Sunday, February 25, 2024

November Hill farm journal, 205: A New Adventure

 This Friday my birthday present on this 16th leap year birthday is a saddle fitting for Cody. He and I are going to begin a new adventure in riding. Years ago, I did a period of weekly lessons on Cody to try and expand my adult body skills while also learning about what he needs from a rider to offer the relaxed, beautiful movement we see him exhibiting in free play. 

Cody is light years different from Keil Bay: different breed, different build, different movement, but also different training. Keil was trained by someone who bred, trained, and competed upper level dressage horses, and it was very clear that Keil had been encouraged to use his body and not constrained by his rider. Keil expected, trusted in, and received competent riding his entire life. 

Cody came to us as a fully trained under saddle western pleasure QH. We thought he was 4 years old. Still early in a horse’s life to be fully trained under saddle, but we planned to take it easy until he grew up a bit more. When his papers arrived in the mail, we learned he was TWO years old. He had a weekly ride for the next year and a half to let him grow up some more, and a very specific kind of ride - with an English saddle and encouragement for relaxing and using his body. His gaits were tight, mincing western pleasure trained movement, nothing we wanted to continue. He figured it out, and with a sensitive, quiet rider he really shines. Too much use of rein, leg, and weight and he tenses up and reverts to the old learning. 

I’m not an intentionally loud rider with the aids, but I’ve had to work as an adult to regain some of my youthful balance in the saddle. Keil Bay was always very forgiving of me, and big enough not to care too much. He took care of me with his own impeccable athleticism and elegant movement. 

Cody needs what I call butterfly aids. For me, that means I have to focus on keeping my legs off him more than on him, as even the lightest touch is for him a big cue. What I learned in my lessons on Cody was that if I could lighten in every way as a rider, find my balance, and most of all remain relaxed, Cody would follow suit. And what came then was beautiful. In a way, Cody taught me more than Keil did because he needed more from me to get to the good place where both our bodies moved in harmony. 

It’s time for us to work together again. With Keil Bay only being ridden in my dreams (it is happening, and I treasure it) and my visualizations, I am craving being on the back of an in the flesh horse. Cody has PSSM, which likely exacerbates his sensitivity, but consistent work also helps his condition. So my job will be to get as light and as balanced and as relaxed as I can for him. In return, his balanced movement will do wonders for my fitness and my back and hips. We are going to be a team, and he is actively participating in this as we move toward Friday.

Last week he had a chiro appointment, and unlike Keil Bay, it’s not his favorite thing on the planet. But as if something had shifted, he relaxed into his chiro adjustments and began to offer behaviors that were exactly like Keil’s during his chiro time. Cody turned his neck many times to look back at his chiro vet, something he’s never done before, something Keil Bay did constantly. Cody nudged me when I was talking about something not related to him, as Keil Bay always did. And when the work was done, instead of being eager to walk away and rejoin his herd, he stopped and turned to his vet and touched her arm with his muzzle. A signature Keil Bay move. 

Is Cody channeling the Big Bay? I don’t know! But the change was unmistakable. I think he’s probably stepping into Keil’s role in the ways he noticed Keil behaving all the years they lived together, which was most of Cody’s life. 

I’m so happy to be on this new adventure with him. I hope we both get a lot out of it. More to come as we move forward into 2024. 


Grey Horse Matters said...

This sounds wonderful! I think from watching how Keil Bay behaved and mimicking him you will find he’s going to be very receptive to stepping into Keil’s role. Rosie came to us as a western QH who had the typical muscle bound mincing steps. She couldn’t even pick up her back legs for the farrier and he had to use a little pony stand to trim her back hooves.I’m happy to report that after a few years of gentle training and just being turned out all day she’s much more flexible. No more pony stand either. I did find the same thing as you did with Cody. Very light cues work the best and looping reins. I also give her verbal cues before I ask for anything. She knows them from longing. I’ve decided to start her back into working shape in March with longeing first before I get on her. It’s been a year since she was ridden. So you and I will be restarting at the same time.😊 good luck and have fun!

billie said...

Oh, I feel so good that you and I will be restarting this journey at the same time! Thank you for all the good thoughts.

Grey Horse Matters said...

Happy Birthday 🎁🎉🎂! Enjoy your day, it’s not everyone who gets to celebrate 16 twice!

billie said...

Thank you so much!!!