Encore is once again proving herself eager to learn and willing to tolerate the steps along the way.
Today we continue with the basics; catch her up, lead her in, tie her, clean her hooves and groom her. This is a “big girl” routine and she seems to take to it. After a thorough brushing with all manner of brushes, I add a little time with a lunge line pulled around her barrel in preparation for the bareback pad I plan to strap on in a few days. She’s most agreeable which surprises me and I’m grateful. I certainly don’t want a cinchy horse on my hands. I like to take this part of the training in very small increments. I suppose it is the incremental squeezing of her barrel with the lunge line and a few treats that makes the experience so pleasant.
I finish up with a few flaps of the lunge line across her back side, drape the line loosely over her neck and lift each leg with a gentle tug of the line to de-sensitize her to ropes and straps that are sure to be a big part of her life. Everything we do now is in preparation for long-lining. As I intend to drive Encore! about the neighborhood, I want a real partner here. I’ll take all the time we need to build our bond.
Thoroughbreds can be great caretakers, if given the opportunity. I used to teach a severely handicapped boy riding. The big-black-thoroughbred he rode once a week never took advantage. He seemed to sense that the boy was fragile. The horse would take care of him and gently accommodate confusing requests. The day they cantered around the arena together I could feel the tears well up behind my eyes. I was in awe of how intuitive and gentle these noble creatures can be.
Encore!, bold and opinionated, will need to learn how to look out for me. She understands “whoa” clearly now and has stopped a few times on her own, when she realized she overstepped the boundaries. But, most important, she has begun to turn to me for guidance when things have been un-nerving. This is the quality I want to develop, the dance partner that waits for the cue, so we don’t both stumble over each.
What is remarkable to me is how two completely different individuals, Encore! and me, can completely understand each other given patience and a willingness to listen. We are nothing alike and our worlds are entirely foreign to each other. Still, we can communicate and enjoy being together. Tom Dorrance, a master of horsemanship and the ultimate horse whisperer, recognized and acknowledged the spiritual component of horse training. He wrote a book about his training techniques titled “True Unity”.
How beautiful a world it would be, if we could all see each other as part of a oneness and act accordingly. John Muir also understood this principle of oneness and worked to preserve priceless environmental treasures. Perhaps, Encore! and I will experience our own glimpses of oneness, and I will more deeply appreciate, riding the back country on Encore!, what these two men discovered and shared so generously.