Ben Atkinson,the Retake Day 2 –

Mijas and I made it to day 2! Result!

Over the last two sessions it felt like we have been tinkering around, tightening screws and adjusting the pieces.

Today, we put our building blocks together, and what we created just felt so beautiful.

My riding has completely changed. I can’t think of one thing about my body that is the same as it was before we first rode with Ben five weeks ago.

We came out again and worked more on our leg yield, circles and canter transitions. I tried to keep my elbows softer, and was somewhat successful. My next big job is to keep my legs positioned supportively, so that she is between my legs, with me touching her the whole time, rather than taking the leg off completely which prevents me from lifting her up underneath me into transitions and gaits generally.

My other major breakthrough today was the idea of every aid I give being like a pulsing or twitching motion not a continuous pressure. Like cooking with a pinch of salt or pepper, rather than just pouring the salt in and then trying to correct it when it’s too salty!

Just a little bit, then a little more, a little of this and a little of that. A little forwards, a little outside rein, a little inside leg, a little flexion, a little half halt, everything little. Then release, then again, then release, then something else, then release. Soft and smooth and open, no brace, just moving with the horse.

It’s actually really hard to do! Especially when you’re training new muscles, because you’re tensing things that have never tensed before, whilst simultaneously trying to relax those things! But I was blown away by the softness, and how quickly the end result came to be so beautiful; the power of being in the right place at the right time!

My brain is so saturated, so many pieces are clicking into place and today I really felt like it was right. Only a few strides here and there but we were going together, softly, nicely, in harmony.

I think, after all this time, I might finally be getting into dressage…oh dear!! Well, it’s an exciting new horizon to explore!

Ben had Mijas and I working on a few fun sideways and lateral exercises around poles at the end of the session. I’ve worked with these kind of exercises before, but never with this level of precision, and it really made me realise how small you can break it down, and how powerful that can be.

Every muscle in my body aches too! Muscles I didn’t even know I had, my feet, my calves, my hips, my thighs, stomach, shoulders, arms, wrists, fingers, everything. Everything aches. I imagine Mijas is feeling somewhat similar. Tomorrow I will be sure to give her a good massage! (And try to find one for myself!)

What an incredible experience this has been with her, I feel so blessed and so lucky, and like I am finally on a path that lights a fire in my soul!

Mijas is so smart and talented too, and it truly fascinated me how motivated she is to get it right with me, and how much she will fill in to make it right. I had that addictive feeling today, where I felt like we were together, working on the same goal.

It’s not perfect, but we’re getting there!

With Lawrence, it still often feels like I am doing things to him, because he finds the dominance play so hard, even though I know the things we are doing are good for him and his body especially, but it is unusual for me to feel like we are in it together in the same way. He says yes because our connection is strong, and he trusts me that what we are doing will make him feel better in the end, but I’m still not sure if he would choose it for himself. Ambivalent is perhaps a good word for his energy in the arena now.

But Mijas? She has motivation to work with me to the end goal. I haven’t quite figured out what she really likes yet, I know some things she really hates, but I’m not quite sure on what makes her tick….it’s like a breath of fresh air though to have a shared vision together, and to know that she is by my side, even if I’m not quite sure why she is, or what makes her tick yet, is a magical feeling!

What a weekend! I can hand on heart recommend Ben Atkinson’s instruction, and as ever, massive kudos and applause for Organised Equestrian for always creating such a great learning environment!

Although the world is topsy turvy right now, there is another chance to catch Ben at his demonstration on the 9th October (here), or at his next clinic in Yorkshire (here)! If you can, I can assure you it will be well worth attending.

But for now, I need to stretch out my weary muscles and rest my brain, so

Peace out and pony love,

Lucy

Find my write up for the first half of this clinic here

And the start of this journey here

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Ben Atkinson, the Retake – every cloud has a silver lining!

Sometimes in life you get an opportunity for a second chance. It’s pretty unusual, but the cards all stacked up and myself and Mijas have been so privileged to have another opportunity to ride with Ben, only a few weeks later!

These strange and tumultuous times have postponed Frederic Pignon and Magali Delgado from returning to us as planned this weekend, and although this is an almighty cloud, I cannot help but bask in my own silver lining, as Ben has filled the slot so brilliantly!

