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The Happy Horse

Re: The Happy Horse

Postby Tess and Organza » Wed Dec 07, 2016 7:27 pm

NEED...I so need sturdy mental attitudes :thumbup:
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Re: The Happy Horse

Postby Chevalblanc » Sat Dec 10, 2016 10:53 am

I like today's post (although I had to look up what hygge was!) :lol:

"A wise horseman advised me not long ago to ‘make a deposit’. Two years ago, this would have meant nothing to me. Now it means everything. I’d been asking a lot of the red mare this week, making many withdrawals, so today was the day to make that deposit.
We started off with some lovely free-schooling. This is where I pretend the smallest paddock is a round pen and get the mare to go around me without a rope or a halter. I wanted to build her up mentally, so I asked her questions that were in her comfort zone, things she knows how to do. At the same time, I did not want to mimse around. She hates mimsing. So I put on enough pressure to make it just enough of a test – changes of direction, yielding of the hindquarters, transitions.
It was all rather enchanting and at the end she hooked on to me and followed me in and out of a little obstacle course. She was very soft and very relaxed and I thought: there’s that deposit.
So, I’m afraid to say, I was a little bit pleased with myself as we headed out for a gentle ride. This is always when I should hear the hubris klaxon going off.
We got to the wide meadow and I started doing Where Do You Want To Go?
And that was when we got stuck. She kept heading back to the pesky corner nearest to the home field. There were acres and acres of beautiful soft grass for her to strike out into, but no, no, the catastrophically dull corner it was.
Bugger, I thought. We’re going to have to do destination addiction. I have to admit I loathe working on destination addiction. I find most of the foundational work charming and fascinating, but this one makes me want to fall off with boredom. I have to let the mare go to the place she wants, and then work her and work her until she decides it’s not so much fun as she thinks and she peels off and then I leave her alone.
All right, I thought ruefully. Classic Square One. We’ll fix this up.
But that corner was calling to her. Each time I got her to move away, she pivoted back. No, no, I said out loud, not the boring corner. I’m so BORED, I said; that damn corner is so, so boring.
More interesting than you might think, said the red mare.
Out we went and back we went. Each time I thought I’d got her unstuck, she doubled back. I’m ashamed to say I felt irritation rising. I’d thought we would have a delightful slow ride on the buckle, all harmony and ease. Now we were wrangling with that stupid corner. You know better than this, I told the mare, shirtily.
Never take your crossness out on your horse, I reminded myself. Listen to your horse. Understand your horse. My least good self was shouting: but do we really have to do this boring stuff?
In order not to let the irritation get the better of me, I turned it into a joke. That corner, I told the mare, is like a Trump rally. It’s filled with people who want to see women eating burgers in bikinis. (One Trump nominee actually said that is what he wanted to see. I read it this morning on the internet so it must be true.) They don’t like the women there, I said. Do you really want to vote against your own best interests? I asked her.
She set her head mulishly and kept on trucking, straight back to Trumptown.
I worked her and worked her until she moved away. Yes, yes, I shouted. Over there, I yelled. Look, there are lovely liberals, they are watching David Attenborough programmes and drinking lattes and only being very slightly condescending to people who don’t agree with them. It’s lovely there, I cried.
Nope, said the mare, turning back.
Oh, no no no no, I bawled. Not back to Trumptown. They have no decorating skills. They will make you live in the penthouse with gold leaf everywhere and those horrid dictator-chic chandeliers.
Don’t care, said the mare.
Work, work, work. You really, really don’t like this corner as much as you think, I said. Oh, she said, all right.
And finally, finally, she moved away, with conviction, into the open spaces. We picked up a gentle trot and then a lovely, loping, cowgirl canter. Yes, yes, yes, I cried, there are our people. They are doing hygge and watching Alec Baldwin on Saturday Night Live and talking about the social contract. Look, I called to the red mare, they are remembering Rosa Parks and dreaming of the Algonquin Round Table and reading Scott Fitzgerald. No more horrid Trumptown, I bawled, throwing my arms in the air and feeling her roll underneath me as if she was sailing over a swelling sea.
All right, said the red mare, coming back to a lilting walk. Maybe you have a point.
It took forty minutes. I narrowly avoided breaking all my golden rules and getting grumpy. Only by retrieving my slightly twisted sense of humour did I skirt disaster.
I stroked the red mare’s neck and let her wander on home. I suddenly realised that I had made my deposit after all, although not in the way I had planned. Working on that destination addiction was the deposit. It’s incredibly basic stuff, but if she’s telling me she is stuck then I have to listen. I suspect it means a little loss of confidence and she needed that building up again.
I could have asked her to move away. I could have used the reins and given her a bit of a whoop and a kick on and persuaded her to go where I wanted to go. But that would not have fixed her up. We might have had a perfectly fine ride, but we might not. I had to be proper, and let her work it out for herself.
I helped her make the decision, by showing her that Trumptown was not as amusing as she thought, that she’d have a much grander time if she chose the open spaces where people were not tweeting about the evil mainstream media and how the Washington Post is run by commies. (I think some of them are a bit suspect, she said. I’m sure I’ve heard that EJ Dionne singing The Internationale.) But essentially, she had to make that decision herself. And so, in the end, she did.
It was absolutely bloody exhausting, but it was worth it. She needed a deposit, and I made a deposit. At the last, I heard the wings of my better angels flap their wings. It was a close-run thing. I almost gave in to my worst self. I teetered on the edge and looked down into the abyss. But then I remembered how much I love her and how much I respect her and that she is not a machine and I can’t just press a button and expect her to do everything I want her to do at the very moment I want her to do it.
Sometimes, as the great Tom Dorrance used to say, you have to go with your horse, and then your horse will go with you."
Helen

