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Considering the Horse - Diaries 01/2003

 

KIM LANKFORD 2004 MONTHLY DIARY - January

Getting ready, 1/ 9/04

Life ever changing, moving us forward. Movement is life, life is movement. Breath is the movement initiating life, this is what I believe.

Breath stopped for Mark’s beloved horse Buck on New Years Day. Buck lived his life generously teaching Mark and those of us lucky enough to be around him and open to him, lessons in life. Buck never stopped teaching and I hope to be living proof of this. How like Buck in his unselfish death to again teach us so much of life.

These are hard life lessons. I think this is one way we know we are still living. Life is not for the weak of heart.

We also had another loss, my beloved dog Cody had to be put down six days after Buck’s passing. Cody was the Buck of dogs. Time, age and what that brings caught up with him. Cody had been my faithful companion for many years, and he too, touched many lives. He rode with me and Bridger all over the Santa Monica Mountains, never more than a foot or two behind us. Cody, like Buck, was a very wise soul. I kept hoping that Cody would just fall asleep like Buck. But that was not to be our journey.

I like to think that both Buck and Cody are together, saying to each other: I know it’s hard for our humans now, in time though they will find and use the tools that we have left them to carry on. This is the gift that we leave our beloved humans………………….

8:59 A.M. 1/19/04

We go to the barn and Bucks lack of presents is palpable. Things are different now… we are different now. Life ever changing, moving us forward whether we like it or not

I spent the entire week before this cleaning our tack, and the tack room to the trailer In Aikido we keep the Dojo “the space of enlightenment” bright and uncluttered. There are many reasons for this. One is that we may think clearly, that we bring respect and gratitude to our work. This is another way that Aikido resonates with our horse work .To me this is respect, not just to the craftsman who tooled our beautiful leather saddles and headstalls, but to our horses and to our selves That we my think more clearly. That we say to our selves and our horses “let’s help one another train”. It is a heartfelt thanks.

Feel, timing, blending, balance, breath and the postural awareness to see this through. The “Girl”, Mouse, Smokey, Bridger and all our horses work hard to keep us looking good. We never want to forget that we are grateful for that opportunity. This keeps us in the right frame of mind. Horsemanship  through life, Aikido through life.

We are quiet as we load our ponies and its snowing everything feels and looks soft. But are hearts, they are heavy. Mark misses Buck, I miss Buck though we don’t say a word. We load Mouse and “the Girl”, off to Mediffe, Southern California where it is sure to be warmer.

Bruce Springsteen sings us through the St. Vrain Canyon “ Down to the river and into the river we did ride… Is a dream a lie if it don’t come true or is it something worse”. The snow grabbing on to the sides of the rocks, but can’t quite get a hold of the pines. It seems to slip through the needles and the pines are absent of their flocking. The Talking Heads “We’re on the way to nowhere” and the St. Vrain River with three inches of freeze on top. It is deceiving because the river still runs, every so often there is a break in the ice around the banks and rocks as it twists, turns and cuts its way through the canyon. It just keeps snowing, 26 degrees, 10:57 A.M. still not much has been said. The radio has been good Rock from A to Z… We are on the letter R. Other side of the highway is an accident - not good. Mark turns on “Song of the Prairie” - that’s good…. 16 degrees. The chair lifts are working and there are a few skiers out. Icy roads ahead… Frisco, Colorado. It stopped snowing, the Aspen trees look like sticks coming out of the earth, they’re bare-naked and cold looking.

3:00 P.M. 38 degrees as we enter Utah. White stuff everywhere except on the road. Sagebrush makes its way through.

6:47 P.M.  Snowing again, still in Utah. We just had supper. We’ll rest just the other side of Las Vegas.

6:56 P.M. stopped snowing…odd weather.

8:45 P.M. got fuel, gave “the Girl” and Mouse a snack.

9:10 P.M. Arizona we just saw a shooting star. You know what that means? Good luck!

