August 25, Session 8 - FIRST RIDE!

First ride is in the books!

After another relatively sleepless night I wasn’t sure I’d be up for doing anything with Kastani today. After serving Dad Sunday breakfast I felt completely frazzled. My Mother in Law is coming to visit on Tuesday and I haven’t really done a deep clean on my house since early in the year before things got so intense with Mom. It’s the way of things. Life can be so full and often quite stressful. I was feeling the pressure of all the things that need doing and it was just wrecking havoc on my nervous system.

Add to that the pressure to get outside before it gets hot…

Realizing that it isn’t going to go well to take my stressed out self to see Kastani, I chose instead to sit still for as long as I needed to clear my head and settle my nervous system. I started by just feeling myself sitting in my chair, my feet resting on the floor, breathe in and out in rhythm and notice what I feel going on inside my body. I’m vibrating and it’s hard to breathe. I realize there are a few niggling things I can attend to right now, a few small things off my plate. That gives me room to breathe. Now what else is on my mind?

I go through the things that are weighing on me and ask my nervous system questions about the things I’m debating about. How do I feel if I imagine going this route? Pause and notice how my body feels. What if I go this route? How does that feel? Some imaginings cause me to clamp down and feel like I’m trapped. Other imaginings cause me to settle and start breathing deeply. This is how I ‘muscle test’ things that I’m debating about. What really works for my body, my nervous system, if I get my monkey mind out of the way?

Of course one of the things that’s weighing on me is Kastani and what we’re doing together. I’m not happy about how the long lining is going. It’s a big question about do I keep going and see if things improve or do I switch gears. I’m not a fan of just changing everything willy nilly because then I never give anything a chance to really work. So, I connect myself to Kastani and ask him how he’s feeling. He shows me that he prefers the work in hand vs. the long lining. He shows me pictures of me walking beside him and how helpful it is to feel my body more directly. In fact, based on what he’s showing me I wonder if he might actually gain more body awareness by carrying me? Bottom line, he’s game, he’s just wanting to do it differently.

Out I go with my nervous system calm and my mind clear on what I want to do today.

Halter, bridle, whip, helmet and hoof trimming supplies.

Today I turned music on before I ever went out to the pasture. I walked out there with purpose and energy and Kastani popped his head up and looked at me. He was easy to halter today and walked right in with me. No diving for grass. I’m going to chalk this up to the fact that I was so clear and had checked in with him beforehand in a more direct way.

Groomed. He’s wanting a lot of attention on his hind quarters. His hamstrings and a few other areas are quite tight so worked on those. He did not request all that deep tissue work on his neck and shoulders today. Yay.

Rounded up front toes. I wasn’t thrilled yet with his hoof balance. May tweak a bit more tomorrow and work on the hinds. I suspect the inside heels are a bit high and that may be impacting how he’s moving behind. So we’ll fine tune that. He seemed happy with the adjustments to the front feet and I’m even more convinced some of what I saw yesterday was due to the change in his feet.

Today I decided since it was going to get hot soon to just put the bridle on and go to work. I feel I have a good sense of what his challenges are and the work in the bridle seems to address those things most directly.

Worked in hand. He felt much better today. Started to add in some variations - smaller circles, changes of direction, beginnings of walk pirouette. All led from my body, not my hands. Halt transitions were a bit of a challenge today. Did manage to work into trot but he was just a bit too busy in his mouth to make that productive.

After a bit things were feeling good enough I thought I’d at least work on mounting prep. Of course I didn’t have the muck tub I like to use as a mounting block and only had access to this flat hay pan. It’s a bit low and a bit squishy but I thought it would be worth a try. Good test of my Parkour skills! I was committed to not walking away from him and leaving him hanging today so figured I’d adapt to what I had.

Jumping has never been my strong suit and this thing squishes if you don’t stand just right. It was good practice for preparing, trying, adjusting, trying and finally getting all my body parts cooperating to get up and over. The whole time I’m feeling, sensing for any upset in Kastani. He stood so patiently while I sorted myself out. What a great guy!

Last time I sat on him bareback he hollowed his back and stuck his head up in the air and stopped breathing. That was last fall. All this work since then has really paid off. He did some interesting explorations in the halt, as did I. I could feel how tight the muscles were under my thighs (the same muscles that are always tight) so I tightened my thighs and released them to help him feel that tension. Then I had to work to find my own balance on this round boy who’s a bit wide for me bareback.

We sat in the halt exploring how my body sits on his back and his body balances beneath my weight. I had to work a bit to find neutral pelvis bareback. It always surprises me how much core strength this takes when I haven’t done it in a while. Little by little we come together and then I pick up the reins, wrap my legs and shift my body position to create a bit of forward intention. The first steps are tentative. One step and we both fall out of balance and have to regroup.

We just keep pausing, stretching my legs while he stretches his neck. We reconnect and explore this mutual balance in motion thing. I’m having a blast experimenting with my theory about working with the reflexes to stand walk and turn. I don’t have to kick him or tap or anything, all I have to do is wait and support him finding/accessing his reflexes that allow him to walk off in balance. It’s a fabulous exploration that ends with some nice steps before my body is too tired to continue with any integrity.

We ended with some body work for Kastani and off to pasture.

What a fantastic feeling! I’ll see what I have tomorrow and what I see on the video before I get too excited. But, I am thrilled by how much better I feel over all by engaging in this physical activity/challenge.

Thanks Kastani!