This sign was on our road last week. I thought of it when I was working with the new horse (by the way she has a new name…Flourish or Flow for short).
Why oh why do people do this? We think our message has to be louder or more extreme than anybody elses and if you don’t like it well…just put cotton balls in your ears as long as you are where you ‘should be.’
Nothing like one way communication! Horses teach communication in everything they do and other horses understand it. I think people innately know how to communicate well but we choose not too, especially when we get dogmatic about things.
Here’s how my first lesson with Flow went:
We go in a paddock together. I ask her to move away from me and circle around me. At first she isn’t sure what I’m asking so I apply a bit of pressure by moving towards her with my arms moving. She gets it and moves away. She circles around in a lovely trot and keeps watching me to see where this ‘conversation’ is going to go. I mix it up and turn away from her…she stops and walks towards me. I send her off again..the dance continues. She pays very close attention to me and I do with her. I keep the communication positive, short, and sweet. No cotton balls in anyone’s ears!
The Lippy (Maggie for the time being) got here late Wednesday night. I was a bit worried about the big 18-wheeler horse hauler being able to turn around in our driveway. They ended up pulling along the shoulder of the road (yikes! I was thinking) to unload her.
So now we had a dark road plus a blown light fuse in the horse compartment with a dash of a young horse that never been off-loaded before. It was not the best combination. A couple of minutes later, with flashlights lighting up the ramp, she came right down in a calm manner.
We said a quick hello then walked down the very dark driveway to the barn. She was great and the other horses welcomed her with lots of whinnying and running the fence line! When we got in the barn, I put her in a stall and listened to Flutter (the yearling colt) run and neigh. His new love had arrived!
I put some hay out with my other mare (Aspen) and put Maggie in the field with her. After a few squeals and kicks they settled in.
Today I wanted to get some pictures of her but it wasn’t easy as she is a very friendly and curious lady! You’ll see that most are close-up as she wanted to be right with me. I can’t wait to start working with her. Tomorrow we begin…
Check Out That Mane!
Here’s the new girl!
The fatmare is gearing up!
Today I bought another fat mare! Apparently, I can’t be without one! This time she is a Lippizan horse.
I have always had an obsession with this breed. It must have to do with the fabulous White Lippizan Stallion tours I saw as a kid. I remember being so impressed with the symmetry and dance-like quality of their performances. Plus watching the Disney movie, The Miracle of the White Stallions, added a historical overview that hooked me to this rare breed. Can you believe that there are only 5,000 Lippizan horses in the world?
Last summer I rode my friend’s Lippizan mare appropriately named Lippy. She was like riding a fast-moving cloud. I loved her power, connection, and grace. She was very different from any other horse I had ridden before. She seemed almost like a unicorn.
The ‘new’ fatmare is only four and has lived with her sisters out on a large acreage. So I will be training her from square one myself. I figure that her lessons and my lessons will merge to create a fabulous co-creative dance. I can’t wait to share this new chapter with you. She will arrive on January 1, 2012…so stay tuned.
Aspen Back in Her Jumping Days
November has come and gone and the fatmare has just been sitting here alone since my short post about Hickstead.
My black mare, Aspen, colicked a few nights after Thanksgiving. It was a strange evening. I came back from dinner with the hubby and decided to give the horses hay before going in the house. I normally wait until 11pm or so but that night I went as soon as we got home.
As I approached the front field, I heard a nicker from Aspen that sounded different. I grabbed the hay and went to throw it over the fence. It was a moon lit night so I could see the outline of her body lying on the ground. It seemed odd that she was laying down. I gave her the hay and she got up but then laid down again. All I could think was colic!
I ran to inside the house in a panicked state and got my husband to call the vet. In the meantime, we gave her an injection and took her vitals. The vet was wonderful and ended up spending a few hours here. She recovered fine after days of monitoring and a special diet.
The biggest lesson for me was how we all worked together to help her. It was so seamless. I felt like Aspen knew she needed us and we showed up!
Care for a Dip?
Last winter I bought galvanized tubs for the horses to drink out of. The tubs worked fine but easily froze so I needed something bigger. I wasn’t keen on plastic as when it gets really hot it leaches into the water. In comes the bathtub idea!
