10 yawns!

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!

pole dancing

I finally feel like I can collect my thoughts enough to share our pole dancing story from last weekend. Petey and I shared this new experience, and it really highlighted how I created our experience from my own perspective and opinions.

On Sunday, Phil was having Petey and I work on an exercise where I had him on a small circle, and then I was supposed to have him step his hindquarters to the outside of that circle. We were not having a lot of success with this exercise. However, we were trying very hard. Phil said that he would be back in a minute, left the arena, and came back with a very long pole.

I joked that we were trying hard, and he didn’t have to beat us. Actually though, I had seen a picture of Phil riding a horse with that long pole. One end of the pole was in the ground, Phil held on to the other, and it looked as if he was making a circle with his horse. I thought that had to be a near impossible exercise. No choice but to make a completely round circle with your horse. Which can be excruciating. Especially for my big brown horse and me right now.

Phil explained that the first step was to make sure that Petey was okay with the pole. Of course, that was a great place to start. I was so proud of my horse, he was just fine with Phil dragging the pole around the arena from his horse.

The next step, Phil had me hang on to one end of the pole and he held on to the other. We walked our horses around in a circle with the pole between us. It was pretty cool, even though it wasn’t very easy. Much easier for Phil and OBar than me and Petey. Phil also did some fancy stuff of twirling around on his horse that we are going to work toward.

Phil then turned me loose with the pole. And no instruction. This is the part of the story that I most wanted to share. Keep in mind, I had seen only that picture of the pole and Phil on his horse. I knew nothing of what the goal was or how the pole could be utilized.

I made up some rules about this pole. By the way, it’s called “la garrocha pole”. I had to ask that about three times because it just wasn’t sticking. Anyway, I thought that the pole had to have one and firmly planted in the ground. The object must be to not to let that end of the pole move, so you can make the “perfect” circle with your horse.

Another rule that I made up, was that you had to hold on to the pole with the inside hand. This had me doing some very interesting things with my reins and hands for sure. Good thing I had my helmet on, as I also clunked myself in the head. Well, it was a very soft clunk. Still happened though. Far from graceful, we have a way to go to earn the title of pole dancing. More like pole clunking at the moment.

Before I tell a little more about the reality of la garrocha pole, I also will share that even with my self imposed rules, I still think working with the pole for the very first time was a huge success. For both Petey and me. I could feel him getting better, and when I watched what transpired in some video, my brown horse got much rounder when I was working with the pole than previously.

After we danced (clunked!) with the pole for a while, Phil took it and showed me some other ways the pole could be utilized. Much to my surprise, he not only kept it in one hand, and he drug that thing all over the place. It made me laugh inside and out, to think of these silly rules that I had made up about how I needed to use the pole the “right” way. Fortunately, again, it did no damage, but it was very interesting. I set up our situation based on rules I completely made up.

When I got home, I checked out some YouTube videos with la garrocha pole. There is some amazing stuff out there. And again, there was no keeping the end of that pole in one place, nor holding it at the very end. Another guideline I came up with all on my own. It was beautiful and fluid, and reinforced my desire to call this pole dancing.

Because I believe so much in the role our mindset plays into our experience with our horses, I wanted to share this story. In this instance, it turned out to be just fine I made up some rules. I didn’t get so caught up in the expectations I put onto what we were doing that the trust Petey and I have was damaged. Keeping the softest feel that we can manage at this point has become the highest priority. I have faith that because I have set that as our primary goal, the soft feel we have together will keep improving. Until it really is a soft feel in anyone’s book. Now, we have our own interpretation. Much better than when we first started, and Petey and I still have a wonderful journey ahead of us. I could not have asked my big brown horse to handle my pole interactions any better than he did. Good boy, Petey!!

Next, I need to get us a long pole…….