Happiness is not a matter of intensity but of balance, order, rhythm and harmony. ~ Thomas Merton

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Resting Awhile

It's been a long time since I last posted anything.  I don't think it matters.

My adventures with my little farm continue to grow.  The farm has grown in size with the addition of eight more acres.  I also have two rescued Anatolian Shepherds calling the place home.  I have, for the most part, discarded the tongue-in-cheek moniker of White Trash Farm and officially renamed it Serendipity Farm.  Or as my friend likes to call it "Happy Accident Farm."

All the changes and added responsibilities have pushed my horsemanship further and further to the edge of my plate.  I have found myself missing the time I used to spend with Cricket before it was all about mowing and harrowing and mowing and feeding and mowing and mucking and mowing.  Did I mention mowing?  And sometimes I catch her looking at me and I swear there is part of her that misses it as well.

Part of my goal for this year is to go back to a place where I can connect with my horse and we can share, once again, in the partnership that we have built over the last eleven years.

I have not given up.  I've just been resting awhile.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

A Change in Perspective

I have been struggling over the past few days.  I'm not sure where the funk originated and I cannot really find the grounds for feeling so lousy.  Things are going well.  Better than they have in ages.  So why the doldrums?  I decided I needed a change in perspective.  One that lifted me about 4' off the ground and looked out between my horse's ears.

Last night I had my first ride on Cricket at the farm.  Nothing earth-shattering.  Nothing that's going to set the world on fire.  But fore me, it was simply amazing.  Simple and amazing.

Etruska became very stressed when I took Cricket out of view so instead of my original plan to explore down the road, I decided to follow the fence line to the back of the property, allowing Etruska to walk along side of us.

I had Cricket tacked up in a bareback pad and I just tied my lead line into reins.  We headed off on our little adventure.  I had no idea what to expect.  I have to admit, I was a little nervous.  It is rare that I will ride without someone present.  It is rare that I will ride bareback outside the safety net of an arena.  But I felt this overwhelming feeling of trust.  It feels strange and I want to argue with it but I just know it's really okay.

Cricket was a little forward and animated in her walk.  There were times she was a little argumentative about grazing.  But not once did I feel scared.  Not once.  What I felt was a strong connection with my horse.  I felt our partnership.

I think we were out for about 15 minutes.  Like I said, nothing earth-shattering.  But every minute that we were together, we were together.  And that's what this whole journey has been about.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Bored vs. Tuned Out

I know Linda Parelli talks about horses being bored but I'm not sure if I buy it.  Cricket spends her day nibbling grass, napping and swishing her tail at flies. How is it possible to be more boring that?  Seriously!

To be bored is to be dissatisfied with what you are currently doing and to wish to be doing something else.  I'm not sure that's a thought process that fits in with the general "in the moment" mentality of the horse.

So I just don't buy into the "my horse is bored" theory.  I don't even buy the "my horse finds me boring" approach either.

Any time I interact with Cricket, there is more energy and activity for the duration of our time together than she sees for the entire rest of the day.  Maybe even the week.  Unless there are a lot of flies.

So what is it?  Could it be that the energy we bring lacks meaning and clarity and as such the horse simply tunes out.  It's not that he'd rather be somewhere else but he'd rather understand what you are asking so he can respond appropriately?

I don't know the answer.  I just don't believe my horse is bored.

If I watch her when she's wearing her alpha mare hat, there isn't a lot of activity.  There aren't feet flying and teeth gnashing.  It's actually quite subtle but it is crystal clear.  There is purpose - focused intention - behind every action she takes.  And even in the actions she chooses not to take.

When I look at my feeble attempt at leadership and compare it to hers, I see what I lack.  And it has nothing to do with boredom.  What I'm missing is the focus, intention and purpose.  What I fail to offer is a true release.  What I miss is the natural rhythm of equine interactions - rest, initiate, play and a return to rest.  What I forget is that action must be sustained for a purpose.  Horses do not naturally move except with purpose - fleeing from prey, establishing the hierarchy and winning breeding rights.  So where is the purpose in what I'm asking?  Where is my intention?  Where is my focus?

