I haven't written anything in ages and thought it was about time for my next blog entry. Well, during the past week I had the most amazing experience with a horse.
My trainer gave me a horse to ride for a while. This horse, a little bay mare, nervous and high strung, is probably the most sensitive horse I have had to work with both on the ground and under saddle. She has a very hard life before, where she was ridden by a rider that was too heavy for her and had terrible riding skills (all hands and no legs). Now, at the age of 15, we are re-schooling her which is a challenging task but one that I am really enjoying.
I have been longing this mare for the past two months to help strengthen her back and teach her balance. Yes, I am a Parelli fan and I longe my horses :) Weird, I know. This mare always rushes when being longed. She will start off at a trot, get faster and faster and faster until she breaks into a canter. Then she'd canter relatively fast (mostly because she struggles to keep her balance) until she is tired and then only slow down to a trot. This can take up to an hour, sometimes two!
Having been influenced by Parelli, I felt that I had to find a way to teach this mare to stay calm and keep her balance. I had to show her how much better it feels to stay calm. Now, my trainer is not a Parelli fan, and I am not one to force my beliefs onto others, so I knew that I wouldn't be able to play around with Parelli patterns and games (at least not by the book). What was I to do then?
I started thinking of a DVD I watched a while back called The Path of The Horse. It showed the views of a number of “natural horseman” (I'm not really sure what to call them) and Linda Kohanov was one of them. Please note that I am not a big fan of Linda Kohanov's work. It's all a bit too spiritual and “airy fairy” for me. BUT, I don't think she is entirely wrong either, especially after my experience.
Anyway, so I was longing this mare same as always. She was rushing and I was just standing at the centre watching her go around. Although she wasn't tearing around the longe ring, she wasn't calm and balanced either. Usually, I don't talk to the mare much when she works, because she tends to speed up when the commands are given. But watching her be in such a state made me want to tell her that everything is okay, she can relax. I just started to relax my body, taking all the tension out that I could. I slowed my own breathing (taking deep breaths), the same I would do when riding to keep myself relaxed. For the fun of it, I also gave soothing commands (like “steady” and “good girl”or whatever) in my head, instead of verbally. Before my very own eyes, the mare seemed to pick up on the change and slowed down! I couldn't believe it! I studied her going around and watched to see if I was really seeing what I was seeing. There this nervous mare was trotting around like she never has before. We changed direction and the same thing happened. She was fast at first but the minute I relaxed and tried to tune in with her, she slowed down.
The mare has been longing better than ever for the past two days now. Her downward transition from canter to trot is now picture perfect where it used to be a horror show. I have also observed that she is now starting to relax more through her back too :)
So, wether I sound crazy or not, I am starting to believe that when working with horses , on the ground or in the saddle, it is as much a mental “game” as it is a physical one. There are definitely things in this world that we don't understand yet, and, will take a lot of believing to understand.
Anyway, this is just what I experienced. Weird, isn't it?