Little Steps Toward a Solid Foundation


Something very interesting happened today on my journey with Cochise (Little Horse) from the barn to the pasture. I think it was indicative that our slowing things down has been a perfect answer for us.

Today was a cold, windy fall day. The kind when even the most steady, bomb-proof horses can act up. To be honest, it was a day when I would expect some shenanigans from Little Horse. Before I share what transpired, I will have to fill you in a bit on what we’ve been doing.

During both the clinic with Joe Wolter, and the more recent one with Phil Oakes, Cochise had been deciding to jerk the lead rope out of the hands of his leader and run off. (Side note ~ I worked hard to overcome embarrassment that I was the one with the bad horse that was giving the clinician difficulties.) Although he exhibited this challenging behavior, for both clinics, he was tremendous under saddle. At this time, though, I have been concentrating on slowing things down and working to strengthen our partnership and deal with the jerking away.

I have developed some new techniques that have been working well as I lead my little horse to and from the barn every day. One that has been really helpful has been to think of our trek as a working journey. For example, I have to check the aisle way for trains and buses before I bring him out of his stall. This means that he has to go slowly and wait for my signal to come forward. We are still working toward getting just one step at a time. We’re getting pretty good at two! Then, once we’re in the arena, he has to help me shut the gate, and I make up various stops such as checking this leaf, or re-homing this rock in the footing as we head toward the gate out onto the driveway. Of course, Little Horse has to stop and wait respectfully as I carry out my task. He also has to travel with me as I go to the next job. Putting my focus on something outside of us, and off of him, has been a huge help. I learned some stuff from the wonderful instruction I have been privileged to receive from the clinicians. (Kathy Malone has been a huge help with this! She has allowed me to fill in the gaps and understand what the masters were saying.)

When we get out of the arena, I usually take him in between where the cars are parked and the front porch of the observation room. It’s a bit of a tricky spot; we have had much fun and success with this maneuver. Today, there was a car running at the end, which is not usual. This, coupled with the wind and cold, gave us an extra special challenge. Cochise had his head high, his ears up, and his body was shaking. In spite of this, he followed my suggestions that he walk through this a few steps at a time. I was watching him carefully, and doing the best that I could to keep my energy low and guide him with my gentle strength. It paid off! To the extent that after he made it through, he didn’t squirt out of the tight quarters, which I was prepared to witness.

I feel with my whole being that this is a huge step in developing trust in our partnership for both of us. I am so proud of him, and so lucky to have him as my horse!DSC01707.jpg

a message from Keystone

Keystone had something to share. His message is this: we should carefully plan and acknowledge the importance of the action steps that we take on our way to big goals.
He conveyed his message as I was getting ready to leave the barn and head home. My last task before closing up is usually to let Keystone out of the stall where he has been munching his snack. Our routine is usually that I slide the bar blocking the doorway, then I open the stall door and Keystone follows me out the door. This time, he just stood and looked at me when I opened his stall door, even though he had been banging on it to let me know he was ready to head outside.
I stood there and waited for him to come out. And waited, and waited. Finally I went over and grabbed a handful of treats. Yes, a bribe.
Keystone knows all too well where the treats live, and the sound of the container opening. His radar ears focused on me, yet he still didn’t come out of the stall to get his treat. I moved closer from my position by the open outside door.
As I got closer, Keystone licked and chewed, yet he still didn’t move. I walked even closer, and when I was just out of arm’s reach, he come toward me out of the stall. I gave him the treat and he stopped. I walked toward the door, and he again just stood there and looked at me. I again came closer, just out of arm’s reach, and that’s again, when Keystone came forward. This happened again, until he finally would walk with me out the door.
Because this behavior from Keystone was so different from his and our normal routine is how I detected he had something to share. And the lesson really was all about breaking things down and paying 100% attention to those smaller steps. I think this applies to our journey as we work toward big goals. It can be hard to detect our movement, and feel like we are getting closer to our goal if we don’t pay attention to the mile markers along the way. This can increase our faith and hope in our ability to reach our big goals. And that will be what keeps us going. Thank you, Keystone, for your “words” of wisdom!!