Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The Bearable Lightness of Being II

So how do we blend the lightness we felt with our horses as children and the lightness we want in our training?

I think you guys hit it on the head in the comments when you talked about the companionship we felt with our horses as kids compared to the training goals we look for as adults.

Are the two really so different?

There was a key moment during my time with The Big K that started me on this line of thought, I've wrestled with it ever since.

For reasons I don't need to delve into here, I have some trouble getting on a horse. There is a split second when I'm getting mounted where I'm totally at the mercy of my horse. When you're working with unstarted colts and problem horses it's a little disconcerting to ever be at their mercy. Horses on the whole are a fairly narcissistic bunch. A snorty, broncy, spoiled brat or a half-wild pasture baby rarely feel the need to give their trainer a break.

Yet for some reason, every horse I have ever worked with (as an adult) waits until I'm safely in the saddle, with both feet solidly in the stirrups, before they give me grief. I mean all of them, from the mean paint sucker with a history of dumping every rider, every time, to the boltiest, spookiest youngster, they stand rock solid until I'm in the saddle. Then they feel perfectly at ease dishing out whatever comes to mind.Weird huh?

"I don't get why they do that," I told K one afternoon.

I had just had a pretty skittery, bolty first ride on a 2-year-old and was letting both of us air up before I got down. K was used to my nervous babbling after I rode a tough one and he slid his weight into his off-side stirrup and settled in to chat.

"This colt stood soft as could be until I had both feet in the stirrups before he blew."

"It was your lucky day."

"But they always do it."

"Do what?"

"Wait for me."

"I guess they do."

"How come?"

"How come what?"

I absolutely hated it when K baited me, especially when I was still sweaty palmed and wild eyed from the previous fifteen minutes aboard the colt.

"C'mon, K," I said, "I'm serious here."

"Ooh, are we using the 'mother's' voice?"

"God K," I swung down off my colt, just mad enough to make the poor thing skitter. I waited until he settled and loosened his cinch.

"All right, all right, don't get all wound up. I wasn't trying to tease, I meant it, why do you think they wait for you?"

"I don't know, I can't figure it out."

"It's because you need them to."


"Somehow, you get across to the horses you work that you need them to be still. It's a clear, concise thought, the horse reads it and you get it from them."

"Then I muddy it up with all my junk and the rodeo starts."


"So how do I get the horse to work like that all the way through?"

"If we could figure that one out we could go on the road. All I know is that sometimes the horse completely gets us and when they do, they try to get along."

That conversation had me so lost in thought I walked into a hitching rail on my way to trade horses.

Over the years I have chewed on this ad nauseum. Pure expectation has given me moments with my horses, but my mind always starts jumping around and I lose it.

As a kid I expected my horse to let me ride him. I expected him to go where I pointed him. I expected him to nicker when he saw me and hug me when I needed it. He did all those things.

In return, he expected me to feed him. He expected me to know where he liked to be scratched.He expected me to listen and watch with him when he sensed a bad spot on the trail. he expected me to hang on tight and let him run when he really, really needed to. I did all those things.

Is it that simple? Does lightness come from mutual expectation, and crystal clear thought?

Following this idea has led me to ride with kind of a dual awareness. I need to know what I want, exactly how to get it and exactly how to explain it to my horse. My horse has the freedom to say, "What?" without me getting angry or unsure of myself. I need to be aware of her feet, of her breathing, of any tension or temper. She has to be able to think things through, give it a shot and immediately get a release and reward for trying.

We have to trust each other. So how do I get my horse to trust my training methods?

I've gotta stop here, my head is going to explode.

More later. Input much appreciated.


  1. Looking back, I think I was really lucky that when I bought my first horse as an adult (7 years and 3 days ago!), I didn't take any lessons or try to learn anything much. I hopped on and rode like I did when I was a kid (disclaimer: I rode a LOT as a kid, not an occasional hourly trail ride, so this isn't as dumb as it might sound). I didn't worry, try to train her (although I did, and she taught me a thing or two as well), or get all serious about it. I was just overcome with joy to be riding MY horse. I've muddied the waters at times since then, but the basic level of US that we have developed is a real give and take, trusting relationship. We have a blast together. I wouldn't trade this for the world.

