Horsey Therapist

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Riding Rusty

I decided to ride Rusty today, and see what I could figure out about his seeming lack of enthusiasm about being ridden. He was easy to catch and halter and enjoyed being groomed while eating some hay in the barn. He stood for being saddled and came with me up to the riding ring.

I unhaltered him and left him in the ring while I went for my riding boots. It has been sooo wet and muddy I wear the muck boots most of the time, but not riding unless I'm in a saddle with safety stirrups.

He was standing where I left him. I thought about yesterday's ride on Sofia with halter and lead instead of bit and bridle, thought about how Rusty accepts the bit but not without first some expression of "no", and decided I'd ride him in the halter. I am working on trusting what he'll offer me, and trusting I can stay on him if he gets big, and trusting that he won't feel the need to get big anyway. I approached him with the halter in hand and he turned to walk off. Hmmm... Does he think I have the bridle in hand? Do I need to even halter him for this ride in the ring today?

I decided to ride him with nothing on his head. I put the halter over the fence and invited him with my hand under his chin to come with me to the mounting block which he did, and stood while I mounted. Then he/we walked off toward the far gate and stood there. I had already decided this was his ride, as much as I could manage. I was wondering if he's lack of enthusiasm was in response to how easy it is to direct him and hence my having gotten into over-directing him which to him ends up feeling like he doesn't have much of a say in matters and we all know that it gets old pretty quick when we spend time with someone who's running the show all the time.

Rusty stood with his head over the gate for about 5 minutes. I felt him breathing, I watched where he was looking, and breathed and waited. I livened up one leg to see what would happen and he shifted around then replaced his head over the gate. Very nice expression from him. Then I livened up one leg again and he walked off from the gate and stopped after about 10 steps.

We were there for about 15 minutes. Again I was feeling his breathing. Watching what I could of his expression when his face was tilted a bit. Feeling him when he took some bigger breaths and sighed and chewed a little. I was wondering if he was waiting for me to tell him to do something, go someplace, move... I didn't and he relaxed.

He cocked his right hind leg which put me off balance a little so I played around with letting my body lean out the way I was off balance from his stance. All in very slow motion. Holding on the the saddle, leaning, leaning, until I felt him start to adjust under me; then with him, I came balanced and upright as he did. More licking and chewing. Then in a few moments he cocked that foot again. Again I leaned in the direction his stance was putting me off balance and waited until he shifted and returned me to upright and balanced. He did this a few more times then cocked his left hind foot. Same response from me, then right hind, twice, and a step forward and all four feet under him, head relaxed, breathing regular, but somehow feeling a little different. Maybe feeling like he was allowing his awareness to include my presence in a different way. Less blocking or tension or something. I don't really know what words to describe it but it felt better.

As I knew I was due to switch gears and get ready to go dancing, I hopped off and thanked Rusty, and stood watching his breathing and his facial expressions for a few minutes before I walked off toward the gate closest to the barn. He followed and I haltered him and led him back to the barn where I untacked him and released him out the barn door to the paddock.

I look forward to having more confidence in reading the facial expressions. The nostrils, the mouth, the chin, the multitude of wrinkles and movement around the eyes. It is probably enough to know that either he's feeling OK inside himself, or he's not. What I might better attend to is what I can do to help him feel better, now. I hope today I added a little to his feeling better in my presence.

I have some wonderings about how his extra weight and possible metabolic issues might be involved with his lower energy. Dear, dear Rusty -- always gets me to thinking!

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