Saturday, September 29, 2012

It Begins

“What the horse is offering you is bigger than you are.”

“Keep doing the same old thing you have been doing, you will keep getting the same old thing you have been getting.”

“Make the wrong thing difficult. Not impossible. Then, give it direction, not correction.”

“Mechanics work on 90% of horses.”

“You can’t bend the head if it’s not attached to the feet. If it’s attached to the feet, you don’t need to bend the head.”

“What will you get from this clinic? Discipline. For yourself and for your horse.”

“The horse must have the utmost respect for your rein and your leg”

“You cannot push 1000 pounds of animal.”

“Of course, there is only one right way to work a horse. Work from where he is.”

Colleen says to me “we (The Nebraska Humane Society Horse Rescue Program) still have a horse that could use to be in the clinic if you want to use him in the morning spot.” Peter has donated a free spot again this year and I can use it if I want to.

Another opportunity to ride with Peter? In Foundation? You bet, I am there with bells on. I don’t ask about the horse. It isn’t important. he will tell Peter who he is, what he needs and Peter will tell us.

I peer into the stall at the short stocky bay gelding. Cute. I nod, nice horse to start with, well worth the time and effort we are going to put into him.

We don’t think he’s ever been saddled before so I haul my gear, limping, into the arena and sling it over the fence. My twisted knee is pitching me the blues but I don’t tell Peter as I am worried he will tell me I can’t work the horse if I can’t keep up with it.  Note to self, next time, give the clinician pertinent information and let him make the choices.

I am not a great colt starter. I have got the job done with mixed results my whole life. I mostly began starting them as I felt better about dealing with my mistakes than someone else’s and it seems to me they get a little less screwed up with me than they do with some of the other folks out there doing this.   A whole lot of things have stood in the way of my being successful in that endeavor.  The four days to come shed more light on getting one started right than anything I have previously done, read, watched or tried over the past 35+ years, not to mention casting light on the cobwebs in me.

“Bump him! Get up to him! Get close! Bother him!” I have the heavy wool pad in one hand, the halter rope in the other. We are getting the little horse ready to saddle. I am to get him moving his feet and get control of the hind. Duke who does not have a program card, is all over the place. I keep trying to shift my weight off my knee and hop after him before he gets completely away from me. It’s not going super. The knee is in my way, but I am not real good at this anyway, or I probably could have overcome it with better timing.

I am puffing, panting, thinking damn, I am going to sweat! This is calling for a LOT of effort! First morning, not even my horse, I am out of breath and I am going to sweat! What have I gotten myself into?? Pretty sure the bay horse is thinking the same thing.  I want to quit right there, tell Peter I am not up for this, don’t want to risk blowing out my knee and not being able to ride my own horse (read don’t want to work this hard). I think about what’s available to me in this opportunity. Even though I don’t start colts for a living anymore, here is a chance to start one with arguably the best in the country. I am not passing this by, and little horse deserves better from me.  Sweat equity, here I come.

We get to a spot it’s acceptable to saddle and he moves around but it gets done. I had been told his eyesight may be impaired on his right side. There is a faint cloud in it, not much at all, and I watch to see if he reacts differently to stimulation over there. Spoiled a bit, and pushy on that side, but not different than any other horse. Most of them prefer to look at you on one side or the other. There is brace there but it’s not because of the way he sees.

Peter remembers me from Riata. He has doubts I will  hang on to the horse if things get western. I know I will, but I also know why he thinks he might not. I tie the knot in the end of the rope as he tells me to, and no matter what, Duke does not get away. He doesn’t try all that hard, either, he’s getting ready.

I ask Duke to move around me, all four corners moving equally, both directions.All I can think is that eventually Peter is going to ask me to get on the horse, My palms slick and my heart pounds in my ears. I know he won’t ask til the horse is ready. What I didn’t know is that he would wait til I was ready too.

I am moving the stirrup against the horse’s side, as I was instructed, every ounce of my attention is focused on the horse and what we are doing. "If you won’t listen, Terri, I am not going to waste my time talking to you.”

WHAT?? I look up to see Peter riding away. Damn it!! Where the hell did I just go? He was talking to me? Who knew?  Everyone else around us, that’s who knew. I follow him but there is a point to be make. Listen up, our time is short. If you won’t listen, I will spend time with people who will and when you come with your question, your opportunity has come and went.

I say I am sorry, I was lost in my thing. Peter hears that I was doing my own thing, and that really does not go over well. There is no way I think doing what I know is better than what he is going to teach me but that protective habit of tuning everything out around me, that is deep deep. “Do your own thing, then,” says he “don’t waste my time. Don’t get so close to me”  as I am following him, insisting I am ready to hear. I get a glint from the blue eye under the hat and I know he means it.

I am doing nothing now until I am instructed. No way. I go to the middle, out of the way and wait. Peter has made his point, he helps some folks, comes back around and tells me the next step.  All a piece of getting ready. You don’t do a thing with a horse, you get them ready, and then they take care of the doing. Turns out, works that way with people, too. Even hard headed ones. Halfway thru Day 1 . . .


Anonymous said...

Sounds very tough. But I think you were right to put yourself out there and be open to direction - sort of the attitude we want from our horses, I guess.

Tammy said...

Yep. Pretty sure I would have cried and left. :) Good writing, Terri. Anxious to read the next installment.

Good Hands said...

I believe in this process. I have thought about it a lot and Kate is right, it is a whole like what we ask our horses to do. They might not understand what is being asked of them, might get troubled or upset, might have baggage that gets in the way, but if we support them through it, stay calm and do as little as possible but as much as necessary,they come through. I have sent more than one horse screaming through the round pen, not understanding how much pressure I was putting on them. Peter knows. Neither the horse or I were anywhere close to kicking over the traces and leaving Dodge. He is good like that :-)

Writing more today, and thanks you guys!