Well, after a week of -25 and high winds left little time for anything other then survival and keeping everything warm and working, I am finding myself finally back with more pictures and stories of last summer…and remembering T-shirt weather…Remember???????
So the next clinic was on Vancouver Island, at my long time friend Deborah Flynn’s Twin Creeks Facility. Twin Creeks is such a beautiful location and Deb the consummate hostess, and it just set the tone for a great three days of Hackamore and Garrocha fun.
Laurel and Fancy looking well….Fancy!
As you may know, the hackamore is the the first stage of Bridle Horse Development and very dear to my heart, and of late, there has been a substantial amount of interest in what on earth I am doing with all this gear and what my point is and where does it go and why….sooooooo in answer to all these questions and more, the first Hackamore clinic was put on. Ironic to me that it took place in my old back yard, put on by me yet, when I would have given my eye teeth (whatever they are….:) to have had this opportunity 20 yrs, or even 10 yrs ago…..so fitting somehow…
Vicki D and Falemma…cantering:)
With a Garrocha segment as well, and BOY! has this proven to be an unexpected big hit addition to clinics. (I actually decided that there will be an entire Camp up here devoted to Garrocha just to give it the time it deserves….but more on that later….:)
The first morning of the Hackamore Clinic was devoted to going through the gear…sizes, diameters, cores and fit of the hackamore and mane hair mecate, and why they are made of the materials that they are. This is a very fascinating part of Bridle Horse development and crucial to allowing the horse the time to develop the Feel necessary to eventually carry the spade. It is a SIGNAL based philosophy, and as such demands a great deal from us as horsemen. Timing, Feel, release, balance, position, and weight all crucial to having the horse understand what we are asking. For me, I think the biggest contribution that the hackamore does in its brilliant design is that we humans simply cannot make a horse do anything in the hackamore, as they very quickly can get dull to it, bracey like you can’t imagine.
Alexa and Diva…just look at that drive, collection and Alexa’s position….
So, happily this really compels us to become increasingly aware of their feedback…watching, feeling, sensing what they are doing and indeed releasing BEFORE the maneuver happens allows them to be willing participants and empowered in their learning as well. Think of the implications of connection, rapport and confidence building. Every time I ride, I find new places of softness, ways of being that are more in harmony with my horse and it is pure magic.
So, after a great am of show and tell with the gear, it was off to fit everyone and get started with experiencing some of this for themselves. All the participants were so curious and open to what was been offered and the horses responding in the typical way…Whoa! What’s this heavy thing on my nose? And seeking that place of least resistance, vertical with that full neck arch, not just at the poll. And of course, therein lies the challenge….how do we help keep this carriage and respect with our guiding and active riding, soft hands and body awareness, because they very quickly give us brace feedback if we get it wrong….aaahhhhh! LOL…!
That afternoon, I introduced the Garrocha…on the ground first, going over the basic ‘rules’, why and how it is is used and the extremely beneficial rewards of integrating this oh so simple tool into our regular riding program. Everyone was dead certain that they would not be cantering with it by day three…and of course, all were.
Laurel and Fancy sorting it out and looking fine…
This single wooden pole is almost magical in its abilities….and is the most effective way of encouraging correct equation and seat, connection and focus, softness and Purpose! Virtually every aspect that we strive for is compressed into this artistic and fluid art and it seems to happen all by itself with far less struggle and tension. Its like the Spanish music and the very act of dancing somehow distracts us from all the ‘technical’ stuff we always think we need to learn and just Let Go, Flow, become absorbed in the Moment and Movement and learn almost in spite of ourselves. And the Horses….? They LOVE this thing….!
Meredith and her Good mare…and only their first day! See how everything is just lined up?
All in all a simply marvelous three days, and as you can see from the pictures, everyone who rode achieved beautiful moments full of grace and togetherness with their mounts.
And again…This gives tremendous focus for both, having the rider stay centered and not over or under steering, gives a point of reference and just causes both to be in line and together…or its not going to work….
Add in an each participant’s individual routine performed for us all to Spanish music, perfect weather and I for one cannot wait to do this again….!
Vicki executing the Inside Turn…
Which reminds me, yes, there is another Hackamore y Garrocha planned for June 8-10 of this year, the location on the Island is not yet set, but please, feel free to contact myself, or better yet, Alexa Linton at firstname.lastname@example.org ,my Island Clinic Organizer.
