Horsey Therapist

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Riding Patterns

I read about riding patterns. I have done that a little, and could do it again. I even own a book of patterns to ride.

Sometimes I ask students to design and ride a pattern ("make a plan") although most of them are beginner therapeutic riding students learning the basics of how to steer successfully. These riders are blissfully without concern about the finer arts of knowing where the four corners of the horse are and influencing them, other than feeling the horse underneath them helping them accomplish moving from start to finish of the plan they created.

Honestly, I still do ride patterns a lot, or at least parts of patterns.

My patterns are different now from before. My patterns change often, when either it is going very well hence no need to ask any more for something via the pattern (for a second or so, that is) or it is not going well and I must change something in order to bring my horse's mind and body together again and together with what I have in mind for us.

What Harry Whitney told us really glommed onto me -- the stuff about frequent, frequent, frequent changes if your horse is braced. And my horse is braced any time he's thinking elsewhere and taking his body with his thoughts, away from where my intention is directing our bodies.

I might make a quarter circle and that's all it takes for us to be going 'straight' -- sounds weird to be going straight on a circle, but in this case 'straight' means the body is lined up with the mind going around a curve, in balance and with softness from poll to tail. I suppose that softness is from mind to mind -- his mind to my mind and my mind to his mind. But it shows up in our bodies.

(By the way, it is the horse's mind that moves the horse where I want him to go -- not me. My seat and reins and leg don't move the horse. Hopefully they communicate my intention to the horse's mind, and in his mind he understands and choses to go along with my direction, then his mind moves his body to the best of his ability in the manner and direction that I requested.)

Once we're together and going straight on the circle, I release him into going straight straight, feeling the goodness of those steps of straightness, all four legs reaching and responsive in harmony and balance, and feeling for when it's time to give us something next to do. Like two or three seconds, maybe fewer, maybe more. I don't tell him every step how to move. I ask him to do something and help him get straight and soft doing it with me, and when he's sliding into that lovely zone, I release him hopefully as he's getting ready, on the cusp, of giving what I'm asking.

When I hold my asking too long it interferes with his comfort and understanding of what I'm asking for. I overdo it often enough to get my own attention -- then comes a change after the awareness of problem. I've been focussing on finding the middle ground between underdoing and overdoing. Between asking late and failing to ask. Middle ground between asking too softly and asking too firmly -- neither is effective through and through. I suspect it's one of those lifelong missions -- finding better timing and better feel of asking and releasing, of 'please' and 'thank you'.

The green grass is lovely along the road sides now. Some of his thank yous today involved grazing. I do expect him to come back to me mentally and physically when I ask. But he really likes this green candy stuff. He would prefer I don't ask for his attention while he's enjoying himself this way!

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