  2. I think that expectation does have a lot to do with it. Being successful with horses in the way you describe might be likened to being a zen master. I liked your insight and dialogue a lot.

    I was riding in a clinic once, and the rider next to me was on a very nervous horse. I was surprised when she asked me how I kept my horse so calm. We rarely ride in groups, so I wasn't sure what I was doing that was so special. It felt like I was doing nothing, which isn't a very informative answer, but I think it is what you are getting at.

  3. I had a conversation about this with the 'old boss' right after christmas when he told me Lucas was only doing everything my brain was telling him to do. (spook, trip, act like an idiot)

    Basically to tell the voices in my head to "shut up!"

    The rides since then have been good, I've lived in the moment, trusted my horse and my experience, and have had better rides than I've had in a long time.

  4. This is something I've been chewing on for a bit and is on a much, much smaller scale. I'm 16 and most certainly not a trainer, but taught the two successive OTTBs I've been lucky enough to ride how to ground tie.
    The most recent one is my horse. Before I had her, she was a race horse, then trained by an adult and spent a year at an eventing trainer. I don't think she'd ever been tied without cross ties. I'm a fan of ground tying while I groom (plus, she's mischievous and would break cross ties sometimes) so one day I just put her lead rope on the ground, kept an eye on her, and gently put her back if she moved a foot.
    A girl at the barn expressed surprise that my horse could ground tie and asked me how I'd taught her. I said that I just expected her to ground-tie and corrected her if she didn't do what I expected.

    I've come in contact with a lot of people who have difficulty expecting their horses to do certain small things like this. I don't know if it's a trust thing. I do know that my naivete plays a large part in my own willingness to try it.

  5. I've given this topic some thought myself. It has always seemed to me that the best days with my horse are the days when It's just me and him, alone. There are no distractions, I'm relaxed, and I'm not trying to rush him toward an objective. Contrary to that, the days when I'm distracted, unfocused, and pushing for us to "accomplish" something are actually the days when we have our biggest blowouts.

    Horses are just incredible at reading emotions and attitudes, so why shouldn't they be able to pick up a focused thought? As Val said, It's like being a zen master. So, how do we calm our inner turmoil and focus our thoughts and intentions? That's something I'd like to put a little work into, myself.

    . . . and while I'm writing a comment anyway, I would like to say:
    Mugs, thank you, as always, for an insightful post that got me thinking. You're practically a national treasure! I've learned a lot from what you share (and the discussion you inspire) and look forward to learning more in the future. Also, thank you for adding me to your blog roll. You have no idea how excited and incredibly honored I was when I saw that!

  6. Great post, Mugs, and I do think horses pick up on our thought waves, more than we might suspect.

    I really wanted to comment to Ellie, though.

    Ellie, that is what I do with my youngsters, and all the horses I ride. I expect them to stand perpendicular to the stall walls, and stand still, while I am saddling and grooming, AND on the wash rack when I hose them off.

    If they move a hoof, I quietly move them back and go back about my business. People are surprised at how still and quietly my horses stand when I am doing stuff with them.

    Horses are smarter than we give them credit for, and all they want is to get along easily if possible. If we are clear in our communication, we are usually successful in what we try to accomplish with them.

  7. When I was a kid and rode - it was just "there" - anything I wanted the horse to do the horse did, and there really wasn't any forcing involved, the horse just did it. Instinctive and a real feeling of unity - I never had any lessons until I was in college and in many respects that helped develop a more instinctive way of riding - not pretty but usually pretty effective.

    For me the problems as an adult come from two things - overthinking/analyzing rather than just focussing on the specific task at hand, and allowing doubt (or recently after my bad accident last summer even worry/fear) to creep in and contaminate the intention I communicate with my thought to the horse - and it's no wonder the horses have trouble doing what I want or even trusting me enough to listen.

