Baby Steps; Stepping through my Fear and Finding a Formula of Daily Practice


Chapter five - Sunshine’s and Carolyn's Lessons Up until now fear was always my friend. It kept me safe. It was a great guide to helping me make just the right decision.  Just like in the last blog when I decided to put on that third long line, just before the accident happened.

The next day, after the accident, when I was grooming Sunshine I started shaking. I took her to the bench and sat down waiting for my body to calm down. What I had experienced the day before had left me with a sense of fear.  However, nothing really happened to create this kind of reaction. I had gotten scuffed up a bit on the trees trying to keep Sunshine from getting loose, but that was it. Nevertheless, I was not myself. I had become afraid of Sunshine bolting over anything.  But my practical nature knew that this was irrational thinking since Sunshine seemed normal.  That day I put her up without ground driving her.

Then the next day I arrived early to the stables, when no one was in the barn and the traffic would be light in the park. I warmed up my connection with Sunshine in the arena to balance my energy and to gain back a a sense of security that I had lost.

I put my attention on seasoning Sunshine in a relaxed manner, staying in walk. I chose something that I felt safe in doing. I simply ground drove Sunshine in a walk from one end of the arena to the other, going down the center line and quarter line back and fourth as if I was plowing a field. I paid attention to every step she took. When I asked her to walk out faster or slower my focus was on keeping her at an even tempo. The even tempo was very therapeutic.

At each end of the arena I would stop her. I would wait until she was in neutral, standing still on a loose line, and then I walked up to her head and turned her around to face the new direction. When she knew the pattern I could then turn her while I was ground driving her. In no time at all she was making beautiful turns on the hunches just like a well seasoned plow horse. The trick is that when she starts the turn I release her into a floating hold that gives her a sense of freedom while she is making the turn in self carriage. As my old self returned from this simple exercise I felt I was ready for the park, if I took it in baby steps.

We were a perfect team from our practice in the arena.

Before going out into the park I sat down again to allow myself to come up with a baby step plan to keep Sunshine in harmony with me. The first thing I thought was if she became nervous or insecure I would turn around and go back to the barn. This thought gave me more confidence and I am sure that my attitude bought Sunshine more security as well.

While the pattern was still fresh in Sunshine’s mind, I would practice the same pattern going into the park. I would walk her at a set tempo and then when I went about the length of the arena I would turn her around and go back to the barn and keep repeating the exercise. When I felt really comfortable I would add a bit more distance before I turned her around. I could also bring her back to the barn in shorter distances if I needed to build my courage, or hers.

This time you can be sure that I had a third line on her. It was no time at all, from these short trips from the barn, that Sunshine felt more seasoned. She got so that no on-coming traffic was a concern because her focus was on our tempo and the team connection we were sharing together. This time in the park we were listening to our own drummer. The magic was back.  My fear left me. We were again invincible. Never in her life did she even try to bolt off or shy at anything again.

What contributed to her not spooking again was the training I brought to her, the amount of seasoning I put onto her, and the kind of horse that she was. But we all know that if we have a horse we can never let our guard down.  Because no matter what, most horses are always capable of spooking even a boom proof horse. We may feel like centaurs but the truth is we are more like salt and pepper shakers, that are meant to be together but we can get separated.

Luckily for us what took place in the park was only drama. Something good came out of our experience. I became more detailed in my training of Sunshine and paid more attention to my role as her leader by taking the time and really building the foundation of her training so she became well seasoned. I had been skipping over much of her training because of the bond that we had and she never really acted as if she needed training. But I saw after the accident that all horses need seasoning, including Sunshine.

What I learned from Sunshine was to train in baby steps day by day and decide just before I begin training the approach that I will take. I also learned the importance of seasoning a horse even if the horse seems to be dependable without it.

I start each day choosing an approach in the training of the horse to be in small increments of practice and advancement of the horse. I want the daily training to be enjoyable to the horse and that the horse feels the best part of his training is the centaur connection he shares with me. Because of the willing partnership the Waterhole Rituals builds with a horse sometimes a person can over look the need to season their horse.

I want to encourage you if you are having any sort of fear. Fear has its value. It can play an important part in our personal development. Fear is not a bad thing with horses.  It keeps one safe and sensible. Finding the right approach and circumstance can melt fear away. I have for years helped people with removing their fear of horses through baby steps. I enjoy working with people on this level to bring them closer to their horse. I have always found that fearful people have a natural gift with horses. After all we have something in common with them, we are cautious. What I like about fear is that it can cause a person to become well equipped to pay attention to what is going on in the moment and to connect with a horse with respect. All the qualities needed to know horses deeply.

Horses cause us to look ahead and at the same time be in the moment, there is no better feeling when shared in the company of horses.

Have a great weekend!  Be on the lookout for new horse and human sightings and may the horse be with you.

Warmly, Carolyn


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