Wednesday, 17 October 2012

A Special Moment With A Special Girl

   When I arrived at the horses it was a perfect Autumn afternoon. As I drove up the drive way i was welcomed by a beautiful sight. A beautiful sight I only get see for a few weeks out of the year and one that I had been eagerly awaiting for 12 months. The wood that wraps around our fields were turning the most smouldering shades of oranges and reds, set against the contrast of the clear blue sky it was a view to fulfil every definition of the word beautiful. It was a welcoming and enticing place, one that just ignites a spark for adventure.
   Standing tall and strong, there was also something enchanting about this place, magical almost. It had about it an essence of tranquillity and stillness. Powerful yet gentle. A perfect metaphor for the horses who live there.

   I was missing some one on one quality time with my girly. We had nt been out riding together or played together since before my trip to Lincolnshire a couple of weeks ago. On this perfect Autumn afternoon it seemed the perfect opportunity to go for a ride together.
   Blaze always changes shape this time of year and so her saddle just kind of perches on top of her. I gladly swopped it for the bareback pad. There is nothing quite like riding bareback. Jeans on fur. Feeling your horse move underneath you gives you a much stronger sense of closeness and unity you just dont get when riding in a saddle.

   Wondering along amongst the sea of orange and gold i had dropped my reins a long time ago. There was no need for them. We turned up the hill and the yard friend I was with wanted to trot and canter in order to try out her new hoof boots.
"Sure, i cant grantee that we'll join you though"
   I was quite happy leaving Blaze to set the pace if she wanted to keep walking or if she wanted to zoom off it was okay, I thought we'd just see how we'd go.
   I asked for the trot and she quite happily obliged, still with no reins and no saddle I enjoyed feeling her work beneath me. Melting into her powerful stride as she swung her shoulders, really working from them and propelling her legs out. Her trot had been admired by many and is somewhat of her trademark. She'll trot along side my friends arabs in the canter with great ease. It's such a sensational feeling, all that power just surging you forwards yet graceful and effortless too.
   I asked for the canter and much to my surprise the beats changed to 3 and we were cantering. I wasn't surprised that she responded, what i asked she'd try her best to do but lately when i had asked for the canter it was given a little half heartidly, like she'd rather by cruising across the ground in her usual monster trot.  But this canter was lovely, she hopped into it with such enthusiasm and she was more than happy to maintain the gait up the hill.
   Still with no reins I just let my hands hang at my sides and enjoyed our canter. Without the saddle i could feel my body flexing and moving with hers, in harmony. Blurs of oranges and reds gliding past us. Perfect.

   We returned home. I untacked her. Blaze and the older boys ate their tea. I turned them back out into their summer paddock for the night and walked the length of the field to put the mini's in their piggy pen. Blaze watched my every move from the other side of the field.
   "Decided to go on a little adventure Darla!?"
   She had squirmed her way, as mini's do, behind the shelter so as i was faffing around trying to fix it Blaze and the boys had made her way across the field to see what i was doing.
   Once fixed I joined them at the water trough then began to head back to the gate and go home. They all followed and I found myself indulging in herd life. I sat in the floor and scratched Shinobi's leg. Piggles by this point and wondered off but Blaze was stood over me. We sat like this for a while, Blaze towing over me half asleep and Shinobi pulling the most bizarre itchy faces as I scratched his feathers.
Blaze lowered her head and so with one hand i was stroking her face and with the other I tended to Nobster.
   I thought it might be quite nice to mount Shinobi as i have nt ridden him for a while either. I'll often mouth the horses bareback and bridleless in the field as just another way of spending undemanding time with them. I never ask anything just enjoy sitting up there and allowing them to carry me where they fancy. I went over to the tyre and stood on it with, again, all 3 following me only Shinobi still wanted his feet scratched his feet so was stood to far forwards for me to mount. Oh well.
   I remained stood on the tyre and Blaze came and stood by my side, she bent her neck round and placed her head against my chest and here we stood a while. She lowered her head down and pressed her head against my knee's, something she has always done and so ran my hands over her neck.
   Piggles came and pushed her on the bum with his nose and she let out a big squeak and tail swish to show her disapproval but she refused to move away and never walked beyond my touch. She came and stood on my other side. I gave her a massage over her back and her hindquaters and she stood perfectly still. Time seemed to stand still. It was just me and my girl.

   I came down off the tyre and once again headed for the gate to go home. Still, Blaze stayed by my side and we walked together. I draped my arm over her neck and she lowered her head then once again she bent her neck round me and stopped me from walking. Her head pressed against my chest I began to stroke her face in the way iv learnt she likes best after our 9 years together. Her eyes began to close as my fingers gently ran over her forehead and over her cheekbones.
   Resting my face against hers. Her fur felt so soft against my cheeks, cheeks that normally ran with anger and sadness now felt warm and softness, it was nice, it was comforting, it felt safe. I looked up and stared into her big brown doe eyes and got lost. As I stared into her eyes she stared right back into mine and right then I knew. I knew that she knew exactly how I felt and I knew she felt exactly the same way.

