Stick With It

Bimi HugSpring is in the air and it kind of feels like the beginning of an age. I’ve gotten so used to the bitter cold that the other day when I was on a walk break, I felt like I was in a sauna. I was really cooking and I had no more appropriate layers to strip. I was wishing for some AC in the shady 52 degree indoor. Come on body, it’s time to wake up and enjoy the sunshine!

I recently had a couple of those great lessons when one idea makes five other things that have been a challenge fall into place for both Bimini and Fargo. In fact, it feels like many of our puzzle pieces are coming together. It seems like we’re starting to get past the get-to-know-each-other phase and moving on to being partners.

Courtney really tuned in to my connection with the boys. I’ve been quite focused on half halts and playing with the bit to create life in the connection and suppleness, but she had me refine that by keeping the connection very steady, making my gives more like softens rather than disappearing all together for moments. She explained that when I keep disappearing and then showing back up to chat, the initial contact back from giving is abrupt, almost like a little jerk. Even though I’m not really thinking about taking back, that’s how it feels to them.

I’m not sure if someone taught it this way to me, but I’ve explained the feeling as being like holding someone’s hand… following each other’s motion while walking or skipping along. When you want to send a message you can squeeze or play your fingers, take more feel or soften, but you are always there, never totally dropping out of that understanding connection.

We improved the connection by doing a lot of transitions within the gaits, prioritizing a steady contact – all the while playing the bit and bend in the body both ways. I need to keep up the conversation and be clear with my aids, and the boys need to relax and stretch… accept the contact with both my legs and hands and wait until my body says to push forward or come back within the gaits.

I was afraid to make the horses too deep, and for now sometimes they are. When I’m waiting for them to relax down or when I say, “No, you can’t race forward.” the neck sometimes comes too deep, but soon after when the message is received and we are both relaxed, the connection is so much more through and honest than it was when I totally avoided deep.

“Stick with it.”

In the short trot and short canter, I ask them to clearly shorten – but while finding a steady connection is the priority, I only shorten to a point that they can keep it over the time it takes until everything softens in that shortened gait. I need to be able to sit comfortably and follow without changing how much ground we cover. I have to stay committed to the speed I decide to go while suppling and waiting for it to feel easy.

Spending time on this made such a big difference for my leg aid on Bimini. He tends to be quite hot to the leg so it’s hard to use it to activate or push when he would rather just race forward. My leg has to be on in the shortened canter or he will get too slow behind or break. So taking time to wait for the relaxation in the playful bridle also helped him to accept that my leg was not going away. It clearly doesn’t mean run faster when I’m making him stay in the shortened canter. Then I could push him forward and use my leg to mean active in the bigger gaits as well. I actually had some good weight in my leg contact! Yay!

With that connection being so much more comfortable and relaxed, he was also very sensitive to my seat’s aids. Sitting back and stopping the motion was my first aid to come back, and he became sensitive enough that I didn’t really need the reins as back up anymore. It’s always amazing to me when one priority makes other things fall so neatly into place.

“Left as well as right.”

It’s important to keep the conversation going with both sides of the body. Courtney helped me to think of my aids working together as a team. They have different jobs, but they don’t think and operate separately; they consider each other. For example, it’s the job of the inside leg to push the barrel toward the receiving outside leg. The inside leg thinks about a leg yield toward the outside leg, rather than one and then the other correcting. I need to ride the whole horse and use my whole body.

I have a tendency to overly focus on the side that feels like it needs the most fixing, but it doesn’t come through in that harder direction until I supple the body both ways and tune in to all of my aids. We use a lot of inside bend to renvers on the circle to straighten, supple, and make sure my aids are working especially for Fargo who likes to keep his haunches in a bit. I also have to make sure to think about riding the neck fairly straight in order to focus on making the bend in the body and connection to the outside rein rather than being stuck on the bending inside rein. When I get a little caught up in having too much neck bend, my seat and legs cannot ride the horse’s barrel effectively.

I think the focus on connection and my aids working together has really made Fargo start to feel like my partner. The other day I did a medium canter down the long side thinking about all of this work, and it felt SO much easier and fluid than usual. I could feel the power being right on my aids and it rolling over his back. We were dancing. Courtney always teaches to be really obnoxious about rewarding the horses. Make a big fuss over them and make them feel like a star! It was such a breakthrough feeling of a moment; so you can only imagine my loud, super flowery cooing as we lengthened. Midway down the track, Fargo just joyfully leapt in the air! There was nothing for him to react to besides my voice, and he didn’t feel upset, he was just so excited and proud! ❤

Red

writingred

 

It’s story time! My best friend challenged me to blog about red lipstick. I was hoping to satisfy that by just slipping it in somewhere as a quick and silly metaphor, but now I’m thinking that might be going against the whole point. It’s funny how much weight a simple little act of Taylor Swifting your lips can carry.

