Failure?

Sunday, March 11, 2018

I recently had coffee with a friend who also studies the Simple Equine Teaching (SET) method where we commiserated briefly on how we sometimes feel like failures with our horses.

She had a few stories of horses questioning her leadership that sounded to me like she worked through pretty nicely. I think I won the horsemanship fail game with some pretty ugly rope burn blisters still healing on my right hand.

Then there’s the times she won’t stand still while I groom and saddle her… when she walks away from me in the pasture… when she tries to communicate with me so desperately and I have no idea what it is she nips in to the air to see if that makes it more obvious- like someone speaking to you in a foreign language LOUD and S-L-O-W-L-Y in hopes it might help.

I had already gone through some introspection wondering if I would ever get this system really working for me and it’s been a couple of years now.

The rope burns were from an unusual trailer loading where Khaleesi – who generally gets on the trailer without fuss – not only refused to get on for an hour but then loaded and pulled an emergency exit before I could secure her. I grabbed the rope to keep her from fleeing completely (which would have been an entirely new layer of problem to fix). That hurt.

After the rope burn I went for gloves, tying K to the trailer to wait for me. When I returned she walked on like nothing had happened as she often had before and stood calmly while I secured her.

Not enough time to ride I left her resting on the trailer a few minutes while I did a couple barn chores then backed her off calmly returned her to the field.

What happened?

In retrospect there were a handful of things I missed in the moment being in the situation and not removed as I can be looking back. I now see the mistakes I made that made it worse. I also can see the things I did right that meant when I revisited loading two days later the process wasn’t broken after all and in a brand new day she walked on with gentle invitation on a loose rope.

Still, there was a time when I knew so much less and things seemed to be a whole lot easier.

Ignorance can be bliss. However as another friend says: once you see, you cannot unsee.

It may be simple equine teaching but in fairness I was warned it wouldn’t be easy.

Though many methods talk about training humans and helping horses – this system is actually based on that principal than any other I’ve looked into. It’s required of me a higher level of understanding, discipline and control of myself body, heart and mind.

I can understand how many people take a glance, or even try to get started then decide it’s too hard, too invasive, too much to expect and walk away.

On the flip side, submitting myself to this process has also changed other facets in my life from teaching music to relating to my colleagues, family, husband, even strangers.

I’m not sure why the feelings of ineptitude have been stronger lately. I’ve considered it could be a product of having a deeper understanding where now I can see more of what’s really going on, or maybe as I get better my horse demands more of me.

I also think there is something in many women horse owners (myself included) that we want to love and be loved by our horses and then interpret behaviors through that lens. This is a hang up to ever truly understanding them. It’s like hearing what you want to hear instead of what’s being actually said. Love to humans (in my observation) most often means “you make me feel good“.

I’ve been noticing where I find this tendency in myself and I continue to work on the shift to truly loving my horse in the way that means: I am devoted to understanding you and what you need without the lens of what I wish it meant for my own needs.

Hm. Maybe that’s how I’m supposed to love my husband too.

This is a harder path though. To choose to do not what feels good… not to do what’s expected, but what is higher. Not what everyone would agree is justifiable behavior, but what Love requires- even when it isn’t fair to me. Even when it won’t be understood. When it won’t be noticed. When it won’t be appreciated. When it’s painful. When it costs me something and the other nothing. When I’m responsible for only 2% of the problem and I can say: that means I am the problem.

I’m beginning to see that until I realize I am the problem I will always be stuck in the cycle of where I’ve been- and then my past DOES determine my future. The limits I put on how much I’m willing to give, bend or take on directly limits where I get to go from here.

[To be clear. This applies to things I’m committed to or have an obligation to. Things I’ve already involved myself in… this does not mean I never say no, or decide a relationship is one I need to walk away from, or not to rescue or buy a horse… take on expansion in my work etc. Those are also choices I take responsibility for that control my future ability to commit 100% of myself to what I do invest in. In fact it makes me much more aware of what I commit to because I will give everything and need to be quite discerning where I put that force to use.]

Taking responsibility- even when I’m only 1% ‘wrong’ means I now have the power to transform.

Radical. Unbalanced. Wild. Crazy. Yep.

For me, I don’t want to dig around in the sand forever, I plan to walk on water someday. And that means crossing over into a place that is uncomfortable and costs something.In fact I heard last week a saying that you’re not really walking in love unless it costs you something.

