I am very happy that riding and training has risen to the top of my priorities!  Image, with his years of education, is amenable to me just getting on and riding.  Trudy is eight this year and ready for a re-start after two years of being a brood mare.  Then there are three yearlings – Artie, Lad and Cara – who benefit enormously from practicing basics at this age.  In a way, I am doing the same thing with all of them.  And each will help me tell pieces of the story of equine human relationships at Fourwinds Farm.

I am so grateful for Image!  To have a horse I can just get on and feel safe there is blessing.  Image had consistent training through his life and knows his manners under saddle.  That allows me to take time to renew my seat and position, and explore my breathing and posture.  The biggest risk with Image is that he will stop and not move!  So I am free to establish my foundation and consider how to have a riding conversation with him.

With Trudy I am going back to the very beginning.  She was started and ridden as a young mare so she will likely progress quickly.  Trudy is a strong minded mare, just how I like them!  Sylvie and River trained me well for her.  Like them, if Trudy is sceptical of my intentions she will walk away when I approach with the halter.  So I respect her feedback and prioritize her feelings over any agenda I might have.  One day this week she took five or ten minutes before she accepted the halter.  The day before I had put a bit in her mouth which was clearly not one that suited her.  So we mostly groomed and then spent a few minutes in the barn aisle taking very slow steps, forward one at a time, back steps here and there, and a few of shoulder-in type steps.  Easy and soft.

The yearlings mostly just get time improving basics like leading, tying, grooming, and so on.  They’ve done much of this already of course but now they get a chance to be part of the horse-in-training rotation.  My goal is that they have a small experience with me that is enjoyable and – if they are ready – add a new experience as well.  If needed, I give them a horse buddy for support and encouragement.  My highest priority is to build on the trust and friendship that we already have.

The theme here is the title.  I am leading and following, both training and being trained.  I do have skills to coerce my horses to do things, and I use them to protect my safety or in an emergency.  But my preference is to not use them the vast majority of the time.  My preference is to have a genuine conversation with all the implications of that word.  It means I speak and listen, really paying attention to what a horse is telling me.  In part I do that by really tuning in to my own body and its response to the horse’s body.  I want it to be a conversation between friends.  One where we both can say, “How about we try this or go there?”  Or, “How do you feel today and what shall we do together?”  In human relationships we are training each other all the time!  Good ones are characterized by encouragement, joy, healthy boundaries, taking turns setting the agenda, love, and deep curiosity about what makes the other person tick.  It can be the same between my horse and me.  We begin by training each other to develop a shared language of touch, gesture, posture, and energy.

My intention is to keep telling stories about how this unfolds for us this summer and fall.  I am so fortunate for the everything here at Fourwinds Farm!  My aspiration is to share in this small way.

Photo of me and my dear departed teachers, daughter and mother Sylvie and River, by Sarah Baker Forward 2019.