Alexa and D. Wish you could have seen their routine to the Spanish Music…Muy Beuno, Girls ! ~
The best way to gain self-confidence is to do what you are afraid to do. ~Author Unknown
Every now and then a horse shares with me a powerful lesson, yet another piece of the Grand Puzzle of Life….Ok! Ok! That’s EVERY horse, I know, but this is Quill’s gift to me, and handily enough, my gift back to her… Quill came to me as a ‘Fixer-upper’. She is a sporty model, being Anglo-Arab, a little to touchy on the gas with hair trigger steering responses that could get you in the ditch quick as you like. At 12, she was a bit was rusty in spots and needed some good ole TLC. So, she spent her first couple months gaining some weight, having her teeth done and just hanging out, my time still to occupied with other ‘paying’ customers, and she sat on the back shelf for a bit. Very respectful and easy in the pen, sensible, quiet and a bit shy, great ground manners, every inch a Lady. So it was with curiosity, anticipation and a fairly high level of, er……….assumption, that I brushed her off and prepared to ride. Well………. Well Well Well! She shortened in length to 2 feet, grew in height by 4 feet, sounded like a bull elk, and looked like I had just hit her with the full strength cattle prod; eyes pooped out, skin trembling, legs spread askew, hair all on end. Well, huh! I glanced down to see if I had brought out the Killer, Sabre Toothed Saddle Pad, but noooooooo, it was till on it’s shelf, this was just one of those ordinary, smelly wool pads… And so began a long process of back tracking and simply ( simply!) restarting her from ropes on her body( check), bareback ( Huge fear response, no matter how slow and approachy/retreaty I went, bolting off a constant threat..or ejecting me) , ‘sacking out’ (ok), and back to saddling( same electrified cat response). So. Well. By now, I am seriously scratching my head, as colts are WAY easier then this and this horse was supposed to have been ridden lots, and even if she was green, it ought to be ok by now…..huh, huh, huh. what to do what to do……. Well, Fate took a hold, and she was now living in the Big Herd, and decided that 5 days a week work was getting a bit old, and decided to run around for a spell (sticking her tongue out, waggling her hooves behind her ears I swear:) with no intentions whatsoever of being with me. Very INTERESTING Feedback, very interesting.So after do a splendid job of warming herself up, she finally trots over, and and tie her, brush her, tack her ( electric cat!) and get on.( ever been on and electrified cat….hahahaha!) And this my friends, is really where our tale with the moral begins. What did I do when I climbed on that Grey rocket launcher? I took that energy inside, and took that mecate rope in hand and as the cowboys have been known to say.” Give ‘er a good over an’ under” ( GASP!) and lined her out down the road. And Quill? She just threw down that head and trotted out the prettiest long trot you ever did see, blowing and sneezing, smooth and elastic. Gone the tight balled up tiny steps, crawly skin, and rounded up spine. We had a tremendous ride that first day almost a month ago, and now almost a month later, Quill is finding relaxation with me, confidence in herself and rider and although she is not where I would like yet, the change is significant. You see the interesting thing that happened was a place I think alot of folks get stuck in their journey with horses, especially those who LOVE them…:) As you my have noticed, I am all about the allow, give trust first to gain trust, respect is a two way door, etc. and It all fits in here with Quill’s story.
“Confidence can be a self fulfilling prophecy as those without it may fail or not try because they lack it and those with it may succeed because they have it rather than because of an innate ability.”
Faith and trust are synonyms of confidence.
What’s perhaps a little different is the order, and being flexible with how we approach things. Its sort of like approaching her fear from the other end, and seing it through to the beginning again. ( That’s the nice thing about not having a ‘program’, I can mess with things to my heart’s content:) You see Quill had no confidence. In Me. In herself. In a mutual relationship. She either had a bad experience/s in the past, was sore ( she had chiro and teeth done, saddle fit checked) or just figured out that if she acted scared, she did not have to engage with folks….and it did not make her feel good to be with us anyway, for her why even want to? Quill had way more Fear then Faith. So, remembering that our horses are never the ones that really chose to be involved with humans and my role in being the leader is to show her what it can feel like, and supporting her with what she needed allowing her to feel basically good about being me. So with all the slow work, all important ‘doing nothing’ , combined with the ground work, it was time to step it up. I had to be the one with Faith enough for both of us. Faith in her ability to trust and Faith in my ability to be a place of comfort, trust relaxation and connection, not to mention stay with her…:) So what happened and still is happening is I am allowing her to build confidence and trust in me by having Alot in her and myself. “Fake it til you make it” so to speak. I am the crutch she needs, and to NOT be there, to Not be focused strong and clear would leave her still lost and scared, feeling she was right and could only depend upon herself. By ALMOST over-exposing her ( and let me tell you, kids, it was a stretch for my confidence!) and really asking a lot of her, emotionally physically and mentally, and being able to be what she needed allowed a huge break thru. By having more Faith then Fear, I was able to ease her over from her place of more Fear then Faith.