For years now I’ve wanted to be able to rock bright red lips. What girl doesn’t go through this phase or at least of judging those who do? It seems like a fairly petty mind battle! It’s not really about the color. Sure, it can be fun and sexy if it’s done right, but it’s really about telling myself that I’m not the girl for whom that product was put in this world – being daring and loud and experimental is not something I am supposed to do. I’m the horse girl. I’m the get down and dirty, sweat and blood kind of a human being. So that means I need to play by those “rules” of that predetermined, assumed persona all the time, right? Wrong! What’s with the boxes??

Someone once asked me if I didn’t like getting really dressed up or if I didn’t like to often. I responded around about, “It’s not that I don’t like it, but I just don’t like looking like I’m trying too hard… or something.” (If it’s guaranteed that people around me will be all dolled up too, then great!) But really, I think I’m just afraid to stand out and of any attention that may bring. I’m incredibly afraid of someone assigning me to a box that’s the wrong shape for my heart.

I’m going to go a little bit deep here for a minute. Another dearly dearly beloved friend of mine sent this text to me the other night. “I think realizing that you need no one’s permission is the key to grace… and that includes permission from yourself. Permission giving is still being in control… grace is about recognizing that you can’t be in control.” Boy that summed up so many of the thoughts swirling in my brain with clarity I had not quite put my finger on. How did I get so lucky to have such brilliant friends? Read one of my favorite blog posts of hers here.

So instead of waiting for permission, why don’t we just accept that if we keep waiting, if we keep trying to have control, if we never let go of our insecurities, or let down our guard and peer out of our safety box, we never let grace in… and without grace, let’s face it, we’re toast. So why not drop all this talk of permission and boundaries and boxes? I don’t want to be the one to tell grace that she is not invited into my home. So what if she forces me to reveal and accept who I am or what I don’t understand about myself. She’s probably going to help me to teach my head not to always overrule my feel.

When I was a very little girl, I was completely obsessed with the “Pony Pals” book series. I was in a club that would send me two new books every month or so. I couldn’t wait until that day when a package addressed to me would come in the mailbox. I would spend the whole day buried in the little adventures of three horse-obsessed friends: Carol, Stevie, and Lisa. One part has stuck with me through all these years – I think it was Stevie who on once noticed a girl in the barn or at a show wearing fingernail polish. She saw it and thought to herself something judgmental along the lines of not wanting paint to be on HER fingers. I think it was YEARS after I read that before I let polish touch my fingernails again. Stevie was a fictional character, but she was my kind of girl. I wanted her to like me. I wanted her to be my friend.

The red lips (and fingers!) lesson is conveniently relevant to those spinning wheels of mine that are afraid to make mistakes when I ride. I distinctively remember one of my lessons with Lendon during one of the Robert Dover Horse Mastership EDAP weeks. I think things were basically going ok during my ride, but apparently I was too locked inside of my head… too zoned in… trapped in Tangoland. (Tango was the name of my trusty steed) During my lesson some of the other riders and auditors were sitting in the gazebo at C. Lendon gave them the job of holding up any given number of fingers for me to count and call out every time I passed by them. If I didn’t stop staring at the arena or my horse’s ears long enough to do so, I got yelled at. 🙂

There are lots of should and should not do’s, but sometimes I think I need to give myself the rule not to spend so much energy worrying about all the rules and lessons learned. Nothing changes if we’re always thinking of what we shouldn’t do or wish we hadn’t done.

Rules make me feel safe, like as long as I don’t do THAT I’ll be doing ok. Or if I just stick with what has worked for me in the past, I won’t fall off the deep end. But being stagnant is smelly and no fun at all, and being totally lost in my brain, checking off the do’s and don’ts before I make every move just sort of makes me miss life… Miss the experimenting that leads to figuring out what is even better than what I already know. Plus it seems kinda snobby to always be in lock-down processing mode.

Later, we went to Stillpoint Farm and watched some of the trainers there ride. At one point Robert was schooling an FEI horse while coaching another rider. Thinking and yammering away while making his horse do fancy things…? There was a group of us there, and Lendon specifically called out to me, “Koryn, could YOU do that?”… “Uh, Noooo.” Ha. Must focus. Must control. Must think. Must. Not. Make. Mistake. Hmmm.

I’m definitely not getting at, “Rules are made to be broken.” No, rules are important, and lessons are learned for a reason, but not everything has to be black and white. Why not let in some Red? So if you see me around somewhere sporting red lips, or say, blue strips in my hair… please don’t laugh. I’m either already very aware that I look ridiculous or finally proud of myself for lightening up and living outside of my box!