I was riding a new horse.
It wasn't a matter of the way we got on together. We had been good for a long time.I backed off the strenuous work outs and simply wandered around the property for several days, letting her meander with minimal direction from me.
She was fun to play on. All of her fear and anger were man made. Out in the fields, left to our own devices she was calm, bold and willing.She would work her way down the creek embankment and into knee deep water without hesitation. We could scramble across a shale covered slope like a mountain goat. Blowing plastic, blaring car horns, rattling traffic signs and heavy traffic meant nothing to her. She would lope free and easy without a sign of bolting up the wide open fire trails in the National forest.
I was starting to get a glimmer.
It was about acceptance instead of tolerance.
We always seemed to share a non-stop silent conversation when we were training.
"Oh no you don't," Tally would say.
"Sure I do," I'd reply.
"Well, OK, but just this one thing, and only for you. I could change my mind any second."
"Great, now let's try the next thing."
"Oh no you don't."
I had been desensitizing her to frightening stimuli, building her trust through careful give and take and ya da da, ya da da. All the great stuff I'd been reading and learning had been working, or so I thought.
There was a trap in all of my gentle, intuitive, body language reading, open minded training. I got physical results, but I didn't truly have Tally's understanding. She had learned to tolerate touch, riding, training for maneuvers, but I hadn't gotten her to accept any of it as a way of life.
Tyler had got on and rode the tar out of her. It was simple as that. It wasn't about kindness or cruelty, reading the horse or not. It was about getting on and staying on until she accepted him as a fact in her life. Not somebody to tolerate today, but accepting the fact she would be ridden. Period.
It had worked too. She was calmer, happier and easier to ride. All her small resistances were gone. No more wild eyed jumps when I got out the same brush she had been groomed with every day. No more sucking back because I approached on her off side instead off her good side first. No more snorting, leaping jumps in the air when we crossed a shadow from the arena windows.
It occurred to me I had been catering to her quirks and fears, even if it was only to stop what I was planning in order to handle the problem she had just dumped in our way.
The Big K was eternally telling me to "Just go!" I was finally beginning to get his point.
By trying to explain every single step to Tally I had lost the original goal. To get on and ride.
Tyler had ignored the little stuff and focused on the primary. Tally had accepted the big fact that she could and would be ridden. The rest faded away.
On the flip side, I had made enormous headway with a horse deemed unrideable. Could she have come this far if she had started out with Tyler's (and by osmosis the Big K) simple, across the board training style?
When did finesse and careful thought need to be replaced with pure and simple riding?
I snapped out of my deep thoughts when Tally snorted at a nose full of No Seeums. I had more questions than answers, typical of my relationship with Tally, but I had a sudden flash of insight.
For the first time I had trusted her enough to let her go. I had become so lost in thought I'd forgotten I was even on her back. She hadn't let me down.