Positivity

Focus on the positive.

That is something I always say, even when it is hard to do. I know you have been waiting for the rest of the story.

But let me go back a little first.

…to when Lito would not load in the trailer to come home. Complete with GIFs. Because GIFs make everything better.

We had just wrapped up a great clinic experience and I decided to go ahead and load up to head home before the last lesson. An hour and a half haul back to the farm to unload and then another hour’s drive home makes for a long Sunday and an early Monday. I loaded all of our stuff and got Lito ready.

As we were walking to the trailer, the evening barn help arrived and started feeding all the barn horses early.

Cough.

Me:

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Lito:

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What I should have done in hindsight was just turn around, put him back in the stall, given him some feed, and then loaded when everyone was finished.

Gotta love that hindsight.

However, being the dull minded human I am, I continued forth with the plan. He will load just fine, I thought to myself as he kept trying to look back at all the happy barn horses being fed.

Nope.

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I could belabor the specifics, but that would go on and on just like that fateful evening. I also do not want to focus on that negativity.

Long story short, it is a good thing the clinician, Mark, was spending the night there and not hauling out. He eventually stepped in to help get him loaded. It was a long night that had us unloading at 9:30. I am so grateful for trailer lights.

I think the long weekend combined with the feeding fiasco just all added up. We also had a little bit of drama before we loaded up to go to the clinic, but he loaded just fine to go so who knows.

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The positive in all of this was he unloaded like a champ. I opened the door. He looked at me and stood stock still. I stroked his neck and softly whispered in his ear as I untied and gathered the lead in my other hand. When we were both ready, I asked him to back out and he slowly, calmly backed out and off the trailer.

I left him alone for the week and forced myself to focus on the positive. He did really, really well besides the loading. Tomorrow is a new day and we will just go back to practicing trailer loading the next weekend. If he has an issue with it, we will cross that bridge if and when we get there.

Fast forward to this weekend. We crossed that bridge. Or rather, we are on it. We will see with time if we have crossed it.

I was sure he would just load like he always has in the past and that last weekend was a fluke. Just walk right on. Well. That was not the case. It was almost a repeat of last Sunday!

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Was it all pretty? No. But neither was last Sunday. Sometimes you just have to work through the ugly and the suck to get to the other side.

And we did just that. We worked through it.

I also had to have an open mind about it. Horses are good at making us do that.

During the more ugly parts, I kept thinking to myself. He’s locked up and he’s stuck. I don’t know why, but he is. I should put another horse in there. But there was also this old thinking part of myself that thought no, that’s cheating. He needs to get his butt in that trailer.

At that point I stopped myself. Wrong attitude. We walked away, I tied Lito up, and went to grab Cheetah. I loaded her in the first stall and closed the divider.

After just a few minutes, with Cheetah standing calmly in there letting him know there was nothing wrong, he loaded and went all the way to the front of the second stall.

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I loaded and unloaded him several times. Then I loaded and locked him in there several times. Then I loaded, tied, and locked him in there several times.

Then I took Cheetah out and tied her to the side of the trailer and repeated the process. Each time he walked calmly right on.

Then I took Cheetah and tied her somewhere else and repeated it all again. Again, he calmly loaded right on and off.

Sometimes, you just have to try something new. Do it from a different angle. Fresh perspective.

Part of me wonders if something happened on the way to the clinic. There were no signs other than the refusal to load. The only thing I can add is that tying seemed to cause him to worry when it has not in the past. All he wanted to do is look under the divider. Anyone have any advice for me?

I won’t call it redemption just yet, but we are getting there.

Sounds like a good enough ending? Ya, I thought so too.

There is more.

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If all of that was not enough, Lito then decided he does not like to tie and is scared of kites.

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That right there? I believe is actual footage of me watching my horse forget how to horse.

So. That is what we will be working on in addition to the trailer loading. Back to square one. But you know what. That is OK. We will work through this just like everything else and be better for it.

Maybe he is just in a phase. They all have their moments. We have had a very smooth road up until now. He never really had terrible twos. Some say they do it again, and worse, at four. Maybe this is how he wants to spend the last month of his four year old year. Throwing tantrums.

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It is now my turn to throw the tantrum. You guessed it, it is not yet the end and there is more!

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The fun is not over yet. It is like the infomercial that never ends!

I have to get a new car too! Too bad it will cost me more than $19.99.

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So for all you bottom line folks, here are the AHA moment bottom lines…on the bottom lines. Haha get it? Bottom lines? No?

Be positive.

Tomorrow is a new day.

Keep an open mind.

Work through the suck and have faith.

You will get to the other side.

And most importantly, walk in love, dear readers.

The Mark Rashid Clinic

Today is a two cup of coffee kind of day. What about y’all? It seems every day this week has been a two cup day.

It appears as though I have been surprisingly void of any real, seemingly conscious thought to share. The truth is actually, probably the opposite, but we shall worry about that another day. I have not even taken very many photos. Weird.

But. We did do a thing last weekend. More than write home worthy. It has taken me a few days to digest the experience. And well, life keeps happening and has left me with not as much time for this space. Anyway.

I rode Lito with Mark Rashid.

Let us start at the beginning.

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See what I did there? You will soon find I have only four photos of my own to share with you from the whole weekend. I did get a few from one of the other participants of me riding on Sunday, so that is something. I also took zero notes. I intended to take notes, but when you are actually riding in a clinic, it is a lot going on. I did not get to watch as much as I wanted to either, but that is OK because hey, I got to ride!

