Saturday, May 1, 2010

Clinic - part 5 of a whole bunch

Stay, he told me. You can pet me.

I drove up to the barn the morning of the second day and backed up to my trailer. I decided that I wasn't willing to sit in the rain for another day and not get to work with my horse.

Lou's twin sister, Catherine, walked up. Both sisters have that great English accent that makes you feel like you are in an Emily Dickinson poem.

"Are you leaving?"

"Probably," I said.

"But aren't you going to work with your horse?"

"I don't know," I said, miserably. "He's so saddle sore, Kathleen said we'd 'see' if I could work. I really don't want to sit in the rain and watch. I'm just not that way."

She grinned a bit. That's precisely what she'd been doing - she was going to attend the other half of the clinic and ride. But for now, she was just watching. "I guess I'm just that way. I can watch these things all the time."

I sighed. "If I came here with that in mind, then I'd be all for it. But it's just not what I paid for. I didn't pay to audit. I came because I need help with what I'm doing. If all I'm going to get is that my horse's saddle doesn't fit, then I might as well go home."

Her eyes grew wide. And I knew what that meant. Kathleen was walking behind me, and undoubtedly overheard my entire bratty spiel.

Great. Just great.

I finished hooking up my trailer and unpacked my rain clothes. I'd be up after the first rider - if I was going to be up at all. At least today I'd be dry. I headed back to a quiet place behind a far barn to do some yoga and get rid my crappy mood. Maybe I could avoid sticking my boot further in my mouth.

A few hours later I stepped into the round pen as the rain started. It had been clear up until that moment, something we all noted. I was beginning to feel a bit like Eeyore and his rain cloud. But at least I had my horse. We tried a shim pad on Cibolo and got the new saddle I'd ordered from ebay set on him - it was the least of all three evils I had with me. Cibolo was still tender, but much improved. I was glad to be there, but wasn't sure what I could do.

"Show me what you usually do," Kathleen said.

"Well, I see if I have his attention," I said, showing the few checks I run through with Cibolo. Lowering the head. Backing on a touch. She asked me lunge him on the line. I sent him out at a trot.

"He knows how to do all that," she observed. As he was trotting around she asked "Can you get him to walk?"

I stopped. I wasn't sure. Every round pen session focused on getting up from a walk, not staying in one. I wasn't sure if I even had a signal for a walk.

I took him off the line and we worked for the next hour on the holes in my round penning. I found a walk, it was ugly, but we got there. Most importantly in those rain filled circles I found the critical thing I came for, I felt it as I was sending him around. It was the correct intensity, the way to up the pressure without emotions rising. The steady push. The relentlessness without the irritation. The tougher energy by getting stronger, not darker.

I also found that when footing gets sketchy, Cibolo gets out of balance, almost like he isn't sure how to handle it. The times he's balked seemed to make sense now - they were times when his footing has been different and he's felt insecure. I could see it right there in the sloppy mud. I found myself pushing him throgh those sketchy places, pushing him through to experience it, to get over it.

I found the way to bring him down, all the way down, saw the missing transition.

"Often times people who have come from the training style you have (read: Parelli) can't get their horses to walk."

I laughed. There is something ironic that Parelli doesn't focus on walking. In fact everyone I've heard says that the horse isn't really engaged at a walk or a trot. They want you to get them up in that round pen, then get them to come in to you.

"Master the walk," said Kathleen. "First, master the walk."

I had plenty to work on now. After I put Cibolo back I unhooked my trailer. I'd be staying. And by the end of the day I'd have learned even more.


Anonymous said...

Even more good stuff - thanks for the write-up. I know what you mean about coming to ride and then having an issue - the first clinic we took Maisie to with Mark she was too sore to ride or even work with - but they gave all our money back so we were able to stay and audit - disappointing but still OK. But it sounds like you were able to get some good work done.

Life at Star's Rest said...

That's one very wise woman you got to work with! The walk is the foundation for everything and if you don't have it in the walk (meaning 'calm, balanced and connected'), then you are just faking it at every other gait. Bravo! Carmon

Shirley said...

I think it's a good thing that Katleen overheard your remarks; it probably helped her to focus on your need to do something with your horse even without riding him. And what an image of you, standing in the rain, and seeing your horse through new eyes, understanding his reasons, and advancing in your partnership with him. Awesome!

allhorsestuff said...

Really great awarenesses you had !!!
Specially about Cibolo being uneasy in uneven footing.
If they can't trust the makes it EXTREMELY difficult for them to focus on your commands. You are perceptive..I had to be told my mare's misbehaving was because she was torn between slipping/stumbling and respecting my commands. It is true with riding too...if there are stones or it is too hard a ground..they will sometime(mine always) hurts!

I think you are doing is always tough learning at first..I know..I went from the dirt up and made terrible mistakes and my mare paid the price. She has forgiven me though...they do, you must forgive yourself!

Leah Fry said...

Whenever I get Poco in the RP, I always concentrate on getting a walk. His former owner's idea of round penning was to get him cantering hard and fast until he was so tired, he became compliant. To this day, you stick him in the RP, and he's off like a bat outta hell. I stand stock still until he slows to the walk, (which is much sooner than it used to be), and praise the daylights out of him when he just WALKS. It's made such a difference.

Nuzzling Muzzles said...

I love your stories. Fortunately, all I have to do is relax my whole body while I'm standing in the middle of the round pen, and the horses walk. But I remember one time when my friend brought a breeder over to see Lostine while I was lunging her when I first owned her. Lostine got so excited over people coming to visit, that she was bouncing like a bunny in wild circles around me. My friend asked if I could slow her down. I remember pulling on the long line and saying EASY and WHOA, and being totally ignored. Finally, I said, "I could slow her down if you leave." They laughed at that. They knew I wasn't kicking them out, but just stating the truth, which is that their presence got my horse so excited that I couldn't get her attention back on me.

Laughing Orca Ranch said...

Good stuff! Lightbulb moments, too. Yay!

By the way Eeyore was just always depressed. He didn't have a rain cloud that I can remember. But Joe Btfsplk from Lil' Abner always had a rain cloud following him. *giggle* Just a little cartoon trivia to brighten your day. :)


Anonymous said...

Sounds like you're having one eureka moment after another. Good for you!

jill said...

Wow you've been thru a lot in such a short time with you horse stuff.
I think Cibolo has opened you up to new things with his soreness, that's good!
It's not in the way you wanted it to happen, but it came about in the way that it needed to in order for you to learn something new.
Cibolo will be okay. You need to let go of the guilt and go forward with your new knowledge. You now know better and you'll do better
by him in the future because of the experience.
Lot's of us have had to go thru this phase in our horsemanship. I've been there too. Don't get stuck in the guilt. Go forward.
You are on your way now!! Have some fun with your new knowledge.

Jocelyn said...

good for you for sticking it out and learning some valuable insight!

Sometimes we have to hear it from a different perspective!