Friday, January 6, 2012

Living in the moment

It's a new year, and full of new hopes, new dreams, new aspirations.  I haven't made resolutions per se, for this year, although I do have a few goals in mind.  Of course to continue my Ironman training.  I looked in the mirror yesterday and said to myself, "Yup, it's time to hit the treadmill again!"  Sadly it's been a while since I've done any serious working out.  Time to start it up again. 

Another, is I'm to be taking an actual riding lesson for myself once a month, starting this month!  Karen Sykes has agreed to work with me, and I am very excited to have someone on the ground yelling at me, instead of the other way around. 

Once I get myself set up with new boots and some other necessary riding apparel, I will also start competing again.  I have two USDF shows in mind, one in March and one in June.  Coming up right around the corner. 

I had excellent rides tonight.  Big Bird brought a huge smile to my face, and I'll explain why.  Yesterday I had begun work in the counter-bend exercise, and it is a very difficult thing for him for several reasons.  One, a horse can bend to the inside with a false or fake bend through the neck, never softening the shoulders.  However, the counter-bend requires a deliberate softening of the shoulders to successfully execute the exercise.  This requires the vulnerability of the horse and a willful setting aside of his control over his own body to the rider.  I don't take this for granted with any horse, but there are a lot of horses out there who find this, and many other far more difficult exercises, fairly easy or straightforward to learn.  But when learning becomes tangled up with emotional and psychological garble... the issue becomes complicated.  Big Bird has repeatedly struggled with yielding control of his body and no, this is nothing new.  Yes, he has made strides, and he has learned a few things and then he has learned how to cheat through a few things, too, this is all a part of his unique process.  But the counter-bend brought out some of that into the light yesterday as he very determinedly fought to go down the road to a power struggle with me about it. 

It is very delicate, that line of going head-to-head in a full outright battle of the wills, or carefully staying consistent with the goal in mind, while setting up the horse for ultimate success, but not backing off because of negative reaction.  I did my best to stay on the latter side of that line. 

The "Battle of the Wills" puts me against you; strengthens me while tearing you down.  It doesn't communicate a message of "I believe in you", but rather, "I will dominate you at any cost". 

The "Careful Construction of Achievable Goals" allows me to maintain the proper boundaries necessary, but it puts me in the position of serving your needs, understanding you, empathizing with your struggles while believing in you and your ability to achieve and setting you up for success.  It also takes a hefty commitment on the part of the goal setter, because I have to see it through until you achieve success. 

That line, my friend, is fine.  I notice that I switch sides when I become frustrated or impatient.  When I get to the point where I want to say, "I'm tired of sacrificing for you.  I'm tired of being attacked.  I'm tired of hurting.  I'm tired of spending all this time and effort and not getting any benefit from it.  Now I am going to make you pay for all the trouble you have caused me."  But when I stay objective and I train my eyes and heart to see the small things, the tiny little trys, and purpose to see the needs or the hurts through all the behavioral bombs, I can keep on the better side of that line. 

The counter-bend brought out this power struggle in BB yesterday, and he pulled out his repertoire of negative behaviors, even the ones we haven't seen in a long time.  New layers being peeled back to reveal deeper wounds.  More pain.  So he put out the flares and the fireworks in a desperate attempt to preserve his rights to his body yet again.  At some point he quit reacting long enough to seek out what I was asking, just for a second.  When I found him asking "why?" I rewarded him.  Soon we made it through several steps of a decent counter-bend and it only improved from there.  His entire demeanor changed, his body softened, and he was peaceful. 

But today, back to the smile across my face part.  Today he was willing to try right from the beginning.  We only had less than a half a minute total of any part of resistance, and even it was m-i-l-d.  Whenever a certain scenario would present itself where BB would typically chose resistance or anxiousness, I was so tickled when I experienced him emphatically yeilding  in response instead.  You could see that every fiber in his being that rallies up for a good fight was now giving instead! 

Another observation, I have never been able to ride him on a completely loose rein, because as soon as I set my hands down on the buckle, he takes off into a trot or something else, very chargy.  Yet after the counter-bend exercise, I would release him from it and set the hands down on his neck at the buckle, and he would walk.  He walked briskly, even where I, a few times out of sheer conditioning, almost winced because I felt the, "Oh, here goes the charging off!" part, but he never did it. 

Ohmygosh I love that horse. 

And then Drama's ride was also very exciting.  We have been learning the shoulder-fore and today he had a few moments of "I got it!" when we transitioned in and out of the exercise for a few strides each, with lift and

engagement.  He still wobbled a little, but it was marked improvement.  I was also listening to music on the iPod and then we played with walk to canter transitions when the music changed.  I nailed it once right on the mark and it gave me goosebumps, it was a lot of fun.  He was so great. 

A few moments during his ride, we were cantering a big 40m circle or so, I felt very together with him and he was very relaxed and accepting of all my aids, we rode around the corner of the arena where the sun was peeking through the trees on its decent, and the glare as we would ride around would temporarily blind me.  So at the canter, the music swelling, being blinded by the setting sun and having that moment to feel the brilliance and the beauty that surrounded me, was truly a moment to just relish.  To slow down time and to just feel every footfall, every note, every breath. 

Revel in those glorious moments, for they are so easily lost in the mundane.  <3