Thursday, February 16, 2012

Listening to MIlo

The last couple of days I have been again inspired by the work of Linda Tellington-Jones. Let me begin; last week I had a lesson on Wesley, using something Sarah referred to as a "Root Rein". This Root Rein used the same concept behind Tellington-Jones' Balance Rein, only it uses an elastic band along the base in connection with the neck. The idea, as Sarah described it for my purpose, was to not only help solidify the concept behind the outside rein for me, but it encourages the horse to lift at the wither (or the root as Sarah put it, since in Yoga our root (pelvic area) is where we lift in the saddle). I had an incredible lesson and discovered the benefits of utilizing that Root Rein.

After that lesson, I not only have a more invested interest in using this Root Rein on Milo, but diving back into some of the work from Tellington-Jones. I was reviewing her book, as well as exploring her website and YouTube. The following day, I returned to the barn with a bit more clarity as to the connections available between my horse and I. Not only through touch, solidifying the positive mirror neurons connected between he and I, but remembering the importance of listening to my horse, not just running through the motions.

I arrived at the barn, eager to use some of Linda's methods to reconnect my horse to his feet, and to try the Tellington Touch on Milo. When I arrived at his stall, things changed. Instead of the ever eager and cheerful Milo greeting me, he had half pinned ears and a less-than-enthused look on his face. "What's the matter, Milo?" I asked as I haltered him and put him in the cross ties. After grooming all of the mud off of his legs and haunches, his demeanor still had not changed. I thought I should spend some time trying the TTouch with Milo, and see what it might do.

Surprisingly after only a few touches along his back, he breathed out a little bit and his eye got softer. I continued with the touch along his haunches and his neck. Milo relaxed his head and neck and licked his lips. I repeated the touch all over his right side as well.

Content that Milo was on a happier note, I went to the tack room to retrieve my saddle pad. I wanted to use my Dressage Whip to run along his legs and give him more awareness of the ground beneath his hooves as well. But first, I gently tossed the saddle pad onto his back. Milo's reaction was huge. He lifted and tensed his neck, pinned his ears and glared at me. I rubbed on his neck a little but it didnt do much. "Are your ribs out again, Milo?" I unclipped him and lifted his leg, asking him to turn his head around the opposite side and push his rib back into place. I repeated on the other side, then stretched both front legs forward as well. I patted him and put the pad back on. Much less resistance was displayed this time, so I proceeded with the saddle, still taking my time. He wasn't content, but certainly not upset like before when I put the saddle on.

I cinched him up loosely, then used the dressage whip to run up and down all four legs a few times, as he relaxed a leg and licked his lips again. I momentarily thought about putting my boots with the spurs on, but instead kept my Georgia Romeos on, and reached for the snaffle bridle instead of the lifter bit. I had been wanting to go back to the snaffle for a couple rides again, and today felt like a good day to use it. I led him up to the arena, not exactly having a plan in mind, but I wanted to stay soft and responsive to Milo's needs. I got in the saddle and breathed in and exhaled through my mouth, trying to release any tension in my body with each exhale.

We worked in the arena for a bit, and I was surprised by how responsive Milo was and how quickly his demeanor had changed from earlier. He had been so grumpy when I first greeted him, and now we loped around the arena and his ears were pricked forward, swiveling forward and back listening but content. I then worked on the walk jog western pattern I planned to go into at the schooling show this weekend, and was incredibly pleased with how responsive Milo was, the first time running through the pattern. I dismounted and put the halter on, working on our showmanship pattern (thats right! This horse show (unfortunately) is not offering reining like they did last month, so instead we are going into showmanship, pattern classes and possibly a western pleasure class. Definitely a show to have fun at and not worry about my lead changes). Again, Milo pleased me with a responsive pattern and seemed to remember everything spot on from three years ago when we last worked on showmanship.

I was so pleased with my horse, and equally amazed by how his attitude could turn around. From sour and in a mood to pleasant and willing,  the only changes from me were that I actually took those cues in from Milo instead of going about my routine. Listening to the horse certainly pays off, as well as staying soft in my mind and body.

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