Wow was yesterday ever the best day!
So I'll admit I had been feeling STUCKER than STUCK with Xena these past few weeks. Knowing that I won't be able to do much this winter when we're inevitable snowed in without an indoor arena. And even now I've been focusing on present-day limitations: our fences suck. The round pen is the only place I can play with her that she won't jump the fence just because she can. Our footing in the round pen and arena is COVERED in goat heads (terrible little stickers with sharp spines ALL around them, when picked up by hands will rip up your skin), and it makes rope savvy absolutely IMPOSSIBLE!!!! You try being athletic with a rope that has 5 goat heads per square inch. And then every other place on our property is grass grass grass. Xena loves grass. Not easy to play with her on it. Then there was the big scary subject of riding.... which I feel comfortable doing with her, but didn't really know how to go about it with her. Oh and then there's the fact that our place is occupied by some BIG DOGGIES that are suspected coyote-wolf hybrids, that live behind the round pen. So all playing must be done before they come out at sunset. That's hardly enough time to do chores let alone enjoy the horses. Anyway....
Yesterday my friend who is going to college at CSU came to visit me and talked me into going trail riding with her near Estes Park. Usually I don't like taking that much time away from our place with so much work to do. But I agreed, figuring I needed to get back in the saddle on something calm like a rental trail horse. Considering this time last year I was galloping windy nearly vertical slopes on an OTTB, and had only plodded around bareback since, I needed it!!!
The drive up there was absolutely stunning. It looked just like Pat's place in Pagosa Springs. BOY OH BOY I can't wait till next summer. The horse I was assigned was absolutely perfect for me - a short, fat, little dark buckskin that reminded me of Xena. Even a little shorter than her. Her name was Cisco, which I found absolutely perfect because it's the name of the buckskin from my favorite movie Dances With Wolves, and I've always wanted a buckskin named Cisco. I'm thinking years in the future when Xena is L4+ I'll get a BLM buckskin gelding and that's what I'll name him. My friend got a spunky little Arab. She likes spunk.
Our ride was up and down steeeep mountains, by beautiful lakes, and through the forest. The trail was just narrow enough for one horse, and 90% of it was rocky terrain. Sometimes huge bouldrs blocking most of the path, sometimes just smaller stones, and other times huge flat rocks going up/down the hill just like a staircase, where the horse had to navigate exactly where to place her feet. I had never ridden anything other than the smooth manicured trails of L.A., so I really had no idea what to do. I gave Cisco a loose rein, sat in passenger position, and let her figure it out herself. I thought... you know, this is a smart animal that knows her job, she's going to know where to place her feet better than I do. And, being able to tell she was a Left Brain Introvert, I knew that she'd pick the path of least resistance wherever possible, as opposed to the Arab behind us that was enjoying playing with trees we passed and I heard slip multiple times.
Even through the tight up and down rocky slopes, I was confident in giving Cisco literally 100% responsibilty for carrying me where we needed to go. It was such an AWESOME feeling, being carried up the rock steps by a calm, confident, willing horse that new her pattern. The entire last half of the trail I was speculating on how honestly, this ride gave me the push I needed to find with Xena. And the others, too, actually. RESPONSIBILITY!!!!! Even though that's a key of PNH I try so hard to focus on... there was this traditionally trained horse taking full responsibilty for her every move. I noticed how much I've been mocromanaging my horses while trying to teach them to act like Cisco. I think when I played with them, I knew in the back of my mind that they wouldn't maintin that gait, or keep that direction, or look where they were going, or stay on the circle. I had truly lost my neutral while trying to improve it! After that ride, I think I have a new inderstanding of the "Trust that they'll respond" part rather than just being "ready to correct."
When the ride was over, and I was probably so introverted in thought that I looked catatonic, I got off of little Cisco and thanked her for being such a good horse, and showing me what I want for Xena to be. I haven't known where to keep going with her, I was really stabbing in the dark. Now I have a clear image of the partner I know she can be, and I'm just bursting at the seams with inspiration! My new goal is for Xena to have that degree of responsibility, for her to be that solid of a partner, to where maybe next summer I can trailer her up to some trails and be confident exploring the Colorado mountains with her. While my friend was talking to the guide, I was staring at the rest of the horses in the pens. They were all so colorful, and pretty, and I loved watching them play and interact with each other, trying to see if I could guess a horsenality. I haven't been around that many big horses (owner of 6 minis here remember lol) in quite a long time. Friend came over and was pointing out conformation flaws of this and that horse, guessing at the mixed breeds' lineage, contemplating genetics. I just looked at every single one and thought... Oh what a beautiful horse! I love them all. Breeds, colors, age, sizes, horsenalities. I'll need a thousand acre ranch one day, because I just love every single horse I see, I want one of everything!!! For now I've just got a Bryer collection of every breed/color imaginable in my room. Hey we're all entitled to be 4 years old on the inside, right? :P
Overall it was a wonderful experience to keep me on track with my goals of being a Parelli Professional, and awaken that serious love of all things equine that my roadblocks had been hiding from me.
As soon as I got back home, I took Xena to the round pen for some liberty. Focusing on RESPONSIBILTY! For the first time ever, I got one full lap of calm, cool, collected canter from her, without getting all emotional. She was asking tons of questions! And a bunch of trot laps, with me totally neutral. AND an exhuberant, happy trot draw! And best of all, when it started getting dark and I disengaged her to bring her in, she threw in a few playful bucks in on her way to me, and came to me with her ears forward. This was huge for her RBI self. I couldn't be happier! I just LOVE my horse!
:) Savvy on everyone! And hug your horses for me!