Why post the clip you can see at the end of this post? I mean, the video quality is quite poor, and the rider isn’t necessarily amazing (is it just me, or do her hands move too high? 😉), so why? Oh…let me tell you.
Because the mare you see in this clip, Maia? Well, she used to be the Queen of Wiggling.
She was asked to back? She wiggled. She was asked to sidepass over a cone? She wiggled her way out of it until she almost wanted to bolt as if the cone were on fire! She was asked to stand? She wiggled.
At first, I would get mad at her wiggling. My thoughts would range from “Why are you doing that? I’m not asking that!”…to “Stop avoiding my ask!” But, as usual, my reactions were not helpful to Maia or to my equanimity, nor did they ring true. And they changed nothing for the better. Her wiggles continued.
So I went back to basics. I slowed down. I explained things on the ground first. I let her say “No” so she could leave instead of stay and wiggle. Under saddle we did a lot of things at the walk. When asking for a backup or a sidepass, I’d be happy with one step instead of expecting several in a row. I’d practice the “Standing Still Olympics” as Tania Kindersley calls them. I waited for Maia to exhale deeply before forging on with anything, and I’d do gymnastic work to open up her ribcage (and, consequently, her body and mind). I’d have no fixed destination, just a calm, mindful attention to our journey as it unfolded each time.
My understanding of her grew and I realized:
--When something was hard for her (physically or mentally or both), she wiggled.
So, I worked more on long trots and slow back ups throughout our sessions until she got stronger and it wasn’t so hard for her. I noticed if she wasn’t backing up straight, and helped her by bending her and helping her open up her shoulders
--I noticed what scared her and caused the wiggles. (baby pool, a mattress, a cone, a pole to straddle)
Whatever scared her, say the cone under her body, became something she saw more often, but in a casual way. I would walk around the cone, go past the cone, ignore the cone. Then, one day, when we were working together on the ground near a short garbage bin, she offered to sidepass over it—Just. Like. That. (I posted about that a few months ago)
--I began to be very mindful of when Maia gave me any signs of the welling up of nervousness long before the wiggling could appear.
I slowed down, even stopped. I waited for her to breathe, lick and chew. I praised her more. I sat near her (or on her) and waited for her to release. I let her know I heard her, saw her, understood her. If she had made a particularly valiant effort to do something well, and it had been hard for her, I got off, loosened her girth, and called it a day. She was rewarded one way or another for every time she relaxed, exhaled, tried in a calm way, and executed a maneuver that had previously been challenging for her (and that maneuver could’ve been “walking from point A to B in straightness”).
I am happy to say that not only are her wiggling days almost a complete thing of the past (any continued wiggling would be due to her rider, ahem, me…once I am better at what I do, her wiggling days will be COMPLETELY gone), but she has become so much more brave in every kind of situation…a new obstacle appears in her life? No biggie. She walks up to it, sniffs it, conquers it. A trail ride that used to blow her mind? She pricks her ears, then remembers that she can handle it, and she exhales.
Oh, Maia! You amaze me and keep me hungry for improvement in myself. Thank you!
And those of you who made it through this post—Thank you, too. Sharing with you helps me cement my understanding of horses and horsemanship, appreciate how far my horses and I have come, and, hopefully, help you see something here that might change things for the better for you in your life!
Happy weekend to all…Stay safe.