Horsey Therapist

Saturday, April 26, 2008

A four horse day

It helps when I make a plan with a friend. I'm working on discipline, focus, developing the habits I would like such as getting out to the barn and handling or riding my horses. I have valid reasons at times that keep me from that, and other times it is homeostasis at work, keeping me engrossed in how I've been rather than stepping into how I want to be.

It helps that my shoulder, though not 100%, is good enough to risk riding and in fact I trimmed 2 1/2 horses today. Yeah, some achey feelings surfacing now. I guess tomorrow will be when I find that I did way too much today, or just enough too much.

Groundwork with four, and rode two, twice.

I involved my friend today so I could be videotaped. I am feeling ready mentally and emotionally to deal with what I see. From inside my body I can sense changes, openings, more strength, more flexibility and movement.

But my horses have been telling me that something isn't quite right. That is one benefit from watching myself on tape. I can see what I'm doing to unintentionally make things hard for them. And lest I forget to mention, see how responsive they are, calm, and learning, and tuned in to me. Thanks to my friend for the positive feedback.

The positive feedback I had for myself was more along the lines of feeling proud that I had set this up, willing to be taped and scrutinized. Proud that I am doing groundwork, enjoying groundwork, seeing progress in my horses because of groundwork.

I avoided groundwork for years because I felt so inept! If I ain't good at it, I ain't gonna do it. That was my approach. It sure limited my learning new things! I attribute my change in willingness to two things: last year I committed to figuring some things out on the ground before I would ride Rusty again after a very painful fall. And my experiences learning Aikido and how my determination and commitment brought me through some classes where I was ready to quit because I was so darn far from where I wanted to be in my skill level!

Riza is my young horse, just learning to circle or lunge, or I might call some of it ground driving with one line. I reminded myself today that this was our third time out in the ring doing this together. And she was better than the last time we did it.

When I'm slow and attentive, I notice the changes. And I also notice where my horses need some extra support to figure things out. I am glad I've become a person who wants to help them out when they are confused. I probably always would have wanted to, but I sure didn't always know they needed it, nor how wonderful are the consequences of spending the extra time helping them figure something out. Now, I'm not telling them what the answer is, no. But I am supporting them to search, and sometimes pointing a direction where they might find the answer. I firmly believe when the horses find the answers themselves, they feel really good about how clever they are. I want my horses to feel good about learning.

So ground work with Riza today -- we reviewed what we had done and when I saw she didn't really understand how to rearrange her body when she felt the slack leave the long line along her side, we worked on just that for a bit until she started to 'get it'.

Time with Rusty was also about groundwork. He is such a teacher for me! And I'm so glad we got some wild and disconnected moments on tape because I could look at them a few times until I really saw what I had done to make that happen. That horse gives me many opportunities to wake up to my unconscious movements -- he lets me know right away and in gross obviousness that I've done something unsuitable for our time together.

I have tended to bring one of my hands up in a way that blocks the forward movement when I'm leading and changing directions. Sofia stops dead in her tracks when I do that (captured in my memory without knowing what created that response, and now captured on video showing clearly what created that response) and Rusty jumps up into the air and bolts -- fortunately not right smack over my head which is pretty much what I've accidentally asked him to do. He knows he is not welcome in my space and he shows me how confused and upset he is!

Aside from my bumbling, all went well with Rusty, walk and trot, leading him from ahead of him, from his hip, from behind him, both sides and even over the cavalletti.

Groundwork and riding with Kacee. She was a little dopey, dull until I asked for a canter to the left. Woo-eee! A little wild ride then settled nicely.

Groundwork and riding with Sofia. She is still not 100% sound after a puncture wound last year however after x-rays, the vet said ride her -- it's scar tissue that needs to break up. Sofia does continue to move better and better with probably 90% of our ride no signs of favoring that foot.

I rode Kacee and Sofia a second time each after the break when we watched the video. I remembered another friend writing me about riding a grid pattern so I played around with that on Kacee, first in the ring, then just outside the ring, then out on the dirt road nearby. It was great to focus us.

I will remember this day and use it to motivate me to do more with more horses more often. Horsey "smores"!

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