Sunday, May 17, 2020

Tumbleweed Turns Two


Tumbleweed turned 2 yesterday, and we celebrated by doing a spa session--The Masterson Method.


It was my first with T'weed, and he had a lot of dramatic releases.  He wasn't sure about the neck and poll work--I think he felt confined--but he definitely benefited from it.  And when he finally realized I was softening to his brace, he relaxed into the stretches.

Also, there was a lot going on at the time.  My husband was working on a project and doing a lot of banging. T'weed could hear him, but not see him, so we paused and went over to look at the boogey man.  I called my husband over to pet and reassure him.

Anyway, back to turning TWO--

Time flew by.

Remember the days when I was driving to Canada to see this angel at Shirley's place--her blog is Ride A Good Horse.  We had been long-time blogging friends, and I had admired all the babies her stallion, Beamer, was producing--and then this wonderful opportunity came up a the exact perfect time!!  It was quite an adventure!!

I loved every one of those early trips to see my new baby and Shirley and her herd.

And he has grown into a gorgeous colt with a lot of personality.

Not surprising, considering how beautiful his mama and papa are.

He's two though, and that means there are days where he's golden, and days where he can be a stinker. He's definitely an in-betweener--not yet mature--but crazy curious and an absolute sponge for learning.

We have a long way to go on this road together.

Happy birthday, Tumbleweed!

Monday, May 11, 2020

A Student of the Masterson Method

(Leah resting after her first Masterson session. Her movement improved, too)

Every once in a while, no matter your age, you learn something new and revolutionary--and you wonder, why didn't I learn this a long time ago?

Recently, I had one of those epiphanies about stirrup length.  I'd been riding bareback because of my broken toe, and when I finally saddled back up, I found that my legs were bent unnaturally and it was driving me crazy.  I've had this same western saddle for 17 years, but never even questioned my stirrup length.

I was riding with my husband, and I told him I was going to dismount and lengthen them--which I did. And when I mounted back up--relief!  It felt so good to let my legs hang down--much more like the bareback experience--but still enough stirrup engagement left to balance in the saddle.  It might not be the way some would want their stirrups, but it sure makes me feel better, and I thought, why didn't I do this long, long ago?

Well, the same thing could be said for learning the Masterson Method

For those who have followed this blog throughout the years, you may remember I studied TTouch with a local practitioner and it really helped Cowboy and his head shaking. 

The Masterson Method has done the same.

I'm watching the lessons online, practicing on the horses, watching online again--and progressing step by step. So far, I've only really learned the Bladder Meridian Technique--beginning work--and the Poll Atlas Junction. I have those down pretty well now, so I'm going to move to the Neck, Shoulders, Withers. Hind end junction and Back work will be the last portions. 

My daughter is doing the work with me on her horse, Cowgirl.

I've been practicing it for about a week. Yesterday, when I got Cowboy out, it was very windy--and wind makes his head shaking much worse. With his involuntary head bobbing--the vertical up and down that defines Equine Head Shaking Syndrome, I didn't know if it would be safe to work with him--but I kept my distance enough that if his head shot up it wouldn't hit me--and I did the work anyway.  

What I found was that he had many nerve triggers from his poll, neck, back and hind quarters--triggers for his head to bob.  I found those spots during the Bladder Meridian portion--where you use "air gap" pressure down the line.   

I was able to get him to release a couple of those, but the wind wasn't helping me --so I finished, probably prematurely, and moved onto the Poll Atlas Junction work. 

The key there is to have them relax into each portion of the work and avoid bracing. Cowboy enjoyed that part of the session and got some major releases. By the time the session was done--with only those two segments of the method--Cowboy's head shaking had stopped.

Cowboy was a tough subject because when a horse bobs its head--it can be a sign of release--but for Cowboy, it's probably a nerve issue.  I was happy to see him get so much out of it, and I'm encouraged to do more with him.

I won't recreate the method here, but I am interested in thoughts on it from those who have used it or thought of using it.

I look forward to learning, and practicing, more--and adding a new tool to my kit.  The fact is, even if it didn't work--it did--but even if it didn't--I would still be improving my horse/human relationships. If every time we get our horses, we ride them--we can fail to build a full relationship--more moments of giving that build love, trust, and communication. (They have to trust you in order to release in front of you.)

I was thinking, many of these things can also be accomplished through riding--bending, extending their backs into the walk and trot--massaging their poll (something I always do when I'm on their backs)--but we learn so much more about their bodies doing this on the ground.

