My herd!

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

There have been so many cool things going on in my field lately I’m having a hard time keeping up sharing the highlights!

I am so glad I made the decision to purposefully take the time to enter their world as it’s been interesting- and in many ways I’ve enjoyed it as much as I’ve ever enjoyed riding!

I’ve dedicated time to groundwork before… and I’ve given my horses time off- but nothing has been quite like going into the field to ‘work’ together, explore our relationship and learn from them in quite this way.

Here is a little story of one of the days last week.


I went in as usual and fed the mares.

For the record I do not keep a feeding schedule. This is on purpose. My horses will never stand at the gate at a predetermined time of day wondering why I haven’t shown up. I also do not feed every day- though I do feed most days. My horses always have grass or hay available.

I also do not use food as a deal maker of any sort: I don’t catch them while they are eating. Sometimes if I’m planning to do barn things (feet trimming, riding etc) I may not bring food to the field and will feed in the barn. It all depends. But I do not use food to catch my horses. After they eat I allow them to walk off which usually entails a trip to the water trough before I go in to halter.

So this day I fed first and was considering what I’d like to do when Khaleesi and Wild Heart walked off and hit the fence line very focused somewhere else. The gelding herd was coming up from the far field. In no time they were now part of my day.

The boys.

I rolled my eyes.

There’s a herd of about 6 horses a local guy keeps on the property that are rarely handled. It’s common for them to spend time hanging out along the fences with my girls.

Crap.

Can’t these dumb horses just go away and leave me and my girls alone!?! This is going to complicate my plans. Khaleesi is in heat and the geldings are excited to take turns visiting with her. There’s no way I’m getting anything of value done here.

I am non existent.

Now what.

Use it as an opportunity. These horses are here to teach me something so let’s go.

This is my herd. Actually that’s where I’ll begin. Taking back my herd so to speak. At least I’ll see how it goes and I’ll learn something.

It ended up being a fascinating day.


True to form the bitch in heat was rowdy and squirting all around whenever she could stand still long enough.

If Wild Heart was getting attention somewhere Khaleesi would run in and push her off and chase her. It was fascinating.

Also- it was all ok. This is what her many generations of instinct insist she do. It’s not even a choice at the moment. I wasn’t annoyed with her. I understood.

I began walking up the the fence and pushing the boys off [get back!!] and each time K wanted to back up to the fence I simply asked her to walk along and move her feet.

My intention was to get her to pay more attention to me then to them.

First the geldings began to stay off the they were not approaching the mares anymore and were watching me. One gelding came in to me and we greeted; I asked him to step back and he did. All the geldings at some point were now focused on me.

Khaleesi started to pay attention to me gradually as well and I’d ask her something simple like back up or turn on her haunches a step.

I had managed to change the scene.

Occasionally a gelding would come up to the fence line and either try to connect with a mare or come closer to me than I wanted and I’d ask them first with my body posture then with my rope to back up.

It worked.

When I was ready to leave I’d had the attention of my mares and asked them to do some things with me in the field successfully, the geldings has stopped approaching the fence but were still close by watching, and then my mares were grazing peacefully without paying much attention to the boys anymore at all. The entire hormone and adrenaline crazed scene was now just horses hanging out in a field.

I left for the gate and looked back to see them still in about the same way I left them. My mares not at all involved with then gelding herd.

It’s been almost a week since that day and I’ve never had to deal with the geldings since on a visit. They’ve been far off and not come up while I’ve been there. I’m not saying it’s because of that interaction or not. I don’t have that kind of certainty of cause-effect. But no matter what it’s been nice not to have to compete with them for the attention of my good mare- and that day seemed to really turn the tide for me getting her more focused attention on my visits.

Things really began to get good after this day.

Lesson of the bailing twine

Sunday, December 10, 2017

This post is a bit of a combination of a couple experiences I’ve had this week.

One of the days I went to work with the mares I had connected nicely with Wild Heart and she was coming with me at my shoulder. I had decided to take her into the barn to further the work on what eventually will be sending her onto the trailer.

When we stood together at the gate I offered her the halter and instead of putting her head into the nose and she stepped away.

Hm.

I waited then asked her again.

Again she stepped away this time walking farther toward the other side of the fence.

Hm.

I waited and watched. She yawned and chewed over there.

I walked in and reconnected with her and she again followed me back to the gate. I sensed she was interested in leaving with me.