In mulling all this over during the last few days, I stumbled upon a terrific saying that said exactly that ( how very odd! *) “Where there is Fear, there is no Faith” Oh BoY! mmmmm yummy! course now I get apply that quote ointment all over my life and horsemanship… And then when I was sitting here compiling my random blathering thoughts for this tale, I found all those great quotes on Confidence and the definition of confidence was a real epiphany for me as well. By the way, when Quill first got the name Quill, Inet thought it was bad…”Like a porcupine quill? Ew! but now, I can see that what it really means is ‘ a very elegant writing tool from the outer wing feather of the swan’ somehow that seems just so appropo… .
Fear knocked at the door. Faith answered. And lo, no one was there. ~Author Unknown
I usually get going at first light, so these days its about 7:30 when I have piled on whatever number of layers seems appropriate as I peer out the windows at the awakening day. First its off to feed breakfast and pick frozen pony poo, which will take me to my own breakfast time of 9:30 or so. The dogs usually make it out to help with the last load of manure destined for the pile, and I mock them for their (very sensible) laziness and we all head in for coffee, toast and dog food ( You decide which gets which….:)
Then its back out again, glad for the warmer day at -5 and I can wear infinity safer riding boots as compared to my snow boots as I catch up my first victim, er, training horse. Meet Lennie
He belongs to the Larsen’s here at the Dot, and is a three year old Warmblood they have asked me to start for them. Today marks the 10th time I have been on him with the saddle, and to celebrate, Lennie graduated to tacking, and hop right on. Then its up to the arena, walk trot and canter a few laps, criss-cross and then stop at the gate (well, those of you that have been here know that there IS no gate on our arena) because that is one of my rules….we always stop at the gate, and then we head out, picking the dogs up as we go.
Lennie is much happier out then in the boring arena, but has never been further then the Y in the road, except his ponying journeys out with other horses. This is when I really start to LOVE my job. I focus softly yet strongly and line him out at a good trot on up the gravel road, and we cover the ground. At the top of the hill, I hesitate for a moment, thinking of safety and elastics, and then decide. On we go, Lennie! So its the ravine trail, and all its steep hills, trees, rocks branches and assorted other horse traps and I am astonished at the change in my brave little bay boy! He manages the hills with uncertainty, yet trust, me helping balance him and keeping my weight where it least interferes, picking his feet up nicely over everything, unconcerned with the scraping branches on my coat, and we trotted for a good 1/2 of the journey through the bush, even down the long grade back to the road. Whatever I asked of him, he did and calmly. As we untack, I slid him a carrot and realize that he barely broke a sketchy bit of sweat on his neck, and seems every bit as pleased as I am….what a good boy!!!!
I pop Lennie back into his field and go and gather up Kestrel. Now Kestrel has been with me before and has a good start under her belt, but has since had almost 2 years off while she gained other life skills as a mom. She had the most GORGEOUS Bay colt named Rune ( For Sale, btw…and if you are into Warmbloods….this guy is exquisite:) and then I picked her up for weaning and a refresher class in riding last Friday. She Had a fair bit to say about the proceedings on the journey up from the Coast, but has settled in brilliantly, winding all the Geldings around her pretty chestnut hoof. Today was our first real outing, as I ponied her off Carson the other day, but just wearing the halter, so saddling and riding were an unanswered question. How much of our foundation had actually stuck from 2 years ago??? As you can see, she was actually really keen to get going, and came right up the steps and into the tack room behind me, so I hazarded a guess at how it all would go, and popped the pad up, tossed the saddle on, cinched her up, moved her around, then up to the arena for some on line work. I let her drift around me on a circle at the trot, checking the whole place out, jumps, all the horses in the fields around her, and getting a feel back for the saddle. She quit moving and humped her back twice, so I stood and waited for her to settle, then move out again, ask and release watching her for tension and not pushing her bubble too far, too soon. Ask her in and hang out til she blows and out again. Small bits, small successes, build back that confidence in the experience, herself and me. Up into a canter and she humps up again, this time I push her on, working off some of the confidence we built, and leaning on some leadership now. Back to trot, and back up to a lovely smooth canter circle…Nice! ok, ok….that’s enough of that! We get the snaffle from its spot a willing jump standard, and softly bridle her, check cinches, and swing up. Stand a moment and scratch and pet all over, then its out and down the road….We just ride to the first slipwire and through the big meadow, and loop back around onto the road, barely 10 minutes, but she is soft and out of shape in lots of different ways, so this is just right. We untack (yes, she tries to sneak back in the tack room again!) and slip her back beside her bestest pal, Carson. Now here’s an interesting thing….Whenever she and Carson loose sight of one another in the stalls/pens , the other calls and gets a bit frantic, but both horses were completely relaxed and chill, although Carson did call once, it was just a hey! You’re back! call. This is some positive feedback for our relationship, and it feels good…
Next! Gumby circles his brother Nash in hopes that I will notice how bored and fat Nash is looking so that I will choose him today, but nope, sorry Gumby, its you my wily mustang friend!