Where are they holding tension? Where do they hurt? How can we help them relax, release, and feel better?

Wednesday, May 6, 2020

When Everything Becomes Yes

What a strange little word "yes" is.  So difficult.  So simple.


Yes-terday was the first day our state parks reopened, which meant my favorite place, the equestrian area and obstacle course, was also open.  I couldn't wait to take T'weed there, work further on unity--and test our unity.

I hauled three horses, with T'weed in the front of the trailer. By the time we had arrived, I could see that he had pawed the panel in front a bit.  It's well protected, but had visible hoof streaks. He was tense, but he was also manageable.  I want him to be ready to haul the two hours on June 1st--so, we will need as much practice as possible before then.

The balsamroot is everywhere at the park--everywhere.  It's interesting, because this is looking like a very dry year--we have murder hornets in our state--coronavirus spread started here--and we have an abundance of balsamroot.  It turns out, balsamroom was used to treat tuburculosis in the past--another disease that attacks the lungs. Coincidence?  Hmmmm...

"As a medicinal plant arrowleaf balsamroot helped relieve the pain of burns, wounds and bruises. The root was made into a tea and used to treat tuberculosis and whooping cough. The Cheyenne tribe steamed the entire plant and inhaled the vapors to cure stomach pain and headaches."
Back to T'weed.

I decided to work with him in the round pen, at liberty, with the bareback pad. He's had it on many times, but I always have him on the lead rope when I throw it over.  I wanted to see if he was really okay with it.

Turns out, he wasn't impressed with having it thrown on him--at liberty.  In fact, he showed me just what he thought of it--kicking up at it as he took off and ran away.

It went on like that for a while--too long. He wanted to come to me, but he didn't want anything to do with the pad over his back. I'd push him off, control his direction, ask him back in--try again. Nada. He was more than happy to sniff it--stomp on it--pull it off the rail and let it fall to the ground, but damned if he was going to let me throw it over.

At some point, I stopped what I was doing and asked myself what needed to be done to get to that point I wrote about in my last post--unity--cooperation--almost mind-reading. What did T'weed need to be successful and trust me?

My mind panned out to the bigger picture--an equestrian park--strange people, cars, other horses he'd never seen--trees, flowers--sounds.  Me.  Him. And I realized what was getting in between me and him was everything else.  It was too much stimulation, too fast, and the pad wasn't that important.  Comforting him, and being his partner through the new experience was very important.  Even essential.

I slowed everything down and stood by the gate and invited him over. He came right to me. I petted him all over and comforted him.  I talked to him about all the things he saw and heard--(not that he understands my talking, but he's used to me babbling away--so it was comforting.)

I put his lead rope back on -- a connection he's used to -- and we walked around the pen and looked out at all the stuff happening.  Then, we walked back over to the gate where I threw on his pad and secured it.  He didn't care at all.

I didn't get exactly what I had planned, but things change and we don't always get what we want. Turns out, just hauling there and experiencing so many new things was about all the pressure he wanted to handle at that point--and he needed me by him to help handle it.

From that little bit of giving up my agenda and really tuning into him--an abundance of "yes's" were produced.  An abundance!!

We went to the obstacle course and I asked him to walk through, then back through, the entire labyrinth.  He did it without getting very stressed--a real milestone for him, because he has been resistant backing in the past--even at home.  But he gave it his all and did awesome.

From there, we went to "the ladder," an obstacle he wouldn't even think about doing last year--but this year--he gave me a YES on the first ask.

Then, to the bridge--which he didn't like last year either---but in his YES frame of mine-- first try...

I praised and praised him.  He loves praise.  He loves getting along.

Next, I tied him up and let him watch Cowgirl and Shiloh ride in the arena.

Then, I ponied him around the barrels off of Cowboy. (He wants to be Cowboy's boss--so there is some work that needs to be done to get him to respond to me and not Cowboy.)

At the end of the day, I had him just rest and stand tied by Cowgirl, while we sat in chairs nearby.

Finally, we called it a day and hauled home.

So you see, the path to unity is definitely an imperfect one -- full of mistakes, adjustments -- always salvageable -- always a path, if you keep looking, to the wonderful world of trust -- and a lot of yes answers.

Monday, May 4, 2020

The Perfect Horse, But How Did He Get This Way?