But she moved away from the halter.

I waited again. I watched.

She walked away but not so far. She took a couple steps along the fence and began pulling up a piece of bailing twine I’d hung on the fence with her teeth.

🤔

Was she communicating with me? I’m pretty sure she was. Bailing twine. That could work.

So I walked over and pulled the twine off the fence. She followed me back to the gate. I loosely put the twine over her neck with no trouble and she walked right out toward the barn with me. Right on my shoulder.

<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<

I am pretty sure I am pretty sure it’s unlikely I would have success loading her on the trailer with the twine so instead of putting us in a position that seemed beyond our current ability I started with something I was fairly certain we would succeed at.

I sent her into and then out of a stall.

How much fun we had sorting that language out. It was easy. Then we walked back to the field with the loose twine and released her.

<<<<<


At some point the halter will come back. Through the week I’ve watched her play with it- putting parts of it in her mouth, pulling it off the fence, sniffing it on the ground and jumping back at first when she moves it with her teeth and then going back in to further investigate.


Wild Heart is<<<
d Heart is certainly not afraid of the halter. It was I who needed a lesson that day… the take away I have from the experience with the bailing twine is that I want a horse that I could load on the trailer with bailing twine and that the halter is never used in a way that jerks my horse around or treats her without respect.

I already basically knew that. I’ve stopped pulling on my horse to the best of my awareness a while ago. (Not soon enough but I only was working with what I knew… don’t get me started on what I’ll eventually know and look back on today me and wonder why I didn’t get it better!) even so I’ve never purposely used a lead rope in an abusive way. However I’m coming to see how light I could be with these horses if I were truly aware of them.

With the bailing twine I couldn’t just keep walking if she slowed down. I had to at least notice (be aware) she’d slowed and then find out why and then ask her to continue on. Key here being a conversation instead of a one-way insistence “I’m the leader come with me now!”

I am too good at one-way conversations in many aspects of my life. Thankfully I continue to become more aware.

I may not always want to stop or slow if she asks- but when I’m in relationship building mode it is probably a good idea to take the time to let her know I care and will at least listen.

This particular time she slowed as we were passing a massive dig area by the pond. The holes are substantial and something or a town of something’s live there. I’m not sure if she wanted to show it to me or if she’d noticed the animal activity from the field and wanted a closer investigation herself.

Regardless I paused there as she motioned with her head and I acknowledged the otter compound (or whatever it is) and then she gladly moved right back along with me.

As I close I reflect myself on the idea of completely expecting to have horses I can load on my trailer with very loose bailing twineor less. It’s not really that far off but let’s just substitute something you might consider almostridiculous because it assumes a very high level of intelligence, understanding, cooperation and trust.

How about riding Tevis in a neck string?


<<this is what inspires me. So what inspires you? I think so often the adult human race really just lacks imagination.

I recently heard a story from a barn who often has horses completely halter-lead free moving about in the barn because they just don’t need it anymore. The horses cooperate with their humans completely. A visitor witnessed this and instead of noticing just how lovely the connection of horses and humans was she immediately began a tirade insisting she would never come back to a facility as dangerous as this one that disregarded basic safety protocols and had loose horses running about. (I’m pretty sure the runaway horse was just standing being groomed or saddled calm and cooperative. Really someone get that thing in some cross ties!!🤯)

I’m also quite sure the barn owners were ok with never seeing this woman again.

So where are you? Fill your crazy inspiration vision in the blank…………now if you aren’t working little by little toward that? The magic… Why not?

Is it that you don’t believe it’s even possible, you used to believe your horse could actually communicate with you and gave up on it as the gap was just too much to bridge in reality? or that life is too busy now to allow for silly unrealistic dreams like that?

Possibly you really don’t want to know what your horse would say to you… I’ve been there more times than I’d like to discuss. 😔

maybe it’s just that it’s easier to just put the horse in the cross ties, get the saddle on (have someone hold it still while you get on) and hit the road.

I mean everyone else does it that way. I have. Except I don’t have cross ties… but the concept… I’ve ridden more days basically that way than I can count.

Who has time for trying to have a conversation with a horse? For asking what they think? For taking the time to convince them we are worthy of their effort… that we are paying attention.

Maybe the other people watching the process would question your sanity…

Yeah. I get all that.

Still.can’t only be me who dreamed that dream? Walking through a field with this wild amazing creature at our side….

