Tune Up Day 5: Enjoy the Ride
I know in many of my past blogs, current teachings and futuristic “advice” I often talk about goals and having “intention” when we work with our horses… As with everything there is a time and place for that sort of focus, but there is also a time, and I’m sure you’ve experienced the feeling, where you “just want to go for an enjoyable ride.” Today was that sort of day with O.
I didn’t wake up this morning and say, “O will be good today, therefor I can just enjoy the ride.” No, rather, as with every horse in every session, I took her at “face value” and assessed mentally and emotionally how she was feeling as I caught her (again she greeted me, this time leaving her buddy and grazing in the pasture to come say “hi,” and to be caught), groomed and tacked her up. Happy, quiet, calm.
I worked her once again on the long lead and within a few circles O had taken the initiative to NOT instinctually flee, but rather to literally look at something that bothered her and then to relax. So I called her in and we moved on.
Some of these “feelings” I get when working with a horse comes from spending hours upon endless hours being around them. I always joke with clients that if they spent as much time with their horse as they paid me to spend with their horse, then they too would have an entirely different relationship with the animal.
The weather was perfect, the horse was happy, so why not enjoy the ride? There are some days, where it is okay to enjoy “where you are at,” rather than having to introduce something new every time you work with your horse. This was one of those days. The horses are completely honest as to their assessment towards a human’s energy, stress and emotions. So when it feels like a “great day,” let your brain and body enjoy, because your horse will sense that positive energy from you and will mimic it.
That was the case for how O was moving, trying and mentally participating like a pro. Someone was stringing white tape to rebuild an electric fence, and the old ball (think size of an exercise ball) of wire was sitting in the field like a lurking predator and the newly strung tape was gently flapping in the wind. O initially tried the “quietly sneaking past the scary spot” tactic. I offered instead that she stop and physically look at it in order to mentally address the concerning object, which after she did so briefly was immediately able “let it go” and refocus on what we were doing. And that is exactly the point of maintaining specific intention and clear communication in our past rides.
You can never expect to have a “bomb proof” horse, (trust me they don’t exist, EVERY horse on the planet has “something” than can send them emotionally into a meltdown moment,) but you can teach and expose your horse to various scenarios in order to build their confidence. Will you ever be able to expose them to “everything?” No. So instead of trying to overly desensitize a horse, why not teach them how to “handle” a natural response (such as fleeing, defensiveness, etc.) in a more reasonable manner so that when (and it will) something unexpected arises, you have pre-defined tools and options to help your horse through the scenario so that neither of you wind up feeling like you’re just trying to “survive” the ride.
When I first met O there wasn’t a moment in her day when she could be “okay” about life, so to reach a day like today is incredibly rewarding… (A few days after our last ride, O continued to try and greet me every time I was near her, as if to say, “What’s next?”)
If you had been sitting on the sidelines watching the ride, hopefully you would have been totally unimpressed and almost on the verge of “bored.” I say that because really, most of our rides should be “boring” and uneventful. If every time we return home after a ride and have a “story” to tell, there is probably something missing in our communication and relationship with our horse. I tell my competitive students, “If I saw you in a warm up arena with 40 other horses, I wouldn’t want to notice you.” Because think about, most of the rides you remember experiencing or witnessing typically are a lot more “exciting” than most people would like to have with their horse. The truly quality rides are the ones that look quiet, fluid and almost like horse and rider are one being in their movement.
I hope these past five Tune Up blogs have added some new perspectives, thoughts and ideas for when you head out to your horse. As always, it is a bit difficult to write to “everyone” because each person and horse is at a different “spot” in their learning. I’d love to hear any feedback in either an email or comment!