Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Trails at Liberty with Shaman

Shaman is our Kiger Mustang and he is full of brio! He has been a challange for me in some ways. First of all he was supposed to be my husband's horse, but Ken never found the time, so I started working with him. He was fiesty and full of it, but also very sweet. He is very light and attentive and loves the ground work. However, I have been frustrated because after two falls from him  (ride # 1 and ride #2 - both bareback) I have not wanted to risk a third. I have chosen to have a younger, more athletic rider who is adept at the emergency dismount to ride under my supervision. Now, she's gone, and Shaman and I are back to working it out. Riding Shaman is such a dream for me due to his natually collected movements and lightness.
I have been working on just building a good conection with him. He loves working at liberty, even when all 4 ouf the boys are out in the arena together, Shaman will come and play games with me; circling at a trot and canter, standing on the stump, side passing over barrels, backing up with his tail, or hand signals, coming to me at a canter.

Yesterday, I asked him to jump the barrels, and even  with the other guys horsin' around, he willing jumped over several times.

Today when we played, we upped the anty. First we played our games in the arena, and he was very enthusiastic!  Then we went out of the arena. I took him up past the rabbits, with those guys scrambling around and all the construction stuff there, this is the horses' least favorite place. But, I felt we had such a good conection going that Shaman would be OK, and, he was! Quietly he watched me for cues and quietly he walked along. Once on the trail, I took his lead rope and put it over his back. He was free to do as he chose. Now it would be interesting to see what happend. He is not generally confident on the trail, so it was going to be a challange. The other horses were calling for him, he could chose to go to them, or come with me. At first I had to encourage him a lot. Just a few steps at a time. Then further and further, I was armed with tiny bites of apples. Then, I made a shift, and let go of all expectations. After all what could happen? He'd run home is all!

But, with the other horses calling he still chose to come with me! Then I made a second shift, I began to whistle and to not worry how 'close' he was. I relaxed and he relaxed. ( Ha, just like I tell my students!) We walked and trotted down the trail together, I never picked up his rope, never needed to.  Part of the time he walked beside me proud and relaxed. His expression was eager, alert and totally happy. Sometimes he followed me nibbling on grass when he found some. When  he got far behind, I'd 'trot' and he'd trot to catch up. This is a huge breakthrough for both of us. This is where I want to go with my horses - I want them to feel free and happy, enjoying adventures together.  ( photos not from today)