Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Listening to Pashka

So Pashka became mine last August (2015). He has been wonderful, and I have been struggling to find my "game" or my confidence.

Sometimes as riders and horse owners we get caught up in what we want for the future - wanting that partnership, that amazing time on trail - that we forget to listen to the horse in front of us. And to listen, really listen to our gut - our instincts. 

I'm concentrating here. 
He is 5 years old. His birthday is in April. He was started well under saddle before I got him, but lived in an area where I don't think he was exposed to many hills or rocks. WE live in Southern California. We have some considerable hills and plenty of rocks. I should also say that  I am not the type of endurance rider who wants to do a lot of training at a competitive ride. I want a solid trail horse when I go to a ride. Who I know has the confidence to get over the terrain on the trail before him, so that we can have fun! 

He was 15 hands approx. when I got him. And while I have not sticked him, folks tell me that he is almost 15.3. He is not done growing yet. 

First I must say that while I think of myself as a decent rider - striving for balance, light hands, good connection with my horse, I have never trained a horse, nor experienced riding a horse that is still learning how to carry a rider. I have had to learn what I should expect of him, and what I should not expect of him. And I have learned what I feel under me, his body trying to figure out the rocks, the down hill, the weight of me, is totally normal. And that 3 second delay when I ask him to move back to the center of the trail - is not him being naughty, it is him being 5. 

He's even learning to pose for photos
And most importantly I have learned to recognize that the silly things he does, like wanting to back up into bushes, is again just his 5-year-old mind being totally unable to cope with his sweaty itchy inner hind legs. But even when he backs up a three foot incline and is itching his legs, he is totally calm, and eventually complies with my laughing requests to get back on trail. 

So before I learned those things, I was having a confidence crisis. Pashka had done nothing wrong. I was just experiencing fear about the unknown. And I was working myself into a state of anxiety before every ride. I was working with a wonderful, skilled and kind trainer where I board. She is not an endurance rider but she has a lovely way with horses. She helped me a lot. We spent a lot of time in the round pen, and I felt his smooth trot, his lovely canter - and every now and then a buck. 

My gut began to whisper something - "I want to be on the trail"

But my fear kept us in the round pen. The universe provided an opportunity for me to send him to a trainer. And i took advantage of it. 

He went down to Heidi Helly in  Valley Center. She is a skilled endurance rider/trainer and is great with people too. A friend of mine has just gotten her horse back from a few months with Heidi, and was so happy, I just knew I had to send Pashka. 

Happy to be on the trail. 
I went down and rode him twice. The final time was this past Monday & Tuesday. Both of us found our mojo. We trotted on trail, he did the little "I'm a happy arab" neck twist, and we kept on trotting. Me with a big ole smile on my face. He has this amazing "old soul" mind and demeanor. Calm and steady as can be. 

We easily coped with a small spook at a runner, a stand still spook. We got a little frisky when a friend trotted up behind us, but calmed right back down. 

He comes home in a couple weeks, and I am so excited. We will be doing lots' of long and slow rides. Building the distance in over time. We will work on the uphills (he is very good and digging in and pushing from the rear already), the tougher down hills and continue to get to know each other. I will endeavor to only ask of him, what I know he can do, and if we find ourselves in a tough spot, to remind him to go slowly and think. 

Now when I ride him I hear a whisper in my belly saying - "YES, finally. We are on the trail!"

Pashka always enjoys the contents of his hay bag. 

Keep an eye out for us at a "fun ride" at Sesente Anos (PS region), and maybe a slow LD this winter or spring. I'm building a long term partner, for many adventures (Grand Canyon, Badlands and other amazing trails are on the bucket list). 

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