9:39 P.M. Welcome to Nevada. Soon we’ll stop for a nap, get the horses out, let them stretch. We always go for a little walk, put up a feed bag and get some shut-eye. I can’t

wait.

10:56 P.M. We stop. Yea! We clean the trailer, get the feed bag up and off to dream land.

5:00 A.M. We got good sleep. 2 legged and 4 legged ready to roll. Good thing too, cause we are off…..

10:30 A.M.

We pull into The Wagon Wheel Ranch Mediffe Southern California...

We’ll start the demo at 1:30 P.M. So we have a little time to get ourselves together. We get our ponies tended to and ask our host where is the closest car/truck wash?  Like I said earlier, we want to start things off fresh with clear thoughts. However, our “rig” is a mess from all the snow and magnesium chloride on the road… it looks so dirty! So you guessed, its off to the car wash we go. 

This is to be a four day clinic. Our good friend and horsewoman Beth Anne will join us for two days. We are all happy to have her input over those days, Mark, myself, students and horses alike.

The demo goes well. We have a nice small group of riders. Some of the riders have ridden with us before and it’s always nice to see friendly faces. Again, no matter how many times we do these exercises, for me at least, you always find new ways to feel and understand how this can affect and influence our horse work. Feel, timing, blending, balance, breath and the postural awareness to see it through. Horsemanship through life Aikido through life, you and your horse - one word, youandyourhorse.

We are also making changes in our demo, life moving us forward. Mark and I are always looking to be better teachers or ways that we can be more clear and give you a head start on some awareness. We are going to start by taking some of our work in the demo right to our horses’ back while the demo is in progress. We will still have auditors, however the clinic participants will be expected to ride during the demo. We will also start right off with our pelvic clock work and take that to our horse. The 3 and 9 movement of our horse. It’s the natural impulse in the way our horse moves, the way we move.  Center to center, breath to breath. Abdominals engaged, articulation in our spine. Abdominals engaged, softness in the horse’s top line through the same articulation. The softness we feel in our horse when they round is the same thing our horses feel when we are soft and lifted through our abdominals. Center to center - breath to breath. I am so excited about all of this!

The theme words of this clinic were “Flow” and “Negotiate”.  Beth Anne said flow is what she sees when things come together for horse and rider. Yes there is movement, a flowing, body in motion stays in motion, horse in motion stays in motion.

We would like our work with our horses to flow softly through transitions between cues as well as upward and downward transitions. This word flow can be a good image of how soft we can feel while we are influencing our horse’s movement and direction.

Negotiate is something we find ourselves doing with our horses. We are asking for one thing with a certain cue but we will accept something else. More times then not it is and unconscious thing we do, this negotiating. Therein lies the problem. We must be clear. When we negotiate we are really sending mixed messages to our horses.  “Get what you ask for”. “Start straight, end straight”.  This does not mean we need to be overbearing and forceful, “no matter what, I am going to get you to do this”.  No, it simply means “be clear”, know what it is you are asking, take your time and build to your successes.

This clinic had a very warm and supportive feel from all the riders and horses. I just love this work. It’s just so fun to see folks make changes in how they’re presenting information to their horses. As I said, this was a four-day clinic and most of the riders were riding all four days. There were only two riders who split their days.

We start at 8:00 A.M. Today the weather is good. Mark and I walk to the arena with the “Girl” and Mouse. One of our riders is a gal with her 10 year old paint mustang mare. This is a very nice horse with the softest eyes. The horse had kind of a rough start. She came to our rider this way. Our rider and horse together were having a hard time building confidence with each other. Our rider is smart and so is her horse. So our rider was starting her horse again from the beginning. Our rider noticed that every time she went to catch her horse, the horse would turn and walk away. Also when our gal led her horse by the arena, they had to walk over a hose. She said to Mark and I “that’s a big snake that is going to get her” and as  she continued to walk toward it, she became tentative. Mark said “just keep going. It’s only a big deal if you make it one”. How true that is. Sometimes we can become so over protective, and of what? A hose?  With that, you saw a look come to our gal like… “yes, what the heck am I thinking”.

