Wednesday, April 7, 2021

A Revealing Blink, A Release, and A Connection

It took Tumbleweed two weeks to settle and concentrate on his work, but he has finally come around. Sarah, his trainer, intends to ride him out a lot this month, but she doesn't do that until they can master their arena work and remain calm, and tuned in, while being ponied.

He's young, and all of this is really big for him. That is why I took him down early. Where better to have that youthful energy directed, than training? 

Yesterday, she sent me photos with this update:

"Did really good. Scared at first, then relaxed. Was super spooky two weeks ago."

I replied that he's exactly where he needs to be, and she agreed 100 percent!

Last time he was down there, he was only rode out once or twice, but this time he should get a lot of it since he has a whole month left in his training!  Yay!  The solid foundation Sarah puts on a horse is just priceless. She doesn't skip steps. They have to earn each and every advancement, and if it takes one month, or six, that's just the way it is.

I know Tumbleweed very well, and I think he is loving it!  Around here, he's always looking for a job--or an opportunity to learn. His mind is like a sponge, wanting so badly to soak in new and exciting things. Whenever I go to get him, he runs to me and practically halters himself.  Well, he's getting it now.

The other side of Tweed is that he is very loyal, and bonded, with his herd and family here.  It's understandable that leaving and adapting to a new a place was difficult for him, especially at such a young age. But the more he does it, and returns home safely after a job well done, the easier it will be for him in the future. I hope he learns that life with humans is seamless. He can go from one place, to the next, and have his needs met.


With Tweed being gone, I've been able to concentrate on rehabilitating Leah and working with the others.

I did bodywork with Beautiful Girl in the open arena yesterday. She was amped up, and alert to every little sound. She threatened to bolt away, or even run me over. She was a monster on a rope.

For the last year or so, I've drastically changed my approach to that type of nervousness. I used to let them work it out with physical exercise, like disengaging the hind and front, and working on the line. That's fine, and it works, but I also felt like it was feeding into a part of them I didn't want to encourage. It was as if I was training for a negative, but natural, coping strategy: FLIGHT.

Move your feet.  Move your feet. Engage your brain. All good, but maybe there's another way to bring it down.

I don't want FLIGHT. I want a calm partnership. 

I was determined to redirect BG in the quietest way possible to 1) Reinforce my personal space and stay safe, and 2) Bring down her energy.

That lack of trust, spooking at every little thing, is really another form of bracing. It's the, I'm in trouble and have to take care of myself, mentality. What you are asking of me is making me vulnerable and endangering my well-being. And now, I don't care if I endanger yours.

I had her walk over the bridge a couple of times, and I had to back her up a few times after she invaded my bubble. But with very little movement, the least amount to get the desired outcome of safety, she became calm enough that I could do the bladder meridian work.

I must say, the bodywork with BG took a great deal of patience. I waited such a long time for those first releases, because she was very stubborn about relaxing her brace, and showing vulnerability with me. However, when the first releases did come, things began to change dramatically. Her eye softened.  Her body softened.  It didn't take long before she realized I was listening to her, we were a partnership, and she was safe.

By the time we were done, she was fully tuned in and respectful. It was as if I'd spent thirty minutes working her on the line. In other words, we accomplished the exact same thing, the softness and connection I desired from her, but with minimal "flight-style" exercises.

Leah has been doing this work all year. She progressed from a stoic horse, bracing and afraid to be vulnerable, to the most open and willing partner. She gets it, and she's willing to release much faster now. Her practitioner does 1.5 hour sessions with her, but I break my own work down into smaller, daily parts, with a lot of work at the TMJ.

Here's a video I took yesterday. You can see the blink--that is the subtle sign of their tension. Horses are such stoic animals, vulnerable prey who must never show weakness, lest they be devoured by a predator. But the blink reveals it to us anyway. We first look for the blink, then we wait for the release.

I tagged Sarah (There are 2 Sarah's: one is the trainer, and the other is the Masterson practitioner.)  Sarah K, the practitioner, responded like this:

Yay! And she had an awesome big blink right on her TMJ! Great release responses!
Leah’s living the highlife with her new routine and extra little sessions. I can tell she’s going to have so much progress.

The best part of doing the bodywork is seeing the results afterward. 

Being able to just throw down the rope, your horse so calm, and tuned into you, that you can experience a true connection. A horse happy to form a partnership. 

