May 1, 2019
I have struggled to write since my last post; it’s been the longest hiatus since I began the blog.
It’s not due to lack of activity or material as much as there have been many seeds coming up all over the place with no finished concepts maturing into a blog that would share a complete thought.
Once finding a new level of soft in myself and with Khaleesi more connection continued on our relationship. It seems each time I find a new level of connection and communication and wonder if I’ve arrived somewhere I find that no (to my delight!) there are deeper layers to go.
I continue to find more conversation in our interactions and encourage everyone with a horse to earnestly seek to hear what your horse is saying.
I think it speaks to our humanness that we desire to be or meet horse-whisperers not horse-listeners. It’s easy to whisper, it’s very difficult to listen to the whisper. If you wish your horse would respond to your whisper, then go first and listen to what she whispers. You’ll learn so much more that way.
It is slow and takes a lot of practice and you’ll get it wrong at times. It’s much harder than force and tools. But it’s worth everything.
I have dedicated much of this winter to helping my friend with her first as an adult mare. The horse is lovely and perfect for her.
She is committed to the gradual, patient process of unraveling the mare’s layers of physical balance and mental protection; allowing her to bloom in her own physical-mental-emotional systems. The process is going well but is time consuming requring time, consistency and growth in both of them.
I have seen God at work directing things and when you see him involved everything moves faster. Truly HE is able to do things much faster than our human brains and bodies can keep up with. Sometimes I hear Him laughing (uh, with us right) as we race to keep up with all the growth and change.
I have enjoyed helping the pair grow together even more than putting in hours of lonely miles on long trails.
I’m learning from their process as well.
While I have been shown in most cases the necessity of beginning with the mental system of the horse; this mare had physical system issues that blocked her ability to work in a balanced way in the mental and emotional systems.
Not being able to balance her body properly meant that in riding she couldn’t connect with her mental system and her emotional system would take over and she would rush into a haywire state of panic.
That’s a whole other blog I won’t write because she isn’t my horse- however it’s been beautiful positive change in all the systems in a short time and I’ve spent a lot of time riding along with them to help in any way Khlaleesi and I can.
This has meant Khaleesi and I had to slow down and lower my mileage, however, the miles have been focused on form and quality. The lesser mileage and pulling back on speed for the purpose of helping them also worked to force Khaleesi and me to slow down our training and do a lot of rider form and connection.
One of our favorite places to work is the Jackson River Scenic Trail. It is flat with great footing and one can trot endlessly even if there was a week of rain previously. And it rides along the Jackson River with pretty views.
We do trotting intervals and the new mare seems to thrive here on the flat because it’s easier to balance than on the mountain trails with obstacles.
Now that I have my saddle set up working great, and Khaleesi has developed a strong topline she has begun to ask me for connection to ride more balanced in front on the bit. I purposely use the word connection because it’s a conversation we have. I don’t force her into contact. I don’t use the cycle of aids, and I don’t use ANY leg to push her to move onto the bit.
Now that my riding has gotten to a level of helping her more than hindering her she has begun to experiment. When she wants me to shorten the reins she dips her head. When she wants me to release them she shakes (it’s taken some trial and error to sort that out).
So riding along she began to ask me for more support…
She dipped again. More.
I shortened more. This seems like a lot of pressure.
She dipped again. MORE.
I was certain I misunderstood her and released some rein. Too much?
She shook her head. NO, that’s not what I’m asking. We’ve already established how I ask for more.
I don’t believe her. I begin to give up. This is all in my head. I can’t understand.
She dips her head. Take up the reins. More.
I take up a little more.
She is happy for a few feet. Then dips her head. More. Take up more.
We continue this as I struggle, and my friend watches as I try to understand if I’m missing something. Human is confused.
Khaleesi is getting frustrated- I am not listening. I just can’t believe she wants that short of rein. But she’s very communicative and she’s annoyed. She begins working the bit in her mouth and her ears are flicking. She insists.
So I take up more… more… until I am holding a 1200 pound freight train in my hands.
My friend watches and her eyes grow big as SOMETHING happens.
Khaleesi lifts up and begins to float above the ground, I stop moving in the saddle as I rose up 6 inches farther from the ground. She feels like a flying horse- not fast, just floating above the ground effortlessly. Magic.
After a short time of this we relax back down and we walk and then stop for a moment and she spends about 2 minutes yawning, shaking her entire neck and mane and licking and chewing in pleasure.
She was racking.
And she offered it up on her own without expert training and without me trying to get her to do it. It was beautiful. Organic!
She is certainly bred to be able to rack. She is saddlebred, rackinghorse and walking horse with 1/4 Arabian. So this little gift isn’t completely shocking. I’ve had people suggest I should get her in the hands of someone who could bring that gait out of her. While that isn’t bad advice because I have no experience teaching a horse to rack, anyone who knows me knows I am not likely to entrust Khaleesi to anyone to train her. And getting a racking gear though would be absolutely wonderful for us, I wouldn’t entrust her to just about anyone to get it.
Just one betrayal of her trust would ruin the years it’s taken me to earn it. No physical advantage would ever be worth it.
Due to the limited miles I’ve ridden this winter I made the call to enter the 30 instead of the 55 at the No Frills ride in April.
Friday morning of the race came and I strapped on her plain old scoot boots and Balance Saddle (with their pads) to hit the trail.
It was a fantastic day. We cantered many of the rolling grass roads, she climbed the mountains average difficulty recovering well each time, and she took the rocks on better than ever.
No boot issues even through some wet muddy low lands – until after the official finish line walking down into the vet check- a bad downhill mud suck took off two boots that I went back for on foot.
At that point I didn’t care we were already home!
At both the vet check and finish line she pulsed in immediately at 52 and her CRIs were both 44/48 which is fantastic for us. She had great vet scores and was totally sound and not a sensitive spot on her back. Gut sounds even were strong. She was strong.
In fact, we finished for the first time top 10 and placed 8th.
Eight is a number of new beginnings. The word for this year for me and my mare is REGROWTH and the number 8 symbolizes a new beginning.
She is strong and fit, and I have a good sense for this season.
I am intrigued by the glimpse, the preview that came for the rack and look forward to how she will unveil it in time. Just about everything I do with my horses takes longer than others would expect. In part this is because I am not particularly experienced, but also I have learned to allow the horse to have a say in the process and include them in each step.
I am learning patience each month. Good things to come to those who wait…
Photo credit Becky Pearman