    I think for me the solution lies somewhere along the lines of: Have a clear thought of what (very specifically) I want to do together with the horse and keep my physical movements/cues/aids to the barest minimum so the horse can pick up what I am thinking, and avoid inserting extraneous thoughts/emotions in between my intention and the horse. Don't know if that makes any sense . . .

  8. This makes a great load of sense and how the mind set of "never any doubt that you wouldn't do X" often does just that. If there's any doubt or any fear, just what we don't want to happen does. And man, have I been shooting myself in the foot over the years with my overactive brain and self-impeding ways....

    I kinda experienced something like that "clear and concise thought" tonight. I had my regular riding lesson then was asked to join in on the session right after mine since the other three riders didn't show and the sole young girl who was there didn't want to ride alone.

    Said girl rides the same guy I've been taking lessons on, so I helped her with the saddle change then I hopped on my old lesson horse who I haven't been on for anything more than a trail ride in at least two years.

    My greatest struggle with him for most of our time together was getting him to jog. He just wouldn't pick it up but instead would "dribble" into it or completely ignore the aids (and it seems everybody who learns on him has the same trouble). It didn't even cross my mind until tonight after I kissed to him once, said "jog", and gave him a squeeze just like I do with my current lesson horse (who does get into a jog immediately when asked). Wouldn't you know, he went right into the jog! I never had in my mind that he wouldn't do what I asked immediately (unlike those years ago). I did lean over his shoulder, give him a good pat, and called him a saint for ever putting up with my crap, doubt in him, and the constant nagging for that elusive jog.

    I also realized after a bit that some of my other struggles I had with him (straightness being one of them -- he'd weave about a bit drunkenly most times) was all on me -- he was straight as an arrow tonight.

  9. I agree with everything in both the post and the comments. I think that we greatly underestimate our horse's ability to know what is going on.

    I've thought the same thing about getting on colts for the first few times. They always wait.

  10. Okay... This nudges my mind.

    People meet my horses and always compliment me on how nice and quiet and well behaved they are. And I thank them for the compliment but the whole time I'm thinking, "yeah...because they should be able to be like that and I expect them to."

    And now I'm thinking, duh. What am I expecting during a ride? Confession: they're not all well trained. (one is but she thinks she wants to forget). Don't get me wrong- they're broke. Adequately. They are just right for brand new riders: quiet and polite and agreeable. But I'm still working on lateral movement and lope departures. Collection and lightness. Stuff they should know.

    But I Don't entirely trust my training abilities.

    So. Hmmm. Maybe I don't truly believe it when I think I want them to do something.

    Because last week the one who pretends she forgot all that fancy stuff did a perfect 180 haunch turn. After months of one step at a time. Did she finally figure out what I'm asking or remember it, or did I at last make it clear, or did I expect her to get it right? All of the above?

    This is a great topic. Remind me to blog about this....

  11. Also I need to go on a trail ride again.


  12. As usual, the clarity of your post is a sight for sore eyes.

    Actually made me a little watery in them too.

  13. I'll let my horse explain! (Stolen from one of his early blog posts.)
    Although this is humorous, it is also, I believe, how they see us. The part where he trusted no other human (well, he trusted the young man who halter broke him, too) unless I was there really did persist for weeks. Long after he is still a very particular and cautious sort.

    Mother often says I understand English better than most 'farm raised' horses who've been around people their whole lives. She thinks I'm smart. Of course, that is true. But really, the answer is a lot simpler than that...

    Like I've mentioned before, I talk with my mind. Words don't make a lot of sense to me, but sensations and feelings and pictures do make sense. I grew up with lots of horse minds all around me, always accessible. Understanding Mother is easy because I just look at the pictures in her mind, the way I would another horse. Her mind is easier to read than most humans, because it is really empty inside.

    When I am in her mind, it is a big space with sensations, pictures, all around me. Most of the time they move slowly, one picture at a time and one sensation along with it. Mother's sensations are usually pleasant, so I like trying to be in her mind. Best, it's quiet in there. Like munching grass on a cool morning... yummmm... munch munch munch.