Mijas and I have been working hard, since I ran what felt like 100 miles with Mr Darcy last time I have been going to the gym, and I am so thankful that Mijas came sound so quickly and we were able to get right back on the horse (as it were)!

Mostly, I have been trying to work on keeping my pelvis tipped farther backwards, keeping my weight down through my knees, my arms straight through to my thumbs, my shoulders relaxed, my toes tucked under my horse and my riding the same no matter what my reins were doing. I could feel that my core muscles were getting stronger, and things definitely FELT better sometimes, but I wasn’t really sure if they WERE better or not!

For Mijas, this kind of work was/is quite stressful, so we usually work in a frame for a few days, then take a few days to decompress and lope about working on our transitions and steering Freestyle, and our Parelli patterns.

The week leading up to this clinic, I worked on Freestyle, to get her nice and loose, and then had one session in a frame the day before, which has seemed to work quite well.

I feel like we are peeling back the layers of the onion, and those many many pieces that I have been working so hard on were all in the background this time, the problems of yesterday, and Ben gave me a whole new set of issues to improve and correct!

(I’m actually taking this as quite a good sign, that we’re not still working on the same stuff as last time – I’m hoping this means I have been at least somewhat successful in working on what he gave us before!)

The headline act for today:

ELBOWS!

Elbows elbows elbows elbows elbows!

Elbows!

Mijas is such a gift, because with her, when I get myself in the right place, she gives me everything and it is just amazing! Every time I got my body in the right place, she slotted everything else together for me, and I could really feel the difference I was making when I wasn’t getting it quite right for her.

My elbows need to be softer, like a spring, to maintain a supportive contact but without bracing, and to move without tensing, so that everything is light and flexible and moving with her, not tensing against her.

I also need to stop relying on my inside rein so much. It’s a strange one this, I think a dusty remnant of my days in the riding school: left rein to go left, right rein to go right. So when I’m on a left rein circle, my brain goes “left rein left!”, when actually I need my left (inside) leg to shape her around the circle, my right (outside) rein to support her to stay balanced (not overbent and in a good frame, to my understanding), my left shoulder back and my weight in my left stirrup to direct the shoulders to create the circle and my hands low and symmetrical, touching her mane. Reprogramming that inside rein is possibly the hardest part, because it’s such a subconscious habit, even though it should actually be pretty quiet in reality, and serves no positive purpose.

And of course, whilst I’m focusing on all these new things, I still need to keep my back and shoulders straight but not tense, my pelvis bowl tilted backwards, my knees open, my legs long and slightly further back, my toes tucked under my horse and my fingertips touching my palms, and in a straight line through to my thumbs. Oh yeah, and try to breathe every once in a while, it helps!

There are a few things to remember here (!), and by the second half of the session my legs were ACHING like a workout! But we did so well together and I couldn’t be more proud of gorgeous Mijas. She is so special, with so much heart and try. We worked on some canter transitions towards the end of the session and we had two where we both (mostly me who actually needed to) managed to keep ourselves together and it’s was just like magic! Like we were lifting up in perfect balance together into a beautiful canter, two souls on the same wavelength, just incredible.

(I’m actually getting a bit emotional thinking about it over my glass of wine at the end of this awesome day, don’t tell anyone will you!)

The more you know, the less you know you know, and my list of things to work on has grown exponentially today. I couldn’t be more excited, and I can’t wait to return tomorrow to consolidate and enhance.

I am so grateful to have been given another opportunity to work with Ben, the stars have aligned for Mijas and I these past few months, and I intend to ride this wave for as long as I possibly can, it’s been such a rush so far, and it seems like we’re only going from strength to strength together!

But for now, I need some zzz’s, and to prepare for whatever tomorrow brings, so,

Peace out and pony love,

Lucy

To catch up on our first clinic together with Ben, click here!

Coming soon:

Lawrence update – where are we now?

Horse School launches our first series!

Follow us on Facebook @ Horseman’s Log!

Meditation: a clear mind

Elsa Sinclair first said the phrase to me “meditate on your horse”. It has really stuck in my mind, and I’ve found myself coming back to the idea often, to embellish it and build on how that feels for me.

