First order of business. Click this link and check out 15 things you should give up to be happy. Quite a list. http://www.purposefairy.com/3308/15-things-you-should-give-up-in-order-to-be-happy/
Number One is give up your need to be right. Wow. It goes on to suggest releasing the need to control, blame, criticize, resistance to change, fears, and well, however many more to make 15.
There is a purity underneath these ideals. In my search for better horsemanship, I can feel these layers peeling away gunk that stands not only between me and my fellow man but me and my horse.
Since leaving Riata in Missouri after the clinic, I have been working hard to stay true to what I have learned. Not merely the mechanics of lift a rein here, shift a foot there, and just to let you know, Peter does not teach mechanics, that is my term. But what he does teach is getting a person to think, to get out of their heads beyond the limiting beliefs that they already know what to do. Be true to the horse in the moment you are with your horse. Give them what they need for where they are at . . . right now.
Riding down the wide dirt hayrack road at the ranch, Royal is fussing. He is champing the bit, head up and tense. I am working my fingers, attempting to have a discussion . . . No. Wait. I am pulling on him. I am giving him opportunity to pull on me. The soft Zen feel we had at the walk is gone. I am stiff, standing in my stirrups, bracing for the prop n stop that can come at any moment.
I slow us back to the walk, find the softness again. I can feel the difference in my body, I am relaxed and easy, and so is my horse. Deep breaths, see how little it takes to roll him into a trot. See if you can not upset your horse while asking for that soft feel. Widen your hands. I try to get my body to remember what it felt like at the walk, the easy way of moving with my horse, staying out of his way . . .
We trot a loop over and over again. Sometimes he gets it, sometimes I do, sometimes we both lose it. The gait goes from choppy, struggling to him reaching through, big strides getting long under me, back to choppy again.
The weight I have gained this past year is in my way. It’s hard to stay consistent when you are not in the best of shape but I am damned if I am getting off my horse for six weeks while I hit the gym. Still, the never ending battle with middle aged spread must be renewed once more.
We are long and soft. I sit back and down, he walks, on a soft feel. We head into the trees, the deeper, steeper interior trails that offer banks to climb, logs to practice stepping over a foot, two . . . side pass off, trees to back thru . . .oh nope, not yet that.
Royal is not confident, either descending or ascending. I think back to the first few weeks, riding him parking cars, him leaping wildly both up and down the hills. Doubt he’d ever been on anything but arena ground with a rider aboard previous to this, and it was a hell of an introduction.
Now it’s time to go back and do it right. I point him up a two foot bank and he jumps to the top of it. I grunt, avoiding the saddle horn and pull him up before we launch into the ravine beside us. Not as good. Going down, he flies off, and a couple exuberant bounds rock me a little before I get that collected. Ergh.
This is for the birds. I get off, and send him. You figure out how to set your feet, just you, and then when you are good with that, we will add me. Takes a few times and even the Arabian learns that setting his feet carefully conserves more energy and feels better balanced than the mad scramble.
Different trip this time. We climb up, he is listening to me and lets me place his feet. Coming down, no issue and off we go. We ride for a couple of hours, my focus is on not fighting with him, but bringing him around to my way of thinking, as smooth, as soft as I can get him there. Whip smart, he anticipates and I have to change up our routine, turning him a quarter into the bank, he wants to swing around and take off the other way before I can set him up for the transition. Result, muddy. Stop. Slow down. Think. That is for both of us.
Building confidence in each other, building respect for one another. There can be no short cuts here. Regardless of where I think we want to be, we are where we are, and the sooner I can learn to work from there . . . well, the sooner we will be someplace else!