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

Friday, April 2, 2010

Contemplating Brace

So I've been thinking - a dangerous past time I know. I'm prompted to post because my comments to my friend Clare's blog post were getting too long.

I've been reading about different experiences and watching some of the folks out at the barn. One woman is having difficulty because her horse reacts the moment she picks up the reins; another's horse braces when asking for a turn.

I started thinking about my journey with Cricket and all the studying and experimentation I've been doing. And I started to wonder.

I used to argue with Cricket. A lot. She wouldn't go where I wanted in the manner I wanted. She acted out at saddling, mounting and bridling. She bucked up at the canter, she balked about backing towards something, she ducked out on jumps. Lots and lots of little arguments. Why? Because some how I had it in my mind that she was wrong and I was right. And she had it in her mind that she was being the best horse she could in the moment.

And there's the kicker. In every moment she was being the best horse she could be and I was failing to be the best partner I could be.

I think the majority of our recent success stems from my acceptance of my horse. I accept the horse she is right now. I'm not trying to change her but rather find a way I can cause her to respond to what I want. The question is not "Why won't Cricket canter?" but rather "How do I cause her to understand I want to canter and that she can do so willingly and without fear?"

My goals mean nothing if she's not partnering with me towards their achievement. I have to take the time to cause her to understand and not brace - mentally, emotionally or physically - against me. It's about her confidence. Her mental confidence in the puzzle I set-up. Her emotional confidence in her ability and my leadership. Her physical confidence that compliance will not cause discomfort or pain.

In the recent Mastery Lesson DVD, Linda reiterates the phrase "not one moment longer." When the horse tenses or braces, the moment you notice is the last moment it should be allowed. Whatever you were doing, whatever your focus, it must shift to address the lack of relaxation and acceptance. If you don't, you train in the tension rather than training in the relaxation.


Naturally Gaited said...

Yes, yes, yes! Your comment,"How do I cause her to understand I want to _______ and that she can do so willingly and without fear?" totally encapsulates what I discovered about leadership while playing with Smokey. It is a simple statement, but will take years of exploration!

I've been thinking lots about partnership vs. 49/51% leadership. For instance, why would my LB horse want to play with me when he never gets to "win" (by dominating me)? The answer must be that he has to THINK that he IS winning by training me. Hmm.

Lisa said...

Excellent observations! One thing I try to keep in mind when I play with Cricket is this - what kind of horse would it take to be her leader in the wild? All horses will "submit" to a stronger leader. So what qualities would a horse have to possess for Cricket to say, "okay, I'll follow you."

We think about winning vs. losing. Horses think about safety and getting along. Leadership and partnership are not mutually exclusive. The 49/51 split can go either way. There are times I've let Cricket have the 51. Knowing when to follow is a quality of a good leader.