Horsey Therapist

Friday, November 30, 2007

Blending, and finding the "we"

Blending means a couple of things to me.

Until recently when I talked of blending, I talked about 'getting with the horse'. That could actually entail walking with him, mimicking his footsteps, following him around like he and I were a herd. When a horse is not so interested in tuning in to me, this seems to help. I tune in to him and at some point, he feels together with me enough to tune into me in return. I might blend/follow the horse when he trots off instead of chasing him or standing there -- matching tempo and rhythm even if I don't cover as much ground as the horse. At some point, it starts feeling different and I can experiment with initiating something -- a turn, a change in gait, a look in one direction... and the horse will reflect what I'm doing or my energy level.

Recently in a clinic with Mark Rashid, I was exposed to a new meaning for blending. And I am new to this so I may explain it much better in the future when hopefully I personally know more about this blending. I understand it comes from Aikido, and research on google revealed the essay on Page 7 of this webpage (http://www.aikidoinstitute.org/kiai/kiai_vi_1_30_year.pdf) which helped me formulate in my mind what I want to say. Blending is physical and mental. It is being centered and open to others' ideas and movement, possibly being influenced but not losing my center. Blending happens for example when in Aikido one falls to the mat and staying centered, controls the fall and blends with the mat. Because I fell on the ice today, I think I know just what that feels like -- I was not hurt in the fall, not embarrassed or mad, not blaming or bruised. I simply fell and got up.

I am eager to learn more about blending because Mark applies this with horses (and from his report, all of his life) and that is my prime interest! Theoretically I get the idea, but in action, unsure of what I'm doing. An example, my horse raises his head when I go to check his teeth, instead of my prior practice of asking him to lower his head and 'help me out', I move my hands with his head with a little bit more energy than he is using, and when I feel him bringing his head down, I go with that and proceed with the teeth checking. There is a 'going with' aspect that I like and although I feel awkward at times, it seems to make a difference in that I'm not in a correcting or adjusting frame of mind, just in a being with the horse and what he's doing and also waiting for an opening when he is quiet and present and ready.

This afternoon I was with my young mare Sofia. She became greatly reluctant to have anyone in her mouth after I let a vet administer a tube of antibiotic. He was hurried and didn't know to wait for her to be ready. It was forceful, she was confused and upset, and if I had known it was going to be like that, I would not have allowed it. But I did and she was quick to create a limit about anyone near or in her mouth.

Because this has created trouble for the equine teeth floater, I have now and then spent time with Sofia focused on her feeling better about my fingers near and in her mouth, and also accepting a floating tool in her mouth.

My plan today was to help her feel OK about a floating tool in her mouth without any tasty distraction/incentive -- molasses worked well in the past but I'm commited to a purist idea that I potentially can do this with feel.

I kept returning to the thought of softening while I was with her, and I kept returning to my effort to slip the tool into her mouth and move it into position for contact with her teeth. We did it. I have to say "we" because if this mare doesn't want to do something, it ain't gonna happen. She had to feel OK about it or else all she has to do is raise her head. She is taller than me and quickly can move out of my reach.

So I remembered to find softness time and time again. I breathed consciously. I noticed when she was soft and ready for my next try. We did it. I was able to insert the tool and scrape on her teeth on each side. I was soft. She was soft. The struggle of the past was replaced by softness shared by us. It was remarkably easy. I think this was in the realm of blending. I got a sense of the 'we' feeling -- different from the feeling of me and her even when I'm being kind and thoughtful.

Next week I will observe an Aikido class for the first time. I am eager to start training -- curious about all the wonders ahead of me. Already I will say the changes in me are filtering pleasantly into my marriage -- finding the "we" even as our individuation is clearer and clearer.

In re-reading what I've just written, I wonder if the blending I have been doing is perceived by the horse as the blending I'm just learning about. My prior concept of blending has been about me and horse. My new concept of blending is about meandhorse.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Keeping the circle round on the ground

I was playing around at dusk yesterday. Gosh, the earlier descending darkness surprised me! Rusty was my play partner and thinking about it this morning, there are some new things I experimented with.

