11.06.11: Wider With No Work

Boy was it hot. The horses were up in pasture 1, which leads to pasture 2, which is open through the chute into the back of South pasture. I lucked out that the horses had come up for their afternoon siesta in the run-in shed to escape the bugs, which were pretty fierce in the heat. So I didn't have to trudge all the way to the back side of nowhere to fetch Storm for our lesson. I brought him into the barn and grooming might as well have been useless, he was so sticky that all the brush did was rearrange the hair and dirt. I did what I could and began to tack him up. I put the same combination of pads on him that I used during our last lesson three weeks before since I didn't have any time to ride him since then. The saddle just didn't seem to be sitting quite right, and finally I just decided I'd check with Kirsten before I mounted up to make sure it was all ok. I carried all my stuff down, and waited while she wrapped up with Cindy and let him munch on the nice lush grass around the arena.
When Cindy was done, I headed into the arena, and Kirsten immediately made a comment asking me if I checked the saddle and pads. I laughed and told her that is why I was coming over in the first place. She asked me which combination I had under the saddle, and then suggested that I switch from the 1/2" JB to the thinner 1/4" JB pad. Mary had one handy since she was down that day working with Nancy and Jeanie's saddles to make sure they had the fit right, so she loaned it to me so I wouldn't have to trek up the hill again to get mine. I shuffled everything around and swapped it out, and Kirsten looked again, and then told me to take out the JB pad completely. I did, a bit skeptical, and put the saddle back up. She looked at it, and then checked with Mary, and even Mary said that it wasn't needed. I looked at Kirsten and told her that I hadn't ridden him in 3 weeks, how in the world did he get bigger? She shrugged and said it was the power of the work we were doing. When you take the time to make sure that every step they take with you always striving towards optimal, then they continue to feel that even when you aren't with them. I didn't need to be working with him for him to continue to improve. It was mind blowing to realize that the effect of the work was really carrying over into all of his habits.
I straightened out the saddle and pads and tightened the girth again and we got started in the heat. Nobody was interested in hurrying too much, and we were all dripping without having really put forth much effort. I started out to the right, and he was pulling out, but still putting in a lot of effort. I used transitions to help him find more balance, and asked for the canter, but didn't push it when I didn't really get much of anything. He was doing quite well and the transitions were really helping him to find more balance and more of posture 3. I had to work to make sure that he didn't start slipping into posture 2B for too long, and when I encouraged him to push more he was lifting himself out of it and into posture 3. He never did cleanly make it into the canter going right, but that was alright with me. It looked like a mad scramble of legs, which is an ok phase to be in right now. He'll improve (he already has) and I will know he's able to get it right when he does it with little effort.
We switched to the left, and he was able to find more stability, and even go all the way up into the canter at one point. He was really working hard managing his balance and finding posture 3 for a handful of steps at a time. Observing him I realized that his more challenging side is going right, and his easier side is going left. The interesting part is that my easier side is working right, and my harder side is working left. Its a funny way that we support each other, because I feel as if I am working harder when we go to the left, even though in reality, physically, I am working harder to the right. My body can't really tell the difference between the two. I'm ok with this, and in an odd way it balances out. I'm able to practice my left side without as much struggle as if his weaker side were his left. That would probably be a mess!
I got ready to mount up, and Storm gave me the saddle pretty easily, I only had to ask him to switch around once when he stepped just a little too far out for me to actually fork a leg over. I settled into the saddle, and he was standing rock solid for me, which was great. Once I got myself organized, I asked him to move off and we got started. It was only later that evening when I was reviewing the photos that I found that Jim happened to catch a picture of me settling into the saddle. I look retarded, but what I noticed was that Storm was in the same stance he had when he was preparing the space energetically for Amy and Rachel during the Tao workshop. I sent the photo to Julie, and she agreed that it appeared he was working on something. I was disappointed that I had 'missed the moment' but the thought never crossed my mind. I have purposefully taught him to stand still when I mount, so the fact that he didn't move for me was exactly what he was expected to do. Next time I hope to be more conscious so that I can connect to that, and then allow him to move when he is ready to do so.
We set off at a walk and started to the right mostly by happen stance. I worked on shifting my weight and feeling when I was in the correct position versus when he was pushing me out of balance. I was also able to feel the box a lot more successfully this time than I had in the past. I am not quite sure what to do when I can feel it, but the fact that I am able to more frequently is a great sign. He was trying hard, though it was taking me a while to figure out where posture 3 started and posture 2B ended. When he pulls down hard it is a challenge for me to bring him back up and not come past the point where he is correct in posture 3 and into posture 2B where he is behind the bit. I kept working with him to keep pushing him forward into the bit, which he was putting a lot of effort into. It was so hot that nobody was interested in going any faster than a walk, which was just fine by me.
We finally changed direction and I began to work on the left side. I felt like I was doing good, but as I came around and past Kirsten she pointed out that I was actually quite crooked. She helped me to shift even more weight into the left side, and managed to get things straightened out again, and Storm immediately responded by becoming more balanced and finding posture 3 with more ease. When dealing with a long history of injury and imbalance it makes it twice as hard to actually understand the biofeedback that is coming in, the brain gets in the way and contorts everything around so that it just isn't the same. Kirsten was able to help me find a bit better balance before we finally quit for the day.
Storm was soaked, and so I took him up to the barn and untacked and then unrolled the hose to give him a bit of a bath. I turned the water on gently, and got out the door with Storm and the hose, and discovered that I hadn't taken enough loops off the hose hanger. Took Storm back in the barn, pulled off more hose, and went back out the door. Took a bit of tugging and flipping, much to Storm's nervousness, to get the hose untwisted and ready to rinse him. I turned on the water expecting the usual jet, and once the pressure blew off I was disappointed to find that I had barely turned on the hose. There wasn't enough pressure to get him wet if I tried for hours. Off went the water, and back into the barn we went to turn up the water. Back outside again I turned on the hose, and blew off the pressure, except the pressure never went down. This time it was on a bit too hard. I looked at Storm and decided that was it, he was going to deal with the water pressure and that was that. He wasn't very happy at first, but settled in quickly and I was able to hose him off nicely. I was really pleased at how steady he was and how well behaved he was. He doesn't get hosed much, and hasn't always done very well with it, so being by myself and having him cooperate that much was great. Being hot and tired probably had a bit to do with it. I hung out with him after we finished and let him dry for a while before I took him back down to the arena for a bit of a roll in the sand.  He was VERY happy to roll, and flipped back and forth three times before finally getting up. We headed back up the hill and I turned him out again, and he drank water before heading right back into the run-in shed with the rest of the horses right where we left them.
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11.06.14: A Hop, Skip, and a Jump