What would you do if you weren’t afraid?

I took Rocky into the arena on Tuesday evening when I “should have” been driving down the mountain for my weekly trip to Silicon Valley. I’d had enough of “shoulds” for that day and had given myself permission, finally, to bring Rocky out and do something with him. I wanted to do something with more purpose and challenge than delivering carrots, grooming, or undemanding time.


So I got out a couple of flags and started flapping them. I concentrated on rhythm and on reading Rocky’s reactions. When he relaxed, I stopped or slowed. When he flung his head high, I kept things where they were.

He’s always been the most nervous about things moving above him. Thus, when he wasn’t too bothered by the rhythmic motion of the flags level with his body in all the zones, I raised them up, above his ears, and worked hard not to poke him in the eye. His reaction was immediate: head high, eyes wide, first frozen, then moving his feet. I kept it up. And up. But before my arms fell off, Rocky made a change. He lifted his nose toward one of the flags. I stopped its motion immediately, and he extended his muzzle even more and sniffed it.

Good boy! Have a carrot and let’s rest a while.

And then we’ll try again.


By the end of an hour, we’d played with the flags and with a tarp remnant, which I was able to crumple up, rub him with, shake out, and then drape over his body in zones 2- 5 while we walked around. I helped him bend his body correctly as we walked, using what I’ve learned from the Savvy Mastery Series – On Line: A Mental Connection with Silke Vallentin home study course.

In just that one session he was able to work through some emotional and mental challenges, and come out feeling calmer and braver. And i was able to be calm and relaxed the whole time, and to wait, and allow him the space and time to work things out for himself; I could be there for him without hovering or protecting him.

I think that developing Rocky’s mental and emotional fitness — helping him become “spiritually sound” — can only help him regain his physical fitness. (Not that he’s gone all pasture potato or anything. He works out every morning before breakfast with 20 minutes of interval training, exhibiting all 7 gaits in all 6 directions in an exuberant and beautiful dance.)

Even more importantly, that single session restored my faith. Rocky and I have much to share with each other, much to learn and much to teach, that does not have anything to do with whether our wrists hurt.


Categories: Leadership, Love, On-Line | Tags: , | 1 Comment

I submitted my Freestyle Level 2 audition

Still (horse) crazy after all these years

It took three years to complete all the steps of submitting the second half of my Level 2 audition and suddenly here it is. I’ll find out in 4 to 6 weeks what the assessment team thinks of me ‘n’ River dancing to J.S. Bach:

It’s a journey

It’s taken me a long time to let go of my need to do all of my auditions with Rocky, my “real” levels partner. But he’s been lame since February 13, and last month the x-rays showed “navicular changes” for the first time. He’s in orthopedic shoes now — or at least, I hope he is, as he keeps throwing the one off his right front foot — and soon we’ll be able to get back into playing with him on the ground to get him back into good physical condition.

Whether he’ll be able to continue as a riding partner, we won’t know for several more months,. We need to see how he responds to his new shoes, Previcox (NSAID), and new conditioning program before we can decide how to proceed. In the meantime, I’m reading about conditioning and dressage, and exploring the Straightness Training program to see if it’s appropriate for him.

Rocky hasn’t been consistently sound the whole 7+ years that I’ve had him, but I know he did everything he could to be sound for Scott’s first 2 years of Parelli. The beauty of the journey is that Rocky made that effort for us, and ensured that Scott could develop to the point where Scott can now form partnerships with other horses for our lessons and continuing progress. Of course Rocky is still our partner — our friend, teacher, student, and companion — and we will continue to come up with activities in which he can become “smarter, calmer, braver and more athletic.” Whatever “more athletic” is going to mean for him.

Categories: Auditions, Freestyle | Tags: , | 1 Comment

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