    When I am frightened, I can look in Mother's mind and that makes me calmer. Sometimes there are darker areas around the edge that seem translucent yet dusky, and I can almost see pictures there, but I can't really make them out, most of the time. I cannot quite see if the pictures are happy pictures, but I can tell by sound. Sometimes it seems those dark areas have noise, a not nice noise, an almost hissing noise, and that makes me uneasy. She'll notice I am upset, then I look again in her mind, the dark spots are gone, and that is good.

    I didn't like many humans other than Mother at first, because there was so much noise in their minds when I tried to look in. I didn't like them near me unless Mother was there, too, and I could just listen to her mind. Sometimes their noise comes out and finds me, even when I'm not trying to look in their minds. If I physically look at them, they are looking at me. Creepy!

    After a while, I got used to other humans' minds and noise. Mother has a noisy mind when she talks on the little black flippy box, and sometimes around other humans at the barn and it makes my head hurt. Some pictures are bad, even though I am not in the pictures. I try to close my mind when she is like that.

    I learned that most humans seem to have full minds and lots of noise swirling in them. That doesn't mean they are going to hurt me. They might even give me cookies! Sometimes if they stand near me, their minds seem to get quieter, and I like that. Sometimes I look in them and it is interesting, but I like Mother's mind best.

  14. I got my first horse as an adult, so I can't share the experience of riding as a child. However, I was an athletic adult, and I was very motivated.
    Although I loved my first mare, I didn't choose her, my ex-husband did, and I joke that he was either setting me up for failure or trying to get me killed. She had 60 days training. Fortunately, I had been riding at least a couple times a week with a good friend of my mother's for a year or more. The mare I usually rode was 18, an ex-reined cowhorse, and just a doll. She became my standard of excellence, and she still is. I judge all horses by how she behaved. I could catch her in the pasture and ride her into the barn bareback, ground tie her in the aisle for an hour and she never moved. She picked up all four feet for me before I asked, she opened her mouth and put her head in the bridle for me. I wish I had been able to own her. When I got my 2yr old, I expected her to become like that cowhorse. I had to learn a lot to get her there, but we managed.
    I also learned, with my next young horse, that having a clear idea in my mind made a huge difference in how she behaved, so I agree with that observation.
    I also have a shoulder problem that puts me at my horse's mercy during mounting. So I'm very careful about it, but I was listening to someone (a Ray Hunt student I think) who said that a young horse has to know he can make mistakes without his rider freaking out. I think that's part of the puzzle too. When I was younger and fitter, my horse could make some huge mistakes and it didn't bother me at all. I could start over, work through it, I knew I'd be fine tomorrow. When I'm compromised I know a mistake can take me out for a long time.
    Hmm....I love where you're headed with this and I hope you're right. I need to think about that wonderful grulla mare everytime I work with my young guy.

  15. This is a very interesting topic and a mind blower for sure. I am never "still minded" and even more scattered "thinking" around my horse. It’s never occurred to me that my thoughts could be seeping out in body language or a vibe that’s being picked up by my horse.

    Simple clear thinking hummm…this is going to be an interesting test for me to try. Great topic Mugs!


  17. I'm really, really going to have to think about this. Wow.

  18. Has anyone else had the experience of riding a horse and thinking, "Wow, I wonder what would happen if they spooked *right now*?" ..... and then they spook, as if they were reading your mind?

    I've had that happen two or three times - the thought crossed my mind, there was nothing for the horse to actually spook at, and then the horse spooked.

    Maybe you achieved the lightness with Mort because you thought in terms he could understand. When you rode Mort, you thought, "I want you to go over there, by that bush." or "Go faster."

    Now that you're an adult you're thinking things like, "I would like you to collect lightly, so I can round your back and engage your hindquarters to perform rollbacks more effectively" or whatever. You're thinking in terms of the next step, and horses tend to live in the present. Maybe it's too complex a thought for the horse to follow.

