A different horse...
In today's image, you can see Pip lunging one of her young mares, Spartaca.
Today Bronson and I had a lunge lesson. Pip has been working with me on my posture, as that really is key when you’re working with horses. Pizarra taught me long ago, when I was freeschooling her, that a horse can be transformed simply by me changing my posture, energy and intention! Having now learned the ideal posture, I’ve realised I struggle to do it just walking the dog and that’s before you add the movement of a horse!
As it turns out Bronson has some postural issues too! Like myself, having spent the last while not holding himself correctly, he is finding it difficult to work properly and has the default setting of letting it all hang out. I have empathy as we’re both in the same boat, but just as I’m doing planks, reverse planks and am trying to maintain good posture throughout the day he has to get his body into gear as well. So today Pip worked him on the lunge and it was quite extraordinary!
First of all, I was amazed at how much ground Pip was covering effortlessly. I, on the other hand, was at her shoulder trying to keep up! “How are you moving so far, when it looks like you’re not moving much at all?” I asked. Her reply was that she was powering from behind, walking from her pelvis and core, not her shoulders. So, I was making every effort to hold myself in the correct posture, whilst maneuvering myself to be able to watch, without getting in Pip’s way and also take in everything that was happening with Bronson.
Initially, he really didn’t want to play ball and Pip was explaining to me what was unfolding. This was really helpful, as I’m too inexperienced to know what I’m looking for at times, or to be able to deduce what is happening and why. 40 years spent learning from horses means that Pip is a great interpreter! The great thing about Bronson is that once you get over the bit where he tries to evade, he can turn out the most amazing work! He engaged his back, was lifting his back feet (he defers to dragging them given the opportunity), his body was more compact with the way he was holding himself and he was in the most amazing outline. It’s simply the best work I’ve ever seen him do! He looked like a different horse!
When it was time to change the rein there was a bit of a disagreement over Bronson coming to a halt. He preferred the idea of stopping when he felt like it, rather than when he was asked. It was very interesting to me that, even after achieving such wonderful work, there is always this delicate balance of making sure the horse isn’t suddenly in charge. Pip ensured he stopped at her command and didn’t turn in towards her. After working him on the other rein for a time, Pip gave him a breather and then handed me the lunge line. She made sure I was good to go, gave me some instructions and off we went. I’ve never experienced anything like it! All I had to do was maintain my posture and ask him to lift and Bronson circled around me with a slack lead line. Wherever I stopped and turned he responded. It’s worth mentioning that this was on his blind side. When he’s listening, he’s actually far more responsive on that side, interestingly.
It was wonderful to experience him being so sensitive, light on the line, listening and willing. If you can get him out of feeling lazy, he really does excel! We only did 10 minutes, as by then I felt that shift where my focus fades. Despite only having been lunging for 10 minutes I had been concentrating hard the entire session. He had worked so beautifully and I was keen to end on a high. Pip had said not to do more than another 15 minutes anyway, so it felt like a good time to stop.
No day is complete without a Sam blunder of course! Todays variation on the theme was that I needed to move Bronson and didn’t have my lead line anywhere close by so I led him by his headcollar. Pip explained that I must never do this as that puts me into his space and it’s very unsettling for the horse. I kicked myself, as after her having got him into such a wonderful head space, I’d undone that. As always, my only comfort is I won’t make that mistake twice and a gentle reminder from Pip that she’s been doing this for a very long time and learned from her own mistakes cheered me up!