While circling and furthering our experience of me asking with most subtle cues before going to larger behaviors, I put my attention again to asking with my imaginery change of gait. I was more successful but I guess I expected to be even more successful than I was. That might fall under the category of greed, however no 'might' about this: it falls under the category of expecting rather than being there nonjudgmentally with what is. Yeah, I did some nonjudgmental, too, but it's remarkable the pressure I bring by expecting more than the more I am already getting. I am appropriately proud (is that an oxymoron?) that I did not create discord by putting so much pressure on Rusty with my expectations of more-more.

Run-on sentences. Sorry. I am eager to put these things down in words -- lots happened yesterday.

OK, so I was playing around with transitions again and they were better. I started focusing (hmm, too many things I was trying to address?) on the roundness of our circle, or the lack of roundness. I did my usual of sort of thrusting my hips out into the space between us in my apparently ineffective attempt to own that space so he would stay out at a consistent distance and not cut through, followed by arms and end of rein flopping or flailing in his direction. I really should get someone to video tape me though I'm not sure I could tolerate seeing exactly how ridiculous I can look doing ground work with this horse!

Because I am intent on developing more intrinsic communication with my horses, I started thinking, what else can I do? And up from my memory popped the idea of my personal bubble of space -- this time the bubble was more the consistency of (anyone remember this stuff?) the sort of rubber cement bubble material -- came in a little tube with a straw, take a small blob and put it on the end of the straw and blow really, really hard but created a stiff bubble? Anyway, I had this bubble around me, the radius set by the distance that I wanted between us on the circle, and then I sort of put some extra stiffness in the bubble material as we approached the arc of the circle where Rusty wanted to take his short cut to sort of prevent him coming into the bubble. This helped!

Then I resumed my focus on walk trot transitions. I was playing around with exhaling for the transitions and mentally creating a space ahead of us that he could trot into. I felt my previous focus on lights eminating from my shoulders and hips wasn't working well, mostly it was a lot to keep track of mentally -- maybe that is why it didn't work as I couldn't keep track of the imagery and keep connected with Rusty. Yeah, that's it. It became more of a 'doing' thing than a 'being' thing, which doesn't work for me or for Rusty. Now I recall Mark telling a rider to try one new image at a time... I need to remember that.

There I was trying out all sorts of exhales! In hindsight, I was probably jumping from one to the next to the next and not giving us time to be connected and see his response. I wasn't seeing enough so tried something else. Hmm, this same theme again...

Mark Rashid had mentioned a few different ways of exhaling while working with one rider at the October clinic, so I tried those and some more -- tongue up on the roof of my mouth when I exhale, tongue on the floor of my mouth, stiff tongue, loose tongue, slow steady exhale of breath, quick single burst of an exhale, quick series of exhales, exhales in time with each foot pushing off... and more.

I do need to try this again in slow motion. It was almost dark by then and I had some of my "I want it to work darnitall" determination going. Pushy of me!

Then it occurred to me to tune into his hind legs for the transition. Now that made a difference. Both tuning into his hind legs and sort of imagining I was inside his center, or my center was connected with his center, but it wasn't such an intense thinking deal like the lights from my shoulders and hips thing, it was more a ... hmm, a softer thing (wow, realization in hindsight!) of me looking at him with soft eyes (concept ala Sally Swift) -- looking at his hinds and feeling them start to thrust more, and looking at his core area and feeling him loosen and stretch out into a relaxed forward trot.

It happened!!

I want to remember what really worked, to integrate this. It was not the specifics of what I did, but the quality and clarity and the connectedness that I allowed accidentally -- and from now on I want to allow that on purpose!

The other new thing was asking Rusty to jump over some blue plastic 55 gallon drums like I saw TH do at the clinic (and yes, have seen on TV, too). Rusty is sooo ready to leap! More on that at another time. I do hope I can ride with Kathleen Lindley next June when she comes to New Hampshire!

ADDENDUM: More thinking about the bubble of space, and wondering how to have a bubble of space around me while having a bubble of space that encompasses both me and my horse...

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Stiff horse...

