I worked with a lovely horse today. She was a large bay mare with soft eyes and a relaxed manner. She moved around me deftly, always keeping an ear turned in my direction, watching my movements and waiting for the next cue. It was a pleasure to watch her shifting balance as I asked for transitions or smaller turns. She was so responsive that I began to just act, without having to think each signal through – it just flowed. I found myself thinking, “Now this is the kind of horse that I’ve been wanting in my barn!”
Okay, by now you’ve probably seen through my artifice, and figured out that this mare was Tally. The past couple of days were slightly challenging, as I was fighting the usual electric effects of the North wind. To be fair, the troubles she gave me this week were minor on the Tally scale – but it did leave me wondering if the more sane Tally would ever stick around for good. Today was admittedly warm – but that has never stopped her from being inattentive or even explosive.
From the moment we started today’s session, I truly had the feeling that this was some other horse. She was finally working in a way that resembled the mare she is in the stable – calm, personable, relaxed. She was adjustable and immediately responsive. In her entire life, I cannot remember a time when her eye and ear were constantly tuned to me, waiting for my next communication. Her gaits and carriage reached a quality I’ve never achieved in sessions where we spend so much time just getting focus. But the real sign that this was a new Tally came midway into the session.
I’d just attached the side reins, leaving them on the lightest contact. (My purpose is not to set a frame, but to reintroduce the concept of contact with the bit.) I sent her back out to the left and asked for a trot. She started off and immediately halted. I asked her to resume the trot, which she attempted, but then began again to halt. I was about to push her on when I noticed her expression – there was something there that said “I have to halt!” I scanned the full picture and immediately saw the problem – the blanket, previously folded and under the surcingle, was now loose and bouncing around on her back.
Astounded, I immediately reassured her that halt was fine, then heaped soft praises upon her as I walked over to resolve the problem. It was not long ago that the old Tally would have reacted to this situation by bolting, bucking, or kicking out. I know this, because that is actually what has happened more than once! Instead, she did her best to let me know that something was wrong, and looked to me to fix it. There could have been no clearer sign that her whole attitude is changing! I have never been prouder of her! This may be the first night that I’ll go to sleep actually excited about getting Tally out again tomorrow. Even if the challenging Tally comes out again, I’ve glimpsed a possibility I never before imagined. That alone will keep me trying!
Be good to your horses!