Friday, December 17, 2010

warmer, sunshine, and poetry in motion

This morning I was getting feed tubs ready for mixing. Salina had already come in to her stall to wait, and the donkeys were lining up as well.

Cody had gone through the open back gate into the arena, where he'd been herding Redford a few minutes earlier, so I asked Kenzie to open the closer arena gate so he could come through into the paddock and get ready for breakfast.

She opened the gate, but Cody didn't come out. He tossed his head in his characteristic circle toss, inviting both Keil Bay and the Little Man to come in and play.

I was shocked when Keil Bay accepted the invite, since he tends to be so focused on breakfast he is nearly always waiting at his back door, ready to bang if need be.

But this morning, after all the wet stuff that came down yesterday, I guess he welcomed the no longer frozen footing, the sun beginning to shine, no ice in troughs, and a generally warmer day. The knowledge that breakfast was coming was such a sure thing he was willing to forego it for a little romp.

Cody trotted around the arena, soon joined by Keil Bay. The Little Man really didn't do much except hunt for acorns, but my guess is he'd already done his morning exercise.

Although I am usually pretty focused on serving breakfast, I dropped the tubs I was carrying and stood watching the two big boys move. At one point they trotted toward the center of the arena from opposite ends, whirled their heads at one another, pivoted, and bucked, each kicking one hind leg up, completely in sync. It looked like they were doing a dance, mirroring one another's every move.

Keil Bay started at C and cantered straight up center line, doing an absolutely gorgeous collected, balanced, powered from behind canter. Cody trotted like an upper level dressage horse, with absolutely gorgeous suspension (and he's a Quarter Horse!), and that elusive schwung that is hard to describe but when you see it in action you absolutely stop and hold your breath it's so beautiful.

I recently tweaked their minerals, tightening the ratios (Ca:Ph and Fe:Cu:Zn:Mn) even closer to the "ideal." I have no idea if this is why they are looking and moving so beautifully or if they just both hit their best strides at the same time on this welcome morning. Whatever the reason, it captivated me. Even Redford stood and watched, as if appreciating each step.

Sometimes when I watch competition dressage I am disheartened by the mechanical movements that seem to get the high scores. The whole discipline begins to look labored and the horses look constrained and unhappy.

And then I see what Keil Bay does when he feels good and wants to show off, and what Cody does too. The fact that what they are doing with their bodies so obviously FEELS GOOD to them is all the difference between classical dressage and competition dressage.

Watching horses in double bridles, muzzle to chest, looking like something is going to literally explode out of their necks, always causes me to tighten up. I feel the muscles in my shoulders clench, feel my own neck draw up as though it's being pulled out of alignment with the rest of my body.

But this morning, watching the Big Bay and Cody, my entire body relaxed. I felt like my legs had taken root in the earth, and yet at the same time my upper body felt free and flowing. It occurred to me that this is the way to judge what you see when you watch horses being ridden. How does YOUR body feel?

With every step the two geldings took this morning, I could feel the movement as if I were riding it. And I wonder, when I get back on either/both, if that sensation will carry through and bring my own lightness and balance up a notch.

I suspect it will. Even now, writing about it, my body feels soft and supple. Poetry in motion. A simple but profound gift.

16 comments:

Kate said...

What a beautiful thing to see - those moments are indeed fortunate!

Grey Horse Matters said...

There's no doubt that horses moving freely with their bodies relaxed and flowing look absolutely beautiful. It's a shame most competitors don't carry it over to the arena.

Feeling your own body move in sync with theirs should be what we all strive for in our riding.

billie said...

Kate, I was happy to be right there as they danced. It's not actually all that rare or fleeting to see them do so, but given that Cody has PSSM issues I feel relief each time I see him move so well, and Keil Bay defies the aging process for me each time he floats around the arena or across the field.

I'm lucky they are healthy, happy, and in my life. :)

billie said...

Arlene, it always surprises me in the moment when I see them move and my own body relaxes. This must be why so many people, even those who don't ride or live with horses, enjoy them. They have therapeutic effect on us, physically, mentally, spiritually.

Calm, Forward, Straight said...

What a gorgeous picture you have painted Billie :)

Moments like you described spark my desire to help Val and I achieve that kind of motion while under saddle. Inspiring!

Your new background is lovely as well...

billie said...

C, I wanted to tack up and ride instantly when I saw them moving. However it is a mushy mess out there, even today, more so, actually, because all the frozen ground is thawing some. I was out this morning thinking it usually doesn't look like this until at least the end of January. Once it dries out some it won't be so bad. The horses could care less - Cody and Keil Bay were piaffing around their stalls this morning and Redford was banging on the feed room door!

Rising Rainbow said...

I thought the whole goal of dressage was to teach the horse to carry a rider the way they naturally carry themselves. Sounds to me from what you say, that's been corrupted along the way. Very unfortunate.

billie said...

MiKael, exactly.

Máire said...

That's a fabulous description Billie. I felt my body responding as I read it.

I watched the Olympia freestyle dressage recently. It was quite depressing, and also dull. Tight necks, tense horses, and riders with over-active hands. There were a couple of rides, down the order of course, who looked elegant, but the top rides were very disappointing.

billie said...

Maire, I'm so glad you could feel what I was describing. It was totally visceral in the moment, and not always easy to carry that back to the computer box to pass on through a blog!

ponymaid said...

Billie - might I suggest bareback, bridleless dressage? Then we could see just how in touch rider is with horse.

billie said...

Sheaffer, absolutely. A true test.

Victoria Cummings said...

What a beautiful description of a breath-taking moment! This is one of the reasons why we own horses, to be reminded of grace and freedom that is natural and balanced all on its own.

billie said...

Thank you, Victoria. It was definitely beautiful. I forgot to write in the original post that at one point I realized my daughter was on the other side of the barn, in the big barnyard, watching too. She had the hay fork in hand and was just standing there, like I was.

Matthew said...

A lovely picture-in-words of a wonderful moment.

billie said...

Thank you, Matthew.