kim and bridgerLiving Horsemanship


Considering the Horse - Diaries 01/2003




12:00P.M. We leave Estes Park, sunny 47 degrees for Aspen, Colorado. Things are quiet, we get fuel, go to the barn to gather up our ponies, hook up trailer, get our supplies loaded (food and clothes) then weíll be off.

A Mountain Dew has exploded in the ice box of the trailer, so Mark cleans that, while I get the back of the trailer ready for our ponies. First I clean the back of the trailer, fresh shavings, load a bale of hay. We like to have things just right for are hard working ponies, theyíre so good to us. Mark hooks-up the trailer and weíre off.

12:45P.M. driving down through the St.Vrain canyon. I donít think Iíll ever get tired of this drive. You would hardly believe that a week ago yesterday in this canyon and everywhere was 4-5 feet of snow. Thereís not a bit of it now. Soft blue-gray clouds and green everywhere. We listen to Markís rough CD, he just finished two new songs for it, I wish they were on this rough demo we have now, the new songs really seem to tie it all together. I canít wait till you hear it. I guess Aspen is 4 hours from here. Weíre on highway 36, just passed a shirtless guy on horsebackÖ 57 degrees. Golden, Colorado. Coors brewery and Buffalo Billís grave and museum. Did you know Coors is really built over a spring, so it is made from spring water!

Georgetown, big horn sheep on my right, 2:32P.M., 31 degrees and snowing. Vail Colorado, David Wilcox on the CD, sun glasses come off. Sometimes the silence screams when youíre driving. Itís now really snowing. We pull into Glenwood Canyon, itís beautiful.

Iíve never been to Aspen Iíve always heard how pretty it is, and it is. We unload Smokey and Bridger get them feed. And get ready for our demo. Itís about 4:30ish.P.M. Mark thanks every one for coming, weíre a little late due to weather. I donít think weíve been late before. These are some die-hard ridersÖ I mean its cold. We start things out with our demo, again it seems to go well, we are inside of course. Again folks are looking for better ways to work with their beloved horses and again it looks like weíll find them together.

The demo takes about 3 hours and as you know itís interactive so everyone is involved. This was a small group of riders who have ridden with Mark before. However this is their first time doing our demo work. Feel, Timing, Balance, Breath, BlendingÖ all this into our riding, abdominal awareness, postural awareness. Getting softness and being soft. Being soft with each other, with everything we do. Thatís what Iím shooting for these days. Softness in everything I do. Some days are better than others. In this clinic I really felt like I grew up a little more. I always feel a little wiser when weíre done, again thatís what Iím looking forÖ to be better, to be a better me, more aware so I might not just help my horse but everything around me, everyone around me. Thatís what our Aikido is about. Thereís no point to any of it if you donít put it in to action. Because it takes a life time of practice. Horsemanship through life. Softness through life.

As always itís overwhelming to put down everything I see or feel. There is always so much, and am sure I miss half of it, more than that, probably... I do feel however, there is something in each moment and I want to be present for it, so I find myself working hard to stay out of my way so that I may see more, be more.

Mark has worked with this rider before. She is a good rider, always looking for more and getting it. She rides a big gray Thoroughbred horse. Mark says heís always impressed with what goes on with her and her horse, and always feels a little more challenged each time they meet. This is my first meeting with her and I have been looking forward to it, as well.

She is a jumper and that is what she and her gray horse love to do. So perfecting this is what weíre after. Feel , Timing, Blending, Balance, Breath, Center, shared center, any of this sound like it might help? Well it does, and the softer you get, the more it works. The more she let go and let these thing work, the more powerful this partnership became. We started working in the arenaÖ itís a huge indoor (weíre in Aspen 4 feet of snow out side there is also a heater in the place) itís big like a football field. Anyway she rides in and we start working on simple lead changes, itís warm up work, just to see where theyíre at. Things look good a little sticky on the left lead and her left side, but she is on it, and it quickly smoothes out.

A while back she suffered a stroke that left her left side a bit compromised, not so you would noticed now, itís pretty subtle. But itís there. We did some good work that seemed to help open up her left side. She felt the difference, we saw the difference and her horse showed the difference. The partnership they shared was and is awesome, and that is a word I donít use often.

We did pelvic balance work, I adjusted her pelvis, worked on her being more in, neutral spine position, along with the pelvic clock. Abdominal awareness... She actually felt her left side drop more into place .She asked me why none of her Docís thought of this or looked for it. I donít know, I really donít, maybe because itís so easy. Humans have a tendency to want to make things more complex then they sometimes need to be. I think itís a need we have to feel more important. One thing I do know is it gets in our way! It will get in our way with our horses and it will get in our way in life.

