Petey and I had a very interesting day. I am not even quite sure what I can label it, the only thing that really suits it is… it suited us. I can’t really call it a ride, and how it took courage, is probably way different then what would first come to mind.
I have started to pay a lot of attention, when I go to get a horse. How they react to me, and how they follow my lead coming in, and what their body, eyes, muzzle, and ears do, are all very important. It gives me a lot of information on what space they’re in, and helps me think of what our plan would be for the day.
Today, Petey came in like he usually does. He walks a few steps at the beginning, and then might stand and release a little, and then take a few more steps. Generally after a few times of this, he will just walk with me into the arena. Today was no different, and that was what happened.
As I was grooming him, he was licking and chewing and blinking, and looking like he might be releasing more tension than usual. A very big difference, was when I went to saddle him. I can count the number of times on one hand that he has stood perfectly still while I put both pads, and the saddle on him. Today was one of those days.
After I saddled him, we stood for a while. He licked and chewed, and yawned a couple of times. Even though I hadn’t ridden in a couple days, and was very excited to get on him, I had the courage to follow what he was telling me would work for him.
I got up on the wagon, and asked him to come over to pick me up. I stood there and just scratched behind his ears and patted down his neck. For some reason, it just didn’t feel right to get on right away.
After a few moments, I got in the saddle. Often times, my big brown horse likes to try to move right off. Today was very different. He just stood there. And the feel of how he was standing, his energy, was different than usual.
So we stood there. I tried best that I could to just sit still, because I could tell that he was licking and chewing, and his eyes were blinking. His ears were also moving around. These are much easier to see when you are on the back of a horse! When it seemed that most of his responses and releases had subsided, I asked my big brown horse to move off at a walk.
He felt a little different as he stepped off. His back, shoulders, and neck were not moving in their usual pattern. In a good way! So after a few steps, I let my life down, and waited for him to stop. It took much less time than usual.
As we stood there, it felt like he was exhibiting a lot of responses again. I didn’t want to twist around in the saddle to try to see what his eyes and muzzle were doing. I didn’t want to rock the boat. His ears weren’t moving quite as much, but it really felt like something was going on.
I strained my eyes to see what was happening, I could see that his facial muscles were very active. And then came a lick and chew. So, we sat there. My big brown horse and I just sat.
At this point, some of the voices in my head started to tell me that I was being ridiculous. That my horse would get used to just sitting around, and wouldn’t want to go at all if I did this. I didn’t really feel that that was true, but I was hearing a lot of judgments and should statements as I just sat there and let Petey be. Yet, this is where I think the courage comes in, I decided to keep on doing what I was doing. Whatever that may be!
I decided to see what would happen if I stretched both of my hands high over my head. I had done this on the back of a horse before, when having a lunge line lesson. It can be a great side stretch which allows me to feel like I sink into my horse’s back. What I didn’t anticipate, and had never have happen before was that my neck cracked like a chiropractic adjustment. After I did my stretch I brought my hands down. Then, I got to experience something else I never had before.
There is a stretch that I’ve seen the horses do that I call the Trojan Horse stretch. They really lift their neck up high and kind of curl their nose in and it makes them very tall. That is what Petey did! It was an incredibly interesting thing to feel. His head started coming up, and I really had no clue what he was going to do next. It took a little bit of courage to just sit there! Watching it turn into that stretch was a big reward for listening to what my brown horse was communicating.
After his big stretch, I gave Petey a few minutes. Then, it felt right to ask him to walk. He walked off, and did not raise his head up, which has been his pattern for starting in motion.
I asked him to walk a little, and then just sat and let him choose where to go. I had let my life down a little, so it wasn’t a surprise that he stopped.
How he stopped was another first for us. He didn’t feel like he was bracing with the front of his shoulders and his chest, he stopped with his neck down. Well, not all the way down, but down for him.
At this point, I just got off. Even though I had been so looking forward to quite a ride. I got off. Because it felt like the right thing to do.
It might seem like this session with my brown horse took no courage at all. But to feel justified in what I was doing, there were voices to be quieted. And, my brown horse let me know that I was right. Good boy Petey! I feel so fortunate to be on this journey with him.