Saturday, May 28, 2011 |

5-26-11: A recap of the last few months

There haven’t been huge breakthroughs or anything lately. School was insane until it let out about 2 weeks ago, at which point I’ve gone to see Maia most days. I’ve really been struggling lately with how best to approach her. I’ve been realizing that though it is fun to play around with tricks, liberty, bridleless, etc., I am not good enough in any of those areas to actually bring a training program out of it. So we just dabble… and dabble… and she gets bored, and I get bored. I don’t know where I’m going and therefore I definitely never get there.

The one place I do have a little more confidence is with tack. So, for now, I am doing a lot more traditional riding and training. I have Maia in a bridle and bit now, and we lunge, work in hand, do dressage in the arena, and are starting trail rides. I am trying to incorporate a lot of feel and release, but am not constrained to doing only feel and release, as I don’t have a good enough understanding of it, have mostly stopped using treats (which she doesn’t really seem to miss), and am using a simple full-cheek snaffle.

The barn owner/trainer is an incredible trainer of French classical dressage and I have started
doing a sort of working student situation with her (at least, until I leave for Ohio). She has been giving me great help with Maia to help her relax, loosen her back, carry me, and so on. It is bringing out a lot of my tendencies to use pressure, to control, grip, and force. She has had me ride a few of her other horses, though, and it is a lovely difference to feel the lightness and the “allow” that is just built in those horses. You just communicate and allow. One aid at a time. Simple, light, easy to understand—yet hard for me to allow and do, as hard-wired as I am to use pressure and to control. As much as I talk about getting away from pressure, I have as many pressure-based habits as anyone.

It’s a little discouraging. Ever since I got Maia, I have dabbled in so many things. Parelli. Classical dressage. Clicker training. Carolyn Resnick’s method. Liberty and bridleless. Trick training. I’ve tried so hard to do it “right” that I’ve ended up hardly doing anything at all. After owning her for almost 2 years now, she is barely broke and does almost nothing. Granted, for most of that time I’ve been away at college, we’ve been moving, I was consumed training other horses—but still. You would think I would have something more to show for all that time.

I think I try too hard to do things the “absolute ideal” way sometimes, when I really don’t have enough experience to do that. I think I would have been better off sticking to more or less what I knew as the main source of my training. While I should still work hard to learn new things, if I am so consumed by doing things in a totally new and different way, I will be successful far less of the time, and the less successful I am and feel, the more confused and more like a failure Maia will feel. And that is not the point of horsemanship at all.

The journey has been, and is, wonderful. I love Maia, and I am not truly disappointed—it has been excellent learning and discovery. I would never be where I am today without all that exploring. Tangible “results” aren’t the point of horsemanship and don’t need to be. I’m truly all right with all of that. I just know that, perhaps, if I had tried a little less hard to be perfect, Maia and I could have had a little more fun and accomplishment along the way.

After all, what is the point of horsemanship? I believe it is beauty and glory and joy, something I have been thinking a lot about, actually, and call "maia." :) And yes, the connection is intentional. I don't have time right now to go into it, but I've started trying to write about it at my personal blog, It's when everything feels light and glorious and free, when there is beautiful connection and magic happens. It's not necessarily in terms of "things accomplished," which is why I, though it may not seem like it, am actually okay that we haven't gotten lots of things "done" necessarily. What I'm saddened by is that it's been a little bit of a rough journey -- in trying to accomplish or be ideal, I have often missed finding maia with Maia herself.

And that is the harmony I am seeking again, now, and have always, I think, been looking for, though I didn't know it. It was not the bridleless dressage or the running to me in the pasture. It's the incredible sense of peace and glory and joy when you are completely connected with a horse, and I think that can happen anywhere -- with or without bit, treats, tack, shoes. You just have to find it. And that, I believe, is my renewed journey, and one I am so excited to be finding...

It’s actually what like Klaus Ferdinand Hempfling said at the end of his book, Dancing With Horses. That after you’d read that book and wanted to implement it, you shouldn’t just try to Do It. You shouldn’t just try to rip up the entire old oak tree at once, because even if you somehow, through a huge outpouring of blood, sweat, and tears over years of strained effort, managed to, incredibly, rip up that huge oak tree right down to its roots that went so deep into the ground, there would be nothing left to replace it. At most, you could plant another tree, another acorn to grow the new oak you wanted all along, but it would take years—years and years, even decades—for that little sapling to grow into anything resembling a new foundation, a new tree that would give shade and life and joy to you and to those around you.

Instead, it is much better to do things gradually. Pull up a little of the old tree as you plant the other acorn next to it. Let the new grow while you gradually prune away the old. Don’t rush the new. It will come. Don’t rush destroying the old. It will leave naturally. Do what you love—love your horse—continue to seek what is better—and be at peace.