Adventure in the depths

With the world of Covid my circles have become smaller, yet I’ve found instead of feeling grounded or isolated I’ve been finding my ‘GO’ in depth instead of width. I am grateful to live in a place with around 75% National Forest and low population density, so it’s normal for me to spend a day on the trail and not see another human.

On the day ‘the music died’ (being a violinist that’s how it felt when the governor began to shut down all gatherings and we couldn’t get together to rehearse or perform) I had some extra time because my student concert was cancelled for that weekend and decided to take Khaleesi farther to explore some nice trails I’d begun to stumble upon.

There I ran onto (well he almost ran into us!) a local mountain bike enthusiast who also runs a trail club and maintains trails. We found an easy friendship quickly and he began to show me the miles and miles of maintained trails available accessible from my barn within about an hour trailer ride and I’ve been riding more miles close to home exploring deeper into the territory I didn’t know existed.

Over Memorial Day weekend, an opportunity for another kind of adventure into deeper layers came with our spring Emily Kemp clinic.

The clinic crew observing at Fox Trot Farm

As much as I love working with Khaleesi- besides one hour the first day where we adjusted my saddle pad system and rode in the rain for a short while, the entire week of my time was spent with Wyoming. I think she’s a great horse but I get so far and then hit resistance that I don’t have the experience to more through successfully. I need more knowledge and expert help to grow.

I have ridden her this year and she did her best but I could tell she was not comfortable and happy. I knew one problem was likely my balance saddle didn’t give her enough confidence.

  • First as wide as it is- it’s not probably truly wide enough for her.
  • Second it isn’t as stable as a traditional saddle and not even close to as stable as a western saddle. I know a green horse likes stability and I knew I needed to try to find a way to give it to her if I wanted this to work out for her.

Thankfully my mom was needing to sell an extra super wide custom western saddle that was made for her filly who is built along the top like Wyoming. The timing was perfect and it came the day before the clinic started.

Wyoming trying out the new western saddle

Could I successfully ride this horse in the 5 days? I hoped so.

As Emily helped Wyoming and me find the holes in her early education, we prodded deeper and found situations the mare felt claustrophobic — that is my homework for the next couple months. Pressure and feel are still worrisome for her and the signal based system I had been working with is not bad, but for her left a hole of learning to move on a feel. Learning to give to pressure. This isn’t a new concept to me and I can clearly see where the gaps are now that we’ve pushed into some of them.

Wyoming evades the pressure on her halter by escaping away from the pressure straight up. Eventually she learned to give to the pressure and drop her head calmly. Her intent wasn’t to hurt me and she didn’t, only to escape the discomfort. A great example of something I want to find while still on the ground.

I hadn’t thought when I got into horses I would begin a journey into colt starting- and I’m not adept or have the experience it takes to call myself one… but I did end up with two horses that required the skills and so I am picking them up the best I can.

Checking the foundations
Changing eye pattern

Wyoming has her own personality and I learned more this week that when she is pushed into discomfort she will first express it in small ways, then withdraw into herself with non-response (stuff it down until it builds up like a spring) then explode when the pressure is too great. I think of it almost like a wave coming in, then going out and returning with greater force. The dry ground can be misleading if you don’t realize the wave is only building and about to come crashing in.

I didn’t get to work with Khaleesi on advanced skills in my riding, but every session with Wyoming makes me a better horse person and that translates to Khaleesi. And as Wyoming and I explored the depths of things under the surface I learned some concepts that might just make me better. Bite sized lessons this time instead of one big message.

How I interact with my horse (and others)

  • Pay attention to what’s going on below the surface.
  • Continue to look for ways I am critical or nag (and stop doing it).
  • Read more quickly and accurately what the reaction is: fear must be handled differently than disrespect.
  • It is important to press through discomfort to build a happy and confident horse.
  • When things break down find the sticky point and work there with gentle support.
  • Be creative and flexible ready to throw out the plan or pattern to work on the dance.

As I worked and observed others I also considered that sometimes I’m a lot like the horses and the very creator of the universe is my owner and trainer. He has tons of experience and never makes mistakes. I considered some things I learned about myself as I sometimes fight on the line in his soft hands.

What about in me?

  • God is pleased when I’m searching and trying even if it takes me some time to get the answer.
  • He will stick with me through the struggle and discomfort with soft hands and grace until I come out the other side.
  • He wants me to find help, comfort and confidence in him (not looking to the herd, the distance, or eating grass)
  • He is not critical of me. He wants me to succeed. All his training sessions are set up for me to grow and be set free from fear.

I had beautiful soft moments with Wyoming who wants to work and succeed and connect with me. I also had some moments where she felt worried and had to attempt a flee maneuver where I tried to soften and move with her allowing her the distance she needed to come back to thinking and start again. And there were a very few moments where I missed the wave going out and the tidal wave came up in force and she felt the need to fight.

All of these worked together to teach me better responses and to expose the gaps in her training so that when she does become a horse truly educated to carry a rider she will he happy and confident in her job and the rider will be more safe and comfortable in the saddle. We are closer than ever to that. I did not ride her yet and with my colt starting skills being still so minimal it’s taking me a while to get there, but the gift of time is our greatest gift to give. Our most valuable thing. And I’ll commit to giving this process and this horse the time necessary to do it right without pressure of what it should look like or how long it should take from the world around me.

Considering the ride calendar is always in flux this year with Covid concerns ebbing and flowing, it’s a good year to continue to build strength in Khaleesi and get some extra time in moving Wyoming forward in our education together.

I really enjoy the process and seeing the growth in both of us.

It seems this green to 100 blog is spending way more time in the green than I had ever thought!

Published by JaimeHope

Violin teacher and endurance rider living in a rural mountain county - one of the least population dense and without a single stoplight.

2 thoughts on “Adventure in the depths

  1. Wow! Crazy! Just yesterday I was thinking about you and wondering how you were doing…and thinking it’s been quite a while since I’ve heard anything from you. Then boom! Here you are! I hope you are doing well Jaime.


    1. Isn’t that the way it happens sometimes!

      I am well- and should take some more time to keep in touch! It’s nice to see your comment too 🙂


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