About the horses….

I’m trying to learn what they need. Then work on practicing it. I want a best friend, she needs a leader who is a good boss to work for. She is my friend and buddy- but anytime I allow the friendship to grow bigger than our working relationship I confuse things and lose ground on the solid relationship I’m building.

Each horse is an equine with equine language and needs… yet they are all different and need to be related to in their individual way. Their  past influences their reaction in the present yet each moment is new and you can’t allow the past to dictate how you proceed into the future. You cannot pretend with a horse- they know you from underneath your skin yet if you’re not completely confident yet in your knowledge you must fake it till you make it. Always observe and listen to what your horse is telling you- your safety depends on it… but you cannot allow a horse to convince you to change your mind. Stay direct, be as firm as you have to be yet always as light and gentle as possible.

Just like life – until you live this out, until you practice it and fail falling to one side or the other of the razor’s edge you must walk, these things seem like contradictions. They aren’t. They are all true.

Sometimes the closer I think I get to what I really want the more acutely I feel the failures. Failures are also vital in learning how to move forward- it is necessary to learn to feel convicted without feeling condemned. So often we get this wrong. I see people spiral into self-pity quicksand with all the bad choices or wrong paths they’ve taken “I’m just so hard on myself” – it’s a waste of time and energy. However it is important to see where you’ve gone wrong, what the results were and make a real decision to stop that pattern. You may fail again. Then notice, and stop. Conviction lets you realize you made a bad choice, a mistake, a miscalculation… and you failed your horse, your friend, your family… if you slip into condemning yourself you are stuck and worthless. If you look forward and don’t allow it to define you EVERY TIME you begin to move forward and grow and then you become useful. Every moment spent on self-pity for the wrong decisions is wasted and makes the problem worse, not better.

A few days after coffee with my friend I had a real test. I met two friends for a trail ride (for the first time in a while I wasn’t riding solo). One friend was riding a horse she’d never ridden before and that is always an unknown. My expectations were higher than usual for myself and I honestly didn’t believe they would be met that day. I planned to do my best and see what still needs fixing.

I wanted my horse to focus on me completely and not connect to the other horses on the ride.

EVERY THING I DID that day was in mind of connecting with my horse from trailer loading, unloading, groundwork before even walking over where my friends had just gotten on their horses. I continued to expect her to focus on me and not the equines- I kept a good distance from them at all times to not encourage her to to connect with them and not to encourage them getting to know each other.

This is not a social visit for my horse- these other horses are not “her friends”. She had a job.  I rode most of the ride in the back and demanded (from K) at least a horse length between us and the two ahead the entire ride (being in the back gave me more control of my environment).

Once when we took the lead another horse rode too close on K and it was obvious to me her attention was now split between me and the horse that was in her zone- so I politely moved aside and took up my place in the rear again. I was not worried she would kick the horse– I did not allow the situation to continue to that level. I cannot control someone else’s horse, but I can put us in a place where my horse has a better window which puts me in control and being a good boss who protects my horse’s space so she doesn’t have to.

It is not unreasonable that she requires a zone of space around her on the trail, I think it’s ignorant of us (myself being guilty of this for years) to allow them to ride in such close proximity especially tail to nose considering we are also supposed to be in control of them and make decisions for their movement.

When we stopped as a group my horse never took a step without checking in with me and I allowed the other two to get a small lead before moving. That was a great indicator of how much she was connected to me and not the group and I was pleased. Same with a change to trot or canter- she didn’t change until I did. I’ve never had her attention to such a complete degree on a group ride before.

After a challenging week feeling like I wasn’t finding the razor’s edge very well, this was hands down the best ride I’ve had. Three hours with friends on the trail leisurely with my horse completely focused on me was more gratifying than finishing my first 55 at the Biltmore.

The next evening I rode just before dusk and returned home after dark. She was very very good that ride as well and my favorite moment was crossing the lit up bridge over the Jackson River in the dark.

I heard the words of Joyce Meyer in my mind…

Keep doing what is right and eventually you WILL get a right result. There is a lot of sowing seed, pulling weeds, and tending to the soil before the harvest.

Look… no hands?

Thursday, February 8, 2018

I’m grateful to have been able to find a day or two here and there for some regular riding each week in between freezing rain howling wind and snowstorms.

