A few months ago, the Savvy Times editors asked us to say — in 150 words or less — how the FreeStyle Patterns have changed our relationships with our horses. I submitted our story and Rocky and I were among those chosen! (Savvy Club members can view the issue in the vault.)
Here is what I wrote:
My confidence has soared
Regina Preciado, Grass Valley, CA, U.S.
Rockstar never liked passenger sessions. As he withdrew, I lost confidence. I compensated by asking even less of him, which made things worse. But during a game of extreme Touch It involving a tree, a hula hoop and a chihuahua, more engaged than we had been in weeks, I realized Rock felt my passengering as a lack of leadership. Boring! Unsafe! Pointless!
Everything changed with Follow the Rail. The instant I aimed my belly button at a barrel with a strong intention of getting there, Rock’s ears swept forward, and he stepped out like drum major. He flowed through each corner, and I don’t think I lifted him back to the rail more than five times in twenty minutes. Our relationship is stronger than it’s ever been; my confidence has soared. He’s even started offering some Liberty. Now I have to watch that DVD so I can keep up!
It boosted my spirits to see that today. I’ve been on deadline for a 3,000-word cover feature for a trade magazine along with planning out the workload for three concurrent documentation releases for one of my software clients, and have not played much with Rock this week. I was dwelling on my “failure to commit/dedicate” rather than noticing that I invented a new-to-us game and rode bareback (with pad) on Monday, spent undemanding time on Tuesday and Wednesday, spent undemanding time on Thursday and hosed the blood off a gash he somehow acquired on his left hind, AND played with and rode Sterling naked bareback (look Ma, no pad!) on Thursday as well.
I have barely seen Rocky all week due to workload, rain, freezing, and my own lazytude. Today the sun broke through for a couple hours and I put him on the 22-foot-line and we moseyed to the grass where I – gasp – let go of the line and did a few asanas that didn’t involve lying down or sitting in the mud.
When I got the idea to let go of the rope, I caught my breath and felt the world sway. Then for the first few seconds it felt anxious, like sitting in a car without a seatbelt. But this entire property is fenced, and in the extremely unlikely event that Rocky bolted away, he’d head toward the Back 40 anyway. Much more likely that in the event of an emergency he’d pop his head up and teleport 10 or 15 feet, then look at me for direction.
And of course what really happened was Rocky grazed, I sought balance and flow, and Jedi retrieved his ball and dropped it where I could easily kick it. Rocky had one mini-eek when the rope got around his pastern and I flinched but quickly recovered. He glanced at me a bit wide-eyed an I shrugged and went back to what I was doing, and then he figured out how to free himself.
He stepped on the rope a few times but never brought his head up at the same time, so I don’t know what kind of panic he’d get into (yes, we’re still working on this one) if he stepped on it so close to his chin and trapped himself so low. Probably fall over to his side and have a heart attack. Which is one less monthly bill for me to pay, right? Bright side!
More and more I find I have let go of habits of preventing things from happening — not just to keep the horse comfortable but to keep myself comfortable, because I was nervous about handling a “situation.” I would keep the rope out of the way or not flap a parka around or not address that he didn’t stand still for grooming.
It’s a subtle triumph but a huge one. I really have progressed from defaulting to something a lot stronger than “oh no” to a nice neutral “oh boy” and “hrm, how interesting.”