    I don't know if I really believe horses communicate with their minds, or if it just seems like they do. I do think they are so incredibly hyper sensitive to body posture and nuances (and we're so incredibly deaf to it) that for us, it's practically the same thing.

  19. Just wow. I really enjoy reading all of your posts, but this one makes so much sense! My coming 4 year old is an echo of me. When I'm up hes up, when Im calm so is he. After a near diasterous ride this past weekend at a Soccer practice, I see that it pretty much was all me. I need to quiet my mind, and expect hime to do what I know he can. Thanks Mugs!

  20. Really good thought train here.

    I'm staring as a dog handler/trainer - pretty much the old novice in this field.

    I believe that actual 'lightness' has something to do with it.

    I assist with classes that are working basic obedience. The walk and trot of the dog world.

    Every pair is different of course, but the goal is really the trust relationship. (I started with an abused dog, this colors everything I think about)

    The biggest challenge to a trainer is handling the handler. It's really hard to impart when to be soft and when to be 'hard.'

    Soft is a word, a body gesture - soft is tone and expectation - hard is then the correction, that quick pull and release on the collar/ chain that imparts *I mean it.*

    Too many handlers go right to the hard, without working the soft first. Most of these have 'tough' breeds.

    Then they wonder why their dog is 'disobedient' when they've never really worked out with the dog what the expectation of behavior is. The dogs end up all over the place, never knowing what to do but knowing that yank is just about to hit them. I see a lot of these animals in shut down mode, just spending the time on end of that lead in a zombie state until they can go home and be dogs again.

    It breaks me a little, as a trainer, to watch someone disregard my soft advise and go right to jerking the chain around. Dobermans, those big tough dogs with the tough rep? Are really soft dogs. Pit bulls? Soft dogs. The dogs that want to please you the most are the dogs that people are the hardest on.

    Not sure if I am going to keep on learning to be a trainer. I have to learn to be hard on the handler, and I'm predisposed to working soft as much as I can.

    I find myself in an odd place.

    Love your posts on training and these discussions. Been horse crazy all my days. Working with animals we love...

  21. When I was first training Msytery we would be trotting out on the fireroads and he would spook at nothing. It got to the point I would dred going around any corner. My friend gave me some great advice I use to this day..she said 'expect him to behave, expect him to not spook, expect him to go where you want him to go' and I did. That day and change of thought / attitude was a breakthru for us both...

  22. deedee sonnyduo@yahoo.comJanuary 19, 2012 at 11:32 AM

    I just returned from a clinic with Aimee Brimhall that actually speaks directly to this. Wow!

    I am in shock at the synchronicity. To much work to catch up on to go into detail. Surfice to say ultimate lightness may be avaialble even to us cranky adults.

    p.s. Mugs, Tally left you in the duston first mounting. You had to hold her face to make that work. Or am I having delussions of reading?

  23. dee dee - Tally was a horse I was learning on...didn't start out knowing what was what

  24. Great post! I've had a similar discussion with a friend over her jiggy mare. My way to prove my point was to mix her a stiff drink and then go trail riding... Just enough to help her relax a little, not get her drunk... It made a world of difference, because she was focused on what we were doing, not worrying about her mare...
    She was amazed that her horse could behave that well

  25. I think you hit the nail on the head. Knowing what to expect=trust for horses and people. So I think if you want your horse to trust you be consistent and therefore easy to predict.

    When I was putting in the first 30 rides on my pony Bodhi I would start with all these butterflies in my stomach. I would be twitchy and excited and he would be too at the start of each ride. I knew he could be relaxed if I could relax so I started doing yoga before I got on. I would tack him up and walk him out into the pasture and then I would start stretching and doing yoga poses. Even though he was just a colt he would stand still untied and watch me, no eating or walking away. Then he started stretching his neck down and doing that adorable cat stretch horses sometimes do! Our rides greatly improved after that.

