You know, there is not much on earth more hard headed than a horsewoman who thinks she knows something. Add a little success to that experience and you REALLY have some layers to work through.
Before you think, well, who is SHE to talk, heck I will offer up my thick skull right alongside anyone’s. I just happened to be at the enviable position of dangling in despair at the end of my rope at this particular clinic. If what I knew was so hot, I would not have to be here in the first place. I might WANT to be, but I wouldn’t have to be, and I had to be there to save my horse. And, maybe myself.
What about the guys, you might ask? Well, I have hung on the fences at a lot of good clinics, and now ridden a couple and I have yet to see a man get as close minded and defensive as some of the gals. Maybe they do, on this inside, I don’t know, I can’t see that but not out front, arguing and then running off in tears or venomous anger to surface later in other places . . . haven’t seen a guy do that yet, but a certain amount of women.
Peter says that sometimes in order to drive a nail through steel, you have to heat the steel up a little in the process, get it a little softer and able to accept something different than itself. He’s heated me up a couple of times, that is for sure but mostly last Fall. I got called out, here and there, over the weekend for doing whatever goofball thing I should not be, and other than to be a little embarrassed as some of them were pretty horsey 101 and I feel I should have known better, my response was a big smile and a “thank you, Peter!”
I could recognize what an honor it is to have that man pay you some attention, to really care if you progress or not. The money is paid, it could be paint by numbers, he could crawl into his comfy living quarters (pretty sure it’s air conditioned) and not spend a dime more time with us than he absolutely has to. That is not Peter’s way, and I could not be more grateful. It’s why I will spend my hard earned dollars with him, why I will happily (well most of the time) swallow my pride and what I think I know and try to be open to making the kinds of changes in the horses I touch the way he makes changes in every single one that he does.
Peter has dinner with us every night, hangs out in the camp chairs and we have friendship. He makes it clear what happens in the clinic is horsemanship, but what we have after hours is friendship. He’s not kidding, I test him out a couple times here and there, little smart ass remarks designed to get a rise. He just grins and gives back as good as he gets. It’s one heck of a good time and I am thoroughly grateful to be in my chair and present.
Day two arrives. I get dressed, no knot in my stomach today. For one thing, I am pretty sure I am off the hook, we had agreed Riata could benefit from another untroubled ride by Steven. I was none too sure I could provide anything like that sweet, smooth feel that he offered her and she had accepted it with gratitude. I wanted more of that for my lovely grulla mare and I wanted to watch more, see how I can get there myself, as I doubt I will be taking Steven or Peter home with us, though we could sure use hands like them up here, full time!
I watched her all afternoon, Day One. I could see her stall from the auditor’s chairs. Rather than slink back into the corner of the stall I had found her in, she was at the window, head up, eyes brightly but not fearfully watching the goings on. When the cattle came in, she really got interested. There was no sign of the sullen horse that had been breaking my heart just by the very sight of her. The changes were taking place.
I brush her up, tears in my eyes at her being willing to stand by me, no halter, just accepting a touch she has shuddered (and bolted) away from for the past several months. Her head comes up, still wary when I approach her ears. I shake my head. You would think I would have grabbed those things and hung on for the ride, and that has never ever even remotely taken place. I check my emotional response and go back to calmly rubbing on her, getting her ready.
“You don’t train horses” Peter says to us. “You get them ready. I would not know the first thing about training a horse. You want to mess up your horse? Send them to a trainer. You want to really make a mess of things? Send them to a PROFESSIONAL!” A lot of us wince, we are figuring out already that we are the problem, some of us are getting that glimmer anyway. The terrorists who accost our horses with the feel of a rattlesnake . . .
So, I am trying to get her ready. Steven stops by, how’s she look today? I nod. It’s pretty good. I predict a little humpiness at first saddle, and then a smooth ride. We don’t even get the humpiness.
Let me say that a different person throwing that saddle, maybe me maybe not, might not have got that same response. Riata still shows some tension here and there. Steven rubs on her, and I watch her head sink to his knee, his hand casually resting on her neck behind those now not twitchy ears. I think hard about what I am seeing. There are some decisions to be made and I am getting myself ready as well.