At first it was literal meditation for me, with Lawrence. Being together in peace and harmony and just existing, no thoughts or goals in mind. Lawrence and I really enjoy this kind of meditation together, and he will often quickly say yes if I offer it.

Just watching the world go by…

More recently, meditation has started to seep more into my dominant play time (in this context, any time where I am playing with pressure and leadership). Specifically, in the feeling of being present and focused in the moment.

My life is moving fast at the moment, recently I confess a little faster than I can comfortably keep up with. But growth happens outside our comfort zone, as I keep saying to myself, and anyway, movement is often a good thing.

So my horse time has become a more sacred place for me, somewhere I can return to, unchanging and comforting, somewhere that is a safe space away from whatever else is happening. It’s pretty powerful, and I want to kick open the floodgates of this feeling and really immerse myself in creating that place where my mind is clear and focused.

Because my mind is quite scattered, I have been finding it hard to set down proper goals at the moment. Lawrence is not as physically comfortable in this changeable weather either, which is limiting his yes answers, which is ok, but limits my goal choices too. As it happens, all of the horses I’m hanging out with at the moment have been in different places in their journeys recently too, or needed to slow down for a few days for whatever reason and change their plans. But I have been determined to try anyway, simply because I have needed the escape to that peaceful horse place, and so I have finally broken through the fear of “I don’t know what I’m doing/what the plan is, so maybe it’s better to just leave it”.

I thought I didn’t have any goals because I didn’t have any physical goals, or technique goals, but without even realising I’d given myself the most powerful goal I’ve had in ages: to be PRESENT.

When I am present, let go of all other thoughts and focus solely on my horse and the moment, they show me the rest, and tell my what I need to do, what we are working on today. All I have to do is turn up, and the horse will do the rest. The trick is, I don’t think I ever turned up this much before.

By spending all this energy deciding what I thought needed to be worked on, I blocked out my ability to truly hear the horse, and listen and observe without my own agenda. By turning up with the one pure goal of just BEING THERE and only there, I opened the door for the horse to be there with me.

It’s so simple too, although of course not always easy! Just to clear my mind and reduce my world to living inside my connection to my horse in that moment. And feeling what happens. Even the biggest discussions and problems of the session seem more peaceful this way.

This feels like a wonderful breakthrough. I would encourage everyone to forget their goals for a session or two and just BE. Standing still for a moment to check out your surroundings helps you choose the best path to take next.

As ever, I hope you all enjoy my mad ramblings!

For now, peace out and pony love

Lucy

Tik Maynard – In the Middle are the Horsemen

It’s great to be back writing again, the flow of life has pulled me in a thousand crazy directions recently, and I’m so happy to be finally sitting down and reconnecting with this horsemanship journey.

I’ve been waiting for nearly a year to write this post, patiently and impatiently at times (!), and I always think it’s so crazy how suddenly all the dominos line up while you’re not looking and then it’s time for them to fall!

I recently went on a solo holiday to Croatia. I was looking for a place to recentre and grow some roots to ground myself in what was becoming an increasingly chaotic period of my life. I was questioning everything, horsey and non-horsey, and in an effort to find my way through the maze of uncertainty I was building, I pulled out a well-thumbed copy of Tik Maynard’s book In the Middle are the Horsemen to accompany me.

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I was lucky enough to pick up a copy of Tik’s book from him personally last year during his Preparation for Performance clinic, hosted by Organised Equestrian. Being a book lover who hadn’t made much time for reading recently, I eagerly read it cover to cover the week after I bought it. Then I put it down.

There are lots of differences between a good book and a great book. For me, a good book absorbs me, teaches me and entertains me. I will lend it and recommend it. I have many good books in my possession.  I will part with them willingly to good homes, lose track of who borrowed them and add them to the aesthetic of my bookshelf with fondness. But it is rare that I ever open them again myself.

Two weeks after I finished In the Middle are the Horsemen I picked it up again, looking for a passage on trot-canter transitions where multiple schools of thought had been referenced (my transitions were NOT going well).

Then again a month or so later when I was feeling completely defeated and disheartened by the obstacles in my journey to re read the chapters about Johann Hinnemann.

