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The Project:

One Mustang directly off the range

One trainer

No tools

Just body language

 

The Goal:

To discover how far Equestrian Art can be developed solely using body language.

 

 

Sitting on the Edge

 

Buffeting winds, snow storms, and rain coming in sideways… indeed, here we are in March. With the elements at extremes this week, Myrnah and I found ourselves sitting on the edge of comfort as we rode together. The new wide-open pastures, herd mates to keep an eye on, and weather to brace oneself against have all lent an exciting edge to our practice.

 

Myrnah is settling into her new home flawlessly; from watching her go out in the pasture every morning to watching her saunter in again every evening, she seems the picture of relaxed contentment, completely at ease with all her new horse friends. I find myself wishing I had done all my training in such an open, natural, herd-based situation. Yet the weather I mentioned above has left the ground a sopping-wet, squishy, squelching mess to walk around in, reminding me why we pull horses into the dry paddocks for the winter months. So Myrnah and I tread lightly, pretending we are just kids playing in mud puddles, and trust that summer is indeed just around the corner.

 

After her move, I gave Myrnah a couple of days adjustment time in her new space, asking very little as she got used to her new surroundings. Come Monday it was time to get back to work, regardless of the wind. Walking around the puddled grass paddocks, side by side, practicing our turns and stops, backups, and transitions of speed gave me a chance to assess Myrnah in her new space. What I found was my seemingly perfectly adjusted mare was carrying a level of tension imperceptible to the casual eye. My hand resting in her fur could feel the clench of muscles and the unusual brace against requests from me. She was trying to do all I asked, yet her internal comfort was on the edge of panic. Between the new space and the weather and the life changes, Myrnah’s confidence was stretched thin.

Like a mountain climber who sits on the edge of cliffs with nonchalance the rest of us envy, Myrnah too needs to get comfortable on the edge. Her edge is more metaphorical in nature, yet it is an edge that will always be there as life throws unexpected twists and turns her way. This week, for Myrnah and me, was about sitting on the edge of comfort and getting comfortable with the added energy and uncertainty of life.

 

Monday we practiced our groundwork, and then, when I got on from an old stump in the paddock, I could feel Myrnah humming with excitement, every muscle braced for flight. I got on and off, and walked with her some more, and got on and off again. Finally, when I thought she could handle it, I stayed on. The wind was howling, and I could feel her struggling against the gusts as she balanced my weight and hers. The exercise that felt so easy the week before in the calm of the high valley paddocks now challenged Myrnah to the very edge of what she could handle. In order to get comfortable with this higher energy, she needed a way to keep lowering her internal stress, and we needed to be careful we didn’t add to it. Like a mountain climber sitting on the edge of a cliff, there was not a lot of room for error here on the edge of comfort.

 

So Monday, I suggested she just graze while I sat on her back. The calming, repetitive ripping of new green shoots gave her just enough relief from the other tensions around us that she was able to sit with me and be less than comfortable without needing to run from the feelings. For me, the feeling of her bracing against the gusts of wind as she moved one hesitant step at a time to reach the next bit of grass was completely thrilling in its own way. Every step I asked myself: Can she handle this? Can I sit on her a little longer without overwhelming her? To find the answer was yes again and again, was intensely gratifying in the simplest way.

Tuesday, we did more of the same, only this time venturing farther away from the herd to explore new spaces on the hill above. Not so much wind, but swirling white snow blizzarding around us, lent its own dizzying excitement to the adventure. The first time I asked Myrnah to walk when I was riding, I found I had pushed the edge too far and all her muscles bunched up in reaction. I jumped off as she threw a couple of little bucks, and so we did some more ground work together until her tension lowered and we were able to find a place on the edge of comfort that didn’t feel so precarious. When I got on again, we took travel one very tentative step at a time, stopping often to graze, traveling just a little, and then stopping to graze again.

 

Wednesday, we stayed closer to the herd, but found we were ready to graze less and travel more, even with me riding. When I would feel Myrnah’s muscles bunch up and stress start to overwhelm her, we would just stop and sit with it. Given time, she would take a deep breath and let me know she was ready again. It was a dance through the sideways-sleeting rain. Travel, feel the stress, back off, stop, think about it, realize it wasn’t as frightening as was thought before, and travel again: these things take time, yet have immeasurable value. The ability to push oneself to the edge of comfort and not panic increases the ability to learn, increases the day to day enjoyment of life, and lets the unexpected things that come up become fun instead of frightening.

 

All in all, I am brilliantly impressed with my three-year-old mare, Myrnah. The challenges she has faced with grace over the last couple of weeks are really quite amazing. How many horses do you know who can join a new herd in a new pasture, and then be ridden bridleless and bareback away from the herd to explore new spaces? In my experience that is asking a lot of a horse, and Myrnah has far surpassed that when you consider she is only seven months off the range, three-years old, and been ridden perhaps only ten or fifteen times in her life so far.

This mare has me sitting on the edge of comfort too. The feeling is both thrilling and calming, an intensity of focus and uncertainty, excitement and quiet reassurance from deep within, all melding into a way of being that feels beautiful beyond belief. It takes time to develop, and yet having that comfort on the edge pays dividends that make it well worth the effort.

 

So here is to wind and weather, new spaces, new horizons, and sitting on the edge of comfort until it too becomes comfortable.

 

Elsa Sinclair

EquineClarity.com

One Comment

  1. Sweet, truly sweet! M 😉 😉 😉


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