For the first time today I went outside feeling free of doubts and I had energy. After working on Rio’s feet for a bit I went to collect Kastani. It was already getting hot so I had determined that I would make this session quite to the point.
For the first time since starting back with Kastani after our break, he popped his head right up when he saw me coming and there was no negotiating about the halter. He picked right up and followed me back to the paddock. Also noteworthy, he walked beside me instead of behind me. Prior to today I’ve had to work to get him to stay beside me. This time he was right there. There is a sense of peaceful power about him right now and i marvel every day at how much he’s communicating to me on so many levels. Not just about how he’s doing and feeling, where he needs support and so forth, but also about what he wants to support me to change. This truly feels like a mutually beneficial relationship.
The message I’m getting loud and clear from Kastani is that what interests him is riding. I keep trying all these other things to see what might peak his interest. The only time I get this sense of ‘all in’ from him is when I break out the bridle.
I’ve assessed him enough over the last nine days to have a good sense of what his main issues are and how best to support them. I know he will not hesitate to let me know if there is something he needs addressed and so I no longer need to spend time with the phase one pieces unless he doesn’t connect with me to begin with for some reason. Certainly not the case today. Nothing showed up during grooming either so I dispensed with any other ground work and put the bridle on - again - considering the heat and how could we do this piece of work together as efficiently as possible.
In hand went well today. He’s listening more and more turning left and right and stopping well. After what felt like a decent warm up and sense that he was with me, I put my helmet on and broke out my make shift mounting block again. It’s really fascinating trying to jump on a horse bareback when jumping is not your strong suit, the thing you stand on wants to squish as you try to push off of it and your left shoulder won’t support your weight once you’ve jumped! parkour has really taught me how to adapt to these circumstances and do a few test runs to feel out how to get it done. So not gracefully and after several attempts, I was on for our second ride together. I love that Kastani stands their quietly on a loose rein just radiating peace the entire time I struggle to get on.
I’m loving taking these ideas I’ve developed for so many years and take them to riding. Kastani is the perfect dance partner so willing to explore and try this with me and he seems to like it. My goal is not to kick him or teach him some system of aids, rather to have us connect to where he responds to what he feels me doing in my core. It’s the same thing I do on the ground - connect so I feel his mouth softly in my hands and then make small changes in my body that invite him to shift his center of gravity back and lift his front end. When he does this he gets light in my hand, arches his neck and walks off in perfect balance. It may only last one stride and then he’ll push into the bit and dive onto his forehand. If I can just stay in my neutral posture and give him something to bump into he’ll rebalance and off we go again.
This second ride he listened much more attentively and after several minutes of experimentation on his part he finally found the place where we could flow together and marched off in a wonderful feeling free walk. There is no pushing, driving, cranking him into a frame. Simply connection and allowing for exploration to find the place of peace where we flow together effortlessly.
I’m always amazed how much tone it takes for me to hold my neutral pelvis in the face of his movement. It’s a lot of strength. I have to stop frequently to stretch out my adductor muscles and rest. These early sessions are short and intense bouts of physical exertion to build our core strength so we both stay sound and healthy.
In theory, if we work diligently in this fashion at the walk, then his gaits should improve as his balance, strength and coordination improve. I sure felt proof of that today when his walk freed up! It’s so different from what I learned over the years that it feels somehow wrong to do and yet this is what I learned works to rehabilitate horses from lameness so why not start here? Can’t wait to see where this leads!