I watched a video on Facebook of Ingrid Klimke jumping cross country and found myself mesmirised, drawn back to Tik’s description of a rider utterly focused and concentrated on her horse, because her work is her love.

By the time I stuffed it into my backpack to travel on my long journey with me, it felt like taking a roadtrip with an old friend. I didn’t know if I would find what I was looking for between the pages this time, but I was cautiously hopeful.

If this was a book report, and not a review, I would tell you that In the Middle are the Horsemen is the journey of an event rider who, his dreams changed by injury and misfortune, dusts himself off and throws himself into a new dream of travelling the equestrian world, studying with the best trainers and horses he can find in every discipline he can think of. The quintessential working student.

I would tell you that it is a tale of success and failure, wins and losses, love and heartbreak. The life of a student and a professional, and of being both.

If this was a book report, I could write a paragraph on each of the A-list cast, which includes:

Johann Hinneman (Grand Prix Dressage)

Ingrid Klimke (Grand Prix/Olympic Eventing and Dressage)

Herr Paul Stecken (Olympic coach)

David and Karen O’Connor (Olympic Eventers/Natural Horsemanship)

Bruce Logan (Colt Starting/Cow Cutting)

Anne Kursinski (Grand Prix/Olympic Show Jumping)

 

But I won’t, because I want you to discover these pieces for yourself.

 

Tik is an excellent writer. This I can say with complete objectivity, and certainty. Non-fiction is exceptionally difficult to write with flow in my experience, but In the Middle are the Horsemen is truly a page-turner, written with the skills of both an author and a horseman.

Opening up that first page once again at Heathrow duty-free, I found myself sucked straight back into a story that I know well by now, but as I walked that same road along with Tik, on a soul-searching journey personally this time, it finally clicked why I kept coming back.

 

This isn’t just a reference book for some of the pitfalls of riding and training horses. Nor is it simply a manual for those looking for guidance on how to be successful in this crazy industry. It isn’t only a well-rounded introduction to some of the top names in disciplines of all types. It is in fact all of these things, but most importantly for me, it is HONEST and INSPIRING.

This book will let you in and take you through the toughest times and the best of times. I found myself reading passages about “Cafeteria Riding” – the ultimate open-minded riding concept – about faux pas and mistakes and following your heart even when it feels like you’re giving up, or you cannot possibly be taking the right path, and feeling my own obstacles shrink in perspective to the idea that even a 3* eventer, a professional, a rider with so many of the skills I dream for myself, struggled for them too. That it really isn’t a perfect journey from A to B, that we all mess up, make mistakes and go backwards for a bit sometimes. Success comes from the ability to pick yourself up after a fall, get back on the proverbial (or literal) horse, and try again. Somehow, In the Middle are the Horsemen managed to give me exactly what I needed once again.

Now before any of you wonder if I actually have anything to say about this book that doesn’t involve convincing you that you simply MUST read it, I will tell you that it is not the new edition of the Pony Club manual of Horsemanship. If you are looking for someone to tell you the “right” techniques to use for every movement you are working on right now, I would point you in a different direction. And I will say that I was left wanting more of the technical by the time I finished. Little tit bits of wisdom are sprinkled through the chapters, and what I found was great, but I was craving even more by the end. This is almost a novel, the sequel to which I would again read cover to cover, but I also know that what I really want now is Tik’s writing style, logical, simplifying what seems complex, to take me through the how, as well as the why.

I hope I have piqued your interest, I hope you have been inspired to learn a little more, because right now we are spoiled for opportunities to do just that!

Tik is returning once again this year, we are eagerly preparing for his arrival, as hosted by Organised Equestrian.  His 2019 clinic dates are 23-25th August at Attington Stud, Buckinghamshire (full details here), and I cannot wait to get settled into my spectator seat and start absorbing! Spectator places are still available, and I would highly recommend that you attend! There is nothing like spending 3 days getting immersed in horsemanship, especially when you can have so much fun as well.

 

And if that wasn’t enough, it is finally time for me to reveal the first ever Horseman’s Log giveaway!

As I’ve already mentioned, I’m always willing to lend out any good book I own.

