There is a huge amount to be gained by giving things away. The title of this post sounds a bit like a kind of unusual Bonfire Night-esque recipe, but whilst it is a recipe, the toffee is virtual and the guinea fowl are definitely still alive.
This weekend has been a wee nugget of a gem of a glint of time, at the end of a bit of life where I have been mining away at the seam of doing things when they hurt, making challenging decisions and also finding that for myself at least, hard work might pay off (which my pioneer woman rabbit skin wearing primal inner self always suspected).
As the last few weeks progressed, days one after another started early with making my body work so I could even stand up, because staying in bed really doesn’t help soft tissue back damage. I was fallen on by a client’s horse while trimming three weeks ago which ripped a hole in the soft tissues in my lower back. Deep stretching, foam rollering and lying on spiky massage balls and hunting round for painful and stuck bits of myself, ice packs, cold laser, going to the chiropractor to get manual adjustments and to help straighten and release my body, and taking a much greater amount of nasty pain relief than is probably healthy. I didn’t know whether I was going to be able to do what I had planned, I couldn’t do my normal trimming work or lift anything heavier than a kettle, and I was due to participate in the training clinic with my good friend and mentor Dorothy Marks that I had been looking forward to for months. I was at the point where I might have been able to sit on my horse, but not actually ride him as I would like to.
The first good golden treasury thing was that Dorothy came, as we haven’t had a good catch up since spring, and we like to bat thoughts about and come up with theories and invent things and glorious improving stuff like that.
The second good nuggety thing was that I could ride at all even though it was painful, and in a way that Dorothy could see what it is really like in my twisted up place.
The third little shoogly gemstone was that between Dorothy and my horse I had precise help to work out exactly what I needed to do to let the damaged areas work in a better posture than even before the accident. And even better the changes feel like they have stayed with me even off horse as I carry on rehab.
The toffee is an image that established an internal sense of flow, warmth, expansiveness and acceptance, and stopped my body from bracing around the damage in such a hard and protective way. And finding where my left leg and seat needed to be to support Lad in the best way for him was another glimmer, it stopped me from making him lose his balance by pulling him over his left front leg. How was I possibly pulling him over from on top? Well you can – imagine the horses front legs like two short poles with a barrel suspended between them on bungee cords, if you move the top of either pole outwards the barrel will swing out of alignment. You can use your inside leg to draw the shoulder of the horse away from its alignment in kind of the same way, which you can do deliberately, or, like I was, doing it accidentally like leaving the bathroom light on after you’ve left the room.
Riding when it goes well is about finding a way with your body to offer your horse a way to help him carry you. Using controlled changes in your tone and posture you can ‘borrow’ or blend with your horses body in a way that is agreeable for him. This is enabled by the horse’s particular physiology, and is not something that should be thought of as dominating the horse, or controlling him by strength – it is more akin to the experience of being ‘danced’ with by a skillful dancer. You can’t get the same result by force but the most truly talented riders know precisely what ‘good’ feels, smells and sounds like, and helps the horse open the right doors to get to it. By the way, by ‘good’ I really, seriously, and absolutely do not mean competitively successful. This is about success as judged by the horse agreeing to be ‘danced’ and demonstrating changes in their own physiological ability and function, rather than by humans winning things from other humans. By aiming to be the ‘dancer’ you can help horses set up functional movement patterns that aid them in moving with a rider on board, and to do all the lovely expressive things that we riders enjoy.
In the picture along with this blog post I am shaping Lad’s posture to help him gently bend his neck but keep his body straight. This is functional training – it helps him develop balance and strength, and improves his ability to lift me safely by teaching him to lift his ribcage – with me on it – between his shoulders. (Horses can do this because they don’t have collar bones, and they are ninja’s at seeing things by putting their heads up as high as they can. In my ideal world all ridden horses would learn this as a basic skill to protect their bodies from the unnatural weight of a rider).
Notice a couple of things – firstly that my hands are in unusual places, my right hand is high and away from my horse’s body, this helps support Lad from falling onto a circle rather than carrying on in a straight line. My left hand is lightly touching the rein to his neck to give him an idea of where to bend it in this position. Secondly notice that his face is almost vertical – eyes above nostrils – and there is a wee twirl of his skull on the end of his neck and his ears are focussed back on me. If the other horse hadn’t hurt my back I wouldn’t have found the missing piece of my own jigsaw that was making me ‘dance’ Lad out of line and stopping me from being able to achieve this with him, so I am grateful for the fact that it happened if not for the actual experience.
I am pretty pleased with this unusual image because it shows how he is agreeing to go with my idea and is doing a really good job of balancing for both of us – as well as that my ‘toffee’ has only hardened a little compared to how hard it was on my left side last week, and my shoulders are almost level which is more important for my body and balance although I don’t care about that as much as his.
And the spinkly gems continued to glimmer in the earth… Last week Jane and I had a good session on our Sculptaseat project after a slow few months, and are going for a new strand of development funding soon. Then this week during lessons with Dorothy, most of our wonderful riders tried Sculptaseat in practice to really good effect on their horse / rider interface which I videoed. And after THAT, Dorothy and I worked on a new invention taking the same approach to another piece of equipment for ourselves to pilot before opening up the tech to another group of riders. Loads of thinking and SO much to work on….
And well the guinea fowl… technically it was an invisible guinea fowl, at least invisible to Lad. I am grateful for its sunday morning perambulations in the nettle beds behind the school boards as although it did give Lad something seriously unusual to concentrate on which was potentially as big as a T-Rex, it made me keep my toffee soft so I could help him manage his fear. (Until the bloody thing cackled then I made a swift tactical dismount as poor Lad experienced an adrenalin tsunami).
So I have a glinting handful of gems after a pretty yucky few weeks, which makes all the digging worthwhile, and I can breathe on them, polish and admire them, and I am really looking forward to the next few months. I can trust it to be hard work and exciting which is just precisely how I like it, as although it looks like one chapter of my life is coming to an end – my trimming practice – I am so looking forward to working with a great group of riders and horses, and creating and building more ways to help people explore what life has to offer for their horses and themselves. With gratitude and love….