Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Lightyears Beyond

Maisie and I seem to have made a quantum leap together. The ride I had yesterday was probably one of, if not the, best ride(s) we've ever had, and we've been together for almost 8 years. We worked on trotting figures, in the open field behind the barn, and on lengthening and shortening stride, in both long straights and figures. You know that amazing feeling with your legs, hands, balance and seat are just right and the horse is right there beneath you and with you and the contact is perfect and you're both engaged in the work? It's more than amazing, really - the word amazing doesn't touch it. The feeling of power and flow is really beyond words.

While we were trotting, both the gelding and mare herds came running up to the gates in their pastures, right where she could see them. She looked, but when I asked her to just keep on working, she did so without hesitation.

And then we did some canter work. We did the best left lead canter work we've ever done - some circles, and also some long straight stretches. The left lead used to be her hard lead - she would keep her head in this odd position with her nose canted to the outside, wouldn't bend at all to the left and would never accept contact, and would often fall out of the canter. In yesterday's ride - round, soft, able to bend and able to engage and maintain the canter even when going on a slope uphill or downhill, and able to adjust her stride on request. Now understand, I didn't change much if anything to get this - it just showed up.

Then we went on a short trail ride with several friends from the barn - Sugar and Charisma and their riders. Before we went, I unbridled Maisie and put her in her stall for a moment to rest, and drink or urinate if she needed to. On the trail, she trotted in company, and even when the others were on her tail and she wanted to get excited, she contained herself and listened well, regulating her pace just as I asked her to.

She went back to the barn then for a well-deserved dinner. Oddly enough, I think our month stay at the other barn is responsible for a lot of this. We got in the habit of really working every day, and we kept at it regardless if things were going well or not so well from day to day. We just worked, and the regularity of the work, and my expectation that we would work, almost every day, got us back on track. This has carried over to our work at the new barn, and we've also been blessed with mostly good weather so we've been working almost every day. The new bit, and her dental work - which has been ongoing for several years and is finally getting her mouth where it needed to be - has made a difference on the margin in her ability to accept contact. Her ulcers are under control and the chiropractic work we've done has allowed her to use her body properly without pain and begin to develop fitness. And she seems to have mentally grown up as well (at 13!) - the silly stuff seems to just have dropped away.

In an odd way, it's almost as if she's thanking me for listening to her opinions and bringing her back to the old barn again. She's in a much better place mentally and emotionally. Oddly enough, she's started expressing her opinions in other ways as well - she'll ask me to stop at the water tank for a drink when I bring her in, and when I take her out of the dry lot paddock she tells me that she wants me to open the gate out rather than in by bumping it with her nose. I'm glad to honor any and all reasonable requests - I think the horse is entitled to make choices too and don't believe that this necessarily makes the horse pushy or dominant (it obviously depends what the choice is and judgment is required) - quite the contrary - if the choices are reasonable or smart it makes the horse more likely to listen to you when you ask the horse to comply with your choices.

* * * * * *
And a very cool thing happened this afternoon when I went to bring Maisie in from the pasture. The horses were as far from the barn as they could get - several hundred yards. I took Maisie by the fly mask and started to lead her in. All the other mares decided they were coming in too and galloped past us. I let go of Maisie, but she stayed right with me, walking calmly as the other mares vanished over the hill. She was loose, and knew it, but she chose to stay with me until I told her to "go ahead" and off she went. Now that was amazing, but maybe again it wasn't!

It's like I have a new horse - but no, it's really like Maisie and I have found each other again. It's very exciting, and I hope things continue on the way they're going.

(And I made a small addition at the end of yesterday's post with a link to a post by another blogger who added something very valuable to the conversation - check it out.)


  1. I think this is great! I'm sure there are lots of different reasons why she's acting this way. But I'm thinking she's really happy you brought her back to where she wants to be and perhaps it's her way of thanking you. Also, I can't help but make comparisons between her and Dusty they seem to have twin personalities and they are both 13 and still learning. Hope she continues to behave this way, you two may have turned a corner in your partnership. I'm hoping for the same thing with my girl.

  2. !!!
    All those things sound amazing! I don't think it is a small thing to have your flighty mare choose to stay with you over her herd. The riding sounds divine and you described it beautifully. I am so happy for you guys. Days like this are why we put in all of this hard work (I had one of those rides today too!)Yay!

  3. Kate, I'm sure daily work has a lot to do with it. I've noticed huge improvements in Panama and how the two of us communicate since I moved him to the new barn, and I think it's largely because I started working with him regularly. He's also more bonded to me now, as well -- though I hadn't thought that was possible. He starts whinnying for me now as soon as I arrive if I don't go get him fast enough!

  4. To think that not too long ago you were questioning your life with horses. What a perfect breakthrough.
    A great return for your investment!

  5. I am SO envious!!! I can't wait until Gem and I get to where you and Maisie are.

  6. What a wonderful story! I'm so happy for you and Maisie, and I'm so glad I've gotten to follow yall's journey.

  7. Horses are like icebergs; 90% of them is below the surface, so you won't see it unless you're looking for it. They are in constant communication, but unless you are open to it you'll miss out on an awful lot of amazing stuff. I know I sure did; I hate that I was clueless for so many years (I'm getting a one now though, 'cause I'm hard at work rehabbing me :o)

  8. I am so happy for you! Well done! I smiled and shed tears of joy for you and Maisie when reading this post Kate.

  9. Wow - how awesome that you had a such an amazing ride! I'm so happy to hear that! :-) It must be a great feeling to have that connection with the horse.

  10. What a great post Kate! I've really enjoyed reading back through your horse-y experiences and have been super encouraged. Before Panache's injury I hauled out for weekly lessons at a barn which she loved! Every ride there was so much better than many at home and she just seemed to enjoy being there. I'm seriously considring moving her down there, even though it's a bit more expensive and a much further drive. Maisie's barn preference is what really touched me about this post and almost seems to confirm my desire to move. Thanks!

  11. Thrilled to hear all is SO well!!! Maisie sounds so much happier to be "home". I love that feeling of pure content with one another, and working together as one on a ride <3

  12. Those rides are the ones that make it all worth it aren't they? I am sure she is thanking you for bring her back and listening to her. That is why I love mares because when it is right it is very very right.

    Here's to many more excellent rides.

  13. Those are the rides that make your heart swell with pride and love...for both rider and horse!
    Seems you being so intuned to Maisie has really paid off.

  14. "Now understand, I didn't change much if anything to get this - it just showed up."

    Those are the BEST rides, like you say the word amazing doesn't even adequately describe it. It sounds like you and Maisie have really found your groove lately!


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