We ended up with more snow accumulation than anticipated Sunday then beautiful sunny and mild Monday with the bonus of closed schools (no teaching for my afternoon lessons) which is a recipe for a perfect snow riding afternoon for me!

Armed with only one halter and dreams of a carefree snow ride I went into the field. After feeding, Khaleesi moseyed up toward the big round bale. No problem, I walked up to catch her between bites and she was easy to get.

What took me aback was Wild Heart.

She’s almost always near Khaleesi. However this time as Khaleesi headed up the hill to eat Wild Heart headed the opposite direction- straight to the red gate and stood ready to exit the field waiting patiently.

I’ve never exactly seen her do that before.

She was asking SO politely I decided not to refuse her. I hadn’t brought her halter but I knew she would string along so I decided to let her join us.

She came right along perfectly as if on lead.

<Sigh.>

So much for my carefree ride plans. Ponying along Wild Heart would mean staying closer to home, mostly going slower (which is ok in snow anyway) and a lot more work than fun.

But I had a feeling this was what I needed to do today – so I went with it.

I took my herd/pack (me, two horses and two dogs) across the highway and headed up the home trail which (being in a river valley) is a good uphill right from the start.

Wild Heart has walked these trails before with and without rider, but she began pretty quickly to drag anchor. It was like she didn’t feel like having to climb the mountain today.

Too bad. This is what we do. You wanted to come remember?

It was only 10 minutes into the ride when I’d had to stop for the however too many of times as she got behind… she would plant her feet and though I could convince her to keep on moving with some flicking of the lead rope it was NOT the ride I’d been dreaming of all day.

At that moment – before I allowed frustration to creep in, I stopped and took a moment to think.

Q: What do I need to do for this to be an enjoyable ride for me- and the horses?

A: Keep Wild Heart moving. It’s the constant stopping that’s making this not fun.

Q: What can I change to fix it?

[analysis of the ponying experience thus far today]

A: I’m behind the action. I am letting her fall too far behind before I try to keep her moving and I’ve already ‘lost’ her. When she’s that far back I have no tools available to me… I need to get ahead of the problem.

Q: How?

A: I know it would work better if I kept her head right around my knee. I’ve been *thinking* I’d like her there but haven’t been prepared to keep her in place I’ve been allowing her to fall behind to Khaleesi’s hip then have no control at all by the time she’s behind and allow her to control us because if she stops there’s nothing left to do.

So I’m essentially training her to get behind and stop us.

Uh oh. That’s not what I want. 🤭

Q: now what?< em>

A: instead of waiting to react when it’s already too late, I need to correct her immediately when she gets a few inches behind and I still have access to my whole lead rope.< strong>

Q: can you do that with only one hand as you’re holding your reins in the other?< em>

A: 🤔 I don’t know.

This is when the magic happened.

I decided that for the solution I worked out I would need both hands to work the pony horse on lead properly… so… it made perfect sense to clip my reins (I was riding in a halter not a bit so that helped) to the carabiner on the front of the saddle and use both my hands to wrangle the pony while I used my body to ride Khaleesi.

And it worked.

The next 70% or so of the ride I rode K without any reins and was able to keep Wild Heart right next to me and in fact she was quite good there and did not stop anymore.

We wound our way through some forested sections where the trail is less defined, and I even took some sections at a trot and that was SO fun!

There were about 3 instances when I had to reach for my reins to back up and clarify my request but I was tickled that the process worked so well.

It wasn’t the ride I expected… but by being open to what was instead of what I had in mind I was rewarded with an experience where all those things I have been working toward came together!

And that felt pretty darn good!

What would love require?

Monday, January 15, 2018

I heard something recently that made me pause.

wait…

I’ll take a step back and fill on the context surrounding New Years resolutions.

Most often people look for ways to improve themselves in the new year, but this talk I heard asked a different question: what will you do to make the lives around you better this year?

There’s nothing wrong with trying to improve myself. However especially in the Western World we sometimes get so wrapped up in self-help and self-improvement that we miss the fact that we will never truly be fulfilled seeking self fulfillment. In the words of Andy Stanley:

If you spend your life living for yourself, at the end of your life you will have nothing but yourself to show for yourself.

In the end people don’t impact us because they ate healthy, got to the gym and got out of debt.

