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 beginner once again

September 23, 2013
Today was my first day loose lungeing on my own with Little Horse. The day started out with him watching me wherever I went while I was doing chores and walking around the fence line. (Just like Bob used to do.) Then, when I went out to the gate to start, he nickered at me. He has never done that before. I thought that was interesting…..
I am such a beginner! And, that is o.k. I am going to enjoy the newness and fun of learning different ways of looking at things and acquiring new tools with which to enhance the relationships I have with my horses. I remind myself of this as I fumble around with the lead tied to the halter I am holding as I also try to get myself in the desired position to try this intriguing thing called loose lungeing.
Today I wanted to feel what was happening with my Little Horse, as well as observe how he reacted to my body language and movement. I took things really slow, and felt very victorious when I got him to walk ¾ of a circle around me, and then drew him to me by backing up. We did this in both directions, and then I stopped. Remembering what Kathy taught me about muscle memory and mileanation (sp?) I wanted to end on this good note. Plus, I felt connected to my horse, and didn’t want to diminish that by trying for more. I also remembered to walk away from him, instead of letting him leave. I know that my body positioning and language was not spot on, and that I would fall into the more familiar patterns of lungeing with a line, but I am going to go with the fact that I accomplished what I set out to, and worry about the fine tuning later. I am sure that I will find out soon if this is not the correct approach! Excited for day two.

September 24, 2013
Another tiny nicker today! Great way to start things off. I think I am getting better at leading with calm, which is kind of remarkable since I’m not all the way sure yet if I’m leading the “right” way. Trying to stick with accomplishing a small goal in the way that feels best and connected and refining later.
Little Horse actually does better to the right. I started to the left again today, and realized that I still need more help with the concept of closing the door because Little Horse kept trying to turn to the right. I got a circle left with a couple pauses and then he turned toward me. I stopped him there and went up to him. I thought the pauses I got from Little Horse rather than the running around and chasing the other horses that he did before when Kathy was out here was a step in the right direction. At least in the direction of leading with calm. Adagio! My new favorite word.
Heading to the right, I actually got a circle and a half, and then drew Little Horse to me through backing up. I stopped him in his 4 foot bubble and told him how amazingly talented and smart he was. He agreed with me.