Back to the arena, her rise from the saddle is looking softer the left lead is right there, here come the jumps. Mark would break down the beats, the breath, and they flew over these jumps. The softness was over the jump, she got to where would change leads in mid air, not like a flying lead change, but deciding what foot she wanted to land on while coming over the jump. The jump was just the breath to softness. You hardly heard the feet hit the ground. She would actually lift her horse up with her center, they would do it together. It was very exciting, to watch...

I canít wait to see what these two weíll be up to when next we meetÖÖÖÖÖÖ.

Another situation that gave me pause was between two horses, really. I donít know if I can capture what seemed to me to be complete compassion from one horse to another. It was the last day of our four day clinic. The last day is always interesting to me because this is the day when so much comes together and Mark expects you to be making a lot of your own decisions. Of course he will intervene if need be, and often that is the case. However we try to leave you with tools to work with and ideas to put into action. Breath and awareness, softness, feel, timing, blending, balance .

This gal came riding in on her big warmblood horse. As I said, this is our fourth day and this gal really wanted to get her flying lead changes that she had been working on the day before. There was no reason to believe that this day would be any different from the work she accomplished the day before. Two days before we worked toward this with warm up work, simple changes in an arena full of activity.

When I say activity, I mean it. Lotís of horse work going on and kids taking lessons at one end of the arena. Each day there were many challenges while we did our work. Thatís the way it goes sometimes. You stay focused, do your work, look at these things as an opportunity. This last day, however, was different than most. There were few people, our rider, Mark, myself, one of our auditors and our host. Everyone else wanted to get on the road due the poor weather, which I guess was why things today seemed very still.

We started our work. Our rider was warming up when another rider rode inÖ no big deal. She too, was riding some kind of warmblood, a great big horse. Anyway, as soon as we started doing our work on lead changes, this other rider started doing lead changes as well. It seemed every where our rider was in the arena, so was she. It was uncannyÖ Our rider continued to stay focused though now her horse was starting to have concerns. The other rider now was doing a lead change every other step and her horse was giving out this loud heaving sound that was rattling the rafters. His rider just kept the pressure on.

Our rider was trying to keep her focus, but having concerns about why her horse wasnít getting his changes. The sound the other horse was making was so unnerving I turned to Mark and asked Ďwhatís that noise?í This totally distressed, breathing sound coming out of this horse, it was a deep thunderous heave each time his feet hit the ground. His rider asked for more, or maybe she wasnít asking. Maybe it was just relentless pressure on pressure. Our rider canít understand why her horse isnít coming through for her. Suddenly her horse just started to fall apart. Mark asked her to stop and she rode over to us. She was upset that her horse wasnít getting his changes and so focused on what she wanted that she didnít see what was happening. This seemed amazing to me.

She felt the other rider in her way, but didnít really understand what was happening with her horse. Each time the other horseís feet hit the ground, our riders horse let out big breaths. He was so upset for this other horse. Maybe he felt this would happen to him, maybe he felt that our riderís goal was to achieve this... I donít know. What I do know is that it took awhile for our riderís horse to calm down. Standing still actually turned out to be a good exercise for our horseÖ to be able to be still and understand that his rider was offering him softness. We were all offering softness to our horses. We all just stood to one side of the arena while this gal continued to work her horse. Mark kept saying that our riderís job was to offer support to her horse. The rest of our riderís lesson was spent with her feeling and giving softness to her horse. It was a good lesson. Her horse got to understand and feel that no harm would come to him. She was protecting him.

Maybe Iím making too much of this. Maybe Iím making it bigger than it is. One thingís for sure, though, I know Iíll never forget how I felt and what I felt between these two horsesÖ and what I saw.

I wondered why this other gal kept on her horse the way she did. Why, when there was this huge arena, she chose to ride all over our rider? Why one does lead change upon lead change? Mark said it was because she couldÖ And I believe that.

Even when things are upsetting, still we can learn from them if we allow ourselves to.

We want to thank our hosts Kathleen and Mark and their very cute dog, for allowing us to play our guitars. Our early morning stops at the bakery. I want to thank my roomies Tracy and Alice, for always letting me shower first. The late night horse talk and good vibesÖÖÖÖ

We leave beautiful snow covered Aspen for Estes Park. I leave a little wiser. Once again

Feeling, Timing, Blending, Balance, BreathÖ donít forget to breathe.

Weíll be home in time for dinner and thatís nice. The sky looks like a water color of pink scarlet and orange. Our ponies are happy for the short drive as well, heck, anything under ten hours seems like a stones throw .

Next stop California or Bust!