Bet you guys thought I forgot all about Peter Campbell, Archie MO Day Four. Could not be further from the truth. I have thought of little else this past month.
Bringing it home and putting it to work. That seems to be the challenge of every clinic and every clinic-goer I have ever known. Most of us can get at least a piece of what the clinician is teaching and get things to work during the event. It’s back at home the memory fades, the old habits subtly resume their same old songs. We forget the changes or we forget how we made them.
It’s been my determination to not allow that to happen. Peter showed us some new ways to do some old things. New to me, anyway. It’s all about getting control of the feet to rearrange the life in the body. That is not new and Peter showed us a couple pretty neat maneuvers to get it done. He showed us more ways to help a horse come down before you mount up and once you are in the saddle.
That means I stay ahead of the situation and try to keep Royal in a relaxed frame of mind. He and I can both lose our serenity in a lightning’s blink so if that happens, I need to know how to put us back. Both of us.
Day four, for me, was joyous. Day three ended deeply emotional. I am not going into detail, it is not my story to tell. The risks we saw Peter take to help that mare, the effort she had to make to come through to a better place and the impact it all had on her owner is worth more than I can give them in a few sentences. Just let me tell you it was one of the most powerful things I have ever seen. The effects, the rewards, were with them still the next day and I will bet, right this minute.
Royal and I were together 100%.
We worked on an advanced technique in our second class, one that called for awareness and an ability to ask for a specific sequence of footfall. We didn’t achieve it right away from the saddle but what was important was our two way communication was alive and well.
“Left hind foot first, Royal.”
“I need to move my right front. No? Left front then, how about?”
“Um, no. Wait for me while I figure out how to ask so you can understand what I want.”
We did get it, and then from the ground, several times. It’s a neat technique and I have forgotten all about practicing it. Thanks for the reminder
Riding alone at the ranch, we had that completely blissful ride I noted in my last entry. It started out okay with the head-lowering, ankle relaxing exercises but once we headed up the trail, that head came right back up and a couple little spooks told me we headed back down the well worn path of frustration and anxiety.
I stopped us, immediately. I did not try to go through something bad to get to something good. I did all the things I talked about in my last post to get his feet, his mind and his body with me. We did everything on that ride. Rated. Even found a little speed and I think the horse had as much fun as I did.
We found a place on a wooded trail blocked by deadfall. Hmm, to the right a slippery leaf covered slope which ends in an ancient barbed wire fence. On the left, up a bank into more deadfall and closely spaced trees. I can maybe see a logical path up there. Requires winding tightly here, stepping over not one but several down logs there, and through some brush before a steep downward to the trail on the other side.
Sizing up what we need to do, my horse is settled beneath me. He is waiting for what I want to do next. Waiting . . .
It takes a glance, a little rearrangement of my weight and we climb the bank. I ask him to wait, again. Small asks of the rein before we wind through the small closely set trees in order to set up for the least chance of breaking a leg in the vee’s of the downed timber.
He complies. We step forward, picking our way with careful delicacy. There is no rush, no panic. He pauses when I want to assess our next direction and doesn’t care when the brush grabs his sides and rudely pokes him in the butt.
Day three I had practiced what happens when you put a taller water bottle than you are used to on the offside and then forget about it when you go to mount. Don’t know about you but I make a loud crackling sound as my leg hangs, and then stab my horse under his tail when I reflexively jerk back. An annoyed grunt was fortunately the only response from my rightfully offended horse. Sorry dude.
I guess he knows that might be a part of things now. He hopes it’s not, I am sure but at least he’s tolerant of what might happen in a human’s world.
Stepping down off the bank, we jauntily resume. I think we are deeply pleased with one another and so we ought to be. This photo does not do justice to the steep angle we are looking at. Pretty good stuff when you know you can count on your horse to go up or down just about anywhere you want to go.
Finally, riding my horse is fun again. He might be glad I have found my brains and heart after a long winter’s night of uncertainty and doubt.
We rode with my friend, Colleen, at Cunningham Lake a weekend or so ago. Alone, we are golden, now we need to get this working in company of other horses out on the trail.
Colleen has some of the issues with her young horse that I do with mine. They are both unsettled, riding with others. None of the old saws about taking them to the lead, riding with buddies, whatever, none of that works with either of them. Doesn’t work with any, really, but some horses will passenger their riders a little more quietly under those circumstances. Neither Colleen or I have any interest in being passengers taken for a ride.
We made a game plan for some different things to try to keep our horses minds with us instead of allowing them to focus on one another. It was a little bit fits and starts, here and there before the changes started to take place.
I was challenged to find my own mental serenity and I know for a fact Royal can’t find his if mine is lost. Processing all the following week, I know once again, that task belongs to no one but myself and regardless of what is going on around me, I can find my ability to breathe, be calm and be a good leader for my horse.
That ride worked out too, for all of us. On our way back we did things with our horses, increasing the distance between them as we went. Colleen’s horse seemed completely with her when I would look over at them, the pair was working together.
Royal found a little concern as I asked him to leave them behind but after a questioning ear flick, it was down the trail and no mad rush when I allowed him to return. More knots fell out of my soul and maybe his too.
We found enjoyment in our horses, in each other’s company and it was another great ride for the books. Here’s us, snapping shots of one another at the watering hole, and then again at the end of our ride.
Royal and I signed up for our next big adventure. Competitive Trail Riding is a sport enjoyed by several of my friends and has always had appeal to me. For those of you not familiar, it is distance riding but not the mad rush of endurance (that also has appeal, don’t let me lie).
It is a judged event from everything to safety in your campsite, how your horse is groomed, how you handle obstacles on the trail and your horsemanship when you might think you are unobserved. There is a window of time so knowing how to rate your pace to make a distance is key. Vet checks, pulse and respiration requirements let you know if you can continue.
This weekend coming up there is a CTR Clinic on Saturday followed by a CTR ride on Sunday. I figure what better way to begin our chosen sport than a clinic telling us how to do it. Several of our friends who have achieved success are going to be there, teaching and mentoring.
Time to take our show on the road. I figure what we need to learn next is going to be presented to us in big, bold letters. Wish us luck!