Friday, November 4, 2011

Choosing to work

Yesterday, K and I went together again to spend some time with Little Love. After we spent a little extra time grooming, we decide to first go for a walk and then do some long reining if Little Love was up for it. She was definitely ready to move and we headed out at a good pace, but she was a little more on alert or vigilant than she usually is. She was definitely paying attention to what her barn mates were doing behind us and maybe waiting for a call from one or thinking about calling out herself? But once we got going, she seemed to be happy to go with us. 

We did less than half an hour, and on the way back, K started telling Little Love what we were planning (the long reining) and kind of checking in that this was an acceptable plan. Lilo immediately started licking and chewing, which is always a good sign that a horse is in agreement, happy with a suggestion, or indicating that you have noticed something important. I also just felt from her a feeling of happiness at this plan. 

I think K has mentioned this before, but we both have had a feeling for a while that Lilo really wants to move. Because of her past life in which she spent much of her time being ridden in an (often indoor) arena, I'm not always sure if she will be happy with being asked to "do work". But after we got the long reining tack and the bitless bridle on her, K warmed her up  and then started some trot work, and it was so obvious that Little Love was enjoying herself. She was voluntarily stretching her back down and using her back and back end beautifully. A few times she was licking and chewing during the work. :-) It's amazing to see a horse actually choose to work, but now after having spent the last few months working with K and Lilo I believe it is completely possible when all forcing is given up and the horse learns through doing that the work can feel good. It is so obvious that Lilo's back and her whole body are actively enjoying the feeling she gets from this work.

K is really good at orchestrating the long reining (is this a silly word to use?, but when done well, it is beautiful like the communication going on between a conductor and his symphony), and it's great for me to have a good teacher like her. After the trot work, I did some more practice with the leg yield at walk and on turning (which seems to be my weakness!). Definitely made some improvements, but I still have a long way to go! But it is such a fun experience, and I have to say again what a patient (but still demanding) teacher I have in Lilo. I can't wait until I get myself coordinate enough to feel comfortable doing the trot work, too, because I want to experience myself that dance with the horse.

Until now, I have never had much experience with even watching someone do long reining, and I can see now that you can do so much with it - I think just about as much as you can do in the saddle. With the added benefit of saving the horse's back. Of course, you can't do any full out gallops (unless maybe you are Usain Bolt? :-) ), but you can definitely help the horse to increase its flexibility, build muscle, and improve its straightness, balance, and coordination. 

I finally had the presence of mind to shoot some video of K and Lilo in action - check them out below. (Sorry again about the low quality - maybe we have to start planning these taping sessions, so we can use real cameras and not just our phones.) Enjoy!

-- Melissa


  1. Beautiful. You two look like you're in sync with each other, relaxed. Lilo's willingness to do this speaks volumes.