“Is your horse more interested in the busyness of the world than you? Quiet your mind by letting it rest in your feet. Feel your toes. Let your heel settle into the earth. Do you lunge your horse? Don’t chase him. Stand still so he can find his balance. Is he a little fussy at the mounting block? Park your feet and become reliably still. Want to connect with your horse? Make your breath an anchor by inhaling into your toes and then trust the earth to send the message. The air is unstable. The earth is our connection with horses, it is trust in solid form.”Anna Blake, Author of the Relaxed and Forward blog, from a post on 1/7/22 titled “Finding The Ground But In A Good Way” 🙂
If there was ever a quote about horses that I need to absorb, this one is it. It is a reminder to me of the importance of staying grounded.
As I continue to contemplate my chosen goals and themes for 2022, I repeatedly return to the issues of (1) staying present with my horse(s) and (2) maintaining my inner and outward composure when my horse(s) is not doing what I want.
I have not set anything in stone yet as far as my 2022 goals and themes, but my struggles with those issues #1 and #2 are interwoven throughout my history with horses. By the way, if you are wondering what I am talking about with this “goals and themes” business, please read this previous post for reference.
It’s easy for me to think about yearly goals and themes during Wintertime. But taking action is harder. With daytime temperatures in my area regularly below freezing, practicing horsemanship beyond basic daily care is difficult for me.
Even though my horses are in my backyard, I often find myself missing them over Winter. I physically find it painful to stay outside much beyond feeding, mucking, watering and observing that everyone still has four uninjured legs and two eyes. So the amount of time I spend in their presence is much less than other seasons.
But everyone once in a while, the sun shines bright enough or the wind calms or the temperatures rise. I can get in a little bit of precious horse-time, even if it is not on their backs.
I have to get creative with what I do since it’s unlikely that I’ll be able to go through a full repertoire of exercises. I think about the stuff we have doodled around with in the past, seeing if there’s something I can test out or review to see what we’ve maintained. Or gently play around with a new concept.
I thought about the above quote when I did a little groundwork with each of my horses earlier this week. Day two was documented in photographs by my ever-patient husband. (Side note here: The lighting was terrible that day, quickly going from bright sun reflecting harshly off the snow to incredibly cloudy and dark. I tried to do some lighting adjustments with my photo-shop type program, but I question my success. Hopefully you can still see enough detail in the photos to get a sense of what we were doing).
Starting off, I worked with Shiloh on staying on the pedestal at liberty while responding to my request that he return my gesture of salute.
Then I checked in with Bear on picking up each front hoof at liberty while I stayed on one side of him (rather than the usual practice of switching sides). It’s something we practiced at a clinic long ago. I really like the exercise because it causes the horse to really think about what you are asking and not just go off of routine. You can see in the photos that he has an intense look of concentration and at first offers the leg on the same side I am standing on rather than the opposite front hoof that I was asking for. Even Shiloh, observing from the side, looks befuddled at the unusual request.
Last, I haltered Piper to practice stepping onto the tire pedestal and backing off it. It was something we accomplished for the first time just the day before. Maybe eventually we will graduate to working at liberty as I do with the other two.
How much could I stay mentally present in the moment rather than the past or the future? Could I recognize, feel what is happening between us right then and there? And then stay in that place without heaping a whole bunch of past or future thoughts and resulting emotions onto the moment?
Sure, I was at home with the horses. It’s not like I was trying to load them in a trailer or ride them in a new environment. We remained in their familiar paddock. But even so, it’s amazing how my mind can become self-absorbed in my own mess of thoughts and emotions if things aren’t going the way I think they should at any one moment with a horse. Maybe a moment of fear during a spook or a moment of frustration when the horse is not relaxed at the mounting block, for example. Meanwhile, the horse is left without any support or direction from me as I am frozen in thought.
But when I can loosen my fierce grip on what I think should happen or what I fear might happen. And what all that means about my worth as a horse person. I can maybe actually make room for us to do something fun together.
If things go a little sideways, I can see the humor in it. Instead of worrying about myself, I can help my horse work through the awkward moment rather than leave him to flail while I am focused on my own fear or self-doubt.
A bit of a misstep above turned into a more comfortable setup below with some guidance.
I’m not yet sure how I want to package all of that into a succinct goals and themes statement yet. Did I mention I’m working on it? One thing I know for sure is that I am still smack dab in the middle of Winter in my area. That gives me plenty of time to keep thinking. And to practice staying grounded during those precious moments with my horses, even if it’s on top of frozen, snow-covered earth on a 20-degree day.