Fat to Fit to First Level: A Foundation of Trust

“Sometimes, the absolute best thing you and your horse can do together is… breathe.”

Kaliwohi tossed me off again this week. We were working in the round pen and he was so very calm I decided to just sit on him bareback. Not ask a thing, just sit and re-bond with my mustang. We were alone together, so there are no photographs to share. I had a helmet on. Kiwi had a halter and lead rope on. I climbed up on the mounting block and laid across his back, like I would a true green-bean unbacked horse. Everything was fine.

I laid one leg along his back and rested my foot on his rump, while maintaining my weight and balance on the mounting block. Everything was fine.

I put my leg across his bare back and settled onto him, thinking we would just stand there and reconnect. I thought I might take a “between the ears” photograph so folks could see me back aboard my horse, just sitting on him bareback.

But Kaliwohi had other plans.

Kiwi took two steps forward and bucked twice. He’s never bucked before, ever, not even at liberty on a “feel good” romp with his stablemates. This horse is simply not a bucker. But he bucked this week and I got dumped. Fortunately, this time there was no speed involved, nor any steel stock panels. Also fortunately, this time no bones were broken, but my newly-healed hip has a brand new bruise the size of a cantaloupe – if cantaloupes came in “black and blue,” that is. Ugh. Raw honesty: For an unskinny gal, it’s really tough when one bum cheek sticks out two inches beyond the other one because of a bruise and swelling. And it’s painful to sit down. *sigh*

Instead of getting to my feet right away, I sat on the arena floor for some time, pondering what had just happened. I literally asked Kiwi out loud, “why did you do that?!” I wasn’t angry with him. I was hurt and confused.

As you may recall, the first time I had an “unplanned dismount” off this horse, he was in a blind run back to the barn. This time, in the round pen, my horse did not run at all. He stopped, turned around, and walked back to me.

He nuzzled me as if to apologize, or make sure I was okay, or maybe just look for treats.

Eventually, I got up and left him in the round pen while I went to clean up a road-rash elbow and grab a bag of frozen peas for the rope burns on the hand that had been holding the lead rope.

And went back to the round pen to work my horse.

These are the un-fun times of horse ownership – when I question my skill, my dedication, even my sanity. Yet there is a five year old horse in my life that deserves the best possible education I can give him, and it’s up to me to figure out how to communicate with this particular horse. Upon reflection, I realized I always ride Kaliwohi in tack, never bareback, and he is quite a sensitive horse. I’m guessing the feeling of full body contact between us just overwhelmed him, so I take complete responsibility for being unseated this time.

I called a friend (raw honesty – my ex-hubs) to come take some photographs for this article, and he arrived within a few minutes. I think you can see Kaliwohi’s quiet demeanor in the pictures below.

Kaliwohi hooked on and keeping his energy low and connected. (Fun tidbit: note the bag of frozen peas to numb the rope burns on my hand.) Photograph by Greg Bell.

Kaliwohi wanted to stay close to me while we worked. I appreciated his humble spirit, frankly. If a horse could say, “I’m really sorry, mum” I believe that’s what my mustang was trying to communicate to me.

Yielding his front end and opening the right shoulder. Photograph by Greg Bell.

Kaliwohi was quiet and deliberate in his movements. This allowed me to work with each “quadrant” of  his body individually. In this photograph, you can see he is crossing over in the front nicely, while transferring weight on the hind end to take a full step to the right.

“Namaste, Kaliwohi.” Photograph by Greg Bell.

At the end of our session, Kaliwohi walked directly up to me and reached out to me with his head. We had a lovely full minute of connection (third eye chakra, if you’re into that sort of thing). When an accident has damaged trust and elevated fear, sometimes the sweetest feeling is to connect with your horse and realize both of you are truly trying your very best, giving everything you have to the partnership, striving to communicate clearly so nobody panics and no one gets injured.

Sometimes, the absolute best thing you and your horse can do together is… breathe.

Join me on this journey on Facebook: Fat to Fit at Horse Nation (page and group), and my blog www.appalachianchic.com.


Go Riding

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