Posts Tagged With: friendly game

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

When I see an adult on a bicycle, I do not despair for the future of the human race. ~H.G. Wells

I almost biffed it tonight, braking too late on a downhill so that I had the brakes on during a sharp turn — have I mentioned the electric fence at the bottom of the hill? — and then snapping a stick up into my spokes. The buckles on my toe cages are locked in place by rust and my trail runners don’t slip easily out of the slot, so I couldn’t bail. But I trusted my bike, looked far ahead to my destination, and managed to get balanced again despite the whoopsiedoodle.

I just now remembered that I own cycling shoes. Going right now to put them next to the bike.

I went out earlier tonight, before feeding time, to see if the horses would be more interested in the bicycle if they weren’t absorbed in their hay. Not that I had a fantasy of all of them lining up to trot or canter after me, you understand. Never even crossed my mind.

I did spend a lot of time within arm’s length of Rock, though. Petting him or just leaning on the bike at rest. I was able to mirror him for a while, straddling the bike and walking it forward when he walked, stopping when he stopped, looking where he looked, turning when he turned. That was cool! He figured it out by the third halt, too.

I imagined myself as a centaur carefully performing the steps of the dance that would earn me a place in the herd.


I subtly took the lead and he did walk beside me for a few strides, and then I let it go. Stop while you’re ahead and all that. So hard not to push for the next step!

I need the exercise so I made sure to zoom around a lot in between. But I could feel that being still, with Rock, meant something to him. We hung out at the trough for a long while; he was doing his game where he sucks up a bunch of water, curls his tongue, and holds it in his mouth for a while, then either swings his head to sprinkle it on you or swallows it with tiny sucking motions, like a foal with his dam. Still straddling the bike, I bent down and swirled my hand in the water, then started touching his tongue with my wet finger. He’d draw it in just fast enough, then stick it out again. I attempted to get him to play tongue keep-away with me actually holding his tongue, but he wasn’t interested, just sucked it inside and cradled his water that way.

Next time I might try to have a carrot stick with me, to do friendly game with him while I’m on the bike. If that goes well I will try some of the other six games, with me standing over my bike; if I have to go on-line to teach him to do the games this way, so be it, but I won’t be zipping around much. By the seventh session I’d like to have some draw, with me walking backwards on the bike and him walking to me.

Mankind has invested more than four million years of evolution in the attempt to avoid physical exertion.  Now a group of backward-thinking atavists mounted on foot-powered pairs of Hula-Hoops would have us pumping our legs, gritting our teeth, and searing our lungs as though we were being chased across the Pleistocene savanna by saber-toothed tigers.  Think of the hopes, the dreams, the effort, the brilliance, the pure force of will that, over the eons, has gone into the creation of the Cadillac Coupe de Ville.  Bicycle riders would have us throw all this on the ash heap of history.  ~P.J. O’Rourke

I actually see a lot of potential, if the bike can become part of our play. Wouldn’t it be fun to trot and canter next to each other? Or for him to follow me, then for me to turn around and follow him? At liberty, of course. And later — much later — to go on a mixed trail ride, with bicycles and horse? Like a little herd all our own.

Categories: Love | Tags: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Blog at

%d bloggers like this: