Healed from a nasty fall after her mustang Kaliwohi spooked, Esther Roberts is re-committed to improving her relationship with her horse, and heads to the round pen to find a new routine.
As I continue mulling over the overarching question on my mind these days — “do I enjoy riding?” — one of the main concerns is how to help Kaliwohi be more predictable in his behavior. In my last installment, I posed several questions, including this one: “Is there a way to help Kaliwohi stop having these moments of unpredictability?”
As a horsewoman, I know some of the elements of the answer to this question. One element is routine.
Most horses enjoy being in a predictable routine because it makes them feel safe. Kaliwohi is definitely of this mindset. I can nearly set a clock by his routine while he’s in the field — including what time he wanders far enough away to be out of sight each day, what time he usually meanders back up towards the barn, where he generally sleeps, etc.
Some riders have the luxury of getting in the saddle almost every day. I’m not one of those riders. I ride as often as I can, while earning a living and maintaining the farm and dealing with all things “life.” Some weeks I can ride four days; other weeks I ride only once.
If I plan to continue riding and training Kaliwohi myself, I will have to adjust some other priorities and commit to working with Kiwi at least three days each week whenever possible. Am I willing to make these adjustments?
The answer is yes. So I’ve reworked some other commitments and, this week, I worked Kaliwohi in the round pen, from the ground, three times.
I’m starting back in the round pen because, after reflecting on our wreck over these past few weeks, I believe Kaliwohi spooked and bolted because he lacked sufficient confidence in me as the leader of our “herd” of two. He got scared and, instead of looking to me for guidance, he opted to get back to his equine herd alpha, Lady Grace, as quickly as possible. (Raw honesty — I was tense that day, which didn’t help matters at all, because when Kiwi spooked and bolted, I got super-tense, which he interpreted as “Oh no! Mom’s really tense so what’s scaring me must be legitimate; I’m outta here!”)
On the first day in the round pen, which was his first day back to work in six weeks, Kaliwohi dashed about madly, tail flagging and snorting like a wild deer, despite very low-energy direction from me.
Forty-eight hours later, Kiwi started out with some fast laps around the pen, but soon settled down and began listening to directions very well.
By the end of this training session, Kaliwohi was participating in the exercises with both mental and physical softness.
While some folks would clear the round pen, I prefer to keep a few obstacles inside the pen but not blocking the perimeter course of travel. This provides a few distractions for the horse so he must think through the distraction and focus on me, which is exactly what I want him to do under saddle.
With respect to my own journey, I have managed to get through these weeks of healing without going on a food binge, hallelujah! I have been enjoying a lot of fresh fruits and vegetables. I have also discovered something about myself that surprised me. I am typically not much of a “ribbons and ruffles” type gal, but I have discovered I enjoy vintage china. The plate in the photograph below was a beloved relative’s “special occasion cake plate.” The vintage tea cup is a delightful find off the internet — I love daisies and greatly enjoy a nice cup of tea.
In case you are telling yourself, “that looks great, but I’m too busy to enjoy a lunch like that,” here are the facts. I first put on the water to boil for tea, which takes no more than seven minutes — four to boil the water and three to steep the tea. While the water is heating, I get out the dishes, dump out a bunch of pre-packaged, pre-sliced organic carrots, pop open an individual package of red pepper hummus and peel open an individual package of peanut butter. Pour water over some loose tea leaves and, while the tea steeps, I wash and slice an organic apple. Seven minutes total prep time.
Yes, the pre-cut carrots and individual packages of hummus and peanut butter are a little more expensive than “family-size” packages. But here’s the thing: how many of us use pre-portioned horse supplements like SmartPak? Aren’t you worth the same care? Or, if you buy bulk supplements for your horse, you probably spend some time over the weekend dividing a week’s worth into little plastic bags, to make daily feeding easier through the week. Okay, then buy the value-size peanut butter and spend a few minutes putting single-serving-size portions into plastic containers, so you’re all set to go when you need healthy options available quickly. The point is to value yourself enough to invest the time to eat healthy whenever you can.
Riding is a partnership. It’s just as important to invest time in your health, nutrition, and fitness as it is to invest time in your horse’s health, nutrition, and fitness.