Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Finding the Right Place & Name

"Try to find the right place for yourself.

If you can't find it, at least dream of it."

Mary Oliver, "Leaves and Blossoms Along the Way", Felicity

Yesterday morning was cold and foggy, and I dreaded the thought of hooking up the trailer and driving to a lesson.  But I had faith.  Hallelujah!  That the clouds would part and the sun would shine.  Hallelujah!  



There she is.  The star of the show.  I wish I had more pictures, but I feel awkward stopping the lesson to ask my instructor to take one.  I usually just snap a quickie before the lesson begins.

You're going to think I'm wishy washy when I tell  you what I'm thinking next--but I've probably earned that title long before this.  Remember the whole changing her name thing?  Well, I did, but in last week's lesson I was told to call her name and get her attention when she was free lunging.  

"Quincy," I said.  Nothing.  "Quincy," I said louder.  Nothing.  "Cya," I said, desperately.  She turned to me.

This led to a few restless nights, tossing and turning, and thinking through the question, do they really know their names? 

Off I trudged into the fog and mud yesterday morning, truck running, trailer waiting, and Cya was like, Um, I'd rather not enter your mobile-rat-trap, thank you, and walked away slowly.  The kind of walk that says, I don't want to go, but I still want to be friends.

Fortunately, all those restless nights had produced another name to try--one that sounds like Cya 

"Leah," I said.  She stopped. Her eyes softened.  She turned to look at me. I walked up and placed the halter gently over her head.

I'm not an expert, but I'm pretty sure they know the sound of their names.  For example, Cowboy's name for me, is "hu, hu, hu," said in a gentle, throaty, grumbly way. Just three "hu's". He's greeted me that way forever, and I can hear him call me from wherever he is and know where he is instantly.  I even hear him call me in my dreams. 

Anyway, if you're still willing to follow along with my many name changes, the one I've settled on is Leah.

Leah. Leah. Leah.

Forget the Quincy.  Forget the Cya.

At yesterday's lesson, I was still working on turns.  Turning left, I was to hold my left rein steady (contact) and execute two pulls with my right rein (closed fist--turn it down, turn it down) and light contact with my right leg.  It worked remarkably well.  I had to stop though and ask my instructor why we were doing it.  Why that, rather than plough reining a turn?  Her answer was that the pressure put on my right (outside) rein--those gentle downward tugs that you wouldn't think a horse would pick up, but since they're such sensitive animals, they do, is the precursor to the pressure I'll put on their neck when we advance to neck reining.

In fact, she's showing me several ways to execute a turn and, depending on how Leah responds with her energy and balance, which to use when.  The goal is to have her balanced and moving forward from her hind end.  I believe that's called impulsion.  Rather than on the forehand, which is where they are unbalanced, heavy on the front, and not using their hind end.  It's hard work for them, especially when they're not used to it, and Leah tired after 15-20 minutes and began to trip a little. 

After the lesson, when the clouds separated and the sun shined, I took Leah home, traded out for Cowboy and went on the most glorious fall ride you can imagine. 

Here's a picture of hu-hu-hu with her horse, Cowboy, in the Spokane River.



Next lesson is Friday.  I can't wait!  Riding Leah is super fantastic.  I love working with her and building our relationship.  Bring it on.





17 comments:

  1. You guys are making great progress. You used a quote from my favorite poet at the start. :) and there isn't anything wrong with multiple name changes. You have to find the right one - for both of you.

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    1. I love Mary Oliver, too. My favorite of her books is Red Bird, but I'm enjoying Felicity, her latest. Thank you for being supportive of our name changes. I guess it's like trying on shoes. ;)

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  2. She obviously responded to it right away, so it's almost as though she picked out her own name - plus, 'Leah' is beautiful.
    I've had trouble with pet names too - sometimes it takes me a while to figure out what name actually suits a critter. Mr's mare is actually named Jet, but (years ago) I jokingly called her 'FancyPants' when she stepped out of the trailer & that apparently stuck in his head. It really does seem as though he has no idea who I'm talking about when I say 'Jet'.

