Tuesday, April 3, 2018
March has been schedule intensive- in addition to my regular schedule, I played a chamber music concert and bluegrass performances, an orchestra concert (plus extra rehearsals for that) worked alongside students and our local maple festival serving pancakes, hosted a student recital, and flew to Las Vegas for my sister’s wedding.
Not a lot of barn time, but to everything there is a season. I’d considered trying to get to the Foxcatcher ride this weekend but I haven’t put on the miles to ensure her fitness is ready and it’s too far away to haul for a maybe…. It appears they’ve just had a snowstorm and are expecting more so in the end that’s ok.
For now I’m setting my sights toward No Frills (my favorite ride) at the end of the month.
This year has been quality over quantity in my riding. Our connection is better than ever, her feet are still improving, her body is in great balance… there’s a good base in there.
My intention is to get some more serious mileage on her legs in the next two weeks and see how she takes to it. It’s new territory for me so I’ll stay flexible and roll with it learning along the way.
Saturday was the first day I’d had the time and weather to get some decent miles in. I hit the barn in the early afternoon with a plan A (a 15 mile one-way ride toward home) and ended up in plan B (about half the distance).
When I approached Khaleesi to halter her she walked off, then bucked and trotted out into the field. Even stronger message was sending the mustang to run interference (I watched her do this more than once). For the first time in a long time the mustang didn’t back off when I asked her for space. In fact she pinned her ears and squared up with me.
This week I’ll section off the field- it’s huge. Too much too rich grass for two horses is why I section it off however she might as well be loose in Montana when it comes to catching her if she would rather gorge on the grass– when I section the field off she becomes immediately more interested in working with me. I don’t mind working through the challenges of hormones (boys) and survival (eating), but the grass here is dangerously rich so they’ll be more confined in the next few days now that spring weather has flipped. (Below: the upper field with the run in shed is theirs… you can see the two dots along the fence- the field goes all the way back to the tree line.)
Here was are. She’s not coming. The mustang is blocking me as well. That’s interesting. I don’t have the proper tools for this situation.
So I insisted on one good step back from the mustang and when she complied I turned to hike back to the barn and grab my flag.
I knew better than to be frustrated or annoyed. This was just my job today- each day it’s different. I know horse language enough to understand my mare was telling me: I don’t want to go with you today. But today I don’t know for certain why. There are a handful of possible reasons:
- She’s in heat and not in the mood
- The massive field of grass is too enticing
- She doesn’t want to leave the mustang today
- She doesn’t want to connect with me
No matter the reason in her horse brain I won’t take it personally. Just get the proper tools and come back and do what it takes to reconnect.
Once I retrieved the flag and began heading back to the field I realized I was mentally preparing for something- I wasn’t sure what would happen next but I had assumed it would be a challenge. How would I succeed?
Wait. Am I getting into win-lose mode? Too goal oriented? Don’t I know better by now?
It occurred to me that there was also a possibility I was not currently considering: that I could walk into the field and she would come right with me. 🤔
I realized how important it was that I walk back into the field freshly curious to what was there in that moment and not imposing what I thought I would find. Even though there was some evidence from the very recent past that she may not.
If I’m not careful- I return to the field with a mindset that I’m walking into a conflict. That is never a good way to approach any human or animal for success in connection.
So I decided to stay present and observe what was happening now without judgement from what happened 5 minutes ago.
I’m glad I did.
With the flag in hand it was very easy to ask the mustang to stay out of my space bubble. Which she did. This gave me the space I needed to ask for Khaleesi’s attention which in not too long a time she indeed gave me. It was a short time then for her to connect and come with me willingly to the barn.
Still, the extra time screwed up my drop off plan so I went ahead to the shorter ride and took the pressure off myself to rush. Maybe that was the ride she needed anyway.
The entire process from field to trail was easy and the ride was lovely. Everything about the afternoon was smooth and enjoyable. We were a team!
And finally the sun was shining and it was almost warm as well.
I reflected on how important it is to let go of the past and stay present. If I would have approached the mares expecting a fight I would have likely gotten one.
How often do I not realize this happens in life? at home? at work? How often do I take past (even recent past) experiences with another person and carry it to the present situation? How often do I have my defenses ready due to past experiences before assessing the present conditions?
Isn’t that what many of us are celebrating this season? If you consider the Passover- be ready… after hundreds of years in slavery eat with your shoes on your feet because any moment could be the time you’re delivered.
Or the resurrection of Jesus- in most people’s experience dead people stay dead… but when the people who loved him saw him die a horrible death including his side being pierced to be certain before sealing him in a tomb with Roman guards whose lives depended (and ended) upon keeping a dead body from moving anywhere…. then he showed up… alive and ate with them… everything changed going forward. What a reminder that we also can begin new – and allow those around us that same gift.
If you prefer to stick with only the things you can see and touch (how boring a life would that be?) then at least consider spring – each year we have the death of winter and yet there is always the hope that one day that crocus WILL bloom… the daffodil will follow and eventually the sun warms the earth and though every winter I begin to believe I will never be naturally warm again……
Still how do you balance knowing how to read patterns against allowing for a change in each interaction?
If someone in my life has a consistent record of being difficult to work with or treating my unkindly- does it cost me anything to approach each new interaction as potentially being positive or at least not bracing for the struggle before it even happens? Does it hurt me to always believe this time could be different, positive, and stay in the present observing what is there without dragging the negative history along?
I think it’s often so under the surface that can be hard to recognize we do it. Cycles and patterns. As humans I think we put layers of protection in place so we’ll never be taken advantage of… never be caught with our guard down… fooled me once shame on me?
There is a place for caution and protection certainly. But maybe in normal everyday life – when we aren’t truly in danger of emotional or physical damage– in fact those layers of protection eventually cause worse damage to ourselves . Maybe sometimes allowing for the change is an important step in seeing a change.
Monday morning I got a call from the manager of the property my horses live.
That is never good.
Good morning… I’ve got some bad news for you.
I figured- go ahead… what is it? (Why don’t I just get nice geldings like sane horse owners?)
Your horse is in heat… she jumped the fence this morning to get closer to the geldings. She doesn’t seem hurt but when I went to catch her myself or put her back over into your field she wouldn’t come near me and now she seems to be pretty happy eating the better grass in the middle field.
Oh. Which horse? (please let it be the mustang)
Oh (drat. Now two fence jumpers.)
There was a bad spot in the fence that had come down where she likely went over. I’ll head over to fix it in a few. Thought you’d want to know. She’s fine for the time being.
Thanks I’ll run over and round her up.
I figured I had my work cut out for me. But remembered what I’d been pondering. it’s ok. I’ll just take it as it comes when I get there.
Who knows what I’ll actually find. Maybe the process will be fun- maybe I’ll learn something. Stay open to anything.
And to my surprise, I found both mares in their own field where they belong and looking forward to seeing me. Khaleesi must have decided to come back through the gate when D was fixing the fence. AND… she came from the far end of the field straight to me when she saw me drive onto the property- not to the food either (which I’d set down to the left) but to me. Two days ago bucking off in protest, today right to me in friendly greeting.
Each day new.
What a gift.
In this case I ended up with time to take a ride since she was so easy to catch and once again connected from field to saddle and trail and home again until I took off her halter and she hung out near me and I rubbed on her a little while more before I headed home.
I wonder how this concept might help shape my week… month… season going forward. I’m not sure but I’ll be paying more attention each day.