Have you noticed how often Linda especially, but even Pat, says something like “do xyz for n times and pretty soon your horse will [insert desired thing]”? And then how often Savvy Club members post in the forum or on their blogs that they had to do xyz for a year to get [result]?
I’ve thought for a while that saying “pretty soon” is a verbal habit for Linda that Pat has picked up, and if she’s aware that she’s saying it at all, she’s likely using it as an encouragement. I’ve always grinned about it because I feel like nothing for me has happened “soon” with Rocky — I mean, he knows this stuff, but has to wait for me to catch up.
Yesterday though I started thinking that when I am sporadic with play sessions, particularly patterns, we aren’t progressing as fast, and it can feel like we’re not progressing at all. When I manage to play six days in a row and really stick to my patterns map even though it feels awkward or I find holes from previous patterns (like switching to the 45-foot line and realizing that we hardly ever played at the full length of the 22-foot line except in yo-yo and circle), we do progress.
We are always, without exception, better at the end of the sixth session than we were at the end of the second session.
So even though “pretty soon” is relative when measured in days or weeks or years, it’s also true: you will achieve the harmony/behavior/improvement/result you are looking for much sooner if you follow the “do xyz for n times” than if you don’t.
And we are improving. The past few horse days, I’ve taken him into the arena and tried for the first Liberty pattern, the circle game, without being particular. I’ve practiced encouraging his ideas the way Linda did with Allure at the Reno Celebration, flicking the carrot stick in Zone 5 when he changes directions or gaits, to say “ok, good idea, do that and a bit more!” until he tunes in and asks for new ideas.
I am practicing being consistent with “don’t change gait” when he asks for my idea, although I’m not worried about a prefect circle or bend right now as we’re not in the round pen or on-line and I don’t want to put too much strain on our connection by being persnickety. I also practice “if he comes in before you ask him to, rub him and send him again, because a good allow comes from a good send” and standing in neutral.
And last night, he did not get crazy in a bucking kicking gallop when I asked him to bring his life up, he just cantered. He kept an ear on me most of the time, didn’t look to the outside as extremely, and he came in when I asked him to, and was in general more calm > trusting > motivated > obedient than he has been in previous sessions.
Which is when I realized that although I’ve been in there a lot with him at Liberty and tried to kind of sort of “do some Liberty as long as I’m in here,” these past three times have been with the intention to do the Liberty pattern.
I don’t feel like I’m doing much different in terms of my actions, but in reflecting, I see how bringing my intention focuses my leadership: I get consistent with responding to every gait change (for example), conscious of when I don’t release fast enough, and I am better at keeping in my head the picture of Rocky circling me two times without changing gait or direction and with relaxation, rhythm, and contact, and recognizing when we get even three strides, not just insisting on whole circles.
I talked to Erin about the round pen, which borders the front turn-out, and described the antics the horses get up to when I have tried to play with Rocky in there — including Rocky exploding around the pen. Her advice was just to keep at it and eventually it settles down. I’m going to go out and clean it up a bit this weekend — there are poles that should line the rail but are all cattywampus inside the pen, and not in an easy-to-step-over way. We need to play our circle game with the crutch of having the circle defined for us, so that Rocky re-learns how to bend his body and I figure out how to be calm and confident and neutral in that little tiny space (compared to the arena) even when he’s going bonkers with the excitement of the turnout herd.
(In searching Google Images for a yoga-y image to illustrate intention, I found a neat article about an experiment in collective thought and group intention and a website about intention experiments that I have bookmarked for later. I don’t have TV so I haven’t seen any hype about it but it looks like the author has been on Oprah and maybe it’s all connected to The Secret and all that — but as a devoted fan of author Spider Robinson, I can’t dismiss the possibilities out of hand, no matter how slick or crude or markety or fringe it turns out to be.)