11.07.19: Transformation in the Process

I mentioned to Nancy that I really needed to get out on the trails and start building my confidence and his in unfamiliar places. She was very encouraging of me (she's the good kind of friend that knows when to push to help you grow), and we decided that we would ride out together on Tuesday afternoon. Of course the weather turned hot as blazes and we had a near brush with a thunderstorm, but nothing to inhibit our ride. I got home and grabbed a quick snack before heading out to get Storm. I was glad that they were in the pasture with some hay so I didn't have to walk far to fetch him. He was sticky and dirty from a roll at some point, and it did little good to groom him. I had just finished tacking up when Nancy arrived, and so I headed to the arena to work before she got ready. I just wanted to check in and find out what side of the pasture he got up on, and warm up on the ground and hopefully have a few minutes to ride around the arena before Nancy was ready with Julius.
We headed down and I headed to the end of the arena with the most shade to get started. I sent him off on the circle and then realized I had forgotten to put on the balance bands, so I had to stop and get him all hooked up. We started off again, headed to the left for a short while before I planned to head to the right. He didn't seem to be that engaged, and was not acting very pleased with moving out. I began to encourage him little bit by little bit to try to get him into a trot, but he had other ideas. He threw in one of his grunt and jump sideways while throwing his head in the air bits, and jerked me forward enough to knock me off balance and get away from me. He swung a lap around me at a slow trot with his head in the air, and then came around again, and trotted slowly down the arena, and realizing the gate was open (I left it open intentionally to practice going in and out...) he headed through it and bolted up the hill. I hollered that he was loose and Nancy came out of the barn as he rounded the top of the hill and headed around pasture 4 where the other horses were hanging near the fence in the shade. He stopped to graze (the bonus of a loose horse when there is no grass in the pasture, any green grass is appetizing!), and Nancy retrieved him as I came around the front of the pastures.
This time we headed down to the round pen instead of the arena and he was quite complacent to simply do what I asked, and he had little interest in doing anything faster than a trot. As he was working along, a butterfly graced over his back as he moved around the arena for the second time in a row during our work together. He was putting in effort and shifting his weight back to his hindquarters, so after changing directions and working the other way for a bit, I took him back to the arena and got set up to mount. As I climbed to the fence and asked him to step forward, he brought me the saddle without having to ask him repeatedly. I was pleased with that, but still a little wary about how he was feeling.
I started off walking circles, and he was getting a bit concerned here and there about different things... something in the trees, Steph riding LJ at the top of the hill, Nancy bringing Julius out, and whatever else he could find to work himself up about. I tried to remember to breathe deeply and maintain my own inner balance, and when he would become concerned I would simply turn him away from whatever the issue was, and keep on working. It was like cocking and uncocking a gun, he was worried and then he would feel fine, and then worried, and then fine. He slowly began to settle down a little more. Nancy rode down the hill and said she was going out, and that I should come along. I did a few more circles in the arena and decided to ride up the hill with her. If he didn't go calmly up the hill, then I would simply get off at the barn and call it a day. If he went fine, I'd head to the field and repeat, if he didn't do well, then I'd come back and call it a day.
We headed up the hill and he did just fine following along behind Julius. So we followed the fence around and headed into the field. Julius had to stop and take a pee break, so I rode in a circle around the two of them finding a bit of focus for both Storm and I, and then we wandered along the tree line around the field and towards the trail behind the pasture.
Julius decided to spook at something at the base of one of the big oak trees, and Storm never batted an eye. As we crossed the lane and headed towards the greenway along the pasture and trees, a deer moved in the woods and Storm spooked at that, and Julius never looked sideways. The boys seemed to be reacting to different things, but neither one was playing into the other so they seemed to be balancing each other. We headed down into the woods and the cool of the shade and crossed the stream. Storm drank and enjoyed pawing at the water for a bit, which I made sure he moved on so that we didn't end up attempting to roll in the stream. Julius headed up the bank ahead of us, and I told Nancy that I wanted to learn some of the loops off the main blue trail since I really have only been into the woods on foot, and hadn't gotten off the blue trail much since the other trails are pretty much unmarked.
We back tracked a short distance and headed up the hill on a side trail which took us to the top of what is called suicide hill (only because it has a near vertical face that four wheelers used to think it was fun to run up to see how high they could get), where we met a family. Storm pulled his giraffe posture as we approached, and Julius remained cool as a cucumber. The family had a couple of children and a dog, which was quite well behaved to my relief. Storm pulled the route on the far side of Julius away from the family, and Nancy laughed and told Julius to protect him. We swung back around and came back out along the stream and then headed back up the blue trail to take the new trail up south hill. The trail was beautiful and quite well laid out winding easily up the hill without having any grades that we were too steep. I mentioned to Nancy that I wanted to check on the jump trail connection since they completely closed off the old trail so that the hill can heal. We had to clamor our way down the hill through the branches and limbs that had been placed across the trail to close it to get to the jump trail. I realized that we would need to create some kind of connector in order to keep the trail open and stop people from cutting through the old trail to reach the jump section.  We were quite pleased with the work that Steph had done on the jump trail to clear it so that she and LJ could use it again.
We finally got back up to the barn as Rachel was working on feeding, and untacked the horses. I hosed Storm off since he was pretty thoroughly drenched, and then let him graze on the hill for a while to cool down before taking him in to eat dinner and put away the rest of my tack.
There seems to be something about those butterflies that take our sessions and really move us forward.
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11.07.24: AT Lesson: Invitation to Release
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