Obstacle? What Obstacle?
Updated: Jun 10, 2019
I was pretty sick of rushing through my morning to get to the barn early. So one morning, I made myself slow down, insisting there had to be time enough to get everything done that needed doing.
It was hard!
Also pretty interesting. I made myself stay in the moment, and do only what was before me to do, one thing at a time.
I noticed things I normally zoom right by—the color of the pretty flowers out front, the nuances of light playing over the veins in my kitchen granite countertops . . . I was engaged in “purposeful seeing” and it was great.
So many horse trainers employ this very idea—when you want to teach a horse something, the moment he does it or the moment he tries to do it, take the pressure off. Makes sense, doesn’t it? Who wants pressure!
Once at the barn, I ran into Liz who did turnout on Saturday. She told me how much Dorian seemed to love playing with his paddock mates. So, I thought, he’d been having fun while I did my morning activities. There’d been no need for me to rush around at all—he was just fine doing his own thing while I did mine.
No pressure for either of us.
When I stepped through the paddock fencing, there he was, calm and bright-eyed, unhurt after many days of consecutive turnout (a really good sign for him!), munching hay from one of the portable hay feeders. Content. Relaxed. Focused.
Just like me.
He was ready to see me, licking and chewing as I put on his halter. Off to the round pen we went, me with the longe whip at the ready but now more interested in asking him what he’d like to do.
We spent about 45 minutes on an equine massage and Dorian never moved one step. Judy and Cruiser rode by and Judy called out “After Dorian, can I have a horse massage, too?” And she laughed at how ridiculously relaxed Dorian seemed.
After the massage, I went to get his saddle and when I returned, he was standing in exactly the same place I’d left him. Still taking in the cool, sunny day, relaxed and ready for our next event.
Saddled up and mounted, we headed for the playground. Dorian enjoys encountering new things—he’s quite a different horse now than the one I met those many years ago.
And there were new obstacles in the playground. A new tarp with some scary looking Styrofoam pool polls to either side, a very large American flag fully furled today because of the wind. . . .but the biggest attraction is a huge sewer pipe—probably 10-15 feet high and in diameter, with a dirt bridge over the top.
That last one is a challenge. It’s dark in the interior and to make matters more interesting, there are two scarecrow-looking stuffed “people” to either side of one entrance, and large, orange wooden pumpkins to either side of the opposite entrance.
We started with the less-challenging obstacles then headed for the sewer pipe. He stopped before the entrance, taking in the scarecrows, but then walked calmly up to them and then past into the dim interior and through, out into the sun like it was no big deal.
He would not have done that a year ago. I know that because we’d tried something similar at another barn the previous year and he wouldn’t even try to approach the huge, dark, yawning pipe that I know he felt sure would swallow him whole.
Next we turned to the long dirt incline that rises steeply to the top, and Dorian walked right up it without blinking an eye.
As we neared the top—which seemed pretty darned high to me—he stopped and took stock of things. Nope, he seemed to say, not today, and started backing up. It’s pretty narrow, so backing up isn’t a great idea. I turned him and slowly headed down and into the grass.
He pivoted and stood there, looking at the bridge and I felt he wasn’t done with it. So again, I focused on moving forward and up he went again, slowly and calmly. And this time, right over the top and down the other side.
We turned and went at the bridge again, from the opposite side. We did it a couple of times, and the last time, he trotted the downslope and began a bit of head-tossing that means “Ok, I’m ready to run!”
He was so compliant in the arena, turning without much more than a thought on my part, moving into a collected trot with only the merest suggestion of seat and finger, creating lovely, perfectly formed circles at the trot down the middle of the arena. A relaxed, graceful routine without any struggle.
So why? What made this day any different from any other day?
I think it was balance. Dorian had been turned out with his friends for days and had played to his heart’s content. He’d just been a horse for a while, enjoying great food, great friends, great weather, after a long, hellish winter.
Who wouldn’t be content and happy?
I had spent the morning in slow-down mode, which was pretty productive in more ways than one. An absence of worry or rush or fret does wonders!
When we came together, we were both in a state of calm, contented centeredness and without any effort at all, we’d accomplished a lot. And we’d done it with joy—Dorian was happy to have tried some new things and I took great joy in being a part of that.
I'm going to remember that going forward. No matter how many obstacles appear in my path, there is a way to surmount them if I simply put off anxiousness and worry and patiently take one step at a time with an expectation of goodness and progress.
Another sweet lesson to take into the future.