Monday, February 20, 2012

Whoo hoo!

~  Not Sparrow and I yet, but someday…  ~

I am about as jazzed as I ever could be.  Today for the first time ever, with Sparrow,  I had my horse fully with me! 

It all started with the same routine – except that I had not ridden him in the last two weeks. 

Oh, this is going to be interesting. 

I went to get him and he was hanging out at the gate for me{isn’t he so cute?}, we groom and get ready to ride – uhoh, it that a saddle?  *Sparrow pulls face*

He looks grumpy as I tack him up, but I am prepared to lounge it out of him; no way am I just hopping on after the nice long holiday he’s had! 

He works really well on the left rein on the lounge line, but when we switch directions he doesn’t want to stay out on the track and keeps cutting in.  I use the whip at his shoulder to stop that, and he takes off at a canter.  He then proceeded to buck a bit which got him into trouble!   I don’t let him do that, and he knows it, so I growled and pushed him forwards; making him work hard for that bit of bad behaviour….

Now for the scary part.  Yup, it was time to mount up.  At this point I am moving slowly and methodically, forcing myself to concentrate on being calm and just breathing.  I have noticed that when I get nervous I tend to rush or ‘flutter’ about; so if I concentrate on each motion as accomplishing a certain task, that helps to calm the stampeding hamsters in my tummy!

I get on, thanking my lucky stars that he stands like a rock for mounting, which is always nice if you are feeling a bit squiffy about riding.  I settle into the saddle, marshalling my thoughts.  I have a plan today – I want to try out some new training techniques that I have been reading about.  So here am I thinking out loud as I absently scratch Sparrow’s whithers, as much to calm myself as the horse!

“Ok.  Think forward.    Get off his face.   Remember the 1-2-3 aid; seat bones, leg, then bucko-you-so-don’t-want-to-go-there with a touch of spur.   Control his feet with your legs.  Bump one side then the other if he’s sticky.  Keep your shoulders level.  Stay out of his face….

I take a deep breath, asked for forwards with my seat, then had apply a touch of leg as he obviously hasn’t figured out a seat aid yet! 

And then we just walked around the arena.

Big deal?  Oh yes, it is!

It’s the first time since I bought Sparrow home that I’ve been able to get him just walk around the outside track of the arena.  Yes, he didn’t like the boggy muddy corner.  Yes, he was looky.  But he was looky at a loose, head-down, relaxed-ish walk.  When he felt like he was going to come off the track I nudged him ever so slightly with my inside calf, then the outside, alternating until he straightened up and relaxed. 

By the time I had gone around the arena twice on the left rein, changed rein and made my way down the long side on the right rein, I was grinning so hard my cheeks were hurting…

I had him.  He was there, in my hands, in front of my leg – listening…  I felt the tears well up.  I have spent the last two months stressing.  I didn’t know how to break through to him.  I didn’t know if I would ever get past his resistance without some serious fighting with each other.

Before today, even when he was obedient, it was like he was literally obeying because it was easier to do that then to make a fuss.  But the problem with that is that I could still feel the resistance. That slight stiffening in his back.  The tiny drag of his hind quarters.  And the hard neck.  My goodness, that neck!  I knew I didn’t have him, and I wasn’t sure what to do about it.

But today?  Nothing but softness…  We trotted in 20m circles.  We spiralled and leg yielded, and did even better spirals after that.  Sure,  he was crooked at times, and I would check my shoulders to make sure that the crookedness wasn’t my fault.  He would also loose focus once in a while, and I’d have to remind him that I was there, but you know what?

He always came back to me.  And that is just great.  I even decided to walk him out on the first little part of our trail ride, despite the fact that he’s been so spooky and boogy when riding without a trail buddy.  I felt confident doing so because I had a plan and I knew what to do!

I made sure he was pointing forwards while maintaining a loose rein, and kept him moving by nudging one side then the other when I felt him getting ‘sticky’ and worried about leaving his buddies.  We walked to the end of the jump paddock with minimal fuss, I halted him, and we just sat there for a few minutes then I dismounted.

I loosened off his girth and bridle and gave him the signal to graze.  He had a few mouthfuls of clover and then we walked back up the paddock together.  It was so funny!  You could see him thinking about the ride as we walked back.  When he’s doing that he kind of knots his brow and chews a bit, looking very thoughtful. 

I lead him back while he was ruminating, and pulled off his saddle.  He stood so quietly while I unbridled him and put on his halter.  Then he looked at me.  I looked back and…  I don’t know.  We just had a moment together, acknowledging the connection we found today.  I kissed him on the forehead and hopped over the fence to get his feed.  He dropped his head to graze – the moment was over. 

I am still euphoric.  What a day – what a ride!! 

And for those of you that are interested in the new riding/training techniques I’ve picked up – go read the Mugwump Chronicles if you haven’t already.  And I mean start from the beginning and read all of her posts type read.  Seriously.  Do. It. 

I learnt the nudge-nudge trick from her{although she calls it “bumping” – I just translated that to mean an English riding nudge.  Dunno if I am right, but it works!}, how to get your scaredy cat/barn sour/herd bound horse out on a trail ride by himself, why thinking forwards is so important, the principle of feet {control the feet and you have control over the horse},  and stuff that I haven’t even had time to process yet, but I know is lurking in the dark recesses of my brain… 

Best three days I ever spent.  And I proved that today by riding Sparrow and finding my horse.  I am so stoked.

See ya!


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