The Naming

The Naming

Not just anyone can name you. Often times our first name is given by our parents. It seems only right that our mother and father who have brought us into the world should have the first right to place their seal and connect their authority through the use of name. Often the second people to rename us are the peers within our group. There is often a hint of teasing and jostling for position connected to these renamings within our American youth culture. In many native cultures renaming is connected to a coming of age ceremony, through which one learns or acknowledges their personal role within the society. It is usually connected to their personal giftings by the Great Spirit or the recognized deity within that culture. In the Bible there are stories of renaming that are usually connected to a change of situation, personality or character. When women marry often there is a change in name associated with the change in position in life.

My renaming was attempted by many. There were the kids who tried to tack their labels on me. Some stuck with pricks sharp enough to motivate change. This led to a struggle that wounded the fragile sense of image that I clung to, until the day the Lord began my renaming. I say, began because my renaming was a process that continues on today. First He un-named me. He tore away at all the labels and mis-conceptions that the enemy of our souls had tried, through various means, to adhere to my soul, destroying who God had created me to be. As He stripped back the layers of lies, He began to expose the truth, who I was in Him.
There were a few mentors that the Lord has brought into my life, to speak truth into my soul. This truth speaking drove back the lies and began to break through the hard exterior I had wrapped around my soul, protecting it from the barbs. Strange, how the self-protective methods we use, often keep us from what we need or really desire. One such mentor was Curtis Wright. One day up in Yosemite, among the grandeur of the tower pines, sequoias and maples, Curtis called me by name. Funny, how you can recognize your name, though you had never been called out by it before. From that day on, I have aspired to live up to that name. It is how this blog got its name, Dances with Horses.

Yet, ultimately my most important name is simple. It is found in a possessive pronoun. It would be unidentifiable admist the others who could claim it. Yet, when He calls me by this name all else fads away. Nothing else matters when I truly allow the truth of who I am to settle in to the crevices of my heart. Who am I? Simply, "His."

Riding Journal and the Quest For Introspective Growth

May 13, 2011
May 10, 2011
May 9, 2011
May 8, 2011
Taylor~ I just got on for a short little bit to work on some canter walk transitions for her owner.  Her canter transitions were a little off, she did respond but we were not as together as I would have liked.  She wanted to brace a bit in the walk work.  I felt myself losing my right seat bone and drawing up my right leg.  Going right she wanted to brace and avoid going into the left rein.  Worked a bit of shoulder fore but never really got the feel I was looking for.  She would shorten and break from walk, not really into trot, but definitely was avoiding the contact.  I guess though lets back up a hair.  When she was being ridden previously she was not getting consistent rhythm and relaxation and very close to no freedom of gaits so perhaps it is silly to get on and want to have a correct contact.  Of course the more correct the seat the more it causes the horse to feel like offering the correct pieces.  So where is the seat lacking... There was the tension through my shoulders and upper body, the tendency to open my fingers rather then to allow the motion from the open shoulder through the elbow.  The elbow felt really good in the canter itself, but as soon as she started softening through her topline and reaching toward the contact she really wanted to loose her balance especially going right.  We had a few pretty nice down transitions from canter to walk, there was a bit of a trot but very little.  These nice transitions were only going to the left.  I am having a much better time getting her into the outside rein going left.  She felt a little connected to the seat's half-halts going left.  Really need to work on the consistent rhythmical driving leg with the controlled half-halting seat.  Didn't feel really connected to the seat today.  She was generous with me in spite of my holes.  In the walk halt really resistant to the rein.  Did a few walk halt back walk (swing backs) transitions.

May 6, 2011
Wizard~ Today Wizard was like a different horse.  He was way more relaxed and had moments of freedom of gaits in trot.  I need to watch my upper body on him as I catch myself getting tipped forward when I should lengthen my rein another inch or two and get my elbow back next to my side.  In the canter work really need to work to keep the balance through my seat in spite of his total lack of balance.  It feels hard to stay on the inside seat bone when he is so unbalanced, but I noticed when I could get over, especially to the right he would stand up a bit better (in response to my inside leg?).  The trot work was so much better then the previous ride.  He was so much more relaxed.  He is quite responsive to the seat in the down transition and we did most of our trot walk transitions on a loopy rein, sometimes almost on the buckle.  His walk was quite nice today too, with him stretching over the topline on a long loopy rein.  I need to focus a bit on all the joints opening and closing in rhythm together in time with the cadence of the trot.  I am also having a bit of difficulty getting my outside leg on (over twisting?) and back.

