Sunday, April 28, 2024

Permission to Be Wonky

It’s amazing how much overlap there is in everything important we do. For example, I am back to studying the flute, and one of the first things I was told is not to worry about sounding perfect, but instead experiment and allow my notes to be wonky, even ugly. By allowing experimentation you also find your tone, form, rhythm, and unique voice and style. 

Horsemanship is the same way. Like allowing our horses to make mistakes and find the right answer themselves, we also have to give ourselves permission to be wonky if we ever want to get to something beautiful and unique. 

I have really leaned into that concept this year, giving up expectations and even old muscle memory, and trying to become a blank slate where Tumbleweed and I can choreograph our own unique dance, song, rhythm, movement, responses, and life together. 

(Tweed: yep, sometimes I get a little scared. I’m not embarrassed to admit it either.)

One of these things is how he spooks and what spooks him.

I really don’t want to bring old baggage into a new relationship by predicting, or expecting, based upon my other horses. 

Also, I don’t want to stop it or try to hold him back too much. 

I want to find it, then get through it—together. 

I want to see it, not stop it. 

I think last year I wanted to pre-empt and stop it. I was clinging to an illusion of control, rather than a confidence in our partnership. They sense it when we are trying to control too much, and they don’t like it. It makes them nervous and even lack trust and confidence in being together. 

That’s what aaaaallllllll this work is about, I want to be able to ride his reaction, and when he has that reaction, (because he will) I want him to be used to what it feels like with me on his back. 

If he canters off, ride it. 

If he side passes away, ride it. 

And bring him back to work as soon as possible. 

My body and balance change every year, and so does his, so in many ways we are both starting from scratch. 

Patience is the key, and it’s hard. I cannot tell you how many trail rides I’ve been invited on, but take a pass because I don’t want to push too far, too fast. I know my limits and his, and I don’t want to put either of us in a dangerous situation.

The one question I ask myself is this: can I ride out whatever happens on the trail?

Right now the honest answer is NO, but I’m starting to see ‘yes’ at the end of the tunnel. 

There hasn’t been much spooking to report, or any, but the other day a friend stopped by to see me, and she came bearing Starbucks! Yay! I didn’t realize it, but she also took out her phone to record some video, and somehow startled, rather than ‘spooked’ Tweed. I was so thankful she did! She felt really bad and asked if she should move. I was like, no, please stay right there! He didn’t startle/spook again, but it gave us something to work past.

This is such a small little blip, but it does demonstrate how well balanced he is now, even when reacting, and how quickly he goes back to his job. 

There is a clinic in June geared specifically for trail obstacles, and I’m going to sign us up. Cowboy hated these kinds of clinics, but done right, and I will make sure it is or walk out, they can be an opportunity for growth.


  1. "I was clinging to an illusion of control, rather than a confidence in our partnership. They sense it when we are trying to control too much, and they don’t like it. It makes them nervous and even lack trust and confidence in being together. "

    Nailed it!!!!

    I was in that same place too, and am learning to let go and trust my horse and hope she trusts me. It's a big thing for me to have Gussie back- all the other horses I had since I let her go to Shayla just didn't fill her hoofprints and it made me a nervous rider who didn't have confidence in the horse or myself- hence that remark I made a while ago about being timid. And my physical issues didn't help at all.
    Your comment about being able to ride out what happens on the trail- with Sophie and Ruby it would have been a no, but with Gussie- yes.
    Nice little video- well ridden and nice that Tweed didn't escalate.

    1. Yep, and if the illusion of control is going to become unraveled anywhere, it is on the trail in spring. The round pen and arena, because the environment can be controlled, helps to maintain the illusion.

      Add other horses coming and going along the trail and you get an even more chaotic environment. That’s why this clinic would be good for him. I’m seeing less reaction from him toward other horses than I did two years ago, but it’s always good for them to know they can trust you and not be too alert to the other horses. I don’t let friends bring their horses up to him when we stand and talk, nor him reach out to them. I’m the only buddy he needs.

      I could tell you were confident riding Gussie out in your videos, and riding at home, in pasture, can be the most challenging. Herd and barn sour are serious issues that she doesn’t seem to have.

      It’s smart to be nervous. We have to protect ourselves. That’s priority number one. I’ll ride in a controlled environment for the rest of my life if that’s what it takes. I just want to spend time with my boy. I think we’ll get on the trails soon though.

  2. I love this. It’s not about nothing bad happening. It’s about working through it. A nice metaphor for life too.

    1. True. I didn’t think about that correlation. This year’s events sent me scrambling to study “resilience.” What is resilience except learning to ride what life gives you?

  3. Some really great thoughts here. You're right, it's not about being in control its about not overreacting to a situation and going with it. I always think that over- riding is a bad idea. It seems to me doing that just makes your horse more nervous and unresponsive. Have fun at the clinic!

    1. Very true. I think that if you are trying to control too much, you probably need to take a few steps back and build the foundation up, then develop trail work in increments of confidence.

  4. Great job riding through the evasive scoot and not letting it rattle you. You have a great horsewomanship mindset. Enjoy the upcoming trail clinic!

    1. Thank you. I need to get my registration in for that clinic. I almost forgot.


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