That's what it really boils down to . . . after all the thinking about horses, talking about horses, debating about horses . . . what really matters is when it's me. . . and a horse. I have spent my lifetime with these animals and choose their company over my own species, hands down, most of the time. I got my first pony for Christmas when I was two years old, and we beat his butt with a board when he was naughty. Mine got that, too. It was what we knew and what we did. That pony never did quit bucking, and quite frankly, I am probably still naughty. I am not blaming my parents for what they did or what they taught me, they honestly did do the best they could with the information that they had at the time. The results were not what any of us were looking for, not with the horses nor my childhood, and it sent me off in a journey searching for other answers and I've been a whole lot of places looking for them.
A perpetual lifetime student of many topics, horses have been the main focus of my interest. I used to want to know how to get things done the fastest and the coolest, then later on, the safest. Now, I am in a place of wanting to know how to be the best human being for my horse that I can possibly be. I still want a horse that lopes collected, loose rein and on the proper lead. I want a horse that confidently goes where I point them, whether it's up a steep climb, across water or over the ubiquitous blue tarp. When I am saying I want to be a good human being for my horse, I am saying I want to be a great leader, worthy of his respect and faith in my ability to take care of him when the wolves come. In his mind, that's always a possibility and there might be one, just right up there around that corner. Who am I to say different and that he's wrong.? I just want him to go there anyway and trust that it will be okay.
There is nothing in the world like the feeling I get when I am working a horse, my eyes are closed and I know what the footfall will sound like before it gets there. The horse and I are in sync, I can shift my body in time with his, whether on the ground or in the saddle and his will shift with me. This is the partnership I strive for with just about every horse I ride. It's not that I am going to gain that level of communication with them all, sometimes the for sale and trade crowd are too shut down from previous experiences to allow that and would it really be fair to open them up that much and then send them out into a world of riders that don't communicate that way? Usually the training horses get there, to some point, and then they go home. My own, I laugh, as you who read this know, they are usually the last I ride and the ones who might need the most work of all. Still, I have a glimmer of what is possible and I hunger to taste it, every time I walk out the door and head for the barn. No matter what the lesson, that's the goal for the day.
This Spring, since I had decided, after catching up on last year's training commitments to not take outside horses, I am getting to work with my own, and fill in the holes that my scattershot approach at their education has left in them. I find consistency is still my biggest difficulty. When I am being paid to ride, it is a no brainer to go outside every day and work horses. When they are my own, there are a thousand excuses and sometimes good reasons that get in the way. Unfinished business continues to plague me, being aware of a problem doesn't magically provide a fix for it, that takes discipline and effort, snark!
I have a training horse in, a lovely filly whose owner did a superb job in getting her ready before she got her. She's soft on the halter rope, does her groundwork nicely. I am having to catch up with her, as my usual first week or two would be redundant. We saddled without incidence yesterday (she's worn one many times at home), in fact saddled several times, looking for the right saddle fit for her young back. Did desensitizing, and graduated to hanging the milk jugs off the saddle to let her experience some activity on her back and against her sides. Filly was not one bit afraid of that mess but it did annoy her princess self. She pinned her ears and advised them they might want to exit, and do that right now. Being milk jugs and impervious to such warnings, they stayed put. POWW! She aimed and cowkicked them clear over her back . . . onto the other side. This happened a few times, with some intermittent crowhops, and the milk jugs proved their point. They weren't hurting her one bit and they were not leaving. Exactly the same point I want to prove when I ride for the first time. She walked, trotted and loped with a decent attitude, got her rubs and atta girls, and ended the session ears up, eyes soft, licking and chewing through her new lesson. Ray Hunt said it's our job to keep a horse out of trouble, they might get into trouble anyway, but it's our job to try to stay on the good side of that fine line. I think I did that with her yesterday and it paved the way for more good days after that one.
Were it not so muddy, that would probably be today, and still might be, depending on how things go. I am going to head out into the mud and gunk, normally, I'd be cussing the circumstances, today I am grateful I get to . . .
5 months ago