Monday, January 22, 2018
Learning to Be An Observer and to Release Tension In My Horses
My 2018 goal with Leah is helping her to be less reactive. I blame myself for creating the tension in the first place.
What I did wrong:
1. I only went out to get her when we had something to do.
2. I took weekly lessons away from home which required a lot of trailering away--she started to get stressed in the trailer because the lessons were a lot of work and she didn't want to leave her herd.
3. I gathered the reins inelegantly, every time I went to ask for a transition change. Now, when I pick up the reins, she automatically transitions when sometimes I'm only trying to get better grip on my reins.
4. I missed the signs of laminitis and continued to train her when she was hurting. (Part of her rehab was being ridden, but it was light work in a sand arena, rather than trails and collection work at lessons)
5. I didn't spend an adequate amount of time stretching, massaging, and TTouching her.
I've been riding Leah a lot this week, sometimes bareback, and I can feel the tension in her back at transition changes. I could also feel her tense when I went to mount. It's much easier to create tension than it is to release it, but I'm dedicated to doing just that.
(Video of me practicing TTouch and massage with Leah. I'm doing it much faster than usual because of the video process--and it still took 8 minutes to tape. I'll make another that shows the actual motion and timing.)
I took a series of private TTouch lessons from a certified practitioner back in 2013, and it did wonders for Cowboy and Old Red. Last week, I started re-introducing it with massage.
Ttouch, basic grooming, stretching and massage do a number of things:
1. It helps them to give us parts of their body they don't trust us with (ears, mouth, tail, feet, etc.)
2 It teaches them that our hands are okay--more than okay--they are instruments of tenderness and communication,
3 It gives us information about where they may be hurting (and most horses hurt somewhere)
4 It gives us time together, before a ride, to bring our energies together with an emphasis on deep breathing and slow movements.
5. It calms us down before a ride and makes us much more aware of our partner.
6. It helps them release tension and pain in their bodies.
7. Using our touch methods (whatever they may be) in saddle, helps our horses to relax and remember that we're on their back as a partner.
I had a trainer friend who was the most observant horse person I've ever met. Sometimes, I thought too observant. "Hey, your horse is lame." "Hey, your horse needs wormed." "Hey, your horse is taking advantage of you." It was always true, and I was always shocked that I'd missed what was so obvious to her. I had a deep respect for her observation.
My granddaughters came to visit last weekend and, since it was windy and cold, we did a lot of work in the barn--learning to be observers. They watched the video I made (above), and they practiced the art of deep grooming, TTouching, stretching, and massage. I even had them observe as they approached their horses in turnout. Did they seem happy? Grumpy? Willing to be caught? Did they walk politely at their sides? Did they tune into them? Other horses?
I asked them to tell me three good things that their horses did and one thing that they'd need to work on, and I was shocked at how observant they were when pressed. I told them to NEVER doubt their observations. NEVER do something you don't feel comfortable doing. TRUST yourself.
Trust your observations. Trust yourself.
The granddaughters and I groomed, massaged, TTouched, and stretched our horses for an hour, and it went by fast. Afterward, they mounted and rode their horses. I hope they learned that both are equally rewarding. I hope they take those touches with them and remember them until the next time they get to see Penny and Little Joe.
They say, people don't remember what you say so much as the way you make them feel.
I hope I become the person that makes all my horses feel good when they see me coming to the barn and when I'm on their backs.