    I don't think horses can read minds though I agree it seems like they can! All this talk reminds me of Clever Hans the counting horse. I am sure you have all heard about him right? I never understood why people were so disappointed when they found out that he could not count. To me the truth was even more extraordinary than fiction; he could read his owner and even perfect strangers so well he knew when to stop pawing. He was reading their bodies even though they had know clue they were even doing anything. I think they determined it was blinking... just wow.

    I don't think horses are actually reading what's in our heads but they are reading our bodies better than we could ever imagine. If we could only be so aware of our own bodies then we really could begin to communicate like we did when we were all kids.

  26. Ha,"I've gotta stop here, my head is going to explode." I swear Muggs - Just another incredible topic. I'm fascinated by the thoughtful comments,too. Bif really got me thinking from the horse's perspective. Flipping everything around and experiencing the world as my horse does...Wow. I'm gonna have to read Bif's "I AM BOYFRIEND" blog now too.
    Human and Equine personalities are involved too. RIDE THE RIGHT HORSE by Yvonne Barteau Is a great book on the subject.

  27. What a great post with lots of great comments. My young mare's trainer is in his 60s; he still starts a lot of colts. Sometimes his back is bothering him, but he says that the colts really take care of him on those days.

    That trainer's intention toward the horses is always 'How can I help you understand?'; I have taken plenty of lessons from a couple of dressage instructors whose intention toward horses is obviously "I will make you". Even if the cue is the same, I have heard that horses can feel your intention. I now try to think in terms of helping the horse, but I am not yet always successful.

    When riding my young mare out alone, I was told to feel how 'brave' she feels. If she starts to waver, I am to do a complete 180 to 'take away' what scares her - when her ears come forward, I can turn around and try continuing in the original direction. The reason is to show her that I'm listening to her concerns so that she will start to trust me. I'd love to hear about what other people do with their horses along those lines - essentially going with the horse so that they will choose to go with you.

  28. I do think that the lightness comes from the "we think it and they do it". A good kind of anticipation I guess. I do struggle with a horse who wants to please so much that it does get us in trouble in the show pen sometimes. My trainer says "raise your expectation" all the time. It plays in my head like a broken record. Not that I can put it into motion all the time but I am working on it. The more that we are around horses the easier it becomes to act on that unspoken language between us and them. I find myself just metering out discipline without even thinking about it. And them accepting it without freaking out. Someone else posted about thinking about a spook and then the horse spooks. I believe we are our own worst enemies sometimes. I did that very same thing - without even realizing it for weeks at an arena where I was boarding. The horse spooked a couple of times at the end of the arena - so I started waiting and watching for it and he gave it to me everytime. Then I would kick his butt for spooking. It took someone else saying "don't look at the door and he won't spook" it was like magic. I raised my expectation for him to spook and he stepped right up to the plate! Once I forgot about it so did he. I guess raising your expectations can go both ways!

    I am still out to lunch on whether this type of lightness is what I felt on Mikey. I don't have any connection with Mikey and he has been through several owners because frankly he can be kind of a butt head. He is not a super "honest" horse. I do believe that the connection is part of it. He understood my body language and what I wanted for sure. I think the other part of it is the horse's ability to move "lightly". His way of going, the length of his stride and how he uses his body. The difference between a football player and a ballerina. While a football player can be agile and athletic and perform ballet moves, he is never going to have look or feel of someone with a different body type.

  29. Back in the summer, I had several people ask me what I did to improve my new (leased) horse's ground manners so much. My main reply was that I just expected him to behave a certain way and for the most part that was enough. I think it has to do with the assertive certainty of my body-language when I have those expectations.

  30. This inspired me so much I wrote a post in my blog and linked it to this post.
    Hope you don't mind and thank you for the quality conversation as always!

  31. When you're a kid with horses, unless you've been incredibly unlucky, you generally do not concern yourself with the "what ifs." And if something happens.. it happens as you live in the moment.

    So, you're not climbing on that pony or horse with a whole bunch of negative luggage.
    You also don't have a constant barrage of "Am I on the right lead?" Diagonal? Shit.. what's diagonal?" "Why can't this moronic nag understand lead changes?" ...etc.
    So your indirect communication is much easier to pick up and understand.

