Once Upon Another Time

I sit and close my eyes here in this RV. I hear the Florida crickets chirping a lullaby just for me. Things I didn’t notice the past four months are more apparent than ever. These past couple of weeks have by far been the hardest. There have been a couple of days along this journey where I really just wanted to come home, but I knew I had more to learn here. And boy, I’m sure glad I stayed. Getting down to the final stretch I was thinking, I learned all I needed to, now let me GO! The despearte feeling of needing to leave crept up on me again, slowly but surely. Feeling groggy from a cold didn’t help, either. One minor detail I forgot: Learning never stops.

“Life is change. Growth is optional. Choose Wisely”. – KC

My spirits came back to life from the thought of seeing my parents soon. I picked them up from the airport yesterday morning. It was so nice to see them. It’s funny how things change even over a short period of a couple months, the little things that used to get under my skin I am now eternally grateful for. I’m so honored to have them as parents. As the day went on I was explaining how excited I was to get out of Florida and back to Michigan.  Image

It wasn’t until this morning after stalls that I realized something very important… Being my last day to clean stalls I was feeling the rapid approach of my near departure. After a couple of stalls I stumbled upon the thought of why I was so anxious to leave. I jotted this train of thought into my notes:

There’s nothing in Florida that made your life any more or less difficult, it was all your mindset. You just didn’t like what those elements turned you into. You chose that, and now you choose to let it go and see the beauty in not only your experience, but yourself.

Every beautiful memory from this trip ran through my mind like a slide show. My vision was sharper than ever with every vibrant color and texture exposing it’s true perfection. Every noise turned into it’s own song. The breeze across my cheek and the steady grip I had surrounding the rake handle. The corners of my lips gradually shifting closer toward my ears into a smile. I was making one of those beautiful memories right in that very moment. The feeling of life. The feeling of connectedness. The feeling of acceptance. The feeling of faith. The feeling of God. The feeling of the Universe. The feeling of Heather.

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I’m healthy… I just got sick.

My trainer has been sick for a good two weeks with a lovely cough and runny nose… Two days ago I got signs of a sore throat and congestion in my head… And today, it’s quite apparent I’ve got the sickness! Zicam, Musanex, the works. I’m not going to let it go 2 weeks and get as bad as Lisa’s though. I’m nipping it in the bud NOW. It will be gone in a couple of days. Yes, yes it will.

Lots of exciting things to come… Only 14 days until I leave back to MI! I couldn’t be more excited. I will miss everyone here, but I am so ready to see my friends at home.

I am still waiting on Fable’s leg. Last night his hock was swollen up like a balloon. More walking is an order for us. Fun, fun stuff.

Short and sweet… Overall, life’s good and there are many exciting things to come!

She can RIDE!

HOLY CATS! I feel like I could fly right now. I just had two amazing rides on Devon and Mick! FINALLY, THE GIRL CAN STOP! Lisa said something the other day that hit the nail on the head for me. The “down shift” comes when you think about balancing your skull and shoulders and feeling the weight of that down into your seat bones… I was thinking of pulling in my core, which ended up driving. Which explained why I was never able to maintain that consistency of the down transition. Sometimes I would get it, but then I was right back on the path of being run away with.

My first ride was on Devon, we started with turns at the walk solely working on my body turning instead of the reins. I used my hands the way Bettina showed me with Fable, if she needed to yield I would keep my hand inline with the bit ring and use that leg. It worked VERY well! She was very soft and with the combination of being able to RELAX into the downward transition… It was GLORIOUS!

I felt absolutely wonderful after riding her, and that feeling transferred over to Mick’s ride. He was very in-tuned with me and light in my hand! (He’s a tongue pusher…) I was able to get the down transitions with him, and feel the downbeat of the outside leg during the walk and mark it with my outside seat-bone (to keep the collection)… That one will require more thought as to WHY… But it worked well and it was something Bettina was having Lisa do with her horses. Cool stuff! He started taking over a bit at the canter, I was trying to use my seat but instead he was grabbing at the bit again with his tongue. So, when that happened I would first close my legs and think of that “relaxed/balanced/downshift” in my back, and if he didn’t yield the bit from that I would widen and lower my hands and keep my leg on until he yielded to the pressure. Note- I did not pull back, I merely pulled apart the rings of the bit. If I pulled back, the snaffle would have closed and poked him in the mouth, but when widening the hands the bit should stay flat in the horse’s mouth. From the natural horsemanship stuff I’ve got a habit of just chucking my hands forward to say “Yes! Now I release pressure…” So I have to work on modifying that a bit so it’s not so abrupt… I still want to soften immediately, but not chucking the rein forward like a hot potato. (Although, it could be viewed as just another training opportunity). But I could see how it’s good to maintain the soft contact you want and use your voice to reward. Many roads lead to Rome and I’ve still got more to learn along the way!

I couldn’t help but smile as I was cleaning my tack after both rides… Jamming to my music and enjoying every second! That’s when it clicked in my head, the rides I had today were both familiar in my form and technique. My prior mentors have showed me bits and pieces of all of this, but now I am starting to see how it’s all related. Between the lightness in the hand, the use of the seat and leg, the exercise patterns for mental stimulation… Wooh! I am ready for more!

My Creative Escape Artist <3
Can’t wait to ride my boy again!

Eat Pray Love

A few years ago I watched the movie Eat Pray Love for the first time. I was incredibly depressed afterwards. I felt more disconnected than ever before, like I had a huge part of me missing. I was numb. Cold and lost inside. I didn’t know what my ‘word’ was… At one point of the movie, they ask her what her word was… She said everything she wasn’t, and then she said “Well, I guess it’d have to say it’s ‘writer’. I’m a writer.” My word would have been horse trainer. But that’s what I do, not who I am.

