Friday, December 18, 2015
The soft feel is the goal that it seems everything is in service to. Being able to do as much as possible with as little as possible. The instinct of when exactly to release when your horse begins to try- not to wait until the entire physical motion has played out. It’s something you can only pick up with time doing it.
Buck calls it hunting the feel– you get a taste of it and it’s something you want more of… you can spend your whole life chasing it.
There are worse things to chase.
Today we went into the arena to work on getting to the point where you reach for your horse and your horse reaches for you.
Though honestly I’m not completely sure what that means!
Technically… I get it… kind of… but we’re not there.
Right from the field… the way I put the rope halter on starts our day now. She lowers her head into the halter for me and she’s offering the back up before I have to reach up when leading now- each time it’s better.
It’s the hight of mud season right now- both horses are a muddy matted mess. We did minimal cleaning this afternoon as it was getting late and cold fast.
First take away from our time today:
I need a more specific plan.
I had a vague plan, but I am a planner and I need to write down some goals before I go out. Right now I have a LOT of things I want to work on… so it’s not hard to find something to do- but it’s better to start a running list until I get more into a routine.
We began with walking around the arena on a loose rein (not a problem). Then I wanted to stop and see if I could ask her to give her head and release when she softened. This is “the feel”.
Not bad- but if we weren’t moving she gets distracted and wonders when I’m going to do something.
Slight pressure on the reins.
K: Do you mean back up?
J: Uh, not really… I want you to drop your head.
K: I want to see what the boys are doing in the barn…
J: No, keep your head forward.
K: Faygo is yelling for me- she’s stressed out over there.
J: Focus. You’re with me.
K: And back up?
J: No, just soften your neck.
K: So we’re just standing here?
J: Yes. Kind of.
K: I can back up.
We then worked on keeping an active walk around the arena. I want to get that nice forward walk on our trail rides. My A-HAH moment was that the “beginning” of the try is JUST A LITTLE faster. So I can’t get that fast walk I want every time right now, but I CAN ask for just a little more activity that she was giving on her own. Eventually that should build until I can ask her for her move out walk without getting a trot instead. Someday.
I was pleased with my “just a little faster” walk. It went great. We did a couple nice circles too.
I also took a moment to remember the exercises I did with Nancy earlier in the day with the Sally Swift Centered Riding book. We had a great morning doing some floor exercises that really impacted awareness of body- and how tension and balance affect everything.
I felt grounded and balanced and comfortable. At least at the walk.
Then we stopped again and I wanted to ask her with my legs to move her front end around her hind. I was able to get her to do this as well using the same techniques I watched. I touched her with my foot slightly forward and after she realized I didn’t want her to go forward she did step around. I could easily get her to take a few steps in each direction pivoting on her hind.
When I came home and re-watched the same segment I saw that Buck didn’t actually even touch the horse with his foot. He just pushed his leg forward and hovered it near the front end.
I hadn’t picked that up the first time. That’s pretty light right there. Not actually touching. Hovering.
The last thing we did was some trotting around the outside rail. No problem asking for a trot- but she still pushes me inside (same thing she used to do at Pam’s). Maybe it’s me? Either way I had to ask her loudly to get back to the outside. Leg and rein. She did it, but she was pushing me in. My decision was that once I got one complete time around with her willingly staying out on the rail we’d finish for the day.
About the 3rd or 4th time around we got a nice clean run and I stopped, got off and rubbed her:
Good job. That’s it! We’re done.
I put her out and brought Faygo in to do a quick pony ride up and down the mountain with one of the farm horses (who need a little exercise). We had a nice ride in the first snow flurry I’ve ridden in this season.
This time we took Bo- a handsome horse that wasn’t gelded until he was in his teens. He’s a good horse, but needs a leader. I didn’t know how well he’d pony, but if any horse can give it a go at keeping him in line it’s Faygo. For the most part he did a great job. Once we turned home he tried to run ahead of us, see if he could turn his butt toward Faygo, he was too close in our space (walking so close he was touching us with his body!) and then out of frustration nipping at Faygo’s neck (which is too close to my leg!).
Enough- I stopped and asked him to step back. He did not.
He nosed his head toward my leg and braced.
I sat there on Faygo and bopped his rope halter to ask him to back up calmly and rhythmically.
For a long time (it felt like).
I watched for anything.
Finally a change in his body and his weight BARELY shifted.
I paused- then started again.
He stepped back!
Paused again and got one more step back.
Waited for a moment… the chance for it to sink in.
Then we walked off nicely. He stayed right at my elbow- a gentleman for the rest of the ride in.
I was getting cold as the sun was getting close to setting. I was reminded about one more Sally Swift thought.
My toes. (are cold!)
Are my toes loose?
Now they are.
I spent some time thinking about wiggling my toes in my boots and feeling my ankle stay loose and flexible.
Was a good day of being aware, and we’ll be hunting the feel for a long time I think.