I shared a video of my baby horse Saffy’s first ride in my membership group, and one of the comments there was “so much fun to watch-everything had meaning”.
I loved this because it was absolutely true. In the process of starting a young horse- and especially when it comes to the first rides- there is such a high degree of intentionality to your action that there is (hopefully) no movement or aid given that is superfluous or unnecessary.
The ride I shared only lasted a few minutes but everything within that time had purpose; a clear set of questions and a clear set of answers.
We operate with a clarity crispness for the simple reason that we are in the very early stages of the learning process and being clear is important for both understanding and safety- the latter perhaps being the main reason we are so tuned in and on the ball.
But of course, everything we do with our horses regardless of their age or experience has meaning; it’s just sometimes, we get stuck in our complacencies, a little mechanized, a little more susceptible falling into the pitfalls of routine. And consequently, it’s important constantly check in and make sure that just because you only have “x” amount of time to work with your horse, or you do this every day, or you have a lot going on that you don’t give yourself a wild card pass for sloppy handling and communication that lacks clarity and consistency for your horse.
Case and point: I noticed that Merc recently had become a little fussy to put the bridle on. This was a new thing, something that has supposedly arisen, ‘out of the blue’. I super sleuthed my way through why this might be happening and realized it stemmed back to how I was undoing the halter in the paddock.
At the time, he was with my yearling Ada, and because of very different diets and eating times, I was feeding Ada when I took Merc out to work. When I went to put him back in his paddock, he was quite keen to go and check out her bucket. I was busy, had a lot going on and a few horses I wanted to play with, and had become less particular than normal about how I released the halter.
At the end, I realized he was very slightly flicking his nose up and away from me as I took the halter off to get over to the remnants of her food, and at this point, there was the release. It seems like nothing, but, again, everything has meaning- whether we notice this or not is a different thing.
That little habit fed through to our bridling- the little head flick and the turn away. My fault completely. Just one of those things where I hadn’t paid enough attention and that little something become a little something else that we then had to have a new conversation around.
Everything has meaning. What you ask for and what you don’t. How you hold your rope and your reins. How you approach and how you retreat.
And you know what? This is something to delight in. It means we are in a position of continually refining our conversation, of increasing the possibility of gaining more and more closeness with these amazing beings who so graciously allow us to play with them.
Saffy has quite a lot of white in one eye and it makes me laugh- in quite a few of the photos we took on this ride she is looking directly at the camera