    As far as what the horses think... my main guy has about 6 nicknames yet he always seems to know I mean him. Maybe it's how I say it more than what. Jet also answers to both of her names, & the other mare tries to ignore me no matter what I call her unless I am standing between her & the groceries. ;-)

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    1. Very interesting. Maybe it is the way you say it. I guess you have to feel it and it has to resonate with them--whatever name you choose. :)

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  3. I love 'Leah'. the name is perfect for her! I believe that it's not how long you worked but how effectively you worked. Sounds like you worked efficiently.

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    1. I think you're right about how effectively you work. A little can go a long way when they're carrying themselves with purpose.

      I just noticed I got the direction of the turn wrong in my blog post and I edited it. To turn left she had me hold the left and bump with the right. I'm direction impaired.

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  4. Love the name- and how she got all soft when you said it, like "Gee lady you finally figured out my real name!" My mare Clancy came with the name Lana, after her sire Lanas Cat, and it was too close to my friend Alana's name so I wanted to change it. I chose Clancy because it has a similar sound with the lan part. When I had that grey mare, she came with the name DeeDee which I really don't like, and as I was going through names for her, Delia popped into my head, I called it out and danged if she didn't turn her head and walk right up to me.
    I love it when we look forward to and get excited about riding- that's the way it should be. When I'm riding Clancy or Beamer, I just wish I could stay on and not have to get off!

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    1. That's probably a good test--if they respond to the name. If they don't, no matter how much you like it, probably isn't a good fit. Yes, riding our favorite horses is nothing but glorious. I have a friend who, every ride, says people would pay big money for this! She's right. It's a special thing to be out on horseback in beautiful settings. Priceless.

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  5. I'm a firm believer in animals knowing their names. And like us, I think some names are more well-suited to an individual's personality than others. Leah is beautiful. And it sounds like your girl definitely approves, and that's what counts. I try to not put much thought into names, but rather take some time to understand who they are and their name usually pops into my head, and I always know it when I hear it. Sounds like you and Leah are really starting to develop a deeper relationship together...love it! There's another beautiful picture for you to frame too! Don't you just love how they talk to us??

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    1. Haha, yes, another framer. It was cold and wet--even snowing a little today, so those frame-able moments are coming to an end quickly.

      Most of my horses have come to me with names--and most of them have really fit, and I've been happy with them. Like Cowboy. He came with that name, and it was perfect. He definitely seems to know it. I'm not a good namer, though. My cats are always "girl kitty", "boy kitty", "mama kitty", etc. My latest two kittens got real names--Jack and Dan. I was proud of myself. ;)

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  7. Sounds like you're having a lot of fun! Isn't it great to be all fired up about horses? I'm at that happy, energized point again myself after a long dispirited lull. I love it.

    I have a new equine love. I absolutely had to rename him, and I agonized for days, making lists, running things by family members. Then as I was sitting on the mounting block watching him eat, it came to me. I said, "Duncan," and he took a step to me, laid his head in my hand, and closed his eyes. That was a memorable moment.

    I'm hoping to head up to Spokane to ride sometime next year. Maybe we can get together. :)

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    1. Andrea, as you know, I've experienced the lulls, too. It is good to have the excitement. I would love to ride with you next spring. There are so many trails up here.

      It sounds like Duncan responded to his new name similarly to Leah accepting hers. When it comes to horses, there really is a lot in a name. My old trainer used to tell me that in her experience, horses lived up to their names.

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  8. Sounds like you're having a lot of fun! Isn't it great to be all fired up about horses? I'm at that happy, energized point again myself after a long dispirited lull. I love it.

    I have a new equine love. I absolutely had to rename him, and I agonized for days, making lists, running things by family members. Then as I was sitting on the mounting block watching him eat, it came to me. I said, "Duncan," and he took a step to me, laid his head in my hand, and closed his eyes. That was a memorable moment.

    I'm hoping to head up to Spokane to ride sometime next year. Maybe we can get together. :)

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  9. I just finished reading your blog -start to finish- and I'm so excited to see what the future holds for you and Leah.

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    1. Hi Jenna. Thanks for stopping by. I'm going to zip over and watch your videos. :)

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Please feel welcome to join our discussion--tell us about your own thoughts and experiences.