"Joy--deeper still than heartache."
And then I pulled the Lightning Horse card which reminded me that working with Leah should be--"a sublime and silent improvisation between two souls."
I merged those two inspirations together and could not wait to get out and see what would happen when I worked with Leah. What kinds of things would she choose to do, if I were to let her decide, as they do in the video? Who is Leah--my dance partner? What moves does my partner want to make? What motivates her? What inspires her?
The fact is, horses don't need us for much. I was thinking about it this morning. Shelter? Nah, they're happy out with the other horses running free. Hugs & rubs? Nah, they can do that for each other, too. Protection? Nope. They're stronger, faster, can see better, smell better, kick better. In fact, the only thing I could come up with is food. We have this magical way of producing food on demand--summer, spring, winter, fall--we have what they love--FOOD--but, even that is available to them in the wild.
So, bottom line, they need next to nothing from us and are more than capable of defending themselves.
When I'm on the trail with Cowboy, I rely on that--I trust him. It's like 95-5--where he gives 95 and I give 5. I can eat my lunch, drink a beer, chat with my friends--and he's doing all the work and scouting ahead for danger.
With Leah, It was 5-95. I wasn't sure what she was going to do, so I was calling all the shots.
I started out today with massage on the ground--then I saddled her and massaged and stretched her from on top--and then I let her go.
I did nothing. No leg, no rein, no movement of my body. She decided to walk in 15' circles to the right. (If you remember, that's the direction she NEVER wanted to go before.) Walk, walk, walk, walk. Circle, circle, circle. Then she spotted my coat hanging over the side of the rail and walked to that. Stopped. Sniffed.
This was the point at which Parelli says to bump them gently with your legs and make it kind of uncomfortable to stand around doing nothing. Bump. Bump. Walk, walk, walk. Circle. Circle. Smell the coat again. Circle. Circle.
Finally, I figured I should make it an opportunity to practice neck reining. So, I lay the left rein on the upper portion of her neck, moved my right leg back, my left leg forward, turned my torso to the right and bent her through. Leah didn't like that too much, so she told me by grinding her teeth, but eventually, she was neck reining really nice to the right.
After ten or fifteen minutes, she got bored and started moving out along the rail to the right. We did that for a while, then I sat way back in my saddle to signal a whoa--she stopped on a dime.
I began to slowly introduce gentle asks to the right or left--more whoas--but if I wasn't asking, I was quiet. When I did ask, as soon as I got it I released and gave her the full rein. Because I was so quiet, Leah was able to really hear the asks.
I figured it was time to move her up to a trot. Bump. bump. Trot. At the trot, I let her move freely underneath me and rode above her in the 2 point position. It gave her some freedom and it allowed me to massage on her neck, head, and sides as we rode. We trotted around for another 15 or 20 minutes.
At the end, I felt I'd gotten with her and she'd gotten with me enough to test her around the barrel pattern. We did some weaving in and out and around and she did perfect.
I jumped off her and praised her to high heaven.
The partnering thing was FUN--I had fun and she seemed to have had fun, too. I trusted her (and myself) enough to let her go and she didn't do anything dangerous or scary. It was a thousand times more satisfying than going out there with an "agenda." She is a stubborn, but sweet horse, and she had decided to fight my "agenda" at the time we were working on opening and closing gates and the T-Bone exercise. Today went a long way to ending our impasse. I think it tells her that I value her opinion. I value her. We're in this together and we'll work step by step to get this dance right.