My journey to Florida has been much like the movie Eat Pray Love. Just having watched the movie for the second time, I cannot stop smiling. My mouth, my heart, my liver, are all smiling. I no longer feel like I am holding myself back from seeking the beauty in life. I feel like I have opened my mind to let the beauty of the universe in. I feel now. I can laugh, and I can cry. I had such a strong urge to leave everything I knew so I could find myself. Now, I know it’s not the location you must leave behind, it is the old mindset you must part with. I have released all of my inhibitions and I have set myself free. Free from doubt, free from fear. Loving, and living every moment to it’s fullest.

Fable’s Leg… X-Ray/Ultrasound

Today the vet was out to look at Fable’s leg. We thought it would be good to get the leg checked out since the swelling still hasn’t gone away. He wanted to make sure it wasn’t a fracture in the splint bone so he did an X-ray of the leg… Thankfully, no horizontal fractures. I kind of zoned out after the idea of a splint chip in is leg being brought up, BUT after the ultrasound he said “in-expensive fix”, and “it’s not career ending”… Good good good! However, the X-Ray did expose a bone chip in his fetlock. I can’t remember which bone it was off of… But, it was pretty good sized. They think it’s an old chip. The vet is going to come back out in 3 days and reevaluate his condition and then we’ll see where we’re at. I found it incredibly fascinating that he was able to take x-rays and hook up his laptop in the barn and view the x-rays right on site!

The downside… Exercise hasn’t been helping the leg. So, stall rest until further notice. Darn! I will be riding Devon and Mick until I leave, hopefully it won’t be too long before I can start bringing Fable back to work once I get to MI… I just want my boy to get better.

Remember Days Like These

All I can say about today: Pay it forward. I have amazing role models in my life who treat me very well. I’m excited to pay it forward and share the love.

Find what makes you enthusiastic, even if it’s exploring the journey, and share it.

Bettina, Day 2

Another fabulous day. Bettina wanted me to hop on Fable for about 15 minutes before any of the rides started. She wanted me to work on the promptness, basically imagining tigers jumping out. My actual session working with her was wonderful! I got a lot out of it. First, she wanted me to warm up on my own with a little more ‘serious intent’ working on some of the things we did yesterday. I chose to play around with changing direction, lateral work to engage the left hind followed by a turn to the right stepping the right hind under. She said the reason he doesn’t step under with the right hind is because he’s not using his left hind correctly either. We have to have both hind legs working? WHAT? So difficult… BUT, after working on my own for a few minutes she came into the arena and walked along side of me to help me feel the variations of contact.

To summarize:

-Keep my forearm/hand in line with the bit (very specifically, on the same plane that the ring is on).

-Inside hand can open, apply leg for bend, then soften and put hand back on same plane. For flexion, inside hand toward the outside ear with inside leg.

-Outside hand brought forward and outward supported with outside leg. I was getting confused since she wanted me to use my outside rein, so I kept counter-bending him. However, that’s not what she wanted. I had to put my hand more forward so he didn’t change the bend, but he still had to step up with his left hind leg.

-The feel on the reins: the horse should not be sucking back from the rein, bracing on the rein, or pushing through the rein. If you feel any of those, it gives a good idea of what their hind end needs to do. Say Fable was braced on the left rein, I would put my hand slightly forward and out to the side in line with the bit, and use a bit of outside leg… Once he steps through with that outside hind leg he is able to carry himself more balanced and stay ‘between’ the aids, not pushing through or sucking back from any of the aids. This was the first time I felt like I had a true communication with Fable’s mouth. Before, I felt like I had busy hands, but Fable’s body wasn’t in line so my hands weren’t reading the situation correctly. After I had thought this through, I was able to tell which hind leg needed to step through more and how to keep him soft and carrying himself. IT WAS AWESOME!

After we established that… I was then able to take that feeling into the trot. We worked on a figure 8 consisting of two connected 20 meter circles. She brought in the tigers again today, but this time… The could come at me FROM ANY ANGLE! From the inside hind, she wanted me to turn and really look at that leg, the weight and direction of my body looking at the leg was enough to scoot it on under him. Then the outside, same thing. All while getting that soft connection in both reins. “Carrying” the reins, not just having dead hands/arms. We worked a lot of transitions… almost walk, then GO! Only one walk step, then GO! Not with the stick, with my back and legs. So it was an engaged uphill ‘go’. She even had me drop my whip. We got to the point of doing haunches in on the circles, downshift before the change of bend, then go! It. Was. Awesome.

Lisa ended up having me finish the last ride on Devon… It knocked me off of my high from Fable’s ride… But it’s okay. It was a good learning experience and I’m glad I had Bettina there to help. We were not at all in sync, her mind was elsewhere and I was afraid she was going to take off. She has such a FORWARD trot and I don’t like that feeling of not being able to stop, especially when her ears and attention were on everything other than me! Anyway, Bettina had me ride it out. She had me really look back and get that inside hind under, then think of pulliing the outside shoulder back, then both shoulders back, chest up, back down, and that slowed her down. I could have easily pulled her to a one rein stop or worked on my ‘natural horsemanship’ stuff… But I already know how to do that. So as much as I wanted to surrender to the easy stopping… I waited it out… I know I’ve got one student back in MI who is ‘waiting… The halt will come eventually’…. I HEAR YA WOMAN! This stuff is tricky! But once understood, a quality and balanced halt can be accomplished. I am far from it, but at least I wrapped my mind around the idea that I have to learn to trust the horse and find the downshift within the balance instead of immediately resorting to my cowboy knowledge.

A good day, with good lessons. Looking forward to more!