Leaping, bounding, bouncing, running backwards and sidewise, I have gone through life in just about every direction but straight ahead until just here lately. Not much of a shock then that I would get partnered up with a horse who travels the same way.
Peter said to us several times over the past four days during his clinic at the Lancaster Event Center, Lincoln NE that our horses should operate like we are riding a cloud, no matter what we are doing. Move a foot here, there, it should follow the slack in the rope without resistance or move off the leg because it’s there and you ask it to.
Peter is showing us some things with his lovely Alice, a little gray mare he says is green green. We all wish we had our broke horses looking like her.
These gorgeous photos are courtesy of Karen Johnson. We have the great fortune of having several very talented photographers as fellow riders. Lucky us!
She hangs up just a smidge, has her nose turned the wrong way just a little to the outside of what Peter wants her to do.
“Just wait here” he says. “Let her work at a little. Some folks might bump on her here but she doesn’t need that.” And sure enough, a couple seconds pass, she comes off her own pressure, shapes up beautifully and completes the maneuver.
During one of our morning warm ups before Foundation begins, I am asking Royal to walk around me to the right (only 54 years old, I am starting to figure out which way is right and which way is left). He’s always stiffer that way for whatever reason.
True to form, instead of all four feet reaching equal, his neck is a little bent the wrong way, his rib cage is in and his nose is out. I feel the tension pick up on the lead. I bump, get off that. Bump again. He bumps back and we discuss for a moment how things ought to be.
Wait . . . WHAT?? Yes. I’ll be darned. I did that. I always do that. Okay, bud, let’s try that again. It hasn’t changed in four years so let’s see what happens if I keep my brains in my hands and do something different.
To the right. Sure enough, here comes the awkward inside out bend. I step back (yep, back) just a little. I hold but move my feet so I don’t get out of position and mess him up that way. He bounces his nose a little (pretty sure looking for the bump that has always been there from me, that’s my part of the disharmony). I just hold, wait.
It takes a bit because he is confused. I am not singing my part in a way that he can automatically fall into his. Eventually the nose softens my way, the body rounds out, his strides reach equally under him. I ask him to drift his hind and it takes a second. He hangs a little on the halter rope, probably awaiting my answering bump. It doesn’t happen and again, he softens, steps deep under himself. Perfect.
You might have no idea how big that was, that part right there.
We work it some more. I pick up his tail and after doing first too much and then barely enough, I can send Royal into motion with a light ask from the end of it.
( I got no end of grief for wearing those light colored breeches. Someone thought I was taking riding nekkid just a little too far . . . nah, hate chafing!)
I won’t tell you Royal and I floated around like cloud nine the ENTIRE time but I will tell you, we had some. We got a taste and we both LOVED it.
Rolling down the rail a different day, picking up a brisk walk (how fast can you walk your horse, EASY now) Royal’s neck is arched lightly in front of me. His mane swings in time with his businesslike bob as he moves right out. I see something I have never witnessed in my horse in our years together. His ears waggle happily in time with the beat.
So relaxed and at ease.
Pick up your left rein, tip his nose to the left, step the hind a quarter turn.
It’s not perfectly smooth but it happens pretty neat. I resist the impulse to bump him back off the bit when I meet a little resistance. That habit lies DEEP in me as do so many. I hold that left rein and let him find his way off the pressure. No fussing, no argument. It makes sense to him.
Back them up using both reins with FEEL. One smooth fluid motion.
We do this, first out in the middle as it was a big class but when we got a little lost (I would have once thought we were doing great) we found the rail and let it help us get straight and smooth.
We stand and breathe. Royal is completely relaxed. I can hear soft footfalls all around me. There is an air of peace. I never tell other people’s stories, not my place but this time I really want to, so many people were trying so hard and things were already falling into place. Peter’s work is not in vain.
Royal and I, 2012