Days like this confirm my belief that I need a camera guy to follow me around. I would really love to document Rocky’s expressions when figuring out puzzles, his questions to me, his alert walk when he meets me at the pasture gate, his cute tongue when he plays games with the hose.
I spent almost four hours out there today in no hurry at all. I had a Plan but not an Expectation. No deadline and no particular attachment to outcomes.
All the ground play felt like a solid level 2 with some flashes of brilliance that I’d qualify as early level 3. The riding felt like an early level 1 — but not a level 0.
What I practiced, with varying degrees of skill:
- Holding the 22-foot line by the leather end rather than in the middle, while still managing it to keep Rocky from tripping.
- Touch-It pattern from 16 to 22 feet away from Rocky, all around our ranchette.
- Recognizing and honoring thresholds in both of us.
- Sideways game all the way around the round pen, both directions, with the turn-out herd fanned out along the rail.
- Yo-yo, driving game, and circle game in the round pen, with belly of the rope on the ground and a pole along the rail he had to watch for.
- Stopping at the right time. Giving cookies at the right time.
- Seven games from 22 feet, all around the ranchette.
- Saddling with savvy, especially the girth.
- Mounting from the (high, awkward, wobbly at least in my mind) pipe panel fence. Waiting for heart rate to slow before moving from fence to horse. Waiting after mounting until both Rocky and I relaxed, allowing him to continue licking the pipe fence, stroking his neck, rotating my pelvis back to my balance point in a saddle that tries to roll me onto my seat bones.
- Point-to-point in the arena in English saddle with stirrup leathers removed, choosing points far outside the arena and way above my head, not removing my eyes from the point no matter what. Breathing. Balance point. Pedaling. Breathing again. Feeling the “eyes” on my toes, knees, hip bones, belly button, shoulders, and forehead pointing toward the chosen Point, and Rocky straightening his trajectory accordingly.
- Acknowledging Rocky for not spooking when the lead rope of the hackamore fell to the ground without my noticing. I was urging him forward and he wouldn’t go, and then he backed up a little, and then I noticed the rope on the ground. I rested there and stroked and praised him, breathing, then had him turn his nose to me so I could reel the line in. Then we rested some more. And then we moved forward.
- Devising a better way to keep that rope secured.
- Bringing life into my body while riding. Grounding equally through both feet rather than just one, when not riding.
- Bathing Rocky.
This illustration is not to scale — the horses aren’t that tiny in real life — but it gives you a sense of the audience we had while playing. You can’t see him, but there was a chocolate Lab under one of those trees, too.