Horse-Training: A Sisyphean Task?
I've used a variety of techniques and approaches to help Patxi find relaxation deep within himself, not just for when we are together, but even when he is out in the world alone or with his pasture mates: Warwick Schiller's focus for relaxation, do the opposite, and pretty much anything he teaches; Sharon Wilsie's Horse Speak; Ribbleton's Attunement; Patrick King's in-hand and ridden exercises; Mary Corning's straddling the pole and working one foot at a time; reading up on Ray Hunt, Tom Dorrance, dressage, and more; my own inventions (at liberty, walking around the neighborhood, on the trail), etc...the list goes on.
Any work I've put into Patxi on this front has borne fruit, but it seems it is a Sisyphean task sometimes. One day, we roll that ball of anxiety all the way up the mountain, thinking it will stay there as we retreat, and the next day we find it has rolled back down.
The good news is we have it better than Sisyphus thanks to my wonderful mentors and my study of them and the horse. I'm here to say the ball may roll down the mountain each night, but I find, with consistent work, that ball is smaller, lighter, and much much easier to push up to the top of the mountain each day!
And, given the nature of the horse as a prey animal, it is unreasonable to expect a horse to never have a ball of anxiety of some shape or heft everyday; it comes with their wiring and survival instinct.
I need to remember and remind myself that my task is not to blow that ball up to bits for Patxi, but to show Patxi how to roll, push, nudge, and breathe that ball up the mountain in whatever form it appears and each time it appears.
In this clip, it looks like I'm simply trotting with Patxi. So, what is so fascinating, you ask? Well, he has never been able to stay in gait, to stay in rhythm. Yes, a big "training hole" I left while I focused on other aspects of our work together. But, it feels like the right time to really help him with this now. I've begun to ask him to stay in a rhythm that I set him at and am always thrilled to see him begin to exhale, relax into it, and actually enjoy himself.
When I recorded this video, I hadn't yet learned from Patrick King that deep, rhythmical breathing can help unlock a horse's poll. (If I understood correctly, it seems the C4 vertebra near the throatlatch/poll is connected to the fascia around the C11 vertebra; those fascia are connective tissue which affect the proper functioning of the diaphragm.) Isn't that amazing? Patxi has always been tight in his poll--hmmm, wonder why?
(BEFORE--he couldn't hold his nose in!)
(More Recently: he can bend at the poll!)
Now that I have so much information, I look forward to seeing what shape that ball of anxiety will appear today so I can help Patxi move it up and out of his way. And, in helping him find relaxation, he can breathe more deeply, and unlock other key areas of his body. Fascinating, really.
Yep. Patxi, the sorta-Sisyphean Paint and his Greek Horsewoman and student of the masters...