Spider web-

Stand in Z2, 3, 4, or 5 using the Driving Game to send through.

Open: Horse trots through.


Friendly Game- stand in between horse and target in Z1, 2.

Open- can complete as a Stick to me Game.


Z2, 3, 4, or 5.  Driving Game.

Open: Stop and Back 10 steps.

Straight Arrow-

Z2, 3, 4, or 5. Stick to me or Driving Game.

Open: Go through and Back 10 steps.


Z2, 3, 4, or 5. Driving Game.

Open: Stop in middle for 10 seconds, back out.

Trot transitions-

Z2, 3, 4, or 5.  Stick to me or Driving Game.

Open: Afterwards, stop for a count of 10 seconds.

Trot Weave-

Use cones, barrels, etc. (low ground objects for this obstacle).

Z2, 3, 4, or 5. Stick to me or Driving Game.

Open: Handler on off side.

Turn on the Forehand-

Z4 Using Porcupine or Driving Game.

Open: Both directions.

Turn on the Haunches-

Z2 Using Porcupine or Driving Game.

Open: Both directions.


Z2, 3, 4, or 5.  Can be completed as Stick to me Game or Driving Game.

Vine Simulator-

Z2, 3, 4, or 5.  Send horse through, turn, face, and wait.

Wagon Wheel-

Stand on one side of the wheel, send horse through.

Open can long line around wheel.

Water Obstacle-

Z2, 3, 4, or 5.  Driving Game.

Wildlife Box-

Z2, 3, 4, or 5. Driving Game.


Z2. 3, 4, or 5. Driving Game.

Broken Rein-

Stand next to horse at the shoulder, and bend his head around as an indirect rein, yielding his HQ 360% both directions, rub face while bent to a stop.

Open- 360 % both directions AND back horse from Z2 by lifting rope straight up (towards horse’s ears.)

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