I found two old crappy looking tubs that no one wanted. With help from the hubby, we scrubbed the rust off, prepped, and painted the tubs. They look great now and are nice water troughs for the horses.
While we worked on them, we noticed the year they were made…1920 was stamped on the bottom. These tubs have seen a few baths! It was easy to sand the rust off the claw-foot feet and see the beauty in the workmanship. Once the paint dried, I stepped back and really admired how wonderful they looked.
The whole process kept me thinking of re-purposing and how we can look through different lenses to see things being ‘useful’ or ‘beautiful’ in various ways. Why put the tubs outside when they could be ‘useful’ inside, someone might ask.
How many times do we try to think differently or just fall back on what is practical or easy? Lately, I have made an effort to think differently and see the unseen. I have found it interesting as our minds are so conditioned to only see what is.
How do you look beyond the usual, the concrete, and see something different?
Nootka ready for greener pastures
Nootka is off to new green pastures. She walked right on her new owner’s horse trailer and stood there looking back at us as we closed the door as if to say, “Hurry up! I’ve got places to go and horses to see!” I think it really shocked her new owner how easily she loaded on the trailer.
I’m usually terrible at good-byes but this time I felt good. I was surprised that Nootka and I seemed to be so clear and happy at her transitioning to a new home. I know I’ll see her again at a horse show or somewhere and it will be so good to say, “Hi friend! – How’s the teaching going?”
My other mare, Aspen, did whinny for her several times but then went back to grazing. By the next day she seemed different too. When Nootka was with her she bossed her around and her life was controlled. Nootka was like you stand there and if Aspen didn’t want to, Nootka would chase her or kick at her until she was where Nootka wanted her. It reminded me of a boss I once had 😉
Now, Aspen is very relaxed and seems more engaged. She has been a delight to ride and even decided to show me that she still has her fancy dressage self in there!
For me it was so wonderful to feel good about letting something go. Try it today…let go of a belief or object or a limiting thought…just let it go.
Good-bye dear friend and teacher
Nootka found a new home! She is leaving in a few days. Since the sale became final, I seem different and she does too. I think we both realize that our relationship is coming to an end. It made me think about closing chapters in life and reflecting on the lessons learned.
Noot can be a bully with my other horse, Aspen. Aspen is a lovely black warmblood with a heart of gold. When I’m with her I feel light and present. She has a very grounding effect on me. Noot, on the other hand, is more the ‘show me what you’ve got’ type of personality.
The biggest lesson for me was to stand up and be the leader, not by force but by intent. I remember the first time I worked with Noot and she was charging around me in a circle like a mad woman. Everytime she wanted to run too fast I stopped her and asked her to walk again. After several tries she did it and I stopped the session. That was good enough!
The next day she tried to kick out at me as she really likes to take charge and wanted to show me that she didn’t want to trot. I just ignored it and moved on. It was always a fine line with her between doing too much or doing too little. I learned that she did want to please me and with the right asking and inviting her to choose the ‘correct’ answer, she was learning. I knew that one day, I would ride her and she would be relaxed, happy and going nicely.
When her new owner came out to try her, she was so responsive and easy going. I felt so proud of her progress. She was like a different horse. I think she is comfortable in partnership with humans and more relaxed about it.
My lesson is: See beyond what is. See the potential and what can be.
Girth Tight - check! Nootka Ready to Work
At university I took a course called Self-Management and Motivation. I thought it would be an easy ‘A’. I think I ended up with a ‘C’. It was all about making goals for yourself, making lists, multi-tasking, limiting yourself to a certain amount of time to do things, etc. Looking back now I see how none of that really makes sense.
It makes more sense to ‘feel’ your way through life with your emotions as the guides. For example, today I figured I needed to organize some paperwork and clean-up my workspace. At first, I felt a resistance to doing it then I thought that it would be great to listen to a podcast, drink some tea and relax about it.