Moose~  Today I raised my stirrups on Moose and did all of our trot and most of the canter work in two point.  She still seemed a little clueless about leg but she got more responsive as we went.  Today was so much better then last time it is almost amazing.  Perhaps, some of it is we are beginning to develop some trust between us and so I am more relaxed and am giving her more freedom to go.  While she still has the tendency to do weird things with her head they were so much less pronounced, I am sure this is mostly just from having her more forward.  We worked our first canter today also.  She has a very nice canter.  It is one of those canters that makes you want to smile just riding it.  She has a lot of natural balance in the canter and her stride is quite round and smooth and has a nice jump to it.  She may feel more round then she will eventually due to the tendency to be backed up.  It did not feel real forward more like we were going up then forward (balance, but not through-ness).   When we walked on the long rein today we saw no weird head issues until I picked up the rein to ask her to halt or back.  She also is quite responsive to seat and leg in the down transition.  We had more than one down transition from walk to halt that was entirely seat.  Because her owner wants her to back I added in some swing backs.  She did not like this but I did a lot of waiting and asking without responding when she wanted to get fussy.  We had two or so backs where she just backed and didn't fuss.  Definitely progress.  Again through my seat I need to work on joints opening and closing in rhythm.  In two-point I really need to be looking for the feel of the springing through the joints and the driving in rhythm.  Being in the two point definitely helped her understand the going forward from leg better today.  The upper body felt better but again thinking about openness through the shoulders and keeping the elbows soft but not allowing myself to get tipped forward and really thinking about keeping the fingers closed.

Frog~  This was my first meeting of Frog.  He is very cute, but has a lot of his muscles developed backwards.  He is sporting a neck with a lower bulge and almost no topline muscle through the neck.  His back muscles are developed but looked tense.  He counter-bends and is gangly behind.  He does understand at least a little about moving away from leg and bending.  We did a couple basic leg yields.  He moved away from leg better going left then right (my crookedness or his responsiveness?).    After we worked trot he lost a lot of his rhythm and relaxation.  He got even more tense through the back and topline.  He is not very rhythmical by nature and tends to move with short quick strides.  He has a lot of natural knee action but not much shoulder freedom.  However, the couple of places where he offered freedom of gaits showed a decided improvement both through his shoulder and through the back.  After the canter work he got tense and wanted to run.  Once I brought him back and started working some more transitions he settled some.  It feels like it is going to be a long haul to help him trust the hand.  He did do transitions from seat quite well but not after the canter work, then it was like he could not feel the seat any more.  It felt like when he lost his rhythm that I wanted to tip forward and collapse through the upper body, perhaps this is where some of that feel was coming from. I need to work on keeping the upper body tall and really use my hip to stay with him rather than collapsing and using my upper body to stay in the motion.

April 27, 2011
Moose~  When riding Moose I could definitely sense how tension played itself out through her body.  Any muscle tension or even mental tension manifest itself in her body posture and in her anxiety level.
She was relaxed to the contact of the leg with her sides but pretty non responsive to driving leg.  It is easy to get stuck driving longer because of the lack of response, rather than stay rhythmical with the driving leg.  She is backed up and non responsive to driving leg so I picked up the whip.  I never used it with today but carrying it definitely made her more willing to move.  She does not like the rein.  Any use of the rein got strange actions through her head in neck, she tipped her head sideways, braced and pulled.  I really need to work on releasing any tension through my joints and through my shoulder in arms that may be contributing to this tendency.  She dives in both directions.  I really need to work on staying balanced side to side to not be contributing to her lack of straightness.  Especially going right I can feel my right leg drawing up and throwing me to the left side of the saddle and a bit collapsing through the right side of the body.  Really need to concentrate on my side to side balance.  Also I would like to focus on pin pointing her response to my lack of balance to help me know when I need to adjust my balance.  Just worked walk, trot rising and walk halt transitions today along with a little backing.

