Horsey Therapist

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

A three horse day

I started this a few days ago, but never did finish it. So much keeps happening in my riding time that I'd have to do some serious memory retrieval to write more about my time with Kacee.

Today I rode three of our horses. For a short while I got into expecting and comparing, not only one horse to another, but today's ride to yesterday's. Then I remembered how different we all are day after day, and refocussed on the present moment to get a better feel of who I was riding right then.

Soli took me 98% of the way on a nice loop trail ride. 2% involved some coaxing away from freeze dried pasture under the snow in the field we crossed.

Rusty continued to offer a great amount of life! Phew.
(I'll write about today's ride soon -- we had a couple of breakthroughs after a couple of close-to-breakdowns.) Ok, I am commited to supporting this, really I am. I prepared for a possible trail ride on him because, after all, I had such a nice trail ride on Soli, maybe just maybe Rusty would be ready to carry me out there, too, today.

Not.

But we did add some directing that felt fine to both of us, and I did continue my risk taking which left me a little breathless but indeed safe. That's my bottom line, being safe and acting like I feel safe even if I don't feel safe.

I rode Rusty with the web sidepull. He seemed a little reluctant to enter the arena. I thought he might be getting bored with any degree of predictability so I rode him outside the arena seeing where he wanted to be (near barn, near paddock where other horses were, investigating the chicken pens). That changed his mood and he started heading up to the porch on the house and around the bird feeders and generally wanting to go places we usually never go because in most seasons, it's the lawn and garden area! So I had chances to use the reins as minimally as possible to steer us clear of low hanging branches for example. I got tired of that, dismounted, and led him to the arena. He came more willingly this time.

I decided I really wanted to keep offering him my trust so although I left the sidepull on, I removed the reins. We rode around a little like that. He was moderately forward, not as fully commited as yesterday and nowhere near as stuck as before. I got wondering about some subtle ambivalence he might be picking up on from me.

I played around with livening up when he got close to where he wanted to be (gate) and riding quietly with him when he was adventuring out from there. He seemed to be showing me what Kacee later showed me, that any pressure meant 'do something different'. I got thinking later how I really need to be clear about the difference between livening up as 'find something else, keep searching' and livening up as 'more energy in motion'. I think it's whether my energy is understood as pressure or release, interruption or permission/invitation. I have to think about this more.

Wanting to try out giving him some learning breaks between 'lesson' time, I dismounted and headed out on foot at the walk then sped up. Rusty was right with me, raising my little fear meter a bit, he was that close and I'm never certain what he understands about my vulnerability as a human compared to his as a horse. In any case, I urged him to go play elsewhere which didn't interest him, but he did stop and stand there, so I walked off.

This time toward the back gate. He stood and watched me, and after I opened the gate and mentally invited him to come check this out, he did a gorgeous gallop depart and hurried on over, hesitating briefly when I stood in his way, and headed right out when I made room for him. I was unsure where he would go but expected/hoped he'd head over to where some tall grass stuck out from the snow. These horses are so predictable about 'fresh' grass!

He ate as I approached him and picked up the lead, then followed me with some reluctance back into the arena. I left the door open thinking he could carry me out there once I mounted him. I put the reins on the sidepull rings just in case I had the urge to steer, mounted, and he was ready to go. But surprised the heck out of me by galloping/leaping/bucking off toward the other end of the arena. He proceeded to get a little stuck there, giving me time to grasp a bit better how his brain works. He was excited about going out the gate, but apparently failed to remember the gate that was still wide open at the other end of the arena, right next to where I mounted him.

So I did some of the discourage him from stopping stuff and it wasn't long before he had a good look down the arena and registered the open gate there. I admit to holding on to horn and cantle all the while, partly expecting him to bolt down there and out the gate. But he walked...

When we were out, he went up a small hillside where he'd never been before. Hmm, several events like this today -- the lawn and garden areas, and now this hillside. We got close to some wire I wanted us to avoid so I used a rein to invite a change of direction, and with that change he picked up speed, fast! Again I was grateful for my holding on preparation and my prior commitment to going with the energy he offers. We cantered and bounded around the outside of the arena, through a sharp left turn toward the barn, down a slope and to a stop. I'm thinking yikes, so many places we could have slipped but we didn't.

I dismounted. I mounted again and asked him to take me someplace. This was a short session as he took me through the garden and across the lawn again, I steered him off in another direction around the bench and out to the road via the mailbox, and he headed back to the lawn. I dismounted again and figured that was better than my starting to steer him away from where he wanted to be. I can follow up on this another day, when I feel ready to re-introduce more steering.

Kacee was next. I had wanted to ride Sofia but she has two obvious bumps on her belly. Warm to touch. I suspect she was kicked by someone shorter than her. (Guess who!) I'll keep an eye on those; hopefully they will go away. The back girth of the western saddle would sit on them. Not something I want to do to her.

Kacee took a few minutes to say 'yes' to my putting a rope around her neck and leading her into the barn. She was good about grooming and saddling. Because I had high falootin' ideas about riding her on the trail, I bridled her up.

I can see my commitment with her is different than my commitment with Rusty. I'll have to get right with her sometime. I have periods of time when I treat her fairly, not overexposing her, not expecting her to take me places when she's not mentally with me, stuff like that. But today was not one of those, again. I could be ashamed but instead I consider it good practice being a fallible human being. Plus I didn't feel ashamed and guilty and all bound up with those emotions, so this is progress.

I decided with her, I would expand the territory in which I played around with leading her away from where she wanted to be, and letting her carry me to where she wanted to be. I led her quite a distance from the barn, paying attention to where her mind was, once in a while stopping to gaze with her back toward her herd, once in awhile seeing what it took to direct her mind elsewhere, and most of the time just going for walk with her at the end of the lead.

When she started to get a little antsy -- well, shortly after she started to get a little antsy, I got her mind with me, turned her to face the direction we came from, mounted and released her to walk off toward home. We had a couple of minor discussions about speed, and she accepted my walk limit and carried me with life and purpose. It does feel good! How I wish I would maintain the patience and commitment and sensitivity with her to go through the baby steps to build to the time when she will carry me away from home with the same amount of eagerness!

Perhaps a tall order for both of us. Then again, like with Rusty, perhaps I will be mighty surprised by how quickly things can change for the good.

We did this a second time, and because I had asked her to go even further beyond her antsy spot, she wanted to carry me home as fast as she could, which I discouraged as gracefully as I could. Then we spent time going past the driveway, turning, going past the driveway again, turning, etc. etc. etc. Unfortunately across the road is some barbed wire fence in disrepair around a vacant overgrown field. I say "unforunately" because she became interested in carrying me into that field area and I had to prevent that. But she did make a change in her readiness to be with me, letting go of her strong magnet to the barn, and at that point I asked her to take me around the arena and in the back gate. What life!!! Some worry with it but willingness. I consider this progress with Kacee.


I wonder why I am so likely to disregard her feelings and ask her to go places she'd rather not.

Hmmm, I learned something with Sofia yesterday. Maybe that's the key. It was about staying mentally available and connected even when the horse is mentally gone.

1 Comments:

At 24 January, 2007 21:23, Blogger ZinniaZ said...

"I wonder why I am so likely to disregard her feelings and ask her to go places she'd rather not."

This is really interesting. I wonder, too. I think I do this too annnnd I think it ties in with some of my questions about why I ride Will the way I do and why you ride different horses the way you do. Maybe you should describe her and that will give clues.

 

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