Sunday, March 27, 2011

Linnea Adjusts My Suspenders and Going One Step Too Far

Linnea Seaman's Suspenders Are Working Again!

Linnea patiently explains to me that I have two legs
It's been several years since dressage judge and instructor, Linnea Seaman, in her perky, almost psychic way, laid her suspenders on me and changed my riding for the better and forever.  On Saturday, March 26, I went for a much-needed tune-up.  What a joy to be connected once again, both with  my body and with Linnea.

In this photo Linnea the Wise is assessing my hip action, which was a bit left-dominant, in advance of reapplying the suspenders.   For those who missed my first post on the subject, "Gooey Horses and the Suspenders of Linnea Seaman" (10/08), the "suspenders" thing lurks along the Centered Riding spectrum in that it is a concrete, conscious way of promoting the abstract, unconscious connection between your shoulders and your feet so that you, the Actualized Riding Being, can sit balanced in the saddle with full use of all of your body parts instead of hanging crablike to one side and wondering why your horse seems crooked.  No, I didn't think they were connected either.  Quelle suprise!

Cruising in joyful abandon and three layers of fleece looks like this.

Anyway, lessons learned from Linnea are hard to forget, and with a bit of a touch-up, I was, happily, able to reconnect with my body and my daughter's lovely mare after whom I've lusted for years if only for her lack of Drama Queen tendencies which my boys have in spades.  By the end of the lesson we were cruising in joyful abandon and growing pain in every part of my body, which has lain fallow since mid-December.  Aging sucks. 

All this happiness, by the way, was at Covered Bridge Equestrian Center in Lancaster County, PA, where our friend Cindy Stum takes great care of "our" horse and lets us play with Linnea to our hearts' content. 

One Step Over the Line
Good stopping point...before anyone gets angry

t twas one of those days from the get-go.  The ones that start with something broken that you didn’t expect to have to fix, mosey on to some vague physical issue with one of the farm residents, equine, feline,  human, or poultry; and lead to the conclusion that you’d have been better off staying in bed.  So, naturally, you decide it’s a great day for someone to have a training session.  Yow-zah!  

The only thing this day actually had going for it was the sun.  Everything else was a wash.  But despite my best intentions I felt overwhelmed by a case of the “Shoulds”.  In this case, the “I Really Shoulds” overtook common sense, and the next thing I knew I had a belt bag full of Frosted Mini-wheats and a clicker strapped to my wrist and off I went to track down my favorite test subject, Zip Or Not.  

There are times when an impromptu training session is logical.  “Teachable Moments” we call that in the Public Ed trade.  You know it when you see it.  The kid asks just the right question, the horse makes just the right gesture, the chicken…okay, so maybe the chickens are a bad example.  So there I was with a halter in one hand and a happy face on, and it was apparent from the view of his tail as it receded into the distance that Zip wasn’t really up for a learning experience right then.  Using his habitual jealousy against him, I called to Dakota, which brought Zip high-tailing (literally) to my side.  

From the start he wasn’t really “with” me.  He was doing everything I asked and then some.  It’s the “and then some” that’s worrisome.  A focused horse doesn’t “and then some”.  Still, not willing to pass up the sunny afternoon and dead set on moving forward with my planned training schedule for my recalcitrant, sour, attitudinal gelding, I pushed.  I pushed and pushed some more, and finally, despite mediocre results and still grinning to show him how much fun we were having, I had to go that one extra step.  We had to do the Mounting Block Polka.  
Zip was home-schooled

Someone shoot me before I hurt myself.

It only took one eye-corner peek at the block for Zip to tip to the plan and advise that this was not his plan and we would not be standing quietly at this particular juncture.  Committed, I had to give it a shot.  I couldn’t let him just spin around and walk away as is his wont.  Eventually, with patience and invisibly gritted teeth, I got the split-second thumbs up from Zipper, and called it a day.

Almost…  I almost called it a day.

Not to be mistaken for someone with common sense, I turned Zip out and concluded that since Dakota had already answered my call and had watched the whole clicker-cookie festival with great interest, it was time to work through his quirky Appy reaction to trick-training.  Dakota is a gelding’s gelding and sees no point in pointless endeavor, so tricks have not been his fave way to spend ten minutes, but he’s a calm and malice-free boy, so off we went.

We’ve been working, from time to time, on a cue for picking up his front feet.  It’s an easy trick, one that serves a purpose, and he seemed to get the whole concept.  Except for yesterday, when he indicated that he “no speak-a da English” and asked if I wouldn’t rather go for a ride.  

No riding ensued as we’ve both had a tad of a lameness problem and I really, really, really wanted to pick up some fitness effort slack with ground work instead.  He sighed, and off we went to the mounting block so Zipper could see what a good “stand here quietly” looked like.  Zip’s big head was hanging over the fence absorbing every move, so I obliged with a move I hope never to use again.  

Dakota has no problem standing at the block, or anywhere else for that matter.  He was well-trained as a mounted orienteering horse and would stand all day in one spot if so instructed.  So this looked like an ace in the hole.  Mounting block….clicker….shredded wheat….Dakota…and a perfect example for Zip!  All went well until, proud of my boy standing stock still, and trying to make the point for Zip, I stood on the block, rubbing Dakota’s furry back and cooing to him about his infinite goodness.   Then I reached to hand him a treat.

There’s this about rubbing a furry horse on a dry day: static electricity.  The spark that shot from my fingers to his nose was visible and the crack audible, and it launched Dakota halfway across the ring, snorting and tap-dancing.  Great.  I retrieved him, but he was having none of the mounting block or the clicker or the treats or me.  He was giving me the stink-eye like never before.  I worked patiently until at least I got him to stand still without the Salsa moves, gave him a shock-free treat, and turned him loose in the pasture to commiserate with Zip.

Thanks to my poor judgment, I made exactly no strides toward fixing Zip’s sourness and now I’ve got another horse who thinks the mounting block is shooting lightning through my fingers.  Does it get any better?

I’ll say it one more time so maybe this time I’ll get it.  If you and the horses are not in the mood, don’t have sufficient time, the phase of the moon (this was during the ultra-full Super Moon, to boot) is wrong, or you just have that niggling feeling that another day  might be better for your plan, stop!  The chaos you create in the short term because you got your “Should” on will take more time to fix than the original problem would have if you’d waited.  

Can I hear me now? 

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Bravo! A post definitly worth a worthy comment, thanks.