Sunday, July 21, 2013

It Matters Not


“How’s your steak” is what you may get in return if you start explaining your horse troubles and woes (or lack therein) to Peter Campbell at dinner. “It matters not” is likely what you will when, astride the beast, you start explaining the history behind why said pony does or does not do the thing you do, do not, wish him to.


photo by Karen Johnson

I struggled with both of these concepts for a long time. The not discussing the horse at dinner I thought went back to a man who lives other people’s horse problems day in, hour out and wants to have a simple meal in peace. Turns out, more than that, as in Peter’s horsemanship, things often are.

“The horse is not even here. How can we talk about him?” I didn’t know what that meant either, until I started to get an understanding that the horse reacts in the moment to what is occurring to and around him. Yes, he has history. Yes, he has training, good or poor. Those things influence his behavior and reactions. The details? It matters not.

I have to be horseman enough to read what is happening with my horse, be able to communicate back to him that I see and understand while letting him know in a clear and consistent way what my expectations are and what we are going to do.  When my mind is cluttered thinking about what has gone on before, might happen here in a few minutes, my ability to stay in the moment, which is where my horse is, will be completely lost.

I ride horses every weekend that are slated for a unique and unusual job. They will carry guest riders around our ranch should the horse prove quiet and tolerant enough to make the cut. This provides a little challenge in what I teach the horse. We are not big on installing a reverse gear and I argued this for a long time until I led enough guests on enough rides that they nearly sent their horses backwards down a ravine as the guests do not know enough to quit pulling once the horse has stopped.  I still put in enough for me, I don’t use the reins much for that anyway, and the horse is safer from the guest than he would be with a fine tuned mouth.

That said, I ask for soft feels, every ride, several times a ride, regardless of which horse I am on. Once upon a time, I thought this meant nose down, chin tucked. That can be a result for sure, but what I think now (remembering Peter watching Royal, behind the bridle, “you put the horse before the cart on this one” and having NO idea what he was talking about) is it’s about the communication that comes when I reach for my horse through the reins and he responds back with softness.

The hack horses will all give me a soft feel. Sometimes they say a different thing to me on the way there, but I ask subtly, politely, I don’t get pully or rammy with them, and they all say oh, okay Terri, you are there and I am here and we are together.  Every time I reach for one of them and they answer back, we are in the moment together.

I practice getting the hind with them, hind over, front end coming across. You would be surprised (some of you) at much nicer their attitudes become when their feet are freed up.

So. I am a believer in eating my steak at dinner and riding my horse in the moment. When I can.

I have a trailer loading issue with Royal. Read that sentence carefully. It’s ME who has the trailer loading issue. He may or may not, dunno, he’s not here to ask.

Having refined, practiced, trained and taught trailer loading techniques for a certain number of years, there’s a little irony here but not so much really. Putting my ego out of the way, why not me? I have run into some sticky things with my horse. I don’t know anyone who is really involved with their horsemanship that doesn’t. I have some self doubts, some worries and concerns.

Royal? My guess is right now he has his head stuck in his spiffy new feeder, contentedly in the company of a pony I am pretty sure he thinks of as his. He is NOT thinking about trailers, his goofy owner or the plans she has in store.

When I hook up next, I need to borrow more of his thought process than my own. Stay in the moment with him. Ask him for focus. Read his reactions, respond as appropriately as I can.

As for what has taken place before, it matters not Smile


Kate said...

It can be so important to leave the horse's history behind and just ride the horse the way you want him to go. Red came to me two years ago as a very troubled horse - lots of baggage and unpleasant learned behaviors. He's come so, so far, and this week he taught me something else important, which I should have already known - to focus on what I want and ignore the past and any expectations of the "wrong" behavior. Sometimes I think our expectations create blocks/braces that make it harder for our horses to do the right thing - if we're thinking about how they may do the wrong thing, they pick up on that. If we can clearly focus and mentally communicate the thing we want, they pick up on that, and sometimes residual problem behaviors just disappear like that.

Good Hands said...

Sometimes I think our expectations create blocks/braces that make it harder for our horses to do the right thing -

I love this! Once again a true and insightful wisdom! Thank you for this, Kate, I could not agree with you more. I look forward to the next time I spend with Royal, happy easy expectations of a good time had by both of us, trails, trailers, it matters not, and somehow, if I can keep that outlook, I bet it will be.

Kate said...

I'm trying to adopt your attitude as well with my three, and to the extent I'm able to do it, and not carry around mental baggage, things seem to go much better.

I've got a new truck and trailer coming soon, and we're going to be out and around soon as well.