A new blogging colleague (Hi VC!) has asked for suggestions with how to help her young mare loosen up. She has recovered from Lyme disease and is still stiff in her hindquarters, noticably not reaching enough with her hinds at the trot. I will share a few thoughts about what I might do...

First of all, I would check my own body for stiffness. Even in groundwork, stiffness in my body will be reflected by my horse. There are numerous ways to release stiffness -- sometimes a good walk across uneven terrain will do wonders, as well as yoga and other approaches to stretching and strengthening around all the joints...

Second of all, I would check that her feet are feeling fine. Anything systemic -- illness and/or treatment for illness -- can affect the health of the feet. If the feet are uncomfortable, the rest of the body ain't gonna move well.

I like backing up for many things, especially for strengthening the hind end. Backing up softly, on the flat, on an incline. The soft part is important so start with developing the feel for a back up that feels like you are touching a glider or moving an ounce of nothing on a well oiled surface of ball bearings. Smooth, easy, weightless. Get that feeling on the flat before asking on an incline.

Cavelettis will help a horse reach with fronts and hinds. To be precise, you can trot her on a freshly raked surface then measure her stride and set up the cavelettis accordingly. If she's not used to moving over them, I would start with the poles set at her stride length, and once she's used to them, spread them an inch at a time.

I also like visualizing how I want my horse to move. This requires good observation skills then to see if the horse is making the change you are visualizing. I don't expect these changes to persist at first, but over time they will become more like habit. Assuming I don't drill or otherwise overdo the effort expected. Also assuming I release my horse for making an honest try, for making a change in the direction I'm looking for. I might start with picturing the inside hind reaching 3 inches further for one stride, or something like that.

Turns on the forehand are the lateral workout for the hindquarters, so a smooth, calm stepping over for a step or two or three may be helpful.

Of course massage and passive range of motion of the joints may also help. If there is a good chiropractic vet around, you might get some guidance from her or him how to do this.

Can you pony her out for a fun ride on some trails? If she's willing to walk, trot, canter, she may work some of the stiffness into good condition that way before she is also expected to carry the rider. If she has residual pain in her joints, she might benefit from some herbal pain relief for a week or more or less. I like a devil's claw liquid formula I get at the feed store. You might check with your vet if this is an OK idea after Lymes treatment.

If any readers of this blog have additonal thoughts about this, please share them!

Meandmyhorse

Another concept from Mark Rashid. And one that brings questions.

Mark pointed out to several riders that they were riding on their horse rather than riding with their horse. That they were on the movement, not in the movement.

I realize more and more (again thanks to Mark Rashid and his assistant Crissi) how some energy blocks and stiffness in my joints prevent me from moving with my horse. So to some degree even if my heart and mind are open to becoming this meandmyhorse unity, I wonder whether I can if my body is tight.

I also wonder, if my body is tight and/or energy is blocked, what part of tightness or defensiveness in my mind is that reflecting? Thank goodness this is a forever path of becoming soft. Not an either/or situation. And yes, today, to some degree I can choose defensiveness or softness. But the parameters of this softness I can choose is what will keep changing.

I already notice some differences in my horses, my keenest mirrors here at home. Little things (big things!) like when I reach for my horse through the reins, I can feel him there, responding back to me with a question, an openness: what now, my Friend?

And this is what I wanted from my clinic time with Mark. Something I never did verbalize at the clinic but which I clarified for myself before the clinic. I wanted to know how to change the feeling from Rusty when I ask him for something from 'what now?' to 'what now'?

Ok, so how do I express in two dimensional print media the difference between those two questions?! Maybe I don't. Maybe you can use your imagination to guess what I do not want and what I do want as respresented by those same two words but different feelings, different inflections, different tones of voice...

In any case, I got that from the clinic. And how did I get that? Probably by allowing Mark to direct me, and being open to the softness he brings to every horse, every rider, and aspires to bring to every moment -- every moment. And bringing home with me those memories and my commitment to softness as a way of life.

So, maybe right now I am still "me and my horse" but I am aware of something else, have memories from childhood riding that I know with full confidence I can recapture, no, that I can resume living, of being "meandmyhorse". And I'm actively pursuing increasing my energy flow and reducing the blocks, not just watiing for the magic to happen...