Because our rider was having a little trouble catching her mare, Mark and our rider started to work with her in a small area . Mark helped our gal think of how she was approaching her horse. By standing to the left or right of the hind quarters or shoulders will dictate a certain movement. The idea is to engage our horse, not to necessarily get our horse to follow us, or chase her off, which is actually what she had been told she should do when the horse walked away, but to get the mare thinking about what it is we are asking.

Mustangs that were born in the wild, like this one, have been robbed of some of their dignity. It’s up to us to offer them something in return. Respect, confidence, a plan, some kind of better deal. We just can’t push our way into their space, throw a halter on them and expect every thing to be ok. Not that our rider was doing that, but I have a feeling that somewhere down the line this was a method used.

After some work in the round pen, Mark had her bring her horse in to the arena to see if we might have some of the same success in a bigger area, our rider worked her horse softly and with thought. Sure enough, her horse became interested in what it was her human was asking. With softness and confidence our gal put the halter on and we were good to go.

The next three days we worked under saddle. Like I said, the horse had been started before but she was very braced. She did not seem to have a lot of understanding behind her work. The little mare traveled inverted, with her head in the air and her back dipped. Because of this awkward way of traveling, she really didn’t know how to balance with her rider.

So here we go, Mark asked our rider to pick up some contact with her reins to see if we could  ask the mare to yield to the bit, therefore asking the horse to bend at the pole, dropping her nose just a few steps, then we release. We release for the amount of time it took to get some softness. In other words, if it took half of the arena to get softness we would release for the other half.  

We start slow…remember, we are also looking for understanding to come through as well as softness. So first we ask for three steps then five, then seven, then nine. This is at a walk and it might take two days to get nine steps with the horse soft. Heck it will take however long it takes. After we get there, we move to the trot, starting again from the beginning with three steps then five and so on. With this little mare, over the four days we made it through the trot with softness. She will then do the same in the lope, although we weren’t able to get that far during the clinic. Remember this is slow work, we are asking a lot of our little horse. It’s mental and physical. We are asking our horse to use muscles that she may have never used, and that is probably true in this mare’s case because she carried her rider in such an inverted way. Each day they were finding more balance and softness

At the end of the clinic our rider was so happy. She and her mustang had really come a long way. Our rider said it was more then she dreamed. How cool is that! Our horse and rider were building understanding and with that comes confidence and a partnership that is about something.  Feel, timing, blending, balance, breath and the postural awareness to see it through!  We can’t wait to see these two again. Remember to breathe…….

 

I know you’ve heard me say this before, and here I go again. This work is so rewarding to me when I see the changes that folks make with they’re horses, and then how the horses give every thing they’ve got. It is so inspiring. It makes all our driving worthwhile. Not that we do anything, really. Awareness, Feel, Timing, Blending, Balance, Breath, and the Postural awareness to see it through.  We bring a reminder of these things, at least that is what our goal is, to bring awareness to ideas that have worked for us. Please know that it is in all of us, we just need to see it and breathe life into that vision. Horsemanship through life, Aikido through life.

We worked with a gal and her young Arab quarter horse mare last year. We were seeing them again this year. Our rider was actually riding two horses in this clinic. Double the fun! These were both nice horses and she was a good rider. This is where our word “negotiate” came in to play. Two days into the clinic Mark said he was looking for a word to describe their partnership. “Negotiate” was the word that fell out of his mouth. I sat on the “Girl” thinking about what I heard as I watched them work. There it was, our rider was negotiating her ride. That was so interesting to me. I think we can all relate to this at one time or another. Whether we were able to label it or not, I don’t know. This negotiating became easy to see because we had no real history with the horse. We are clean slates where this horse is concerned. The horses and rider have a pattern that they have fallen into - muscle memory as well. So what do we do? Ride the horse we have today. Yesterday is old news. A minute ago is old news, that’s the beauty of this work, move on, change your number. Make a plan. I think in this horse’s case, she was ready to move on but our rider wasn’t sure, so our rider - in a way - kept teaching her horse the same lesson. Then came confusion and a negotiating process.

