glenatron: (Iris)
[personal profile] glenatron
We're back from a long trek across the country to ride in a clinic with legendary horseman Joe Wolter and it was about as good as one could possibly hope for.

I'm not going to go into a lot of detail on it right now, I'm sure Sari will have more to say later and these days a full write-up is more likely to go into the magazine ( we actually have an interview/feature planned for a couple of issues time ) but I do want to talk a little about one core theme that was very directly significant to Iris and me.

Joe talked early on about the horse's self-preservation, how important he feels it is to compromise on that - if the horse thinks they need to look around and check out what is going on, that's alright. They need it. If they spook just go with them, but then start offering some direction so that you're going together and you can help them out without forcing your decisions on them. I realised that because Iris stops so well I have been shutting down her spooks thinking I was helping her to understand they were unnecessary, but really that was just locking that bad feeling inside and making it hard to feel she was allowed to go forward. She was getting more anxious and harder to ride in new environments and I think that by not just letting her move out a little more and going with her I have been making that worse.

Yesterday, during the last afternoon of the clinic, we were doing some work around the outside of the arena ( Iris preferred to avoid the edges most of the time because the world was out there and there is a lot of it and it's all rather bothersome to a grey mare ) and Joe was asking us to work on doing the slowest possible walk and then speeding up. I asked Iris to slow down as we came around past the audience - it's an exercise we use from time to time, so she is fairly good at it - but something spooked her and she sprang off to trot most of the way around the arena. After about three quarters of a circle she found a place where she felt safe enough to walk and she immediately dropped into the slowest walk I have ever seen or experienced a horse doing, it would be easy to think she had stopped if you couldn't feel the glacial drift of her balance forward in between extraordinarily stately steps. It was unbelievable.

The thing that chokes me up every time I think about that is that she knew what I was asking her for and she just needed me to go with her first because she just couldn't do it there - when I let her take me somewhere she felt safe she tried her heart out.

She has always been trying that hard for me. I just needed Joe's clear, patient, teaching and his explanation of how every time our horse offers us forward movement it is an opportunity. That finally got me to a place where I could give her the chance to show me.
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