Friday, July 30, 2010

power walking with the Big Bay

Yesterday I went out earlier in the evening to see if I could continue the ease back into work with Keil Bay. He was in the arena grazing (yes, that is unfortunately true! GRASS in the arena enough to graze!) with Cody and Rafer Johnson.

The pony had let himself into the barnyard with Salina and Redford, who were all peacefully co-existing with some hay.

Keil lifted his head as soon as I walked in the arena. I had a halter and lead rope, so he knew something was up. I think he thought we might be heading to the barn to tack up, but I surprised him and took him for a walk all through the front of our property. It's been so hot, and the horses have been slow-moving and slightly sluggish, so when Keil walked out very big with ears up and in his fullest Big Bay posture, it took ME by surprise.

What pleasure to take a walk with a big, alert, handsome Hanoverian! Everything is immensely green, the light from the sun low in the sky is so soft and lovely, and there we were in the midst of it. As we headed up the hill and back toward the barn, we jumped together over the creek bed, and through the loose lead line I could feel the power in Keil's big body, coiled and in his complete control, waiting to see if I would keep the forward momentum and build it into a trot, or continue the walking we'd been doing.

It was like having a big, horse-shaped balloon full of energy on the line, but more even, because of the connection between two living beings.

As  went up the hill, Keil's energy increased and I responded silently, with a sense of pleasure in his movement and power, and the energy seemed to circle. He went into a piaffe.
I've not done advanced work in hand, nor have I done long-lining, which I so want to learn. I think a lot of people feel that kind of work is mostly done to get the horse ready for riding, but when I experience the power that I felt yesterday with the Big Bay, I realize the absolute wonder of that kind of work.

That a horse weighing 1300+ pounds chooses to stay with me, connected in spirit and by the lead line, and circles his energy into such a lovely, still movement, is pure magic.

We moved on in our walk and ended up back in the arena, where we did some more walking, really big strides and Keil keeping his head at my shoulder.

My plan was to end with a good groom, but I realized that all the sweat and hosings and rollings had left his coat in need of a real bath, so we spent a good half an hour under the big oak tree. I used the soft scrubber he loves, and about halfway through, he shifted from enjoying the bath but wanting to get to hay, to wanting to just be there with me. I rinsed him on one setting but he loves the mist setting so much we created a rhythm - rinse rinse rinse, clickclickclick to mist for his face and muzzle, clickclickclick back to circle setting to rinse.

Keil Bay is the kind of horse who thrives on the routine of being worked and cared for - he shows his gratitude by engaging at a very deep and connected level once you connect with him that way. It is a mystery that I suppose I will never solve - is he simply oriented this way personality-wise, or did someone nurture this tendency carefully to grow and develop it?

The answer is probably some of both.


Anonymous said...

Some horses, I think, do naturally connect more easily, and it also probably comes from their life experiences - he sounds like a lovely horse.

I'm a big fan of ground-driving for a variety of purposes. I use it mostly for getting horses back into work or introducing a horse to the trails, but it can be fun in lots of ways.

billie said...

He has a very nice combination of being bold and opinionated while also being kind and connected.

We're getting ready to introduce ground driving to Rafer Johnson and to the pony. I'm looking forward to the experience.

Valentino said...

The volunteered piaffe sounds magical :)

I'm very interested in the idea of ground driving in preparation for trails. I have been wondering how to gently (re)introduce Val to trail riding as we've taken a long break after a disastrous ride last fall.

billie said...

v, last year there were several ground driving sessions offered nearby - I had signed up to audit but then the schedule shifted and I couldn't make it. I'm thinking of inquiring about hosting something here - will let you know if it gets pulled together.

Grey Horse Matters said...

The big bay is a wonderful horse. His connectedness may not come from past experiences and training but may be connected only to you in a special way. He does sound like he is your soul and heart horse. It sounds to me like he loves you and the interaction between the both of you is completely natural.

Ground driving is a wonderful tool when used correctly. I've watched J. do it many times over the years and am always amazed how the horses are so receptive to this sort of training and how quickly they learn.

billie said...

Arlene, I knew he and I connected in a special way the day I met him - but I also witnessed his trainer at that time (who was riding him and working with him while he was for sale) literally break down into tears when we prepared to load him to go home with me. It was obvious in the 5 months or so she worked with him, she came to adore him too. And his previous owner, who had him for I think 9 years became tearful when I ran into her and told her how wonderfully he's doing.

I find it so interesting that some horses seem to have a knack for connecting with people this way - deeply, and over time, even when they have moved on to live with someone else.

It was so clear to me when I rode him that he brought me up several notches as a rider, and that my excitement over that fueled him in some way.

I'm not a breeder of horses and never will be, but if I were, this is the kind of horse I'd be looking to produce.

I ask him repeatedly - how did you get to be such a wonderful horse? And thus far he doesn't answer... :) He does seem to enjoy hearing that, though!

Claire said...

longlining is an excellent activity for all sorts of purposes (and gets the handler fit as well, always useful, LOL)

i taught myself when I started, it's not that difficult if your horse accepts the lines...

but did buy a couple of videos/dvds as well

start with two line lunging

billie said...

Thanks, Claire - I suspect both Salina and Keil Bay have had long lines on them in their earlier years but I think the easiest to learn on will be Rafer Johnson. He already seems to have the concept of "driving" in his mind and because he's small, it will be easier to manage the lines as I get used to them.