I shorten my reins, send energy into my legs and seat . . . Royal picks up a trot, exactly what I am asking him to do. Disappointing, his head raises and he loses the soft feel we have been hold the past several yards. I frown . . . what am I doing . . .
Suddenly I become aware that yes, his head is up, but his mouth is quiet. No anxious champing of the bit, no rebellious bobbing of the jaw, no jerking, no pulling.
Flashback to Riata, third day of the clinic, anxious champing, bobbing, jerking, pulling . . . flash forward to a few rides ago on Royal . . . same. Light bulb. Two horses, same issue, not the horse, eh?
Without giving it a ton of importance in my mind, I have been working on not giving Royal an opportunity to pull on me. The resounding impact of what that would mean to my horse missed me completely. I was on my way to holding that soft feel at the trot.
Peter Campbell says there is only one right way to work at horse (yes, you are going to be hearing a LOT of Peter Campbell quotes, and whatever my current understanding of what those mean), and that is to work from where the horse is.
Pretty simple statement really. Except it turns out not to be, at all. Discovering where my horse is often turns out to be somewhere far other than where I think we are, or where we are going but it’s working out pretty darned okay.
My horse is quiet in his mind. Maybe I should capitalize and bold that statement. All I want is a frame at a faster gait, and somehow, we have found this . . .
I check my position as we are trotting along. Am I dropping that right shoulder and collapsing my ribs on that side AGAIN? Yes. I breathe, feeling my “center”, dropping it low and back, pulling that nasty arch out of my back and relaxing deep into my saddle. Royal rounds, his stride lengthens and like magic, we are in frame with a gorgeous reaching stride. There.
Can’t hold it real long. Might be my attention span. We got it though, and it was a combination of lovely things . . . Being where the horse is, fixing my position in the saddle, breathing,, relaxing . . . riding.
We did so many cool things yesterday. Royal negotiated the steep descents, carefully placing his feet, no fear, no rushing. Ups, downs, he felt solid and mature, enormous changes from not very long ago at all!
Stopped and settled when I asked. Stepped front feet one at a time over a small fallen log, stopped, settled. Sidepassed to the right off the log, stopped. Sidepassed back, stopped. Up a rather large log that sets on a bank. Started to rush it., let me stop, settle him and then we proceeded over, no grunts, no grabbing leather.
Every so often, I ask him as we are walking forward to step his hind over, and then I bring the front around. Royal anticipates, so again, it’s stop, settle, wait for me. I work to become aware of when it’s appropriate to ask the feet to move. He’s pretty sharp, not wallering through the turns.
Stop on soft feel. Back up, being aware that too much pressure before his feet are ready to move causes him to kink up and squirt out to the side. We get straight soft steps, coming forward improves.
Waves of delight wash over me. His neck is long and level in front of me. When I pick up the soft feel, I get this deep pretty Arabian arch. Royal takes my breath away and not in the omg I am going to die kind of fashion we used to find at least twice on every ride. It really does not matter what we are doing . . . we are BOTH quiet in our minds, I keep myself in the moment, the goal is to get him ready for whatever it is I am going to ask for and I giggle like a little girl when it works so sweetly for us. When I can do it, that is.
Arena work comes next. Straightness is a real challenge for us. The footing in the arena is deep sand, and it’s wet on the bottom from the recent rains. We work slow, looking for the perfect circle. We make funky egg shapes, shoulder falling in, hind flooping out . . . outside hind . . . Inside rein to outside leg . . .lift MY shoulder AGAIN, we have the circle.
Do a little forward spin work . . . I want him so broke we can show English, Western whatever, reining, trail, won’t matter. I want us respectable on trail rides, not ever having to be the lunatic carousel horse, ever again.
The layers of the onion continue to peel. My understandings of what I have learned from Missy, Peter, Matt McL, Jose, Susan and so many good teachers continue to light up bulbs around my head. The inner peace I found at Peter’s last clinic, the biggest light bulb of all, does not stay with me all the time, but I felt it once, therefore I can feel it again, when it happens and when I feel it, I can begin to understand it. Pretty much the point of the entire deal.