    That changes as you grow older and accrue more experience. It's also compounded by the fact that many others get even more paranoid and plant those negative seeds in your mind.
    These fears show up in your riding and in your horse's behavior.
    Plus, you have so much going on in your head that you're cluttering your communication and often forcing your horse to try and sift through a bunch of random babble to try and understand you.

    I think people forget that animals like equids are so deftly attuned to every bit of body language and vibe that they can pick up on unstated emotions.

  32. Very interesting and accurate. 'They know' and will perform accordingly. Riding as a child we had no doubts, no worries and the majority of the time neither did our horses. I know that 'half way up' - 'why am I doing this' feeling all too well when getting on. And it's weird - they wait. Horses are so much more intelligent than given credit for.

    Love your insight!

  33. I just had this epiphany within the last month.. my husband, who is an adult rider with zero training but a "oneness" with his horses that is admirable.. just "expects" his horses to do things, and they do.. I looked at him recently and told him that I needed to expect more from my horses instead of trying to rush through thinking the what ifs so much.. great thread on lightness!!

  34. @Ellie:

    The most recent one is my horse. Before I had her, she was a race horse, then trained by an adult and spent a year at an eventing trainer. I don't think she'd ever been tied without cross ties.

    For informational purposes only...if you're in America and she was a race horse, she almost certainly knew at one point how to tie. You can't use cross-ties in the aisle if you're walking hots around the shedrow; the norm for TBs at the track is tying in the stall for grooming and tacking.

  35. Crystal clear thought. That's it, right there.

    When we're kids, we don't worry. We haven't had enough of life to be scared of things. We just expect that it will work out. Horses, being telepathic, pick up on that clarity of thinking and just do it.

    Humans seem to lose it when we hit puberty. Note how nearly every story has trouble in it after the horse we had when we were kids, even if we went through puberty with them. We still had that connection. But the next horse.... sigh. We've heard it, done it, lived it ourselves.

    Damn. Sex makes us lose our magic! Suddenly our brains are full of other stuff, other worries, wants, and needs. It's too confusing for the horse to sort out, so they tune out and only respond to the obvious cues. The subtlety is gone.

    High expectations are hugs, too. So many clients say "Wow, I can't believe he's standing so well for you.." and my answer is "I have high expectations!" They laugh, but it's sooo true.

    At least, that's what I think.

  36. hugs == huge


  37. A post I just did, which I hope adds to the conversation:

  38. @LadyFarrier,

    Well, you know the story about unicorns... right?

    They can only be caught by virgins.

  39. @Anonymous

    Oh, golly -- I hadn't even thought of that!! You're right. Maybe that's the secret all along!

  40. Sometimes you'll come across a post that explains why it was such a nice ride.

    Your recent series of posts is clearing the clutter for me, and Smokey and I are really the better for it.

    Even just yesterday during our rearing incident. I knew what I needed - just clarity.

    Thanks, Mugs.

    And it worked.

  41. First time commenting, though I love the blog!

    I think fear has a lot to do with it. Before I had my child and stopped riding for several years, I was fearless. I was the one that people asked to ride their difficult horses. I'd go into it with crystal clear expectations and no fear at all and the horse would just do it...After kids, I was a knot of fear. Just mounting was a battle of shaking hands, what ifs and muscle locking terror. I completely lost the connection I had previously been able to achieve with almost all horses. Now I ride my horse and my horse alone and I am slowly getting it back. In the space of a year I've gone from spending ten minutes just psyching myself up to mount, to springing on bareback in a halter. I went from being terrified to ride in open fields or to canter anywhere but uphill, to riding everywhere on a completely loose rein. The more my fear dissipates, the clearer my thoughts are and the calmer my horse becomes. The saddle is comfortable again. As I step closer to removing the fear, my horse is becoming calmer, smoother and lighter. My mantra is "fear is not who I am."