Get the hindquarters, Peter says.
On the way to the clinic, Colleen, Karen and I are enthusiastically discussing what we had seen the day before, and again, I am realizing what a gift it is to have a friend that has ridden with Peter for eleven years. She has been using stuff I am just starting to become aware of, for a long time. It shows in how much smoother her colts have become, the successes she has had, and they are darned well deserved.
We are talking about some maneuvers Peter had people do in the afternoon class, Horsemanship 1. There were quite a few folks there that had never ridden with Peter before and for whatever reason, they had elected for the more advanced class than Foundation, in the morning. He had heated them up pretty good. I am thinking, yep, can’t fill a cup that is already full, can’t introduce ideas into brains that already have more internal chatter than they can hear over.
“You must get to the feet, without force, without fear.” “Reins attached to the feet!”I am frowning with concentration, yes, I know this in some ways but how to do it? Maybe I don’t know that, after all. I sure don’t know it like this. Without force, without fear. I thought I did, but Riata told me different, Royal has and maybe every horse I have ever rode has tried but I was busy telling, not listening.
“Don’t tell me about your horse” Peter says to me that first day when I try to explain some who knows what. “Your horse already told me the truth. What you are telling me now is only your opinion!” Well, that’s right enough. I shut up and try to stay that way.
“You try not to upset your horse. He might get upset, but you don’t try to upset him. You try not to scare him. Easy!” He flashes a look to someone who’s horse is getting it’s head in the air, a sure indication that it’s feet are stuck and that likely, the person is doing too much.
Steven and I look at each other at one point, lightbulbs flashing over our heads. Outside hind foot. Step that thing over, get it out of the way and the rest of the feet can fall into place and do their job. Made all the difference in the world. Wow!
Peter uses working cattle to help people learn to handle hindquarters and front end. This is Roxanne Fountain Hill and her wonderful little High Brow Cat bred filly, who shows her breeding in every inch of her.
Star Zizza, working on getting the hind to step over
In the truck, we talk about the same thing, that outside hind foot and how tremendously important it is. Who the heck knew that?? Well, Tom Dorrance did, and he taught Peter and now Peter is doing his level best to try to teach us, even though we argue, talk back, try to explain why what we do is plenty good in some circles. Sheesh.
I watch because that is what I am doing, watching, so I might as well be good at it, and horses are starting to make changes already, they are trying to come through. Toplines are leveling out, as Peter keeps saying, over and over, “get your hands down!” “Don’t pull!” “You don’t make a turn with your horse, you get them ready and then the horse makes the turn.” Or whatever it is you are doing. Get the horse ready, shape them up, and then THEY do the job.
A lot of us don’t know how to shape a horse. Peter helps with the flag.
Hindquarters, front end, hindquarters, front end. From my position in the cat bird’s seat of unexpected open mindedness, I can see how free the horse can move when the hind does what it is supposed to be (don’t be asking me a bunch of questions about how to do it, I can’t tell you. For one thing, the horse is not here, so other than reporting what I have already seen, I can’t tell you a thing about it.)
Working with Cyndi Ragland and her great looking grulla gelding, La Doux.
Backing up is like pushing on a chain. Push too hard, your chain gets crooked. If the feet can’t move, the chain gets crooked. I think of Royal who evades pressure like a noodle. OH! I am doing too much there, too! Go figure. Good thing I don’t have to pay an electric bill for all those light bulbs flashing around my head but boy, doesn’t a person wish they would have figured this out, a long time ago? Better late than never, sunshine.
Steve is on Riata, and while I am still not seeing the big change, the huge letting down of a tense little mare, I am seeing one that is willing, trying, cruising around on a mostly loose rein. She argues a little when he asks for a soft feel, there is tightness in there but it’s not exploding in rebellion. The ride looks fine they get along and I am pretty sure I know what I have to do. More about that later.
Outside hind foot.
I can’t even begin to tell you how important that piece is.
But I will, tomorrow. Or the next day.