The Journey is...
After the hubbub of the holidays (oh! the hosting! oh! the cooking! oh! the singing!), I ached to get back to my study of the horse and to playing with my herd.
After the last of our guests left last Saturday morning, we cleared the house of Christmas decor and party platters, laundered several loads of sheets, blankets, and towels, aired out the bedrooms, and restored order and simplicity to our home.
As evening fell, I sat at my computer to very belatedly watch a new module from a Ribbleton course I enrolled in a long time ago, I finished Sharon Wilsie's latest book, and got up to date on Warwick's most recent educational videos (Warwick Schiller Performance Horsemanship).
All that I saw got me thinking again about how much I would like to see my horses able to do a long and low stretch of their necks while in motion. ("Able" also means willing and of their own accord for me! This is not to be confused with horses that put their heads low after being chased 'round and 'round until they beg for release, or horses that have been forced into that low head position by having their heads forcibly tied/restrained there.)
I had been fiddling in recent weeks with asking for the long, low neck when in the saddle, but my horses only seemed to lower their necks a little; there was no arch, and no increased swing in their bodies to make me think they were truly stretching or getting any benefit from the requested posture. Not wanting to dull them to any correct aids (or accustom them to my perhaps incorrect aids), I didn't insist. But, my desire for them to find that particular postural path to relaxation and release persisted.
After closing my computer, I went to bed that night picturing the long and low stretch and how lovely it would be to behold, and how good it would feel to the horse executing it.
The next morning, refreshed and ready to have some fun, I went to the indoor arena of the polo club with all three of my horses. They eagerly entered and exited the trailer and stood at happy attention when released into the arena--we all had missed our interactions, that much was clear!
However, Txoko, my 4-yr old Appaloosa, was displaying quite a bit of anxiety, being very bitey with his mates and very restless in his own skin. I did not want to ask anything of him until I could get him feeling better, so I asked Maia and Patxi to stand together while I moved Txoko out around them to check him out.
That's when the magic happened! (Thank goodness the moving images of this moment were captured in my video post of "Magical Moment"!! If only I could convey to you the emotions...oh my goodness!)
What happened with Txoko (and even Maia later that day!) reinforces much of what I've been learning from my human and equine mentors and coming to truly understand:
-- the horse can perceive much more than we even know we are projecting; our sub-conscious comes through to them
--for the horse to understand and trust us, there must be congruence between the inner workings of our mind and our conscious body language/cues;
--mirroring the horse and really SEEING him is MAGICAL
--the key to a mutually beneficial relationship with horses requires believing in, working towards, and rewarding any steps in the direction of the goals you want to reach together
--this journey IS the destination
(now hurry on and click on the video clip in my blog feed!)