I think I have seen Petey yawn 3 or 4 times since he came to the farm. The more that I learn about how horses release tension, the more significant yawns become. With Petey’s physical condition and tension that created, I am always happy to see him exhibit signs of release.
Today, we had an arena ride, and practiced and explored some of the things that our last cowboy dressage clinic brought to my attention. I had decided that we definitely need to work more on bending, and I also need to change how I thought about my horse, especially when attempting lateral movements.
The next piece that Phil gave me to accomplish with Petey was to make sure that his nose was following the curve of our circles. Of course, that wasn’t how he worded it, but that’s how I interpreted what he was telling me and how I would pursue it at home.
The homework I gave myself was built on the realization that I had while attempting shoulder-in and haunches-in. What I discovered was that I thought about my horse’s body, and didn’t picture his feet at all in what I was asking him to do. This concept is a little difficult to put into words, but it completely made sense in my head. If I was to get his feet (not his legs or shoulders and hips) to move in 3 tracks, I should very well be aware of where they are!
I rode him around in the arena with these two over arching goals. Because this is such a sticky point for me, I really broke things down. Making tiny changes, and letting go of expectations, allowed me to be able to practice without become tense or tight in my body. A huge improvement for me! It also allowed me to experiment with my reins.
In my former life, I strictly used leather reins, and had consistent contact with the bit in my horse’s mouth. At this point I am using a side pull (no bit) and rope reins that most of the time are pretty loose. This is helping me develop a new way of communicating with my hands. I was delighted to find that I could have the reins loopy and raise my hand the tiniest bit, or squeeze a little on a rein, and it would make a difference in what Petey was doing. I found this to be amazing and fun, and continued experimenting. Like I tell clients, riding is about experiments and practice. (As well as the courage to wait!)
When our ride was over and Petey was untacked, I got a tremendous validation from my big brown horse. Not just one yawn, but 10! 10 from the horse that I hardly ever saw yawn. I had a very pleasant time exploring what we could do together, and Petey let me know that I was on the right track. Thanks, Petey, for your input, patience and heart. I am so lucky to be able to call him my horse. Can’t wait to see what these discoveries will unlock for us!