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December 30, 2017: The Horse Life: Rio and Heather

Today I went to spend time at the place where Heather boards her horse Rio. First she came here to pick me up because my red car (I thought) had a flat tire but was just low on air. (Pete filled the tire in my absence. What does this tell you about Pete?)

I gave Heather the organization tour, and showed her what I’d been up to. I have to admit, it is impressive – and yes, I am now feeling a whole lot more organized. My effort only took me three weeks to do.

We drove to where Rio lives with his buddy Scout, an Appaloosa gelding who watched us enviously as Heather and I played with Rio in the round pen. Rio is a very smart horse who is very light on his feet; he is not at all like my ponies, who in their

movements are heavier and more deliberative. In addition, Rio’s reaction time is faster than that of my ponies. I enjoyed experiencing the difference.

I can’t say that we did anything earth-shaking, and in fact, outsiders watching would have been bored. I (amazingly) got the same sense that I get in playing with my own horses – I felt like I was on horse time. Heather got a bit chilled, but I did not.

Heather showed me what she’s been doing with Rio – she’s taught him to bow, which is in and of itself an excellent stretch. He does this on his right. I suggested that we do this on his left because his right side is now his default side. It was interesting to watch him struggle with the left side bow – and Heather too. She most likely taught him to bow on a side that was most comfortable for her and him. So now they are both going to have to chunk things down and figure out how to do this on the left.

We did carrot stretches with Rio – this went okay. I could see where it was initially easier for him to do this on the right than the left. Then I had this brilliant idea to use the treat bucket lid as a target. This enabled us both to do some target training and eliminated the treat as bribe behavior.

This was the most revelatory thing of all. I began working on crunches by having Rio back between two rails. It went okay, and in fact, as I told Heather, might be the precursor for getting over his trailering apprehension. Rio walked in and out of the rails, and backed. Then Heather taught me something that both literally and figuratively was thinking outside the box. We’d watched an Intrinzen video together some time back, one in which the focus was on moving the horse’s weight back onto the hindquarters.

Rio stepped out of the box and Heather very calmly and quietly had Rio shift his weight backwards, and then reinforced this behavior with a treat. I thought, wow – I had skipped a step with Hrimmi, which is why she only does crunches against walls. I need to do what Heather is doing.

I am very excited to try what Heather taught me with my horses. I could go on and on about this wonderful session – I hope that Heather felt similarly. I also felt like I connected with Rio in the same way that I connect with my own horses in doing autonomous work. In thinking about it later, I wish that we had played a little bit with Scout, Rio’s companion. He was outside the round pen the entire time, and so eager to be doing something.

I sometimes feel woefully inept as a horse person. Doing this kind of work will make one feel this way because not everything happens all at once. And also, the expectations are different. But I sure enjoyed doing what I like to do best.

Next: 362. 12/31/17: This is It

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