There are people who inspire me in my life and it is because they’ve made a difference in a positive way often sacrificing their own time and money and comfort for something they believed in. And the most important facet for me is it came from a broken heart and love- not out of anger, fear or hate.

I am fascinated by the major shifts of finding the thing that breaks your heart and walking away from fun or comfortable choices to make a difference there…

But also on a day-to-day scale as a lifestyle there is something much more basic which is the thought that gave me pause this week.

I generally put my own goals and interests over others. No, I don’t go around intending to get the best of everyone in some malicious way- but my pre-engineered human nature is ‘self-preservation’ and getting what I want. This doesn’t mean I don’t do random nice things (I’m actually pretty good at that…) but my default is doing and getting what I want. A gazillion small decisions go into this machine every hour. There are tons of books written about getting what you want… Not only is this perfectly normal, but I always have perfectly good justification for when it affects someone else:

  • There are endless loopholes: the rule doesn’t exactly cover this situation right?
  • There are the world’s low expectations: well it’s how she treated me when the situation was reversed, no one could blame me…
  • Rationalization: now he’ll know how it feels. He deserves it. What goes around comes around…
  • There are the things you know no one will see or notice…
  • And then what about doing the right thing for the wrong reasons? Being seen by other people as the good guy or assuming it will come back around and serve self in some way later on…
  • And of course the tally- I’ve done X amount of good things so I’m entitled to be selfish about this decision here… I’m usually a selfless giving person… most of the time….

But what would it be like to choose the more excellent way and ask not what is fair, required, expected, or seen by others but instead:

What would love require me to do?

This is still a horse centered blog (promise); I am still working one step at a time toward a 100 mile ride on this horse no one else has trained or educated but me.

So how does this look when applied to my horse?

How would this constant worldview shift affect my journey toward the goal?

When it comes to my horses, what does love require of me?

In reflection sometimes I’ve gotten this right: as in pulling out of my first 100 attempt last June because of a pulled shoe. My horse was officially not lame, and I could have had a ride farrier epoxy the nail holes and torn hoof and put on a new pad and shoe. But I knew that it wasn’t about the shoe. I had a big picture issue needing long term resolving and continuing as far as I could get until pulled by a vet would have been selfish of me. Love required stopping while ahead and going back to the drawing board (not for one ride but maybe months or a season!) to regroup on a new hoof plan and better nutrition etc.

And I’ve gotten it wrong … more than once.

Like the time two seasons back while I was still trying to sort out saddle fit and I knew her back was showing signs of soreness but breathed a sigh of relief when the vet cleared her to ride the next day. After all I’m working on it… it’s not that bad. The vets said she was fine. I knew better.

Worse still was the ride I pushed her through hard terrain without enough hoof protection and we finished but I knew I didn’t deserve that completion. My horse was not fit to continue. I got what I wanted at her expense. In that case it was mostly ignorance that hurt her but I had multiple opportunities that day to hear my horse asking for help and choose the more excellent way and I got it wrong over and over. She paid the price. I may still be working my way out of that mentally and physically with her.

Then there’s the ride I got it right by staying in and riding on- it’s not always about pulling out:

I came into the first vet check to have the vet question K’s soundness. I believed that she was fine. I had second opinions, I looked closer myself, I took her back to the vet and she was cleared by committee and we went back out. That was one of my favorite rides and she has never looked so good after a ride with as much energy and spunk as she did that night. She never showed a hint of being off.

But besides these big defining moments, I do believe that the small everyday lifestyle choices are more defining and more valuable.

I will choose to truly see my horse and her needs and remember to ask not what can I get done, force into place, shortcut or get away with… (and this doesn’t mean whatever she wants any more than one would indulge a child’s every wish all the time. It certainly includes continuing my education so that I know what my horse actually does need to be well balanced and healthy)

And in the human world when things aren’t fair, or they are trying my patience, seem unbelievable (I mean who could think that way… or say that thing…) or they don’t make sense… when people let me down… when they say unkind things… when it’s hard….

for 2018 I commit to asking…

What does love require from me?

Getting back out

Thursday, January 11, 2017

I’m grateful that the ‘snow day’ closing this week came on a day that turned out beautiful in the afternoon. And finally after weeks of bitter cold I got back out on into the Great Arena of the woods and had a really stunning ride.

I am trying a new pad in my boots from supracore. They are thin but I think will hold up longer and not difficult to cut to size. They are more expensive but if they work and last they will be well worth it.