Maybe I only needed to do part of it. I felt so much better that I actually enjoyed sorting those papers into files! If I had said to myself…just get it done now without seeing how I felt, it wouldn’t have felt good. I have figured out that resistance is a strong indicator. It means that something needs to change.
Nootka can be really crabby when the girth is tightened. Lately, I have been distracting her while I gradually tighten it. I usually scratch her belly (she loves that) then take the girth up a hole or two. She doesn’t notice. It takes longer but she is much happier.
Is the lesson…Make life fun! When there is a task to be done see how you feel and figure out ways to feel better about it.
Dressage - the Classic 'Levade'
Riding well requires something that horsefolks refer to as ‘feel’. It’s when you know how to ask the horse to do something or react to what the horse is doing in an intuitive way. ‘Feel’ becomes a conversation between rider and horse. Often, it can turn into a beautiful dance.
There are many riding instructors that try to teach people how to develop feel. I’ve watched dvds that break training horses or how to ride into small chunks using a step-by-step program. It’s good to have the security of developing those practical skills in linear format but horses, like life, are not linear.
I got to see a good example of that over the weekend. I had two different riders on Nootka. The first was a professional dressage rider that has trained and ridden the higher levels of dressage. The other was an amateur, who has ridden off and on for many years.
The first rider got on Nootka and immediately started the conversation politely and then began asking Nootka for more to see where her training level was. When Nootka didn’t know what she was asking or couldn’t hold it for long physically, the rider backed off and tried something she could do. In a matter of fifteen minutes or so, Nootka was gaining more confidence and was engaged in the ‘conversation’.
The second rider was more tentative. She wasn’t sure what to ask Nootka to do so she walked around to gain her own confidence. When she decided to trot, Nootka said, “yes, ma’am” and threw the rider a bit off-balance. This conversation was more trial and error and required more regrouping. The first rider offered suggestions on what to do to the second rider and helped guide this conversation to several good moments of partnership.
In my ‘old’ career I felt like the years of gaining knowledge and good old-fashioned experiences helped me develop a great deal of ‘feel’. It was such a good feeling to know the answers and be super confident in the work. I liked it! Now, I feel like the second rider on Nootka. I feel like the start-up is much more trial and error and that I have to repeatedly regroup and think of things differently. It’s not a linear step-by-step process. It often doesn’t look pretty.
Could the lesson be….Trial and error along with creative thinking will lead to creation of beauty?
Castle Living at Chateau Chillon... Is it better?
I listened to a webcast with Linda Kohanov, author of the Taos of Equus, Riding Between the Worlds, and The Way of the Horse over the weekend. I have done several workshops with Linda in the past. She brings wealth of insight to working with horses and how horses can help humans transform their lives.
During the webcast, Linda mentioned her research for her new book and how she was surprised to find out that we are living in better times than in the past. What struck me was that the interviewer mentioned that we are living in difficult times. I thought about how we can get in that pattern of gloom and doom thinking on any subject. Then I thought of a conversation I had with Jonathan Field, of Jonathan Field Horsemanship.
He said, “We live better than kings did.” I thought about this for a long time and you know he is right. We have sanitation and clean water. I’ve lived in third world countries and let me tell you that is a biggie. Years ago I visited the medieval Chillon castle in Switzerland. I was most surprised by the hole (aka toilet) in the upper story floor that would send the ‘stuff’ down into Lake Geneva. I, for one, love my indoor plumbing and hot water. Second, we have medical care that doesn’t involve a ‘bleeding’. We are able to heal many illnesses and injuries that would have been life threatening in the ‘king’ days of old. Third, we are able to go places and have experiences unheard of in the ‘king’ days.
I feel like it is easy to take a negative view on things and find all that is wrong in the world. The media encourages it and promotes the negative because they think that is what people want. Why is that?
I think we need to seek out the positive and beautiful moments in our world. I see them everywhere when I focus and look. It’s seeing the unseen and using that as your point of attraction, not the person at work or at home that is annoying you. When I watch Nootka interact with other horses. I see her use horse cues to communicate her wants. I never see her ruminate over how the other horse got more hay or made her move when she didn’t want too.
The lesson…Seek out the good in life and don’t ruminate over the negative.