Apr 9, 2012

Epiphanies Are Us

It was an interesting three days. We started every day with lectures, followed by riding and demonstrations. We rode, we watched each other ride, we talked saddle fit and position, we asked lots of questions and Susan had all the excellent answers. Some of my preconceptions about the attendees proved true, and others were immediately blown out of the water. One of the goofiest dressed amulet wearing beaded hippie Kerrit clad CR heads ended up my best friend in the clinic. She was also named Abby and we laughed that we were opposite sides of the same coin. She was smart and funny and took it all seriously. But there were also those who could find their Centers, had Very Soft Eyes, could talk Building Blocks and Rooting Trees and blah blah blah till I keeled over, but man, ask them  to steer and it was ‘AAEEII!! <crash>'. There was a sense it was, to some people, Centered Navel Gazing, rather than Centered  *Riding*. But as the hours went on and I watched Susan teaching, and was taught by her, and as I watched the good riders Riding, and the not so great riders Centering Their Navel Gazing, I saw what I could neither deny nor dismiss.

I had been riding the Smith school horses for several weeks and I knew most of them pretty well. I knew that yes, I could ‘get them’ to do what I wanted, but I also knew that ‘they’ ‘always wanted’ to do such and such.

In that three days, I saw that those horses didn’t ‘want’ to do those things any more than I ‘wanted’ to fly to the moon.

I saw that we, as riders, ‘made’ those horses do those things. We made them lean, we made them drop a shoulder, we made them pull, we made them go on the forehand. WE did it. OUR bodies did it. When they were not carting our bodies around, they did not do those things. Sometimes it was really obvious. But sometimes it was so subtle I could hardly believe it. I would experiment with the slightest, the tiniest adjustments in my tummy or hip, and yowza, the horse would straighten, lift, what have you. Even the old half cripped schoolies. OMG. Who knew.

I saw that all of the corrections that riders have been taught to do, historically, *work*, but that if *we* didnt make the horses do those various things *to begin with*, those corrections would not be necessary. OMG. Who knew.

The most mind boggling  exercise for me at the time was what Susan called Comparable Parts. We have a dropped right shoulder, the horse has a dropped right shoulder. We lean left, the horse leans left. Lather rinse repeat. Now it seems such a given, so obvious, but to me, then, it was a Jesus and the Lepers moment. Wow. Wow!

It’s not them. It’s us. Who knew, indeed.

Pride and Prejudice

I was living in a small town in Western Massachusetts at the time. I had met, in a neighboring small town, a wonderful horsie kid and her mom and grandmother. The mom’s name was Sally. She was named after Sally Swift, who had been the grandmother's counselor at a childhood horse camp, long ago, and who had clearly, even then and as a very young person,  been able to make a pretty big impression.  I knew that Sally Swift’s influence was deep and real and seemed well deserved. I found the book, CENTERED RIDING, to be interesting and thought provoking but also weird and somewhat confusing. . I knew also that Sally had influenced some excellent horsemen and riders, including Denny Emerson, who I consider a real stylist.

But I wasn’t sure what to expect at the clinic. I got there early and had a muffin and coffee while waiting for things to start. This was a three day CR jumping clinic, with Susan Harris, who I also admired as the author of GROOMING TO WIN, as the clinician. As I waited, I looked around at the people congregating.

It was a mixed bunch.