   Never a box that needs to be ticked on the Levels Pathways. Never a manoeuvre to be executed. Never a jump to be higher Nor a gallop to be quicker. It wasn't anything that could be achieved by isolating and perfecting, learning and practising, it was moment achieved by giving your heart, giving it freely and wholey. A moment both perfect and profound.

   I love my very special girly like a love I have never felt, I never knew I had and no one else has ever felt from me before.

Monday, 15 October 2012

When My Painted Pony Let It Go

   With the subtlest of gestures fuelled with intensity i sent Shinobi to the left out on the circle and then after just a few steps I disengaged him.
"Wow Shinobi, steady you wild beasty! Dont go mad!" 
A typical humorous attitude needed when playing with a "Why should I" Left Brain Introvert. Ask them to do less that what they are offering. Ask them to do it sooner.
   His face bursting with curiosity, questions and attention. The tension builds in my body and is mirrored in the Irish Cob stood attentively in front of me. What could i possible ask next? I point my finger and BOING! With a buck and squeal Shinobi pings off like a iddy biddy baby foal bouncing in the spring grass.
   What a beautiful send and with a giggle and the slightest bend of my neck he trotted to my feet and rewarded himself immediately for his strenuous extroverted outburst with copious mouthfuls of grass. Starved the poor boy *Rolls eyes*.

   The ability to turn my horses idea into my idea and play along with their games has opened up a whole new world to me and a whole new level of possibilities with my horses. No amount of lunge whip cracking, verbal encouragement, or bribing could make this type of horse want to bounce and dance and most importantly, cant make this kind of horse engage with you.

   A family from across the street had asked to come and watch me play with the horses. Their teenage son is a keen horse rider and huge horse lover and has has great success in lessons at our local RDA school (Riding for the Disabled Association).
   They met the herd and asked if I minded them watching me playing with Shinobi for a little while. Normally, when I'm being watched I get incredibly nervous, I put a ridiculous amount of pressure on myself, and everything just has to go perfect...
   Everything has to go perfect. That statement and its implications is an entire world away from the philosophies and practice of Natural Horsemanship! 
   Thing go to pot, I cant control my energy, my body language is all wrong, i can not connect with the horse, feel and timing is all wrong and its like my mind just freezes and it I'm unable to take in what my horse is telling me and subsequently all savvy goes out of the window.

Pat Parelli's definition of Savvy- "Knowing, when to be, why to be, what to be, knowing what to do when you get there and most importantly knowing when to stop doing what your doing" 

   But this was different, because my neighbours were unfamiliar with Natural Horsemanship i didnt feel any pressure to "preform" and be perfect. I knew that whilst they watched they would nt be thinking to themselves "That was wrong, i wouldn't have done that, me and my horse can do that much better, oh my god she is awful!" This is what runs through my head when any horsey people watch me, my two closest friends, who happen to be horsey too, included.

   Despite the fact that mine and Shinobi's playtime had been put interrupted whilst we all went to meet the rest of the herd when we returned to him (still in the same place stuffing his face) we were both still feeling pretty great and it didnt take long to establish some interest and some try. 
    I unclipped the lead rope from his halter and we were at Liberty. He was free! Free as a bird to gallop and spin and buck and rear and fly across the open field... maybe after his belly was full thought because he was now eating... again!

   "Dum Dee Dum Dee Dah" would describe well the feel of which i so nonchalantly wandered round towards his hindquarters whilst he continued to eat. We were no longer connected via a rope, savvy was the only tool i had to use. 
   My body still slow but now tense and with intent, the feel had changed and instead of "Dum Dee Dum Dee Dah" I 'sneaked' along to the jaws music (not a feel used for a Right Brain horse obviously but sneaky sneaky captured a Left Brain Introverts mind b-e-a-uuuu-tifully.) Not wanting to loose his cool and give it away that i had actually caught his attention Shinobi's inside eye was not one me and he was looking at me out of the corner of his eye....
 "Dun, Dun, Dun, Dun, Dun, Dun,"
   Then he swung his bum round and looked at me, his face a huge question mark.
"Heeeeey, what are you doing?"
   Now i had caught his attention we could have some play time and we did. We had such a beautiful and fun play at Liberty. Pat Parelli says "Take off the halter and there is only one thing left. The truth" and the truth was the Shinobi wanted to be by my side, he wanted to engage, he wanted to please.