Waiting for the magic

Mark Rashid talked about this numerous times in the October clinics in New Hampshire last month. Waiting for the magic. Too many of us do that with our horses. We ask for something then wait for the horse to do it. We help the horse do something, then sit back and expect the horse to carry on with what we had asked. These are two examples of what I can think of that fit this 'waiting for the magic' idea.

He urged us to Create the Magic! Be the Magic!

What I took from this at the time, was keep staying present with my horse when I am handling or riding him. Again and again and again, be present and responsive, just as I want my horse to be. Oh yes, and soft. Offer softness first...

The magic is there, in fact it is here, now. But do I believe we can do magic together? Now? Or do I think/expect/assume that first we have to do X, Y, or Z before we're ready to become magical together?

Thanks to the influence of Mark and his current and past teaching assistants, I am changing how I am with my horses. I am practicing being how I want us to be. Practicing being soft, being present, practicing creating the attunement and connectedness I want, and even practicing assuming that state right now, rather than assuming we may achieve it later.

Some of it is a feeling state I intentionally will bring on, like feeling excited enough to burst into a canter heading out someplace. In fact we are in the arena, the same arena we've ridden in for the last few weeks of rifle hunting season. But that doesn't really matter! What matters is what feelings I nurture in my heart. When I feel eagerness and anticipation, I can create that magic for us. Perhaps what I'm doing is not creating it, but connecting with that magic where the horse already lives, and connecting without asking the horse to temper or dull out his intrinsic delight in being alive.

Of course part of MY journey of creating the magic includes directing the magical energy. *g* Not just sitting there and hoping for my horse to magically do what I want, but directing how the magic manifests, and of course directing with the most softness I know to offer today.

I have some notes from my clinic time about this 'waiting for the magic' concept. I will get those notes edited and up on my clinicnotes blog! Exactly when? Not sure. But I will...

Monday, November 26, 2007

Special horses

A woman I know took this picture recently and gave me permission to put it here on my blog. There is something deep in these horses that comes through the photo.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Bringing softness and body awareness to ground work

A friend who studies often with Mark Rashid wrote to me about body awareness and softening during ground work as well as while riding. It was good for me to start thinking about ground work with these added components.

I rode Kacee Saturday afternoon and did ground work with Rusty. I tend to avoid ground work with Rusty as I've worked out most things with him much better from the saddle. But, I admit, I always know that someday I'll figure it out in the ground work, too. I'm not one to skirt the issues, not for too long that is.

I re-started ground work with Rusty about a year and a half ago, after I had a bad fall off him and before I mounted after recovering. I was convinced at that point I was missing some things regarding reading where his mind is and what he is feeling, and was determined to find them on the ground before I got on him again. Self preservation -- I was hurting after that fall!

The most remarkable thing I recall from those days in the round pen was the day I was walking with him, at his hip. For whatever reason, we had never figured out how to walk together like that, and certainly never did anything where I was at a distance from him while he was moving around, like free lunging. With halter and lead rope, I could do quite a bit, but without, nada. In fact, we had gotten into some energetic conflicts with me swinging a rope in desperate hopes to either move him forward or back him off, and him on his hind feet, either challenging me in response or defending himself. Whatever the reason, not pretty, very scary, and yes, dangerous.

So, that day I was feeling safe enough to be at his hip, and we were together enough so I was successful at influencing him to walk on with me, following my feel for forward. I kept thinking about Harry Whitney's talking about doing things 'with' the horse (even at a distance), not 'to' the horse.

Our walking path changed directions (no, not magically -- simple due to the fact that Rusty was choosing our direction and I was happy enough to have chosen that we were both walking together someplace without any halter and lead involved. I found myself between Rusty's hip and the round pen panels. I had a worried thought that I might get hurt there, that Rusty might squash me into the panels. As I had that thought, Rusty's head came up and he froze, standing there holding his breath. I was startled by this, and at first it added to my worry, thinking oh my, what is he going to do now?! Then I had the realization that he was responding to my fearful thoughts.

