That night I read more of Tom Moates book which is essentially about Tom's experience with a series of clinics with Harry Whitney. It's interesting when you read a good book how different people will find different things that resonate for them, you will find what YOU need to find.
When Kate talked about it, she pointed out a passage that speaks to the ask. I don't want to copy her blog without permission, but here's the passage from the book:
p. 18 and 22:"Always, with complete consistency, begin asking a horse to do something in the way you eventually hope to see it in its refined state. That's it. . . . If the seemingly ridiculously light first "ask" is skipped, however, as just an impractical waste of time at the early stage, the horse is done a disservice.
This aspect is very appealing to me because I tend to seek a way toward... cooperation.
Hey, I'm a Libra. It's just the way I am.
But this quote was about softness. Which is a goal, but I'm in a different place right now, one I am uncomfortable with. I need to find something else, perhaps something before that, or intrinsic to building that. Like knowing where to find flour in the grocery store before you even start making a cake.
Then, as I was reading on Friday night, I came across this passage that screamed to me. Tom describes a situation with a fellow who was, by nature very kind hearted, who longed to nurture a bond with his horse. He'd approach her nice and easy in every motion and every gesture.
Been there, that's for sure.
Here's the scene he painted vividly (p 48)
"She was clearly willing to do something (perhaps anything), but simply not finding it in his requests. She was unable to feel confident about what she was supposed to do, so she half-heartedly did a little bit of whatever she could think of.
"He grapppled with the situation. I sat there wincing behind the brim of my straw hat - partly from being in-the-know about his wimpy body position and don't-rock-the-boat gentleness. . . The battle I now witnessed really was within himself.
"He sought to find assertiveness even though he was quite worried that firming up with a horse was a recipe for driving her away, possibly for good rather than getting her close and willing with him.
Holy cow. That was me. Completely and utterly.
He goes on to describe the fellow making his way over the threshold, becoming bigger, taking a huge personal step. And the horse read it as huge. And fell into step.
Here's my favorite quote:
Later when I asked Harry about this episode, he articulated my feeling about what I had seen very well. Harry said: "He lacked confidence because he lacked faith in the outcome. Then, when he had faith that the outcome would be better, his confidence grew. He just had to go through that uncomfortable phase."
As an individual currently residing at 2365 Uncomfortable Phase, I very much identified.
So the next morning, I decided to cheat.
I'd pretend I wasn't nervous. Or scared. Or even a Libra.
I'd pretend I was Annie Oakley. (I know, she was a sharp shooter, not trick rider or anything, but definitely one tough woman.)
I did a few of the things Harry Whitney does. When I caught my horse (which was, by the way, very easy), I put the rope halter on and then asked my horse to take a step back. Then I stopped completely and stood there quietly.
Because the petting and language is not what a horse wants. They just want space and time. I didn't head out or start yanking on the rope.
And my horse licked and chewed right then.
Hmm. I continued to pretend I knew what I was doing.
We walked out to the round pen and I tried mentally driving my horse forward. Failed and had to "push" with my hand (apparently my brain waves are way too lame), but I did the second half of the Whitney round pen technique. I just stood in the middle, not pulling or calling him in to me. Cibolo stopped and turned to me (as he always does). He looked at me and after 15 seconds, walked in to me with out me calling him in.
He chose that.
We rode bareback for a time, then went back out to saddle up for some arena time. Where I was going to canter. Period. No more drama.
The whole walk over to the arena I pretended I was Annie Oakley - except with jeans on. And no huge hat.
I mounted up, held the reins, sat in the saddle and rode with tons of false bravado.
And of course it was fine. Well, my seat was lousy, and I had trouble keeping him in the canter at first, and chose not to make the turns at a canter. False bravado only gets a pretend Annie Oakley so far.
Instead we did deep seated stops, and kept cantering up and down the small arena. By the end I had no anxiety about kicking up to a canter.
I felt pretty good. I felt I had his attention, mostly, felt we were working okay together. Like we had made progress.
No. Like I had made progress with ME.
And when I went home I felt something I hadn't felt in a long, long time.
I wanted to go right back and be with that horse.
The next morning on my way to the stables I saw something that was pretty disturbing, but which, at the same time taught me the "why" behind all of this more than anything ever has.
But.. that's part 3.