A tall, pale stranger came to visit me over Christmas. At nearly six feet he stood by the tree, quiet and unassuming.
Why have you come here? I asked him.
He remained quiet, and I had a sense that he felt empty. He looked outside expectantly, as if waiting for a sign of what was needed from him.
For days he was there, watching as we went about our business, watching the glow of the Christmas tree, never asking for egg nog, or a gift of his own. What he was looking for couldn't be wrapped in ribbons or paper. He needed something to fill his aching soul.
So we bolted him in the trailer.
He seems much more comfortable there. Still empty, but with a sense of purpose.
Smokey and I have been doing some remedial work over the holidays. I think of it as a form of boot camp. We are starting with standing still at the trailer.
When I asked Mark Rashid about my dancing pony, he pretty much said to let the horse work it out himself. Yet I was struck by a video where Chris Irwin showed how to teach a horse to reach that Zen like state of being still. In watching his process I could see the gentle discipline of the process. Also I don't have the hours at a clinic to tie my horse for days at a time, periodically reinforcing the experience.
For three days I would tie Smokey to the trailer and would fuss around inside the trailer tack room. If he moved from his spot I would come out and put him back in his spot, squared up. We spent about 20 minutes each time on this, during tacking, untacking, or just hanging out. He moved less and less. Lesson one - about 70% complete.
We are also working on catering in the round pen. I've been nervous about round pen cantering. The round pen at our barn feels small and I've focused only on cantering in the arena. But, with some encouragement, I got to work on it. He's getting more steady at his slow lope, I'm getting better at riding out his transitions, the transitions are improving. Lesson two - about 30%.
Steering is still inconsistent, but improving slowly, slowly, slowly. We trot around the power pole, and by circle 7 we are actually turning. I'd say this needs more intervention. Lesson three - about 10%.
Boot camp will continue when we return from our trip to my Dad's. Maybe the soak will do some good.