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I am not really certain where to begin with this post. Today's events have taken my mind, spirit, and emotions all over the place. As I spoke to my husband about it, I know in my heart that what I share here helps me and others who read and can identify with my journey. (Yes, this is going to be a long one.)
As I posted earlier, I videotaped my level 2 freestyle yesterday. Although pretty good, I was able to identify room for improvement and wanted to film again today in hopes of something better. Although I know it is not about perfection, I know we could do better and wanted to try.
This morning the weather here was humid, threatening to storm, but I still wanted to squeeze it in. After all, it is just a ten minute video, right? What I hadn't revealed about yesterday is that I was feeling direct-line and wondered if I was somehow compromising my principles for my goals but, the ride and time was good so, I thought better of it afterwards. I did play with Whiskey beforehand but only for a few minutes, not the usual ~45 minute preparation. Whiskey didn't run away after his tack was removed yesterday but hung out with me a little more and this morning, he called to me (not something he always does). I thought all was well with our relationship.
This morning, I went out with my video camera, tripod, stop watch, and an agenda. In my mind, I just wanted to just get the video done, I want to be official level 3 (I've been doing this for years). So, I was to get Whiskey, take him to the playground, tack up, play for a few minutes and tape. My first mistake (and I know better, I've written about it) was this direct-line thinking behaviour, the agenda, the lack of proper preparation, the thought that Whiskey would want to comply with my wishes. The guilt I have for even starting out this way is heavy on my heart tonight. I betrayed my partner.
I am going out tonight to lavish him with apples, he'll like them, I know it won't make him forgive me but, it will make me feel better. I'll have to prove my worthiness as a partner the next time we play.
I suppose at this moment you are wondering, what happened? Well, I set up the camera, set out the tack, set up the playground, got Whiskey, tacked up, barely played with him, and tried to mount. He was fractious and was not standing still at the mounting block (unusual for him). He was telling me something but I was ignoring him, not very nice of me. He finally stood still but as soon as I tried to put my foot in the stirrup to mount, he'd back up. Just another quick thought, I had a carrot stick in my hand. I don't think I've ever mounted with one in hand--another thing that was out of the ordinary. Anyhow, this happened several times, each time I yelled to Rick to stop the tape, and each time I found myself more and more frustrated (and I thought frustration for me with horses was all over, I hadn't had it in forever I think, not with the horses anyway, what was happening?). My thought about the frustration now is, Whiskey probably had it too and all because he and I did not properly prepare together for this leg of our journey. My gosh, what an epiphany! Anyway, the last time he moved off, I told Rick to forget it, get my 22 foot line and carrot stick with savvy string and that taping for the day was over. In my heart, at the time, I was angry, I hate to admit this but it is true. At the time, I was upset that I couldn't just get the darned tape done, now I am upset that I didn't take the time it takes and be there for my partner. At the time I thought, yes, Whiskey, just do what I say (can you believe this? what the heck!) now I think, I am such an idiot, a horrible human being, a terrible horse-man but through this reflection and through future action, I can and will redeem myself. And, please know that I've felt depressed, sad, incompetent, and just terrible all day (tears folks, tears).
While waiting for Rick, I asked for a circle with the rope on the natural hackamore, Whiskey exploded into several bucks and was out of his mind. Once Rick returned with the items I requested, I attached the 22 foot line, left the tack on, and asked for a circle again, the same effect. I am not sure if I was still direct-line thinking but perhaps because now my goal was to play with this horse that was explosive, but why? To prove something? To make things better? I don't know really. I think I intended to try to repair things but with a right-brained introvert, sometimes the best thing is to stop and start again another time (and I know this, I really do).