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Re: The Happy Horse

Postby littlewhitehorse » Mon Dec 12, 2016 6:36 pm

I like the idea of that technique, making the place they want to stick in to be rather less attractive, that's like offering the comfort/discomfort choice for the horse, and the Trumptown visualisation makes me :xmaslaugh:

So, what is hygge?
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Re: The Happy Horse

Postby Chevalblanc » Thu Dec 15, 2016 7:05 am

littlewhitehorse wrote:So, what is hygge?


http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-34345791
Helen

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Re: The Happy Horse

Postby Chevalblanc » Tue Jan 24, 2017 4:48 pm

Love today's post about the Red Mare :-D

Back in the saddle after three days frosted off and it was like coming home. I was a bit cranky and over-tired so I thought we would not do much, but the red mare felt so good that we did one thing and then another thing and one thing more.
We did Where Do You Want To Go? This is always my starting point and my crucial first information. How is she today? Did she sleep well? Did that damn dog fox that she loathes disturb her in the night?

She was relaxed and at one with herself so then we did a perfect festival of left-right. For those of you who don’t know this exercise, it is very simple and very brilliant. I let the mare go where she will, with plenty of forward. The moment she veers off a true line, I steer her out in the opposite direction. Left-right is about twenty different things: mental balance, physical balance, lightness, steering, all kinds of stuff. And you can do lots of different versions of it – great wide sweeps out in the open, or sharp, accurate turns up against the fence. This morning, we did all the versions. We even did it in the canter, out in the wide meadow. I usually do it in a smart trot, but I’d read Warwick Schiller, my horsing mentor, suggest to someone that she should make sure the left-right canter was good so I went back and worked on that. To my intense excitement, the mare practically did a flying change. In the spirit of only working on one thing at a time, I usually let her find her own legs and she tends to drop into a few strides of trot when we change direction and then pick up the canter again. This time, she changed her own legs without falling into the trot. It wasn’t quite a flying change, but it was a change and she did it all herself.

The open spaces were so open and the meadow so glorious and grassy and wide that I then let her go into an easy, loping canter on a loose rein. We went in vast circles, concentrating on balance and rhythm and self-carriage.

