Monday, May 23, 2016

Long time no see

Yeah, I know it's been a while. I've been dealing with issues and mostly staying off the computer. It's been great in some ways, but I'm still working at resolving the severe insomnia that requires a VERY strict sleep regimen and medications. It's barely manageable but at least I can usually get 4-5 hours a night. That's better than I was in January.

I've returned to writing, but not as urgently as I used too. In fact, if this experience has taught me anything it's how to slow down and take it easy. I really appreciate each moment and let it linger.

That attitude is helping me immensely. My stress level is much less, despite the responsibilities and health issues in my life.

Buddy, still fuzzy boy (April 2016)
One of the blessings I've been granted is the horse I bought last fall at auction. He's a young large pony. When I bought him, he was tense, sore, had half a face covered in ringworm, flared hooves, and was headshy. He is transformed into a beautiful boy who loves people (I suspect mostly because we bring treats ;) ) and is willing to do whatever I ask and enjoys being touched anywhere (and he's finally letting me give him muzzle kisses). The ringworm was easy to heal with miconazole, then he had his teeth done and sores in the mouth healed and he was more relaxed. He wouldn't let me handle his feet last fall and now he sometimes gives them before I ask! It's all because I was patient and slow, not in a hurry, and appreciating just the moments I had with my own horse again.

After a winter off while I went through the worst sleep and air hunger issues, he relaxed into his new herd and healed from the remaining soreness in his body from the large men who had been on his back. He grew tight new hoof wall with flaring being trimmed every couple months. This spring, he was stepping out more, cantering easily (he almost wouldn't last fall), and had a bit of an attitude (he was showing his real personality, not the cowering one I had seen in the fall and recognized).

This winter, I was at a low point when I saw the story about Amberleigh Snyder and realized that I at least have full function of my body, despite the breathing and sleep difficulties. I pushed myself to get out and work with Buddy, even if just to groom him. That's what I needed, and it's how he got to this point. Lots of patience and taking things slowly.

Buddy learned to longe properly. However, he had his tantrums about the side reins, despite me setting them at a length where he could stretch his head out easily and barely touch them. He liked to turn his head and gawk at everything instead of paying attention, but the side reins force him to stay pretty straight. Now, he's learning to accept the bit (a double-jointed thick snaffle easier than the tom thumb that he was ridden with in the auction) and keep his head in front of his chest to stay balanced. The tantrums have vanished and he's learned to yield to contact rather than fight it. Plus, he's learned voice commands.

And he's not a spirited horse but one of those nice, quiet, slow horses that can move out when necessary. With his foot soreness alleviated, he really has some nice gaits for a large pony of his stocky build. He's much more comfortable than he was last fall.

And today he was doing so well on the longe-line that I decided it was time. I haven't been on a horse in nearly two years and he hasn't had a rider since the sale in early October (7.5 months ago). I've been filling in holes in his training and working to make sure he was confident and trusting enough that I felt we could make it a good experience. He was tense and I was a little apprehensive, but everything came back to me to make it a positive experience for him. He gave me a nice contact, and my hands moved with him so that his tension dissipated. And he learned quickly from only moving off with a tight leg and rub of my heels to a feather touch of my calves; he figured that out himself as I used progressive pressure.

The whole experience could have been much harder, but it wasn't. He went from tensing up a few times when he wanted to resist me (but didn't go that far) to relaxing and trusting me as he realized I was holding firm and simply waiting for him to respond. I couldn't have asked for better, but I'm in the role of good cop (rider) after his time being cowboyed on (ridden without empathy). I'm grateful that he was previously trained, but I'm also grateful that I got him at such a young age that I could easily teach him that it's okay to be himself with humans. He's much more trusting and confident now.

I knew Buddy was a good horse--he's always just had the look in his eye of being kind--but he really needed the right handler to bring out the best of his nature. I didn't know what to expect today, but I knew we'd done a lot of work teaching him to relax on the ground and trust me; he'd been very tense and rushing when I first started ground work last fall, before giving him the winter off, and had been very head shy. He learned to trust my hands, which he's come to expect to bring scratches and massaging and when connected to the reins, are giving and light.

My soul is made up of horses. When they let me into theirs, I feel whole. I feel like Buddy lets me in a little more each time I see him. And that is what I need to heal so that I can live fully.

ps--When I feel good like this, the writing comes more easily too ;) I've written two more chapters on Nemesis in the last month or so, and you can thank Buddy for that.