Unity, harmony, togetherness.
For most horse people it seems to be a sort of holy grail of horsemanship. The moment when two bodies become one, you are no longer only human, the horse is no longer only a horse, you are one blended creature moving together.
Take a look at this photo:
This is from last weekend. Here I am introducing Sanson to the new larger riding arena and (finally) working on some straight lines after a whole winter in the round pen. He started to get very fed up with bending, me too!
The ground is still half frozen. And a third of the pen has sharp tree roots in situ that we are waiting for thaw so we can dig them up and farrow the ground. I could no longer wait, for this to happen and dislike waiting if I can make a creative solution work.
I raked the ground and found all the roots. Spray painted them yellow, and showed each of them to Sanson, let him sniff. Now we have a very natural slalom course! all hazards clearly marked, and now nice large calm place to progress together.
But back to Unity.
Can you see how he mirrors me? To an outside observer our session that day looked pretty boring, just walking around and breathing a lot. But this is HUGE deal for us.
Sanson came to me with a number of inherited issues. Through the retraining process I peeled back the layers to see what was there (See blog: ‘The Trauma Onion’), and help him through his baggage, unpack it all, and let it go.
In the process I am doing the same for myself. Letting go of my baggage. That’s what this type of horsemanship does for you. Instead of running from your stuff, you confront it, let it go and find a kind of healing and rejuvenation.
It has been a huge year of change for Sanson and I. With his nerves frayed due to end of a long, cold, wet winter he is telling me he needs a lot of time for himself to get grounded and feel warm and rested again. And work together needs be a lot of focus on low energy, low pressure and just enjoying each others company. Could it be also that he might be letting go of his past, and offering me ground zero, the opportunity to build our activities back up from a place of relaxation, respect and joy? Rather than tension, pressure and old fears?
A month ago I changed tactics from making him more athletic to project Super Plod, and it seems he really appreciated it. Today when I arrived at the stable, I went into the paddock and said hello to another horse. He proceeded to immediately come up to me. First he checked me for Pumpernickle bread (his new obsession) but then stood with me and sighed and looked at me like…
“what are we doing today?’
Warmed my heart!
In the above photo, you can see how he matches whatever leg I take with the same stride. Even his foot now strikes the ground at the same angle as me. Our concentration is the same. Focused on each other, but also focused on ourselves, keeping our emotions low, and figuring out how to balance on this choppy, half frozen spring ground. I’m taking my GoPro to stable and will be filming sessions sproadically for me to review later, I don’t have a trainer, I am self training, so this is the best way I know to get perspective on our time together.
It looks like nothing, no big tricks, no high energy fireworks, no gimicks.
Just being together. Doing the same thing at the same time. Is that not what good quality riding is all about really?
Needless to say, this translates over into the saddle. I can direct him so lightly and softly, with both my hands and pelvis. He starts turning without the inside rein now too. But I am very aware not to overwhelm him in this time of transition. I always check with him, and he always gives me a signal when he is ready to be done. His concentration for our training can only go so far, and if I go slowly, I will quickly build him up. Rushing will break him down. Already today we went twice as long as the weekend. Then he told me he was about ready to be done, that he felt good enough to finish. I asked him just to keep going another round, and see if he can hold himself together he did. Stopped like a prince.
Then he arched his neck like a stallion.
One of his former trainer/riders Emma, and my good friend, said she only ever saw Sanson crest and present himself during a stop in activity, all proud and happy with himself, when he was with me. It never fails to make me smile.
Unity can only be achieved by true cooperation. When you join forces without an agenda. You listen to them and put their needs first. And they listen to you and put your needs first too. Best way I know to make a safe and happy horse. Not a bad strategy for relationships with people too I guess.
Today just before mounting I looked at him, just to check how he felt, and usually he was high headed eyes tense during mounting. Today he slow blinked and sort of said
“Well go on then! You can get up, I’m alright’
Love your horses this Spring folks and let them show you the way!