Sunday, January 9, 2011


I am reading The Tao of Equus by Linda Kohanov. I am in a chapter about a young woman named Joy. It's been an especially eye-opening chapter that has raised a lot of questions about myself because I super-relate to Joy. She is a person of the people-pleasing variety, as am I. Many of her personal bad habits resonated with me. . . because they are also mine. I have recognized this facet of myself and have worked hard to reform it, but this chapter spoke about levels of this bad habit that I had not considered. The most relevant item I can share is the tendency to suppress my feelings, to put on a happy face and shrug off negativity; to not express the feelings that society says are negative; to supress them inside myself. This creates an incongruency. I think that subconciously, I knew this was happening and why. In fact, I got very close to expressing it as a verbal theory when trying to communicate to someone why my horses were misbehaving at horse shows. Now I see fully what was going on.

One of the exercises to help solve this debilitation of feeling is to allow yourself to be ( insert "negative" feeling here ), find out why you are feeling that, and do what you need to do to satisfy your subconcious needs by setting boundaries for yourself that make your subconcious feel safe. I know that sounds ambiguous, but I am not a certified teacher of the field, so feel free to not try this at home if I have been unsuccessful in achieving clarity. At any rate, I think this is why I feel better when I talk through my sessions.

Blu, 3 hours (spread out over two sessions), afternoon, evening, 1/9/11
Misty, 30 minutes, evening, 1/9/11

On the 45’ line, we played the circling game behind the barn. Today's focus was on preparing for cantering around those buckets with me beside his zone 5, so I wanted a lot of cantering, and I ended up having to be provocative to keep him from grazing, intially. He was easy to get going, but I began to ask for a transitions right at the two spots he was tending to stop in order to keep him going. Pretty soon, he was so connected, he wasn’t thinking about stopping anymore.

I did several changes of direction. He was doing all flying lead changes when he maintained gait, but sometimes, he dropped to a trot. He began to get tight with the changes of direction. I did two blocks so he would do the change of direction, but not have to feel any more pressure from me. One was the barn. The other was to let him race up the hill and he had to change direction or go kareening down a steep hill with all kinds of vines blocking the way. That caused him to stop and really thing. His changes of directions fixed, we moved on.

I began a bulls eye. He got to about 15’ and could not maintain the canter any closer. I kept him there for several, laps though (before letting him drift out to a larger circle, again), as I tried to feel what I needed to do to help him move better. He had a lot of tension in his neck—like he didn’t know he could canter with it bent. To fix it instantly, I remember wanting to be able to brush his ribs because his breathing was getting stiff, too. It would seem that Blu needs some serpentines to become more flexible. Other isolation exercises would help him get that tighter circle. I settled for a really nice trotting bulls eye pattern into a tight circle. He was curved around me and kept going all the way to me.

I took off the line and let Blu graze for a bit. Then I read for a while (lots about Joy). Blu had a line on, but I wasn’t holding it. He was going all over the place, but was ready to go when I was done reading.

I tried to work on his canter with two lines, but I couldn’t use gloves because the gloves are not athletic enough for me to work with them. My hands became like rocks and I couldn’t grip the lines softly anymore. I kept at it for as long as I could. I held onto them but, it was just too much. I was quite upset that the cold was keeping us apart.

What I learned in that half hour was that Blu can canter with the feather lines with me in the middle as long as I am cantering. Otherwise it is difficult for him to maintain a canter that close. So, I was just cantering with him. I got to feel some really nice feelings of synchronization before I threw in the towel; we went from a really rough and wild canter, which looked like may have been hard to come down from, and slipped down into the trot then walk with just breathing and gait changes in me.

Blu was really keyed up because in a lawn several houses down, a man was driving a lawn mower through the snow with a kid in a sled behind him. Ginger and Blu were staring and very concerned. I was very goofy. I did not look at the spectacle, but instead, rolled my body across his like a rolling pin until he responded (walked off to find somewhere else to stare from) I pitter pattered around and Blu finally went into the barn on his own. I had a plan to ride him over behind the barn with food in the middle of our bulls eye pattern so I could feel him better, but with him this stoked, I knew I would want some of it out of him before I got on. So, 23’ line and a lot of running around until he relaxed was the pre-flight plan.

He was just as flitty as I figured he would be. I encouraged him to get it all out, and when I put the reins on, he was much calmer.

So, Blu gave me his back easily twice (I forgot the food the first time). That brought me such a blooming of warmth in my chest. I started some sideways/halfpassing that turned into small circles with a sideways element. The bend was uneven, at first, with his circles counter clockwise being less bendy than the other direction.After some flexing and blowing, they were both nice circles. As we went back to get the bucket of food, I noticed that my core had been very engaged during that episode. Little did I know that the next part of our session was going to involve much more of that.

When we went to the bulls eye pattern, it became obvious to my body that the reason he could not get into tighter circles at the canter was because he was so heavy on the forehand. Blu’s current back conformation is very down hill and it makes it quite difficult to do finesse. I am able to get into a good body position and we’ve had success with our finesse journey, but this is where his body draws the line because he simply does not know how to move his body into something tighter, on purpose, and at the canter. I could feel everything falling onto his inside shoulder. So I showed him how he could do really tight circles at the trot. Then, for the canter, I tried to lift everything up as much as I could. I felt like all my organs and guts were going to come up into my lungs, so I found a new way to breathe while willing Blu to lift up. Blu was searching and experimenting. Then, finally, on our circle about 12’ from the food bucket, he got two or three elevated canter strides. I immediately let him go to the middle and grab the food because that was very difficult for him (and me!!!). I got down and took the bridle off. When he had cleaned the dish, I picked it up and he followed me all the way to the barn at liberty. I think next time, I will put the dish on a barrel so his focus is a bit more up, too.

Now it was Misty's turn--or at least that's what she was saying as I walked by her pasture. I got two treats, a carrot stick & savvy string, and played with Misty. Meeting up, as we walked toward each other, she mirrored every step; when I took a step to the south a bit, she took one to the south, as well, and the same for the north. We ran around and I found out that she can do spins with just a suggestion of direction. Cool! We did it 3 times. I would slap the ground one time and it would send her around and she'd finish it up by bring her front end back around to me.

As we stood together coming off adrenaline after playing, I suddenly wanted to ride her in a run around the pasture. I put the string around her neck and swung on. No problem! We went off and I asked for a canter. We flew around the pasture and did two flying changes. She was so in tune with my will. It was such a good time, short as it was.

I took Misty out to graze for a while. I told her about Blu’s session. She taught me a lot tonight. I learn so easily from her. She showed me how much could be retained on a schedule of lots of down time, no deadlines, and fun.

Natural Horsewoman Out.

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About Me

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I am a young horsewoman with a million things on my mind. I have been a student of the horse all my life. As a little girl, I had a desire to understand horses on deeper levels. I believed that there was no such thing as a bad horse, and I believed that all horses were beautiful. One might say that I was a naive child, but I guess I don't have an excuse anymore, because I still believe all of that, and Parelli Natural Horsemanship is helping expand on this perspective.

What We Are Currently Playing With

  • Moving Close Circles at Liberty
  • Soft, Balanced Canter on 45' Line
  • Zone 5 Driving