14.03.31 Beginning Again

Kirsten returned after a very long winter and brought a Florida monsoon with her. The weather was rainy, and cold, and not very pleasant at all. I opted to have my lesson at Graham on the Equicizer rather than try to deal with Storm in the mud and mess and cold that was the barn. I knew he'd be a little bit up since the new horses arrived the day before and his routine was changed, so I wasn't really looking forward to having any kind of heated discussion with him in the cold and wet. I decided it was the better part of valor to simply work on myself for the next time I got to ride on any horse, let alone Storm.
I climbed up on the Equicizer and settled into the saddle, which felt great after almost 8 months of not having been on a horse at all. Kirsten evaluated my posture and was pleased with my position overall. She began to look for a way to find the difference between the way I was sitting in the saddle not on a horse, and the way I am when I am on Storm. She noted that my body posture tends to go "up," putting my center of gravity higher in my body, which means that I can be pulled and jerked on much more easily (and that much more likely to come off). I commented that it could be the result of being pulled on since Storm still tends to be heavier on the front end and pulls on the reins. She had Nancy pull on the reins of the Equicizer to recreate the situation, and my posture shifted right into what she was seeing when I was on the horse.
She began to explain anatomically what needs to happen when I am being pulled on. What she was seeing in my posture was an attempt to hold the horse using my arms and muscles, rather than holding the horse using the skeleton and entire core of my body. She explained how the muscles of the body spiral to create power. Muscles are never attached straight, they always wrap around the limb or core of the body, which creates a spring like effect and adds the principle of torque to the structure to increase stability and maximize the strength with less effort. What I was doing was using my arms with an outward motion trying to counter the forward pull. She worked with me to think about my arms spiraling inward slightly, but allowing the pull to go through my arms into my core. The lower back will widen and expand even as the arms are softening and going forward. The arms are attached to the back of the body at the scapula, and so everything simply wraps around. Nancy immediately noticed a change in the pull on the reins, it became much more firm and less yielding, but without being restrictive feeling. As I really settled into my body and began feeling what was happening and going on, I noticed that the "feel" of my right arm versus my left are was different. I brought it up to Kirsten, and she confirmed that due to my imbalances left to right my body was always trying to protect the left from strain, and so it would shift everything to the right, completely shutting off my own feel to the left side. She gave me the thought of opening up the space on the left side of my pelvis and simply allowing more room on that side. Nancy pulled on the reins again, and was amazed at the difference. The startling reality is that if another person can feel the change in the quality on the reins then the horse can feel it to an even greater degree. We played around with the feeling some more and I found that it was a tricky thing. If I think too hard about it then it doesn't work. There is just the right amount of thinking and awareness without actually trying too hard in order to achieve the best feel on the reins.
It was Nancy's turn, and so we traded places and Kirsten began working on her. Nancy had a different set of challenges, and it was fascinating to watch Kirsten help her pick apart those small things that happen when we are on a horse without even knowing its happening. The hardest challenge was that to some degree, it isn't just being on any horse, its being on our horse. Storm and Julius have their own imbalances and patterns that they exhibit, and it becomes a chicken and egg scenario. It is impossible to really know where the imbalance came from, only that we have to stay aware enough in our own skin to keep trying to get back to gravity, and continue to encourage the horse to move towards balance.
Monday dawned bright and clear, and despite not having any sun the grass was greener already. I got back home from all my errands on Monday and found Abigail and Ashleigh getting ready to work their horses and since I had a little bit more time before the sun faded too much and it was so lovely and warm I decided to work Storm as well. I expected that he'd be a little bit up, but with the heat of the day, I knew he wasn't going to exert too much energy either. I grabbed my stuff, and took him into the paddock and got him set up in the bridle with the balance bands and then put him on the lunge line. As I suspected, he attempted to blow out the carbon a little bit, but the bands do such a great job of making it all that much harder for him. He went up in an attempt to rear at one point and then actually leapt forward with all four feet off the ground before coming down. That was about all the energy he had to put into a temper tantrum, and it was over quickly. He was blowing almost immediately from being so out of shape and still wearing his winter wooly coat and so I took it easy on him and didn't ask him to do much faster work. We worked between a walk and a trot, using the upward transition to help him find a little more balance. He put in a lot of effort, despite huffing and puffing a bit from the exertion and heat. I was pleased to see him really trying to find his balance.
We switched directions and I was not surprised to find that he really didn't have any energy left to be excited anymore. He started asking if we were done pretty quickly, and so I allowed him to work for a while before we called it quits. I took him back in the barn while I knew he'd be nice and calm and made a futile attempt to groom him. The hair and dirt were flying like crazy. We left a pony's worth of hair on the floor, not to mention a rather large pile of dirt that had to be swept up. The grooming didn't make much of a different in the long run, but at least it was an attempt. There will have to be many more grooming sessions spent working to get the hair off of him before he is shed enough to begin to clip him.
I was really pleased with his progress and how well he behaved despite all the changes.
Next Page: 14.04.27: Back on Track