Wizard~ Wizard also dives in, but he is one that requires driving leg.  I could feel how because he understands leg it was easier to drive in rhythm, but because he is a bit lazy it was again tempting to get the leg a little sticky.  Wizard is short through the neck and we are going to have to ride him really correctly to help him develop proper topline muscles and the strength to go into the contact correctly.  I need to watch my upper body and shoulders with him.  Make sure when I am attempting to give and not block him through the neck that I don't get my shoulders rounded and elbows stuck out in front of my body.  Rather I need to work on keeping the fingers closed and the shoulders open and dropped down and back.  I need to use a longer rein rather then tipping forward with a shorter rein and my elbow out in front.  I can really feel a tightness through the shoulder, I am not sure if this is just due to a bad habit of rounding through the shoulder that I have developed or if this is a fallout of my spinal fusion.  Either way I really need to work with the flexibility that I have and use it to my advantage(Remember the girl who played the piano with no right fingers and the girl who rode in the para-olympics with no arms).  Realize there may be a physiological limitation, yet don't allow it to limit me needlessly.  Wizard at this point does not have a real transition to canter.  His canter feels much nicer than it looked from the ground, though he definitely is leaning and counter- bending.  This is even more pronounced in the canter then in the trot.  Definitely need to focus on my balance side to side when he is moving unbalanced to make sure I am not causing it or exasperating his lack of natural balance and making it worse.  Also I need to keep in mind the connection to relaxation, rhythm and freedom of gaits to his ability to actually respond correctly to the positioning rein.  If I use too much too soon, I may restrict his forward and his willingness to reach over the topline.  If I don't position enough I may be setting him up for soundness problems (falling on the inside shoulder) and allowing the imbalance that is adding to the rhythm issue.

Sabee~  He is an older thoroughbred off the track.  He has been pin fired and just had his feet done today.  Tends to be clubfooted in front.  Because of the age, the conformation and the pin firing and old lameness issues we started with a lot of walk work.  He definitely had a whole different vocabulary and understanding of the aids.  Much more forward then either of the other horses.  Seemed to have a pretty good understanding of the leg aids and moved both forward and sideways from leg.  He was off in the trot so I only worked the tiniest amount before his owner got on and rode.  He has  a bad tendency to come behind the bit and to suck his head to his chest to avoid the contact.  I definitely need to think about the softness through my upper body and the elasticity of my elbow to help encourage him to connect from behind.  His owner was able to use both half-halts from the seat and driving leg to help keep him more pushed out from behind.

What is a riding journal?
Before I go through the process of writing about my riding, I thought I would take the time to discuss what a riding journal is and the science behind its usefulness.  Studies have shown that our brains don't differentiate much between imagined experience and actual experience.  By using mental imagery you can improve physical skills.  For more information on mental imagery in regards to equestrian sports, check out Mary Wanless' book The Natural Rider or Jane Savoie's book That Winning Feeling.  From a perspective of the Christian world view I think it is important to mention that there is a difference between the meditative zen experience and Christian recommended use of the brain.  However I think with prayerful consideration one can wade through and find the balance.  For more information on mental imagery in general check out this site.

I mention the use of mental imagery and the idea about mental practice because in the process of journaling you use both.  In an effort to write down about your experiences you force yourself to re-imagine what happened in your ride, what you felt both through your own body and aids and what you felt from the horse.  By reconstructing your experience you begin to sense your horse and yourself on a new level.  When writing about these experiences you allow yourself to start to sense them from a neutral position, after all what can you do about the problems you feel now?  Of course, you can do nothing.  However, by thinking about them in this neutral position you can evaluate, what did you do?  What did the horse do?  Was what you did effective?  Was there something you should have done that you didn't?  How did what you did effect the horse?  How did what the horse do effect you?  By thinking through the process of riding you re-create the experience and you begin to develop a sense for what could have been.  This expands the options.  By re-creating the experience and opening up the options to other avenues than the one you chose this time, you make it more likely that you will take another route next time.

Another important piece to the journaling puzzle is that in the thinking about the ride you begin to see the connection between what you did and how the horse responds.  It allows you to be able to draw the lines from cause to effect.  The more you are able to see what causes the things you are experiencing in your rides the more you are able to change the dynamics.  It opens up a whole new level of awareness between you and your horses.  Rather than being obsessed by what your horse is doing, you are able to open up and see how you are contributing to what your horse is doing.   Awareness is the first step.

Once you are aware you want to be able to chart a course.  Is what you are experiencing, what you want to be experiencing?  This is a level of introspection that opens up new vistas in your experience.  You are able to plan a course of attack to change what you see.

From the plan you move back into the experience of the next ride.  You take your plan back to your horse's and you try it out.  Then you re-evaluate in the journal.  Did what you try work?  If it didn't work, was that because your perceptions were faulty or was that because you were not able to actually implement what you intended to do?  So you take your new experience back to the drawing board.  You write about it, forcing yourself to evaluate what was going on in your ride.  What worked, what didn't and why?  You make a new plan of attack and then you go back out and try it again in the real world of you and your horse.

Journaling can be a very effective tool in helping you progress toward your riding and training goals.  I hope you will try it out for yourself, if you are not already.