Tune and tone with Rocky

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Rocky’s been on pasture rest for most of the spring and summer, and has lost his topline and round haunches. I’ve developed a plan to exercise him on Tuesdays and Fridays, with the assumption that we’ll also play with him on at least one weekend day.

I’ve discovered that he and I are out of tune with each other, and since we both need to tone, I’ve named my program the “Tune and Tone” and am doing most of the exercises with him. So instead of me just standing around in neutral while he works out, I’m inventing patterns we can do together, with only short intervals of me not moving my feet. This means that he isn’t having to trot very much yet because I’m only good for two laps of jogging in the sand before I need to transition back to walking.

Today we power-walked around the ranch for our warm up and then went into the front arena to do this:

walk trot poles figure 8 pattern (1)

We started at the south edge of the arena. We walked north, traveled over four poles on the ground (I engaged my core!), then over half-barrels between two upright barrels, and then to the spools. There, I stood at the spool while he traveled around it and then I backed up to the other spool and directed him around that. As he came around the spool, I went with him so that we made a straight line down the arena back to the south edge. We then turned and headed north again, this time starting our figure 8 on the opposite spool. Thus, two circuits through the poles-barrels-spools made one complete pattern, and we rested along the east edge of the arena.

We ended more in tune than we began, and I have some strategies for making Friday’s session even better.

  • Slow down mentally: this is Rocky (RBI), not River (LBI).
  • Speed up physically: this is Rocky (16.1 hh and big gaits), not River (14.1 hh and small gaits).
  • Repeat the pattern with more confidence and consistency on my part so that Rocky gets a chance to learn the pattern and isn’t just following me around.
Categories: On-Line, Rockstar | Tags: , , | 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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