Then an interesting thing happened. She got herself ready to do her little jink-swerve. This is the old, old manoeuvre that used to live in the canter in the early days, before I got her soft and settled. Very occasionally, it comes back, not in its full incarnation but as a sort of ghostly reminder. It is generally a sign that her confidence is wavering and she needs me to set her right. When this happens, what I always do is bend her to a halt, go right back to lateral flexion, make sure that is responsive and soft, and then build up again through the gaits, checking each one. This is how one should do it. Rigour, girls, rigour I say, in my Miss Jean Brodie voice.

Today, I was a little pressed for time and I’m ashamed to say I suddenly could not be fagged. This is very, very naughty. I decided to go old school and ride her through it. I wrapped my legs around her and deepened my seat and firmed up the steering, so she was contained between my legs and body and hands. She likes feeling contained; it makes her feel safe. All the same, I was aware that I should have stopped and gone back to the beginning. But the fascinating thing was that it worked. She stopped thinking about her little jink, dropped her head, found her rhythm again, and strode out in her ravishing, rolling canter. As I felt her confidence return, I slowly let my legs and body soften, so she was once more in self-carriage and I was leaving her alone.

And then she came to her London taxi stop, on a sixpence, and stood, gazing at the hills, peace rising from her like smoke.
We did a little bit of work on the beginnings of collection and did some transitions and then we saw a lady in a motorised chair out with her special service dog. I’m a sucker for service dogs, so I trotted the mare over to say hello. The lady seemed a little startled at first, but I explained that the mare is used to dogs and likes new people and is, of course, very highly trained so there was nothing to worry about.

The dear old duchess practised for the Standing Still Olympics as I asked all the questions I ask about service dogs. This one was called Hattie and was an enchanting stocky little Lab, bright as twenty buttons and very friendly. She picks up dropped keys and opens doors and takes the washing out of the machine. I practically fell off I was so happy to hear this. Eventually, I left the poor woman alone, as she was starting to look a bit green about the gills. She’d just come out for a nice outing in her chair and I was bombarding her with questions and then told her about the red mare’s grandsire winning the Derby.

The red mare and I walked back on the buckle. We’d done so much work and I was so proud of my good girl. As we got to the set-aside, I looked at the jumps. This month has about been going back to basics and concentrating on the flatwork, so I have not been jumping. This is partly sensible – got to get those foundations strong – and partly a big fat excuse. The jumping still scares the shit out of me.

Come on, I said to the mare, let’s just have a little pop.

Let’s, said the mare.

I warily eyed the big jump. Before Christmas, we had gone back to the teeny tiny jumps, one foot high. This one was about eighteen inches high and two feet wide. I say jump - it is in fact a few old silver birches pushed together and piled up. Still, it is a jump to us. Could we madly do the big jump?
Why not? said the red mare, pricking her ears.

Bugger it, I said. Neck or nothing.

She saw the perfect stride and I saw the perfect stride and we streamed over it as if it were nothing. I whooped like a rodeo rider on Benzedrine. We picked up speed and cantered on up to the tiny jump with the trotting pole in front of it. She lifted her back beautifully over the pole, saw another perfect stride and arced gently over the tiny jump. I was yelling like a banshee and was so heedless with delight that I forgot how to ride, so she graciously pulled herself up and came to a delicate halt.

Don’t bring your emotions to the field, they always say. I’ve worked pretty hard on not bringing angst or fury or worry or general jangles. The emotion I can’t leave at the gate is unbridled joy. Horses are amazingly adaptable and incredibly forgiving, and the red mare forgives me this. She seems to have grown used to the whooping and the hollering. As I make a wild noise, she blinks her eyes, which always have a little gleam in them, as if to say: she’s a funny old human, but she is my human.

I can’t quite believe what she did today. I want to give her twenty-seven medals. She is a horse in a million.
Helen

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Re: The Happy Horse

Postby littlewhitehorse » Tue Jan 24, 2017 7:38 pm

:agree: :-D :-D
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