Mark tells it this way. At a certain time you must move on. It’s like when were growing up. In first grade we learn 1+ 1 = 2.  2 + 2 = 4. By third and definitely by forth grade we are expected to know these things, to ask a fifth grade student to keep doing these equations after they already know them is an insult, and the student may wonder what’s this teacher thinking? In a way it’s the same with our horses. So, the way our horse tries to please is by doing other things they think we might want, and we keep saying “no that’s not it”. And then they do something else because surly it can’t be that same “old thing we’ve been doing”. Then we say “yes it’s that same old thing…Isn’t it fun!” and our horse says “Fun? I thought we had this, wasn’t I doing it right?

I know we don’t mean to, but I do think sometimes we insult our horses. We don’t listen to them. We get so caught up in what it is we want, and then what we inadvertently end up accepting isn’t even what we asked for!  Confusion, then negotiations…it’s a wonder we get any where. What was so “Cool” is that as soon as this was brought to our rider’s  attention a change took place. Boy was that fun to watch. Her little horse looked up and said “Hey, what have you done to my rider! You replaced her with someone new!”  And I guess in a way, we did…New thoughts, new plan.  No negotiating, no confusion. Be clear. Think.

We had wonderful, thinking riders in this clinic. Riders that wanted to work on their seat, balance and breath. Riders that wanted awareness in their work and who wanted to let go of their braces.

We had a lot of folks working on developing their “3 and 9” movement.  The “3 and 9” is simply the natural movement of pretty much all land–bound mammals. In the human, 3 and 9 works this way.  If you look at your “center” as a clock with your belly button as the “12 o’clock” starting point. Then moving clockwise, hip 3:00, pubic bone 6:00, other hip 9:00. When you see riders push in the saddle, that’s what we would refer to as the 6 and 12 movement. In other words, belly button to pubic bone. It is not natural movement for either human or horse, and in fact, goes against the natural movement.

One of our riders asked me is the 3 and 9 the same in all horses? No it’s not. Each horse will be a little different, just like each of us walk a little different However, we all do move in 3 and 9. It’s simply the bio-mechanics of us land-bound mammals.

With our horses, the barrel swings out, say to the right allowing the opposite back foot to move under the horse and forward. The barrel swings back to the left and the right hind foot moves. You may have realized that you are also feeling this, where the feet are and when they’re leaving the ground. Once you can feel this, you can now start to influence  movement. As the foot leaves the ground this is your opportunity to influence and direct your horse. If the foot is coming down or is weighted, then it is harder. You are not set up for movement. Horse in motion stays in motion. Horse stopped stays stopped.  When you feel the barrel swing you feel your hips drop as well. There is a natural rhythm to this. It’s the impulsion from our horse’s hind feet, up to their hindquarters, through our hindquarters. It is a circle of movement and energy.

I’ve started thinking of riding as circles and triangles, then that brings me back to Aikido. In Aikido it is often said that the most difficult thing to do is to stand well in a good stance ( Kamae) Posture. Your feet sort of resemble a triangle, and you are balanced from your center, your power house or sometimes called life force. Morihei Ueshiba taught ” A good stance reflects a proper state of mind”.

I believe this holds true for riding as well. To sit your horse in a balanced neutral spine position is challenging, it too reminds me of a triangle the pubic bone and sit bones, your neutral spine position being   reinforced through your lower abdominals, buttocks , and lower back. Then take that softly down your leg to your foot and points of balance there across the ball of the foot to the heal another triangle, however when we put our foot in the stirrup a point of balance is missing, I believe that is why so many of us want to push into our heals, we are looking for balance also a lot of us were told to do this as proper “riding.”  We believe that creates a brace. It is our opinion that your foot should be soft with no push in your heal your foot should feel in your stirrup as it does on earth you do not push into earth, we do not want to push in to our stirrup. We trust in our center for balance not our feet!