We arrived on Friday around 4:30 PM. A little bit later than I had planed for, but all is well that ends well, right? Right. We unloaded and got settled in a stall while the last rider of the day finished his lesson. When the arena cleared out, I took Lito for a little stroll to have a looksee at the surroundings.

He was unimpressed by the pretty painted sticks.

After our stroll, I gave him his evening feed and tucked him in for the night to go check into my hotel and rustle up some dinner for myself.

Saturday morning I arrived at the barn at 7 to feed, take another walk around, and get some grooming in before the clinic started at 9. My ride time was at 11 so I watched the first lesson and part of the second before going to tack up.

I did a good job of keeping my anxiety in check once I got mounted in the area. It has been a long time, and a long time over due, since I have ridden in a clinic or taken lessons.

First order of business, bitting and conact. Lito has never really liked any bit I have put in his mouth and has always been fussy and worried about it every time we attempt contact. I have never really had or ridden horses that had bitting issues. They all just seemed to go happily in whatever you put in their mouth. Not the case with Lito and his fat tongue. I have tried different bits with no luck. It is one of the main reasons we have not really done much work towards getting collected and ‘on the bit’ and learning what all that means.

After going through a few transitions from the walk to the halt, back to walk and some turns, he suggested I try, if I wanted, a different bit with some tongue relief that he had for his horse that has a similar mouth. I replied in the affirmative. We gave him a minute to get used to the feel and then it was like a night and day difference. One minute he was shaking his head with his mouth gaped open and tongue flailing about and the next he was light as a feather and just there in the contact when he figured it out. Like floating on a cloud. Now we can start to build from there. Granted he still has a way to go and still has moments of confusion and worry, but nothing like before and I believe most of that will iron out with time.

By the way, I ordered that bit. I hesitated to do it a little because I did not want to be sold by a salesman trying to sell his own product. However, that really was not the case. He never once said, “buy this and it will fix all your problems.” He said, “hey, if you want to try this you can. Or I have a Myler you can try. Whatever you want. If you like it, that’s great, if you don’t, no worries.”

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This is a large block of text, so here is the bit I got to try Saturday. I ordered it earlier this week. I might also get the Myler.

The rest of the lesson we focused on getting a soft and solid contact (mainly me being consistent and keeping my reins shorter and being there for him, closing the gap. My reins seem to always be too long.) and soft and solid transitions. Halt to walk to halt to back to halt to walk to trot to walk to halt. Maintaining that contact for a few strides and then letting him stretch and relax. Building that strength. Feeling that softness and openness of the transition from inside me and allowing them to happen. This is something that Mark is so great at. Getting everyone to be soft and open, mainly by being so himself. Searching for the feeling of what we want so the horse can meet us there. To achieve the same feeling in everything we do. He did not speak down to anyone or make anyone feel small. He wanted everyone, no matter the level, to achieve that inner softness and openness and to get better.

After a break for lunch, which I couldn’t really eat because I was just still a little high, I worked with Mark’s student to reestablish the level we got to during my lesson and take it a little further.

By the end of Saturday, Lito and I were a bit exhausted and hungry and ready for a shower and bed. I brought a pizza and a bottle of wine back to the hotel and crashed.

On Sunday I did the same morning routine as Saturday and settled in to watch the first lesson.

Then at 10, Lito got a Masterson Method body work session! Y’all. That was amazing to watch and Lito was very responsive and gave big releases. Mark’s wife, Crissi is certified in the Masterson Method. It was fun to watch her work because she is so quiet, soft, and confident like Mark.

I do not have any photos or videos of his session, but this is an introduction on the method. There are many videos out there to watch. I wish I had videoed his session!

It was about this time that the wind picked up and changed the energy of the day.

My lesson was at 2, so I watched what I could and then got tacked up. While I was waiting outside of the arena, a gust of wind made one of the standing tents take flight and every horse thought it was going to eat them. Unfortunately, that set the tone for the rest of the afternoon, but it gave us a chance to work through that tension and get his attention back on the task at hand by changing direction and going to do something else. Redirecting the energy. Not reacting to his responses.

I used a Myler bit that was similar to the bit I used on Saturday to see if Lito responded differently. I think he liked the bit from Saturday more than the Myler as he was a bit mouthy the whole lesson, but we got to a good soft place faster than we did on Saturday. It is all still new for him and with the tension/reactiveness caused by the wind, there was a lot going on. It will take a little time I think for him to break the habit of worry and tension created from the previous bits.

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Thanks to C for the photos! My boy working through it. It was so windy, I bailed on wearing my hat.

We did more transition work and building on what we did the day before. Being better about my consistency and defining the expectations. Teaching him where the boundaries are. Towards the end we got some really nice downward transitions keeping the energy, momentum, and push all the way through.

Afterwards we worked again with Mark’s student, G, but I probably should have opted out of that because he was just fried at this point. And I guess so was I.

All in all, I was quite proud of him. He handled himself very well. And. I will say. So did I. I am proud of the both of us.  It was a great clinic and I am glad I did it. We have more to build on and a next level to reach now. We both received compliments and I am over the moon.

The afternoon was wearing on, Monday was fast approaching, and we had a ways to go to get home. I packed and loaded everything and lead Lito to the trailer…

…Then…

He would not load in the trailer to go home.

And that is a story for next time.

Walk in love, dear readers!