On the ground, in the saddle, does it matter?  It sure feels the same to me, no matter from which angle I'm looking.


  1. Tumbleweed looks great! I'm sure he's learning a lot and getting a lot of confidence in himself too.

    Nice work with the girls. I'm like you I work as much on the ground as in the saddle and it makes no difference to me as long as we both feel good at the end.

    1. That’s what it’s all about, both feeling good at the end. It is a wonderful feeling to leave the barn knowing you did something really good for your horses. I did the TMJ work with Leah again today, and her head just dropped to the ground and her eyes glazed over with relaxation.

  2. I’ve been playing with the Masterson method on Carmen. Like BG she holds it in.

    1. Wow. Makes sense!! I have a lot of time to think, while I’m waiting for BG to release, and today I realized how connected this is to her blowup. If she’s so stoic, she can’t release her tension for me, that is exactly what she’s doing in saddle, hiding tension until she just explodes. My trainer called her a “dirty bucker,” meaning she gave no warning things weren’t okay. But looking back, I now see it as a highly evolved survival skill—hide your weakness, discomfort, pain—at all costs, so as not to be picked off by a predator. This Masterson bodywork is teaching her, however slowly, and it is SLOW, that she can trust me with her pain / fear / discomfort. I would highly recommend that you have a practitioner do a total evaluation on her and set you up with a program. I wouldn’t say ours is so much a program, but she tells me specific exercises that I can do in between sessions. It helps for me to break it down, because I don’t have time to spend an hour on every horse. I do have time to spend 20-30 minutes each day, per horse, doing 2-3 horses. Last year, I would do some of it while tacking up before a ride. I try to integrate it as much as possible. The initial evaluation was rather long, and a little more expensive, but it was very detailed and I got a lot of information. Also, very fun to watch and learn.

  3. Yep, Tumbleweed is where he needs to be. With a good trainer who can help him figure things out, while he grows into his own. I think the key thing with trainers & young horses are their sage and timely un-reactive responses. Tweed sounds great, the part about his mind reminds me of Koda. He often gets labeled as naughty, when in fact Koda is super bored. I absolutely love that photo of you & BG!! On the video of Leah, wow that is a lot of continuous yawning from one release. I had to watch it a couple times to catch the right blink. I love these posts and how you work with your lucky horses, it makes me want to learn more. Thank you!

    1. Yeah, that was a huge release. She had just released at another spot, so it was probably connected. The blink is fascinating to watch for. Sometimes I doubt myself and wonder if they’re just blinking for no reason. But if you are ever in doubt, backtrack and scan again. They will blink at the exact same spot over and over, if it’s tension. Then, leave your hand there and wait for the release. So, Leah can get fast releases with air gap pressure, but BG seems to need egg yolk pressure, and I’m not sure what that says about them. Perhaps, BG is good at blocking out discomfort at air gap, and it’s more difficult for her to block it out at egg yolk. Not sure. I wish I’d started this with BG long ago. We might not have had our issue.

    2. Air gap (you are not even touching Leah, just her hair - wow - she is really tuned in!) and egg yolk pressure, interesting way to describe the amount of pressure. Perhaps Leah needs less pressure because she has had more work done, and is more in tune than BG? Kinda like yoga/meditation, a person settles in easier and deeper the more they practice. I dunno, just thinking out loud.

    3. Yes, to air gap. I think Leah is super sensitive. BG is a rough and tough one. BG has learned to tune a lot out. Leah is very tuned in. I think Leah’s discomfort is also more profound. BG is a scrappy mustang who never gets hurt. She’s always sound. Leah has always struggled with soundness, probably because of a traumatic leg injury as a yearling, before I purchased her. BG will ignore air gap, but it’s harder for her to ignore egg yolk pressure. And yes, Leah has definitely mastered a faster release. She trusts the program and understands how it helps her. No one is pushing her. She is such a sweet horse that there is a temptation to push her. You can usually win. But, of course, you don’t really win. Or, you “win” the battle, but lose the war. Once your horse figures out how good releasing tension is for them, they become very willing partners.

  4. Wow huge release!
    So glad you are doing this with BG. It should help you build an entirely new relationship with her.
    And I'm loving the ear cam Tweed photos :o)

    1. I think our relationship will reach a new level with this. There was always a side of her I couldn’t get to, and this just might be the path. If I can teach her to 1/ expose her discomfort early, & 2/ trust me to listen and respect it, we might reach what has been elusive.


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