This also lets our horse know that we are in proper state of mind for riding our seat is balanced and we  are saying to our horse we will move together we are centered and stable in body and mind  ready to support each other through our ride. Horsemanship through life Aikido through life. Feel, Timing, Blending, Balance, Breath and the Postural awareness to see it through.

We want to thank our hosts Christa and “Amazing Jim”, Ethan and Hanna. Our four legged friends, Arrow, Tuesday, and Honey-Bear. Thank you for the wonderful dinners. Kathy and Dan… great salads! Beth Anne for taking the time to work with us and the riders. We were lucky to have you. Can’t wait to do it again! We really enjoyed the Wagon Wheel Ranch, it is a very special place. Remember to breathe. Mark and I look forward to seeing you all again. Thank you to all the riders

1:30 A. M. We leave for home. We knew we were going to leave early so Mark and I got things ready after the clinic. Put down fresh shavings, filled a hay bag so we’re good to go. It’s dark and we load our ponies, they got good rest and are ready to roll.  It’s very foggy so we drive accordingly. Once again not much is said.

6:30A.M. We stop in Las Vegas to move around. Mark gets a couple of Krispy Kreame doughnuts. Not really as good as they say if you ask me and I find them disappointing. Oh well its sugar. Still things are quiet.

10:13 A.M. get fuel, still quite. White stuff everywhere it’s like a big goose down blanket softly caresses the earth. 22 degrees. Sunshine, we haven’t eaten yet and I am getting a little hungry.

2:04 P.M. Looking out over the red rocks. It is crisp and blue, 25 degrees. The white stuff sticks to the East side of the rocks, San Raphell River frosted over, cutting through the red of the earth. I’ll never get tired of looking out across this land. We stop at Crescent Junction my favorite rest stop. It’s in Utah on the turnoff to Mohab. If you haven’t been to Mohab you really must, it is beautiful.

Marks heart is very heavy with the loss of Buck. He goes to the trailer to take a nap. I get the horses out, put up a hay bag for them, then start to clean. I do it by myself, put down fresh shavings, it smells so good, reflect on the days of the clinic. The only sound is the horses and my thoughts. I decide to practice my Aikido kata. Modern Aikido was founded by Morihei Ueshiba 1883-1969. “Aikido is for everyone.”

Certain Aikido movements require lot’s of open space O Sensi  ( Morihei Ueshiba, this is what his students called him, it is out of respect ) highly recommend out door training in Mother Nature’s dojo. Before I read this I found myself at certain time in our travels doing just this. Breathe…………

Today it was very helpful for me. Aikido helps brighten the sprit, it keeps your “senses fresh and you will bring light into this world”. When your partner is hurting it is especially important to keep ones sprit polished with love and light. Aikido is not a religion but a spiritual discipline. Aikido through life, horsemanship through life.

In Judaism, a year is the time set for mourning. Then it is our responsibility to live because life is for the living. We must not be living dead.

I take the “Girl” and Mouse for a walk looking out over the high desert of Utah. How beautiful it is, what a gift this life is even with all its pain and suffering. I place myself between our ponies they are warm and I see our breath in the cold air.  I am thankful to the “Girl” and Mouse, grateful. We go back to the trailer and I give them some water.

Mark is up and we are ready to roll. I get some cheese, crackers, apples, summer sausage from the trailer, bring it up in the cab with us and we have a little picnic and talk. Things always look better and feel better after a little shut-eye. Ain’t that the truth !   

It’s now a little after 11:00 P.M. we are almost home its, 17 degrees. We pull in to the barn tend to our ponies. Boy are they happy to be home as are we .We shut the lights out to the barn and say Good Night Mouse…….Good Night to the” Girl” and Good Night to you all……… and Sweet Dreams……….Next stop Texas……. Ye- hah!!!

 

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