‘The wealth of the earth
In which a mountain is hidden
Is not visible to the eye
Because the depths are offset
By the height of the mountain.
Thus high and low complement each other
And the result is the plain.
Here an effect that took a long time to achieve
But in the end seems
easy of accomplishment
is used as the image of modesty.’
The I Ching or Book of Changes by Wilhem/Taylor
Domo has been having some good days now that the needle in his neck is gone (click here), dashing about squealing and cavorting. I do appreciate his good spirits and flying through the air with the greatest of ease can be great fun on a well-schooled horse, but squealing and bucking are not really what I want to experience when I am up on top of him. So I thought we would get back to working from the ground. Concentrating on correct movement in our short liberty sessions has developed his balance and strength for some gorgeous, graceful, powerful movement. Watching a 1500lb 17.2 horse sit back on his haunches and canter practically on the spot of his own volition out of the sheer pleasure of his own strength and presence is a true joy to behold.
The ‘canter in a teacup’ can vanish the minute I put a bridle and long reins on him though and many days our conversations tend to go something like this:
Sara: How about walking?
Domo rolls one eye: You’re sure you want me to move?
Sara: Yep, move out!
Domo: You said it boss!
Domo’s head goes down to his knees and he begins to thunder along at a brisk hand gallop, snorting like, well, like a racehorse.
Sara waits a bit, and then asks: Could we perhaps slow down just a little?
Domo: I don’t think I know what this ‘slow’ thing you want is.
Sara: Not so fast please.
Domo: But I am really good at being a racehorse!
Sara: But this corral is way too small for a race track.
Domo: Says you! Me, I am always up for a challenge…
Sara fingers the reins: Hmmm
Domo: You know they taught me to take hold of the bit and lean on it to win at the racetrack, just like this!
Sara follows Domo’s lead and keeps the contact through the reins.
Domo eases up on the bit and flicks an ear towards Sara : Did I do it right? Aren’t I good at my job?
Sara: Awesome racehorse!
Domo: Yep. I do love my job!
Sara: Can we slow down now?
Domo: There is that slow down thing again.
Sara: Maybe try trotting?
Domo: AHA! I got it! She wants me to do the locomotive!
Domo drops into an extended trot and charges along like a train with his neck and back stretched flat out in a straight line and his head perpendicular to the ground.
Domo: I did good?
Domo: Great! I could do this all day!
Sara: Me not so much. Can we slow down a wee bit?
Domo: I could try taking really big steps really really slowly, what do you think?
Sara: Dressage folks call that a passage and I am terribly impressed.
Domo: I told you I was good at my job!
Sara: You are one of the best. Shall we play with this?
Domo: I am listening to you…
We play with shifting gears at the trot for a bit.
Sara: Can we walk now?
Domo: Don’t Trot? Don’t stop? Go slow? What?! I think I’ll just trot here in one spot till you figure out what you want.
Sara: Dressage folks call that a piaffe and I am terribly impressed
Domo: All you have to do is ask… but clearly please!
We practice shifting gears at the trot for a bit longer.
Sara: Can we walk now?
Domo: Sure thing, walk it is.
Domo: Whatever makes you happy…
Experiences like this make me appreciate the value of standing on the ground and teaching one thing at a time and truly understand the old horse masters’ claim that a calm steady walk on a loose rein is the most difficult and prized accomplishment of all!
click for the beginning