Our Newf Peppa has to take a few pills per day. I’ve been spooning out about a tablespoon of peanut butter, hiding the pills in it, rolling it up and giving the resulting peanut butter ball of goodness to the Newf, who eats them down like a champ. This plan was all good until I started to get slightly annoyed with the reality of having peanut butter combined with dog goo on my fingers every day. I love peanut butter, and without the dog goo, I would just like it off my fingers like anybody would. But the dog goo makes it a no deal. So I rinse it off with water, but, I’ve found I need to use very hot water, because peanut butter plus cold water simply equals stickier peanut butter. Paper towels work too, but the process is still unsatisfying.
Then one day, I took a spoon straight from the dishwasher, freshly cycled. It was a little bit damp as I used it to scoop my peanut butter. And voi la! The peanut butter didn’t stick! It was easy to make it into a little ball that the Newf ate right up and I was left with clean hands. Amazing! The Newf and I were delighted. Little discoveries like this can make all the difference.
That is how it was last week. A student was going to be a bit late for her lesson, so I decided to tack up her horse and warm him up for her. I had about 35 minutes, so I was able to have a nice long walk warmup, and then did some brief trotting and cantering. Charlie did very well, moving forward in a relaxed and polite manner. I was just finishing up when my student arrived.
This was to be a lesson on riding out of the arena, so I mounted up on Elliot and she got on Charlie and out we went. Now Elliot is a beautiful animal who, a little unfortunately, has about the most earthbound walk possible. He’s not about to set any land speed records. I gave my student the mission of keeping Charlie’s ears even with Elliot’s, which I guessed would be an easy goal, with Charlie’s long tb legs and his good warmup.
But there was trouble in paradise. She was having a devil of a time getting Charlie to swing along, as I know he is capable of doing, and as he had done just a few minutes before. So I reminded her of all the things riding instructors say. Make sure you are following the stretch of his neck in walk, with your hands in an elastic connection. Keep your legs on in a rhythmic fashion to support the walk. And she was doing these things, I could see.
Still he walked slowly along, a wobbly beast that belied the completely enjoyable horse I had just been riding. Against my better judgement I told her to give him a good nudge, aka a kick. We got one quick step from that, and then a return to the slogging blobfest he was doing before. As I comparatively glided along on Elliot and watched her work so hard for the same walk on her horse, I wondered very quietly and very seriously why it was so hard to get Charlie to walk with intention.
I decided to intently observe what she was doing. After a few minutes it was clear to me that it wasn’t what she was doing, it was what she wasn’t doing. Though her hands followed, and her legs rhythmically supported, her hips and back were stiffly resisting the forward motion. There was go in her calves and hands, and there was stop everywhere else. I had a postulate that Charlie’s resistance wasn’t his own. He was simply reflecting what his rider was telling him to do.
I explained this to my student and then showed her what I was doing in my hips and back and how she could do the same thing to harmonize her aids and give Charlie clear direction. Less than a minute later, because she’s a very talented learner, Charlie was swinging along in a confident, sweeping walk. Horses are perfect mirrors of the energy of their riders. Riders only need to make their energy unified and clear.
It was pretty cool. Hope it helps you.