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March 13, 2016: Daylight Savings Day Time

At 10 a.m., or so, I thought: Computer clock says 11 a.m. It slowly dawned upon me (and I do mean slowly) that it was daylight savings time as in Spring AHEAD and Fall BEHIND. Oh Oh. I was counting on having an extra hour to figure the lessons and load up the red car. Instead, I wrote up my notes double-quick and nearly flew out the door, stopping only to make a sandwich.

I had two back-to-back lessons scheduled for today with Heather Ashe and Dick Stoffel. Oddly enough, I have ties with these two that go w-a-a-y back. I met Heather shortly after we moved here – we were both taking Katie Long’s Horsemanship class. Back then, neither of us owned horses. We mucked pens together, which in time paid for our respective new purchase’s board.

I’ve noticed that once a woman gets it in her head that she wants a horse, nothing, not even a lack of funds for purchase, gets in the way of getting that horse. The unforeseen hardship comes later – but it’s not considered hardship. Rather, it’s horsemanship.

I also met Dick and his wife Mariann a while back. I don’t remember when or where. Jokla, their Icelandic pinto mare, is now seven. I was there shortly after she was born, and I named her. I did a good job. The English translation of her Icelandic name is “She who walks on glaciers fearlessly.” And Jokla is fearless. Nothing ever fazes her.

The lessons – I wrote down what stretches I wanted us to do and in an order that had continuity – these exercises culminated in my again explaining how the respiratory system works (specifically diaphragmatic breath) and then following up with some breathing exercises. My intent was to have this information and exercises carry over into the lessons. I had previously put up obstacles so as to give these two very smart and attentive trail horses something to focus on. I also wanted both riders to focus on their breathing, both in coming up to and going over the obstacles. I also made what I call the time out box – 4 poles laid in a circle with the hula hoop in the middle. In both instances I began by having the riders walk through the obstacles minus their horses, so that they might pay closer attention to their own breathing.

I began with Rio and Heather. Heather mounted up and headed in the direction of the obstacles. I soon realized that maintaining a steady pace and good rhythm (at least in this particular instance) needed to take precedence over halting. Heather did too, for which I was relieved. So we switched gears and worked near-exclusively on maintaining a steady pace – with Heather using her breath to control speed – faster increased the horse’s speed and going slower slowed the horse’s speed. At least this is how it works in theory. It’s hard for me to tell just how synchronized a horse and rider might be because I can’t see the rider breathe. In time, I might be able to do this.

At about mid-lesson, two riders appeared at the front part of the arena (we were working in the rear part) – this was a bit to Heather’s dismay. I told her (and I meant it) that this was fortuitous because this was a challenge for Rio – he had to stay focused though undoubtedly he would have preferred to check out the other animals. He did just fine – which was good for Heather because what she learned was that Rio was well aware that she was in charge and that he was in working mode.

The lesson with Dick went equally well. I spent more time doing exercises with him than I did with Heather – this is because we were outside, and the heat from the sun made us want to linger where we were. Dick also really gets into the exercises – he does them slowly and with a high degree of concentration; in fact, so much slow that he forces me to slow down.

Dick and I also walked the obstacles, and took quite a bit of time doing this. For instance, we played a bit on the teeter, and in so doing I realized that the center of balance is more at one end than the other. And when, finally, Dick mounted up, no surprise, the lesson went quite well. Jokla was fairly relaxed from the onset of the lesson – she had spent time alone in the round pen – this I think helped. Dick worked more on the halts than did Heather – in this instance focus rather than rhythm was most important. And he also had Jokla stand for great lengths of time after she halted. And so, there was not, as there has been in the past, the clenched jaw, the chair seat, the hard pull on the reins, the statement about her not listening. Rather, there were a series of smooth, mellow downward transitions. I also did with Dick what I did with Claudia and had him in going around in circles, picture the ball in his pelvic cavity moving to the outside. And when Jokla went wide on the star pattern, I had him picture the ball tipping to the inside. This worked equally well and we did this several times before having him tip the ball forward and back, in order to get the horse to move in these respective directions.

Dick concluded his lesson by going for a short trail ride – and I put away the obstacles.

I went for a ride on Raudi when I got back home (hoorah for Daylight Savings Time!). On the latter part of my short ride, I did as I’d asked Dick and Heather to do, and focused on my breath, speeding up and slowing it down, and in this way asking Raudi to speed up and slow down. As I did this, I realized that this is difficult – it takes considerable concentration – and it’s quite easy to lose the rhythm because one is on a moving animal with a mind of its own. I came to the conclusion that I must do what I ask students to do beforehand, so that I am reminded of what’s required mentally and physically.

I am well aware that pride goeth before a fall – but I must say, my good friends made me feel like I’m a good instructor.

Next: 72. 3/14/16: Speaking for One’s Writing/Letting Writing Speak for Itself

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