Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Drum Roll....



I don't try to build enough suspense at this blog, but I wish I could in order to express the suspense in myself--for my horses--every time I go out on the trail.  How will they react to new horses?  How will they handle the trailer ride? How will they do on the trails? On the obstacles?  Will they be partners?  Will they show heart?

I met four friends at Riverside State Park, a very large local park, for our first ride of the season.  Riverside has 12,000 acres, 25 miles of horse trails, and 200,000 feet of shoreline trails.  If you've followed this blog, you've heard a lot about it because it's about five miles from my house, and we go there a lot.

I took Leah, and she trailered like a pro.  We unloaded and did some at-liberty work in the round-pen.  She wanted to looky-loo at all the other horses, but I asked her to lope, then stop and face up, then stand and keep her attention on me as I walked  up to her, then walk by my side.  It didn't take her too long to do that, so we went out and did the obstacles in-hand.  She did them all wonderfully, which meant it was time to saddle.

Since my back is healed, I used my old western saddle.  (Oh, how I missed it!)  The first obstacle we rode through was the labyrinth with SIX turns.  I asked for each step going forward through it, and she was tuned into each placement. Then, I had to back her through it, which is much more stressful because she can't see where she's going and has to trust my direction.  Leah is extremely emotional and you can see she is putting a lot of pressure on herself not to step out of the path, so I have to be really gentle in my asks, patient, and encouraging.  For the first time ever, we did it without her getting panicked, and she did it very well.

From there we went through the all the other obstacles with no problem--except the mailbox.  She still doesn't like the mailbox, which made me wonder how she'd do opening and closing the gate--since they're so similar.  The gate was really the ultimate test for me of all that we've been working on this winter. Here we were at the park with lots of other horses she didn't know--a new round pen--lots of activity.  Would she do it???

Yes!  She both opened and closed, then opened and closed again, the round pen gate.  Yay, Leah!!  Woot! Woot!

We were off to the races--or rather, the trails.



During the trail ride, she led the pack at a brisk pace, but maintained her walk. Double yay! We asked a lot of them for their first ride, but she didn't balk.  We went up and down steep trails along the water, over large logs, ran into dogs and people, and she did it all like a pro.

In fact, my friends all remarked on how far she'd come and how she was a different horse from last year.

For my part, you know how important togetherness is to me--heart--partnership. And, let me tell you--Leah tuned into me the whole time.  She didn't give an iota about the other horses.  Whenever we came to something scary, she'd check in with me, I'd tell her it was okay, and she'd pass over it.  Sometimes, she'd look back at me for reassurance, and I'd reach down and rub her head.  I rode on a loose rein for a lot of the ride, but there were times I picked it up and gently moved the reins with my pinkies to talk to her.  She would talk back, too, if you know what I mean.  This very gentle, I'm here, I'm here--tick, tick--of the rein on either side, and a gentle response, or movement, back from her--to tell me, I'm listening.



It makes me want to cry thinking about it.  There is nothing more sweet or rewarding than when your horse gives you their trust.



14 comments:

  1. Hurrah for Leah! Such pretty pictures and video. The way you are tuned into horses' emotions reminds me of an equitation instructor I had who used to say things like, "You're pissing her off!" or "He's not listening to you. He's flirting with the mares." I was so new to horse ownership at the time that I was like, "How do you even know this stuff?"

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    1. I hope you’re right! I believe that a horse should never be too frightened. I try to de-escalate fear by breaking tasks down into much smaller parts. It’s a much longer, and creative, process which you know all too well. Sounds like you had a good teacher.

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  2. You must be over the moon. Sounds like a perfect first outing and you couldn't be more happy with the trust Leah has in you and how she asked and listened the whole time. All your work has paid off in a wonderful relationship with a great horse. Congratulations!

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    1. Thank you! Yes, I was pretty thrilled. I tend to make a pretty big deal of her in moments like that, and she is starting to look for her moments of praise. Like, “Let the praising begin! I rocked that ride!”

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  3. Oh that makes my heart smile!
    Gussie is an emotional mare too, it's going to be an interesting year rebuilding our relationship. I hope we can get where you and Leah are!

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    1. You will!! The emotional ones sure demand patience and gentle leadership. I had to learn that taking our time in the beginning of learning anything new, and breaking things way, way down, pays off huge later. The connection for us took a long time, which was even harder than the other stuff for me to be patient about. I’m sure you remember a few of my ups and downs with that! 😂 Good luck with Gussie. I think she’ll come around a lot faster with your level of horsemanship and horse understanding.

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  4. So awesome, all of it!! I am so happy for you and Leah! She looks so chill in all the photos. Love how you work with and relate to each horses individuality. Such a wonderful start to the trail season!

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    1. Thank you. Good point about how each horse is individual. There are some quotes in my post from today that really stress that.

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  5. Very satisfying, not surprising with all the work that you've put in.
    Padre & I also speak to each other in 'whispers' - our reward for listening hard in years passed.

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    1. Oh, I love whispers--getting smaller and smaller asks--reading each other's minds. That's me and Cowboy. Leah and I have a few more years to put in to get there. Or, maybe sooner. We'll see. It's a lovely place to be.

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  6. This is wonderful. You have worked so hard on this partnership.

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    1. Thank you. Yes, you can discount the element of "time spent." It's all about me learning "feel". If I had been better at it, we may have gotten here much sooner. But it's a journey.

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    2. **can't discount, that is!

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  7. Bless Leah's heart. Your post made me cry a little bit because I know exactly what you're talking about. :) I strive for that beautiful relationship with my horses too, and feel that my lack of riding in recent years has been such a huge loss. My hope is to get back on track and make the time for what is the most important desire of my heart. I am truly the happiest when with my horses. As I believe you are. I'm so happy for you. And for Leah!

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