It was an intense moment for me, seeing and accepting that I had caused him to worry about me being close, with my own worried thought. I realized that with my fear thought, I broke our connection, and that startled him, that worried him. I had disappeared as far as he was concerned -- our connection was gone, I had severed it with my fear.

I took a few deep breaths, stepped back behind his hip so I had no tangible reason to worry about the panels, and purposely made the effort to connect with Rusty again, and asked him to move on. He lowered his head and resumed walking and I walked along with him.

This was a turning point for us, with me realizing how my emotional state impacts his. I am still learning about this, during ground work and from the saddle. He continues to be my most awesome teacher.

Today I focused on walking and trotting with him on a long rein (an actual driving rein). I focused on asking in time with my exhale, and using my imagination -- my intention? -- to 'trot' in my energy even as I walked, wanting to influence Rusty to trot. I mostly had to use peripheral energy like exaggerated stride, moving my hand or arm, swinging the end of the rein, even tapping him with it a time or two, but over the course of our time together trying this, he was tuning in more and responding more. It was relatively pleasant, not terribly precise, and the success of having him trotting around at the end of the longer rein was a milestone for us.

I was also monitoring my shoulder openness and imagining the energy out from my shoulders as headlights which could rotate a little, left and right, spreading the cast of the light and creating a space for him to move into. So, wanting him to move to the right, the angle of the light coming from my shoulders would open and draw him into where the light was cast. Then I was playing around with a sense of opening my right hip after I noticed we had an easier time going to the left than the right, and I assumed it has to do with my right hip which I notice when riding tends to be further forward than my left hip. In fact, although I was feeling clumsy trying to get my right hip back and to the right while I walked around, Rusty did seem to move forward with more ease intermittently during my focused period of trying! I should try the headlights imagery next time, using the same idea for my hips as I do for my shoulders. As Mark Rashid said to me when he first helped me by identify the energy blocks in the front of my shoulders, it is not mechanical, I don't need to do anything mechanical to fix it, just bring light to the area, just bring awareness to this...

When Rusty and I were done, he stuck close to me, then I shooed him away so he would go roll. Which he did, then bucked and bounced around before coming back to me. I do love this horse!

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Aikido

I came away from my first auditing experience of Mark Rashid wanting to study Aikido to get a better understanding of how to use that way of thinking and awareness and using one's body for horsemanship. The closest dojo is about two hours away. Learning from a video doesn't work because one practices with a partner.

I came away from my first riding clinic experience with Mark with a feel for some Aikido. I am more eager to learn more, but still inhibited from pursuing this by distance, travel time and cost. I understand I can start by learning to fall, and that is taught in many martial arts disciplines. Perhaps I can find that locally.

Meanwhile, the blending I got a feel for from Mark, that is something I hold in mind and apply to the best of my ability when I'm with the horses. I am trying to apply that feel with the cats, when I'm at dance lessons and need to guide a newer student. I seek to incorporate softness all the time. I like that as a personal goal. And will even try to be soft with myself when I fail to remember softness when feeling threatened, defensive, and in conflict...

It takes two to tango

I love to quote my parents. I used to squirm when they said these things but now I see they fit.

"It takes two to tango. "

I heard that a lot when my brother and I would fight. I really did believe my brother started those fights. I was convinced I was a victim. My parents' perspective was as above: it takes two to tango. If we were fighting, it is because we both were fighting.

Ever try to fight with someone who won't?

When it comes to fighting with horses, well, I have done that, and I may do it again, however in my place of best intentions, I will be doing other things, not fighting.

If I can keep my focus on what I am requesting, I can ignore whatever the horse does that some folks are calling "rude" -- unless it comes to my keeping myself safe. Those actions to keep myself safe are about maintaining my space, not about the horse and her space. This is a subtle difference but the horse knows. I need to just carry on with my plan. Focus on me, my space, my plan. Redirect those urges to be focusing on the horse...