Are we just too old to dream?

Not me.

Hands free

Saturday, December 9, 2017

My previous post (Part of your world) described how I’d decided to get serious about improved relationship building with my top mare a week or so ago. Now I’ll begin telling how it’s gone over the days.

I’ll start by saying I don’t have an instructional DVD set or a plan exactly or probably a real clue yet. I had to believe I have gained enough knowledge mostly through my simple equine training to observe what is before me and make good decisions each step of the way. This isn’t a training method… it’s a way of thinking. As well as an understanding that it would also be continuing education.

So I went into the field with overall idea that I’d like to continue with the trailer loading process with Wild Heart. I’d done some good work over the summer- gotten her on but not shut her in. Then I took a hiatus and let it rest.

My hope is to do this without forcing her to comply. I’m not sure how well that will work because she’s not afraid of the trailer so much as what the trailer represents. Leaving forever. Every time she’s been loaded onto a trailer she’s been moved away from a place she’d at least gotten used to.

This means the mare is going to have to trust me and want to do what I ask, then she’s going to have to be able to comply even though her wild animal survival instinct which is very very strong in her is going to push very very hard against all of that trust.

So the trust somehow is going to have to be bigger.

As I walked into the field with the goal (both my horses loaded on the trailer) loosely in mind – knowing full well it could be a year out more or less- I saw the mares at the farthest corner of the multi-acre field where they enjoy hanging out, and started walking over.

As I walked, halter in hand, I decided if I was going to ask these horses to work for me willingly it would have to begin right here. In the field.

If I can’t get them to walk across the field willingly with me I’d say there is not a hint of chance the wild one is getting on a horse trailer willingly.

I would begin by asking them to cross the field with me to the gate with no halter.

Hands free.

How exactly I wasn’t quite sure yet.

When I got to them I tried a few things and won’t go into all the details because they don’t matter – it would change each time depending on how the individual conversation with each animal went but this became pretty clear:

  • Khaleesi was dubious she wanted to even care what I was asking.
  • Wild Heart knew what I wanted and began to ask if I she could come along.

So I (being flexible and aware of what is happening not just what I think should be happening!) said ok, why not?

And I began to walk away with that little mustang right on my shoulder as if on lead.

And then Khaleesi now left behind began to follow at a distance until both mares were walking toward the gate with me.

Wow! Ok! This is working! what will I do once we get there? Where did I leave the feed? (I’d planned to feed them if they came with me)… Will I finish for the day or move on and bring them into the barn?….

Wait

Oh.

I lost them.

🙄

I disconnected from the moment and left for the future. As gone to them as if I’d gotten in the Back to the Future time machine.

Will I ever learn?< em>

<<<<<<<<<<
y hadn't gone far. They were just grazing now about half way to the gate. Still a long walk to go.

So I began again and this time Wild Heart wasn’t as quick to connect but I was able to get Khaleesi to come and after a few minutes we all made it to the gate!

I fed them (they like food but they don’t like it enough to do anything they don’t want to do in order to get it. I don’t bribe them- it wouldn’t work if I tried anyway). Then I did the unhuman thing.

I walked away.

I did not then halter them up and go try to get closer to my end goal… I didn’t ask another thing. It wouldn’t have been the wrong thing to continue with them- but I saw my pile of chips on the table and decided that day to take the payout and go home. Stack up some reserve credit and come back with some seed investment tomorrow.

I played it safe.

For me it worked.

The next visit was even more interesting.

Part of your world

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Friend via email: Can you ride Friday?

Actual reply: No, sorry… I have some meetings and rehearsals and can’t get away- you guys have a great time and thanks for thinking of me!

Inside voice:if I were free I’d have had to say the slightly crazy other half of the reply ‘well I’m not exactly riding right now; I have some work to do in the field… um yeah… no…. I’m not sure when I’ll be able to come’


I’ve been wondering for a while now what is going on between me and Khaleesi. Sometimes pretty good and sometimes just passable- I just have a nagging sense our relationship could be better.

I can always catch her in the field, I can get her on the trailer reliably, I enjoy our rides (we’re not in arguments), she is sensitive to my energy so I’m not having to pull or push on her- she’s a pretty light horse overall, and it’s been a fairly long time (over a year plus) since she’s kicked a horse while I’ve been on her (yes, for a super opinionated and bossy mare this has been something I’ve had to put effort into!)