It was refreshing to see light through the trees in 40 degree temps and little wind, with the happy dogs in tow (they have been cooped up more than usual lately too) and a horse that is following my lead so to speak more each time.

This is a quieter winter and I’m alone more but it’s been good to regroup and focus.

I have a good feeling about 2018.

Windchill

Sunday, January 7, 2017

There isn’t a whole lot happening on the farm at the moment. Thankfully these sub-zero windchill days are dry and we don’t have feet of snow to trudge through on top of the bitter cold and wind.

For the most part my mares seem content if not a little cranky and prone to short bursts of you’re too close to my hay pile antics. If a wind gust breaks a branch in the near woods or the spooky echo creaky sounds that come from the mostly frozen pond sends them cantering and bucking a few yard then walking nonchalantly back to whatever they were doing…

The worst of the bitter sub zero days I did blanket Khaleesi but in general she still prefers her own fur warming system.

I’m trying to remember to take a period to rest myself but I’m not so good at languishing inside by the fire. I’ll always remember my grandmother telling my mom to: sit down a minute once in a while. It seems like I have the genetic keep moving disorder too.

I am still pleased at the long term changes I’m seeing in Khaleesi as she approaches 8 years this March. Her body looks muscular in the right places, her neck is powerful she has a healthier in coat and hair and her feet are going to take some time but they are improving for sure in hoof wall quality with improved nutrition, proper trimming and better blood flow. I thought back about where I am in the changes:

  • Feed/nutrition: April
  • Barefoot & better trimming: June
  • Balance saddle (build topline): July

It seems like forever but I’m not even in a whole year yet with any of them. These are long term adjustments not quick fixes. Regardless I think this is going to be a strong year for her.

I suppose the only real news is the gelding herd (at my request) has been moved over so they cannot connect with my mares over the fenceline. I wasn’t sure this pseudo-herd was really what I wanted for mine but more important was the old fencing was beginning to suffer from the abuse of random mare kicks and too much leaning and pushing on it. The fence is perfectly fine without the interaction and I don’t want to take on mending fences if I don’t need to.

At the risk of stepping over into anthropomorphizing because horses do not really share our same thoughts and feelings …. Khaleesi is in the least looking for her gelding band and stands and the worst of the fencing that seemed to be a meeting place- and watches, waiting for them to return from the distant river pastures.

I feel a little sorry for her. I stood with her there in the freezing wind yesterday and just let her know I understood. Whether it’s the call of her hormones to reproduce, the need for a larger herd to be secure, or boredom in this cold season that I spend less time there- she does know there is something missing she wants back.

I rubbed her, scratched a few of her favorite spots and she breathed deeply and at one point wrapped her neck around me.

When I walk back to leave she will often follow- at least as far as the hay piles… but lately she just stands looking out over the fence into the distant fields.

One thing I have learned from this: I do care what horses adjoin mine. Though they cannot create real herds with a fenceline between they are affected by the social interaction. I will pay closer attention to that in the future as in some neighbors past have been old horses, disinterested… but this herd that came in the late fall she had really connected at least one or two of the top geldings, and this change which I believe is for the best seems hard on her for now and I’d prefer not to do it often.

Experiments in action

Monday, December 18, 2017

For those of you who have questioned my sanity lately you’re not alone. There have been times I’ve wondered if I’m on the right track myself.

I did not end up on a solo ride Friday. I found two mares a little stir crazy with the cold wind and spent more time in the field than I’d anticipated (based on recent days’ events.) Of course every day is different and I try to work with what I have each time.

I decided to use the bailing twine to bridge the gap between field and barn with Khaleesi and in a moment where she wanted to eat and I wanted to move forward I pushed just enough too hard that she responded in a way that meant leaving me… completely.

So she was loose in the yard yet again and that took a little more time than I’d anticipated retrieving her.

I did get the mare back and we made it into the barn where I turned her loose in the barn aisle and proceeded to take video of grooming and tacking up without a halter or lead.

This is where I feel like I should add do not attempt this at home disclaimer.

Not because it’s particularly dangerous but I can’t say if it’s actually helpful, could be frustrating if you don’t have the right mindset (frustration is never good with your horse), and could possibly end up being counterproductive in the end.

