Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Life's Too Short Not to Dance Every Damn Day

"When we come to a horse, we have to take into account the physiological impression of our affect on her."

Alexander Nevzorov 

 (Unsaddling Leah after our morning ride. Ha!)

Today was a better day with Leah.  I had to ride before work again, and I had an even smaller window, so we worked on standing still while mounting, walking out, and side-passing.  Altogether, it was 15-20 minutes in saddle, but they were 15-20 positive minutes.  Her side-passing had especially 100 percent!  I was so proud of her that we ended on that note.

Annette, over at Aspen Meadows, watched the documentary, Path of the Horse, (free on YouTube) and wrote about it.  I decided to watch it again today, in between patients here at the office, and I was so happy I did.  I saw some glaring mistakes I had slipped back into with Leah.

I think it was Mark Rashid who said in the video, "Through our training, we take out all the softness in the horse and then we have to spend all our time trying to put it back in."  He said that softness comes from the inside and lightness comes from the outside.  Softness is that stillness they have grazing at peace in the pasture, and they should take that with them whenever they're with us.

It was also Rashid who said we have to be like the leader in the herd, not the alpha.  In my case, that's Old Red.  I have to be Old Red!  And, Have a mind like still water.

Alexander Nevzorov: "When we come to a horse, we have to take into account the physiological impression of our affect on her. (This reminds me of indirect pressure--Dorrance) We are mammals, we are all physiological beings. You're listening to me with very big interest, but if right now I put in your pocket some burning coal, no matter how interesting I am, you will be running and screaming and jumping around your camera, but not listening to me. Everything in us mammals has a great dependency on physiological feelings and the art of speaking horse language is first a skill to not cause her physiological discomfort or pain."

Klaus Hemfling: "We wonder why they are not dancing anymore."

A quote from me:

I want to dance, and I want my horses to dance.  Life's too short not to dance every damn day!

Monday, May 2, 2016

Halfway to a Hundred!

As long as we are persistent in our pursuit of our deepest destiny, we will continue to grow. We cannot choose the day or time when we will fully bloom. It happens in its own time. 

Denis Waitley

Leah, peaking into my dream trailer--my instructor's new ride!

Who would have thought getting to 100 days of working with horses, however small, would be so difficult.  When my kids were growing up, I always told them that the people who are really good at things are the people who stick to it, kind of like the tortoise and the hare.  I'm definitely the tortoise, the "race" is a true partnership with Leah, and the race is still on.

But getting to 50 Days is something to celebrate!  

Last week, day 47, I had another trotting lesson with Leah, and it went much better than the previous (video) one.  We worked on being able to turn her with just a squeeze of the fist on the rein.  

Day 48, I worked with a trainer who rode Leah for me at the lope.  She also evaluated her for me and told me what I need to work on.  

Day 49, I met the same rider/trainer and she worked again with Leah on the lope, but my instructor, Regina, was also there, and we all talked about where Leah was at and what we need to do.

Basically, Leah was decent at the lope and good with her whoa, but needs more work on being able to bend on the line, but still keep the same line.  

Day 50 was today at home.  Since I had to go to work, my ride was early, but it was a beautiful morning, and I didn't want to miss out.  

One of the things we worked on was side-passing.  It was i-n-t-e-r-e-s-t-i-n-g.  When I asked her to take one step over, she took maybe five.  So, I dismounted and worked on it from the ground.  I had her place her front feet over a pole, and then side-pass along the line over the pole.  The pole worried her, but it was good practice.

I also had to work on getting her to stand still when mounting.  She started moving away a couple of weeks ago, and did it for the rider/trainer, too.  It appears she likes that little delay before every ride.  I'm hoping, with time, she'll give that up if I'm consistent.

The ride itself was far from perfect.  She was tuned into the herd, but I worked hard at keeping her on the circle with the outside rein, and she finally complied.  We did better at the walk than the trot.

It was an easy ride because I didn't want her to get too hot with so little time to cool her off before I had to get ready.  Maybe an easy ride now and then is a good thing.

In truth, I would rather that our 50th ride had been better, so that I could sit here and write about how wonderful it was and how hard work really pays off.  Instead, I'm trying to talk myself out of discouragement, if you couldn't tell.

I guess you've gotta have the faith.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

The Possibility of a New Family Member

“The greatest problem with Irish Wolfhounds, though, is that they don't live very long: their great hearts give out. A good deal of this is genetic, of course, but I think it is in part that they worry so for us, care so much.”

--Edward Albee

Saturday was a busy day for us. It was the annual Palisades Park Cleanup and Wildflower Hike. As many of you know, I volunteer stewarding the park by maintaining the kiosks and other things. The cleanup is our day to join together and remove all the filthy garbage.

After the cleanup, before the wildflower hike, we have lunch together and laugh about all the crazy things we found. Yesterday, during lunch, I got a text message from a friend. She knew I was thinking about getting another Irish Wolfhound and she had just been contacted by a friend, (who is also a breeder of IWs) who was considering finding a home for one that had been returned to her. My friend told her friend that we would make an amazing home. Her recommendation of us was so glowing, her friend was willing to pursue it.

My husband was sitting next to me, and, excited, I told him about it. He was excited to hear more, too.