Yet…. there’s room for improvement.

She doesn’t come running to put her head in the halter when I come to get her.

She isn’t calm and relaxed when I groom her despite the things I’ve tried to pay attention to: like which hand I use or how I’m approaching her or if the softer or harder brush is preferred.

She still occasionally has ‘ugly ears’ to the perfectly nice horses we ride along with. Sure- she isn’t kicking them and I don’t allow her to cut them off, but if she were more tuned in to me would she be more willing to go where I ask at the speed I ask and sometimes to share the trail… without feeling the need to be sure the other horses know how she feels about them?

She will load reliably on the trailer, but she doesn’t do it because she wants to and makes that clear. She does it because she knows in the end I will insist so might as well get on. (And no. Every time I load her does not mean hard work. Sometimes I load her and don’t go anywhere. And there’s a ride very close to home that is pretty easy where we drive a mile and ride home she seems to like that we sometimes do.).

See it’s not about the trailer. It’s not about learning how to approach better in the field. Its not the other horses. It’s not the brush.

It’s me.

As much as that may sound terrible to some- to me it’s a good thing. Because that’s all I can really work on anyway. So this means the issue (if one can call it that since we probably look pretty successful on a surface level) is one I can do something about.

It was actually trailer loading recently (with nowhere to go that day so I had plenty of time) that gave me some insight.

I’ve been working on my mental fitness with my horses and overall in my life for well over a year now. Many things are improving. I now have a whole lot more control over how I feel about working with my horses and do not allow anger or fear to destroy what I’m working toward.

However, as I asked her to load on the trailer… and considering I’ve loaded her before I had a pretty good idea that this was not a question of her not understanding what I wanted…. she wasn’t giving.

She avoided, she sidestepped, she tried just about everything to not get on the trailer. I had no plans of driving away to meet anyone for a ride and had plenty of time. I was not angry with her and really thought about what could be going on.

Was I blocking her somehow– asking her to load but positioning my body language to tell her not to load?

Was she concerned about Wild Heart in the barn? As the herd leader not wanting us to drive away leaving her tied in the aisle?

Was she ‘testing’ me somehow- to see if my reaction would hold up? If I would stay calm even if she didn’t give me what I asked for?

Then I noticed it.

I wasn’t angry or mad at her. But there was this little hint of an underlying feeling…..

Annoyed.

Yep.

I was definitely annoyed.

You know… you’re not yelling at the child to get in the car NOW or I’ll beat your bottom (that might be angry)… more like when you’re trying to be patient when they ask if they can go back inside for one more time to check on if that stuffed animal is safely tucked into bed you’re like ‘ok‘ said with a sigh, internal eye roll and a wish the kid would just realize stuffed animals do not actually have feelings already! 😑

As the layers get peeled back and the easy obvious issues get worked on then there are the smaller ones. I didn’t yell at her or jerk her around by the head or hit her with a stick but being honest with myself I was definitely annoyed.

And horses are a million times more sensitive than a human so she knew it too.

Equine leaders do not get annoyed.

😖

There I was again. Acting like a human.

The horse cannot figure out how to be more human-like. We can anthropomorphise all we want. They are horses and they do not think and reason like humans do.

Yes. I followed through, got it done, and Khaleesi got on the trailer and calmly ate some hay while I worked with Wild Heart around the trailer for a few.

Then after some reflection on the afternoon I decided to get serious going forward about carving out more of the human attributes that convince my horses I cannot be completely trusted.

One thing I can see for sure is that it has got to be a real shift. You cannot lie to a horse. You cannot fool a horse (the way you can fool humans) about if the inside matches the outside. And you don’t get to play around with being that leader sometimes or if I’m having a good day or if I’m not under stress in my life or whatever. It has to be reliable and consistent because the one time I do something un-leader-like I have proven again I cannot be completely trusted.

One thing I’m not sure of because I don’t have the experience – is if my process to be a true leader to Khaleesi is more extreme (or not) that it would be with a more mid-pack or lower level horse. I have only seen Khaleesi take charge or at least make the effort to take charge of any group she has gotten to mix with. She does not lack confidence. I have never seen her (as I’ve seen Wild Heart and other geldings at the farm) look to anyone else for direction. So if my own experiences seem unusual or extreme in finding the leadership position I should mention that I’m fairly certain I have a top of herd mare who might need more proof of my worthiness than Wild Heart for example who is a mid-level mare naturally.