To anyone who thinks a horse is "rude": please find a replacement for this "rude" idea. Aside from whether a horse is capable of behaving in rude ways, think about the energy that comes with a proclamation like that. If it's true they read our minds, read our intentions, then gee, our horses will feel the need to defend themselves when around people who call them rude. I have never heard a horse called "rude" in a moment of loving energy. So we toss out offensive energy and expect what? That the horse is going to be the first to offer kindness and understanding when we are in a lousy mood?

So why am I talking about fighting and rudeness today? A while back, a friend wrote about her horse crowding her, and used the word "rude" to describe the horse. I got thinking about that word as well as about what we can do instead of fighting with our horses.

I got thinking it's better to find a way to direct the horse before... BEFORE... the horse comes too close for comfort. That is being a leader. That is being proactive. That we should do without fear or anger, without remembering that we ever felt threatened by the horse before. Simply do it, direct. And the horse will respond with 'fine, I can do that'. It is so important to be emotionally neutral! I can't emphasize this enough.

I never had success with any sort of after-the-fact stuff with my most challenging horse. If he did something, I was already late. He has been teaching me about awareness and timing and attunement. He freezes up inside when I tense. He gets defensive when I feel worried, unsure, threatened, not just when I feel angry.

These horses offer us such incredible opportunities to become better animals. The challenging ones really do 'right size' us -- time and time again if you're a slow learner like I am.

I reiterate my admonition that folks find a replacement word for "rude". Rude sounds like the horse is doing something bad. Not. The horse is doing something horsey. That's all. It feels unsafe for sure. But the horse feels unsafe or else it wouldn't be acting that way. Look for ways to help the horse feel safe around you. No more reacting -- that is a lofty but valuable goal. Some horses know from their own past experiences that reactive humans are dangerous. I'm not saying anyone is dangerous. But the horse views us as such if they are emotionally aroused and feeling threatened, and the handler or owner is in the best position to help change the horse's mind about humans. Every time we see and interact with a horse. Every time.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Routines and more

Someone wrote about their routine with their new horse, wondering about why the horse runs away unless she lures the horse with feed.

I asked, "Are you ever inclined to do something spontaneous, lively, and fun... with your horse?"

Novelty is an interesting concept. I know I can tend to be repetitious and predictable, and for sure that has value. If I never did the same thing around the horses, they would be on edge every time I showed up. I don't want them totally dull to my presence, nor do I want them on edge.

There is some flexible and changing middle ground. I'd like my horses to overall trust that I'm going to help them out if needed, but not to assume that they know all the time what specifically I'm going to do. Although I imagine from their point of view I'm pretty darned predictable.

This same person said sometimes she used grain to catch the horse but she knew that was a no-no.

My response:

I hope that as time goes on, you will feel more and more comfortable deciding for yourself what you want or don't want to do. There are really NO "no no"s with horses. What works is what works. Sure, you can get some great ideas from us other folks, but in truth, you have a unique relationship with your horse, and what works for you two is what works for you two, not what works for me or someone else. Well, of course there are some things that work for all of us, but not everything and certainly not all the time.

She went on to say she'd read an article that said she should make her horse run away when the horse showed signs of running away, so the horse would think running away was her idea and not the horse's.

My response:

Actually just the opposite is what seems to work for me -- set it up so she thinks that coming to you is HER idea. I'd leave the running away from you out of it. It might mean approaching her with great caution for awhile, sensing when she's thinking about leaving, before she leaves, and then backing off a bit (taking a few steps backwards, looking away, for example) and seeing if she can stay there and not act on her thought to leave.

I have a horse I love a lot, but her former owner used to make her move away when in fact he wanted to catch her. So she thinks when I show up, she should start moving away from me. At times when I've been really clear that I want her to stand and let me approach or that I want her to come toward me, well, she's fine with that except for some residual confusion about what people want -- you want me to run away, right? No? Are you sure you don't want me to run away?

This woman also shared her frustration when she goes to get a bucket of feed in order to catch her horse. My thoughts about that:

That frustration can get in the way of enjoying your time together! Then it gets complicated with her memory of how it feels to be near you... Have you noticed how horses will hang out with those who are most mellow? They like to feel good! So if a horse or a human is being pesty, annoying, uptight, etc., they ain't gonna want to hang there!

