So much I feel/think I don't know what I'm doing. I do relatively ok in the moment. But what exactly is the bigger picture? What is the meta thing that needs to be going on right now? Sometimes it goes so well that I don't ask that question but if I'm asking the question, then I'm not sure of the answer.
It is Jin, of course. Mare. Older. Bred of an inbred mare and a stallion known for producing horses you can't trust. Left in a field for years. Bottom of the pecking order. Absolutely beautiful in body. Perhaps the most unconfident horse I've ever met.
Perhaps if when I'd started I'd had more confidence in letting her move her feet THEN. Ah but I didn't. It is what it is. Always. I know I have had the thought before that I need to have forward always be the answer for her. I've had that thought. I haven't been effective or I haven't translated or . . . well it IS better. It just isn't good still.
I'm really not much of one for anthropomorphizing but I know this is significant and I only know how to think of it as a human so here it is. Some months ago I worked her on line in the field with her herd. She actually did rather well although I may have forced the issue of going through the water a bit (my thought process: sh*t, she drinks out of it, she can't walk through it? bullsh*t). Well, not "forced". Not cowboy forced. But she didn't want to and I was like, well, there is no peace anywhere else. But I don't really think that was the issue. I think the issue was that it was in front of the herd. However it is horses look at that. And then, at the end, when I let her go and started to walk away, Annie, who is the lead b*tch mare in that field, who is just plain mean to other horses and who I used to have to repeatedly back off just to get Jin out of the field; Annie saw Jin didn't have me anymore and lit out from across the herd to bite Jin and chase her, yes, across the creek.
Now, Jin had already begun even before that day to not necessarily come to me in the field. She doesn't go away but she used to come at my whistle. What was I doing before, what changed? I'm not sure. Did she love going up the mountain? Riding in the fields? Getting fly spray? Had I stopped that to "work" on something? That's what my human mind thinks but I'm not sure the timing would actually sync up.
Since then, and since she really hasn't been so eager (and since Zip has been so eager), I've backed off of her to see if that would "help". Or is it really that more work always helps? At least, more work that is fun. Anyway. I rode her on a Tuesday night and sat around a lot as we are wont to do and then she was very much "I don't want to do anything then." And the next night, Zip stood around tied most of the time and could not WAIT until I got on him and asked him for a few things. And as I thought about it, I thought, ground work maybe? I remember Michael talking about getting her moving more freely and she'd be happier of mind too. Loose the feet there and they'd be looser backed too?
I don't ever quite trust anything you know. I trust that moment with the horse. But I don't trust that it is going anywhere. Maybe Buck has started thousands and so he knows, he trusts. But when I saw him in the fall of 2014 and his bridle horse had essentially lost his flying changes, I wondered if he doesn't sometimes just not know too; if he says, hmmmmmmm, and just tries something and sees if it is that or not and still doesn't really know. I don't know but I thought, I felt, ground work.
I need to do that anyway. I may not be able to do the level 3 on line auditions with her anyway (if she can't sustain a canter) but, well, we'd about have it (except that canter) if we worked a bit more at it. And maybe liberty. I'm planning to use Belle for the freestyle, and I could use Belle for the others too, maybe. I've got other potentials but they are further away and you just don't know what complications they are going to have too before you get there.
So I brought Jin in the round pen with every intention of working more Parelli-ish on line stuff. Instead I did my version of roping her feet and asking her to follow that feel. The first time I ever tried that I thought she'd yank my hands off and I was a little scared I'd done it completely wrong. I'd never done her back feet. I think we did ok -- she was calm, mostly soft, as always a little slow. I also asked her to circle me at liberty, at any speed which ended up being just a walk, in the Parelli manner (her maintaining her gate), and it took awhile to get that first complete circle. And I'm sure we did a few other things. Some spins there at the end. And sometime in that, a lot through that, I thought, I need to not care how slow she is, I need to not care how long I may have to wait for the thought to get to her feet. I need to reward her thought when it is turned toward me.
So I don't know if that is right or not.
But here was a thing she did on that Wednesday night after her "I don't want to" session (and before the Saturday round pen session). I went to get Zip. Zip was making his way toward me before I could even see him. She raised her head then went back to grazing. I whistled and told her I had a cookie specifically for her if she wanted it. She grazed. We left. I was out of the field and halfway to the barn when I heard her telltale voice nicker at me. She'd just topped the rise and the western sky was still lit by the already set sun. And yes, I left Zip to graze for a minute and went back to the gate to meet her and give her her cookie.