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horse personalities

Acupuncture, Chiropractic, dressage, Equine Acupuncture, Equine Chiropractic, horse personalities

Notes from the Armchair

Several weeks ago, Micah injured himself. We believe he cast himself in his stall, twisting his spine one way and hips another. He had some chiropractic and acupuncture work, a bit of hand walking, lunging, and now we’re gently starting him back under saddle. Fingers crossed, things seem to be going well. I am much relieved.
In the meantime, Natalie helped me out with some lessons on Commanche. Commanche is an elegant Arabian gelding who is almost an opposite to everything Micah is.

Commanche tries hard to figure me out, while making me look tall

Commanche tries hard to figure me out, while making me look tall


Where Micah is a tall and a big-boned, easy keeper; Commanche is short, narrow, and fine-boned. Commanche looks like a Breyer horse when he stands next to Micah.
I was thrilled to get to ride Commanche but I went in with the preconceived idea that Commanche would be pretty easy to ride. After all, he’s tiny in contrast to Mr. M. and should be easier to influence.
I was both right and wrong.
To gain a sense of perspective, picture this: Micah is like sitting in an armchair — he has a wide back and there’s plenty of room to shuffle about without him reacting.
Micah is like sitting in an armchair ... roomy

Micah is like sitting in an armchair … roomy


Commanche is narrow and more like sitting on a bicycle seat. He feels every movement of the rider and tries to respond, thinking he’s being asked to do something.
In contrast to Micah, Commanche is like sitting on a bicycle seat.  There's only one place to sit!

In contrast to Micah, Commanche is like sitting on a bicycle seat. There’s only one place to sit!


Commanche taught me that I toss my hips about like ships on the high seas. He gamely tried to follow my swaying hips and, as a result, wavered around the arena.
“You want to go left?” he said, swerving aft. “You changed your mind and want to go right?” he asked, moving to the starboard side.
We spent much of the first lesson practicing going on a straight line. It was humbling.
Once I realized what the problem was, I thought of pointing my hip bones like laser beams at the opposite side of the arena. Once I had both my eyes and hips burning laser holes in the far wall we made big improvement.
I also had to learn to ‘do less’ with my hands. Micah likes a lot of contact while Commanche says, “No, thank you.”
Doing less can make you sweat, it is such hard work.
Commanche’s owner was very sweet to let me ride her elegant and kind little horse. He taught me much about my shortcomings.
If ever you need humbling, try riding a new horse. It’s hard on the ego but a terrific learning tool.
Note to self: ride a new horse whenever you get the chance.

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dressage, dressage lessons, dressage training, horse personalities

Like Falling in Love

If you’re lucky, there’s a moment when your horse decides to trust you. It’s a turning point in your relationship that feels a bit like falling in love.

Natalie riding Pfifer at a recent show

Natalie riding Pfifer at a recent show. I wish my position looked that good. Photo by Andrew Martin

I actually fall in love with my horse over and over again, because I know he’s choosing to do what I ask him when he has so many other options. He’s going along with a plan that has nothing to do with his dreams or desires. When he tries despite a faulty effort on my part, I love him even more.

This week, I had the chance to ride another horse while Micah was at a show, leaving me temporarily horseless. I hadn’t ridden another horse in several months, so the prospect of trying to connect with a new one was exciting.

When Natalie texted me, “Do you want a lesson on a different horse?” I jumped at the chance. “Yes!,” I replied.

I resisted the urge to ask “Which horse?” knowing that, horse nerd that I am, I’d have more fun wondering which horse I’d get to ride.  “It’s like ordering a box of chocolates,not knowing what flavor you’re getting,” I told my husband. Carmel? Coconut? Anything but blobby cherry filling is fine with me. When it comes to horses, I’m fine with any flavor (aka: personality type) that doesn’t try to kill me. There’s always something to learn. Getting to know any new horse is a venture into the unknown — exciting.

My friend Claudia’s Friesian/Paint cross mare is super cute and I’ve always thought she’d be fun to ride. This was my chance. I settled into the saddle and marveled at the difference between my horse, Micah (a tank), and Pfifer (a more petite model). I got the sense that Pfifer was wondering about me, as well.

It took a little while to get a feel for how sensitive Pfifer is in the bridle. Thank goodness I’d had a lesson with the Equicube the previous week (see ‘What Dressage Trainers Do When Bored’ for details) — it helped me to use my hands in a less fidgety manner. I was also grateful to have Natalie guiding Pfifer and I through the getting-to-know-you process.

“Use more leg, less hand,” Natalie advised. I started using little squeezes of the reins with my fingers and Pfifer and I began to have a real conversation. She became more responsive as I started to get a feel for who she is and how she likes to be ridden. We relaxed into one another and she gave me some really lovely work.

I don’t know about you, but I always feel it’s an honor to be trusted by a horse. Pfifer was very generous today, offering me a sense of connection so quickly. After our ride, I gave her a bath, some carrots, and thanked her for being so sweet. I left a little piece of my heart at the barn with her, grateful for the experience.

As I told Natalie, “I could fall in love with this horse.”

Related posts
A Personal Best, for Many Reasons
October 16, 2017
Ode to a Fallen Friend
October 10, 2017
You’ve Gotta Have Go
June 28, 2017