Monday, January 29, 2018
I’m at an odd sort of place where I could share a million little details of every barn visit… but then at the end I almost have nothing at all specific to say.
While I’m in the moment there are a ton of things going on… little conversations… things I’m learning (like which brush Khaleesi prefers or what happens when I change the angle of my approach to pick up a hoof… why did Khaleesi just send Wild Heart over to check me out instead of approaching first herself like she did yesterday… ) and at the time they are all fascinating and then looking back it becomes one far away landscape of… well that was good.
It’s a nice zone to exist in for the moment. It’s fun and rewarding and a glimpse of what I’ve been searching for since I began to consider getting a young horse back in 2013. A horse that only had what I put into her. For better or worse.
I spent an hour this week riding in the yard. It was a nice warm winter day and I tied Wild Heart safely nearby and let her watch us work. I used what was already there to do some things like weave through landscape posts, move her hind end around a support pipe in the ground, sidepass through the wider space in the posts… we trotted and walked and made a few circles and explored.
It was wildly fun. With each new maneuver I’d ask and let the mare figure it out. I gave her time to think and respond and process. She loved it. I loved it.
When we finished she was soft and connected to me.
Friday I decided to get out of the yard and the property and I took her to a place we can ride home from (we both love one way rides!). It was dry, warmish, and the footing was decent. I wanted to start getting back to some physical fitness.
I trust her solid base of physical conditioning. This mare has been on a break since mid-November for any serious physical rides but I am not worried at all. The physical will be easy for her to regain.
What I’ve done for the past two months is really deepen our mental work learned what I needed to understand to be a better leader so my horse is more focused on me and beginning to understand what I’m asking (and care) and it’s been a million times worth it.
I’ve looked around me a while…. years… and wondered what seems off. Something just didn’t quite add up.
I mean we look at these amazing creatures– see them in a field or in the wild or maybe on a video and they are magic. They draw us (many of us). We want the magic. We dream of being that figure riding bareback holding onto mane and galloping through a field with no groundhog holes. Then it gets more real and some imagine jumping great fences on an athlete, some picture (wait… no one actually dreams about working cattle do they!?)… some imagine the perfect dressage moves with an intimate communication only between you and the magic creature, some dream of exploring lonely new territory on their best buddy or maybe sharing the trails with a herd of human friends and equines 5 days a week, and some dream of 100 mile rides testing all their endurance, spirit and skill: human and equine… but all of us want that magic of befriending a 1000 pound majestic creature who will do anything for us… together… [music crescendos here!!]
Then just go to a show… an organized trail ride camp… even a solitary barn.. anywhere there are horses and you see reality: physical tactics (human will or tools usually both) applied to get it done because the horse along the way said to some degree: no thank-you. I’ll pass. Your idea is stupid… or confusing… or something I’m not capable of today… or maybe I don’t like the way you treat me.
If we can’t have the magic, we begin make due with boring reality. But what’s so amazing is with a horse… even just boring reality is so good we are usually still happy… sometimes we pretend things are all good and that might even work most of the time until things escalate.
Sometimes this comes in the form of a horse that gives up, becomes “respectful” and performs even to the point of long term injury to itself. Sometimes it comes in the form of little annoying things that make it just not fun anymore: hard to catch, paws, doesn’t stand well for tacking up, drags me or drags her on the lead, refuses to load on the trailer or a million other small things we work around… or shows up in refusals that end up dangerous: nipping, biting, bucking, spooking all the time, rearing, running off with us…
Sometimes people get on the horse mill looking for the magic one, sometimes they stick it out with the one that isn’t working and keep trying things to make the horse magical. Many horse people have such an iron will they are pretty good at insisting (hand raised here) and the horse has learned the consequences are usually not worth the trouble. Even more sad some people just give up on horses altogether… let down because the magic ended up so elusive, it was like believing too long in santa claus.
It’s really easy to point my fingers around… but as with every blog I post I know because I am guilty.
Yes. I have used physical force and training to fix my horse when I created the problem to begin with. I will probably do it again unfortunately and I am sorry in advance and promise to try to do better.
I have come to believe through my searching that a big part of why this magic is so elusive is because we want something completely magically “two as one” but most of us seem to be so limited to the tools of unmagical physical attempts (at least I was).
Can we imagine for a moment wanting a relationship with someone…. but let’s say we don’t share a language. So instead of slowing down and trying to find common language- which could take years especially since I’m not a language specialist… that’s too long… instead I start to drag the other around by the arm doing all the things I want him or her to do with me with very little understanding.
The point that sticks out to ME the most in this example is what do I really want?
If I really want the other person and the magic with them- it doesn’t matter how long it takes, I’ll always keep them as the center. I’ll never push them beyond what they understand. But if what I really want is to DO STUFF with someone else (you’ll do, come with me) then I’ll get bored with the process and drag them around to the activities I’d been so looking forward to.