The writer went on to share her worries about getting into a dangerous situation being out among the larger herd where her horse lives. My response:

What a great opportunity to develop your clarity about what you want and from what horse. The horses are capable of understanding that you want that bay to stand there and those two chestnuts to back off a few steps and that grey to stand there while you walk through them on your way to your mare... Maybe not today but consider the possibility -- wouldn't it be fun to be that clear and have that much presence around the horses that they paid attention with interest and respect, not out of fear or disregard?

Then she spoke about how the mare is bad -- she raises her head when asked to canter or gallop. My response:

There are some simple exercises that you could do at the walk, and when it's really clear she understands and responds easily, then try them at a trot, and when it's good there, then try at the canter. Something like ride on a loose rein at the walk and pick up the left rein and gently ask for a left circle, and look/feel for her to give to that rein and that might look like her head lowers a bit, her body curves in the direction you've asked, her breathing gets fuller and calmer, she might sigh or lick and chew or gently blow air... Then ask with the other rein, nice and easy, and wait for her to respond with calmness and relaxation.

This will set the foundation for her to understand that when you pick up in that certain way with one rein, she can start a little bend/arc/circle and relax...

The writer told us that the previous owners rode this mare with a tie down and she has scars on her face from it. My comments:

Poor mare. I'm glad to hear you are trying to communicate through the reins in a way that doesn't require you to constrict and hurt her. It's her mind you want to influence! and if you keep that in mind (no pun intended), you'll find her starting to look for meaning when you ask for this or that. It may take longer with her because she's already confirmed in her expectations of people, but she can change, I assure you that.

She then described this mare as a cat on a hot tin roof, ready to blast off at the slightest request. Reportedly she hates to walk slow, prefers to do a very prancy walk. My response:

I'm not convinced any horse really PREFERS being wound up like that. You will come to be a very special person to her if you develop ways to help her relax around you. Some of this is easiest learned with a horsemanship coach/instructor right there, and any time you hire someone, be sure to interview them, get recommendations from folks you know and trust, watch the person train or ride or teach so that you know ahead of time you are comfortable entrusting YOUR learning process and your HORSE's learning process in that person's hands.

This writer ended by telling us she wants to help her become the horse she can be. This horse is eager to please and does most anything asked, with the exception of the issues mentioned above. My response:

Your good intentions are clear. Sometimes we humans have to spend time struggling to get something, to understand it better and become more effective with what we do. That struggle itself adds value to the answers we find. Remember that our horses go through the same process -- needing time and our patience to figure things out. She may be struggling a lot mentally as you seem to offer her something very different from what she came to expect from people. I wish you the best.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Teaching again

(From an entry started Sept 29th.)

I taught my first lesson today since I was injured. Well, first lesson outside of my teaching days (daze!) at High Horses Therapeutic Riding Program. Those days I would do my best to show up and perform my duties. I managed fine and found out how much help the volunteers can offer. I do miss being free to walk, trot, canter myself, and certainly miss riding!

I'm especially intent on adjusting my teaching style to meet the needs of my students. I think did OK today. I kept checking in about what I was doing and if it made sense and did the student want to try it now. This student preferred to watch and will experiment later without anyone watching. This is fine. I have no need to check if the ideas I presented are 'accurately' interpreted. Hopefully I have influenced this student in a way that enhances the horse/human relationships there at home. That is most important to me.

I do wonder about my need for feedback, for affirmation that what I offer is meaningful and making a difference. I see that things are working in some group lessons I do on a weekly basis. I can't decide whether it is a useful trait or not, that I tend to be oblivious to whether my sharing/teaching is benefitting others or not. I get lost in the moment, am very aware of how a horse is responding, but I'd like to have the same awareness and skills with people as with horses. A funny thing for me to say, as before I always considered my people skills superior to my horse skills.

Horses tend to be easy to read though. Not the same ability to cover some inner workings with sophisticated defenses as us humans have. I do keep remembering that when I perceive some barrier to receiving from me, I have that same tendency! And when I remember this, it gives me a chance to connect with the person rather than disconnect behind some judgments.

Horses, horses, horses!