Tuesday, March 06, 2012

Simple exercises

Ignore the bus driver on your back, Bar--you're doing great!
The other day, in the midst of finding my balance again in the English saddle and helping Calabar ignore another horse bouncing around the arena screaming loudly and continuously for his herd-mate, I had a revelation.

Riding is fun again. 

It is something I look forward to, not something to talk myself into. It is an opportunity to learn, not a time to beat myself up over being afraid. There isn't anyone in my head saying "should" anymore. Or at least not nearly as often.

What's there is instead is a new mantra. "What can we do to get to the next stage?" This breaks down into smaller pieces, as it must for the two of us. What can I do better to communicate to him how to do X? And once he's done X, what's next and how do I tell him how to do that? Then how do we tie it all together in a more seamless way so we're building, not just repeating?

That's a really nice change, and we've had a lot of help getting there from a few good trainers and some great friends. It turns out, there is a lot in both our heads, we just need to put it all together.

Ellen really helped us do that in the two lessons we had, so I treated myself to her (and Betty Staley's) book/DVD combo to bone up for the next clinic. "Bringing It Together: An approach to a lighter and happier dressage horse."  It may say dressage, but the exercises she teaches are simple, work for any horse and--best of all--do just what we needed. This, then this, try this when that doesn't work. And then build on it with this. (Being specific would be boring and Ellen is much better at describing it all in any case.)

It's given me ways to teach Bar and have him become more and more willing to learn--more cooperative--even if he's not sure what I'm asking or why. Seeing those brown ears pointed back at me, patiently (mostly, anyway) waiting, asking what to do even as I try to figure that out myself--it's like a whole new chapter. 

It's even gotten me feeling more relaxed in the saddle--my shoulders have rolled back and my chest is no longer curled defensively over my stomach. 

It's not really a culmination of everything we've learned so far, it's more like being able to pull it all together again outside the foggy, fearful place and having the future open back up to us. 

I've likely thanked all these folks before, but they deserve another shout out because somewhere along the line, they all were there when I needed them. 

Peter, who rode Bar and told me "He's a good horse, he just doesn't know much," released a huge knot in my chest I barely knew was there. Ellen, helping Bar engage his big brain and think, taking us a little further.  Ike and Cheri for not being afraid to let a "crazy" Thoroughbred get in front of cows.

And of course there are the folks in the background--my own little cheer-leading and coaching section. Steve gently supporting me and pushing just enough. Katie congratulating me on some of my smallest victories with more enthusiasm than was likely warranted. Karen and Devon reminding me how far I've come with him and pointing out the bond we have. Joan for talking through some of the fear with me and giving suggestions and help and letting me know it was okay to get off sometimes.

Yes, Bar and I both deserve credit, too. I'm too stubborn to give up on him and he's too stubborn to let me. And soft. And fuzzy. And adorable. (Him, not me.)

It's been a road that sometimes felt long and frustrating, like we'd never get up the hill again. But we did. And I can look out at the horizon from between a pair of big, brown ears (and sometimes spotty ones, too) and know we have lots of adventures we will take together, one simple step at a time. 

1 comment:

Kate said...

Congratulations on having come so far - I know how you feel, I really do. You are fortunate, and blessed, to have so many good folks around you to help you out.