But this isn’t a good book, this is a great book that I can’t possibly part with.

So, I am giving all of you the chance to WIN a SIGNED copy of In the Middle are the Horsemen by Tik Maynard!

All you need to do, if you are not already, is click the little button on the side of the page to FOLLOW this blog, and share this post on Facebook (easy peasy link just here). This giveaway will run until 1st September 2019, when the winner will be announced on Facebook!

 

Whilst you’re here, can I also ask you all to make sure you like and follow Organised Equestrian Events on Facebook (find them here), without whom we would not be so privileged to have access to the amazing horsemen that we do.

Tik’s articles for The Chronicle of the Horse can all be found here.

For all my funny little musings, the Horseman’s Log Facebook page is also just here.

 

And finally, to Tik, if you ever read this, thank you. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. In the Middle are the Horseman has been my teacher when I was stuck, my escape when I was stressed, my friend when I was lost. I never thought it would be so important to me as it became, but that it did is a testament to the hard work, time and talent you put into it. What a fantastic addition to the literary works of the world. You should be very proud of yourself.

 

For now, peace out and pony love,

 

Lucy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Post Linda: Day 9

Today was a bit of a pace change. I had big plans to play some more with my sideways and my hindquarter yields over a pole.

But it rained.

I’m no wimp, I’m quite happy out in the rain with my ponio…he is not!

I know as the winter goes on I will need to have times where I play in the rain. In fact the very shower that stopped me yesterday inspired my realisation that with a few alterations I could make a perfect exercise sheet using the rain sheet I had semi discarded earlier in the year because it is not quite waterproof enough for downpours, combined with one of those stretchy surcingle thingys!

Online only of course, but still I think a better fit than all the mainstream ones that come with a convenient hole in the middle for your saddle…not so convenient if you don’t have saddle on of course.

Anyway, for want of keeping my fragile little thoroughbred warm and dry, I put my original plan aside and decided to spend some time with him in the field instead. Parelli would probably call this undemanding time, I also follow Elsa Sinclair’s freedom based training program.

He was quite surprised to see me there with the intention of spending time with him and nothing else. It has been a while, probably too long.

I began as a follower. Just going wherever he goes. He took me to the hay and he stood and slept for a while. I love sleeping with Lawrence. It’s hard to describe, for me it’s like how people describe meditation in a lot of ways. I have nowhere to go, nothing to do, and no one to be. I can just exist in the moment, watching the sky and the birds and the world flick by. Peace.

But only for a few precious moments today! Then some licking and chewing and a lot of focus changes all of a sudden to the hay pile.

Lawrence lives with a truly lovely mare, but she struggles with her personal space. Personal space is a necessity in her life and she teaches this concept very quickly to all members of the herd!

She is strong and feisty and tends to fight rather than flight. Mostly these are things Lawrence is not. And right now she’s at the hay.

I stood with my little softie on the edge of the food area watching as he slowly built up the courage to sneak his way in to have a munch.

After watching the mare, who looked pretty happy with our presence there, I decided to help. Walking forward a few steps I offered my hand out to draw him towards me. I could see his eyes flick from the food to the mare to me. Insecurity rising, he snuck forward cautiously.

Blinking and thinking, he lowered his head.

I took another step and was eyed warily. He decided he could take the risk and stepped forward towards me.

We stood like that for about 60 seconds, completely frozen, before he took two little breaths in and then the biggest breath out I’ve ever heard! Yawning and relaxing, he started to eat, and with that, my job was done.

I hung around to make sure it stuck for another minute or two, and then left him to munch.

We spend so much of our time asking horses to do things that are important to us, and it’s not only so powerful when we step into their world and help them with their problems, it also feels amazing.

By listening to the horse’s needs and being prepared to be there for them when they need a leader in their personal life, when we come to ask things of them as a leader we can know that we have earned what we ask. And we will get the answers we are looking for, because we gave the answers they were looking for to them.

For me this is a huge part of non-direct line thinking. To focus on the relationship first and forget our own personal goals will get us so much further towards them than 1000 drills of the same exercise together.

I often come away feeling my best after a Lawrence based session. Today I felt centred, relaxed, calm and rewarded.

