My first horse time in two weeks of travel and workalanche, and even though I could tell at the time what I was doing, I couldn’t stop doing it.
I failed in the First Responsibility for the Human, which is Act like a partner, not like a predator. Our evening went something like this.
- Rocky met me at the gate, whuffling and sniffing me.
- I parked Rocky at the hay net in the barn while I groomed and saddled him. I forgot to clean his feet.
- I walked with Rocky around the ranch as a warm up, but didn’t do anything to connect him to me emotionally or mentally. No games, no appetizers on the lawn, no challenges. Directly opposite of what I learned in recent lessons with Erin about purposeful warm ups, or what Linda writes about in her article Achieving The Right Frame of Mind (Savvy Times, May 2012).
Your warm up is everything. Success is all about preparation. ~ Linda Parelli
- I walked and trotted Rocky around the arena on-line a few times, gently tightening the cinch every lap or so.
- I pushed and pulled Rocky to line him up at the mounting block. It probably didn’t look like much pushing and pulling, and Rocky probably didn’t look all that uncooperative, to non-Parelli eyes. But Rocky is sensitive, and I was pretty much barking at him if not outright shouting.
- I climbed aboard and tried to keep us on the patterns I made last time I rode. We argued at some spilled hay, at corners, at gates. My cues were neither light nor consistent. Rocky turned more or less when I wanted him to and went more or less where I wanted him to, and stopped fairly close to where I wanted…but willing, enthusiastic partnership it was not. I noticed that when I think my shoulders are turned in the direction I want to go, they really aren’t; my upper body gets rigid and my arms have the reins way up and out.
- I finally began to listen to my inner voice, which had been screaming hey! slow down! listen to him! buy him dinner and a drink first!, and to get myself lighter, smoother, kinder. Rocky offered to tune in, at this point, and we both felt the connection. But in my weird churned-up state I couldn’t keep it. I kept tensing my calves and not relaxing into my heels. Rocky went back to acting gormless.
- We went out the gate to ride around the ranch, which he loves to do. He helped me open the gate. He saw something around the edge of the barn and his head came up and his adrenaline too, and I could feel him deciding whether to turn it into a “let’s pretend I’m terrified and see what Gina does” game. I sat deep and exerted leadership and we walked down the drive like it was nuthin’. I decided that I shouldn’t ride without my glasses, anymore because it keeps me looking at short distances instead of a point ahead where I want to go. That’s the Fourth Responsibility for the Human: Engage the natural power of focus.
- I rode back into the arena, dismounted, unsaddled, and sent him at liberty over to the spilled hay.
- I got my book and spent an hour reading in the arena. He divided his time between eating the hay and coming over to be scratched and rubbed. He gave me space and affection and I mellowed and tuned in to him. We had connection, and walked back to his pen in harmony.
In my last post, I wrote about how I needed to focus more on the connection. Tonight’s session showed what happens when you don’t prioritize the connection, when you don’t put the relationship first “just this once” or “just to get this one thing done.”
I had my pony ride and my muscles got time in the saddle, but our turns were sloppy and we made not a single straight line the whole time, on the ground or in the saddle. Not one. It felt very much like a normal practice ride, from 20 years ago. Long before I had heard about Parelli, but not long before I gave up on horses for 10 years.
I imagine how things could have gone, had I started out with the undemanding time I finished with, and asked myself in each moment “what can I do to nurture the connection?” And allowed the straight lines and turns and patterns to come from a place of I’m willing to try that! instead of let’s just get this over with.
Hm, how interesting!