Feel

I’m better when I blog

One important purpose this blog serves to highlight for myself the progress that I do make. I don’t need to record for posterity all the things I’m not good at, as there are so many, many more of those. But when I reflect on the session while I still remember, I can pull out those pieces that I’m learning, improving, noticing, and practicing, and then that makes me happy both at the time of writing and later when I hop around randomly through older posts.

“The more you know, the more you know you don’t know.” ~ Aristotle, in translation

Today I took River down the drive toward the front of the ranch and created a point-to-point with cookies at each point.

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I wanted her to walk freely but I tried not to oversqueeze, over-urge. Just … walk. And get a cookie. I wanted to see if she would of her own accord begin to relax and use her body. I thought about something my friend Barbara learned in a lesson earlier this year, about how many laps of “just walking around the arena” it took before she herself blew out and fully relaxed (“I thought I WAS relaxed!”) and how many more laps it took before her horse did the same. So I just kept going between the two points, with a couple of detours to refill the cookie pouch or to help someone with the driveway gate.

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And River did blow out, long after I’d forgotten that I was paying attention to it, and long after any observer would have assumed she was relaxed. Her slow, low-headed amble looks relaxed. She’s even mostly relaxed, and not looking for things to pretend to spook about, not exactly balking or obviously sticky. But I’m learning to feel how she’s not “free” and to wait for that freedom before changing our pattern.

A Thing I’ve been noticing in my past few sessions with River, including this past weekend’s lesson, is that after we got that really nice soft harmonious day, our rides have been progressively (regressively?) less soft each time since. That’s what led me to changing something up. (That and the presence of summer horse camp using the arena.) Also, I’ve developed some anxiety about certain squeezes on the ranch when I don’t have a saddle, so I thought about all the places I feel comfortable and set up the pattern there. We had enough distance between points to feel like we were going somewhere, and that helped too.

I am really trying to pay attention to the concept of relaxation in her poll and jaw, to the bend as we turn, and to the sticky vs. free quality of her gait. While I’ve become much quieter in my body (and Erin complimented me on this in our lesson!), I think I’m also confusing River now, lifting the rein, trying to put my leg on in a place that makes sense, clucking (why? WHY?), urging her forward while lifting the rein and then bumping her when she doesn’t bend her nose after several seconds (I wait a while because I need to not develop a habit of lift-BUMP-PULL).

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Categories: Feel, Freestyle, River | Leave a comment

Feelin’ lazy? Really?

On Monday I was still heat-lagged from three days of horse expo, but I was also determined to stay dedicated to my daily horsemanship goal, and so I went out and I played with Rocky and then River.

Rocky

And then because I was feeling lazy and still somewhat clumsy, instead of getting out my bareback pad and reins, I borrowed two dressage whips from the tack area in the arena and asked River to line up at the spool at liberty. Which she did, including a small sideways-towards that we’ve never practiced. I got on bareback and bridleless and practiced some walking around, turns, and halts. After about 10 minutes, I slid off and rubbed her and took her back to her pen.

Ten months ago I had my first bareback and bridleless ride on River, which I also think is my first bareback and bridleless ride ever. Six months ago I was starting my daily healthmanship resolution and counted 5 minutes of sitting on River while she walked – or even just stood still – as a ride.

This week, I chose a 10-minute bareback and bridleless session, in which the goal was to practice transitions between walk, halt, and backup, and also to practice balance and stick handling, because I was feeling lazy.

River

Sometimes we’re not aware of our progress because we’re so focused on what we can’t do, or aren’t doing, that we fail to notice or acknowledge what we can do or are doing. Other times it’s even simpler: we get busy and buried and can’t keep up with our daily logging, and suddenly it feels like we’ve not “done anything” for months.

At the halfway point of this year I can see that keeping the very brief note in the small hardcopy calendar works for me. It’s easy to update – I keep it near my pillow – and without room to write details, it’s great for noticing progress and milestones without burying them in a bunch of blather. At the same time, I’ve been missing the process of blogging about the details, so I’m layering that in to my goal for the rest of the year.

Categories: Feel, Freestyle | Leave a comment

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