What an important session for us both. Maybe the rain will be a blessing in disguise this year….!

Post Linda: Day 8

We got to play in the light today!

It felt like such a treat! Am I alone in detesting the change of the clocks because of the loss of light in the evening…?!

I was keen to see him move today, because I haven’t had the opportunity, so I videoed walk and trot and asked for the canter. It felt ok, there were some intermittent good moments. In hindsight I probably asked too much and missed loads of areas I could have released on. Huh.

Never mind, you live and learn, next time I will play with this differently.

But it was good, and more importantly, it was better; we have been doing a lot of work on his health, and it was good to see some improvement. We had some pockets where he really found some relaxation and good feeling in the canter.

We haltered up and I decided to work on sideways, coming back to one of my goals for the beginning of the week: sideways for a long side of the arena.

I sent him out at walk and used travelling circles to reach the fence, and started with my usual ask for sideways. I immediately noticed that I was doing A LOT. With some pretty dubious rhythm and an inconsistent energy.

Our first long side I was nit picking and micro managing the whole time. Suffice to say we didn’t really achieve much. On the way back I made an effort to keep my rhythm the same. 1-2 1-2 1-2…how can I expect rhythm in my horse when I change my speed all the time?

And as soon as I levelled my rhythm, as if by magic I could do a lot less and get a lot more. Getting that clear picture in my mind and being able to notice something that I was doing and self-correct was very awesome. It’s a skill I hope to cultivate and not forget!

Another really nice piece of reflection for me was the fact that actually, I achieved as much in the dark this week as I did in the light. The only thing I really need the light for is for movement at canter, but I don’t need to do much canter so I don’t really need the light!

This is a very freeing and empowering idea, as we watch the clocks go back and our daylight hours disappear, not feeling trapped by the dark is a huge step forward. Happy days!

Post Linda: Day 7

So it’s been a week, and I am starting to feel some of the changes really set in.

My goal now is to keep progressing and not let myself stagnate in the post clinic plateau that can creep up quickly afterwards.

I think my biggest change is the mindset. Seeing the bigger picture and expanding my understanding of the PURPOSE of the 7 games has changed everything.

I am not grasping around for straws of motivation anymore, which is huge. One of the biggest reasons this was a struggle for me was because I couldn’t see what I wanted, where I was going. I was goal less. Not dream less, but goal less, and there’s a big and important difference there.

Day 7 was much like some of the others this week…late, dark, and short on time.

I had 15 minutes again but I didn’t want to do the same “Can I” as yesterday.

I decided to go for a different approach and focus my energy on one game. I chose yo-yo.

I once heard Mikey (Wanzenried) talk about how racehorses have so much forward in their life that they need a lot of backwards (quality over quantity) to balance their minds and bodies. With this in mind I usually tend to focus more on my backwards, using the forwards more as a release (we have quite a lot of this!).

With only 15 minutes to spare I once again picked up my trusty halter and 12ft line, and decided to use the fence line just outside Lawrence’s field.

With Linda’s words about reinforcement ringing in my ears I started asking for the back up with me in zone 2. It was ok. Maybe a 6/10. He was behind my movement, half dull to my reinforcements and half afraid of them.

I knew rhythm was the answer to the anxiety, but it was important that I released at the right time. Since Linda’s clinic, I have become much more patient and willing to wait for the response I am looking for, rather than becoming unconfident and lowering my standards, which ultimately stalls progress and isn’t very consistent.

So I set my feet in a rhythm and started backing. When he wasn’t with me I said, “you should be backing”, only every 3 seconds. With one clear movement of the string in front of zone 1. No wiggling, no upping of energy, just a clear reminder. I backed for 45ft probably before I really got enough good connection that I could release. But I got such a big blow out when I did. I repeated a few times and got my learning moment.

I did need to play some friendly game with the stick afterwards, and I think this is because I probably did too much. I probably could have done less with the stick and got the same result…now in an ideal world more stick would just mean more response, not more emotion, but life is a journey, and I can live with understanding that I could be more sensitive.

To finish off we started on a fun little pattern I saw someone do recently on the fence where you walk forwards, back up into a forequarter yield 180 degrees to change direction and walk forwards again. It looked great for shifting weight to the hindquarters, and also for building speed in the forequarter yield. We started off slowly and set the idea of the pattern up. It was great to have some variety and see where we can be super light with the pattern already.

