A couple of Fridays ago I had a lesson with Stephanie and Mas. I would like to have one lesson per week if possible, but at least one per month. Rather than working on riding right away, I wanted to get much better at my skills on the ground. I’d love to be able to suggest something to Mas and have him respond with a phase 1 suggestion (like the wiggle of a finger means step back). To me, that would mean that we are connected and he is thinking of me as the leader and respecting my suggestions, and I am more skilled with my intentions. This, of course, will take some work because I am still learning how to read horse behavior and, most of all, how to be in the right place at the right time and know that what I am doing is causing Mas to do what he is doing. I need to learn when my body position and body language is asking for something other than what I want. If I am staring at his feet but asking him to move to a point beyond his feet, I may have to actually look at where I want to go instead of wondering why the feet that I am staring at aren’t moving!
During our last lesson I was playing the circling game with Mas and using trot-canter transitions to keep him engaged rather than bored. One thing I noticed was that when circling to the left, Mas kept leaning into the circle and encroaching on my space. Stephanie suggested that we needed to work on the sideways game so that when he did come in, I could simply send him out by pushing him sideways. Off to the fence we went to try some sideways.
The sideways game is my most difficult game. I’m not sure why but it is hard for me to ask the horse to travel sideways and not let his head lead the way with his butt in my face. Part of the problem is that I don’t walk with much intention! I am somewhat passive rather than assertive in my interactions with Mas. Stephanie is very good at bringing her energy up to match the horse’s energy. Me, on the other hand . . . I am a bit more relaxed, like someone fed me a sedative before the lesson.
I tried to think of Linda Parelli and how she moves with confidence. If you watch her videos, she has a bit of a swagger when she walks, like she is full of life and leadership when she needs to be, but then when it’s time to relax, she bends he leg and drops her head, kind of like the horse does when it relaxes, and shows the horse that she too is relaxed.
So off Mas and I went sideways on the fence. I had to bring my life up and push Mas sideways with my energy and the help of my carrot stick. At first he wasn’t to keen to move, but he did end up traveling sideways and after a few times leading away with his head, we had the hang of it. When he would start walking away, putting his butt in my face, Stephanie showed me that I could send some energy into the lead rope and let a section of the rope tap his side and with that he would move his hindquarters away and turn his head back to the fence. I used the carrot stick in a side to side motion, like I was sweeping Mas’s side. That kept Mas in a more sideways position. Eventually, I was able to use way less pressure to move him sideways.
We had to make sure we stopped while the going was good instead of getting too direct line thinking and pushing and pushing until the exuberance and life was burnt out and what we were doing became a chore for Mas.
I think Mas is starting to like me and is maybe even enjoying some of the time we spend together. I don’t think he has totally checked into what we are doing because I am not the leader he needs, but he is getting there, and so am I. It’s actually very difficult for me to do things with him. He is very dominant and does not take suggestions easily with me, but he is an excellent teacher and his dominance is helping me to become more assertive. Even though it’s difficult asserting myself with Mas, I do have fun. And when I see him in the pasture or when he walks up to say hi, my heart is light and I am happy.