But in the end. This is why I have horses. To learn how to be that person. To grow and to get better. And then to have success in whatever I do with my horse because we’ve become a team and I am the brains and she is (as Buck puts it) a willing extension of my own legs. Or maybe if you prefer Tom Dorrance- I’m looking for the True Unity.

My plan is to figure out how to look more like the equine leader my mare is looking for. One she can trust to take over so she can relax and go along with me- because she has NO DOUBT: I’ve got this.

So I have made a commitment to become part of their world, learn and prove it. And I’m planning not to ride again until I make at least some noticeable headway.

I know. Many of you are certain I’ve lost my mind.

And the rest of you are not sure but wonder.

🤪

I have no idea how long this might take.

But I’m going to try.

Layers

Monday, November 27, 2017

Though my recent travels were productive and heart warming filled with both learning and family time- I am always grateful to return home!

The time spent with my Simple Equine Teaching family is always special and I never leave without learning new layers – most of the time about myself.

If I could explain what this method of understanding horses has done for me in a nutshell I might say that it has taught me that in order to be successful with horses one must be willing to dig in… in ourselves first.

Horses seem to be a unique creature on the planet that can show us ourselves – if we are willing to see– yet have a depth of kindness and grace that continue to give us humans opportunities to grow.

Friends who ask what I was doing at the seminar without my horse are surprised to hear I could spend two long (working through lunch) days classroom style – going over information I’ve already gone through on virtual classrooms- and yet say it was well worth the 12 hour drive and time spent away.

I’m still amazed to find new pockets and layers of things I know but come to realize I’m still not really DOING 100% of the time. Something I’ve come to understand is that you either do this or you don’t. Most of us want to pick and choose. I’m finding that the things that we don’t really want to deal with in ourselves becomes a sticking point. It’s the things we don’t want to change that will determine if we are truly successful or stay in the outer perimeter of ‘this is better than it was and good enough.’

I suppose this is true with everything we do. There are things in my life I’m not willing to invest 100% into because it’s not so important to me.

I have seen though what it can look like to make changes from the inside out. It has been transformational for me in much larger ways than with my horses. It’s changed the way I view the entire world around me and I hope for the better.

And I am only scratching the surface still!

As thanksgiving has just come around again and I spent some time right after the seminar with people I love – I am reminded how deeply grateful I am for…. love. The love that transforms us. The power of healing. The grace that gives second… and third and more chances to get it right. The unique role horses were given to help humans in so many ways I’m just learning about.

I realize I’m only at the tip of the iceberg when it comes to what is possible. This is exciting. The layers I’m going through today are still close to the surface.

That used to bother me- I’d try to rush through because I know I have far to go. Then I would see how that (for me) was exactly the point. Now I am content with where I am knowing I will continue the journey with open eyes and will learn all I can with each layer I travel through.

When I returned to my herd yesterday I enjoyed seeing the mares and the conversations with each one were better because I didn’t care if we ever got into the barn.

With Khaleesi- I waited and watched. She knew I came for her. At one point she began to walk off and I experimented with a very soft click. She stopped dead in her tracks and flicked an ear to me. I waited. I experimented with my energy. She asked if she could get a drink first and I said of course. Then she showed me something half way across the field with the electric fence I had already planned to pick up. After that put her head in the halter and came with me.

Wild Heart wanted to come in but didn’t want to be haltered. She struggled with this. I gave her time to think about it. I let her go and return to me. I followed and also gave her space- she showed me an old shoe and pad of Khaleesi’s I hadn’t been able to find from almost a year ago!

At one point I invited her in and she followed me around the pasture and to the gate as if on lead exactly with me. I want to go with you but I am struggling with the halter today. There I let her know to leave the field I still needed the halter for now. She lowered her head into her new green rope halter and came into the barn.

Winter is a nice season for me to be more quiet and to learn to let go of the things I think I need to be doing- the things I’ve learned everywhere else are what I should be doing, and start paying more attention to what my horse are saying.

When I am able to do that- it’s crazy fun to be with them! I adore them and they are funny and beautiful and I learn a lot from them.

So maybe what I’m getting from all this- in the layer I’m currently sitting through…. learning to listen. And learning to understand- not what I think it should mean from my perspective but what it really means from theirs.