So all in, a pretty positive day again. Breaking down the barriers of “how” to play, and having a clearer mental picture has changed everything. Bring on the next week!

Post Linda -Day 5 & 6

Day 5 was a write off for playing. Another day that got away from me. But this winter my goal is to have a more positive mindset, and so I screwed my smile on and made sure to spend time being present with my pony while he ate his dinner.

I don’t think the value of this time can be expressed strongly enough. To borrow from some of Elsa Sinclair’s language, for me it’s like putting money in the bank. Every minute that I spend with Lawrence in harmony, not asking for anything, not needing anything from him, just being there puts a pound in our relationship wallet. 5 minutes is 5 pounds. You can do a lot with 5 pounds when you need to spend it. 5 pounds could be, “come touch this scary object with me”, or “just push for that little bit more flexion/lightness/quality please”. I’m investing time here, and even though it can be frustrating for us progress-aholics, I’m started to enjoy the feeling that no day is wasted, that I have done something positive for our relationship, even if my time was short.

Day 6 was much like day 5, busy busy busy, but as luck would have it, my deadline for home time was stretched to 8pm. I got back to the yard for horsemanship time at 7:05. I was determined to make something of the time I had available, and on the drive there I had an idea.

Another ongoing goal of mine is to improve my creativity. I’m always getting stuck, and sometimes I find it hard to think outside the box and find new ways of doing things. Not today. I stumbled across a neat little mental mantra that flipped my normal “by the time I make the feed and he eats it I’ll only have 20 minutes” to “I have 20 minutes, great! What can I do?”

The 7 games?

How many?

I ended up parking my car in the middle of the playground for the lights, grinning as I raced to get my horse, filled with excitement to play the Can I game, again with just my 12ft line…

Can I play the driving game (stick to me) at walk and trot short and mid range?

Can I do a kissing fish pattern around two fallen jump wings?

Can I back through the tyre squeeze with lightness and responsiveness?

Can I back up from zone 1 with straightness? (This one was a no – add to the to do list for tomorrow!)

Can I move sideways over the pole in both directions?

Can I hindquarter yield over the pole to build up the muscles?

Can I…

20 minutes goes fast huh!

But I’m happy, very happy. I feel like I managed to stay positive, get creative and in the process found some questions, like the tyres, were waaaay better answers than the last time I played there, and got to give some nice releases with good timing, and found some others, like the HQ yields over the pole, that I could teach and have some positive learning and good feelings about. All in 20 minutes!

It’s really interesting for me to watch as this blog piece takes shape. I’d like to do 30 days, and I really have know idea where it’s going to go or end up, it’s kind of exciting!

I hope you’re all enjoying it as much as me!

Post Linda – Day 3 & 4

Linda talks a lot about loosening and tightening the spring. Up time and down time if you will.

Yesterday I was even later than the previous day, life took over and it was well past playtime by the time I got back to my horse. I made a conscious effort to push past my frustration and as I was making his feed decided to invest some time with him. Instead of just reading an article, or checking my phone while waiting for him to finish eating, I stood by his shoulder and made sure to be in the moment, present with him.

I’m quite fortunate in that Lawrence enjoys my company, some horses like their space, and that’s ok too.

It was a calming, centring and peaceful experience, and felt for me like I had done something productive by loosening both of our springs, whilst also giving myself a moment of peace and reflection after a long day!

Today I made sure I had my window, I guarded it carefully and dashed off to get to him as soon as possible.

We started with our friendly game from zone 4. It was pretty cold now, about 4 degrees, and I had taken his rug off in the morning so that he could enjoy the sun, so he needed a good physical warm up.

We walked for a good 5 minutes, I was the passenger, and I was pleasantly surprised that my horse, who had once found beyond some 3 a very stressful place for me to be, was changing directions, mooching along with me in zone 4 and 5, totally relaxed and happy.

I decided to change my plan a little bit to accommodate the temperature, as he still felt a little cold to me, and we had some nice short and mid range driving game transitions between walk and trot. I had a couple of nice ones, and ended the game by disengagement.

