Horsey Therapist

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Riding the smaller ones

Recently I rode a 15.2 hand Morgan. And a 12 hand Shetland. And another 11-12 hand pony.

Riding a pony is like sitting on a silent jackhammer. Riding a big horse is like sitting on a rocking chair. Funny though -- the fall from the jackhammer lands you on your feet, pretty much guaranteed. A fall from the rocking chair -- well, who knows how the landing will be. There is time to swing and sway and do somersaults before making contact with the ground.

I did not fall off any of them yesterday. I wondered about one ride. The ride which was not properly preceded by adequate groundwork to determine if the equine's mind was with me -- responsive, soft, attentive, and waiting for some direction from me.

With the biggest one and the littlest one, I spent the time before mounting to tilt the odds in my favor that I was going to be safe. Smart me.

It was not just about determining my safety. It was just as importantly about checking in mentally and emotionally with the horse. Gently and slowly establishing a communicative contact through which the horse got a better understanding of my questions and how well I listened to his answers. Through which I got a better understanding of the horse's questions and how well he listened to my answers. When I take the time to do this, each and every time I initiate contact, it is likely to get sweeter and sweeter between us.

I've been reading some articles on Ron Meredith's website. (Link on this page under Meredith Manor.) Sofia's trainer at Fair Winds Farm studied with Ron Meredith. I like what she was doing with Sofia and I like how my horses are responding to my experimenting with what I watched her do and practiced under her guidance. I'm putting quite some effort into one aspect that comes through time and time again: paying attention to the horse, tuning in, being there. Oh, I'm plenty good at doing this, however I am as likely to let my attention drift off as I am to focus. So I'm expecting more focus from myself. And more focus from the horse.

It means less socializing around the horses. That's not new to me. I remember riding when I lived in Maine and slowly finding myself riding alone because alone was better for me and my horse than riding with some folks who were more intent on chatting, galloping, or having 'fun' at the expense of the connection with the horse. Fortunately I have some riding friends who understand, even embrace, the approach to horsemanship that I value. These friends will wait patiently when I need to help my horse be with me mentally instead of getting frustrated or continuing down the trail, calling over their shoulder that I can catch up when I'm ready.

It takes a community to grow a good horseperson. It takes a community to grow a good horse.

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