Throughout this session, Whiskey absolutely exploded, reared, bucked and bucked, was emotional, reactionary, defiant, and not my partner. A motorcycle loudly went by and he lost his mind (he hears them all of the time but at this moment, it scared him to death). We continued to play all over the playground, using the obstacles and patterns, some things were really good like I was using my entire rope (as reminded by my latest assessment) and completing several tasks and he would lapse into left-brained calm. I sent him between the tires from 22 feet away, was able to ask for a few steps, then back, etc. At moments, he was really partnering and I was pleased and I think he was too, and at other times, he was off in crazy-horse land. He was freaking out so badly at times (several times) that I had to just let the rope go (or risk my hand being rope burned) he'd always run away to the same place, away from me, and as far to the barn as he could get. I had the alley blocked so he could not get to the barn, only because I needed to keep Fosse out of the playground during the videotaping time. I also think there were times of defiance and so I wonder what really was going on. Was this a test of my leadership? I am not sure, maybe that and the fact that I didn't do what we usually did, changed the routine of extensive preparation, and maybe that in itself made him not trust me, no leadership due to no preparation--this is interesting. We did end on a good note (I think) but, I never wanted to go here in the first place, not again, not ever, to this place where our partnership is splintered and where my horse cannot trust me and I cannot trust him.
Whiskey is not an easy horse, probably one of the toughest. Ask my horse friends about him--he scares most people and is not for the faint at heart (on the ground or riding). Yes, he can be very quiet, this is the introvert that can explode at anytime, dangerous and not for everyone for sure. I want to continue our journey, I know we have a long way to go, I know it won't be simple, ever, but it is worth it.
The easy way out would be to sell him and get a more compliant (robot) horse. I spend a fortune on my education with horses and feel stuck in a way because things are not simple for me. Knowing my personality, not only would I feel terribly guilty but, a push-button horse would bore me to tears. My plan is to continue with Fosse and Whiskey, we have a lifetime to learn together. Fosse by the way is not necessarily easy but is a fun challenge (LBE). The only catch is that he has a heart condition limiting what we can do. (As a side-note, I played online with Fosse after all of this. He too was right-brained and I think that all of the emotions wore off on him from Whiskey and I because he was watching. I stopped our session fairly quickly and called it a day rather than make things even worse.)
I was thinking about past trail rides and other play dates and arena rides with him. For trail rides, every time, I arrived at the location an hour early, took time to groom him and tack up slowly and politely, played on the ground in the parking lot for at least 30 minutes until the other riders arrived. Then, I would hand walk/play down the trail some more and then would ride (even if people thought I was weird). I never just got on and headed down the trail, never. He just seems to need a great deal of time to prepare, partner, and gain confidence in me and himself-everytime. For the play dates and arena rides, I typically do 30-45 minutes of ground preparation, whatever he seems to need. Before loading in a trailer I always put in at least 30 minutes of play time, always. Why was today different? Because I was being a direct-line jerk. Period.
So, where do we go from here? I am going to try to cut down (in time) the original video from yesterday and submit it--if only to get feedback. Even if it is not a pass (and who really knows), it will give me knowledge and guidance. I also talked with Rick and my best friend Clare and I plan to tape many play sessions (as I have suggested to you all many times). The camera has a remote control and I will try to place it in such a way so I can get most everything on it without a videographer. I also have a timer from my Parelli Playcards that I can use to practice with and better understand how long things are taking to do. I will continue to officially assess but, I will always take the time it takes to prepare myself and my horse, this means preparation on the ground of 30-45 minutes (or longer if he needs it), each time, always, no compromises. I also spoke to Rick about him not taping me in the future. Although he is extremely helpful, I believe that I feel pressured about him taping because I am taking up his time for something that is not necessarily on the top of his list. He does not mind helping me at all, he is very supportive, but, I think I may feel unnecessarily and illogically rushed which can affect everything.
I believe that there is much more reflecting to do but will stop writing for now. Thanks for your indulgence. I hope you don't think less of me but honesty is the way to truth and as they say, the truth will set you free. I feel free to start over rather than quit horses all together.
So repeat after me, principles before goals, principles before goals, principles before goals...