Monday, July 16, 2012

Time Flies . . . Even When You're Not Having Fun

Two months since my last post . . . big surprise!

The biggest news is that I moved.  It seems very surreal right now but I am living in my new (to me) house and right out the window I can see my Cricket grazing.  In some moments it feels as if it's always been this way and then I blink and wonder how I got here.

The house is proving to be a bigger challenge than I imagined.  I am struggling to stay positive and I need to redouble my efforts.  Too often I find myself complaining and it's draining my motivation and it's entirely too counter-productive.  So I am going to work on my "attitude of gratitude" and shift my focus to everything that is amazing.

I've spent little time with Cricket simply because of the sheer magnitude of everything else that needs to be done.  She is settling in well and I truly believe she's happy.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Super Camp

So I'm slowly returning to reality after an amazing time at Super Camp.  I was able to audit part of the camp last year but my nanny duties kept me from seeing a lot.  I decided to sign up for the following year thinking it would be fun.  I had no idea just what I was getting myself into.

I really was not prepared for how this experience would stretch and test my horsemanship.  I'm pleased to say that Cricket was a total rock star even when I wasn't.

One of my biggest issues in riding with a group is Cricket's intense defensiveness of her space.  She pins her ears, can lunge and has wheeled to kick.  It looks aggressive but I know better.  Cricket is so overwhelmed with the responsibility of taking care of me because for so long I was such a poor leader from the saddle.

On the first day of camp, I mounted up and we were in the arena with about 35 other horses.  After a brief walk to warm up, we moved out into a crazy forward trot and made our way all around the arena, weaving through horses in various stages of saddling, cinching, warm-up etc.  It was crazy!  And Cricket was amazing because my focus was on going somewhere and taking us through the "minefield."  I won't say we were perfect every day - she did pin her ears and she nearly kicked the little Gypsy Vanner - but on the whole she was INCREDIBLE!

Another issue we have is trail riding.  We went out twice, wending our way down paths that had been mowed in the hay field.  The first outing was strictly walk, with most of the camp group, and we went down to a small obstacle course.  Cricket handled every thing I asked like an absolute pro.  Having never done an "in and out" she was one of the few horses to take it completely in stride.  Some of the "seasoned trail horses" refused to go in or rushed the exit but not my rock star pony!  We passed on the "scootch hill" - I'm still a little freaked out by hills.  Maybe next year?

I had a session about re-shimming my saddle.  We stripped it down to just a center foam shim and I love it!  By the third day, Cricket was noticeably less defensive about girthing and by the last day she was actually nudging the pad and saddle towards her back.  Pretty cool!

I have some brief notes - some thoughts collected through the days but most are from the last day.
  • Phase 4 means "game over" - you get one touch and then it's back to phase 1
  • If your leg = go, use lateral flexion then disengage, then return to lateral flexion.  When you do, change your energy AND your body position . . . neutral, active, neutral (e.g. sit back up - I kept missing this step and wondered why Cricket wouldn't return to lateral flexion)
  • Circle game send - weight should be on the back leg; weight on the front leg=attack and causes your horse to come in and through you vs. out and onto the circle
  • If your horse is moving, stop driving!
  • Use rockslide, falling leaf, etc as purpose - get the energy up or as point to point; don't do it "just because"
  • Under saddle, once you get the stretch, do something with it - snakey bends, etc.
  • Circle game: energy for upward transition can be 180/90 behind the horse OR behind the drive line (for the more technical folks!)
  • If you can cause your horse to engage, he'll offer incredible things.
  • You need respect (the appropriate response to pressure) before you can truly activate "the game."
  • "Feel of, feel for, feel together" can easily get lost in the complacency of familiarity
  • There is not a brace that doesn't affect EVERYTHING you do with your horse
One of the biggest things I've learned is how heavy I've become.  I can start out light and playful but I loose that sense of fun through the game.  I was challenged, on many levels, to get my good better and my better best.

I signed up again for next year.  I hope it works out so I can go . . .