What healthy movement creates in the body is the desire to move more. When moving feels good, it becomes a self-propulsive force where the experience of moving itself can become both a means and an end. This, to me, is the essence of training for wellness. Where we create spaces between our cells big enough for joy to find us.
The other day, I described a ride on the inlet with Merc where we were flowing through the tunnel of katabatic winds. What I didn’t tell you in that post was the story of a very simple thing that happened, but at the same time, to me, quite huge. As we were riding out, I put my leg on Merc to ask for trot. The application of the aid is equal parts question and equal parts request.
‘I wonder how he will respond?’, I ask myself. ‘I wonder how freely available the energy is today?’ I don’t ask these questions with my mind, but with my body.
Ideally the energetic response would be like squeezing a brand-new tube of toothpaste. A gentle ask and everything moves forward and out. It doesn’t take a lot. Up until recently, this hasn’t been the feeling. But on this day, a few days back, the energy had changed. We bounced forward and upward into trot and began to spring across the sand.
My smile grew as far as the inlet is wide.
When I was reading the comments on my blog from round the same time, discussing how there was no such thing as a lazy horse, a couple of people mentioned points that rightly deserved a place in the main discussion also. They highlighted that there must be some joy within the movement and that there must be a purpose if we are seeking to motivate the horse- two of my favourite things.
Where things really turned around for us- where I noticed the energy was there to be shaped and directed- coincided with Merc beginning to enjoy his own body. One could argue, well how is this something that you could possibly know? And I get it. But to me, the communication was tangible. I distinctly remembering the day we broke into a canter on the trail and the thought popped into my head:
Merc is really enjoying this. He’s enjoying the experience of freely moving. He’s enjoying being in his body.
His movement was singing a song available for all of us to hear.
Good and functional training produces this experience. You travel up the bell curve where you have to be creative, measured and consistent with what you’re doing and how you’re moving. It’s a delicate dance. Too much and the association with work becomes negative. Too little and you don’t get to a place where you create the opportunity for change. The same points apply for horses and humans.
You have to be clear on what the point is of the movement to your horse. Which starts with being clear on what the point is of the movement yourself.
You have to provide opportunities to move out in the world- not just in the confines of the sand pit.
And at some point, this beautiful thing happens where the experience of the movement; the way it frees up the body; how it creates fluidity in the muscle and fascia for the life force to move through; how the movement itself becomes possible without push or force; this experience makes the movement a delicious experience in and of itself.
And it’s at that point, movement as a medium holds intrinsic motivation. Where we finish in a better feeling place than where we started. Where movement becomes a communication of shared joy between the rider and the horse. Where you want to move together for no other reason than the movement itself feels good.
To me, the holy grail of training.