Monday, February 23, 2015

Walk It Off

Licorice and I met with a new trainer today and had an amazing lesson of doing what appeared to be nothing.  The new trainer does Classical French Dressage (so fancy, right?) but is also big on fixing holes on the ground.  I told her that I wanted to work on my anxiety levels before getting into the saddle and that even on the ground, I had anxiety in new situations.  Such as moving to a strange barn.

So, we went to the pasture to get Licorice.  My anxiety was already starting to rise as Licorice was in with his new friend, who is not a horse I know.  When L walked over, his new girlfriend came with him.  My new trainer (who shall now be called E), had me walk up to Licorice and if he stayed with me, just stand next to him and pet him.  If he walked away with his girlfriend, we just followed.  We did a sort of approach and retreat thing for a few minutes and then began to approach Licorice, but shoo his girlfriend away.  That took all of 30 seconds and Licorice stayed with me.  E had me put his halter on and take him out then.

The rest of my hour long lesson was spent walking.  And walking.  And zigging and zagging and walking.  E suggested that Licorice and I need more walking.  She said this is the first phase of our training and that later we will work on more refined things, but for now, she wanted to see us reduce our anxiety by walking.

E also suggested that I start thinking of Licorice and I as a unit.  So, if he's anxious and needs to move, go with him and walk.  Licorice is not a spooky, hot horse so walking is a good speed for him.  If he got distracted and lifted his head, called to his girlfriend, or just started crowding me, I was to change directions.  However, E pointed out that most people do this really abruptly, which can startle the horse even further.  When I changed direction, I was to do it smoothly and in time with our regular footfalls.

She really stressed rhythm with us.  She wanted us walking in rhythm, changing directions in rhythm, stopping in rhythm.  We walked and walked through the barn, up and down the aisle.  When we got to the cross ties, we turned him in and let him stop.  If he felt too anxious to be there, we calmly just walked and walked.  With rhythm.  Then we returned and tried again.  Set him up, back him one step to let him know we'd like him to stay there and then wait.  If he rested, he rested.  If not, we walked.

E also suggested that we walk when *I* am anxious (we're a unit, remember?).  So, at one point, they were loading hay into the upper part of the barn and though Licorice remained calm, I started to feel anxious.  So, we kept walking until my anxiety went away.

People, it was genius.  Freaking genius.  So. Simple.  So.  Damn.  Simple.  And yet, so effective.  E said that she does this with any horse that people want to be 'kid broke' because it's the best platform for a mellow, calm horse.  She did say that she would not do this with a show horse that someone wanted on the hotter side, as it is a very calming exercise.

E also said that she thought Licorice and I would be fine together.  If today was any indication, she's right.  We will be totally fine.  We'll just walk it off.
Licorice showing the other horses how to dig a hole to China.  


  1. Lovely - sound like just what the two of you need! That foundational stuff is so important.

  2. What a great idea. Wonderful tip that I am going to try out myself :)

  3. Sounds like the barn move was a good one!! Keep up the good work. :D

  4. Sounds like you found just what you needed. :) Yay!