As he came back to me he was very phased out, in his own little world, but I didn’t really want to stand still for ages waiting for him to come out of whatever thought he was in in the cold, so I did some changes of direction and yielding the nose using the porcupine game. He’s pretty good at these, so I just set up a little pattern and kept going, change, change, change, with some rhythm and relaxation, not too much energy. When I got some nice ones with some connection I drew him in and he licked and chewed and looked much brighter.

I started on my hindquarter yields (also porcupine game), and I was looking for quality. Both sides crossed over every time, which was great, but there is a lot of stiffness in the back and neck, and the crossover feels a bit disconnected. I was looking for flexion, softness, suppleness, like the whole body is yielding, not just the feet. It was the first time I’d asked myself to feel for that, and i couldn’t believe how easily I could feel it! Once upon a time I wouldn’t even have noticed the difference, but pushing and pushing at learning what I don’t know is slowly training my eyes and my body, even if I don’t notice it at the time.

I was pretty happy, but Lawrence still seemed disconnected. I started offering him some body work, fascial work on areas I know are sore on my releases, and before long he was nudging at my stick and rope and sighing in frustration.

My thoughts from yesterday about loosening the spring came back to me and I knew that to push on and ignore his request would be pointless. We aren’t going to achieve anything if his heart and mind aren’t in it, and he isn’t asking for anything unreasonable – it’s been a shamefully long time since I have really properly treated his body, and he has been going through a lot of gut changes recently (we have started a new herbal protocol).

I took off his halter and went to start at his head (I usually go head to tail, checking for the places to work on), but he pushed me away and turned around. I walked with him and he sent me straight to his tail. As soon as I touched the top, he immediately started yawning and releasing.

Within a couple of minutes full of big releases and lots of relaxation, he turned around to look at me and there was my boy! 100% connected, completely focussed on me and what I was doing and there with me in the moment. It was like magic. Knowing that he had been shut down and working for me, deciding to come out of his shell to try to tell me what he needed, and me being able to actually interpret that and listen to what he was saying to me was just beyond words.

One of those moments that makes everything worth it.

We had a fantastic session working on his body for the next half an hour, a lot of time spent on his tail, which usually he is very guarded about, as it gives him a lot of trouble; he has two breaks from his past life as a racer. I am dying to get some x rays done soon, so that I can really see and understand what is going on, and share it with you all.

Linda says you should spend 80% of your time loosening the spring and 20% tightening. Yesterday and today I successfully loosened my spring, productively and with a purpose in mind. Happy days!

Post Linda: Day 2

So today I didn’t have as much time as I thought I would, and I didn’t get back to my horse until nearly 8:30pm (!)

I made the feed and when I got down to see him I had a moment of inspiration and decided to play on the 12ft line for 10 minutes before he ate. It was a really nice moment for me because it reminded me that the tools aren’t as important as we all imagine them to be. I could play the same games with the same goals with my 12 foot as I could with my 22ft and a carrot stick. I don’t need to stay in the box.

We played porcupine with the hindquarters and forequarters, with some reasonable success. HQ yield on the left definitely felt better. I tried consciously to be at a greater distance on the right, obviously not that much changed physically as I was playing the porcupine game using my hand but my mindset was different. I was looking at the whole body with a better posture and more focus on the big picture, rather than focussing in on the movement on the legs or the neck etc. I think the result was good.

Then we played circling game on the 12ft, which ended up more like driving game because of the transitions but I was ok with it because I got a nice responsive downwards transition on both sides.

Moving forward with my transitions, I think I need to start to focus more on quality. Once the responsiveness is there I need to think about how he uses his body during the transition.

The trouble is, I don’t know what I’m looking for…I think I might need to do some research…

So, goals and plan for tomorrow (today once I’ve actually posted this):

– Friendly game from zone 4 for warm up

– porcupine game HQ/FQ with big picture in mind

– porcupine game HQ/FQ from a distance using carrot stick (just for fun)

– driving game HQ/FQ towards and away – need to read up on this as well…

– yo-yo zone 2/3 on the fence, lightness and patience

– circling transitions with responsiveness and quality

– sideways down one long side