Beautiful couple of days with Horse.
On Wednesday we all did pole work in the jumping field, the girls riding and me, naturally, just leading Skye around at this stage. She’s a good lass. Confident working over, past, and between all manner of obstacles. To some people I’ve met stuff like that is an automatic expectation (horse gets thrashed if it doesn’t comply), not something you would bother spending time training. But I consider it just more small opportunities for confidence-building. Frequency is the thing. Tiny victories stack up, one atop the other, until you have an animal (or person!) who approaches new situations with a subconscious assumption that everything will be fine. Over-facing isn’t just about jump height.
Before all that though, we popped Monty the cob’s saddle on her back, to see what she thought about girthing, flapping stirrups, walking with the saddle on, all that stuff. The answer she gave was, “urg, this again, I thought you weren’t one of those humans, but okay, I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt…” Such an annoyed face! But so obliging. Walked up and down a bit, then took it straight off again, horse was fine and her annoyance disappeared instantly. Assuming nothing physical going on, I’m sure we can change her feelings about the saddle easily enough. Same as with the bridle and bit, I just need to convince her that I won’t do anything mean or frightening just because we’re “working”.
After that, had the proprioceptive bandages on Skye again as when I got her in from the field on Wednesday her back looked a little bit improved for the last session we did with them. I need to remember, slow-and-steady as I am going, horses can actually improve very quickly. Had the bridle on beneath the cavesson and though she still closes her mouth against putting it on she was relaxed enough once it was there. It no longer puts her off eating or causes the insta-anxiety face like it used to. She was so chill about it that towards the end of the session I put my lead rope through the bit rings rather than on the cavesson to see how she felt about light touches on her mouth. No bother at all. But this horse, I feel that if you’d thrown tack and a rider on, on day one, and tried to manhandle her head into an “outline” (all too common), she’d have exploded. I’ve only know her explode once and it was because I’d accidentally been rough with her head (and not even via a bit).
But oh, the loveliness continued. We were all standing around whilst the girls chatted about their respective ponies’ progress, and as Skye was so chill I thought I’d try a Masterton Method stroke that I’d been looking at. Just following the bladder meridian from poll as far as the scapula, and looking for responses. I was amazed at how much I got!
On the right-hand side, she found it relaxing and looked almost surprised by it. About halfway down the neck she would blink, and this response was repeated nearly every time I went over that area. So I thought, “hmm, maybe there is something to these super-light touches after all…”
On the left-hand side (the much tighter side, especially along the Superficial Dorsal Line which overlaps with the bladder meridian, hence wanting to try that), the response was huge. She blissed right out. Her eyelids were fluttering and flickering as I stroked along the entire length of the neck. She relaxed, trance-like, for much of it, and at other times turned her head around towards me in an affectionate gesture. It was astounding, actually, and the lighter and more slowly I went with my touch the more it seemed to work. (She also seemed to have what looked like lymphatic drainage lines at the end of the session, which I hadn’t expected. Will need to research that.)
But I shouldn’t be surprised. One reason I thought to try this type of light massage was that my lad John has such magical hands. If I can’t sleep I demand hair strokes because he just has this ability to bliss me out with the least effort. Back of the head/upper-neck is especially good. And where was I stroking Skye? Well then. I thought, if a gentle touch can do so much for me, surely it can do a lot for a beastie too.
So I will try this more, I think, especially this particular stroke since she’s still tight along her topline. But as she’s such a fidget I will have to pick my moments. No point trying it if her mind is elsewhere.
Then yesterday, I took her out for a walk on the road. Bridle/bit beneath cavesson. Reins on the first, lead rope on the latter. Walk/halt, usual drill. Couple of mini-shies (ooh, those troublesome birds and dogs hiding behind hedgerows!), but otherwise one of her most chill leads out. Confidence growing all the time, didn’t even mind not having other horses with us. Halted with usual cues, then spent some time transferring it over to the reins. Just the lightest bit of pressure. Horse was perfect every time and didn’t worry about the bit once. Spent some time walking whilst holding the reins and just playing with them lightly to see how she felt about that. Answer: fine, not bothered at all. I think she’s going to demand a lot of tact from me, I’ll have to level up as a rider for sure.
These two days, I’ve begun tying her up on the yard too. Since she would previously panic if she reached the end of her rope I’ve been taking that slow. But now, touch wood, when she reaches the end of her rope (which she does, because she fidgets and gets bored and wants to walk off) she just goes, “oh right yeah, I’ll stay here then.” Zero drama. Getting ever better at picking out her feet too, and I’m convinced that’s mostly down to core stability. Oh good posture days it’s easy. On slumped days, it’s hard.
In other news, I’ve finally finished the stick-on bits-and-bobs for educational playtime at the stables! The articulated skeleton was especially good fun to make. I want to think of more things to make though, am sad to have finished! Laminating was unreasonably good fun, in particular. Greek times.
We’ve another pony camp next week at Summerfield, so if there are any rainy days we’re prepared! Mind you, it’s slightly irksome that the BHS have removed muscles when creating the new exam pathways. I’ve created a beautiful set of superficial muscles for the girls to teach the youngsters with! Still, even if they’re not used for training up the youngsters they’ll still be good for those of us who are a bit older and want to learn for the sake of it anyway. At the very least, it certainly helps to know which muscles should be big, which should be small, whether they’re over-tight or asymmetric, so on and so forth.
Am now going home for the weekend. Happy to see mum and everyone, but sad to leave horse for four days.
I think we’re going to pop to the Lowther Horse Trials tomorrow. In the main arena there’s meant to be a display by a falconer on Spanish horses. Imagine that! Birds and beasties! Might see if there are any goodies to be bought too.