Gordy is home for the week, taking a bit of a break from travel. That means I get a bit of a break as well because Gord is an “how can I help” kind of guy. The hay shed is full up, the lawn mowed, the gardens weeded, and I had hardly a thing to do with it. It also means that I get to ride Auggie every single day. Our usual routine involves riding on the weekends only. During the week — when I am home alone — Auggie and I do ground work, playing over obstacles and going through our paces with a rope between us. Auggie is learning a lot of things, both under saddle and on the ground, and I am learning a lot about Auggie.
We will never know his whole history, how Auggie came to be nine — and so damn cute — but with such a weak understanding of the basics of being a working horse in a people’s world. Mostly, he is dear and sweet and willing. Mostly. I think he spent too much of his younger years fending for himself without much contact with people and also, perhaps that contact was not very consistent and rewarding for him which is a kind way to say he was, at best, handled with ignorance. I don’t want you to think badly about Auggie. I know he thrived on the training he received after he was rescued. He is not a fearful horse, but like any horse, he has his insecurities. I want Auggie to be happy, but even more so, I need him to be safe, safe, safe to be around. So, I am pouring a whole bunch of time and attention his way and a big part of that is finding ways to deal with the things that make him uneasy.
If you live with — and I mean really LIVE with — animals the way we do, how they get along within the family is pretty important. Auggie is part of us, no doubt about it. He is learning a language, our language, where we communicate by a touch on the cheek or shoulder, where he can ask a question and get an answer, where his itches are tended to, and every day I show up to make life happen. Every. Day. Now, of course, Auggie has become quite bonded to me. He is also happy to spend time with Gordy.
He is gentle with the neighbor children.
He is comfortable with his surroundings and the connections he has with the big tribe of Andante, Beamer, Legs, and Loosa.
He is also especially good with his own little tribe of Boo and Belle and exceedingly tolerant of the dog pack.
Yay, Auggie, for all of this.
Riding Auggie has been a bit of a sport. I couldn’t even get a canter on him when we went to try him out and his trot was a bit machine gun. He has the slightest of unevenness behind, left hock or stifle maybe, and forward was about the only direction he would go, none of which matter because (a) we hauled the trailer with us to go “see” him, (b) I’ve been down this road before, so felt I had something to contribute, and (c) he is so damn cute and cute sells.
I’ve been pretty good at figuring out the bits and pieces of shaping his improved command of his own body parts; teaching him how to balance himself, to accept suggestions, to rock back and use his hind quarters instead of hauling himself around on his front end. The better he got, the easier the work got and our reward was to graduate from the play pen area to the big, open north pasture. I was so proud of him!
I felt the energy shift between us, from me shaping him, to him carrying me. We met in the middle. We were in the same space, physically and mentally. I was riding on sunshine.
We worked out there the next night and the night after that and we were making pretty good music together.
Until he ripped the reins out of my hands and attempted to buck me off.
Well, that surprised the crap out of me and brought to a screeching stop the choir of angels that had been singing in my ear. I surprised him even more by staying on, so pretty sure he wasn’t hearing choirs of angels singing in his ear either. I remained on long enough to make the point that I was in charge, but little Mr. Sunshine had tasted the nectar of disobedience and the thrill of it was not lost on him. This is why I don’t ride alone. If shit like this is going to happen, you want an audience; someone to say “wow, thought he had you for sure” and give you two thumbs up. Thanks, Gordy, for that and thanks for the timing of this right now because that little golden pony needs a big investment of committed energy and I need a thought partner.
We are on day five of our exploration, most of which has been on the ground. I introduced Auggie to side reins.
If he wanted to pursue his newfound naughtiness, he would do it against the full weight of himself. Here are your choices, Auggie: soft and forward will feel good; anything above or below that will annoy you. How you solve that is up to you, but I’m here to help. That was a deep experience for both of us. He was opinionated and frustrated and I stayed neutral. He stood still and I was neutral. He went forward soft and calm and I flowed with him. In and out, back and forth, not all of it pretty. He’s bringing himself into the calm place more quickly and stays longer. He is learning to self-sooth. I need this. I cannot outmuscle a horse for the ride on their back, not my style. I do not want to micromanage that ride — very much my style, but not what is best for partnership.
Auggie’s insecurity is in his ability to sooth himself, to find the sweet spot and know he is safe there. That is why I can imagine his past life the way I do. He doesn’t have a big enough sweet spot….yet. We are growing it, together. Last night he glided through a walk, trot, and canter, blowing air and relaxing himself. He’s still fussing with me under saddle, but there’s more effort on his part in the right direction and when he’s right, it’s really, really right. Tonight I will ride him in a bitless bridle, just to take his possible dislike for the bit out of the equation, and we will keep at it until it all feels good to him, until he feels safe and I feel safe, and life can go on and the choir of angels can sing again.