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December 27, 2015: Saddle Up arena: Me, Instructing!

Once again I decided to be the motivator. I first approached my friends the Lemays about my giving them a lesson at the nearby Saddle Up arena. Then I approached my friend Ruth. Dan waffled some. Ruth said she’d ride if Dan rode. I told Dan this and he acquiesced. We finally all conveyed at Saddle Up at 2 p.m.

I arrived and Ruth was leading Rowan around. He’s a four month old Arab-Curly cross, the product of a tryst initiated by Ruth’s mare Curly Sue. He is black, has curly hair, an Arab dish and a broad stripe running the length of his nose. Very striking. He is high energy, but he does listen to Ruth.

Dan opted to ride his wife Renee’s horse Rowdy, a lanky sorrel mare with a thin blaze running down her nose. I thought she was an American Saddlebred, but Pete said that she’s a Tennessee walker. Pete, the horse expert, is most likely right.

Dan let Rowdy loose in the arena and she raced around at top speed, stopping near the exit points and peering out the doors. This was a very wise move on his part because she had energy to expend. Dan’s wise choice made Rowdy more manageable, and when he finally got on her, she was somewhat more responsive. Had he gotten on her prior to letting her loose, he might have had to deal with an out of control horse. Once he was on her she remained attentive to the other horses, one of whom included an Icelandic gelding who lives down the road from Brit and Gregory, the owners of the Saddle Up arena.

My first response, in seeing Ruth and Dan saddled up and situated, was where do I begin? Ruth was a bit stiff, though her horse was fairly supple. And Rowdy was stiff, though Dan seemed fairly supple. I wanted to start with body work, but I knew that Rowdy wasn’t going to stand for it. Best, I thought, to keep horses moving.

I began the lesson by first telling both riders that the central nervous system likes images that are far-fetched and more detail specific. To this end, I told both Ruth and Dan to picture a specific kind of balloon, adding that mine was Mylar and heart shaped. I then suggested that they also think about where on their head they might fasten this balloon. I then moved on to having them picture their neck vertebrae as being sponge – like – this one was a new image, I need to work on it some more.

Eyes – soft eyes, shutters behind the eyes. Angel wings on the shoulders – told them both to think of what material these wings might be made of – also said that they determine where the attachment point might be. Next, water shooting up and out the top of the spine. Need to work on this one. Refrained from having them think of their spine as containing building blocks – seemed to me to reinforce the idea of rigidity.

I liked the use of the image of holding a baby bird or hamster in the hand. The above all really must have been useful to Ruth, because she had softened, and was moving with Curly’s moves. It was nice to see. In part what was working worked so well because Ruth is a seasoned arena rider – she in the past took many lessons with Dottie McCallum, who is a very good instructor.

Dan was doing okay with Rowdy, but not as good as I’d liked. What finally occurred to me was to tell him to rely a bit more heavily on clear intent. I rightly figured that Rowdy, a young horse, needed direction. And the best way to give direction was to have him determine where he wanted to go and have her follow suit.

What I later realized was that my having Dan work on clear intent was The Lesson, meaning that in this instance, the image work was extraneous to this one very important thing. If I was to do this lesson over, I would have focused more with Dan on clear intent, and given him more clear directives – perhaps even doing more obstacle work. However, I was of the mind that both lessons should correspond with one another. I now know that this need not be the case. And furthermore, it may be counterproductive to go into a lesson with a set agenda.

As for Ruth – I continued to pretty much follow a logical order by providing her with more images – the melting trochanter being one – and with her and Dan both, doing bubbling springs. In the latter, Ruth and I discovered something quite interesting. She’s had a hip replacement -- and we think it was for this reason she could not relax this, her left leg. We then both surmised that perhaps the muscles around that leg are holding more tension than in the other leg.

In the end, Ruth on Curly and Dan on Rowdy were moving more freely than previously. I say that rather than say relaxed because it evokes a clearer mental image. Curly was fairly calm when she came in the arena – but even more calm when the lesson was about over. She had dropped her head nearly to the ground and was just ambling along. And Rowdy was more focused than previously. I did not in the end get the sense (as I had in the beginning) that she’d go into sympathetic nervous system overdrive.

I was not, at the conclusion of this lesson, really pleased with how it went because it felt to me to be somewhat disjointed. However, my inner voice told me not to say this to Ruth or to Dan because this would undermine my instructor-related credibility. So I instead told them what I saw and what I liked, to which both agreed.

Next time, though, I am going to have what I want to do mapped out – I most likely will not follow it, but this will provide me with a much-needed framework that I can draw on, and thus make me feel less like I’m all over the map.

After the lesson, I talked some with Brit (who owns Saddle Up arena), and she said sure, I can continue to instruct. So I’ve decided that I will let people know that I will be there on Sundays. It’s sort of like Field of Dreams. “Build it and they will come.”

Next: 188. 12/30/15: The Tongue Returns to the Aching Tooth

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