It is a way of looking at everything as significant, not to assume anything is random or accidental. In a world we learn to tune out so much around us this has been hard for me to do, but the more I change this thinking in me the more fun even the day to day world is.

Seeing the purpose all around me.

Not a bad thing at all.

The knife.

Monday, November 6, 2017

My journey into hoof health continues.

I went back to check my hoof history and am reminded that I’ve only had this mare just over 3 years (feels like I’ve had her forever…) and actually she was only in shoes starting as a 5 yr old:

  • 2015: August-November
  • 2016:April-November
  • 2017: March-June

So one full season and two half seasons.

I don’t think it’s my imagination that her legs look stronger, thicker and more proportional now than in this picture from September 2016 (I see an even bigger difference in the hinds here).

September 2016

October 2017

Until now I’ve been working with a rasp and a woodworking file tool only as I felt the changes were minimal enough that I couldn’t do any drastic damage too quickly that I might with nippers or a knife.

I have a lot to learn but keep trying to understand the mechanics of the foot and read as much as I can as well as working on a few actual horses with some initial direction from a mentor and seeing how my eyes steer me over weeks and months.

The good news is that K hasn’t had any true lameness issues from going barefoot and hasn’t been trim sore in months.

Photo from July 2017 a couple weeks after pulling shoes:

Photo from November 2017:

I’ve been working on her feet every couple of weeks in small maintenance trims and am now much better at watching how her feet change.

Because she’s more flat footed than any of the other horses I’m working with, I’ve come to decide she would benefit from better removal of some of the dead sole than my current tools were allowing for.

I suppose it was time to get myself a hoof knife. It wasn’t quite as big a deal as I’d worried it might be. I wear gloves because my concern was only in small part screwing up my horse- the bigger part was slicing myself!

One thing I’ve been told and read is that dead sole will come out pretty easily and live sole takes a lot of pressure to cut through. My aim was to try to remove some of the dead sole to give a little more concavity andtake the bars just slightly done to basically sole level.

Photo from July 2017 a couple weeks after pulling shoes and pads:

Photo from November 2017

My hoof trimming work is anchored currently in the ‘first do no harm’ mindset and though I’m quite pleased with how her feet came out of my mini-trim it is far from beautiful work!

The first hoof I was working left handed with a right handed knife (this took me a little while to realize) and the paring out was small rough little patches. None of them are deep and I think it will get the job done but it’s not particularly pretty.

I was pleased to find that the dead sole did take a little effort to remove but wasn’t difficult. The thin layer I started with will help ensure she doesn’t have as much dead sole causing pressure spots that are even with the hoof walls.

I didn’t see any evidence of hemorrhaging either which is also good news both in impact/pressure and diet/sugars. (She had some blood traces in her first barefoot trim in July)

Photos of hinds from early July 2017 a couple weeks after pulling shoes:

Photos from hinds November 2017:

I got a little handier with the knife as I went along.

Walking her back to pasture she was moving fine on all surfaces (pavement, hard pack and grass) at walk and trot. I’ll see how she’s doing as the days go by and if she’s at all tender (I’d be surprised as I was so conservative this time).

I can’t imagine going barefoot and taking on your own trimming is the right choice for everyone, but I’m glad to be in this position for the moment as I like being able to have more hands on control week to week instead of going on a 4-6 week trim cycle.

I’m thankful to Scoot Boots not only for a great easy to use boot that stays on for us making barefoot even possible- but also for their barefoot information and blog that gave me the courage to try!

Without question this is a whole horse picture and none of the factors are stand alone. Good nutrition, body work to be sure she can move her best, work on my riding to do the least harm when riding her (effecting her natural movement), a saddle that goes beyond a good fit to encourage building topline, and next stop will be looking into different schools of equine dentistry and how the teeth have an effect on the entire body and how the horse moves.

I suppose I’m also grateful for endurance riding that has been the catalyst for finding the best instead of what works- the journey has been eye opening for sure but also really fascinating!

What can I do for you?

Saturday, November 4, 2017

It’s been two weeks since the Fort Valley 50 and I’ve taken one short ride with Khaleesi to stretch her legs and played a pretty intensive faculty chamber music concert (including extra dress rehearsals) and spent a few days running creative strings clinics for orchestra students in the Northern Virginia area.

When finally a ‘real’ day off and gorgeous weather presented itself I dreamed of the possibilities….

