What Comes After Is Always What Comes Before
Some of you might have noticed pictures of a few of us here at Dream Feather, riding in our winter riding skirts. Let me digress to tell you that these skirts are fabulous. They are so warm that if you can keep your toes warm, you could go for miles without getting cold. I love mine. They are made by a lovely lady Abbi Thorpe of Skirts by Not so Shabbi. The skirts are made beautifully and are custom to your measurements and your desire to be as conservative or as wild with colour and pattern as you need to be.
I have walked for hours on the trail with my skirt, in what has turned out to be the best winter for sun, powder snow, and very little wind. A perfect triad of conditions to ride. Although Dreamer does quite well with his thick winter coat, it was lovely to think that they connected us underneath a shawl of warmth.
Before ever mounting with the skirt for the first time, I made sure I played retreat and approach with it, first just rubbing it on Dreamer then tossing it up and on and then up and further on and then finally up and right over his back and back again. I have made it a part of my flight checks this winter because it was something brand new to my horse and any kind of a change for Dreamer can elicit a reaction. I never push through a threshold of unconfidence with him as this proves to push the trust barometer downward.
Ok so if you have seen the video of me cantering through the snow to the words of John Lennon..let me tell you what really happened before that video was shot.
The "perfect" day all came together. It was an azure sky, the deep snow undisturbed, a low afternoon sun and we had our camera person here. It was time to get to the shot that we wanted for future reference. I could feel Dreamer’s adrenalin higher than normal but I also felt that he was still feeling me, listening to my cues and ready.... albeit looking back, a little too ready.
Then, what was supposed to have been a soft transition from trot to canter, turned out to be a few bucks. Dreamer has shown me many times characteristics of unconfidence but bucking has never been one of them. But there it was. I immediately came down to a trot and turned his nose towards my knee so that I could interrupt this pattern and ask him to start thinking! But what just happened?
Was I not reading him?
Was I not in the moment?
Did I miss something?
All the above I am afraid, and I missed them all.
It was the skirt, of course. I had always just walked with the skirt on his back and all of a sudden there was a bounce to it, a little air underneath it and now it felt like a mountain lion on his back. I had not taken this into consideration before I started. But I should have!!!! I should have noticed his energy. I should have tested the energy more by asking for a few transitions before I started.....
Are you listening, Dreamer?
Am I pushing through a threshold Dreamer?
Am I asking too much too quickly, Dreamer?
How can I help you, Dreamer?
I am telling you this story because anything can happen when you are with your horse, with any horse. For just a moment his reaction to flee which is every horse’s default took over and he forgot that I was there. Riding like a leader is about preparing for everything, and I did not. So for myself, I was disappointed that I hadn’t taken the time to help him and figure things out, and to be honest I put purpose before principle and instead of “taking the time”, I “seized the time”... for me and that is not who I am and not how I teach.
A big lesson for me occurred that afternoon, and I am humbled once again.