2017.03.25: The Gate to Freedom

The year has finally worked its way through far enough that Kirsten is returning again. We had a beautiful day of low 70s with some clouds and a little sun to greet her return to Maryland. (Sunday was another issue, but we won't go there). I got Storm ready, and while he was calm, he had already noticed that Confetti was working in the round pen with Kirsten and Lenore. He was very keyed into what they were doing, and came out of the barn and locked onto the 'something different.' There were lots of snorts and fits and starts, and even some small spooks in reaction to their presence at his round pen. We made it to hang out next to the round pen, and he began to relax a little bit while he grazed as we waited for them to wrap up.
Once they finished, we headed in, and Kirsten gave the choices - either to let him blow off steam, or to just set him up and get started and see if he decided to blow off steam. I chose to put him to work since it would be more productive that way even if he did decide to blow off a bit. It was slightly tricky getting the line set up since he was high headed and looking all over everywhere, but I managed to finally get organized and him hooked up, and then Kirsten said to just send him off and let him go to see what would happen. Darn if the booger didn't just walk off. He was still high headed and looking around, but he stayed at a walk and chose not to run away. He quickly found a level of calm, and began to get to work.
Kirsten guided us to a better feel, and helped me to find a better structure of working. She was really pleased with his progress over the winter, noting that he was calmer, and holding himself together emotionally better than he has before. She also noted that he was making a lot of effort to balance himself, and finding a lot of good steps.
She explained that the good steps were a really strong sign, but that in the beginning horses can't balance at a walk easily because of the massive amount of effort it takes to coordinate the back muscles. So once the horse begins to take good steps in sequence, then they need to begin trotting. She explained that this is because it is actually easier for the horse to coordinate their balance at the trot than it is at the walk. If the horse is left at the walk attempting to coordinate for too long, they will become frustrated, which leads to head tossing, and other resentful behavior. So we began to explore finding the trot each time he had really strong balanced steps at the walk. His trot was nice and slow and floaty - definitely something I would want to ride! His progress was clear, and Kirsten guided us to begin exploring straight lines with circles again, reminding us of the various ways we had to explore finding balance again if he slipped out of it. Decarpentry is so complicated that it is a struggle to figure out which option to take when the horse isn't responding in the best way.
Kirsten also recommended that we get out of the round pen. While we needed to return to it, the space has become too small again. I'm glad that the jumps are no longer in the arena, and we can get down there to begin exploring a bigger, but stable, place. She even suggested that we just work in the grass of the field, now that the jumps are out of it, as well. So she just quietly opened the gate of the round pen while Storm and I worked. When he was coming around the back of the round pen, we made a turn towards the center. As we cut across, he lost his balance, so we did a small circle, and then just lightly slipped out the gate. We made circles, and straight lines and noticed that the uneven terrain caused him to struggle a bit more. He remained thoughtful and put in a lot of effort figuring it out and finding his balance. It was a pleasure to work with him and support him through it. This is the companion that I've sought for so long.
All the while, Kirsten and I are holding a conversation about how our own energy contributes to the horse's reactions to things. I've been digging deep trying to sort out what energy I bring to every situation of my life and how I show up. My energy often becomes fractured, and extends outward when it should be turned inward, which is the reason that Storm and I struggle. Kirsten was candid with me about her learning curve dealing with her own energy levels, and the times that horses truly frightened her. Being able to be real about the emotions we are feeling, even if it is genuine fear of a specific horse, helps the horses to be able to relax and stay balanced with us. There have been times that she admitted to looking straight at a horse and saying "You frighten me!" and the shift that it helps create in the horse and herself. I can echo that sentiment, and the feeling of needing to find grounding within myself.
I have my work cut out for me, with or without Storm. Storm is simply a reflection of where I am within my own energy. We're making slow but worthwhile progress together.
Next Page: 2017.04.05: Circles and Lines