I heard a long time ago the good is often the enemy of the best, or in my case, the better. There is such a joyous freedom in giving myself permission to learn, to throw out the idea that I “ought to know this stuff by now” in whatever direction I happen to be looking at the time.
Right now I am speaking of horsemanship but it sure does not have to be.
It’s one of the things that made this latest clinic that I rode in the best one of them yet. I was relaxed and at ease with the idea that I was there to gather whatever information was next accessible for me to digest. I wasn’t afraid of “messing up” or getting into trouble. I understand I might not get things right, but I am better at not trying to go through something bad to get to something good. Better at understanding to take the try, set us up for a better result next time and just move on. That’s helped me in life more than you might know.
Peter said first thing Thursday morning that we needed to give ourselves permission to learn, that was a huge lightbulb for me. I settled into the theoretical saddle and got ready.
There was a troubled little Arab there and for once, it didn’t happen to be the one I was riding. This gelding had got real scared and his rider was scared too, and I don’t blame or judge either of them. Peter worked with them both and we got to see the kind of magic happen that I have come to expect when I ride his clinics.
I watched changes. Peter worked with that horse first, on the ground and from the saddle. I watched that rider give herself permission to learn. I am not wanting to tell her story, but I got to participate and then it becomes part of my story.
To help them with their fear, Peter had her pony the Arab off her gelding, and then stand by the rail. The rest of us were instructed that if we could safely ride our horses with flags we should get them.
Ride Royal with a flag? Once upon a time I would have laughed or cried at the thought. He and I were in such good space and I thought back to the trail ride with Christine and Corie when I used Christine’s shoofly, basically a rag on a stick to relieve my pony of the nattering creatures. He had glanced at it a couple of times, understood it was all good for him and there was no issue.
How about now? I ride out to the stalls where my borrowed flag awaited. I figured I would find out on the way back to the arena if this were any kind of a good idea or now. I had to laugh when I met Colleen with Dervish there, having the same thought.
We were fine, the four of us. I have this warm glow in my heart as my horse can sort out and understand what is meant for him and what is just stuff going on in the background, even if the background is a flag inches away from him. He is also not dull to stimulation so that when I picked up that flag with intent, he could respond with respect instead of fear. That’s been a goal long time in coming.
The class rode along the rail and each of us approached the frightened horse in such a way as to not excite or move him, and we touched his back with the flag how Peter told us too. It mattered that we didn’t further upset him, we needed to be very conscious of our approach and able to handle our flag in such a way to help him make a calm change.
By day four, that gal was riding him in the H1 class and you wouldn’t know he’d been different than the rest of us. Just like me with Duke, Riata, now Royal and many others I have had the fortune to observe.
We also did an exercise with her other horse, forming a circle and she rode past us keeping him in the circle using only her coiled rope. Royal got to experience that horse coming up on him, going past, at different rates of speed. I was proud my horse’s calm never waivered. It tells me what is out there for us.
Back to being cows. Not naughty now, we are loping around the gathered cattle in pairs. The object is to keep our horses together on the circle. The inside rider has to work to keep their horse on the circle, not let them blow out and run into the outside horse who has to move quite a bit faster to keep the pace. If your horse can be a little sensitive to pressure, like mine, it’s quite a challenge. For different reasons, it was for most of us.
When it was my turn, the group was mostly paired up and Trina came forward to lope with us. I think the class thought my naughty cow miasma was going to roll over onto them as well. Trina wasn’t skeered
First time around, I am on the outside and away we go. We didn’t mind having to pick up the pace and when Peter said the outside rider was going to have to “ride their horse” to keep up, we did just that. My game little horse set his ears back and moved!
Next turn, we are on the inside and that’s harder. She and her behemoth of a gelding kept us with us, and when Royal got a little worried at the close quarters and wanted to run through my leg, I checked him but her horse checked him first. It worked like it’s supposed to, Royal got back on track, never broke his stride in the meantime. It was a great exercise and I love that my horse stayed controllable and with me throughout.
My brain was not in the way of my being able to stay in the moment with my horse. I could ride up or down, whatever he needed, and he responded with me. Another goal VERY long in coming.
When it came time to work the actual cattle again on day four, we all had a much different experience. Most of the class could hold the cow for several turns, some looked downright talented. My goal was to try to stay out of the way and get correct turns.
Realizing it’s my responsibility to be present where my horse is, work from where he is, and that I might not know that right away and have to do some things to figure it out is really freeing. I don’t blame my horse for getting upset, don’t get lost in “he does this or doesn’t do that.”
Release the blame, take responsibility, stay in the moment and work from where your horse is.