Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Day Two: Too Late to change


It occurred to me not all that long ago when I was kicking myself around for repeating some old behavior or another that I could not get caught up in the thought that it was too late to change. There can be no such thing. The only time we have is what we are living in, right here and now.

Peter talks about that. The change that must come from within us before any other. I never once heard him say if we had only made these happen ten years ago, twenty or even yesterday how much better we would all be for it. There is only today, and only now.

Day two, there’s more sleep. It came in patches, before and after changing out the propane bottle which had significantly less emotional drama attached than the first attempt. I am clear eyed, and an energy I have not felt in awhile surges through my veins. Still not feeling the best but I am getting a handle on the fact that I let those kinds of things get in my way far more than is necessary.

I take Axel into the grassy area beyond where we are camping. He wants to stalk the blue roanie colts in the pasture next door. He pauses, looks to where I am pointing, heads to the tall grass and does his business where it can’t be a bother to anyone.

We spend time bonding. I am developing our communication. He responds beautifully. On the way back to camp, I am particular about asking him to walk at my heel. He’s not great on a leash, but it occurred to me if he stays nicely at my side with or without one, would take care of that.

Axel and I at Peter Campbell 2014My good dog

Day one, I connected with the people, now I am seeking out my dog. Next, I head down to the barn to see how Royal is doing. He still does not meet me at the door but he looks up in a friendly interested manner. Progress.

Peter is riding borrowed horses. The Campbell’s suffered an awful loss a few weeks ago when their beloved Superman horse passed away of colic. They have had more than their share of loss this past year or so, losing their son to a welding accident and I thought as I have before, why? Why do such horrible things happen to such wonderful people and horses? I guess we just get what we get and we absolutely have to treasure every single moment there is to show the ones we love just how much we care.

He makes transformations with these horses in minutes that would take most of us weeks, months or maybe never, ever at all.

Peter making changes

I had joked with him the first morning when he was looking for the horse Mark and Kerrie Weir brought, a fine stout sorrel Quarter Horse gelding named Timme.

“I think it’s this one, Peter.” I say, pointing at Royal. “This spotted one, right here.”

“I think not.” And off he goes. Darn! I grin at my own funniness. I hope maybe he smiled a little too.

We played and had some fun this weekend, even with the shadow of sorrow behind why he was not on his own good little gelding. We got to see Peter hands on with a variety of horses and the end result was always the same, the horse happy, grateful and to their credits, so were the owners.

Feel is everything. He tells us this. Get the feel and the timing will take care of itself. I watched that happen over and over. It’s a true thing.

We start by doing the things we did yesterday. Peter says to start with what the horse already knows and is comfortable with and then to go on to something else.

He had shown us how to check out if it was safe to touch a hind leg, then to bring it forward, and ask the ankle to rock with the toe staying on the ground. I foresee people running out to try to do this, as I would have, had I read this somewhere.

What you will be missing is how to change your body to make it work. How to know if you have the right feel, if the horse is comfortable in your hand or if you are jerking that thing back and forth causing tension rather than creating relaxation, getting in the way.

We lower the head, facing the same way the horse is, thumb down on the fiador knot. It isn’t as much what we are doing as how. I breathe deep, understanding the privilege it is to be where I am, enjoying that I am in the company of people who are committed like I am to their horses, to getting things working in this very good way.

There are a few who are there for the first time, and Peter talks about how unlikely it is the first timers return. He mentions as to how his personality might not fit every person but it fits every single horse he has ever met, and that is quite a number.

He talks about how he will only ask one thing of us. We must try. The horse must try. Without try, we are dead in the water. There was nothing but try in this group and I am proud to have been a part of it all.  There was not always understanding but we all begin there, and no one quit, everyone came through.

I feel my horse’s soft breath, near to me. Suddenly there is a small wiggle on my sleeve. He rubs me lightly with his upper lip. An invitation to play. I look at him, he looks back sweetly, brightly. Both ears, both eyes. You guys have no idea how long it has been since my horse would look at me like that.

I am so sorry Royal. You believed in me and I sold you out in so many ways. I didn’t mean to but that is what happened. No wonder you took back your faith.

Peter talks about how the horse will give you 99 percent of it’s self preservation and if you are fortunate, he might even come all the way and give you 100%. If you mess that up, he will take back that 1% and one more. You won’t get those back.

I know exactly what he is talking about.

But, here is my horse, offering to me his friendship one more time. Even though in my fear, and my doubt I have hung him out to dry more times than I can tell you.

“We can’t play here, dude” I whisper inaudibly. He can hear me. “We are in school and we will get in trouble!” I smile at him though. I am beaming from my heart on out, and for the first time in forever, I feel it coming back from my  horse.

a moment

He is respectful, steps back when I ask. Doesn’t come in to push and demand I pay attention to him. Every so often, the small boy in him says, how about now? Wanna? C’mon, how about now?

I say no, we gotta do our work now and play later. Okayyyy.

Earlier that morning I had to find Peter. I wanted him to know I realized I was stuck and that I was holding back myself and my horse. That I was ready to grab hold and move on. He was friendly and polite but on his way to doing a different thing. I didn’t get the “ATTA GIRL” I was looking for and I thought about that too. Hmm.

Another light bulb. I can say any thing I want. How about letting my horse show him. How about that.

I figure everywhere that man goes, people want to share their lightbulbs. It’s cool, what we learn, changes our very selves and the lives we lead away from the horse. I don’t think I could handle, in fact I am SURE I could not hear all those words from all those people. Peter manages with a lot more grace than I ever would.

