Thursday, December 17, 2009

On Courage and Calm

The weather has been lousy (rainy in the 40s - way too cold for this weather wimp). Add in the holidays and horse time has been virtually non-existent.

But horse thought is flowing.

When I was in DC, I asked our trainer/BO/friend to do a full evaluation on Cibolo. I asked her to try and answer two questions:

  • Was he too young/green?

  • Was I too old/green?

Basically I wanted someone who knows me, to put Cibolo through a full trail evaluation. I trust Donna to be able to put a horse through it's paces and find every hole in its training. She rides in endurance races, raises Aztecas, has ridden dressage, and knows the issues I had with my previous horse.

On Tuesday night I called her for the report.

She did everything on him. Rode with another horse. Let that horse get out of sight. Rode alone. Rode ahead. Rode across streets. Rode and cantered.

Her evaluation: He's a wonderful horse. There are some holes, and Cibolo does need some sacking out, but its nothing I can't handle.

Initially I was unsure what I felt about this. Frankly I had been struggling through the idea that everyone can ride my flipping horse and I'm just some big baby that couldn't ride a hobby horse with training wheels.

Frankly I feel a little narcissistic even saying it, but what's a blog for if not to be a place for us to admit our faults? I mean, this isn't my aunt's Christmas letter where the biopolar daughter is somehow the next Sister Theresa.

So I spent part of my time in DC feeling a little like a whiny loser. But only part of my time.

When I got back and finally got some time around Cibolo, I felt different.

When we were in the round pen, I was calm. When I rode him and worked on the first five minutes, I was quiet and centered.

I was grooming Cibolo and something caused him to lift his head in alarm. I brought my energy level down and took on a new role. No irritation. No worry. Like the good mom, confident in the face of the spider that freaks out my daughter, refusing to stomp on it, instead showing her how you can pick it up and put it outside and it's no big deal. Not coddling, not protecting. Being a good, calm leader.

As the rain has kept me inside, I've been considering what this is about.

When I look back at when I first got Cibolo, I was fairly confident, he seemed very much like Lily. I was slack, because this horse didn't seem to need anything.

That, of course, was a mistake. Not because he needed so much, but because every horse needs some.

When he had the meltdown in Conception and I felt lost all over again. We had lost so much ground. I was back to being suspicious of my horse, worried about how he'd react. That worry came up when we crossed streets - which made me anxious that he'd slip. I worried he'd be upset riding alone. I worried he wouldn't hear me at all.

Now I'm in a different place. Something inside has shifted again, this time into a good place.

I feel a little like I do with my child, if you'll forgive the comparison. I establish the rules of behavior, and when something pushes up against that rule, I hold the line in place calmly, firmly, without malice but also without exception.

(Unless it has to do with leaving shoes in the middle of the living room after you've been told 40 times to put them up. Then the heck with calmness, it's MAJOR kid round penning. But I digress...)

When I rode Cibolo Sunday, I realized that I now know the worst he'll do. I'm not afraid of that now. I do know that I have some ability myself, I DO know what I'm doing, at least enough to work with him through this time of getting our collective act together. And, as weather permits, our trainer will be giving me some trail confidence building lessons.

Cibolo IS the horse I want to take to the Mark Rashid workshop and that goal seems attainable. And, if I can continue in this place of calmness and courage, then we'll go together.

With any luck, tomorrow we'll ride.


jacksonsgrrl said...

This sounds almost mirror image of Jackson and my progress(except I have had many more forays communing with the dirt than you...;). When I got him I simply had NO CLUE!!! Now I do, and I feel better for working on the issues (even if I was WAY overhorsed) and doing things I never thought possible. And LEARNING in the extreme!! I now don't feel overhorsed, but he is a handful and there are very few people I will put on him. My dressage lessons have helped the most! I may never perform dressage, but the learning can be applied to every aspect of my riding. I know quite a few Western riders who take dressage just to become better riders. Just saying what has helped me. AND my instructor is SO awesome! I am in a club called Hill Country Equine Friends here (it is out of Boerne) and they have all kinds of workshops, trainings, dinners, etc. One of Mark Rashid's protogee's in having a clinic in the spring. I believe it is $550 for 2 or 3? days to participate. I have heard incredible things about her. I can find out the details if you are interested. I think it is in Boerne.... I plan to audit. Being a single mom, I'm just lucky to have a horse let alone pay $550...I want to save that for my LESSONS!!! :) Congrats, on your new found confidence and wisdom with Cibolo. I just had a feeling you were going to make a go of it and not sell him!!! HOORAY!
:) Mindy

Anonymous said...

Wonderful to hear - that's great that you had someone knowledgeable to take a look and evaluate him. It's always amazing to me how much working with horses is about our minds and hearts. Can't wait to hear more!

Leah Fry said...

Glad to hear you've turned a corner. Thanks for the reminder. The older I get, the harder it is for me to put the demons of "what if" at bay while assuming my calm and courageous leadership role.

I am not riding enough to get better. I know I need lessons badly, but like Mindy said, right now, I'm just grateful to have the means to have my horses — and pay Jaz's vet bills!

Nuzzling Muzzles said...

Hmmmm. Interesting that having someone tell you he's a good horse can change things. Lostine used to try to buck me off every time I rode her, so I hired two different trainers to evaluate her. They both said she was an easy, push-button horse to ride. I was angry that they didn't see what I saw. It took me a while to realize that they were professional riders as well as horse trainers, so of course Lostine would behave perfectly for them. It turned out that I irritated her when I rode, because I bounced around too much and was indecisive. She wanted to be given direction every second of the ride, while I just sat there and occasionally asked for a gait change. Anyway, after more riding lessons, she settled down. She starts out bucking every spring, but that's because my riding is out of practice. I'm kind of getting the same attitude as you about already experiencing the worst and knowing you can handle it. I get scared when my horses spook, but I've never fallen off from a spook, so what is there to be afraid of? Spook on!

Michelle said...

You have made some intense insights. It's great that you have experienced a shift and feel more confident and strong in your abilities. I think once you start on that path, it becomes a self fulfilling prophecy. Congrats!

restoration42 said...

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