Wednesday, April 24, 2013

What to do

Recently, someone asked me what I'm doing with my horse and I didn't give a very good answer. There is always a little pressure (mostly in my own mind) about what I *should* be doing and so there is a tendency to feel defensive or get evasive. "Oh, you know, we're working on dressage and just basics."

..and then there are lessons he really doesn't understand
But every day I'm at the barn--which is nearly every day--I'm working on a little something with Bar. Not to mention the other four horses in my circle of equine love, too, but let's start with Bar. Some days, it's just hanging out in his paddock and playing hide and seek. This amuses him. Peek around a tree and watch those big, brown ears perk up as he ducks back and forth around the trunk of a previously-gnawed on (by Clyde) tree. Calabar has a pretty hefty-sized play drive and it's fun to tap into it.

Every ride, I have to think about my position and how it affects him. That ear going back? That means I'm off center. Feel the feet, move with the feet, stop scrunching up on the left side. It's a good thing he's learned to be more tolerant of my corkscrewed body or we'd never get anywhere. Since learning with him is an ongoing journey of (we hope) improvement, pulling in information from good sources is also extremely useful.

After a very informative lunging lesson with my friend Karen and the Sonoma County Neigh Savers volunteer crew, I worked on simple principles of lunging with him. Relax, drop the head and neck, wait for those muscles to start vibrating and for licking and chewing to occur. Then I climbed on bareback and we wandered around the arena over obstacles just for fun. No pressure, just paying attention to feet and my seat. He stops much better when I sit down and ask for a halt without a saddle between us which tells me I have work to do when there is a saddle involved.

After that same session, thinking about what Karen said about teaching contact, I loosened my grip on Calabar's face and let him wander around on a much looser rein. This made him think. A lot. Both-ears-on-me-the-whole-time a lot for the entire ride. He also dropped his head--without ducking into his chest to avoid the bit--and moved into a lovely, swinging walk in a nice frame. Both of us were much less tense, too.


The bonus for me is that what works for Calabar translates nicely to retraining the Neigh Savers horses, too. He reminds me to never be in a hurry and to be clear. He reminds me to have fun. Above all, he reminds me to never stop trying to communicate and to reward the try. Preferably with carrots, but a good snuggle is almost as effective a reward as is a carrot.

That is what I'm doing with my horse. Maybe it's not prepping for competition, but it still fills my soul and makes me smile each and every day when I see that white crescent moon shining between two big brown eyes.

There will always be more for us to do, more to learn, more correctness to achieve. But sometimes it's nice to just enjoy the warmth of him against my heart and thank the universe for bringing him into my life.


Unknown said...

Funny, I've been following your blog for a long time, always reading but rarely commenting. However, today, you mentioned the Neigh Savers Organization. I board in livermore, and was looking into doing some volunteering with them at one point. All the time reading your posts and I never realized you were located so near! What a small world!

Anonymous said...

That's the kind of doing that counts and makes a difference to the horse, I think - the "doing" a lot of people do is often just drilling and repetition, and pretty meaningless to the horse.

Sounds like pretty good fun for all to me . . .

Jenn said...

Every time we go out and spend time with them, we are "doing something" with our horses. I don't actively train for shows nor do I actively compete, but I do actively seek a better relationship and better understanding with them! If we learn something new about each other, even better.

lmel said...

Well said! I think about the same thing too when people ask "what am I going to do with Harley"--just enjoy our time together, mounted or not. He's a work in progress, as am I, so we take each day as it comes and what it offers. As long as it's all fun.