But first we had the wildflower hike. The hike is held about every two years and led by Dr. Rebecca Brown, a professor of Botany and Riparian Vegetation at Eastern Washington University. She is passionate about wild flora!! So am I. My only question is, why isn't everyone else??? These hikes are free, but we have the hardest time getting anyone to come to them. I don't get it!!! It's like the mysteries of the universe are opened up to us in those hikes....really private, intimate details of creation.

The Balsamroot was profuse in the park.  You can see Spokane in the background.

The "Fragile Wood Fern"-- It's a poem in itself.

Doesn't this Prairie Smoke look like a human body?

Just looking at these pictures gives me goose bumps.

After the hike, we went home and I was able to learn more about Loki.

He's almost 2 (in May), his owner was a woman who thought she'd be able to take him with her to school, where she works, but instead had to take him to doggy daycare, and realized, eventually, she didn't have the time for him.

Irish Wolfhounds are not for everyone, many people can't handle their needs, but I grew up with one who lived until she was 10 years old--very long for an IW whose average lifespan is 6.5 years.

Mish didn't get anything special, like expensive dog foods and such, but she got a big family who loved her more than anything, and I think that's what kept her alive so long.  Irish Wolfhounds feast on love, and there are tales of them passing away directly after their owners pass away, simply from a broken heart.

Six years ago (with my dad's help--he's pictured above with Mish), we were able to bring Riagan home. My first IW as an adult.

I'm officially an Irish Wolfhound person. (And, a Lab person, as well!)

So, this is how it's going to happen. The breeder is a woman who LOVES her pups. She commits to them for life, even after they go to their new homes. She is willing to keep Loki herself, but IF, after meeting him and spending time with him, we find that we'd like to open our home and commit to him for LIFE, she is willing to let us. This is not a "rescue", but rather a possible adoption.

Our first date is May 6th. From everything I've heard about him so far, I'm optimistic.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Learning to Speak the Same Language: Linda & Leah at School

"All equestrians, if they last long enough, learn that riding in whatever form is a lifelong sport and art, an endeavor that is both familiar and new every time you take the horse out of his stall or pasture."

Jane Smiley

The quote I chose to start this post with today sums up how I feel about working with my green horse, Leah.  It feels new.  It's like learning to ride a bike all over again, or balancing on wobbly legs and learning to take those first few steps, and also it's also like learning a foreign language.

When my instructor talks, I think I know what she's saying.

She says: Bittle, boitle, chitten, chatten, walk. Boitle, chitten, bittle, chatten, left.

And, I'm like, Oh, I get it now! Botten, totten, roiter, doodle, bittle, chitten, boitle, chatten.  


Poor Leah, is wondering, Is she telling me to Bittle, boitle, walk, and boitle, chatten, left?  I just can't tell what she's saying, but I'm trying to figure it out. 

We're both working hard to learn a new language together, so that we can truly communicate with one another, and she did awesome yesterday with her willingness to try and her forgiveness of my mistakes.  Her attitude was beautiful from the moment I haltered her in the pasture.  I don't know how to describe it except to say that it seemed her mind and spirit were open to me, and that did not go unappreciated.  In fact, I was deeply appreciative.  Maybe the more so because of her having been closed to me on Tuesday.

My instructor had a lot to say about what happened Tuesday and how it may have fallen apart for us, but it really says it all in the video.  The mistakes I was making emerged in the work we did yesterday, the timing of releases, the amount of contact, etc.  

It's important to always remember what Buck and the Dorrances pointed out over and over again, and probably every other great horseperson--It is NEVER the horse's fault.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

When to Release--Not Too Soon, Not Too Late

 "Timing is everything."
Buck Brannaman

Sounds so simple, doesn't it?  But it's not.

When are you holding too long?  When are you letting go too soon?  These are questions I'm trying to find through feel with Leah. 

On Sunday I had a GREAT ride with her.  We'd had a lesson the day before and worked on her loping (riderless), and that seemed to improve her walk and trot on Sunday when we were alone. 

Today, however, not so good.

When I went to get her, she was a tad grumpy.  Also, she had been grazing on the green grass and her stools are soft.  Reminds me of the Scrooge quote, "There's more of gravy than grave to you."  It's possible she just wasn't feeling her best today. 

She did awesome on the groundwork--very tuned in and soft.  She stood very well for me to mount. (We'd had a couple issues with that last month.)  She bent in softly at both sides.

When we started to walk out, however, she didn't want to go straight.  She started tuning into her herd mates and I had to redirect her feet a lot. She also didn't want to maintain the speed I asked and she kept breaking into a trot.  To top it off, she also rooted at the bit--really stretching her neck down to take my reins.

Eventually, we got some nice walking and so we trotted, but her speed was excessively fast.  I pulled back on the reins--softly first, than harder, and I eventually got her to slow down.  But then she'd speed back up.  We worked for a long time--getting varying results.

At the end, I started working with her on moving away from leg pressure, and she did some amazing side-passing.  So, we ended on a good note.  She was sweating from ear to tail, though, and it took me a while to cool her off with rest and a cold bath. 

I've been reflecting about it the last few hours and I'm worried my releases aren't right.   I'm going to talk to Regina about it at my next lesson.  It could be, too, this all had to do with her not feeling well, assuming she doesn't feel well, and that question can only be answered with a little more time.

Either way, it won't hurt me to really practice and learn more about the release.  I know that green horses need every bit of encouragement--but letting go too soon only reinforces a bad habit.  It's a fine, fine line.