Making the time that it takes

I played with River the same way today as yesterday, with Liberty to warm up and then Freestyle. I tried hard to remember to lift the rein up instead of pulling it out, and the weave was really good for helping me do that. River got into the tighter weave today and booked along (for a given value of “booked along”). We practiced a lap or two of trotting but mainly focused on getting that nice forward walk.


For Rocky’s session, I put a cone on the gate latch and stuck the carrot stick with bag into it. We played various games, mostly involving Rocky squeezing under the bag. The breeze quit almost as soon as I had the bag secure so that made it a little easier, although I wouldn’t have minded some movement. When it was time to advance the game. I used the purple flag in a cone on the ground, to create a side-to-side squeeze in addition to the above-the-head squeeze. As he advanced through the game he earned many cookies and we ended the evening with some undemanding time, during which he mauled the plastic bag that the cookies came in. This was session 5 of our planned 7, and I’m back on the road for work tomorrow so he’s got until Friday to contemplate his ever-growing bravery!


Categories: Freestyle, Leadership, River, Rockstar | Leave a comment

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: , | 2 Comments

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