   In an open 2.5 acre field full of fresh green grass, a mouth watering haven compared to the now bare field Shinobi was in at the moment, no ropes, no fences, just freedom, freedom to choose, Shinobi trotted circles around me whilst i stood still, leg cocked. 
Its such a wonderful feeling to be bonded to your horse with something far stronger than any piece of rope.
   We did some really lovely figure of 8's, he followed my suggestions around the cones so easily and our draw was heavenly. To watch his expression change to that of enthusiasm and joy when he gets the chance to come back to me just makes me melt and go all gooey inside. I cantered and he cantered by my side. Together.


In case your wondering what a horse on a trampoline looks like!
   When i arrived one afternoon it became apparent that all the work... play we had done in regard to the confidence Shinobi has over his feet was paying off and everyday he improved. I entered the field to find Shinobi stood on the trampoline! When i first introduced this new toy Shinobi was adamant that his tootsies were going nowhere near the Shinobi hoof eating monster! But his confidence with it was growing constantly and we were now at the point that if i asked him to go over it at a walk or a trot, Online or at Liberty he would confidently and willingly but never before had it been his own idea to go and stand on it, until today. Clever boy. Proud human.


   The idea of playing with your horse before you ride is to ensure that your horse is rideable. That they are Confident. That they are Obedient. That they are Willing. That they are Calm. That they are Trusting. Obviously the time required to get your horse looking like this depends on alot. The horses Horseinality, their spirit, the environment, your savvy etc Some horses take 5 minuets some horse take 50 minuets and sometimes you may have to accept that on that particular day you might not reach the riding part.
My handsome boy wearing his beautiful saddle.
   The time needed to prepare Shinobi for a ride has plummeted since i began riding him (We played online for a long time as Shinobi was such an extreme Right Brain Introvert that he could nt be ridden. We had lots to resolve on the ground first!) I used to spend an hour sometimes 2 playing with him on the ground just achieve a dozen steps at the walk back in the early days. Today i got on him and in the 2 minuets it took us to walk to the tack room i was confident i had a rideable horse.
   I pulled off the dust sheet to reveal a cowgirls dream. My beautiful, hand tooled Western Ranch Roper Saddle. Angels sing and a beam of light appears over it every time I uncover it. It is beautiful. A beautiful saddle for a handsome horse.
   Saddling used to be another no go zone for Shinobi. He'd bite and kick and squeal as i did up the cinch and the more I learnt the more i noticed that Shinobi would go Right Brain Introvert about the saddle long before I popped it on him. Now it is a far less anxious and stressful experience. Sometimes I saddle him, sometimes i dont, sometimes ill just play with him online whilst saddled and not ride and sometimes ill ride with no saddle. Helping him to realise that the saddle is nothing, its just a thing that is sometimes there and sometimes not.
   I hung the saddle over the banister in all its Wild Wild West glory, the anthropromorphist in me slightly disheartened that Shinobi didnt share my love and obsession for it. He simply sniffed it with a kind of "Uuuh. Thats not edible. Uuuh" look and resumed eating his hay.
   Popped it on, cinched it up. Happy Days. We went for a trail ride in the woods under clear skys. The fun and curiosity began to grow in Shinobi and he'd begin to trot. Weaving between trees and jumping over the ditch, ribbons of light coming through the tree's, like something out of a movie.

   To be riding a horse that once was so untrusting and intolerant of people and what people were capable of that his only way to escape it all was to hide behind his one brown eye and one blue eye, a horse that would hide so deep inside himself that when you got on him he could not. Could not. not would not. Move his feet, and now he just wants to run here and run there and jump this, is just... well firstly something that i find hard to believe no matter how many times we've cantered through fields i still find it difficult to believe that the change in him is real and not just a dream, but it is also just such a magical sensation to be able to actually go somewhere, anywhere with your horse and they say Yes!
   When we returned from out trail ride in the woods me and Shinobi were still in that "Let go THERE!" frame of mind. We continued past the tack room and up the field at a trot and walked all the way down the drive to the huge 6ish acre field at the bottom for a canter. This field had inhabited by the world renowned, pouncing, frightening, Shinobi eating hay bales. But being the brave brave horsey that Shinobi is he held it together as we walked past it through the gate and then he realised that it was just a normal hay bale and went and rubbed his head on it.
 Phew! That was a close one aye Shinobi! 
   We had a couple of really beautiful, flowing, controlled canters. I just lifted my energy and he popped into a canter. The slack in the reins flapping to his stride as i held the very end of them. I looked on over Hereford City with the woods stood in all its breath taking beauty behind me but the most beautiful thing there, by far, was the sight of my once bitter, and broken hearted pony letting it all go.