Ok, so I drove home at 4 am and crashed for a couple hours, then woke up and headed to my lesson. Except it wasn’t my usual lesson; Hardy’s mom is in town from Germany so I took a groundwork lesson with the barn owner instead. She does Dennis Reis stuff.
Yall have figured out that I’m a pretty sweet redneck but I am in fact a redneck. I kinda roll my eyes when I see “natural horsemanship” stuff, not because I fundamentally disagree with it but because many natural horsemanship devotees are, uh, total wusses who let their horses walk all over them and never ride. Well, I will say that most NH stuff coddles horses a bit more than I do, so to a certain extent I fundamentally disagree.
Anyway. It’s not like I want to compete at dressage, but I’m learning a hell of a lot from those lessons. I definitely know I’m far from perfect with horses, and I’m sure there’s something I can learn from Dennis Reis. So I woke up, only slightly drunk, and went to a NH groundwork lesson.
The first mini-lightbulb thing I learned was how to ask a horse to change sides politely. I just normally ask my horses to stand still, and I walk behind them or under their necks to get from side to side to do whatever – brush, trim feet, cinch up saddle. Dennis Reis makes the horse move while you stand still. It’s kinda cool.
You’re standing next to your horse at liberty (in the round pen, obvs, cause it’s NH). You put an arm under the horse’s neck and gently move his head to the other side of your body. The horse just kinda lifts his neck up and back like you’re a fence post and he’s responsible for getting around your body. I like this idea, because psychologically the horse should be moving for the owner. It shouldn’t be my place to scurry around the horse unless I want to – the horse should be moving for me cause I’m the one in charge.
The second mini-lightbulb was the psychological impact of roundpenning. We did role playing. I know! It’s so dumb! But it worked.
We split up into pairs – there were three students and the instructor. Each “horse” picked a circle and wouldn’t go outside of it. Each “human” walked just barely behind the horse’s shoulder, in a tiny circle in the center. May I stress again just how DUMB this felt?
I started walking in a large circle. The instructor started walking in a very small one. I felt like a retard for half a circle, then I realized she was following me. No matter how fast I walked, I couldn’t get away from her. She stepped slightly ahead of me, and I understood, viscerally, why horses slow or turn when you get ahead of them in the round pen.
Look, I know that whole explanation sounded dumb. It FELT dumb. But it really hit home on a gut level. I understand how and why roundpenning works so much better now.
… I still can’t take the man seriously with that crazy handlebar mustache. More tomorrow!