Cowboy is 25, my heart horse--and he's perfect.  When I ride him bareback, I climb up on the trailer's wheel well, precariously perched on its narrow shelf, holding onto a tie ring and a rein--he sees me, scoots over to the very edge, allows me to jump on, then moves out.  He will do that every time, even if he's prancing around nervously because his buddy is already moving out. Last week, we ran into a pissed off snake on a narrow trail. The front horse bolted. Cowboy stood his ground with me--scared to death--waiting to see what I wanted.

I could go on and on and on--but suffice to say, it's as if he reads my mind--and I his.

But it wasn't always this way.  It was there for the taking, but I somehow got in the way of it.

It began to change for us...

5 years ago, when I took Cowboy to his last ever, "Hell for Horses." 

(It's not really called that.  It's called a despooking clinic, but Cowboy hates them.) 

He was 20, and I'd been riding the trails with him for 14 years by then--my heart horse--and a pretty damn good boy.  Not perfect, like he is now, but pretty solid as trail horses go. 

I thought the clinic would be fun.

It wasn't.

"That horse is going to hurt you."

I'll never forget those words of the woman helping us at the clinic.  Cowboy lost his mind, pushed through me--he was pissed---probably for betraying him by taking him there when he was already such a solid boy.

Look at Cowboy's eye in this photo--like, what bullshit is this with the ball on my back?

And he proceeded to fight me on every ask--no matter how small. If I said go left, he went right. 

As bad as that day was, it was that clinic that woke me up. I would never again ask Cowboy to do something he didn't want to do.

I realize what I just said goes against EVERYTHING we've ever heard. But I thought, hey, he's 20 years old--he's a great horse on the trails--which is what a despooking clinic is for--and if he doesn't want to be tortured by chainsaws, faux water crossings, car washes--and whatever else humans can come up with to scare him--why am I making him suffer?

From there, it was a logical progression to other things--on the trail--Cowboy, you don't like this--how about this?  At home--Cowboy, you don't feel well enough for a ride today--stay home.  Every little thing between us became a conversation--but it came from a place of trust.  I trusted that his refusal was coming from a real place--not a place of disrespect and defiance.

When I started having those conversations with Cowboy and really listening to him--I started to get more yes answers. I started to get more yes answers before I even asked. In fact, that's when asking became just thinking it.

Old too soon, and wise too late.

Yes, and no.

I've had five years (and counting!) to explore what a relationship with a horse can be--at its best.  It would only be too late if I fail to learn from this and carry it into my next horse/human relationships.

What does it mean to really listen? How much of my agenda would I have to give up? How can listening to a horse's fear also work against the horse? How do I know the difference between giving in from weakness and giving from respect?

I think the answer to all the questions above-- "how do you know questions?" can only be gauged by the results.

Does the listening and giving from you to your horse yield more "yes" answers from your horse, in the long run--or more "no" answers?

If you find your horse saying, Yes, more often--you're on the right path with your listening and adjusting.

But if you find your horse doing what you ask, before you even ask it--you've transcended into something completely different--that special place where the two paths have become one.

Friday, May 1, 2020

Professional Training: Why I Chose It

I'm continuing to train Tumbleweed in preparation for his training, June 1st.  Some friends have asked why I just don't do it myself.

Answer: Invariably, as you pick up the pressure, young horses will throw you curve balls.  I can handle the curve balls on the ground or ponying, but not in the saddle.  I don't have enough experience with lots of different horses to be ready for what may come--and I want him to have a solid start. If it's just me, I can figure it out, given enough time, but I prefer someone who knows how to handle it right then and there.

A 2 year old horse is a SPONGE. Whatever you teach them now will stick forever. Tumbleweed all but begs me to work with him everyday.  He's full of curiosity and energy.

The trainer I'm sending him to is good at find the "holes."  I'm not. I try to find as many as possible, by continually pushing him a little past his comfort zone, but after what happened with Beautiful Girl that day she blew up--I have doubted my own judgement in that regard.  This particular trainer is the best I've ever known at spotting the problems almost immediately and knowing how to address them.

It is also good for him to work with another person and learn how to survive in a human's world. You never know what the future will bring, and I want him to reach his full human/horse potential.

Also, there are big changes in my herd with Tumbleweed and Foxy. It's like some magic alarm went off in all of them with her and him and they don't want them together anymore. Even Foxy is starting to push him away.

He still has the attitude of a baby, so I think it's nature's way of forcing him to grow up.  His time away in training will help him make an emotional break.

There are down sides, too.  It will, temporarily, change my relationship with him. He'll also be quite upset at being thrust into a new location and training program. I will worry about him, but I feel it's the right path.