Peter talks about how the change has to come within us first. He speaks of how when we become upset or frustrated, angry with the horse that whatever we feel, the horse felt that first. The horse felt the effect of our emotions long before we did.

This peace is filling my soul, there are knots coming out I didn’t know where in there. I breathe it in. Royal’s head melts to the ground. He rocks his ankles. He still gets a little tight setting down the left front and I make notes of that but not an issue.

We are saddled, doing these exercises, and if you You Tube or try to figure it out on your own, here’s a big piece. If you are saddled, start with the hind. ALWAYS. Better yet, come let Peter show you how to get it done right, without upsetting your horse. He’s big on that. Your horse might get upset while you ask something of him, but you don’t try to upset him. You try not to scare him. He might get scared but you try not to be the cause of it.


Here is Scott with his nice little mustang horse. He also brought a classy mule that emphasized Peter’s statements at eerily correct moments. This is as nice an example of softness as you will ever see. Check the ears.

It’s occurring to me that the change that needs to happen has to begin and end with me.  I won’t always have Peter there to “Easy!” or “Like that” or “Stay with it, don’t let go yet”.  Things can go south in the outside world even when I am peaceful in my soul, but if I am level, I have a shot at bringing Royal back to level with me. If I am out of sorts to begin with, what chance does he have?

Somehow, someway, things have to change. Peter tells us this all weekend. Things are not working for you the way you are going or if they are some, but you want them better, YOU have to get different. YOU have to find a different way and not just keep doing the same old thing the same old way.

It was arranged earlier that Steve would work with the black mustang in a couple classes and see how things went along. He’s done the groundwork with us and now prepares to mount the mustang for the riding portion. The horse is very worried. I never knew how traumatic it is for the horse when someone comes off. It can go deep inside them and cause a world of trouble.

Steve and the mustang

South shows up pretty quick when the horse gets tight, panics and bolts. Steve stays with him til he blows a stirrup and there’s not much of a way back when that happens and the horse is still determined to leave. This horse was dead set on it.

He flies down the rail, head on to all of us gathered at that far end. He wants the security of the horses there and he is going to have it. I know there are some greener riders behind me and this is not the first loose horse I have seen dump someone and fly around.

Royal starts to whirl out of the path of the oncoming train. I steady him and ask him to stay put in the face of danger. He squares up solidly under me and holds his ground. He will take the hit if he has to.

My heart swells as for a moment, I have a saddle horse under me.

Peter is “TERRI, get OUT of the way!” I realize he’s got this, of course he does, and I do get out.  The mustang, still looking for help, hooks on to Royal and follows us around Peter. I scoot the heck to the other side of the arena and they get things managed.

I understand I probably should have got out of the way in the first place, and I know now Peter would have done whatever he needed to try to keep the people behind me from getting hurt. Was my instinct but not my job and my being in the way could have caused the very problem I sought to avoid. Another hmm  . . . being in the way . . .

Still, I have that golden memory I will never, ever forget. I asked my horse to hang in, and he did, in spades. He came through for me in the moment of truth.

Steve is ok, and we got to watch some really cool stuff as they help the mustang get ready to ride.

You don’t do things with a horse. You get them ready and the horse takes care of the doing. It’s a whole mental shift. It requires a picture in your head of what it looks like, and a plan to get there. We watch them get the mustang ready and Steve rides him all day long.

Steve and the mustang, getting there

Peter, Steve and the mustang

That afternoon Peter is helping each of us individually as we ride the Horsemanship 1 class. By the way, I don’t care how long you have been riding or what you think you know, don’t be arrogant and start with this one. Build in Foundation, first. Then, when you ride this class it will be beautifully effective for you instead of a struggle. How does she know this, you might ask . . .

I pay very good money for Peter’s help and I am thrilled he is riding with us one on one. However, I get a little nervy my own self and kind of work at keeping some arena between us for awhile as I observe what goes on. I skillfully manuever my horse, here, there, blending into the woodwork like a nail you would hang a bridle on.

And there he is, riding up beside me with purpose. I nod. Here you are, he says. Yep, here I am.

We ride together, and he is explaining how the ears and the eyes tell the story of what is happening with the feet. He guides me around, through me he gets Royal’s inside ear back and outside ear forward on the curve. I feel the horse soften under me every time this happens. I feel the change in his body when l lose one of them.

The inside ear is not too difficult for me, it’s controlled by the inside rein. I get grabby and do too much sometimes, but I can feel where we are going with that.

Peter says it’s okay to make a mistake, no big deal at all. If you want something to happen, it is not important that the thing happens, what matters is that you KNOW what does happen.

The outside ear is tougher. You have to be able to feel the feet to get that one. It’s controlled by leg pressure. At one point his outside hind foot was late. I know this, because Peter told me so. Feel it? Nope. I surely did not.

As he prompts me, I touch Royal with my leg to bring up his. The wrong leg. I use my inside leg, I am sure if I touch him with my outside leg, he will wheel his body into the circle and it will all just go to pot.

Finally I follow my instructions as what I am doing isn’t making any changes and my horse is beginning to tighten. Outside leg. I touch him lightly when Peter says “now!” I miss my timing but Royal doesn’t fall apart. Next couple of times, I get it and the ear comes nicely forward.

The tension falls out of my horse’s neck. He is like butter in my hands. I breathe the tightness out of me as well. A few more knots come loose somewhere in my upper chest. Now we are dancing to music we both can hear.


**Photo credits to Colleen Hamer, Roxanne Hill & Deb Johnson. Thanks you guys for capturing the memories. Treasures to keep.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Once again, thank you for your detailed and very honest write-ups - I feel like I am there with you.