I recently heard a quote:
Do not give up on what you really want ultimately for something you think you want right now.
So after 10 years I want a healthy horse who still wants to work with me because she wants to BE WITH ME. [magic]
If I build it focused on her, I have a better shot at that.
[It definitely helps that I have a horse I adore.. though most do, sometimes theres that horse you ended up with somehow is an animal you don’t really like… well… that’s a little harder to sort out.]
The short term view is pushing her to do my activity and find tools and use my will to get it done so that at some point I risk causing physical damage because she goes along “respectfully” even when she’s not thriving, or I turn her off to the process and she eventually says: I’d rather not.
However the question really becomes one of: does the magic really exist (after all it’s a horse) or do I need to settle for kind of… enslaving an animal to do my activity. (This isn’t the worst thing right? we treat them well, feed them, shelter them, LOVE them… it could be worse.. I mean some of these horses are incredibly spoiled right?)
Anyone who reads my blog knows how I feel…
I believe in the magic. I’ve seen it. I know it’s real. I will chase it until I die in pursuit.
I do want to complete a 100 mile ride. I don’t have a talented Arab. I have a local grown mixed up bred horse that I happen to adore. So I need more than physical fitness, I’m going to also need brain and heart.
But there also IS a physical component! Without question.
Can’t I do both at the same time?
No. Well not yet.
Some people can!! I know some of them. They inspire me!
But I’m getting closer… I’m definitely beginning to see some magic.
But magic being what it is, one still has to learn it. I have to learn it- she’s a horse for goodness sake, she may carry the magic, but I have to sort out how to access it. And she has to choose to give it to me, I can’t ever take it, just like you can’t make someone choose you no matter how much you want them to- in a relationship it only thrives when all is given freely.
She may never be as intelligent as me, but it’s going to take a lot of effort for me to become even half as sensitive and observant as she is, and no matter how much I LOVE this mare, it won’t matter if I don’t get better and understanding HER world. I’m going to have to somehow begin to train myself to be sensitive and observant on that kind of level.
No wonder Monty Roberts works with deer herds!
That’s what’s been going on in my barn these winter months. Slow, messy, human education.
My Jedi powers are finally getting stronger. I felt more than ever before that I could think it and she did it. Not perfect. She didn’t always stop on a dime without a feel on the reins but sometimes she did… she didn’t always slow back down when she wanted to canter and I was saying trot right away- but sometimes she did!
That ride was mostly trot and canter with some walking mixed in. She was a little out of breath and got a little sweaty but the mare did great and I have no doubt she’ll regain that fitness and strength without any problem.
So in the physical:
I cannot express how blown away I am by the changes that continue to occur with the Balance saddle. More and more often I can feel her lifting her back into the saddle as we go along. Especially on the downhills and also uphills. This made me wonder yesterday –
So many people say if you want to build your horse’s topline go climb hills, or back up hills… but I’ve been riding hills every ride of this mares life with me and though that might make my horses naturally more muscular in the topline than someone in the flatlands… methinks now that you can ride all the hills you want to but if the horse isn’t carrying herself like this you are never going to get the result you really want.
I noticed good changes immediately when I switched – but the effect is compounding over time and 8 months.
In other physical news her feet are getting better all the time. They are not where I envision them yet, but hooves takes years to grown so I’m working on patience and seeing the positive changes as progress.
Not having shoes for going on 8 months now her feet are a better shape (not so narrow and long), growing gradually more underneath her, and ever so slightly LARGER!! This is huge (literally 😆)
I’ve had to go up a boot size in the rear thank you Scoot boots for the slim sizes- they are still best on her hind feet. The new size 3slim boots with the supracore pads stayed on 100% in varied terrain and every gait including some full throttle canter sprints on Friday.
The front boots are still doing well though I had to reattach the front right pattern strap once toward the end of the ride.
And beside them staying on and allowing me to improve khaleesi’s hoof quality and size, something really stood out to me on this ride:
She cantered through the rock piles.
There are 3 ‘strips’ of the trail home that have about a 4 ft swath of large rocks that are now somewhat embedded into the trail but may have been leftover from years back when the road was used for logging. This horse knows where they are. I know where they are. We ALWAYS slow down and pick through them. I have no problem with that- they are some ugly rocks. It’s reasonable.
She ran. Right. Over. Them.
All 3 sections of them.
I hope this could be a sign that the hoof program is going in the right direction. Especially because I am the hoof program!But I’m a little afraid to hope too much too early.
I firmly believe that the time I’ve been spending learning my human part to meet her where she is and seek the magic at the risk of not meeting my physical goals or getting done my plans for the day… just as in how a human will do better physically when their spirit and mind are in order, has compounded what is going on with her physically as well.
Maybe. Though it’s still too soon to tell… I have this little hope… Just maybe.
This really is the year for this mare.