I could explore those trails I’ve been wanting that I think would make some good distance riding options…

I could take a long trailer haul to meet a friend half way at some new trails…

I could hit the arena to explore some communication in riding ideas… (I’m engrossed in a Tom Dorrance book that has me reinspired to play in the arena again)

Then I began to consider what it might look like to my horse.

I’ve barely shown up to feed and make sure she’s alive for two weeks and been completely absent a few days this week. So I zip back in from my human jet setting toss on the halter, boot & tack her up, load into the trailer and head for the trails… alone with many miles in mind.

Then I wonder why at some point instead of

hi! It’s great to see you… I’m enjoying some down time.. what do you want to do today!?

I start to get

oh. You again? Great <sarcasm infused> let me guess, you’ve been busy and pretty much ignored me for days and now you want me to carry you a ton of miles alone on a new trail. Yipee. Let me just wander farther out into the field to see if you can read my body language that says I’d rather just stay here thanks.

So I made the decision in advance that I wouldn’t make a real plan- but I’d go and see what felt right.

I took my halter and after the mares ate I stood in the field and watched.

The first thing I noticed as I just watched is Khaleesi looks great- she’s a little fuzzy right now and I opened up the extra grass for them while I was out of town and not throwing hay (so might have gained a couple pounds on extra fall grass for a few days), but her topline looks strong and she’s got nice muscling through her body. Her mane is less ‘bleached’ (which I understand can be a result of mineral or dietary imbalance) and has a healthier feel.

Even more her feet and legs have really changed this year. Her legs are thicker from the increased blood flow through the legs into the feet since I pulled shoes and her feet are really healthy and the new growth doesn’t have the rings the older hoof does. They are nicely underneath her and everything about them seems healthy and supported. They still have some ways to go but I like the improvement.

Of course Wild Heart comes right to me every time. She has a few things she wants to talk about, a couple of scratching requests, and likes to be close to me.

So I began with her while K watched suspiciously from a few feet away.

I decided then it was unlikely I would even take the girls into the barn today. Regardless of what I wanted to do for my own pleasure, what I needed to so was to let my favorite mare know that sometimes I can visit just to say hi and see if anyone has an itch they need help with. That I do care how she is doing and can slow down and spend some time checking in with her.

WildHeart is very specific with her scratching needs. She shows exactly where to go and positions herself accordingly. As she got more and more heavenly relief Khaleesi inched closer.

When I decided I was done with Heart for the moment (she could stand next to me getting scratched all day and night!) I took the few steps left to Khaleesi and she stayed put while I rubbed her withers and said hello to my beloved mare. I rubbed the velvety fur on her neck near her mane and scratched under her jaw.

She then took a few steps so my scratching hand was positioned exactly at hind along the spine, then moved a little more … her back legs… she stretched out and relaxed.

Wild Heart would inch in and I’d use my rope to ask her to move off not your turn right now. Don’t be so pushy.

At one point Heart was so desperate for more scratching she laid right down in front of us and rolled around on the ground. That mustang is quite a character!

I walked off to take a break and had exactly what I’d hoped for. Two horses who were now very interested in me. Khaleesi right behind my shoulder at a respectful distance not bugging me for anything but wanting to stay with me.

In fact once when I stopped she squared up and faced me- I went to rub her and she moved just away don’t touch. I reminded myself that humans love to touch horses…. however many horses are more content just being close. K is one of those. She is ok with a well timed rub or scratch but she is often happier with quiet presence.

I walked off and squatted in the grass and watched as well. The girls spent a little time interacting around the water trough with the geldings over the fence who had gradually assembled and were very interested in what was going on in our field.

Before leaving I walked back to K, rubbed her then put on the halter… then immediately dropped it and walked away.

We have a lifetime of exploring new trails, of playing in the arena… but none of it will matter if my horse is hard to catch, avoids the trailer, or decides that I’m a selfish hurried human not worth with spending time with.

Despite what the Hallmark greeting says, it’s not the thought that counts. It’s the actions and the time invested that says

I do care about you. I will not always put my needs and interests first. And I can behave peacefully and quiet like a horse. I will try to inhabit your world from time to time instead of forcing you into mine.

I have also said before the only ride I regret is the one I didn’t take….. but in this case I don’t regret my time idle in the field watching my herd and spending some time in their world.

Maybe it will remind me not only to ask what my horse can do for me….. but what can I do for my horse.

Maybe it’s even a lesson I will use in my human relationships too….. ❤️