Gumby and I had a rather er, complicated last ride that involved a fair bit of riding back in forth in front of the driveway, a couple fast trips back up the road to the Hwy, and one loooong afternoon tied to Mr.Fir Tree Across the Road a Piece.You see, Gumby is fairly emotional guy ( don’t let the Big Guy looks deceive you) and he has been emotional of late, and this needed to be sorted out and eased for him, and we all know it can be very emotional sorting out emotions….:) Anyway, He patiently waited for me while I snuck in the house for a Mango and a cup of Bengal Spice tea ( FABULOUS if you haven’t tried it!) for lunch, tuck the dogs in, and then we head out over the meadow, across the snowy field and up the sage hills. We canter and trot to the base of the steep climb, and Gumby never fails to amaze me at his sure footed confidence in any terrain that I can get us to. He easily makes the climb, and we stop to catch our breathe, and he kindly poses for a nice photo op and off we go, loping though the Sage and snow back to the road. Now here’s the test. All this fast high energy has been on purpose. I wanted to help set things up for both successes and a test. By leaving out at high energy, with real purpose and challenge I set the tone of my leadership, and support him all the way with guidance and rubs of reassurance. It also brought his emotions up at the same time, just got that blood moving around a bit so it was with interest and genuine hope that he would choose to stay ‘with’ me as we turned left out of the slipwire and onto the long hill home on the road…………………and he does! One correction, and a few checks on myself to ‘dis-connect’ from him ( yes, there are times you need to dis connect!) and we stroll in to home just a sweet and mellow as you please…YAY Gumby the Brumby!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Done I am with paying members of my Equine herd for the day, I have been wrestling with who the last one of the day will be…..No to Cita, she just went out on Tuesday so she’ll live. That Grey mare needs to gt out again, as I still have alot of unanswered questions for her. Espada….oh mare! How I love you and owe you a good ride, but Indy it is! He hasn’t been out all week, and really needs his sharp shoes on, but I keep forgetting to order borium, so I can only do arena work with him today, but that’s enough…we are happy! As you can see, he is like a mink, and is in his ‘Winter Phase’ right now, bay. We play around with leg yields, half pass, shoulder in, spins, backing and canter departures from a halt, saving fast canter work for a safer day. I love how all the gymnastizing and lateral work brings in that beautiful full body flexion and self carriage. He is beginning to become so soft and we have moments of lofty carriage and cadence and I cannot believe how much I love this horse as I abandon ‘schooling’ and opt instead to bury my face in his plush toy coat and inhale his Indyness…..Sorry Bud..no ride out, we can barely get you up the driveway on those regular shoes….so we untack, toss him and his herd a carrot, change boots back into clumpy Sorrel’s and head back out to do evening chores. Feed and poo pick, feed and poo pick for another hour, still happily amazed at how being 2 horses less makes such a difference! ( Bella and Joey went to Kathy’s new home up at Pooley ranch yesterday, and How the Great Grey Dodge got Stuck is a Tale for some other time, that may never be told…:) I finish up, chop a whell barrow of firewood for the evening, snap a couple photos of the Gingerbread Barn, and head in……feed the dogs, cat, me and here I am!
It sure may not be for everyone, but I LOVE the life I get to live, and every single day I learn, question myself and what I know, celebrate what seems to be working, ponder what is eluding me, and remember, remember, remember to give Thanks…..*)