That all being said; as a process I am glad I did it- and the video was amazingly helpful: this I will recommend to ANYONE who would like to improve interacting with a horse. Just set up a tripod to video anything you are doing and you will learn more than you could probably ever pay anyone to teach you.

Watch what you do, how your horse responds to you and you will learn what is effective, what is completely ineffective (and worse) what instigates an unintended negative cycle.

It’s always humbling every time I do it.

Long story condensed, I eventually got my horse tacked up completely loose in the barn aisle (which meant getting better at asking her to come back to where we were working. Without a lead rope. I had to do it a lot because no, she did not stand still as if tied while not tied to anything.)

I decided after the almost 3 hours invested in catching, getting into the barn and then getting a saddle on without a halter or lead- and the frigid wind gusting outside being a very big factor- I took the saddle back off and walked very relaxed together (yes with the bailing twine) triumphantly in some ways… back to the field and released.

Here is one of the nice moments in the process.

Later I reflected if this is a total waste of time and if my alpha-mare is possibly looking at me wondering when I’ll get my act together and take her in, get it done and ride her for heaven’s sake.

Honestly I’m not sure if that’s too human a thought process or not in this case. This is why I’m doing these half crazy things. The only way I’m going to have a better understanding is if I take what I DO know… and see what happens when I work with it.

Saturday I had some errands out of town. I didn’t spend much time at the barn. I fed then haltered Khaleesi – did a little bit of leading in the field, released her and walked away. She followed me to the gate and along the fence with me as I left so I felt that was positive.

Sunday I went with the thought that MAYBE today could be the day I get back in the saddle. But I’ve learned not to get too set in any plan until I show up and see what is going on.

I haltered K after feeding and using the halter as I WOULD USE THE BAILING TWINE I brought her to the barn. Today I untied the halter from the lead leaving the halter in place in case I decided to use it.

I wanted to tack up again without tying but I saw some things from Friday’s video I wanted to improve and just having a halter on could help.

Specifically I wanted to be able to effectively return her to the area I was working in and discourage so much of her roaming the entire barn aisle. I also wanted to get more efficient without time pressure- just not waste so much time.

I rarely touched the halter, but the entire process improved from my perspective. The challenge was increased slightly as Wild Heart was calling like a banshee- she didn’t get Khaleesi back but did get the gelding herd to return and then was making tons of noise as she interacted with them.

🙄

For anyone joining recently, Khaleesi is a pretty high level (in the herd) mare. She is in charge out there and who can say what those ridiculous stupid horses are up to without her to keep them straight. That made keeping her attention harder than otherwise.

<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<
unday went better in some ways, struggle for me in others. Sanity again questioned. Some great moments, sometimes I was at a loss. Some hail-wintry mix sounding on the barn roof. And in the end the saddle went on and I decided this was a good day to get back up there.

So outside we went with the mounting stool.

Lots of activity in the field. Wild Heart has all kinds of action going on with the gelding herd.

My first attempt to get in the saddle she begins to walk off. I hop off and return to try again.

Second time she stands still until I get situated then she begins walking immediately without my direction toward the fields.

I know exactly what we’ll be doing today.

She walks fast to the field and I let her. When arrived at the fence line I turn her immediately around and return to the stool (where I had mounted and not asked her to leave yet.)

Check and tighten girth<
he heads back to the fields trotting this time.

It feels kinda good to trot again. I love riding my horse.<

hen return at same speed to mounting stool.

Tighten other side of girth.

…she doesn’t want to stand still- trot to the fields. I encourage her to move out. return at same speed to stool.

Relax.

Then….

Has to go back to fields.

Slow canter this time. Return same speed to stool.

Thinking. Waiting. Good.

I then ask an easy walk toward the gate (to exit property). I get most of the way there and she veers off at a quick trot to the fields again.

No prob. I understand. You think you HAVE to. I immediately turn us around again and we trot same speed back toward gate.

Rest. She pauses. Thinks.

Fidgets then heads back toward fields.

Quick trot there and immediate turn around we go back toward gate. Rest.

More relaxed. A little bit of thinking. Connection with me not the herd. Good.

I begin to walk easy back toward barn (we can end this now- good work).

En route to barn she picks up fast trot and veers back to fields. Again.

Ok not done quite yet.

Again not at all concerned (I can do this all day) I turn around and go back to exit gate.

Rest. Wait.

She relaxes. Just waits. Seems to ask what next?

Good.

After a few moments resting there i turn her back to barn and she goes quiet, willing and does not try to return to the herds.

Now we are done.

I stop in front of barn. Get off and immediately drop tack right there.

<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<
> khaleesi doesn't move a hoof though completely untied in the yard while I remove all equipment and boots. She then does a big course of yawning and chewing.

<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<
.. then I give her time to process what just happened.

<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<
en I then walk her quiet at calm back to the same fields she's been trying to get to all afternoon and release her back into the herd. She walks into the field completely calm as I walk away.

<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<
s I'm waiting near the fields watching alone, I notice something a little fascinating. The gelding herd has left my mares and made its way over to where I was standing. The last interaction I'd had with them was described roughly in my herd where I asked them to get off the fence line and give me space to work with my mares.

It seems they are at the least curious about me. You can see my mares watching in the background.

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verall it is a good day. I felt confident that today my saddle time was equally as effective at building our relationship as the ground time. And I plan to continue riding and working on trailer loading though I hope I can take the things I've seen in video and learned from the last couple weeks and improve my interactions as we get back to riding more consistently.

Rock & Roll

Friday, December 15, 2017

It’s been about two weeks since I committed to getting into my horse’s world and I’ve spent at least some time with them almost every day.

I felt pretty certain I would not ride again until I noticed a shift– at least some change in how my horse related to me. I feel good about saying that shift has begun and I’ve learned a lot in the process.

Here are some recent things that I feel good about:

Khaleesi began to come to the close corner watching for me when I arrived instead of the far corner of the field with her but toward the barn!

If Khaleesi walked off after eating, she walked slowly, not as far, and stopped after just a few steps to focus on me and invited me to approach her.

Most of the time I interact with her she is calm and quiet (not leaving me or running around connected to the other farm horses). In fact one cold day Wild Heart was super energized and took off at full gallop to the complete other end of the field – then turned around and came straight back for us. Khaleesi stayed with me at my side and watched her instead of running with or after her.

She has done a lot of processing and thinking even when I ask something simple and small- I believe what she’s processing a lot of the time is the change in me to ask her without any possibility of force (not even a halter) and how much more value I’ve put on her willing part of the process.

There have been times after working with her free, I’ve had her walking in step with me back to the gate without lead rope completely voluntarily.

The day it was going to be -6 windchill I took the blanket out to the field and allowed her complete choice over if she took the blanket and how I put it on and fastened it.

The day when I finished some ‘liberty’ ground work with Khaleesi, she followed me all the way in to the gate, then she stood a the gate while I left watching me walk to the barn.

Last, today I took my saddle out and with only a loosely draped lead rope (no halter) I saddled her completely with her cooperation for each step with great success- no fussing whatsoever- then took off the saddle and spend a few more minutes where she stayed with me, did some simple things like crossing her front over before I left with her closeby eating calmly.

So today I plan to be that tuned in to the entire process and include a short ride as a next step.

I got a message this week from a friend I haven’t ridden with in a while. A group conditioning ride for Saturday. I was very much looking forward to that so responded enthusiastically right away.

Then I thought about it.

🤔

The riders are great friends, good horse people, but I knew deep down that ride was not what I needed right now. It would be physically motivated and fit horses who would likely be moving along. I knew in my heart that the ride would mean Khaleesi disconnecting from me, connecting with a herd and just riding along ‘keeping up’ with the group.

Not to mention the time factor: needing to trailer somewhere at a certain time. I’ve been reworking my trailer loading and want to continue not having a time pressure on that for at least a few more days.

Add to that whole list the fact that they are women I enjoy and I would also be distracted by catching up with them – not giving my horse my full attention.

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new in my gut it would kill a lot of the good foundation I'd been recreating. That the ride was a selfish decision on my part in the moment and though there will be times that kind of ride will be perfect for us- not this week.

I had a very real sense of being tested that morning as I sent a second note explaining that I miss them and want to be there which prompted my first response but that I'm reworking a mental foundation with my horse and the timing isn't right for me. 😔

Of course they understood and I immediately had a peace about the decision. I think I passed that test and even if my horse doesn't exactly understand that- I chose her needs above my own in that case – not because she couldn't do the ride but because it wasn't the right ride for us – and it felt pretty fantastic!

So today… maybe a solo ride!